Shame: Addressing a Primary Cause of the Misery Spiral

Last week, I wrote about the “misery spiral” and how easy it is for those going through a divorce to fall into it, primarily because of feelings of guilt and failure.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be useful to delve deeper into this and examine the underlying common denominator: shame. 

Shameful Feelings of Divorce

Shame is often a difficult feeling to identify, because people are reluctant to admit they are ashamed of something, particularly if they feel there is no reason to be (i.e. “That jerk cheated on me!  Why should I have qualms about getting divorced? I have nothing to be ashamed of!”). Not only are we reluctant to admit feeling shame because it is painful to do so, we tend to overcompensate for it by lying, hiding out, blaming others, and engaging in an obsessive quest for perfectionism to alleviate the shame.  If it goes unaddressed or repressed, shame can cause long term serious health issues—both physical and mental—and inhibits social interaction. 

Luckily, with the work I do in the Collaborative Divorce Process, I see shame being addressed and successfully resolved.  The work of the mental health professionals, known as Divorce Coaches, engaged in the Collaborative Process is crucial to this.  The first step is to recognize the feeling of shame, to name it openly.  Often, it is cathartic for couples in a stalemate in divorce negotiations to voice and express feelings of shame openly with the help of Divorce Coaches.  Usually, both sides are feeling similar things (or have felt them at some point in the process) and can identify with the pain of the feeling.  This commonality of the feeling often results in displays of empathy, which are tremendously helpful in reducing the toxic power of shame. 

Finally, throughout the Collaborative Divorce Process, the professionals on the team can help work through the shame to build self-confidence and self-worth.  Working with a Divorce Coach can help alleviate shame and re-direct to a more future-focused and positive outlook.  

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