In these economic times there is good reason for people in divorce to consider mindfulness. Who can afford not to?
Financial Benefits of Mindfulness In Divorce
Financial benefits may be the most immediate but also the least obvious result of a mindfulness practice! In fact no "practice" is required. Mindfulness just challenges us not to go unconscious.
The cost of reactive divorce - that is, any divorce where people are responding with their emotional brains rather than consciously choosing how to feel and behave - is mind boggling.
I am telling you this as a lawyer who begs you to consider how much money is wasted fighting over issues that are more about power, hurt, anxiety, and control than about economic security, children's best interests, or just ensuring you are treated fairly under the law. I don't want your money! I don't want you to throw you money at lawyers, period - indeed, I want you to help force lawyers like myself to change their adversarial natures by changing what you expect from us!
This cannot be accomplished without a desire to awaken to your reactivity on some level. We don't need to awaken all at once. All we need to know is that there is another possibility that may be more true than what the emotional self tells us in a moment of panic or resentment. Once that much has become solid, the rest begins to take care of itself. The most important thing is the desire to stop spinning. And, a little bit of faith, and risk taking. I mean, we can all return to reactivity in a snap if need be! Allow me to give an example from my family law practice.
I typically have about a hundred divorce or family cases going on at any given time. Maybe fifteen of these dominate 50% of my energies. Some of those fifteen cases involve extremely complex property and support issues. Because I am constantly reframing my client's attitudes and expectations, my clients as we begin to understand each other better tend to settle down. I am constantly speaking to them in terms of mindfulness and pointing out reactivity, and this is immensely helpful for them. They know what we are talking about - hell, we all know what we are talking about - it can just feel quite elusive to act consciously.
Unfortunately, I have little influence on their former partners or upon their lawyers (lawyers tend to be an unawakened bunch), although the power of mindfulness is quite remarkable in how people, once they are treated with respect and honored, will de-escalate.
It is guaranteed that if a lawyer wants to diminish a former spouse of a client or the other lawyer, or criticize them or even tell them what to do, that they are going to prove that lawyer wrong: Yet, this is what most lawyers do; passively or aggressively, the message is provocative. It achieves nothing but increasing tension (and legal fees). These cases generate thousands of dollars in needless fees, particularly where we must force the other side to be transparent and honest. But instead of lying to clients about outcomes, or encouraging them to fight battles that don't pay relative to the emotional and financial investment, we must work to focus on what matters.
When we mindfully listen to clients' needs and concerns, only after that can we really analyze what is most important for them in their lives. Cases that could easily spin out of control instead become directed to getting the job at hand done, and as a result we may be able to avoid wasteful litigation. Avoidable fees are avoided. Among the remaining 50% of my cases, maybe 20 involve so much accumulated resentment or sometimes mental illness on the part of one spouse or domestic partner that we could quickly consume hundreds of dollars arguing visitation pickups and drop-offs, or whether a parent can take the children to grandma's for the holidays, and so on.
Again, client's concerns must always be listened to and respected. But what clients tell us should also be gently challenged and questioned. Otherwise, these folks will burn through as much money as the value of the property or support they hope to achieve, and resent very much their lawyer's lack of guidance. That is a loss by any definition for lawyers and more importantly our clients.
Fortunately, the majority of people in divorce are not so dominated by reactivity that they can get into balance quite clearly, once they are fairly guided. All of these people feel sad or worse. In the typical case clients are looking to lawyers to signal what conduct is appropriate. These people already know what is right, it is just that their ability to cope is overwhelmed by the suffering associated with breakup.
Unfortunately, without a proactive therapist or a lawyer who him or herself is not themselves entirely in the trance of ego, these people will not fare so well. This is just the truth.
So I write this blog to tell you that the lawyers who present here cannot represent everybody, and have no illusions that we can or should. I throw these words out into the void, knowing that the intended (not by me, what can I control?) audience will find them at a right moment!
Namaste! TWA (Thurman W. Arnold)