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Announcer: [0:01] You’re listening to the OverDivorce.com podcast with host Tom and Adrian, two guys swapping stories about getting over divorce. If you’re going through a painful divorce, and are struggling with anger and anxiety then you found the right podcast. Hang with us for the next 30 minutes or so, and we promise you’ll gain useful insight and gain tips and techniques for getting over your divorce and rebuilding a better life.
Tom: [0:28] Welcome to the podcast, I’m Tom.
Adrian: [0:30] And I’m Adrian.
Tom: [0:32] Today we’re talking about presents, and getting our mind clear of those persistent thoughts that distract us from getting on with life and getting on with things from a very dark place. Getting rid of those thoughts that can keep you from making it through this very, very difficult time, what may be one the hardest times in our lives, and finding a quiet with ourselves.
Adrian: [1:00] Yeah, I think it’s really about trying to get a little bit of control over the old noggin. Basically, using some tools that can help you calm and quiet yourself. You can think a little bit better, be a little calmer, and help you function on a day-to-day basis.
[1:18] I know one of the books that I read that really helped me grapple with that, and to pull that together for me as I was going through this madness was “The Power of Now”. It’s a book by Eckhart Tolle. It essentially, helps you gain some perspective on your thoughts. It helps you put yourself in the moment in the here and the now.
[1:44] One of the things that it points out, is that the future is an unknown, it’s garbage. The past is much the same. There’s nothing you can do really about either one. Part of it is just letting go of that belief that you can control the future. Or that you can change the past.
[2:05] You really only have this moment, most of the time we’re OK in the moment. We’re not being water boarded or tortured in the moment. You can go, you’re physically OK. I think I would definitely recommend that to anyone. It’s a great way of getting some insight into how your head works and some practice into quieting down that aspect of your thoughts.
Tom: [2:32] Yeah, and it’s really rooted in Eastern thinking. It’s rooted in Zen Buddhism. I’d been doing some research regarding some of this stuff and some of the methods before training your brain for clearing it. I stumbled in a weird way onto the concept of koans, which are these meditative questions that one asks themselves.
[3:05] I think one of the things that’s so interesting is this all gets brought up in religious contexts. In the west, we’re sort of rooted in our Judeo-Christian ethics. There is resurgence of Buddhism, but it’s very much New-agey and Twinkie, and all that stuff.
[3:24] I was really interested and fascinated to discover that these koans, at least based on the limited amount of research that I’d done, seemed to be rooted in a warrior sensibility from as far back as the first century, where people, particularly warriors, would use these techniques in their training to focus the mind.
[3:48] I can imagine being in battle, particularly in early history, easily getting distracted with worry about, “What are the Gods going to do to me? What about my ancestors? When are we going to be attacked?” all these sorts of things. How to quiet and focus the mind on the present, so that you can actually engage in the struggle that you’re facing?
[4:15] Adrian, when you and I were talking about this stuff in preparation for this podcast, you had read that one line in Wikipedia for which we’ll provide the link.
[4:25] That one question, everybody I think is familiar with the question, what is the sound of one hand clapping? I think the other question that was so compelling along the same lines is that, “Who’s bringing this corpse forth? Who’s marching this corpse forward?”
[4:42] When I read that, it didn’t really register with me, but when you said it aloud, and I heard that question asked, I realized all that it entailed, not just about the body as a vessel and the mind being what the brain does.
[5:00] But even bigger questions about facing death, facing the end of your relationship, and facing the end of all this, you’re letting go of your identity, you’re letting go of what was, and you’re dealing with what is. Who is actually experiencing those things? What is actually experiencing those things? What is it that is becoming depressed? What is it that is in shock and awe from what happened?
Adrian: [5:32] It also brings into light a bigger question in terms of death and dying. It helps you, I think, grapple with that issue, because think when you get through a divorce. You think that it is. [laughs] It’s the death of a relationship. I think it’s good and healthy to contemplate your own existence at that point.
Tom: [5:56] The mortality of everything, right?
Adrian: [5:58] Right, and are you OK with that? One of the exercises that I did was, I got the book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The author describes the person who’s dying of cancer. He imagined he had a little bird on his shoulder, and every day he would ask that bird, “Is today the day? Is today the day that I’m going to die?”
[6:20] That really impacted me. I would often have that roll around in my head. At first I didn’t like it. I didn’t like asking myself that question, because [laughs] I don’t really want to face death. But, over time, over a month or two, I became at ease with the notion of thinking about death and ultimately being OK for the most part.
