I’m Stuck

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While a divorce/separation is painful, now and again, I meet someone who is really struggling to move on with their life.

The first thing to understand is that healing isn’t a linear process. To experience ups and downs are normal. You have been married/together for a certain period of time and a divorce/separation shakes what you know your life to be. It is new and like many changes, it is scary.

But while it is natural for this life changing event to take time to sink in, to accept it, even to regret it, it should not consume you and keep you from moving on.

If you are finding yourself stuck. That months and sometimes even years later you are still affected by this life transition, it is time to take back control over your life and self.

When the end of a relationship has such a devastating impact on your life, it really explains that you are nurturing being a victim of your circumstances. We are all victims, at times, to life’s challenges and difficulties. Feeling like a victim of life, is not easy and it is painful. We believe we are the victims of a feeling which we have no control over, but it is also a choice.

Being a victim means something happened to us. We are its victim, and we have no control over it. We truly believe that we can do nothing for ourselves…but you can choose something different, something better.

If you have a choice, it follows that you are responsible for making those choices. You are either the recipient of your good choices or the victim of your bad choices.

Owning your choices can be daunting, but you cannot escape responsibility for what you are doing.

Here are 4 tips to break free from the victim mentality:

  1. Take ownership and responsibility for your own needs and behaviour.
  2. Understand that you are the only person you can control. You cannot control someone else or a circumstance.
  3. Clarify what you want and what you should do to get it.
  4. The solution is in the present and the future. We are products of the past but we do not have to go on being its victims. It is our present perceptions that influence our present behaviour and so it is these perceptions that we need to work through.

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Pointing Finger

Many people that I meet for counselling or mediation have a finger to point at the other party.

I like to begin with establishing that no one is ever blameless. Sure, some people are downright wrong and even bad, but that doesn’t mean that the other person is blameless.

Finger Pointing is defined as casting blame or assigning the blame for something to someone else. If a person feels they are the victim of someone else’s behaviour, pointing the finger at that person will not provide a sustainable solution.

If you look at the other person, or situation, with a sense of right and wrong according to your value system and perception, then it is easy to find blame. If you hold the belief that you are blameless then naturally it is easy to find fault in the other person.

While there are many different situations to refer to and at times situations which need to be reported for one’s or someone else’s safety, pointing fingers usually is not about safety but about getting someone to take all the blame.

In co-parenting issues, there are unfortunately many scenarios and yes, some parents are totally wrong when it comes to evading financial responsibility towards their child or is withholding access of the child to their other parent, but unfortunately, pointing fingers at the other parent is often less about the children than it is about your own responsibility in the matter. Instead, focus on the things you have control over and how you choose to respond to the situation. This will provide better solutions, in the long run, than just pointing fingers.

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Moving On

Related imageAll I hear from people going through a divorce is how they want to move on, yet, so many have been battling their divorce for an ongoing 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years.

The conflict they are experiencing is sinking them further in a position that feels more like being a hostage to their divorce than a battle to just get a better agreement.

The anger that has settled between two people who once shared a life together is so intense, that the wish to move on has been replaced by a wish to destroy the other person.

By the time people have been back and forth in court and have most likely spent a large amount of money, if not all and even got into debt for it, the Judge will summon them to mandatory mediation to now be adult about their conflict and start taking responsibility to finalise their agreement to divorce.

If anything, a divorce ought to be viewed as a solution.

While not all divorces are clear cut, no divorce should become a reason for ongoing conflicts, destruction, and a battle for the rest of your life.

People need to approach divorce with the understanding that there are in fact three divorces:

  1. The Emotional Divorce
  2. The Financial Divorce &
  3. The Legal Divorce

And they should be approached in this order, because if your emotional divorce is not given the priority and importance it deserves, the financial and legal divorce will be dragged by unresolved emotions.

Then there is the matter of Litigation vs Mediation.

Yes, you may have reached the end of your relationship due to some wrong doings by either or both partners, but truth is, litigating a divorce is no better than deciding to not find a solution.

Whatever you do, you have a choice, and if you lack having a choice in some matters, you still have a choice in how you react to it.

High conflict divorces can still be mediated with the approach of individual caucus sessions. Parties do not have to be in the same room, but as long as the motivation is to not waste money, not waste time and reach a responsible and mindful agreement, then you will soon be on your way to move on.

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What is Choice Theory?

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By William Glasser, M.D.

