Elizabeth Winkler, LMFT
What if we could create more love in the world through the process of breakups, separations, and divorce? This may sound strange, but it is entirely possibly for those who are willing to do the internal work, what I call mindful untethering. I have created five tenets to follow and come back to as guides for the “internal divorce” that is necessary for individuals to find peace, empowerment, and ultimately abundant love that lies within each one of us. Here are the 5 Tenets:
1. THE PATH OF HAPPINESS IS INSIDE
“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”
Many people divorce externally on paper but they never divorce internally. People uncouple because they are unhappy, but that unhappiness will follow you if you don’t do the inner work of mindful untethering. The choice is yours to make this a growth experience or a tragic event that guides your life forever. So I like to start with, “Do you want to be happy?” Many clients will react with, “How can I be happy; I am getting a divorce?”
When we have all of these unhappy feelings inside, this can feel impossible. However, this is exactly why we need to untether ourselves internally from this pain so that we can let it go. If you don’t, you will never be divorced and never be truly happy. Give yourself the true freedom to be on a path of happiness. So if you said “Yes, I want to be happy,” and you realize you have the power to choose this path inside, then we move to the next step, which tells you how to be there.
2. ENLIGHTENED PARENTS, ENLIGHTENED CHILDREN
This tenet obviously only applies to families but it is an important sector to address. I have found the most powerful guidance to couples with children is this next bit of information. Children of divorce move from a normal category of children to an at risk category. The #1 predictor that they will move back into the normal pool is linked to how well the parents get along. I have seen this piece of information magically move many couples from battling with lawyers to recognizing that with mediation and therapy they have the power to preserve and grow a healthy and happy long-term relationship for ALL parties. The focus is on the health of the whole family. Even though it is a family in two homes, you will forever be tied together through your children. Do you want to be happy given this reality?
You have the opportunity to grow more happiness and love by letting go of your own agenda (ego) and focusing on the whole. Remembering that the parents enlightened decisions provide the path that the children will follow. The way in which you continue to deal with your ex-partner has the potential to be a positive or negative influence on how your children will manage relationships in their future. Enlightened decisions create an environment in both homes that will stabilize and protect the children that you both love.
3. WHO IS AT THE WHEEL?
In divorces there are so many broken pieces and messy situations that clients feel overwhelmed. In order to give them back to themselves they need to become aware of their power. Think of the self like a car and there are many passengers inside. We can see that we let different drivers guide us on the road of life and often we do this without awareness.
We often unconsciously let the insecure, scared, and fearful passengers take over simply because their voices are often much louder and more distracting. We have the opportunity to be more aware and awake here. The dialogue begins with, “Who is driving inside?” Often I find fear to be the biggest culprit, leading to more fear, resentment, and sometimes hate.
If you want happiness, you cannot let fear to be your guide. Would you be willing to let someone else drive so that you can have more clarity, peace, and ultimately happiness? Expansion of our internal awareness of the inner voices allows one to no longer identify from a place of negative fearful thinking. Through this awareness one can experience inner freedom. Through techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, neutralization of patterned thinking, mantra, somatic exercises, breath work, interviewing the different splintered aspects of self inside, as well as emotional releasing of the pain from the heart, the client can become highly aware of the interior life that can create chaos or calm. The therapeutic guidance takes the client back to letting the highly aware self drive down this road ahead. At times there could be a lot of traffic, unexpected weather, accidents, and other reckless drivers on the road, but if your car is driven by an aware and centered passenger then the results will be much better than by a reactive fearful being. This doesn’t mean you are cold and without emotion, you are just better equipped to handle any situation that passes before you. The work done here is all about letting go of pain in the heart, the files from this relationship – and often others – and starting to recognize the noise of the chattering mind as a reaction to that pain. When the client can see their strength beyond the mind and heart, the stabilization is there.
4. FOCUS ON WHAT WORKS, FOCUS ON STRENGTHS
What we focus on grows. When focused on your ex-partner’s strengths it is much easier to build a working healthy and often happy relationship. This clarity helps with dealing with your ex- partner. I love the quote I found below; it helps give clarity to people who are struggling with their ex-partner’s behaviors:
If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about you as
a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.
There are often many areas of weaknesses clients have identified in the other as well as within the self. Clients work with the weaknesses as things to let go of internally (often more pain to release), and see the blessing of physical distance to certain behaviors (e.g. cheating). Clients find it to be easier to not focus on the weaknesses because they are no longer cohabitating so it is less present in their life. The harder those challenging aspects of the ex are just direct the client back to more untethering of the relationship internally and more emotional releases. Finding that balance of each parent’s strength for the family and focusing on that helps to create a peaceful and centered family.
5. CELEBRATING YOUR UNIQUE EVOLUTION
Divorce does not need to be seen as a failure. Due to cultural norms, projections, and assumptions divorce has held a very dark and negative space in the world. Often some relationships do better once they are no longer married. They can grow as families in ways that they could not together under one roof. This is possible when you can build a foundation with two caring parents who are respectful, and honor the long-term health of all people in a family. Do not let others limit what your unique family can or cannot do. You have the power to break down the walls and ceilings of history. The face of divorce is changing in the world and you have a part to play in that. Lets change this together and make this world a more loving, accepting place for ALL people.
Through the use of these 5 Tenets we can build a more compassionate world for children and families who will not look at divorce as a negative influence on their lives. Rather it can be seen as an evolution of their lives. I hope we can all work together to help create more love in the world.