[6:42] It’s not something [laughs] I want to go do, but being able to talk about it, think about it, and being at ease helped me see the bigger picture and settle myself down a bit. I think asking goes right along that current that you described. Asking yourself, “Is today the day? Am I ready for that?” I may just contemplate that and be OK with that.
[7:07] I don’t know if you have it really conquered, but, if you’re OK with it, [laughs] that really gives you some strength if you look into the whole issue of death and dying. I would definitely advise that. Look at that and contemplate that to make you stronger and better.
Tom: [7:22] We had talked about it in earlier podcasts about the KCB<bler-Ross model of stages of grief — denial, et cetera, et cetera, all the way to acceptance. But I think this is a little different, in that what we’re really talking about here is the idea that everything ends.
[7:43] I remember I met a guy who was a SEAL. Prior to all the shenanigans in the Middle East, he was SEAL. Right after Desert Storm and prior to 9/11, most of the time, those guys worked on drug interdiction in South America. Did some stuff over in the Middle East, but it hadn’t gotten quite as hot as it’s been for the past 12 or 13 years.
[8:09] But I remember him telling me the story, because I really didn’t believe him when he told me that he was in the SEALs. I just thought it was weird, because I’d hired the guy to paint my house. I wasn’t sure if he was making up stories or not. But I bumped into this paperwork, because he’d been released from the military, and he wasn’t getting any of his support payments, so he was disputing issues.
[8:37] Finally, I saw the paperwork that clearly demonstrated that the guy was in fact in the SEALs. He’d left it out by mistake, because it was something he was working on while he was helping me with the house. I asked him, I was like, “What was your biggest learning when you were in the SEALs?”
[8:57] He said the thing that they continue to try to drive forward with you when you’re training is that everything ends. No matter how much pain you’re going through, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how bad the situation is, either it’s going to end because it ends naturally through some resolution, or you die.
[9:18] But, in either case, the way that they train you to get through torture, and the way to get through all of the really difficult training and testing that you go through is to remind yourself that everything ends. I’m going to say it was one of the things I really reflected on pretty heavily when I was first confronted with this whole problem, is that every relationship ends.
[9:47] I hoped that my marriage would end in either my death or sad death of my spouse. That isn’t the way that it’s going to end, but it still ended. I’m still faced with that, and, going forward, it helps me to remember when I’m down, or sad, or having difficulty managing all the difficult self-talk that I’m facing that it’s too will end. This, too, shall pass sort of deal.
Adrian: [10:18] I think part of the problem is because the world we live in today we’re used to being instantly satisfied. If we’re hungry, we can go out and grab something to eat. If we need to contact somebody, we do an email and it’s instantaneous. If we want something, it’s one click on Amazon and we get it.
[10:39] We’re raising ourselves on this instant gratification kind of mentality, so when we’re facing some real big challenges in our life, I think it’s important to look at the expectation of “Let’s see, my wife told me that’s she’s not happy and she wants to leave, it’s not going to be over tomorrow.” There’s no kind of instant fix. It will end, but it’s going to be longer than you want. I think it’s going to take longer.
[11:05] But to your point, keeping that in perspective of like yeah, it does go away, it does settle down, but it takes some time for that to pass and for that to happen.
Tom: [11:16] That back and forth where you feel like I’m finally unburdened of this. I’ve finally got a handle on it. I finally understand why the situation is what it is. I finally understand how this is going to work out. I know how often I’m going to see my kids. I know how much money I’m going to have to pay. I know how much money I’m going to be left with. I know what I’m going to do next. I’m going to know who my friends are and who my friends aren’t.
[11:43] All these things will ultimately resolve but as they’re in the process of resolving you’re just kind of not sure, you don’t know how it’s going to work out. You feel like it could be horrible. But rarely does any sort of forecasting thinking for forecast thinking ever really work out to be accurate. It always seems like it might be kind of right but it’s never really precise, is it?
Adrian: [12:15] I think as humans we have a really hard time accurately depicting the future. That’s why we’re all not billionaires, because we really do a horrible job of spotting the trends, and being able to predict a year out, or a couple months out of how things are going to work. We live in some complex systems.
