Having been through so many divorces myself, it’s been interesting to watch my friend go through her own. Her situation is very similar to my third one; there is a lot of money at stake, tons’ of property to split up and very strong emotions from both sides. Ex wife number 3 was so angry, and so vindictive it was like a death match going through the process. My friend’s divorce is about the same. Well, except for a few differences.
She is a woman scorned. Her ex had a long term affair, and when they split up he walked out of the house and immediately moved in to his lover’s house. He abandoned her for another; that’s got to hurt. She has every reason to be bitter, angry and want to kick the ever-living crap out of him. A lot of those feelings are there, but she digs deep, draws on her inner essence and remains calm and reasonable.
She stays in control.
That control is a huge factor in her ex’s behaviors too, but in a much different sense. For him, it’s about being in charge of the situation. Over a 30 year marriage, he was the dominate one; almost dictator like. He browbeat her, made all the major decisions, and insisted that she always do things his way. In my opinion, he’s a narcissist. His behavior certainly supports that.
But that’s not the case anymore.
She’s had enough. She realizes that there is so much involved and how she’s able to live the rest of her life is going to be determined how she fares when the divorce is finalized. This time, she’s in charge. And it’s driving him crazy. Every day his anger grows; not because of what she’s doing, but what she’s not doing. He keeps insisting that they meet face to face and hammer out the details of what’s to be separated; he thinks it can be done in 20 minutes or less. HA. Anyone who’s ever been through a complicated split up knows that it takes months, if not years to sort through it all. But, it’s obvious that he thinks that he can dictate what happens, just like he always has. And the fact that she’s taken that control away from him is infuriating! The madder he gets, the more mistakes he’s making in regards to how a settlement is going to be played out. He is the one who’s lost control.
What an important word, control. It frequently determines how successful and happy a life can be.
Managing finances can be critical. There’s a challenge to balancing between instant gratification and long term planning. Of course people are different, but my own inclination is to getting what I want RIGHT NOW. Something might be cheaper ordering it online, but I’ll go to a local store and pay more just to be able to walk out the door with it and not have to wait for delivery. And as a result, I’ve spent way too much and saved very little for the future. With better planning, I could have gotten everything I wanted / needed and still been able to prepare for the future. My spending hasn’t been out of control, but it hasn’t been handled all that well either.
When raising children, it’s important to be the one in charge. Not only are children… well… children, but they need strong leadership to become healthy and successful adults. They may not be able to understand, but it’s natural to crave that kind of upbringing. A lot of times, bad behaviors are just acting out so that someone else has to take charge. That’s why it’s never a good idea to discipline a child when you’re angry. It’s too easy to lose it and overreact, giving out punishment instead of guidance.
And then there is the emotional factor.
So many bad decisions happen when they are made from an emotional drive instead of being carefully thought out. In the case of a divorce for example; there were times I would let my feelings get in the way of a reasonable response. One time, I wanted a particular side table because it went with a chair that I had. She wanted the table because she frankly just didn’t want me to have it. It became a critical point in our negotiations and we both spent thousands of dollars paying attorney’s to fight it out. That’s an emotional decision, and a huge waste of resources. And what did it matter? I could have taken a couple of hundred of dollars and gotten whatever table I wanted. But no; I was going to make a point, and it was emotionally driven. What a dumb decision.
How we interact with people can be compelled differently as well. We get angry at someone, and lash out in an inappropriate and damaging way instead of being reasonable and positive. Over the years I’ve lost a lot of friends by reacting emotionally instead of being understanding and tolerant. Dealing with coworkers and supervisors at work can be approached either way. It’s never a good idea to allow emotional thinking to guide how you interact in that environment. I’ve lost jobs by allowing my feelings to guide my actions instead of thinking. Too many times, emotions cause a reaction instead of a response. And the results can be drastically different.
Sometimes, personality is the motivator of control. A narcissist for example can have excessive behaviors and self gratification by demanding others pander to their needs. Insecurity can cause someone to completely give in to another’s direction. If you are not strong enough to take charge of yourself, you learn let others do it for you. I have another friend who is so unsure of herself, she will do anything (and I mean anything) so that people will like her. Then there is the perfectionist. Everything they do must be tightly maintained, and the results held to the highest standards. And their behavior resolves around that desire.
When living with a mental illness, it can be much more difficult to manage your life. Behaviors are driven by things that are totally beyond willpower and reason. As someone who is bipolar, I know this as well as anyone. When a mania is running amok, rational thought isn’t an option. The disease just takes over, and all sense of reason is lost. Depression can impact us in other ways. It can be impossible to do what you know is right because you just don’t have the energy. And your despair overrides any reason to care. What’s the point, anyway? Even when not in the grips of an episode, fear of what you know can happen can affect how you choose to live. To successfully maintain yourself, it can take a completely different approach.
The physical makeup of your brain and changes in chemistry can stimulate behavior, good and bad. Mind over matter doesn’t work when the matter is physical. You can’t think yourself to make a broken leg work, you can only adapt with casts and crutches. Likewise, you really can’t force your brain to stop generating thoughts just by willpower. Sure, there are circumstances where self-control is generated through strength of resolve. But when the thoughts and behaviors are chemically driven? That’s a completely different story.
But it’s not hopeless.
Science has advanced over the years to produce medications that counteract physical conditions that force behaviors. Antidepressants affect serotonin and/or dopamine (Among other things) that generate certain behaviors and thoughts. It’s really not known how, but mood stabilizers reduce the overproduction of brain activity responsible for mania. Sometimes, staying in charge means recognizing the need to rely on chemical help.
In all aspects of life we generally have the capacity for control. It might be self-discipline, willpower, or the ever popular ‘mind over matter’. Sometimes it’s allowing ourselves to give something up to achieve desired results. Learning how to deal with less than perfect environment can actually help gain true satisfaction. Developing self confidence can help eliminate the need for acceptance that can be such a strong driver. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Self reliance and restraint give us the ability over outcomes. Acceptance that there are just times and conditions that cannot be handled without help can reign in unwanted behaviors. Ultimately, it’s all about control – Or the lack thereof. You can either be in control, or under control. And the choice is yours.
It’s all under control.