Easing the pain of divorce, according to Dr. Andra Brosh of California, means more than just separating your assets and belongings. It is dissolving a bond, based on a deep love. Couples develop an attachment to each other no just during the dating period but also throughout their marriage. Couples become very connected both on an emotional and physiological level, even if the couple do not realize.
In her practice, Dr. Brosh combines psychological theory with Buddhist principles, and current scientific research because she believes in the mind, body and spirit connection.
The pain of divorce can be unbearable. When two people get married they commit and love one another, but they are pledge to become “attached.” This attachment is unspoken and unknown to both, but it is the most powerful connection anyone can have to another person in a love relationship.
According to author Helen Fischer in her book Why We Love, our “cuddle chemicals,” namely oxytocin and vasopressin, contribute to the sense of closeness and attachment couples feel toward each other. These bonding hormones promote a sense of fusion between lovers that deepens attachment and a sense of oneness. This biological phenomenon explains the depth of devastation when the attachment is broken and the physiological symptoms that become activated when attachments are severed. The response is often primal, leading to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that might never surface in any other context of life.
The end of a marriage, which is a relational trauma that has a physiological and emotional effect, is one of the most emotionally painful human experiences. Thinking about the experience of divorce within the context of attachment generates a greater sense of empathy for what someone might be feeling because it explains the levels of rage, vindictiveness, grief, and despair that so often accompany this common life transition.
The end of a marriage represents much more for someone than he or she may realize. Divorce is not just a matter of the heart but an experience that hits the whole person on a multitude of levels.
Anyone who has been through a divorce knows very well that it can bring out the worst parts of a person. Contention, negativity, bad behavior, disintegration, fear, shame, anger, and resentment – all are part of the course in a divorce. When a marriage ends, these dreaded emotional states uncontrollably percolate and surface without warning. Managing these intolerable states is crucial to transitioning through divorce with integrity and an intact sense of self.
Since divorce generates mental anguish and emotional suffering, Dr. Brosh turns to the Buddha to help turn this painful life transition into an opportunity for learning and growth. Coincidentally, the Buddha’s wisdom and the teachings of Buddhism stem from the young prince Siddhartha’s disillusionment when the reality of the pain and suffering in the world shattered the perfect world image his father had tried to impart on him.
Buddha’s wisdom comes to play when the illusion of everlasting marriage collide with the reality of divorce.
Here are six Buddhist teachings that reduce suffering in the transition of divorce:
> Attachment: In a divorce, the past, present, and future are all up for grabs, and everything is now in question. In the face of ambiguity and uncertainty, a person may grasp at what he or she know and once had, but according to the Buddha these attachments create suffering.
Learning to release attachments to any particular outcomes in the past, present, or future will lead to a more peaceful existence. Trying to control things only invokes feelings of frustration because most of the things you are dealing with are completely out of your control. When you grasp and cling to what you think you “know” you create unnecessary suffering.
> Compassion: While it is extremely difficult to have compassion for someone you dislike, the Buddha would see this person as the heart of his or her spiritual practice, a challenge to develop positive qualities.
Compassion is the flip side of anger; it keeps the heart open when it wants to close off with fear. Remaining connected, no matter how painful it may be fosters compassion. Maintaining compassion through divorce is an accomplishment, but it will ensure that a loving nature remains intact.
> Karma: The law of karma is the universal principle of actions and reactions or causes and effects. Everything you do or say in your daily life is the cause of your own suffering or your own happiness. Buddha would advise that you not look for answers outside of yourself, nor should you believe that you are a victim of a random universe. While you may feel like a victim of your divorce, karma is your key to taking responsibility for what comes in and out of your world. The word karma means “action” or “deed”—actions and deeds that impact only you and the space you inhabit on this earth. Once you take responsibility for your actions, you can actively change your karma, and ultimately your present and future circumstances.
>Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the capacity to remain in the present moment. It is the ability to pay attention and to become aware of the intention behind what we do. The Buddha would recommend that you utilize the clarity that mindfulness brings to stop clinging to the past and the future, to live presently in the here and now. When we are not mindful, we remain in a state of being that is encumbered with criticism, judgment, and a need to be right. Mindfulness and its no judging, respectful awareness can help you to respond and to gain perspective, balance, and freedom. Stepping back and being an observer of events provides the greatest opportunity for acting with complete integrity and honor.
> Aversion: One of the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha is that pain is an unavoidable part of the natural world, and suffering is our reaction to the inevitable pain of life. “Pain is inevitable in life, but suffering is optional,’ says the Buddha. Divorce is one of those unavoidably painful life experiences, but as the Buddha would attest, it doesn’t have to involve suffering. Like touching a hot stove, our first reaction to pain is to move away. Our aversion to the pain creates more suffering and reduces the opportunity to heal. Suffering is directly related to resisting the reality of what you are dealing with. Instead, the Buddha would suggest doing what you can to restore balance, to let things take their course. Complete avoidance will only prolong the pain.
> Impermanence: In Buddhism, impermanence is referred to as Anicca— the truth of impermanence. It is the belief that all of our experiences are constantly changing, and that nothing is permanent. One of the greatest causes of pain during divorce is the feeling that things will never be the same, and that what you feel now will last forever. The Buddha would apply the wisdom of Anicca to maintain a sense of calm and perspective through the grief and loss of divorce. Remembering that nothing in life is permanent will help you to not feel bogged down or to lose yourself in what feels like an eternal experience of pain and discomfort.
“Buddhist teachings are not a religion, they are a science of the mind,” says the Dalai Lama.