[12:37] Being aware of that also helps with things, as well as being aware of kind of the wave nature of the emotional state that you’re in. By that I mean you think things have settled down and you’re like “OK, I’m dealing with this. This is all good. I’m feeling relatively happy,” and then boom, here comes this wave that crashes down on you that’s triggered by something else.
[12:58] You need to be aware that that’s kind of how things work. The waves will crash down on you, but over time the waves get smaller, and smaller, and you become a stronger swimmer. You’re able to deal with them when they come.
[13:12] One of the kind of weird benefits of going through a divorce is, from an emotional standpoint, you become like an emotional warrior. You’re able to deal with other things in life that really don’t stack up nearly as much as some kind of a divorce. The business decisions become easier, and you can grapple with some things and become stronger.
Tom: [13:31] Yeah, because we’ve talked about the importance of making decisions. I think the important thing to take away from this podcast is there are tools and techniques that you can use to quiet that worry. To quiet that part of your brain that’s making you hyper vigilant around that next move that your wife might make, or that next move that might happen in the negotiations of things, and what the implications of those are. Playing a chess game in your head about “Well, if she does this then I’ve to do that and then she’ll do this, and then, because those things have happened, I’ll have to do that.” With each progressive step it gets less and less likely that your estimate is going to be accurate.
[14:19] I think it’s really important to think about how do you get back to that place where you’re just thinking about now. One of things you had discussed before when we were talking about this prior to the podcast was the critical importance of breathing.
Adrian: [14:39] Yeah, breathing and a tool that I use that you turned me on to was, it’s actually a website called Headspace. The URL is getsomeheadspace.com. What that is, is they kind of walk you through some medication. It’s guided meditation, and it’s in small steps. It’s in 10 minute intervals, and it’s real easy to do. You just have to sit down at your computer, and listen while somebody walks you through. It’s guided mediation.
[15:16] At the end of it you really do feel relaxed, and calm, and at ease, and at peace. It settles you down for a little while. It grounds you. That’s a great tool that I’ve used to help me to get in that state of mind.
[15:36] The hard part about using that tool was actually getting myself to sit down for 10 minutes, and thinking it would be worth it, like this is silly, this is stupid. It’s 10 minutes, and I don’t have time to do that and what’s it going to do? Is that really going to help? Is this all just hippy bullshit? But, trying it out, I really liked the experience.
Tom: [16:00] It should be noted that they also have an app for iPhone and for Android. It does cost some money. It’s not free but to your point, it’s really worth it to have a tool that helps you move forward in your efforts to meditate, because I think you’re right, people view medication with some sort of skepticism. What’s that really going to do?
[16:25] It gets fused and confused with religion and those sorts of things, and it really is different, I think. It’s exercise for your brain that your sort of facing inward with respect to yourself as opposed to turning outward, and looking at God or a higher power or what have you.
[16:50] Regardless of where you kind of stand in that area, I think it’s important, at least from my perspective, to distinguish those things and to avoid conflating them and confusing them. That just sort of can steer you away from doing this work.
[17:08] We’ve talked a little bit about exercise. We’re going to talk some more about diet. I think it’s also, when you’re contemplating your mind, it’s really important to think about how it is to get in control of that. You’ve also talked about some habits that you’ve used beyond that application to keep your mind focused on that next step and keep yourself grounded in present.
Adrian: [17:35] One of the things that I do is really just a simple breathing technique, where if I’m kind of getting freaked out or stressed out I’ll sit down and I’ll take a deep breath in, fill my lungs, and then just imagine I’m breathing out all the stress of my past. Then I’ll take another breath, and I’ll breathe out all the stress of my future, things that I think are going to happen to me. Then I’ll take another breath and ground myself by breathing out all the stress of the present moment.
[18:12] As I say it…
Adrian: [18:13] …it’s pretty fruity and pretty “out there.” Am I really saying this? Yeah, man, I do it. It works. I’ve done this for probably a couple of years now, and what’s crazy is it’s a little trigger. When I’m freaked out and I do that, it grounds me instantly. It’s like a Pavlovian response, where I ring this little bell and, boom. I’m calm in a stressful situation.
[18:41] If I have to negotiate something at work, or if there’s a car accident or something like that where I need to be on point, I do this little breathing exercise. It takes five seconds, and I’m grounded, and alert, and aware, and I’m calming my emotional state down. It’s a good exercise for your brain. It’s one of those little tools you can use to control those crazy monkeys in your head that run around. It’s been very useful to help ground me when I’m in those moments where I need to settle the hell down, and be in the moment, and take action in a clear way.
