Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Which of These 6 Divorce Defence Mechanisms do you Choose?

We wonderful fully functioning human beings react so differently to the scary stuff that rises up unannounced and knocks us off our feet. 

Divorcing, especially a good divorce is really about getting personal help, professional advice and accepting loving support.

Acknowledging and accepting exactly what is going on begins with us having a really good, close and kind look at ourselves.  We need to check out which defence mechanisms we adopt when faced with sudden trauma. How do they affect those we love around us and do they serve us positively in our divorce? So which type are you? Do you choose one or a combo? Do any of these resonate ...?

DENIAL - we love ostriches, they like dropping their heads in the sand, its cooler below ground, cooler and quiet. Denial is the most common of all defence mechanisms. The alternative of removing your head and facing the huge scary problem sometimes is just too much.

Denial lovelies find it hard to take the first step, so nothing changes or moves on.  They either don't talk to anyone about 'stuff', or talk only to a couple of friends or family.  Vainly hoping that one day they will wake up, without the rock of angst in their belly and the fearful problem will be magically sparkled away. 

Humans don't fare so well behaving like a bird and ostrich behavior can be costly. You are so good at finding sand that you need not talk and face the OMG marital machinations that are your life.  So when denial reality strikes, it is hard and the disappointment mountain looms with its aspects of failure, grief and sadness. Know though you are loved and supported especially when you dust the sand off and be a really brave gorgeous human.   

ANGER is the strong life rescue ring circling us when in the uninviting waters of divorce. So, on this ocean of life, there is nothing getting past this angry baby.  If anyone dare to get too close a tongue lashing is handed out and the angry at yourself self-flagellation completes the process.

Anger keeps your buoyancy aid pumped to bursting, it's protective so no need to look a little deeper into the darker waters of your marital angst. Being too tucked up, angry at everyone and the Exocet missile-like anger emotion consumes our entirety with random timeliness.  

Within the divorce arena, anger can energise, empower and sadly leaves you bereft of the good stuff needed to give yourself respect, grace and balance.  Anger screams past the focus markers, the ability to move forward becomes ever more difficult and it becomes harder to let anger go.  

Anger likes momentum, it extends to your family and friends who want to support you, you bristle, you are consumed with resentment and pain.  And the thing is you DON'T WANT to feel like this. You want all the anger to go away and you really don't want to be cross anymore. This is not the lovely you, letting a little go at a time and understanding that you can feel better about it is testament to anger not aiding your life. 

INTELLECTUALISATION is the yadda yadda yadda of all the defence mechanisms... you have it covered, you've read the books, listened to tube clips, you are in the zone and actually you have it all figured out. You are giving every bit of energy to understanding what has happened without the big hello to emotion.

So you have successfully convinced, in your divorced messed up head, all those people, but mostly yourself, as to why you are dealing with your divorce situation in a calm, controlled and orderly manner.  Well hell those books and spouting off about all the thinking you have been doing is not convincing anyone, no, nada, nicht and non!

Whilst you are stitching all the feelings and emotions such as grief, regret and sadness into your protective, self-help analysis jacket, are you feeling any of the pain? Thinking you have it covered is no band aid for what needs to come out. In the act of letting go of your relationship it is important to acknowledge the grief of finality, the indeterminable sadness of loss and allowing yourself tobe able to cry about it  is incredibly cathartic. 

DISPLACEMENT is the lots to do, very busy White Rabbit. So much to do with all those thoughts, hurts and feelings that you are quite happily able to pack into a bag with a moving on swiftly. DIVORCE stuff, hell no you have too much to do, lots of other stuff to think about and you are busy busy busy.  

It's fantastic, you worry about everyone else, your children especially, your Ex, the pets, your friends and it seems a good idea to continue to concentrate elsewhere. OK so this is when you really need to ask yourself a couple of honest questions.

  • Do all these people really need your worries and concerns on top of their own? You are emotionally dumping and it would be quite a good idea to maybe try and stop, this is not helpful to anyone.
  • Is hemorrhaging all this energy going to serve you in any way positively in the end and help YOU actually stay on any kind of track?
You try every which way to do all those jobs you need to do, which are now molehills compared to the divorce job that desperately needs looking at. Be kind to yourself, take small steps and have a little look at the important 'now' stuff.

REACTION FORMATION - is JUST FANTASTICAL!  You are rid of the person who has been making you miserable for years!  Yeah, no more putting up with them and their ways, snoring, moaning its all gone and its all going to be OK.  

The 'brilliant moving on so quickly you' is now standing on your own positive soap box of what is left of your relationship. Thank goodness it has finally happened, great now its all gone and YES the rest of you, especially the children are going to have to swallow it! What a fabulously negative scenario!

Don't be tempted to dish out to all and sundry an unhealthy dose of sadness, especially to those who are finding it hard, when you aren't. You can play really mean, head games with your kids about their said other parent, dismissing their childhood with the marriage refuse. WOW, throwing the whole marriage thing out the window, those years of your life Button pressed on reject reject reject... ouch ouch ouch we say.  

At some point you may slip off your holier than thou protective cloud of damnation and start to live with your negative fall out, your divorce dumping and you may just not feel that clever. Your reaction formation armor has protected you whilst everyone else is, well, just trying to remove the discarded detritus of their 'now' sad life you've thrown at them in the process.  Be the kind, generous person you are, be the bigger person and let it go, gently.

MINIMISATION - OK this is me, every bit of me. The person everyone thinks is wonderful at divorcing.  "You are amazingly calm, incredibly positive and really holding it all together"!! Yeay minimisation - it worked!!  

I have created my whole divorce situation to be the coolest,most easily sorted life catastrophe ever. BUT I am in denial.  Minimisation is the optimism, except with fears of not being able to continue, coping and steadying the shifting life walls for my children to have some semblance of a normal life.  

I am best at telling everyone it will be alright, all the time and pretty much most of the time it does go OK. Is it because I am positive and my brain doesn't want to play with the fear monkeys any longer, or is it my refusal to address the bigger scarier picture? 

During the first few months of my separation hanging with the scary head monkeys of penniless, bitter, lonely and divorced woman, I spent truly lonely moments as a result of everyone thinking I was doing great. There were times when I wasn't OK and those lovely people were confused. Why did I suddenly and desperately need help and support?  Now I am not so cool, or guarded about my feelings and I can open up the soft underbelly of my fears and not be so fearful of hurting.  Learning to ask for help was scary but it helped me become stronger.


Whichever defence mechanism you feel perhaps entrenched in, trust that with time you will come out of it.  Understanding how you are feeling and accepting what you are going through is part of a natural human process. 

Whilst the temptation to fight against how you are feeling, let it go.  It is OK to feel angry, be in denial and reactive in all of the above ways.  You are grieving too and as the great Sufi saying goes "this too shall pass".

So don't be tempted to beat yourself up, try to be kind to yourself and look after your mental and physical health.  Exercise, do yoga, meditate, drink lots of water and eat healthy food.  Take walks, play with your children, spend time with your loved ones and really know that one day you will look back and you will see how far you have come on this divorce journey.

Defence mechanisms were designed to once protect our human existence, if dropped we expose our vulnerable underbelly which is so hard during divorce and separation. 

Hiding behind defence mechanisms to cope with divorce is not going help our hurting selves move forward. Nor aid our ability to heal our divorce wounds even with support, love, and friendship. 

“No matter what age you are, or what your circumstances might be, you are special, and you still have something unique to offer. Your life, because of who you are, has meaning.”- Barbara de Angelis 
With love Natasha 


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