Choice theory is a new psychology developed by Dr. William Glasser when he realized that all his psychiatric work was based on people choosing what they do so he decided to call what he practices choice theory.

By learning to put choice theory to work in your life, you can improve your relationships with all the people who are important to you. You can also teach choice theory to someone else who then can use it to improve his or her important relationships. Since we are social beings, the need for satisfying relationships is encoded into our genetic structure. The more our genes are satisfied, the healthier we are. Therefore, improving our relationships is improving our mental health.

What he calls a psychology is a usual way of dealing with other people in certain situations. For example a car sales person will use a sales psychology when approaching people who come into the showroom. A mother will use a bedtime psychology when she has difficulty putting her children to bed.

Right now all over the world, people rich or poor, of all races, religions and political persuasion use an ancient world psychology which he calls external control when they have difficulty getting along with other people, especially people they want to get along well with, usually spouses, family, friends, teachers, fellow students, fellow workers and bosses. This occurs because we live in an external control world. Almost all of what is now wrongly called mental illness can easily be traced back to too much external control.

Even though people who use external control believe it will help them to get along better with the people they use it with, it actually does the opposite. External control will always increase the difficulty between the disagreeing parties. If it is continued it can destroy the relationship it was intended to help. Almost all people who divorce have no idea where their initial, strong, positive feeling for each other has gone. Choice theory teaches this early love was destroyed by one or usually both using external control as the marriage progressed.

External control is destructive because one or both parties will attempt to control the other so the other does what the controlling person wants. If it is used in a marriage, the partners use it on each and other and as they do the marriage goes rapidly downhill. If one partner gets control he or she may be happy but the other will be more miserable and increase his or her resistance. The actual resistance usually starts with anger but most often the anger is changed into depression, anxiety or any of the four hundred plus symptoms that are wrongly diagnosed as mental illness in a book called the DSM-IV. A better title for that book is the big red book of unhappiness. These unhappy people need each other but don’t know how to get along.

Choice theory is the opposite of external control: It is a self-control psychology. Those who practice it have learned that they choose everything they do. They learn they can control their own choices but they can’t control what anyone else chooses. Basically, choice theory explains that whenever we deal with any person we want to get along well with, we should be careful to replace any external control with choice theory.

Specifically, external control leads all who use it to practice the Seven Deadly Habitsthat destroy relationships. These are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing or bribing or rewarding to control. Remember once the sentence is out of your mouth you can’t reach out and put it back in. Nor can you erase a look on your face or an upward out-ward roll of your eyes. Choice theory urges all of us to replace the deadly habits with the Seven Caring Habits: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting and negotiating differences.

Keep in mind that the unhappiness caused by our not being able to get along with the people we want to get along with is the basic problem. But unhappiness is not mental illness. Our normal brains are perfectly capable of using external control to the point of suffering any symptom in the DSM-IV. While we may not be mentally healthy, we are not mentally ill. There is nothing wrong with the structure or chemistry of our brains. Learning to put choice theory to work in our lives can bring back happiness or mental health.   

For more info, If you would like to know more about Choice Theory, or take part in one of the workshops held by ACT SA | Association for Choice Theory South Africa, or take part in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy & Lead Management Training, you can CONTACT us with your query.

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Image result for adjustmentsI recently met a young couple on their honeymoon and who also were 3 months pregnant.

Having had 2 children myself, my first comment, after congratulating them of course, was: “And how are you doing?”

What followed were giggles and sighs in reporting morning sickness, nausea, not able to do wine tasting, and needing a lot of naps! Something that was not planned when going on an extensive trip in Southern Africa for your honeymoon. The future dad went on to add: We have learned to make adjustments. – And this is the one word which actually defines what life with a child is about. “Learning to make adjustments”.

Becoming a parent, especially for the first time, is a life-changing event which involves inevitable changes.

A child changes everything and  without adjustments, life would become somewhat challenging.

Adjustments are required from a health perspective of the carrying mom, as she will now need to take care of herself differently with a child inside her. Better eating habits are recommended and of course, if the mom used to smoke or drink, for example, she will need to stop, as another life needs to be considered when making choices which were originally just for herself.

So even when a child isn’t born yet, adjustments are necessary at a very early stage, and ought to be considerate of the child’s needs, at all times.

When parents separate/divorce, adjustments will remain a priority.

While in most cases, there will be a parenting plan drawn, parents must never let go of the need to be able to adjust.

