Imagine a child comes home from preschool with her feelings hurt by an interaction with a teacher. Mom asks: ‘What happened?’ The child responds tearfully that the teacher was mean to her.
Mom says: ‘Don’t cry. Here, have a cookie, you’ll feel better.’
For many of us, from an early age we’re taught, often by important figureheads in our lives that feelings can be fixed with food.
Eating the cookie, the child is distracted and forgets about the incident. However there is no completion of the emotional pain caused by the event.
The event and all feelings attached to it have been buried.
One thing to guard against is to ensure you are not avoiding dealing with your emotions by burying yourself in things which either numb the pain or distract you ongoingly. These are called:
Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics
Don’t get me wrong, in the early days of your divorce, the S.T.E.A.T.s are probably the things which help you feel better in each moment. BUT the thing to be aware of is that it’s not feeling better for real – it’s a false sense of security – a false feeling of recovering. It fits into the false healing category.
Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics are things you do to avoid feeling the pain or to numb the pain or to take the pain away in the short term. They are often ‘escapism’ type activities where you keep SO focused and ‘busy’ that there is not time to think about how you are feeling or doing. If you fill your life up with lots of S.T.E.A.T.s, your healing will not progress.
The sad thing is that for most people who struggle to get over their divorce, they are engaging in a cycle of feeling the pain – applying a S.T.E.A.T. – feeling the pain – applying a S.T.E.A.T. etc. until over time they feel numb and they think this ‘numbness’ if them healed from their divorce.
Other S.T.E.A.T.s include:
>> Alcohol and drugs
>> Excessive anger towards others
>> Clubbing or partying
>> Fantasy or escapism activities (books, TV, movies)
>> Shopping/retail therapy
>> Work and becoming a workaholic
>> Spending countless hours with your children under the guise of being a good parent but the actual agenda is using your children to help you feel better
The problem with Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics is that they are short term. They do not last, and they do not deal with the true emotional issue. S.T.E.A.T.s are distractions that either damage or delay the recovery process.
>> Try to identify at least two examples of short-term relief you have used to displace your feelings. This is not as easy as it appears. It could be your first chance to demonstrate your commitment to total honesty in this recovery process.
Sending you a big hug!