When I got divorced, FEAR was my constant companion. I was afraid of almost everything and I spent a lot of time imagining catastrophes that could happen to me. Some of the catastrophes I vividly pictured were being trapped in my home by a tornado (that was the happy version – the worst version was just being obliterated by a tornado), being poisoned by the food I had bought at the grocery store, being killed in a car accident, and even losing my job which would cause me to never work again and having to live on the street where I would die a painful death.
Luckily, none of my catastrophes have come to pass, but I wasted a HUGE amount of energy and time living with the fear of them. And yet, being afraid is a common part of going through divorce. There are so many changes happening all at once that can seem to threaten survival if your FEARs take hold of you like mine did.
Could I have worked my way through my divorce without wasting so much energy and time on being afraid? YES! But I didn’t know how then. I know how now and that’s what I want to share with you – exactly how to calm your FEARs.
You can look at the word fear as an acronym – FEAR – which stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. Each one of the catastrophic fears that I had were actually FEARs. They were just expectations that I made come terrifyingly alive for me even though they were not real events.
The first thing to remember about FEARs are that they are based on a loss of trust. When you have False Expectations Appearing Real you’ve lost trust in something.
When I was afraid of being obliterated by a tornado, I had lost my trust in being able to take the necessary precautions in a tornado warning. When I was afraid of being poisoned by the food I bought at the grocery store, I had lost my trust in the food production, safety and distribution organizations. When I was afraid of being killed in a car accident, I had lost my trust in my ability to drive defensively and my trust in the fact that most other drivers are going to follow the rules of the road. When I was afraid of losing my job, I had lost trust in my ability to perform at work even though I was still doing so. When I was afraid that I would never work again, I had lost my trust in myself. When I was afraid of
living on the street, not only had I lost trust in myself, but I had lost trust in my friends and family too.
Now, losing trust is a normal part of going through divorce. It makes sense to have a questioning about trust with respect to relationships when you’re going through divorce. However, generalizing the loss of trust about relationships to other things is where FEARs start. So as easy as it can be to question your trust of other things in your life when you go through divorce, actually losing trust can lead to creating catastrophes where there are none. And this is exactly what I did when I went through my divorce.
The second thing to remember is that what you’re FEARing is probably not happening now. In fact, that’s the best way to start calming a FEAR. Just ask yourself if what you’re FEARing is true right now.
Is it happening right now? Usually, it isn’t. Usually, your mind is just going down the path of creating a wildly vivid movie of your FEAR. But, the moment you’re able to push the pause button on the movie you’ve been creating by acknowledging that it’s not happening right now, you’ve just started calming your FEAR. Your FEARs will calm because you’ve changed your focus, if only for a moment, to the fact that it’s not happening right now.
The third thing is to help your thoughts change the channel from the FEAR movie as soon as you pause it. There are millions of other thoughts you can have instead of becoming engrossed in the movies of your FEARs. The easiest way to change the channel is to become engrossed in something else. For some people exercising works great. But if it’s the middle of the night when your FEAR movie-fest starts, it’s not too practical to start exercising. What I think works even better at any time of the day or night is to write down what your FEAR is and then write down as many things as you can think of to prevent that FEAR from becoming real. Another thing that can help any time of the day or night is to ask yourself what is happening now. What are the sounds you’re hearing, the things you can see, what are you touching, etc. Just by bringing yourself as fully into the reality of your surroundings as possible can help to quell the FEARs and change that channel.
Fears are a normal part of healing from divorce. The thing is that sometimes they can get out of hand and become FEARs (False Expectations Appearing Real). By having a plan in place that can help you change the channel when your FEARs start playing in your mind, you’ll be able to calm them quickly.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What are you FEARing? People FEAR all kinds of things when they get divorced. Maybe you FEAR being alone for the rest of your life. Maybe you FEAR not being able to find a job when you return to the workforce. Maybe, you’re like me and you FEAR eating the food you bought at the grocery store. Whatever it is that you FEAR, acknowledge it. By acknowledging your FEARs, you’ll have more control over them instead of being ruled by them.
Now that you know what they are, prepare for you FEARs to show up. Understanding that your FEARs might show up again even after you’ve identified them will put you well on your way to calming them. They’ll become a movie you’ve seen a hundred times where you can recite every line of the dialog by heart. You’ll just need to remember to ask yourself, “Is what I FEAR happening now?” as soon as the FEAR movie starts to play again so you can pause it for just a moment.
When the movie is paused, pick one of the three options to change the channel. If your FEAR movie starts playing at a time when you can exercise, you might want to do that. If your FEAR movie starts to play at a time when it’s not possible to exercise, you can either write down your FEAR and as many
things as you can think of to prevent it from coming true or you can start becoming firmly engrossed in your surroundings.
Whatever you choose to do to change the channel when your FEAR movie starts will be a HUGE boon to you calming your FEARs and being able to move on with your life after divorce.
This is a guest post from Dr. Karen Finn