Coping With Divorce: Too many changes, too fast.

<<Welcome to a series of world-class master coach videos I’m sharing on topics that are key to emotional healing after divorce. Brené Brown is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Over the last fifteen years she has been involved in research on a range of topics, including vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. She is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection (2010), Daring Greatly (2012), and Rising Strong (2015).>>

During divorce, and sometimes, long afterwards, women can be a little bit preoccupied with trying to feel safe.  So many changes have happened. So many things we thought were incontrovertibly true vanish in a puff of smoke. It can seem there’s no solid ground under our feet, and we have to keep shifting our balance, never quite knowing where we’ll end up.

Here’s a little video snip on the subject of vulnerability, and how to take a tiny step toward feeling safe again.

Scroll down past the video for top divorcée takeaways on feeling too vulnerable after divorce, in case you'd like an idea of what's covered before watching. (And, in the bullet points, I include some of my own secret sauce to tie things together, specific to divorce recovery.)

Divorcée takeaways on feeling safe again:

  • How to know if you’re “armoring” (that is, trying to protect yourself from pain, or from the next bad thing that’s sure to happen).

  • Perfectionism: Trying to control events, situations, and your own behavior in an almost talismanic way.  (Rosetta’s explanation:  As if, by being perfect, or requiring others to be so, you can subvert impending disaster and keep yourself safe.)

  • Numbing the pain: food, drugs, drinks, gossip, social media.

  • Social media support is different from personal 1:1 support because when you ask a friend to take ten minutes to talk with you about what you’re going through, it’s an act of vulnerability to ask for that support.  We protect ourselves from rejection by not asking, and relying on social media support instead.

  • Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. If you cannot tolerate joy, you start dress-rehearsing tragedy.  When something joyous happens, it can trigger you to expect tragedy to follow in its wake. (Rosetta’s Hint: It can feel safer to just cultivate the habit of expecting the worst, but this can lead to a spiral of depression and a mindset of “What’s the use? I’ll only be disappointed. The rug will be pulled out, and I’ll be left with nothing again. If something good happens, it will only set me up for an even bigger fall.”)

  • People who are comfortable with vulnerability, also feel fear that blessings can be taken away, but Instead of using that feeling as a warning to practice disaster, they use it as a reminder to practice gratitude.

  • (Rosetta’s Hint: For some women, practicing gratitude can make them even more aware of everything that’s still left for them to lose. An alternative way of dealing with the fear of greater loss is to strengthen your positive mindset as a human being. Feed the feeling that, no matter what you’ve been through, you’ve survived it. You are competent, you can learn what you need to know in order to keep growing and keep changing for the better.  It may be difficult, right now, to have confidence in a benevolent Universe, but you can cultivate confidence in yourself -- not the Universe -- based on the fact that you’re still here!)

Would you like more help around too many changes and how to develop the confidence to handle them?

If you feel you’re sinking or stuck in dealing with your emotions (as you navigate separation and divorce, or as you try to heal emotionally after divorce) why not schedule a 30-minute virtual coffee date with me? You'll get immediate help and techniques to feel better from the moment you get on the call. (And if, after our call, you don't feel our time together was helpful, your $25 payment will be auto-refunded. There is nothing to lose, and you will feel better fast.)

Click this link to learn more.

Making it safe to feel again

Today's post is about the work of Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work -- and the presenter of one of the top 10 most watched Ted talks of all time.

In fact, I'm going to link to all three of her Ted talks (plus a subsequent appearance, post stardom, on Oprah's OWN Network), and hope that you decide to watch them all.

Brown's subject is shame and vulnerability.  Not particularly sexy topics.  Not something you'd think would go viral.  Yet it has.

Shame?  Not my problem.

So, if you're thinking, "Shame?  Not my problem," read on because if feel that your life has recently blown up in your face, chances are that part of the backstory is shame. 

Exactly what is shame, anyway?  According to Brown, it's feelings of "I'm not _____________ enough" (good enough, perfect enough, extraordinary enough), and if these feelings don't change, then your life experiences are likely to prove you right.  (That's my assessment, not Brown's, but stay with me for a moment.)

Brown posits that the one thing that completely unravels connection to others (family, friends, and romantic partners) is shame.  And she draws a distinction between shame and guilt.

Guilt says, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake."

Shame says, "I'm sorry, I am a mistake."

The sense of being inherently flawed in some way "makes it nearly impossible to allow oneself to be vulnerable, and without vulnerability, there is no way to experience deep connection," says Brown.

It's an inside job.

Not only this but, 99% of the time, it's not the outside world that tells us we're inherently flawed.  Insidiously, it's an inside job.  We're the ones who give ourselves shaming internal messages.

But our culture does play a role as well, when it casts vulnerability as weakness.  According to Brown, fear of being out of control of our lives means that:

  • Joy becomes foreboding.  (We want to beat tragedy to the punch.)
  • We don't get excited because we're afraid the thing we're looking forward to won't happen.   It is easier to live a life where the default emotion is disappointment rather than to hope and be disappointed.
  • We use perfection as a shield.  (If I have an absolutely perfect, uncrackable exterior, no one can get me.)
  • We stay so perpetually busy that the sad truth of our lives and its emptiness can't catch up with us. 

Brown found, through 12 years of research on this subject, that there was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging from those who don't.  Those who feel they belong believe they're worthy of love and belonging.  Brown's research also shows that shame is directly correlated with depression, addiction, and anger issues.

Vampire in daylight

Brown offers a bunch of suggestions on how to move from shame to worthiness.  Here are a few that I felt were worth repeating:

  • Have the courage to be imperfect.  Be willing to let go of who you think you should be in order to be who you are.  (My addition to this thought:  It takes so much time and effort to create and maintain the facade of perfection that there's not much time for anything else -- like relaxation, pleasure, or joy.)
  • Be kind to yourself first, and then be kind to others.  (I say:  Convince yourself of your inherent worth by treating yourself as if you're worthy and valuable.  It's a process.  The more you do it, the more you'll believe it.)
  • Embrace vulnerability.  Come to believe that your imperfections and vulnerability are what make you beautiful.  Brown gives a few examples of vulnerability:  the willingness to say I love you first, the willingness to do something that offers no guarantee, the willingness to breathe through uncomfortable situations. 
  • My take:  Especially after divorce, we try to protect ourselves and shield ourselves from further trauma, but part of recovery is accepting that, no matter what we do, we are vulnerable.  So let's unlink vulnerability = tragedy.  You've just survived one of life's worst events.  You survived it!  You're still here!  And, if you've learned and become wiser from the experience, you can protect yourself through wiser choices.  So you don't have to protect yourself by shutting down.
  • Brown says that shame grows through secrecy, silence, and judgment.  The objective is not to be perfect and bullet-proof.  I say:  Practice sharing with a friend the emotions or experiences that you feel are too shameful to express.  Let the shameful feelings see the light of day.  Just like a vampire in daylight, you can see these painful emotions lose their hold on you.

Watch Brown's talks to hear lots more about this -- including the confessions of her own panic attacks and emotional breakdowns.  And how her own from-the-stage confessions didn't destroy her career as she had feared, but blasted her into bestselling-author, Oprah-guesting stardom.

Here's her TedX talk (Kansas City) on "The price of vulnerability":

Here's her subsequent TedX talk (Houston) on "The power of vulnerability":

And, here's her Ted talk (Long Beach) two years later, in which she gets vulnerable herself about how she feared her Houston Ted talk would destroy her academic career:

And, finally, the no-longer-playing-small, newly glamorous Dr. Brown appears on Oprah in 2013: