The issues you'll deal with in
the early stages of divorce are generally on opposite ends of the emotional
spectrum -- yet another example of how polarities, or a sense of opposites,
are part and parcel of major life changes. Indeed, most people going through a
marriage breakup enter therapy disoriented because they can't choose between
wildly conflicting emotions.
"One minute I love
Jack" says a thirty-five-year-old woman of her feelings about her
former spouse, "and the next minute I hate him. Sometimes I think I
must be going crazy."
The secret lies not in the
ability to choose the right feeling. The secret, odd as it might sound, is the
ability to choose both feelings while maintaining the ability to choose
neither. Accept each feeling as it arises, even if it conflicts with what you
felt five minutes ago, and at the same time, release yourself from feelings
whenever the emotional roller coaster begins to make you sick.
Reducing the day-to-day
world of change to a collection of preferred options -- good over bad, happy
over sad -- and trying to chart a course by choosing one and repressing the
other will only lead to dead ends.
Healthy life, and therefore
healthy ritual, consists less of choosing this feeling over that than
of simply acknowledging the polar urges that are always present in us and
building a path between them -- a path, as a Chinese philosopher once wrote,
that leans toward the light. As writers Alan Watts and tai chi master Al
Chung-liang Huang point out in their book Tao: The Watercourse Way, the
art of life is more like navigation than warfare.
An individual devising a
divorce ceremony must recognize both the anger she feels toward her former
spouse for his past behaviors, as well as the sadness that comes with having
lost a shared, precious dream. Mixed into the packet of seed that life hands
to each of us are many kinds of plants. The beauty is that as each one
sprouts, we may choose how we can best use the plant to create the garden we
With care and attention, anger
grows into strength, sharing becomes friendship, and apprehension leads to
adventure. "Everything is paired," explains an Indonesian elder to
the children of his tribe. "Everything has its other half -- the
opposite, the counterpart. If no pair exists, there is nothing."
The following discussions will
help you deal with two distinct pairs of divorce-related issues. One pair has
to do with disidentifying yourself as a wife or a husband while still fully
acknowledging the pain of having played that role. The other pair involves
retreating from society into a time of respite and self-maintenance, and later
using the people around you to firmly affix the lessons of your experience.
Continued in Part II:
The Need to Disidentify
& Embracing Loss.