What is the difference between those that handle this situation well and those that do not? According to a 2012 study by David A. Sbarra, Hillary L. Smith, and Matthias R. Mehl of the University of Arizona, it is self-compassion.
If a break-up has you completely distraught, their study would suggest that you have low levels of self-compassion, which has the following symptoms:
Low level of self-compassion
Cruelty – You shine a harsh light on yourself, which exposes your faults. You believe you are a casualty and you focus on the worst possible outcomes.
“I totally messed up, this is my fault and I am never going to find anyone who loves me because I am unlovable.”
Personalization – You focus on who is involved in the situation. Who is at fault, who is to blame, what is wrong with each person people.
“I am so alone, being married was my life and now my life is so screwed up.My life is way more screwed up than other people’s lives. No one understands how bad it is. This is not how I imagined my life to play out.”
Volatility and over-identification – Most of your thoughts are about the divorce, the pain. This results in feeling overwhelmed. Your conversations all focus on the divorce and you are constantly reliving the pain, leaving you overwhelmed and stuck in negativity.
“I either lay awake thinking about the ways I screwed up, or I cry myself to sleep. I know that my ex does not care, even though I love him dearly. How could he be so mean to me? I am doomed to a life of loneliness.”
Here are the traits of someone with high self-compassion, who would have an easier time coping with a separation and divorce.
High levels of self-compassion
Kindness – You practice self-forgiveness and understanding. When reflecting on the hard times during your divorce, you use tender and caring language.
“It is sad that our marriage ended, but I am learning to forgive both myself and my ex. I glance back on my past. remembering the good times and the things I have learned.”
Part of life – You recognize that you are not alone, that your personal experiences is similar to others. Divorce is one of the challenges that many people experience. Failing is part of being human.
“Life is full of ups and downs: marriage, children, divorce, deaths and more. I know I am not the only person going through divorce.”
Mindfulness – You are able to regulate your emotions and keep your composure. You see the reality but are able to have a balanced perspective. You have the ability to see the positives in difficult situations. You can even imagine positive outcomes.
“I feel all kinds of emotions from relief to fear, blame and guilt, as well as sadness to hope. I am looking forward to my future. I know it may be hard but I have learned how to take care of myself and how that helps me be happy.”
If you are caught in cruelty, personalization, volatility and over-identification, the good news is that self-compassion is a teachable skill. Learning to have a higher level of self-compassion will reduce your divorce stress.