I spent a number of years serving as a board member for the school that my children attended. It was our practice to start off each meeting with a selected study for about 20 minutes or so, focused on either further educating our work as board members or seeking to inspire us in our work. No matter how full the agenda was, we made sure we took this time before we moved into the business at hand. The intention behind the study was to help us move from our personally invested selves to a more selfless place as stewards making decisions for the good of the school and students. This week’s blog tackles this notion of climbing into our higher selves as we are going through a divorce, strategies for finding ways to do so despite the turbulence and emotions involved, and a review of some of the benefits of “higher self” decision making.
Climbing into our Higher Self. So, what does climbing into our higher self mean? I define Higher Self as the wise and insightful being within all of us who is the best version of ourselves. It is a calm and loving presence that brings our positive characteristics to the forefront and tasks us with making kind and thoughtful decisions. Our higher self is that version of ourselves that we are hopefully always striving to be.
In comparing our “higher self” with our typical, everyday self, one big distinguishing characteristic is that our higher self strives to remove our ego from the equation so that we can make selfless, as opposed to self serving decisions. Higher self decision making involves integrity, making decisions we can be proud of and decisions that are reasonable, practical, thoughtful and justifiable. Higher self decisions involve getting past our emotions so that the decisions we make are objective and which strive for the greater good.
What about taking care of Ourselves? So this is where things get a little tricky. As I encourage couples to climb into their higher self while moving through their divorce, it is extremely important that they make sure that they are also taking care of themselves. One of the words I used to describe “higher self” is being selfless. Being selfless in your decision making while also taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be diametrically opposed. You can make selfless decisions that take care of yourself by also being mindful of also trying to take care of the other spouse. When we consider fairness it is best accomplished by working to make sure that both sides are treated fairly, and that both sides will be okay coming out the other side. You can’t achieve fairness if you are not simultaneously ensuring that yourself is a participant in the fair treatment.
So What are some Strategies for Higher Self Decision Making? When our kids were young, my Wife and I took a parenting class to work at becoming better parents. During one of the classes the instructor handed out a little placard that said “Pause” that we were each to post on our refrigerator or some other conspicuous place where we would regularly see it. The point of the “pause” was to remind us that we should avoid being reactionary in our parenting, and instead pause, think about whatever had just taken place eliciting the reaction, and then thoughtfully move forward with a reasoned response. I see this “pause” concept as a way to climb out of our lower reactionary self, wait for the emotion to subside, and then provide an objective response from this higher place. When we react we are more apt to later regret the interaction. I found that I was able to do better parenting when I remembered to give space to allow time for emotions to subside before moving forward.
This “pause” concept can be a tool in navigating your divorce as well. If possible, before commencing big divorce decision making, find ways to work through the emotional challenges so that they don’t get in the way of objective decision making. Ask for space to get there. Get help from others to help you get there. As you engage with your spouse, whenever you feel triggered by what your spouse has to say, pause, don’t react. Give it that little space that allows for a thoughtful response.
Another strategy that fosters more mindfulness in our decision making process is stepping back and looking at the big picture. If we are able to look past our immediate needs or situation and focus instead on where we want to be more long term, it calls us away from impulsiveness to a more objective place. Doing something to get even in the moment might make sense when we are in the thick of it but when we think about how that approach might end up prolonging the process, we might think twice about it. Getting to a place of collaboration calls for us to be considerate to one another and when we think about end goals we are able to see the benefit of moving to a higher place so that progress toward the desired end can be made.
A third strategy is simply taking care of ourselves. Get some exercise. Meditate. Finding free time to go for a walk, go to the beach, take a hike, or find an opportunity to do absolutely nothing. When we are stressed, and stretched thin and not taking good care of ourselves, we are most likely to be reactionary and operating from a place somewhere below that higher self we are capable of. In stressful times such as when we are in the midst of a divorce we are most likely to get overwhelmed and not take care of ourselves, yet it is the most important time to be doing so.
What are the Benefits? So why should we focus this time and energy in getting to this higher place as we move through divorce? There are a few obvious benefits. As mentioned earlier, when we make decisions from an emotional place we tend to later have regrets. When we take the time to be thoughtful and objective we are much less likely to later regret our decisions. When are more apt to end up having made decisions that best serve us.
There’s also the saving of time and money. The more you fight and the more you need to use the Court to make the decisions in your divorce, the higher the price tag for your divorce. That price tag is in the monetary cost for your attorney’s fees, the cost of time being stuck in a dispute that lasts months and years, and all the emotional toll that goes along with it. When you approach your divorce from a place of fairness and mutuality you are much more likely to get your spouse to reciprocate. When you come from a place of selfishness and fighting, again you are much more likely to get your spouse to reciprocate that behavior. Making higher self decisions helps set a good example.
Finally, the benefit of trying to take this approach is that it is closer to keeping with the people we all strive to be. I have heard it said that in criminal law we find bad people being good and in family law we find good people behaving poorly. It shouldn’t be that way. Why shouldn’t we expect good people to behave well, especially in a time of conflict and challenge. We should strive to move through our divorce as close to our higher self as we are able because it is consistent with that same striving we should have at all other times of our life. It is our choice to decide how we will proceed. In my experience there is a compelling argument to strive to do it from a higher place.