Whether we like it or not, change is a normal part of life. Some of us embrace change, others resist it– either way, a whole flurry of emotions will come bubbling up to the surface.
As a divorce attorney, I’ve guided countless people through major life changes over the last 15 years, but my original training in law school was to keep emotions out of legal negotiations– emotions are bad, they cloud our judgment, and no good can come of that when you are dealing with high-stakes litigation, especially in family law. Now, I’ve always had a natural tendency to compartmentalize emotions, so unraveling domestic partnerships is not difficult for me– it’s the client-management side that presents the more challenging piece to my cases.
About 9 years ago, when my son was born and my marriage unraveled, a funny thing happened– I learned the downside to burying emotions. The fact is that to successfully navigate the complexities of life, you have to pay attention to your own feelings and process your emotions, so that you can be true to yourself.
While working on my own self-awareness project, my professional studies over the past decade focused on what makes relationships work and what makes them fall apart– and there is definitely a connection. Until you understand your own needs and wants, managing a relationship will not be easy. There really is a science to it, and gurus like Gottman and Chapman make it very easy to comprehend some of the core concepts.
I’ve now lost count of how many psych books and seminars I’ve attended while pursuing my training in Collaborative Law and mediation. As I continue to learn more and work along side some of the best mental health professionals in the DC Area, I can definitely see a transformation. I am not the person I once was, and while there remains much progress to be made, I can appreciate how far I’ve come on my journey. I don’t run from emotions any more, and I’ve learned the importance of processing feelings. I now appreciate the need to unplug– to step away from the rat race, get away from your every day surroundings and reconnect with nature.
Now let me be very clear– you are not going to see me all of the sudden quit my day job to become some yoga instructor out on the West Coast. I’m also not planning to take a year off to go travel around the world like Liz Gilbert, who then wrote “Eat, Pray, Love.” I am a divorce lawyer, and I like what I do– it’s just that I’ve learned a gentler way to address conflict, and I no longer run from or try to shut down my clients’ emotions.
Learning to be mindful and developing more of a mind-body connection is an ongoing work in progress that many of us will embrace at some point in our lives– especially those of us that embrace change and seek meaning in life. Fortunately, there are many wonderful guides trained to assist those seeking a better understanding of themselves. One such person is Dr. Suzanne Nixon, who created Inspirational Journeys, and she is this week’s guest on my tv show. Among the many great points she makes is that to find your inner voice sometimes you have to escape and leave behind all the false promises of external fulfillment provided by modern society.
Another great point that we make on this week’s show is the need to listen more to your body– your gut instincts are an important survival skill. If you are finding that you’ve lost your appetite, maybe that is a sign that there is something going on in your life that you just can’t digest, and until you find a way to make sense of it all, your body is going to continue to send you a distress signal. Experts like Dr. Nixon emphasize that the more you can harness the strength between mind and body, the greater your ability to respond (and conquer) both external and internal threats.
Wherever you may be on your self-awareness journey, just remember we are all a work in progress. Take deep breaths, make sure to care for yourself and take things one day at a time. Finding balance is not easy, but it is attainable– if you have an open mind and never let yourself lose hope.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.