Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't Get Burned By Your Post-Divorce Anger

Although every divorce is unique, most result in an abundance of post-divorce anger. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that and it's quite normal. It's unresolved anger that is corrosive and toxic. Like being in a burning house, it sucks the life out of you. Acknowledging persistent anger, and committing to do something about it, is step one. Step two is managing your anger. Here are some things to try:

·         Laughter. It's a great antidote to anger. Laughing often, preferably at yourself, helps you recover. I am a huge fan of not taking oneself too seriously. It always helps to try to see the humor in things. If Tig Notaro can joke about cancer in her standup routine, you can joke about your divorce. It's human nature to make light of tragedy, but sometimes you have to give yourself permission to indulge in gallows humor.

·         Humanizing. Your once-significant other is a real person, not a monster or an all-powerful being. He may have done monstrous things and held a lot of power over you, but that's behind you. Especially if you have kids, no matter what their ages, it's healthier to speak of him in non-pejorative terms. It's a lot easier to do that if you start thinking of him more benignly, as just a mere human.

·         Empathy. It helps the humanizing process. I know the idea of empathy for your ex might be a little bit of a stretch. But here's the thing. Empathy is a way to decrease anger. Putting yourself in his shoes, you can probably figure out just what he was thinking and perhaps even why he did the cowardly, childish and otherwise-annoying things he did. And then you can try to understand it.

·         Listening. Pay attention and see if you can understand what your ex is trying to communicate. You're probably always assuming the worse. You may or may not be correct, but it doesn't matter. Real conversations involve curiosity, interest and focus, great skills to practice for your next relationship. Listening also helps you humanize and empathize. You don't have to agree, you just have to listen. Then choose your response with care.

·         Bad decision blocking. One way to respond with care is to moderate electronic communications carefully. They can be left in draft form while you decide whether or not to send, or even written with no intention to ever send. Do not send while angry, stressed or drinking. If necessary, there's an app for your phone. And no Facebook stalking. When communicating in real-time, don't start a conversation you know will involve conflict when you’re in a hurry or feeling stressed out. There's no app for this, but thank you caller ID.

·         Kindness. As we say in the South, kill him with kindness. This is not meant to be taken literally. Remember, you don't always have to say what you think out loud. It's often best not to. Mindfulness, especially the loving kindness meditation, where you express loving thoughts toward yourself and others, is great for cultivating a kinder, gentler you. Emphasize the bit in loving kindness where you focus on someone you definitely don't love.

As the Buddha purportedly said, Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else…You are the one who gets burned. Keep that in mind and be cool.

This blog was originally published at YourTango.

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