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Mastering Fear in Your Divorce

Aug 17, 2007
There's nothing like getting divorced to kick up a whole new dimension of fear. Will I be alright? Will my children grow up emotionally scarred from my relationship breakdown? Will I be able to cope financially? Am I doomed to be single? What if my next relationship tanks too? Underlying these questions is fear.

Some of this fear is primal and wired into your neurological system. Fear is supposed to have you pause and make sure there aren't any Saber-toothed tigers lurking around. A lot of fear is simply old programming you inherited growing up. I don't think many of us had parents who encouraged us to "Go out and take some risks today, honey!" More often the messages we had growing up were to "be careful!" or "watch out!"

When you're in the transition from one phase to another, your mind feverishly tries to assess and analyze that future state before you've actually experienced it. I've broken down the word "FEAR" into the following acronym: "Feeling Expansion And Resisting." When you take on new challenges, you push the envelope of your comfort zone and expand. Creating a new life for yourself as a divorced person is definitely such a challenge! Fear is like a warning system that is triggered during that expansion and causes you to pause, to re-assess whether you really want to leave familiar ground and venture into the unknown. So how do we master your fears?

View fear as a positive sign that you're making progress.

I now use my fear as a confirmation that I'm moving in the right direction and making progress. Rather than trying to squelch those feelings, what if you welcomed fear as a sign you're moving ahead. If you're not experiencing some degree of fear, chances are you're not stretching too far out of your existing comfort zone.

Feeling uncomfortable with new things is normal.

Whether it's going on your first date post-separation, your first weekend without the children or planning your first "solo" vacation, the first time you do anything new is going to feel awkward or uncomfortable. You're building new neural pathways in your brain that will allow you to carry out that new task with ease. It takes time and repetition to build those pathways successfully, so acknowledge yourself for being willing to try something that feels uncomfortable for you.

Identify the level of fear you're experiencing.

It's useful to get more specific with the kind of fear you're having. Are you afraid for your physical well-being or are you simply afraid that you might make a mistake? These two very different levels of "fear" require a different response. Speaking your fears out loud or writing them down will help give you some perspective on the type of fear you're experiencing.

Just Do It.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot "think" your way through fear. Fear dissipates once you start to take action. Identify the smallest, bite-sized baby step you could take and simply start with that. Even the smallest action will give you new perspectives and insight on how to get what you want and generate some momentum to move through your fears.

Watch your Language.

Our parents were definitely on to something with this warning! Even our choice of words we use can subtly keep us stuck as a powerless victim of our fears. When we get fearful and want to resist change, we'll often say "I can't" do it. Why not be honest about it and say "I won't" do it? The statement "I can't" sends the subconscious message that you're weak or a victim of your circumstance. The phrase "I won't" leaves room for you to take responsibility for your actions and determining your outcome. Instead of labeling something as a "mistake," what if you called it a "learning opportunity"? Watch your language and choose words that leave you feeling energized and empowered.

Try it, you'll like it!

When you feel in that place of indecision or fear about the next step to take, I recommend viewing your next move simply as an experiment. You can take that next baby step. If you don't like the results it produces or how it feels, you can always go back to doing things the way you used to. Why not at least give yourself the experience first before you judge yourself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Expanding your Horizons.

Did you know that coral in calm waters looks very different than coral in turbulent waters. If sheltered from ocean currents and winds, the coral is small and colorless. On the turbulent side of the reef, the coral is large and incredibly colorful. Choosing to act in spite of your fears, you open yourself up to life experiences that bring you wisdom, depth, levels of self-reliance and confidence that might not otherwise be possible.

I invite you to embrace your fears and stop using them as the excuse for not giving yourself whatever it is you want in your life. To help you with that, here's a prescription from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing each day that scares you." After 30 days of following this prescription, I have no doubt you'll be astonished at your results.
About the Author
Carolyn B. Ellis, author, spiritual divorce coach and founder of Thrive After Divorce Inc. If you want simple life-changing tips for single parenting, visit Thrive After Divorce now to receive a FREE report.
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