The most life sucking, debilitating, and destructive emotion we face in relation to divorce is shame. As Carl Jung said “Shame is a soul eating emotion”. When mixed in with all the other heavy feelings from divorce, it can do more damage than anything we experience from the outside, including the vicious blows and attacks of our ex. Shame hides underneath our more visible emotions, like anger and sadness, completely inconspicuous but driving our actions and sabotaging our decision making.
Learning to identify shame and properly deal with it is the most useful skill we need to learn if we want to make divorce decisions that will serve us well on the long run, and want to ensure a happier and healthier future for ourselves.
Divorce is one of the biggest loss we might experience in life. It is number two on the list of major life stressors after the death of a loved one. Since divorce is a loss with its own grief process, we need to go through all the stages of grief in order to fully process it and find healing.
The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but they do not necessary occur in this specific order. We can move back and forth between stages for a while, or wildly jump around them, or slowly crawl from one to another. They are just responses to our feelings and can last anywhere between days to months and can repeat multiple times. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, the only important thing is that we keep moving through all of these stages, even if it feels like this is our tenth time around, and don’t get stuck in one for an unreasonably long time by falling into some of the common pitfalls of divorce.
Making a divorce decision is always life altering. It affects so many people. The closest they are to us, the deeper and heavier the impact is on them. It is an extremely hard decision when children are involved, and in many cases delayed because of that.
There is no rule or formula for it, everyone has to struggle through their own decision making process, and it can take years. When we can make the decision from true self-awareness and not from an emotionally charged or imbalanced place, that will be a decision we can trust and will be able to live with.
But how do we know we are at a place like that? When are we ready to make such decision?
Divorce is one of the most shame, blame, and guilt producing event in life. Doesn’t really matter if we are the one leaving or being left, it affects our sense of worth like nothing else. We question everything we believed and thought about ourselves, our abilities, characters, and choices. Even if we are blaming our ex for it all, deep down we are filled with shame. The more we try to run from it, the more it will hunt us. The more we try to cover it up with anger the more damage it will do in us and ultimately in everyone around us.
There is only one way to battle the shame and guilt we feel for leaving or being left, and to stop the endless blame cycle: learning and practicing self-compassion.
It is easy to get the false impression from outside that people make quick and light divorce decisions all the time, but the truth is, most people struggle deeply and quietly for a long time before deciding. Making a decision to divorce is an extremely guilt and shame producing process and many of us go through it alone, or without any significant mental and emotional help or support.
Just thinking about the possibility of divorce hits our shame core the deepest, telling us that we have failed, we are not enough of a man or woman who could make marriage work. We just don’t have it in us, we don’t quite measure up. We always had this suspicion about ourselves, but now if we divorce we will have evidence. It will be official. We will be second class citizens. Less than we should be.
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