It is not uncommon for separating/divorcing parents to become less flexible and even become rigid in following their parenting plan, but parents need to understand that, for children to grow up healthy and happy, adjustments need to be considered and allowed.

Just like the day you welcomed the news of becoming a parent and exploring the unknown of many required adjustments, a separation/divorce will again change your daily life. Your normal routine will once again require the process to adpat or becoming used to a new situation and with the need to adjust you may find yourself feeling sad, confused, lonely, desperate and even angry. These feelings may motivate you to resist adjusting to a new routine, but reality is, without adjustments, you will face a guaranteed struggle.

Adjusting to your new life and the needs of the children, as well as your own, will take some time and must be welcomed and not seen as a threat.

Here are 3 things you can do to welcome adjustments:

  1. Realise change is normal, even if the event leading to change is stressful.
  2. Acknowledge that your future is going to be different. Understanding that change brings about a different future will help you avoid being anxious while you are making adjustments.  How you adjust and perceive the change is key to how well you will move forward.
  3. Know when to seek help. If making adjustments are mostly a source of conflicts, explore getting help to manage your emotions. Running to an Attorney or going to court every time a change is required will bear more stress on you and your children then the actual required adjustment.

The Law doesn’t raise children. Parents do!

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In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement started by Alyssa Milano has opened the door to many women to come forth with their tragic abuse experiences, which, for a long time, they felt they had no choice but to keep quiet about it.

Ellen Degeneres said: “This is not a male thing or a female thing. It is not a Hollywood thing or a political thing. This is a human thing. And it happens in the workplace, it happens in families, it happens all over the world, and we are all the same. We all want the same thing—we want respect and love and kindness.” 

In my line of work, I see many women (although men are not excluded) who have been abused within their marriage/relationship, and who fail to acknowledge that abuse is not just about being raped or abused by someone they barely know or a complete stranger. It also happens with people we are extremely close to. People we trust and people we ultimately believe we are safe with.

While rape is a most tragic experience, abuse comes in many forms and it is equally tragic to whomever goes through it.

The important point here is that we must understand that we always have a choice. We may not have a choice to avoid the abuse at the time, but we have a choice to take a stand and come forward. We have a choice to voice and claim our rights. We have a choice to not be confined to feeling shame and be silenced by a belief that the abuser has control over us.

For the many victims of abuse, coming forward is not so much about putting their perpetrator away, as it is to come clean with the fact that it is not shameful to have been subjected to it, because one recurring opinion of victims who have kept silent, is that they felt shame and lacked support.

Thank goodness this is now changing.

When abused, we are often left doubting as to what we may have done to cause it, or, if in a relationship, we need to bite the bullet. After all, we did say “for better or worse” …

Now while some people will argue that there are different levels of abuse and if moderate, we must just let it go, abuse is abuse. There is no line to be drawn. If something makes you feel uncomfortable in your relationship, If a partner does not respect what makes you uncomfortable and does not take into consideration that your discomfort is valuable, then it is abuse.

Abuse is ugly. Abuse is degrading. Abuse is manipulative. Abuse is not OK!

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Quick, quick … Now, now.

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For most people I meet, who are experiencing the ending of a relationship, they want a quick divorce, a quick fix to move on, an instant result to be able to turn the next chapter of their life.

While staying stuck in anger and ongoing battles over a period of life which is no longer, is not the solution, providing a quick fix is mostly unrealistic.

People need to realise that their outer problems reflect information about their inner issues.

Wanting things to be quick is not a problem, but speed is really just an illusion.

If you rush through things, you will miss many moments which only, later, will make you wish you had paused at that time.

Taking the time to be aware of your emotions and thoughts is very important, for it is the process you use to create your own experience.

It’s all about choice and understanding that the choices you make, how you choose to deal with your challenges, will determine the quality of your experiences.

So, as you face a problem, know that a quick fix is only meant to hold things together until you have discovered an effective long-term solution.

If speed needs to be valued for anything it’s to make the decision to begin your journey of self-discovery and healing with no further delay.

Invest in yourself to acquire the tools to face your varied challenges and acknowledge that your journey has no time frame, and when you are faced with an unpleasant time, instead, know that your life is not a marathon, but a journey that never stops to be explored.

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My kids are really mature!

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I hear many separating parents claim how mature their children are during their separation.

