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Open to Re-Birth: Starting a New Life After Divorce, #2

August 31st, 2015 · starting new life after divorce

When starting a new life after divorce, people tend to focus on the logistics — housing, finances, kids’ needs, and so forth, — but, in this post, the focus is different.

starting new life after divorce


We’ll look at the nature of soul work around divorce, and how depth psychotherapy may help.

As we discussed in the post last time, there is a 3-stage process that psyche moves through in dealing with major life transitions like divorce:

What exactly do I need to to give myself at this point in life?  Here are some of the important dimensions of that soul work…

Time for Yourself and for Reflection

starting new life after divorce

A lot hinges on whether people give themselves the time they need for growth in awareness, and for doing the grieving that is inherent in divorce.  For more people than would care to admit it, stopping and truly grieving the end of their marriage or partnership is the very last thing they want to do.

This can be an important time to think about the story of your life, and of your relationship.  It might be a time to tell yourself the whole of your life story.  Often, psychotherapy can be of immense help with this

How Am I Going to Think of Myself Now?  What Do I Expect for the Future?

For many, ending a bad marriage can be the key to a better life.  Yet, the short-term stress that individuals face can be formidable.  It can be made much worse by fear for the future.

Here’s a surprising clinical fact about working with individuals undergoing divorce.  Often, the female partner who is the most fearful prior to the end of a heterosexual marriage.  Yet, actually life often gets easier for women, post-divorce — especially if their marriage partner is truly difficult.  To a certain extent, this can be just as true for men.

My hopes for the future will depend to a very great extent on how I understand myself, and how I feel about myself.  It will take much more than just “happy talk” to really treat oneself with compassion, and regard oneself as a person of dignity and value in post-divorce life.  It can be of tremendous value to understand what dreams and other manifestations of the unconscious are showing about who an individual really is.  It can be of tremendous importance to uncover the deep story of our lives.

What is Meaningful to You? What is Calling You in Life?

starting new life after divorce

It’s also essential to identify what is genuinely meaningful to the individual, and what is calling them forward into life on the far side of divorce.  This can be radically different than the pre-divorce priorities of the individual.  It can often require genuine patience with oneself, receptivity — and hard work — to allow this to emerge.

This emergence requires letting go of who you “ought” to be, and what you “ought” to be interested in.  I have had numerous clients who have found that their hitherto conventional interests — a bigger house, a bigger car, a greater level of career status and success — simply didn’t hold the same level of importance to them anymore.

This type of self-exploration often highlights a “soul work” component of very great importance in dealing with divorce.  That is the very basic and fundamental importance of accepting oneself as one is.

What’s the Contribution of Depth Psychotherapy to Coping with Divorce?

The “soul work” dimension of depth psychology contributes to the pre- and post-divorce healing of individuals.  It takes the individual to a deeper level of understanding of personal identity and relationship to others, whether they be family, friends, community or the wider world.

It enables the individual stuck in the stress and sorrow of divorce to experience the transition of divorce as fully a part of the individual’s personal myth, and their unique journey toward wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Evan Cooper ; Interpeace ; Faith Goble


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Open to Re-Birth: Starting a New Life After Divorce, #1

August 24th, 2015 · starting new life after divorce

Starting a new life after divorce can either be an experience in bleakness and impoverishment of soul, or an opportunity for genuine psychological renewal.

starting new life after divorce

So, how do I move towards the one, and avoid the other?  It only ever happens by our being willing to enter into the death and re-birth inherent in the major life transition at the end of a love relationship.

Accept Divorce as a Rite of Passage

Divorce can be a chaotic experience, lacking in human meaning.  If the individual interprets her or his experience in that way, a divorce can lead to a person experiencing his or her whole life as being on a meaningless and negative trajectory.  This can often be experienced as an abiding definition of him- or herself in terms of guilt, failure and victimhood.

But there’s another more life-giving way of looking at divorce, which is rooted in archetypal human experience.  We can see it as what anthropologists and depth psychotherapists call a rite of passage.  Anthropologists looking at indigenous societies note that such groups see major life transitions as having three main stages:

  • death of an old identity
  • a period of necessary disorientation
  • re-birth into a new identity

Anthropologists see each of the three as necessary to establish a new identity in the aftermath of a major life transition. In the death or dying stage, the individual must take in what it really means for the old identity to be truly dead.  This is followed by a period of disorientation that is often mythologically characterized as “a time journeying through the underworld, or the land of the dead.”  Finally there is the stage of re-birth, in which the individual must come to understand who they are now, and start to learn what it means to live out that new identity.


starting new life after divorce

An important part of soul work around a divorce is to recognize the necessity for grieving the loss of the marriage.

To many, this may seem like the last thing they would want to do.  Many who are recently divorced seem to be happy to be out of a relationship.  They may even throw celebration parties.  However, often this is a cover for the sadness, grief and despair that can accompany the end of a love relationship.

There may well be a time for celebrating certain aspects of a divorce, but authentic celebration cannot come before you acknowledge the genuine loss involved in divorce.

Very few people get married in a cynical manner. For most, marriage or long term partnership is filled at least initially with idealism, tenderness and warm visions of a shared future.  To come to terms with the end of a relationship, then, is to honestly confront the emotional impact of the death of some hopes and dreams that a person once cherished.  Mourning their loss is acknowledging the death of a certain part of oneself.

Most people know someone whose life is blighted because they have not dealt with the pain of a terminated relationship.  Because these people will not let go of what their relationship once was, and hang on to pain, betrayal and rage, there is no room for anything new.

Let Go

new life after divorce

At the right time, one must let go.  This includes letting go of regrets, bitterness and self-accusation.  This can be particularly hard when couples have children, and must continue to engage with each other.  Also difficult is letting go of the inner image that tells the individual who they “ought” to have been, and who they now ought to be.  This can often lead to burdens of shame and guilt so great that they are difficult to acknowledge.

It’s an essential part of this major life transition to let go of who you “ought” to be, and to accept and allow yourself to be who you actually are, moving beyond your supposed shortcomings.  This involves cultivating compassion for your suffering, wounded self, and appreciating your uniqueness as a person.  Working on this kind of issue through psychotherapy can be particularly effective.

Value Yourself , Value Your Journey

starting new life after divorce

In your own way…

It’s very hard for many people to value who they are, and to value the uniqueness of their journey, so that they can start a new life after a divorce in a positive way. This can mean really needing to work hard at clearing away the negative messages and stigma that society often applies to those who undergo divorce.

Next time, we’ll look at the nature of soul work related to divorce, and how depth psychotherapy assists the process.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Alon ; Dee Ashley ; Beth Scupham ; Adam Baker