Divorce can feel like failure. It can feel like rejection. And it can feel like betrayal. Divorce is a shock, even if you initiated it. Everything you know is turned upside down. So, it’s no surprise that so many people faced with divorce do everything possible not to feel what they’re feeling.
Emotional numbing comes in various forms — a gallon of ice cream, a bottle of wine or a few little pills. But do any of these things give you lasting satisfaction? No. None of these things will fill the holes inside that you are so desperate to ignore.
Divorce is a monumental change that happens to you. And for some reason, we seem to think that something outside of ourselves can make it better. We immerse ourselves in whatever distracts us from the pain inside — food, drugs, sex, work, alcohol, shopping, TV, Internet — whatever is fast and easy. Rather than face our feelings of inadequacy, we turn to these seemingly quick fixes to give us some relief from ourselves. Is it real relief though? And is it serving you?
Brené Brown’s ground-breaking work on shame and vulnerability teaches us that it doesn’t. In “Daring Greatly,” she says, “We numb the pain that comes from feeling inadequate and ‘less than.’ However, when we numb the pain of one emotion we numb everything. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”
So, by numbing your difficult emotions, you are numbing everything. Through numbing, you might succeed at avoiding your feelings of pain and failure, but you are also cheating yourself from feeling happiness and joy. And ultimately, numbing yourself to what you are feeling will keep you stuck in that place.
So, how can you change your patterns and get unstuck?
#1. Feel What You Feel … Without Judgment
Accept that you are in this space … but know that it is temporary. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel, without attachment or judgment. What are you meant to learn here? And how can you use it to give you clarity? How can you use it to move forward in the way that you want, with intention? Judging yourself and your feelings puts you on a merry-go-round of shame and blame. And it will never go anywhere. The only path forward is through your emotions. Trust that once you let yourself experience them, they will lose their power over you.
#2. Be Mindful of Your Numbing Patterns … And What Triggers Them
Take time to notice all the ways you numb yourself. Identify the emotions, people and situations that trigger them. Choose recognition over avoidance. Once you recognize your patterns, you can intentionally choose a different path … one that gets you where you want to go.
#3. Accept That Difficult Emotions Are Uncomfortable … But That This Is Also The Space For Growth
Pain, hurt, anger, betrayal, sadness, loneliness … are all difficult emotions to feel every day. They also challenge you to grow in ways you never could have imagined previously. So, rather than choosing distraction or avoidance, embrace them. Own them so that they won’t own you. You are stronger than you realize. And like the phoenix in the flames, you will rise from the ashes stronger than ever before. Change can be difficult, so use it to your advantage. Use it to stretch and grow and find new paths of possibility for yourself.
#4. Let Go Of The Pain From The Past And Fear Of The Future. Be Present In The Right Now
Re-living all of the “should haves” from the past won’t serve you. You are powerless to change it. Worrying about what you will or won’t have in the future won’t serve you. You are actually attracting it to you by choosing to focus on lack, rather than abundance. So be present now. This moment is all that really matters. And these are the moments when you need to be focused on what you DO want in your life. Once you are focused in that direction, you can start walking that path. Make your dreams for yourself more important than your fears and past pain. If you do, you’ll be walking that path before you know it.
Numbing yourself is self-sabotage. It keeps you stuck and powerless in a space of pain and confusion. You can’t move forward from that place, nor can you make the important decisions divorce requires of you. So, stop judging yourself and your feelings. Stop avoiding what you feel. Once you can accept where you are and what you feel, you can be truly present to make better decisions in your divorce. Accept that there are gifts for you here, such as learning and personal growth. And give yourself the gifts of acceptance and appreciation, so you can be open to joy and happiness again in your life.