Great guest post by Dr. Baruch Halevi on something needed to start healing after divorce:
Stop Being Fine & Start Being Real by Dr. Baruch Halevi
Here is the number one lie we repeat, over and over again almost every single day. Someone asks us how we are doing and what is our default response?
“Doing well.” “Everything is fine.” “I’m OK.”
Sometimes this may very well be true. However, most of the time it’s not. The reason we do this is because we live in an avoidant society. We run to things that are comfortable. We strive in directions that are fine. We settle, over and over again for OK. And we avoid anything, everything and everyone that brings us down or makes us feel not so fine.
This is why it is called “avoidance.” That is to say a-void-dance. A dance around the void.
We hate the void. We are terrified of the void. We avoid the void, sometimes at all costs. We throw food into the void. We throw money into the void. We throw drugs or alcohol into the void. We avoid the void through binge watching old re-runs of “Friends,” while binging even harder on a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s “Chubby Hubby” (sorry probably not the best choice of flavors) or by downing a 6-pack. Or we throw stupid little lies, like “I’m fine,” into the void, always feebly, and ineffectively, trying to make the void go away.
But there is only one way to face the void and that is THROUGH the void. And to go through it you have to admit it, acknowledge and articulate just how much it hurts, how painful it is, how badly is sucks.
If you are contemplating, going through or on the other side of divorce then you know exactly what I’m talking about. You also know that divorce is many things but “OK,” or “fine” it is not! Minimally the void stinks and maximally it is a living hell.
This is why when my clients try to pass off on me the “I’m fine routine”, I always respond with the only deserved response – “bullshit.” Although this is not exactly the response they were expecting, it is interestingly ALWAYS the response they were secretly hoping for. Because when we are going through the divorce fires of hell, or even just perennially stuck in a low burn separation simmer, we want to be honest. We crave to vent our pain. We just want to heal.
“So, how are you doing?” I’ll ask again.
“Terrible,” or “struggling,” or “suffering,” they’ll respond. And although our hour session is only just beginning, essentially my job is done. Now the door to honesty is open. Now they have permission to be authentic. Now they have a chance to heal. And the only way to do that is to jump head first into the void. That begins by being real.
No matter what you are going through in your life, particularly regarding relationship struggles and divorce, find times to put aside the false fronts. Seek out places where you can set aside the “I’m fine” responses. And find people, or just one person in your life who can hold a safe, inviting, nurturing space for you to stop dancing around the void and start dancing through it. That is how you will once again truly be OK. That is how you will eventually heal.
Jackie’s two cents on this post: I fully agree with everything Baruch says in this post. I will tell you that when I was newly separated and people would call and ask how I was, I would answer “Doing well,” “Everything is fine,” or “I’m OK.” Of course I wasn’t, but the reason I didn’t answer truthfully wasn’t so much because I was being avoidant, but rather because I was selective with whom I let into my world of pain.
So, to piggyback on Baruch’s advice, I would recommend not sharing with everyone who calls or those you meet or friends you run into just how NOT OK you are. I believe that being avoidant with some people is a perfectly appropriate way of handling your divorce. Not every neighbor, friend, or distant relative needs to know that you feel as if you are unraveling and that your wife just broke your heart into a million people and destroyed your life.
But, Baruch is correct in stating how crucial it is to let someone in. It might be your priest or your rabbi. It might be your best buddy, your brother, or a close coworker (who isn’t an office gossip, of course.) It might be Baruch! (whom I would highly recommend.) The point we are both making is, if you tell everyone you are fine, and you are unwilling to be vulnerable to even just ONE person, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. You will not be able to begin to cope with your divorce until you say out loud how much it hurts.
You aren’t fooling anyone with “Everything is fine,” and that’s OK. But let the one(s) you trust into the authenticity of how hurt you are, how scared you are, how angry you are, how much regret you have and how life seems unbearable. Because, starting at rock bottom is the only way to start accepting, healing and rebuilding.
Rabbi Dr. Baruch Halevi is a regular contributor for DGS. A Relationship & Life Coach, Halevi, (who goes by “B”) is also a motivational speaker and inspirational author.