One of the keys to healing after divorce is learning how to take control of your own narrative and to stop letting yourself be the victim of your circumstances. When we do that, we can start thoughtfully constructing the kind of life that we want to live, instead of assuming we have to put up with what we “get.”
We all go through stages where we obsessively rehash what went wrong (either in our own minds or with friends and family) or blame ourselves for red flags that seem perfectly obvious in hindsight. This is a normal part of the process and is perhaps even necessary for healing, but it’s far too easy to get stuck in an endless cycle of anger, self-blame, and victimhood.
So here are my best coaching tips for escaping that destructive cycle and changing the focus of your life from negative to positive.
1) Name and tame your inner critic
We’ve all got one… the snide, nasty little part of ourselves that always seems to have something to say—and none of it good-natured or encouraging.
“If only I had…” “It would have gone differently if…” “How could I possibly have let myself think…”
That inner critic can start blaming other people for what went wrong, and by “other people” what I really mean is: we blame our ex for all their shortcomings and the ways in which they make our lives difficult.
Whichever tactic your inner critic uses, it’s time for you to get back in the driver’s seat. So your first responsibility is being aware of what’s going on in your head and committing to actively managing it.
2) Challenge your inner monologue
If your inner critic takes the self-blame route, your goal is to start talking to yourself with compassion. You wouldn’t talk to a friend that way… would you? So instead of giving your critic free rein, replace what it has to say with what you’d say to a loved one or a close friend.
Counterintuitively, I also want you to practice compassion for your ex-spouse, and assume that your ex has, if not good intent, at least no ill intent whenever they do something that frustrates or annoys you. In the end, this mental practice isn’t so much about them as about it is about denying them the power to make you upset. If you can keep yourself from focusing on the intent behind their actions, it leaves more energy for you to just deal with the situation and focus on creating a happier situation for yourself.
3) Change the conversation with your family and friends
Venting sessions with your family and friends may have become a key part of your coping strategy, but at some point you have to reevaluate their usefulness.
Are you truly able to vent about a problem, get perspective, and move on during these sessions? Or are your listeners just reinforcing your anger and frustration and amplifying your emotions because they think that’s what will help you?
Our friends and family take their cues from us, so if we start modeling more positive self-talk and tolerant attitudes toward our ex-spouse, they will start doing the same. And positive reinforcement from them will help you maintain a positive attitude, too.
You don’t have to completely abandon your venting sessions… just do it with your therapist or coach, who is trained to help turn those sessions into productive introspection and action, and then leave your “venting cap” in their office.
4) Refocus the attention on you, not on your past
Here’s something I want you to consider: We may be heavily influenced by our past experiences, but our past doesn’t have to define our future. Our future is what we make it.
When you stop rehashing old hurts and grudges, quit justifying your past actions, and let go of self-blame and recrimination—you stop living in a victim-mindset and are finally free to move on. You may still need to work through past hurts and patterns and that’s totally okay—but again—I encourage you to keep those conversations between you and your therapist or coach. When you’re talking with family and friends, stay focused on the positive things you’re doing in your life and how you’re making changes for the better.
Ultimately, I encourage you to start focusing on you and what you want your future to be instead of continuing to look backward. With a forward-focused mindset, you can start creating the satisfying, fulfilling life that you deserve and are meant to have!
Are you ready to feel joy again, reclaim your independence, and chart a path toward healing and recovery? I would love to help you! I offer long-term comprehensive coaching or one-on-one calls. Schedule your Coaching Curiosity Call today!