Miserable on Paper: Finding Hidden Joy and Hope in Divorce

“The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe.”
Tom Robbins

Divorce is hard. It can be the most difficult event people face in their lives. It can rattle your sense of self, leave you with financial problems, cause you to question your judgment and your decisions. It’s understandable and, in fact, completely natural to feel sad. Mourning the loss is a healthy part of the healing process. But it can also go too far.

Unhappiness has a certain appeal in our culture. You don’t often see a bubbly artist, for example. At least that’s not the image that’s portrayed. Brooding, unhappy people tend to be taken more seriously than perky ones.

In fact, there’s actually documented cause for people to become addicted to unhappiness.

  • Insecurity: you don’t feel worthy of happiness
  • Harsh discipline in childhood: you associate success with pain
  • Lifelong trauma: may make unhappiness feel like “home”
  • Underlying mental health problems: you may be more than just “blue”
  • Negativity masked as “realism”: the idea that happiness is a delusion
  • Insurmountable regret: guilt from the past that makes you incapable of feeling (or accepting) happiness
  • Flinchiness: fear that positive feelings may be a setup for disappointment
  • Dissatisfaction as a motivator: using unhappiness to spur growth that never quite erases the unhappiness
  • Taking on the world: personalizing the world’s problems with extreme empathy

Dwelling in the sadness may seem like a natural response to divorce. But my guest this week believes that divorce is a rich—albeit unexpected—place to find joy.

Deanna Coyle is the founder of Vesta: ReDefining Divorce, an organization that provides informative and social events, retreats, and referrals for trusted professionals to educate and empower people who are navigating life during and after divorce. Her work confronts lonliness and isolation through workshops and retreats that bring people together.

Coyle describes what usually happens on her retreats, “there’s a social component. We go out on Saturday nights. The people on Saturday and then see them again on Sunday is totally different.”  Attendees come in feeling depressed, sad and lonely. And they often leave the weekend feeling empowered, happy and with new confidence.

The combination of a new place, new people, connections with people who’ve had similar experiences and a short, condensed time together is an elixir for good feelings. It’s a bit like summer camp. And to find that rush and those positive feelings in the midst of a divorce is really a gift.

Cracking the door to happiness means you’re taking a step in the right direction—forward, instead of back.

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.

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