Can't remember or understand what your divorce attorney says? It's not you ... it's divorce fog!
It’s a common occurrence. Almost everyone I know going through a divorce says they can barely remember anything their lawyer says. I call it “divorce fog.” And science has proven that it is a real thing. Multiple studies have demonstrated that high emotion increases stress hormones and significantly lowers cognition. Not only is your memory impaired, but your ability to understand is incredibly limited. It doesn’t matter how “smart” you are. Divorce is traumatic and, as such, your brain chemistry is working against you. The good news is that it’s not you … and there are several things you can do to clear the mist.
Silence the Saboteurs
Divorce opens the gate to all of our worst inner critics – self-doubt, denial, confusion, fear, anger, hurt. None of these saboteurs serve you in this process. And they are actually creating the divorce fog that you are in. So, the best way to clear the mist is to silence these saboteurs, so that you can make rational, well-informed decisions in this process. You need to examine and acknowledge your worst saboteurs. You need to be able to recognize and address them when they pop up. You need to realize that decisions and behavior based on these negative emotions will only make this process … and your life … more difficult. Identifying and addressing these saboteurs is central to my work as a divorce coach because traumatic change, like divorce, is when they grow and wreak havoc the most in your life. Don’t accept that fear should rule your life.
Create Your Future Vision
Your life once had direction, but with divorce, you are left anchorless and adrift. You need to deal with the shock, but the sooner you can create new goals for yourself the better. Why? You will never go anywhere without some destination in mind. You will never have the motivation to cut through this fog and make positive steps forward. You need something to look forward to. It’s your beacon of light guiding you through the fog. It’s important to create a vision of who you want to be and what you want your life to be now and in the future. Having a clear picture of what you want will give you the positive energy to start making it happen. ANY step forward is good. And true change only happens through a series of baby steps. As a coach, so many of my clients have difficulty creating this vision because they think it has to be something huge. Then, they get discouraged because achieving it seems too difficult. I give you permission to find a vision that works for you – however big or small. Find something that makes you happy. Picture it in your mind. Color in all the details. And ditch your expectation that anything happens overnight or that this vision can’t change along the way. Change takes time. Everyone wants to go to from A to Z immediately, but you need to take it step by step, letter by letter. Give yourself the time to appreciate the journey and everything you are learning here. When you focus on what you want, your purpose becomes clear. Your saboteurs are silenced. You’ll make better decisions in your divorce and increase your probability of getting what you want. Remember, you can’t get what you want, until you know what that is.
Bring a Notebook
It might seem simplistic, but one of the best things you can do is write down everything your lawyer says to you. Bring a notebook to all of your meetings and keep it by the phone. And if you realize that you don’t understand something after the fact, ASK! You have more control over the divorce process when you have a real understanding of what is happening and what your options are. I understand – it’s difficult to even know what to ask when you are in the divorce fog. So, it is even more important to write everything down so you can review it, and ask questions, later. If you’re not writing everything down, you might need to ask your attorney the same question over and over – which means you are increasing their billable hours. In the end, you might not get what you want in the divorce AND still have an inflated attorney bill at the end of it. Who knew the simple, low-tech notebook could be such a powerful tool against divorce fog?
Bring a Friend
Now is the time to accept all the help you can get. In addition to my previous suggestions, it makes sense to bring a friend with you when you meet with your attorney. Your attorney is meant to be your “fierce advocate,” but truly your fiercest advocate will always be your best friend. Not only will she give you the support you need right now, she can also share her perspective on what happened in the meeting. It’s great to have a sounding board who will be hearing what your attorney says from a different context. And you know and trust that she will ask questions that probably never occurred to you before. You know you’re not lost in the fog, when your best friend is helping to guide the way.
I see divorce fog all the time in my coaching practice and in divorce support groups. It is normal, but if you don’t acknowledge and address it, you could get stuck there. Now that you know it’s just a matter of brain chemistry, you can do something positive about it!