Divorce and Negative Thinking

“Criminal lawyers see the worst people at their best; divorce lawyers see the best people at their worst.”  (Attributed to Thomas Concannon, Jr., Former Mayor of Newton, N.J. and Family Lawyer)

Many of us struggle with habitual negative thinking.  This was understood many years ago and gave rise to one of the most powerful, effective approaches to psychotherapy and counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.  It is a favored psychotherapeutic approach for depression, in tandem with appropriate medication.  David Burns’ books are excellent starting points for anyone struggling with depression.

While going through some old papers recently, I came across a page entitled Irrational Thoughts and it contains six mistakes we make in our thinking that will always bring us down.  If we understand these thoughts as not truth but simply as examples of negative thinking, we can spare ourselves a good deal of avoidable pain.  We are engaged in mistaken negative thinking when we:

1.  Turn wants or preferences (including strong ones) into absolute vital needs.

2.  Convince ourselves that if the need isn’t met, it will be awful, terrible, catastrophic, unbearable, and the end of the world.

3. Draw incorrect conclusions.

4.  Not consider the evidence.

5.  Automatically attribute negative motives to other people.

6.  Focus exclusively on self-deprecating thoughts.

When we are depressed, we truly and honestly believe the truth of many of our fears and negative thoughts.  When we emerge from our dark place, these certainties do not seem all that certain any longer.  Such is the power of unreined negative thought.

It’s Always Something…..

Dan Wile, Ph.D. is a remarkably gifted – and funny – couples therapist who has written a number of fine books on the realities of joining our lives together.  Two of his classics are After the Fight and  After the Honeymoon.  Here is what Wile has to say about the inevitable differences that arise  between us in relationship:

                “Paul married Alice and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that.  But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party.  That’s because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting.  She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about.  Paul would see her complaining about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about.  If Paul had married Gail, they wouldn’t have even gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul’s not helping with the housework.  To Gail when Paul does not help she feels abandoned, which she is sensitive about, and to Paul, Gail’s complaining is an attempt at domination, which he is sensitive about.  The same is true about Alice.  If she had married Steve, she would have the opposite problem, because Steve gets drunk at parties and she would get so angry at his drinking that they would get into a fight about it.  If she had married Lou, she and Lou would have enjoyed the party but then when they got home the trouble would begin when Lou wanted sex because he always wants sex when he wants to feel closer, but sex is something Alice wants when she already feels close.”

 “…there is value, when choosing a long-term partner, in realizing that you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.”