STARTING OVER AGAIN
How happy can you decide to be?
A Series of Articles on Adjusting to Divorce (Copyright 1997)
By Harlan Jacobsen
BECOMING HAPPY AFTER DIVORCE IS NOT REALLY A LEARNING PROCESS
Happiness is the natural state you were born into. Unhappiness is a learned process. So to allow yourself to become a happy single person involves more of an unlearning process to get rid of old programming.
IT IS NOT WHAT IS HAPPENING IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW THAT IS MAKING YOU UNHAPPY
It is your programming and beliefs about what is happening. You may have decided to withhold happiness from yourself until some goal is accomplished, such as finding a replacement for your last mate. You may feel that if you learn to be happy the way things are, then you may not be motivated to find another mate. So you hold "future" happiness up to yourself as a reward for finding someone. In the meantime you cannot be happy.
Happiness is not a reward unless you withhold it. You may be afraid of allowing yourself to be happy as a single person.
I NEVER WANTED TO BE SINGLE IN THE FIRST PLACE
In the second place, if I decide to become happy as a single, Iím afraid I will have no motivation to become married again.
THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE, THE HAPPIER PERSON YOU BECOME, THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO FIND A BIG RELATIONSHIP
Well, you say, I canít be happy unless someone special loves me. This is one of your beliefs that has become part of your programming. Your happiness is now dependent upon certain things happening. Your happiness is under other peopleís control - you have given it over to others and it is no longer yours. You are like the person who says to the fireplace, "Give me heat and then Iíll put some wood in."
WHEN YOU ADOPT NEW BELIEFS AND DISCARD OLD ONES YOU ARE STARTING TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE
If your present beliefs are making you unhappy, then you need to take out that belief, look at it, and if it doesnít work, replace it. Discarding or retaining programming is a decision you yourself make. You have gotten your programming from society, but in starting your new life, you alone can now decide whether or not you want or need to keep this old programming.
THE PROCESS IS MORE OF UNLEARNING AND THEN LEARNING
The learning is that you donít have to keep the old programming that keeps you unhappy. When you get to where your remaining programming is all your own, and not what someone else has given you, then you are taking responsibility for your own life.
REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE NO "SHOULDS" OR "HAVE TOS" NOW THAT YOU ARE SINGLE
You say "I have to" or "I should" go to work, for instance. No, you donít have to. You could go on welfare, sponge off relatives, become a bum or whatever, but you do not have to go to work. Now, you may decide to go to work, but remember there is really no "have to". You decide, so you take responsibility.
THEN SOMEONE SAYS "I HAVE TO" TAKE CARE OF MY KIDS
No, you do not. You could give them to your ex. If he or she wonít take them, you could give them to relatives. And if they donít want them, you could call the State, theyíll take them. In reality, you do not "have to" take care of your kids. But if you decide that is something you want to do, then recognize that it is your decision to do so. Remember, when you are single there are no "have tos" or "shoulds".
YOU CANNOT BLAME YOUR UNHAPPINESS ON SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO
You have been using yourself against yourself; you are your own worst enemy. You have been in a jail of unhappiness and you have had the key (all unknown to you ) the whole time, and you could let yourself out any time you please. But you may say, "If I let myself out of the unhappiness prison now, in my divorced condition, my ex would think I didnít care, society would think me inhuman if I could act happy under these circumstances."
YOU MAY FEEL STAYING UNHAPPY IS NECESSARY FOR YOUR SURVIVAL
You may think that being unhappy may attract someone whoíll "rescue" you, that if you were happy now, you would not be motivated to do better. Again an erroneous belief. Actually, the more comfortable and happy you become with yourself and your life, the more you want to get out and expand and improve your world.
UNHAPPINESS IS SOMETHING I PROMISE MYSELF WHEN I DONíT GET WHAT I WANT OR WHAT I HAVE EXPECTED
"If my new lover doesnít call..... If I donít get that job I wanted.....If junior fails to be perfect and gets in trouble in school....." Your happiness does not need to be contingent with what is or is not happening in your life.
THE WORLD CAN KEEP BEING ITS MISERABLE SELF
As a "getting it together" single person, I have decided to stop hassling it. I give up on "shaping up" the world and the people involved in it. I am merely going to change me, the only person I can control. Use this philosophy and the world seems to change as you change yourself. Regarding my relationships, I change myself so that: I have no conditions to conform to, I have no expectations for others to fulfill, I make no judgments about the behavior of others, good or bad.
I AM NOT TOO OLD TO CHANGE MY PROGRAMMING
Nothing is wrong with you, and nothing ever was. Your beliefs about your divorce were erroneous. Change your outlook and beliefs about divorce to one of accepting the challenge and opportunity to start again, and give up your belief that divorce equates with failure. If you become divorced and your programming is that divorce is "failure", the end of your world, then you look on your divorce as a catastrophe. If you get your programming straightened out, that over 50% of all marrieds get divorced and over half the rest are unhappily married, that even the most intelligent and knowledgeable people are getting divorced at the same rate as everyone else, that the length of the "average" marriage is 7 years, that divorce can be an opportunity for a far better life, then when you believe that, the resulting feeling is very different from the way you felt before. The same thing has happened, but you now have a different belief system. Look on it as graduating from a relationship; just as you outgrow some jobs, so you outgrow relationships.
OLD PROGRAMMING WAS THAT TO GET DIVORCED WAS TO ENDANGER YOUR SURVIVAL
To do that meant that someone was really bad, that they had "failed". But now both parties can survive very nicely without each other, and they no longer have to be bad or have failed to end a relationship. Yet many of us still have that "old programming" which is no longer true or appropriate.
SOME SAY, "I AM NOT UNHAPPY, I AM ANGRY"
Any uncomfortable feeling falls into the "unhappiness grab bag". You may be angry because your ex didnít live up to your expectations. Or they didnít split according to a procedure you demanded, or whatever reason. But again you are unhappy because your expectations or demands were not lived up to. Now your unhappiness does not punish your ex, it punishes you. Give up on the programming that people should live up to your expectations. Change your expectations and demands to preferences: I prefer that they act in a certain way, but my happiness is not dependent upon whether they actually do or not.
MY FUTURE LOOKS BLEAK AND UNCERTAIN
I am unhappy because I fear the future, it is so uncertain.
All futures are uncertain. Learn to live in the now. You only have to learn to make each day a great day one day at a time.
Fear is ignorance - anxiety is fearing the future. When you get goals and know what you are working towards in your life, then you know where you are going.
NEXT ISSUE: More on your new life.