“Everything has its season”
This is truly a season for gratitude as I reflect on a good year in 2011 and hope for more in 2012.
The Reality of Darkness: Whether you talk about Christmas, Chanukah or New Years, the message is about renewal. We are inspired to believe that even in the darkest hour, redemption – either spiritual or secular – will indeed triumph. This is why, in the Northern Hemisphere, our holidays correspond so beautifully with the Winter Solstice and the cold, grey days that have enveloped us. It is in the human spirit to dream for better, for liberation and for peace. This magazine, Psychology Today is a case in point; here you have scores of experts fighting the good fight by helping all of us see our world clearer, so we can build a better tomorrow. And, so it is with The Intelligent Divorce Project; our message is that life can be better for you and your children; and a brighter day will come.
Gratitude: I want to thank Psychology Today for allowing all of our voices to be heard. It is a public service. Our editors are doing something important.
The Gift of Light: The significance of the holidays focuses on the image of light in the midst of darkness. This light than can be as small as three bright stars in the heavens, an oil lamp that burns for eight days when it should only burn for one or the bright secular lights of Times Square, bringing in the New Year, with song and cheer. Divorce is dark because it is a transition from the hope of a loving family to the fear and uncertainty of the unknown. Adults have to transverse this territory alone. Like a significant illness, we suffer alone, even when our friends are near. Divorce is remarkably painful this way – which is why I so strongly push people to reach out to the friends and family who simply come through. Words are cheap; stay with people who show up. You may be alone, but you are a less so when surrounded by the warm glow of loving support.
There is Light in Divorce: For some the strength to leave is light in and of itself. The marriage had failed or they had been hurt or abused. Some just say, enough. This takes courage. For others, the ones whose divorce involves betrayal or a profound sense of loss in their hearts; remember that the light – however small – is always there. The Intelligent Divorce Project intends to help show the way. We, of course, are not alone in this endeavor. I salute my colleagues who are doing great work on divorce throughout the country. We do what we do to offer a light in the darkness; a beginning of a new life for both you and your children.
People often ask me why I got so involved with the subject of divorce; after all, I’ve never gone through it myself. Unlike many others in the world of divorce, this work is not a natural extension of my life; but in some way it is. I feel called – compelled really - to do something good for this world after serving as an expert witness in courts watching countless families self destruct in a system that often serves little good purpose. As a child psychiatrist I’ve witnessed divorce up front hundreds of times, and I feel for all the souls involved - both adult and child.
Divorce brings out the worst in many, the best in a few – and leaves most parents shell shocked by the huge cost of it all. A cast of characters – called professionals – enters one’s life, like attorneys, accountants, police, forensic evaluators, therapists, mediators and judges. It can be overwhelming. Your ex may be cooperative and even loving, or your ex can be malignant like a terrible aberration of nature. Most people fall in between, sometimes handling the pressures of divorce well and then at other times, regressing in ways that injure everyone, including the children.
The Intelligent Divorce is the Way to Go: We can ask people to be more spiritual or loving or just even tempered. It rarely works. The pressures of divorce bring most people into a dark place. But we can offer an intelligent approach to divorce. Your feelings may tell you to poison your son’s attitude towards his Dad (because that S.O.B. hurt you so much), but it is not the intelligent thing to do. Your love for your son must trump your wish for revenge. This takes strength, and intelligence, but it often pays off down the road when your son is less troubled than he might have been. Or, you feel like provoking your ex wife into losing it in front of the children because you know it makes her look like a fool, but you refrain, because is serves no intelligent purpose. Why hurt your children and their mom just because you have the power to do so? Your kids will remember a bad scene, and your sick gratification will disappear soon thereafter. Sometimes it’s simply intelligent to keep your mouth shut.
Getting Intelligent Help Counts Too: While attorneys, courts, police and forensic psychologists may be required for some divorces that are just too dysfunctional, consider the intelligence of mediation or collaborative divorce. You can always have your own personal attorney review any document that you come up with in order to make sure that it is more or less right for you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t add the value of a good therapist for you, your ex or for your children. Not everyone can afford a private therapist but many clinics offer counseling at a sliding scale. If you are truly depressed, treatment can really help. And, having a good therapist/ally keeping you objective can be invaluable. While it’s not a perfect science, there’s value in knowing when to fight, when to compromise and when to let time heal. For your children, having a neutral adult in their lives can be a rock that they can count on.
I am Grateful to my Allies in this Project: Thanks to Steve Peck at www.DivorceSourceRadio.com, who has been invaluable in launching our Intelligent Divorce Radio Show. Two recent episodes may interest our readers. One is on Going to the Movies with your children and the other is with Psychology Today blogger, Andrew Klafter, MD on the role of the Narcissistic Personality in divorce .
In fact a number of my fellow PT bloggers have collaborated either on air or in the print media. These include Ditta Oliker, PhD who we interviewed on air and who inspired me to write on bullying during divorce. I also want to thank Maureen Healy, who we also interviewed on Divorce Source Radio and helped with writing a nice article on the Miracle of Getting Kids to Sleep. In the past few months, we were honored to have Rita Pollak, a world authority on Collaborative Divorce guest blog for us and gave us a great interview. Finally, for those interested, take a look at Leo Averbach, who posted a very popular piece on our site as well. Leo’s work is worth rereading because he documents beautifully how fast things go bad in a divorce, and how to find equanimity despite it all.
Behind the scenes: Quality work is not produced without effort. I am grateful to Natalia Piland for her organizing and editorial efforts. I wish you well in finishing your studies at Cornell University and hope that you become the scientist/naturalist that is in your bones. Thanks to Aaron Greenstein for research, insight and editing, to Pamela English for the same, Julian Hassan for masterful social media work and welcome to our new chief editor and bottle washer, Kaitlyn Burke. We are all looking forward to your energy and talent.
My Prayer: I wish everyone a good year. Pain is part of life. Loss is inevitable. But, we human beings have the ability take something that is broken and to fix it. We have the heart to love – and to connect to something that is greater than us, that can often give us strength. Whether your source of renewal is in God, the memory of a good parent, or a special mentor – allow that light to enter.
Whatever you may be going through, whether it is a divorce, a child in trouble, an illness, an aging parent or just life itself – I pray that you find a bit of light to nurture you through.
Remember, everything has its season.
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