The Internal Wars: The Enemies Within

Learn the negative reactions from the divorce process and explanations that will help arm yourself from becoming depressed and letting anxieties overwhelm your mind. Stacy D. Phillips gives you the tools to begin the road to recovery.

By Stacy D. Phillips
Updated: March 17, 2015
Health and Well Being

The following is an excerpt from the book, Divorce: It's All About Control-How To Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars (ExecuProv Press), by renowned family law specialist and managing partner of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation in Los Angeles, CA, Stacy D. Phillips. While the Control Wars often center around the typical three -- Emotional, Psychological and Legal -- other wars can include the fight against the Enemies Within with Way Too Much to Far Too Little behaviors. In this first excerpt of two parts, Phillips explains how dangerous and costly the Way Too Much wars can be:

The "Way Too Much" War can set up a dynamic whereby you are battling for control against your impulses to overdo; while the "Far Too Little" War-genre presents struggles to "under do."

Often when a person is going through the many ups and downs that only a marital breakup will produce, he or she can spin out of control and begin a self-abuse process, one that is always the result of some type of internal struggle.

It is important to identify the Enemy Within to determine what is robbing you of self-control and to find ways of getting you back in control.

  • Over-indulgence in drugs and alcohol can diminish your self-esteem to a level that can become a bottomless pit, one that is hard to pull out of. If you are going through a divorce or a relationship breakup, the last thing you need is low self-esteem. As hard as it may be, my advice is to forego both alcohol and drugs, if it appears you cannot be in control ofthem.

  • Compulsive Spending: Most people who go through a breakup suffer financially in some fashion. Losing income (if both parties were income-earning), having to pay attorneys' fees, putting up new funds to set up housekeeping, and splitting assets are only a few financial realities/drawbacks most face when the relationship is over. As such, the last thing you need is to find yourself heavily in debt because of a compulsive need to buy things you may not need or cannot afford. Overspending is certainly the remedy of choice for many, because it tends to ward off depression, and, if only temporarily, makes people feel they are being bolstered or soothed as they surround themselves with nice things -- from gadgets to garb.

  • Gambling can be as arduous as fighting any of the other "Way Too Much" Wars, because once you dig a deep enough hole, it can take years of payback and rehabilitation to recover. Gambling is a drug of sorts. At first, those who engage in it think they will just "try it," yet soon they find themselves deeply addicted. There is the allure of thinking you can get something for nothing.

  • Overeating: This might very well be one of the most harmful of all Enemies Within and one of the most common Internal Wars. It is a natural reaction to want to soothe and comfort yourself when you feel the battle fatigue from the effects of the Three Typical Wars; but in the end, you may be trading one war for another. Overeating can take a heavy toll on your body and your spirit. Self-esteem is an important commodity when you are going through a breakup.

  • Overworking: Though some people find that throwing themselves into work is a wonderful and constructive remedy to stave off the divorce blues, it can also be damaging if it becomes "Way Too Much." Overworking robs you of achieving balance, which is the most important goal any of us should have by far! If you find, for example, overworking means that you are neglecting the children and others close to you, or it precludes you from an active social life, or if you are using work to escape (yes, it can be a drug!) or avoid work that you need to do on yourself in the emotional or spiritual realms, then you have a war on your hands.

  • The Sexaholic: Another internal war concerns that of the Sexaholic. Many of those going through a breakup find their salve in sex. Many of those who have not been intimate in a marriage or relationship for some time, find they need to "reinstate" their sexuality or to make up for lost time in that sexless marriage. Becoming sexually active after a breakup is certainly not wrong, but more often than not, I find people using sexual activity to mend a broken heart or as a means to prove their viability as a sexual being.

  • Makeovers: Blindly plunging into a Makeover War is another very common conflict from within. Some believe that by altering their physical appearance they will change their lives. I will not argue with that. In fact, I think a physical makeover is a great idea: new look, new attitude. But when a person goes nuts with altering his or her appearance, does so radically, or finds the need to continuously opt for some new vanity "addendum," he or she can also become out of control!

  • Mood Du Jour: While this may seem an odd inclusion on our list of "Way Too Much" War skirmishes, it is not. This category covers a lot of ground! For instance, when moods are swinging, those affected by such changes can react and overreact in erratic ways and wind up constantly fighting nonproductive battles. Too many mood swings could become quite a problem and grounds for a "Way Too Much" War. The "over the top" moods I am referring to manifest themselves in weird and often destructive ways. For example, driving too fast is usually a symptom of too much anger or frustration. Crying too much could lead to too much isolation. Fantasizing too much in a state of bitterness may distract you from the tasks at hand and lead you.

  • Blabbing: Though it may sound strange, and even funny to you, talking too much may also be a contentious Enemy Within. Some people are in such dire straits they feel a constant need to unload -- to talk about their divorce. They spill their guts -- their fears, wants, their thoughts of retribution -- and far too often they do so indiscreetly and to the wrong pair of ears! Yakking too much can get you into trouble and also cause you great remorse. So talking too much is not a good idea for the people you talk to (unless they are licensed professionals who are mandated to keep your conversations confidential).

  • Obsessing: A kissing cousin to Blabbing is Obsessing. Some people just cannot help themselves from constantly thinking and over-thinking specific feelings or events in the Three Typical Wars, and often they begin to blab about them. Sometimes they talk incessantly to others about these issues of concern, yet more often than not, they continue a running dialogue or narrative in their heads about "things." Obsessing can lead to many deviant behaviors, from stalking to angry letter writing to rash behaviors that may earn some a restraining order!

  • Over-managing: This Enemy Within can suddenly become ruler of your psyche and throw you into a war you do not want to be in. When we micro-manage our attorney, our children's nanny, and others, it demonstrates that we have no trust in the very people to whom we have pledged our trust. Not only are we being counter-productive, we are probably driving those around us nuts -- ironically the very people who are so intently trying to help us.

  • Over-exercising/extreme sports: Another very popular pastime in the post breakup milieu is the urge to buff up to perfection, to take up some exhilarating sport that serves to use up all that adrenalin that is fl owing through your system. Some people go from no exercise to working out obsessively, as if they were training for a marathon!

  • The Great Escape: This enemy within has you losing yourself in some distraction, like watching TV or hanging out on the Internet; in other words, too much "get-away." There is nothing wrong with a little TV and surfing the net for interesting sites, but when you spend most of your after-work hours and weekends losing yourself in such media then you may find yourself in a war with Escape.

I could very well have left out some specific areas that belong in this "Way Too Much" War category. Perhaps your malady is over-thinking or over-analyzing, or obsessing too much on what might be in the future. It is perfectly normal and natural for you to have a few Enemies Within during this trying time in your life. The point is to identify the Enemy and then find a way to defeat it.


Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women's Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine's North American Advisory Board. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm's Divorce Magazine profile here.

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July 17, 2007
Categories:  Coping with Divorce

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