Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

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Divorce and Defeating Anxiety

I just returned from LA where, with my training team, I presented a three-day training in Collaborative Divorce. One initial observation I made from this training: many divorce lawyers who practice non-collaboratively are highly anxious and strung out about their work. Throughout the training, time and again, I saw and heard professionals express levels of high anxiety and borrowed worry about their clients:

  • “What about getting my client’s needs met?”
  • “I would feel ashamed of myself if I didn’t get in there and pitch for my client”.
  • “I am supposed to fight for my client. I just can’t sit around and keep quiet!”

Now that we understand, through many years of Collaborative work, that divorcing clients are at some level of trauma/crisis when they seek out a lawyer; we also realize that, as their divorce professionals, we are ever-at-risk to go into the trauma with them and begin reacting with impulsive, limbic aggression “on behalf of the client”. We mistakenly think that this is what is expected of us: to take on the trauma of the client.

In Collaborative Divorce, we notice the trauma of the client, but we do NOT take it on. Instead, we meet the client in the trauma-fog of his/her divorce and we help lead them out to various financial, emotional and legal safety zones which alleviate their anxiety and empower them to be rationally and responsibly present for a recuperative and constructive divorce resolution. This is a much more creative and satisfying way to work.

If you are a divorce professional, do yourself a vocational favor and get trained in Collaborative Divorce. You will be much less anxious and more pleased in the positive meaning of your work.

Upcoming trainings:

  • New York-September 26-27
  • Phoenix-January 16-18

www.collaborativedivorceinstitute.com

I hope to see you there!


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The Bystander Effect

I just read a book that described the research behind the Bystander Effect. It is a disturbing phenomenon, indeed, and it has been empirically proven in many studies. The misconception most of us hold is that when someone has been hurt, witnesses will rush to their aid. The sad truth is the more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person within the group of witnesses will help.

The line of thinking in the Bystander Effect is that if one person , alone, sees someone in  trouble, he or she will feel compelled to help. If three or more people are witnessing someone in trouble, each supposes someone else in the group will help and so the individual abdicates his or her personal responsibility to step in. According to David McRaney, author of You are Not So Smart, the Bystander Effect has cost plenty of victims either their physical and/or emotional well-being. In many cases, by-standing has caused victims their lives, while others looked on.

I can personally relate to the Bystander Effect. When I was traveling in Florence, Italy, I was unaccustomed to the uneven cobblestone walkways. Upon exiting my hotel, I tripped just outside the entrance and went down sprawling onto the sidewalk. I hurt my knee and could not immediately get up. The number of pedestrians who literally climbed over me was astounding. Scores of them. Not one person offered help. I don’t remember what hurt worse: the injury to my knee or the shame of being ignored via apathy. I think the latter. Gosh. How do some people sleep at night?

I believe that the Bystander Effect needs to be considered as seriously as leaving the scene of an accident or leaving the scene of a crime. If it was our civic and legal responsibility to help someone in need, perhaps there would be less bullying, less domestic abuse, less hate crimes, less assaults, fewer injuries and fewer victims. Why do you think people abuse or bully other people? …because they can!

I have decided that by-standing someone in distress is officially not part of my behavioral repertoire. If I see someone being mistreated or in danger, I want to act in some way to be of aid to the victim. In my opinion, not only is it the moral choice; it is my honor to be of service to another who may be in distress. Give it some thought. What stand do you take?


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Relationships and Attachment

The success of a relationship may very well be based on how you tend to form attachments; a style that became hard-wired into the brain at a very early time of life. If your parents used a particular style of attaching with you in infancy and early childhood, that will contribute to the infrastructure for how you tend to attach as an adult.

People tend to form attachments on a continuum which has avoidant attachment at one extreme; anxious attachment at the other extreme and secure attachment at the midpoint. The anxious connector will sometimes appear to be clingy, mistrusting, and possessive about his/her partner. The avoidant connector will sometimes appear to be indifferent, disinterested and withdrawn. Some people make attachments with others that go from one extreme to the other: “I don’t want you; please don’t leave me!” They overshoot that midpoint of secure attachment and don’t get much joy or comfort from their connections with others. Here is a rather primitive graphic, illustrating the concept:

<-Avoidant———-Secure———-Anxious->

My mother, God bless her, would worry like crazy about her kids. She was overprotective and overly concerned that some awful danger would befall us. She was anxious in her style of attachment. Guess how I tend to attach?… That’s right; I am an anxious attacher. My husband is more avoidant. Sometimes we go round and round: when I start trying to control him, he keeps to himself and ignores me. When he is acting aloof, I tend to try to get him to engage with me; sometimes by picking a fight with him. Neither of these approaches work very well, so we have to consciously make adjustments.

The age-old rule of “opposites attract” also applies here. We will often find an avoidant attacher paired up with an anxious attacher. They end up unconsciously enabling each other in their respective styles. The more an anxious attacher goes after an avoidant partner, the more avoidant that partner becomes. Conversely, the more withdrawn an avoidant partner becomes, the more anxiously his/her counterpart behaves.

The good news is that if you have some awareness about how you both tend to attach, you can each work on taking a step in toward that midpoint of secure attachment. An anxious attacher will do very well with a word or two of reassurance. An avoidant attacher will be more present when she/he can have a bit of space and private time.

An understanding of the attachment style of both you and your significant other will protect your relationship from unnecessary conflict because if you understand your respective styles, you will take the attaching behavior of your significant other a lot less personally. You can then be present to support each other in stretching out of attachment comfort zones to meet somewhere in the middle with a secure connection.