Beware the Greek Chorus!

In classic drama, the Greek Chorus weighs in on opinions about the hero’s actions. It’s a group, but they speak as one. They reinforce each other, literally echoing each other and often sway the thinking of the protagonist.

Modern life can be pretty similar. In our daily lives, we tend to surround ourselves with people who share similar views and opinions about the world. In school, work, clubs, sports and social settings, we are drawn to people who are a lot like us. They reinforce our feelings just as we reinforce theirs. It’s a feedback loop that can be hard to break out of.

And in many ways this makes sense, especially during a time of crisis like a divorce. They offer support, make us feel justified in our decision-making. But they can be dangerous.

This week I sat down with renowned professor, author and expert Dr. Deborah Tannen. She is the University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships, best known for You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, which was on the New York Times best seller list for nearly four years. This month we’ll be taking a deep dive into Dr. Tannen’s work and what makes it so incisive and unique.

The Feedback Loop

As Dr. Tannen points out, “The basis often of many women’s friendships is talk, and it can be wonderful and it can also be problematic.” The danger, she explains, in seeking advice from your own Greek chorus lies in getting trapped in a feedback loop.

Negative Thinking Patterns

Negative thinking patterns, often encouraged by surrounding yourself with friends who want to ruminate on breakups (their own or yours), can lead to depression and anxiety and even affect your immune system.

These thoughts may include:

  1. Negative rumination – mulling negative feelings over and over.
  2. Over-thinking – reliving conversations, actions and events repeatedly.
  3. Cynical hostility – harboring angry mistrust of others.

But there are techniques for flipping the script.

  1. Break the cycle: notice when you start to ruminate and deliberately get up, go out, exercise, see a friend, or whatever can change your immediate thinking.
  2. Limit your thinking time – give yourself a set period of time to go over a past event. When time’s up, move on!
  3. Get distance from negative thoughts by recognizing when you feel them, then practice alternate ways to look at the situation.

Context Matters

Often, the feedback you get isn’t even useful. You may hear divorce horror stories or dreams-come-true that really have no bearing on your situation. They lack all context. So all you’re getting is, at best, something useless, or, at worst, something that will make you feel bad about your situation.

How to Break out of the Loop

It is, however, possible to break out of the loop. But it may require a little work. Finding friends or activity partners who either don’t know about your situation or agree not to talk about it can help. Simply making an agreement with friends that you don’t want to talk about it unless and until you tell them otherwise can work, too. These are your friends, after all, and they want the best for you. Give them the chance to give it.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.