Thursday, June 2, 2011

Post-Divorce Optimism, or, Try to Love Again

What a gross oversight.  No blog entry on post-divorce optimism.  Faced with the sometimes devastating but always distressing aftermath of divorce, your optimism will be put to the test.  You know, optimism, that ability to see the bright side, to think positively and to have hope.  Where has it gone? 

Martin Seligman, in his book Learned Optimism,  suggests a number of steps you can take to counter your pessimism, should it rear its ugly head.  The basic idea is to argue with yourself against the negative thinking.  There are several steps.

For example, to counter the pessimistic thought, I’ll never meet anyone I can love again:

What’s the evidence?  Well, I’ve met people before, and I don’t really have a tough time meeting people.  Or maybe I do have a hard time meeting people and this is something I might want to work on.  I know several people who’ve divorced and remarried or gotten involved with someone new so there’s nothing keeping the same from happening for me. 

What’s an alternative thought process?  It may be difficult, but if I really want to meet someone, I know there are steps I can take.

What are the implications of the belief?  To hold the belief that I’ll never love again is just going to keep me from moving ahead.  If I’m open to the possibility that I might love again, that gives me a direction to move in.

What’s the utility of the belief?  The negative belief keeps me stuck and feeling bad.  It makes me feel that I’m not lovable.  If I believe that I’m lovable then I might be able to meet someone I want to love.  Getting rid of the negative belief allows me to try to meet someone, try to be happy single or try to focus on other things in my life right now.

It all goes back to one of the basic premises of cognitive therapies, you can’t always believe what you think.  Likewise, in coaching, sometimes you have to find your optimism when it gets lost in the post-divorce miasma.  Identify one of your pessimistic thoughts and go through the steps.  Asking the tough questions can help you move ahead.

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