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Overcoming Emotional Barriers To Moving On Following Divorce


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For most women, moving on after divorce can be a colossal challenge. The first step, arguably the most difficult one, is overcoming the emotional obstacles blocking the pathway to a new life. This article describes practical ways to triumph over such barriers.

Perhaps the most difficult step on the path to a new life after divorce is the first one: Coming to terms with the emotional issues that are blocking your way. I know from experience how hard it is to get past the anger, guilt, anxiety, loss of self-esteem - and dozens of other emotions that can accompany divorce. However, I have also learned from experience, that it is well-nigh impossible to create a happy, fulfilling life until you get ‘your arms around’ those negative feelings.

In my work as a divorce coach, I design programs to address the specific needs of each individual. Here are some examples . . .

My client, Eleanor (not her real name), was stuck in a range of negative emotions - from grief and anger to loss of self-confidence. She couldn't move on, of course, because she couldn't get past the emotional barricades.

Eleanor and I designed a divorce ritual to help her stop ‘clinging’ to her marriage. In her head, she simply kept denying the divorce. I had Eleanor dig a hole in the ground, so we could bury the wedding keepsakes she had maintained. The burial thus represented ‘the death’ of her marriage. Eleanor was now ready to move forward.

In my work with her on self-confidence, I helped Eleanor find ways to capitalize on her strengths. To determine those strengths, I asked her to complete the VIA Signature Strengths Survey @

To begin the process of focusing her thoughts in a positive, rather than a continually negative direction, Eleanor and I developed a routine for brief evening meditation(s). Following each meditation, I asked that Eleanor list three positive things that occurred that day. Further, I asked her to specify the role she played in each of those instances.

Although, in Eleanor's case, the techniques described above were very helpful, she continued to be ‘paralyzed’ by a recurring thought, “How could he leave me with no warning?" To address this particular condition, I used a behavior modification technique called “thought stopping". The technique involved the use of an unpleasant noise - the slapping of a ruler - to desensitize Eleanor to her negative feelings.

During a session together, I asked Eleanor to repeat the question (How could he leave me with no warning?), slapping a ruler loudly on the desk when she spoke the last word of the sentence (warning). I then had her repeat the sentence, moving the thought-stopping interruption back, one word at a time. I suggested that Eleanor practice this routine at home whenever she began to have that painful thought.

Over time, Eleanor discovered that she came to associate the noise with the thought. In effect, she ‘heard’ the slap of the ruler before she got to the first word (How). Eleanor continued this practice until she eliminated this thought. She had gained control and was again ready to move on.

There is no one formula for neutralizing all emotions. A variety of techniques must be used to accomplish such tasks. The good news here is that painful feelings can, indeed, be defused!

About the author: Judy Smith, personal coach and founder of The Center for Planned Change, focuses her practice on helping women over 50 create a new life after divorce. Judy's unique blend of practical skills and rich experience make her the ideal coach to help you get beyond your divorce and create the life you want and deserve. See:

Judith Smith, Director The Center for Planned Change Phone: (301) 990-9072 Fax: (301) 403-3349


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