In contrast to people’s often stated resolve to think positively, this week my assistant posed the question, “Do people ever chose to think negatively?” The answer, in a word, yes ~ particularly during a divorce. In our culture, we are conditioned to respond to divorce, by default, in a negative way. My young daughters have been perplexed that Daddy and Mommy do not hate each other because that is what divorce means when watching t.v. or listening to classmates at school. When actually going through divorce, it is as if you are handed a license to go ahead and think negatively as often and as much as you like.
What I experienced in my own situation and what I see from the other side of the desk as the divorce lawyer is how detrimental the “thinking negative license” can be. For clients in litigation, how it most often presents itself is a feeling that a person needs to “show the judge everything horrible about my spouse.” This thinking, while natural in the immediate moment, if acted upon, can be critically harmful to a co-parenting relationship, may be harmful toward extended family, and ultimately, is the most harmful to the person carrying that negativity around.
This week I was preparing a client for trial and I asked her to name good things about her spouse. She looked at me like I was crazy. She sat back, paused, took a breath and then replied, “He always did the laundry and he could fold a T-shirt like nobody’s business.” We both burst out laughing. Not only did making a shift to focus on the positive bring a much needed stress reliever, but it lightened her up entirely. We continued to talk about his good qualities. I asked her to draw upon this in front of the judge next week for a couple of reasons, the most important of which, it will show to the judge who my client really is: a person who is not out to destroy her spouse, who has the capacity to see good and who simply wants a fair outcome. I have a feeling her testimony will be much more credible and she will be more likeable when the judge hears her speaking from a positive place, rather than crankily focusing on the negative.
I am not asserting here that divorce is easy or that it is a positive experience. What I suggest simply is to be mindful of where you are placing your energy and thoughts. If constantly on the negative, that will most likely damage you and those around you, who are more often than not, those people who are trying to help you through the divorce. Take a breather from the heaviness of all the change. Think something positive. The instant you create a positive thought, there will come a moment of relief, albeit brief, but a moment of relief: guaranteed ~ and that will only be a positive.