By Brian Galbraith
Anger. Have you ever felt so angry at your spouse you could just scream? I remember being so angry I just wanted to kick the furniture or throw something at the wall. I was furious.
I bet everyone who has gone through a divorce has been overwhelmed by anger at one time or another. It’s normal. Our heart pumps fast, our face turns red, and we just want to lash out.
If our email is open, we might just send an angry, spiteful email. I did it a few times, regretfully. It didn’t help.
In a recent blog at Collaborative Practice Canada , R. G. Harvie makes reference to a recent presentation that explains the impact of anger on our choices. He says:
At our recent IACP Conference, Dr. Jennifer Lerner has explained that anger has some interesting effects upon our decision making ability. According to Dr. Lerner:
“Anger has been shown to bias perceptions of risk, which can fundamentally shape leaders’ most critical decisions. In one early experiment, we found that individuals who felt angry tended to engage in riskier behaviors than did individuals in a neutral emotional state.”
In other words, when we are angry, we tend to minimize the risks of our behavior than when we are not angry.
A therapist once told me that underlying anger is “sadness” or “fear”. If you are going through a divorce you probably feel sad or fear most of the time. It’s no wonder you might express it through an angry outburst.
You might feel sad that your dreams of a Hollywood “happily-ever-after” marriage won’t be a reality. Maybe you are fearful, not knowing how your divorce will affect your wallet or your relationship with your children. It’s normal.
Have your children ever had a tantrum? I remember mine would become so outraged that they would throw their toys, growl like a dog and say the most unreasonable things. Well, as adults, we don’t do much better when we are overwhelmed by our anger.
I had a client who had just been ordered to pay spousal support become so upset he said “Take me away, I will not pay! ” He would rather have gone to jail than to give some money to his former wife. Boy, was he was angry.
Some traditional lawyers will ignore emotions. They tell their client to simply get over their anger or “park it”. Others will take advantage of it. I heard a story of a California divorce lawyer who used to say to his scorned clients, “Don’t worry. I will nail his lying lips to the wall!” Of course, his bill for trying to do so was many thousands of dollars and for what benefit?
Collaborative lawyers neither ignore nor take advantage of their client’s anger. We understand that strong emotions are normal and need to be understood.
The challenge is trying to drill down within ourselves to understand the core cause of our anger. That’s almost impossible without professional help yet remarkably many folks refuse help.
Our car breaks down, we call the mechanic. Our light bulb won’t turn on, we call an electrician. Yet, if our marriage ends resulting in an emotional melt down, many don’t seek help.
Why? Maybe they fear being labeled mentally unstable. The truth is that everyone who goes through a divorce goes through the same emotional stages. You aren’t crazy and you could benefit from some help of a professional.
Divorce Coaches can help. They are specially trained therapists and counselors who understand the emotional stages of divorce and can help you understand the source of your anger. I encourage all my clients to work with a Divorce Coach so they can work through their anger outside of the negotiation process.
I want my clients to be at their best when they are negotiating. I want them to be able to find creative solutions that work for their whole family. I want them to work through their anger. I want them to work with a Divorce Coach.
I certainly don’t want them throwing their toys and having a tantrum. They might damage my computer. So I get them a Divorce Coach. Our Association lists Divorce Coaches who can help.