As a divorce coach, I will never tell clients “Time will heal their divorce wounds.” Can you take a guess why? For the simple reason, that it is not a long-term strategy and for the fact that I don’t believe that statement is true. In fact, as a divorce coach, I see first-hand how damaging that belief can be.
“Time” does not fix people, having a plan, strategy, and goal to work on does! I believe that allowing time to pass us by and avoiding the hard work it takes to heal, only hinders the healing process to move forward. Time itself will heal nothing, it’s what you choose to do with that time that makes all the difference.
People will try their best to navigate their divorce by putting on a brave face and tough exterior. Fast forward many months afterward, and many of them still feel as though their loss happened yesterday. Their ongoing anguish stems from their attempts to escape their heartache. Rather than deal with their grief or confront their sadness, they attempted to distract themselves from their grief and pain by hoping time will heal their wounds. But despite the passage of time, their distress remained because they lacked the skills necessary to bounce back from the loss of their marriage.
What the Research Says
A new published in Perspectives on Psychological Science confirms the idea that time doesn’t heal. Researchers from Arizona State University discovered that in general, people don’t possess a lot of natural resilience. When people experience a life-altering event, like a divorce, there’s a good chance it will take them longer than anticipated to bounce back and heal. Researchers report that the previously held belief that “most people are resilient” may prevent people from seeking the help they need to recover more effectively.
Now that I’ve cleared up this misconception, let’s look at what will heal your wounds:
- Take your time and put it to good use. This is when you’ll realize it takes “work” to heal. Allowing yourself to think about the circumstance that brought you to where you are now, will ignite many feelings. This is when being kind to yourself, giving you the space to process these feelings will be incredibly beneficial to your healing. It’s when we deny ourselves to “think” and “feel” that we will numb our pain and do our best to sweep it under the rug and move on. If only it were that simple since I’m here to tell you it’s not. These wounds will most likely be carried over into your next relationship, possibly spark an addiction issue, affect your career, and so many others.
- Our actions are followed by feelings. When someone spends endless amounts of time thinking they will never feel better, nor will their situation improve, guess what? You will most likely feel despair for just as long. If you can redirect your thoughts in more of a supportive direction, you can allow new feelings to emerge. This puts your time to good use. Our actions are driven by our feelings, for example, hopelessness may be driven by the thought that you cannot possibly pull a new post-divorce life together. If I can make this thought 1% better by saying “I’m open to the fact that I may figure this out,” I create space for 1% better feelings to emerge and 1% better actions to follow. You cannot throw positive thoughts on yourself that don’t generate from an authentic place in you. I suggest you use the time to become more conscious of your self-talk and your self-thought and carefully select the thoughts to keep that further stronger, more healed, and more empowered feelings and actions.
- Our feelings are traced back to a thought. If you are feeling sad and angry, it may be due to thinking thoughts such as “you’ll never get better” or “you’ll never heal from this experience.” Our subconscious chatter is often derailing us. However, if you could change that thought to “I will eventually heal from this,” I’m willing to bet your feelings may change possibly to one of being hopeful. When you’re feeling down, ask yourself, what am I thinking about that is contributing to this feeling? Tracing the feeling back to a thought puts you more in the driver’s seat with your time
- There’s No Timeline on Bouncing Back. The well-intentioned adage, “things will get better soon” perpetuates the myth that healing a psychological wound is a passive activity. Unfortunately, waiting to feel better might not yield the best results. If time heals–and putting a time frame on when you should feel better–is dangerous. Not only might you become highly critical of yourself if you don’t bounce back fast enough, but you may also lack empathy for other people’s prolonged suffering. Or instead of revealing your distress to a confidante, you may suffer in silence out of fear that you’ll be judged harshly. But waiting for more time to pass isn’t likely the best option.
- Build Mental Strength No one is born mentally strong–but everyone can develop mental strength. It’s not any different than developing physical strength, there are exercises you can perform to build mental strength. Healthy habits, like identifying what you’re grateful for and practicing self-compassion, can go a long way toward boosting your mental muscle. There are many ways to accomplish this. One of the best ways to stay on top of your thoughts is through a daily journal process each day. With conscious thoughts drawn out in a way we can see them; the feelings will then flow from there. Thinking realistically, regulating your emotions, and behaving productively are also key to healing from your divorce.
The stronger you become, the more resilient you’ll be to life’s many stressors–both big and small. Increasing your mental strength, and using your time wisely, requires intentional practice, which is well worth the effort as this will increase your ability to heal your divorce wounds.
Hayley Lisa, The Divorce Coach for Men