lou walsh, lcpc

30 n. michigan avenue

suite 1516

chicago, illinois 60602

312.514.5689 louwalsh6@aol.com


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Divorce University

Thank you to the women who attended my talk, “The New Single You”, at Divorce University through the Lilac Tree organization, given jointly with my friend and colleague, Chuck Marcus.  It was a tremendous experience.  Chuck and I loved the questions and comments, and we were energized by the support you gave one another.  And now, as I promised, here are my remarks from the talk:

Support:  The most important thing for each half of  a divorcing couple’s life is a support network, a difficult idea to navigate.  Someone may get custody of most, or all, of the mutual friends, and this is painful to handle.  Divorce is scary and can bring up issues for others, so a lot of friends will try to pressure you into dating before it’s right for you. They may feel awkward inviting a split-up couple to do things, and they may project those feelings onto one-half or both members of the former pair.  “She would feel uncomfortable coming because her in-laws are going to be there”.  When you are ready, you have to put it out there that you are willing and able to socialize.  Work at making and keeping connections.

Get organized.  You have a million different directions to go in right now.  How do you find focus?  My suggestion is to stop making one-day to-do lists and trying to prioritize them.  Instead, identify the one thing that you don’t want to do more than anything else.  What is it?  Some of you can think of something right away.  Take that one thing and concentrate on accomplishing it today.  If you have a list of 4 or 5 things, you will just get overwhelmed and not want to accomplish anything.  If you knock off the one thing you don’t want do to do in the morning, great.  Move on.  But if you manage to do the one thing you don’t want to do, you will be ahead of 90% of the people out there, and your mind will be clear.

Assign yourself an hour each week to take stock.  If you do not have children, I would recommend a half-hour each day to reflect on life, where you want to be, where you are now.  But let’s get real, it is only possible to reflect quietly before the kids are up.  So...I recommend taking an hour to just sit and think about where you are instead of doing your usual routine.  You can make a list at this point, of goals, of all the things you want or don’t want, and then you can break it down to the one thing you want to accomplish each day.

This includes identifying your emotional needs.  How often do you need to get together with other people to be happy?  Consider making new friends and joining new groups.  This could include self-help groups.  People who are willing to be vulnerable with other people are attractive as friends, because they aren’t so guarded.  Don’t you find that people without walls are the easiest people to talk to?  We all have secrets, things we may feel embarrassed about, but as soon as we compare notes and discover a world of people out there with the same situation, we feel better about ourselves and more open to forming new friendships.

Take an honest look at your goals - Are they moving you forward or keeping you back?  Is your goal to make someone else suffer?  It is very difficult to let go of this.  I understand there is a lot of anger out there.  But coaching is not about addressing the emotional stuff, and for that reason it is important for you to put your emotions aside at this point in your life.  In coaching, we look at the future “you” you want to be.  How to do this?

Don’t ask yourself what you want, ask yourself what you don’t want.  It is a lot easier to identify what you don’t want.  If I asked you what you don’t want right now, you could probably come up with one, two or 17 things that you don’t want from your life.  Write them down, and these will help you figure out what you do want.

Holidays - How will you handle them?  Will you be alone on the holidays as far as you know?  Plan ahead right now.  This goes back to being pro-active about your own social life.  If you have trouble figuring out who you do want to be with, go back to the negative - ask yourself who you don’t want to spend time with, and this will lead you in a positive direction.

Manage your anxiety - Anxiety is a huge subject, not really discussed in coaching, but it needs to be addressed because anxiety attaches itself to everything you are probably going through.  Take the time to ask yourself what you can do to manage your anxiety.  Do you like to take hot baths?  Drink tea?  Do yoga or tai chi?  Read a book?  Get a manicure?  Be good to yourself and do the things you like to do in order to feel good and keep anxiety at bay.  A lot of us try to avoid anxiety-filled situations at all costs, and unfortunately, it is not always possible.  So when you are faced with one, just remember this:  Breathe in and breathe out.  It is the simplest way to reduce stress.  Both Chuck and I are licensed counselors, so you can see us one-on-one to treat anxiety, but these are just some ideas to take with you. 

Best of luck to each and every one of you on your journey.