In this instalment of Stowe guests, we catch-up back again with Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching.
Today, she joins us to look at how you can rewrite your divorce story and five great questions to ask yourself to help you along the way.
How often do you find yourself telling your divorce story?
How does it make you feel when you tell it?
How you tell your story matters, because it will affect the way you feel inside, how you react, and how others see you.
When my husband first left, I told my sad story a million times. I focused on how awful it was, how hard I was finding it, how unfair it was, and how angry I felt. I spent hours and hours trying to work out what had gone wrong, why this was happening to me, and not coming up with any answers – or at least none that were helpful.
It was no wonder I felt down! Every time I told my story, I was re-feeling all the emotions that were tied up with it. I saw myself as the victim of my divorce, and that was keeping me feeling stuck and overwhelmed.
I realised I needed to do something to shift how I felt and rewrite my story. I needed to ask myself better questions, ones that would empower me to move forward and begin to think in different ways.
These are 5 of my top questions that you can use to rewrite your divorce story, and shift how you feel:
If there was one good thing about this, what would it be?
This is a hugely powerful, but simple, question, and one that I ask all the time. It can be challenging to think of a good thing when you’re feeling very low, and your first reaction might be “that’s impossible, there is nothing good about this!”.
Try it once and see what happens.
I have had all kinds of answers to this question in sessions with me, ranging from “we can eat fish fingers and beans now whenever we like”, “I can turn the light on in the en-suite now when I get up in the night”, to “I no longer feel like a prisoner in my own home”. If you practice asking yourself this question whenever something throws you, you are training your mind to refocus on moving forward. It might be a challenge at first, but if you persevere, it will become a habit, and you will find that you can spot the upside in anything.
What have I done today that I can be proud of?
Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, shift your focus onto what you CAN do, and what you have achieved. I often ask clients to make a list of all the things they have achieved, and what resources they needed to achieve that. I remember when I mowed the lawn for the first time after my husband left. It sounds like a simple thing, but I’d never done it before, and I felt afterwards that I had achieved another “first”.
What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?
This question also shifts your focus onto opportunities that may be in front of you. Perhaps your ex hated flying, and now you can plan a holiday abroad. Perhaps you enjoy long walks in the countryside, but it was impossible with small children, and now that you have some time to yourself you could join a walking group. Or maybe your ex disliked certain foods, and now you are free to eat it whenever you want. The answers don’t have to be huge things, they can be tiny differences – but they are powerful.
What do I have to be grateful for? What makes me happy?
I always say that gratitude is the best antidote to negative emotions. Despite everything that is happening around you, what good is there in your life? Once I ask this, it is amazing what people come up with. Family, friends, children, health, sunshine, an email of support, a moment of realisation that you are loved. Just yesterday, a client described how she was able to stand looking out to sea in the sunshine, breathing in the smell of the sea, listening to the sound of the waves, and she was grateful for that moment of peace and calm. Once you know what makes you happy, how can you do more of that?
What new things have I learnt through this process?
Take a moment to consider what new things you might have learnt. They might be small, and they might be huge. It doesn’t matter – the important thing is that you are shifting your focus. I learnt so many things through my divorce. I learnt how to fix my car, how to juggle bank accounts, how to breathe so that I could calm my thoughts, and most of all I learnt a huge amount about myself, how strong and resourceful I am, what mattered to me, and who I am.
Take a piece of paper, and a coffee, and sit down to answer these questions. Notice how you feel as you go through them. Are there good things around you that you aren’t even noticing?
Now think about how you could tell your story differently. Try telling someone your new story and notice how they react. Also, notice how it may shift how you feel.
After all, the smallest of things can make the biggest difference. Start with your story.