Tom: [19:23] That’s so important, because as I punch through the last pieces of my divorce, I find myself getting angry. The one thing that I know from business is that as soon as you get angry in a negotiation, you’ve lost, because the other party’s manipulated you into a position where you’re likely to make decisions, and to put yourself in a position where you are not your strongest, and thinking the most clearly.
[19:57] If you’re listening to this and you’re skeptical, I think it’s good. What I would say is, “Try it,” because regardless of how skeptical you might be, it’s really easy to understand the danger of anger as you enter into negotiation with someone who knows you as well as your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You really want to make sure that you don’t let that anger control over what is essentially a non-emotional thing.
[20:35] Everyone else who is involved and engaged in this negotiation is not emotional about it. Your attorney doesn’t give a crap. The opposing attorney doesn’t give a crap. The judge or the mediator doesn’t give a crap. Nobody really cares that much, and if you lose it, you’re going to immediately position yourself on the fringe. You’re going to be taken less seriously, and you’re going to get less of what you intend to try to recover for yourself. It’s obviously really super important to maintain composure.
[21:13] Regardless of how you view these techniques to remain present and calm, they’re worth experimenting, if for no other reason than to maintain control in negotiations, and make sure that you get the best for your kids and the best for yourself. Nobody in that room is going to care, and if you get mad, they’re going to care even less.
Adrian: [21:41] That’s a great point about anything that we talk about on the podcast. Don’t discount it out of hand initially. Try it out. If it doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s about finding some tools that work for you, and then being able to implement them.
[21:59] To your point about controlling your emotional state, these tools have been helpful to me and others to help do that, to help control your anger and anxiety, and keep that composure. It’s especially important if there’s kids involved, because they’re going to be looking to you as setting the example in how you handle yourself, and how you react. What you do, they will have to lead by example on that front. It really is a challenge. You have to go into that warrior mentality of being the composed warrior leading through example.
Tom: [22:38] Being present, and then using these tools — between breathing tools that Adrian described earlier, asking yourself a [inaudible 22:49] , which is essentially a question that doesn’t really have an answer. That causes you to short circuit that monkey brain that’s keeping you hyper-vigilant. Preventing you from focusing on the moment, and causing you to worry about things that are going to happen — these are really excellent ways of maintaining a level of presence that keeps you from losing your intellect to an emotional state that’ll get you into trouble with people who don’t share your level of passion about your situation, and your level of concern about the situation that you’re in.
[23:28] It can lead to much better results. We’ve got some links to explain more about these techniques on the site, as well as 60 things you can do in 60 seconds or less to improve your state. All that stuff’s free. We hope you’ll take advantage of it to make this transition as easy as it can be, knowing that it’s one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, things you’ll face in your entire life.
[23:56] We’re reaching the end of the podcast, and I want to thank you for joining us. We hope you’ll tune in next time. Adrian, what’s on the agenda for our next podcast?
Adrian: [24:05] The next podcast, we’re going to be talking about children and the impact of divorce on them. How to talk about the divorce with them? How to maturely engage with them, work with them, and love them through this. Next week we’ll be sharing that with you.
Tom: [24:26] It’s not going to be the stuff that the state is going to make you listen to, regardless of where you live. There’s always some mandatory co-parenting program that you have to sit and listen, where they remind you that you need [laughs] to take your garbage out, and put it in a garbage can.
[24:45] It’s a little more beyond those basic sorts of things. It’s really about engaging with your kids and working with your partner to give them an experience. This is not their fault, and they’re not pawns in this whole thing. You love them so much, and you want to see them, obviously, as much as you can. It can blind and distort your thinking around other stuff, and you really have to be careful about that. That’s what we’re going to be talking about next time.
[25:13] Until then, I’m Tom.
Adrian: [25:13] And I’m Adrian.
Tom: [25:14] Thanks for listening.
Adrian: [25:15] Bye-bye.
Announcer: [25:16] Thanks for listening to the overdivorce.com podcast with Adrian and Tom. The opinions expressed are theirs alone. They’re not professionals. Join us next time, anyway. It’ll be good for you.
[25:26] Visit overdivorce.com to get your free divorce recovery guide, and get some fantastic resources on making a better life. Contact us via email at [email protected] Follow us on Twitter, and like us on our Facebook page. We want to help you if we can.