Divorce is a painful experience, even if it was your choice to end the relationship. Being able to thrive after divorce is determined in large part by where you live, but I’m not talking about your physical address. Where does your mindset predominantly live – in the past, present, or future? Are you living in the present, the here-and-now? The present moment is the only place you have true power and choice.
It’s very tempting to try to escape the reality of your present moment. After all, you’re likely feeling hurt, guilt, shame, fear or anger or some combination of all of these emotions. It can make it hard to heal from a relationship breakdown when you didn’t initiate the break-up, or if you feel blindsided by your partner’s decision to end it. Often, partners are at different stages in their level of acceptance of the fact that the relationship is over.
Why Did This Happen to Me?!
The big question that can be so hard to answer is “Why?” Why did my spouse cheat on me? Why did I fall out of love with my partner? Asking “Why?” can seem like a very important question but it draws your awareness back to re-evaluating the past instead of noticing what is happening for you right now.
Teacher and author Debbie Ford used to say, “Knowing why is the booby prize.” The brain loves to have reasons and explanations. Often we use that as an excuse to distract ourselves or not make a decision about what we need to do to move forward. Knowing why is the red herring. It may be somewhat interesting, but it is a distraction from the main point of the story. Staying stuck on understanding someone else’s “why” doesn’t allow you to move to a deeper spiritual understanding of how you co-created this relationship. It hinders your ability to mine the wisdom that your divorce has for you.
Living in the Past is not the Answer
Sometimes, people re-live the past and play the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” game. They replay past events and imagine how things might have been different if only they had said or done something different. When trying to make sense of a relationship breakdown that seems inexplicable, people can start to obsess about what they did wrong, what they could have done better, and what might have changed the outcome. Some people are filled with regret, thinking that if only something in the past hadn’t happened, their current reality would be different.
But the fact is, what happened did happen. Until we invent time machines to undo the past, time and energy spent wishing the past was different is futile.
Living in the Future is not the Answer, Either
Another common preoccupation is to live in the future and play the “What if…” game. The mind has a field-day figuring out possible future scenarios that have yet to actually happen. “What if I don’t have enough child support?” or “What if she decides she wants to reconcile and come back to me?” or “What if I’m never able to truly love someone else again and end up being on my own?” The brain loves questions and will immediately set to work at trying to find an answer.
There is a degree to which imagining potential future scenarios can be helpful in motivating you to find the support, resources, and decisiveness you need to move through your divorce journey. However, too often people play the “What if…” game as a way to scare themselves or avoid paying closer attention to what is happening in the here-and-now.
But the future is ultimately the result of the choices you make today – in this moment and the next and the next. Becoming obsessed in fantasizing about future outcomes or getting stuck in repeated thoughts about past events while ignoring your present reality is a recipe for delusion.
Here are some strategies to get you back into the present moment.
1. Be Here Now
Awareness is the key to transforming challenges into opportunities. Start to become aware of your thoughts. If you notice your thoughts are wandering into the past or the future, stop. Get yourself grounded by taking a deep breath and bring your focus back to this moment. Use “Be Here Now” as a mantra. Mindfulness practices such a yoga and meditation or even going out for a walk in nature can help cultivate greater present moment awareness for you.
2. Empty the Trash
People have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day, of which 95% are the same ones they had yesterday and the day before. Of those thoughts, 80% are negative ones! Instead of recycling these thoughts, find a way to release them. Grab a journal or paper and write them down. Speak them out loud to yourself or to another. If you notice you’re having repetitive thoughts, it’s likely time to empty your psychic trash bin.
3. Get Physical
Find some physical action you can take to break the trance of your thoughts. Changing your physical position alone loosens the grip of the mind. Do jumping jacks, or put on a tune and sing along to it. Bringing some kind of physicality into those moments when your thoughts are running like a hamster on a wheel can help you feel more energized and prepared to take action.
4. Set a Limit
Sometimes you might just find yourself in a funk and feel unmotivated and unclear about your situation. Find some patience and compassion for yourself in those moments and that will help to get you recentered. If you’re feeling like you need to “stew” about something, set a timer and give yourself five or ten minutes to mull it over. Give yourself to that experience fully, and when the timer goes off, give yourself permission to let it go and move on.
5. Make a Choice in this Moment
By developing a habit of self-reflection and awareness, you’ll be able to make conscious and empowering choices in each moment. Once you get grounded and centered, ask yourself, “What will I choose to do now?”
Keep your choices simple and actionable. Even if you make a decision about what you need to do or how you want to be for the next five minutes, that’s better than letting yourself spin out in worry or anxiety for the next five hours. Remember, the future you’re longing to create for yourself starts in this present moment.
*This aritcle originally appeared on www.ThriveAfterDIvorce.com and has been reprinted with permission.
Carolyn Ellis is the Founder of ThriveAfterDivorce.com and BrillianceMastery.com. She is an award-winning coach, transformational expert and author of the award-winning The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting and The Divorce Resource Kit. Combining her deep intuitive abilities with her Harvard-trained brain, Carolyn specializes in helping individuals navigate change and uncertainty by tapping into their own inner brilliance and emotional resilience. www.ThriveAfterDivorce.com.