But think of it carefully. What would prompt you to acknowledge this?

If a separation is handled in a mature way, with both parents paying extra attention that whatever disagreement they may have does not involve the children. That their children remain carefree and able to enjoy their childhood the way they are supposed to. That they are free to love and be loved by both their parents, and, apart from adjusting to two homes, their childhood is being protected and nurtured by their parents, and their needs are being made a priority, then children are allowed to be children.

But if you find yourself thinking and telling people how mature your children are in the face of your separation/divorce, you must consider that for a child to act mature and understanding, they have been thrown in a situation which is not handled in a mature way, and find themselves forced to behave like this because their parents aren’t!

Consider why you shouldn’t be happy that your children are supposedly so mature.

If you had your child in your 20’s, then realise that your child has 20 something years, minimum, less life experience than you. That is a long time difference for them to catch up on, emotionally and psychologically, wouldn’t you say?

With this in mind, is it fair to claim that your child is acting mature in a breakup that their parents cannot manage pro-actively and maturely?

So if you find yourself thinking or saying that your children are so mature under the current circumstances, this ought to raise a red flag that, as the parents, you need to rapidly adjust your behaviour. Let this be the warning that your children are fast forwarding so quickly to be there for you and not be any added cause of concern to you, that they are missing out on just being kids.

You are the guardians of your children’s childhood memories.

Mature children are not something to be proud of. They are victims.


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Mediation vs Litigation

Many people ask me what exactly is Mediation and why is it better?

“Mediation is a voluntary process that can help two sides to reach an acceptable solution to their differences. A mediator can help the parties to examine ideas and options in a neutral, safe environment where they are both free to express their opinions.”

While the process is effective, it is important to consider the “voluntary” part.

Many unfortunately do not choose Mediation over Litigation, not because they do not believe in the process, but because it is voluntary! Yes, unfortunately, it is sad times when being required to take responsibility to discuss ideas and reach acceptable solutions is a choice that seems less favourable than the motivation of winning over the other person’s hurt.

You are angry at your ex, I get that! It’s not wrong. You are possibly processing deceit, lies and even betrayal. Any normal human being would feel hurt and angry, but, in facing this reality, your divorce/separation ought to be a solution and not become the nightmare of your future. Your divorce mustn’t become worse than was your relationship, otherwise you might as well stay unhappy together, wouldn’t you say?
Because of your anger, you now want things to go your way, and engaging in conflict seems the most logical way to get what you want.
Now while it is true that conflict will pave the way to have your way or the high way, it absolutely does not guarantee that your will be the winner. And if you do win, have you actually considered what it would mean to win? Is it getting more money? Is it destroying your children’s other parent? Then what? Do you believe that it would make you feel better, resolve your anger and heal your hurt?

Truth is, no amount of conflict will ever make you feel better. Even if you do get momentarily what you want, you will remain a hostage to your own hurt and anger, destroying any hopes to move on and make the most of your future.

In voluntarily, and by that, I mean consciously, choosing Mediation, you give yourself the opportunity to work through your emotions, recognise that truly getting what you want will be found in a win-win outcome, allowing your family to heal and for your children to keep the best of both their parents.

If your choice between Mediation and Litigation is still uncertain, ask yourself:
Would you rather waste money on your conflict or invest it in your children?
Would you rather waste time in courts or spend it creating happy memories with your children?
The choice boils down to that.

The Law doesn’t raise children, parents do!

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Your children need you

Image result for contribution to societyA divorce/separation remains one of the most traumatic life event with parents finding themselves at wits ends over their never-ending conflicts, expensive lawyers bills and court appearances, all in the name of what is in the best interest of the children.

What started off as 2 people starting a family with not too much thought about their future, apart from it being bright and happy, are now living a present hell and creating a future in which their children will grow up with no happy childhood memories (the competition of expensive presents and outrageous outings do not count), not being given the permission to love and be loved by their parents and feel that they are the reason why their parents had to make so many sacrifices and are in financial distress.

When things go wrong, parents expect the Law to take charge and establish what is acceptable and what is not, when in fact, parents are the sole custodian of their children and they are the ones who need to take responsibility for:

  • Their parental responsibilities
  • Their time spent with their children
  • And how they are hurting their children

Before you make a court case of your conflicts, remember that your separation is not your children’s separation. Stop wanting to defeat each other and move your focus from competition to contribution.

The Law doesn’t raise children, Parents do!


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