Stop Scaring Yourself!

books about dealing with divorce

Here’s how to stop letting your imagination make things seem so much worse than they really are.

Since it’s the season for scary stuff, I thought I’d tell you a couple of horror stories I told myself when I was getting divorced. The first story is the everyday story. The second is the special event story.

I’ll start with the everyday story. I started telling myself various versions of this story shortly after my ex-husband and I separated in March of 2002.

My fears were LARGE. They invaded almost every facet of my life. I was afraid of living alone. I was afraid of not being able to support myself. I was afraid that I’d get sick from eating food that had gone bad. I was afraid of getting fat. I was afraid of getting old. I was afraid of losing my job.

I’m guessing you get the picture. It’s what I used to do with each of these fears that made up the everyday story.

Here’s one version of the story. I’m afraid of losing my job. Then I’d tell myself that if I lost my job, then I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay my bills. If I wasn’t able to pay my bills, then I’d lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t’ survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Here’s another version of the story. I’m afraid of getting fat. If I get fat, then no one will ever want to date me. If no one ever wants to date me, then I’ll never get remarried. If I never get remarried, then I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. If I’m alone for the rest of my life, I’ll be living alone forever (which amped up the scary factor). If I’m living alone forever, then what would happen if I lost my job? If I lost my job then I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, then I’ll lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t survive long and I’d die a horrible death.

Are you getting the idea of my everyday story? I was convinced that if any one of my fears came true then I wouldn’t survive long and I was going to die a horrible death.

OK, now for the special event story.

Shortly before my divorce was finalized, some friends from graduate school invited me to join them in Spain. Although I was in desperate need of a vacation, it took some convincing before I finally agreed to join them in Spain for a week. Initially, I needed convincing because I was afraid of spending the money just in case I lost my job. (Yes, that does mean that I started telling myself the everyday story.)

As the day for departure approached, I was happily anticipating and dreading it at the same time. I started telling myself that I was a horrible person because I was getting divorced and that I deserved to die. The closer the day for departure loomed, the more convinced I was that I was probably going to die in a plane crash because I didn’t deserve to have fun. I made myself miserable and a nervous wreck. All of the fun I could have had anticipating the vacation I turned into torment and torture.

As you already know, my horror story didn’t come true. I didn’t die in a horrible plane crash. I even managed to have some fun in Spain and on the way home I was too tired to worry about whether or not the plane crashed.

So what’s the point of me telling you my stories? Well, what I’ve found over the years is that many people dealing with divorce torture themselves with their own horror stories. I’ve heard horror stories about never being happy again. I’ve heard horror stories about never being financially well off again. I’ve heard horror stories about children never loving their parents again. I’ve even heard horror stories similar to my own.

In case you’re telling yourself horror stories, I want you to know two things. First, you’re not alone; many people tell themselves horror stories when they’re dealing with divorce. Second, it’s OK to tell someone who won’t judge you, about your stories and have them help you create a better story – a story that inspires you and makes you happy to be you.

Your Healing After Divorce Assignment:

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Identify the horror stories you’re telling yourself. What are the stories you’re telling yourself about your future? Anything that doesn’t inspire happiness and positive anticipation of the future just might be a horror story.

Stop torturing yourself and reach out for help in rewriting your horror story. If you’re ready to change the story you’re telling yourself into one with a happy ending, schedule a Complimentary Consultation with me. We’ll discuss how coaching can help you more quickly and completely work through your divorce and rewrite your story. Simply contact me now either by email karen@drkarenfinn.com or by phone 817-993-0561 and I’ll be happy to schedule some time with you.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Life Is What’s Happening Now

Time is one of those concepts that we all get, but is difficult to define. It’s a marker that allows us to separate past, present, and future.

Why bother discussing time? Because, I agree with Alan Lakein who is credited with saying, “Time = Life, therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.”

When we go through divorce, it’s so very, very, very easy to get caught up in either the past or the future instead of being here, now.

We can get caught up in the past by thinking things like, “If only s/he would have told me they weren’t happy, I know we wouldn’t be getting divorced now.” We might even think things like, “I knew before I got married that I shouldn’t marry him/her.” This was one of the thoughts that I had when I was going through my divorce. It was the truth, but it didn’t do any good. The fact was that I had gone ahead and gotten married despite what my gut was telling me. Spending time thinking about a decision I had made YEARS ago wasn’t making the situation any better. It wasn’t helping me to deal with what was going on right then. It was just a way for me to come to terms with the end of my marriage – for a while. What it did in the longer term was it kept me from REALLY understanding what was going on in the present – what was going on with me. A large part of my struggle with divorce came down to the question, “What is it that I need to change or do to reclaim my happiness?” Focusing on the past never helped me completely answer this question. It gave me hints and clues, but never the answer.

On the other hand, we can get caught up in the future by thinking things like, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to make a living”, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay child support”, “I’ll never find someone to love me again”, and “I am so afraid of the future”. Focusing on the future with thoughts of fear, lack and struggle makes the process of divorce that much more difficult. Who on earth would want to move forward to a life of fear, lack and struggle?!

I know I sure wouldn’t, and yet, when I was going through my divorce, I had many of these types of thoughts. My thoughts and fears of the future played havoc with me. I would make a decision about how many to move ahead in a positive direction and I would break out in hives. I’d make another decision about how to move forward and I’d have a panic attack. Living in fear of the future was miserable!

Luckily for me, over time, I learned how to live in the present. I learned how to take the past and extract the hints and clues it provided about how I might be happy again. With the hints and clues, I started experimenting with my thoughts and actions to discover what made me happy in the present. I learned how to look with the anticipation toward the future and use the happiness of the present to project what would bring me even more happiness and fulfillment in the future.

I’ll be honest with you, this wasn’t an easy transformation for me, but I did it. Because I did it, I’ve been able to teach my clients how to do it. Because I’ve been able to do it and teach others how to do it, I know YOU can learn to live in the present too. YOU can appreciate and learn from your past. YOU can anticipate your future with happiness all while you are enjoying the present.

The most important thing to remember is that life is what’s happening NOW. Appreciate now. Enjoy now. Live now.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What are you holding on to from your past that is keeping you from completely experiencing the present? You might find this question tricky to answer. It takes a willingness to get really honest with yourself and it might even require you letting go of some blame (either of yourself or someone else). On the other hand, you might be very well aware of what you’re holding on to.

What hints and clues does your past give you about how to experience more happiness now? When were you happy in the past? What were you thinking? What were you doing? How does what you were holding on to point you in the direction of what you might need in the future to be happy?

How are you using fear to keep you from anticipating the future with pleasure? What is it that is keeping you from moving forward with pursuing your future?

What does your ideal future look like? You don’t have to have every detail here or even know exactly how you’ll achieve it. The important thing is to know that your future can be ideal.

How might you use the hints and clues from your past along with an anticipation of the future to make your ‘now’ more enjoyable and fulfilling? If you’ve spent the time to answer the questions above, you’ve got the beginnings of how to make your ‘now’ happier. Remember, there’s no time like the present to start making things even better for yourself!

Appreciate now. Enjoy now. Live now.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.