Thinking Rationally
November 7, 2009 12:24pm

Guess what, you aren’t thinking well. 

Divorce is stressful.  This is a fact.  It is also a fact that stress has a physiological response in your body, and especially your brain.  Stress shut downs the complex thinking parts of the brain so that energy flows to the FIGHT or FLIGHT part of the brain.  This is good when we are stressed because we need to run from bears, or fight off bad guys.  But our response to most problems needs to be more complicated than that.  Running does not accomplish anything, and fighting creates more problems. 

We need to figure out how to get energy to the thinking part of our brain, not the FIGHT or FLIGHT part.  How can we do that?

UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING:  We are animals.  We have animal brains.  When we get scared, the ‘reptile’ part of our brain takes over.  It is called reptile part since even reptiles have it.  It is what provides that core survival mode of ‘fight or flight’.  Our reaction might save our lives.  This served our ancestors well.  It is so ingrained that we can’t even control our response.  The brain takes over so fast we can’t think. 

WE NEED TO THINK:  The neocortex is more of what we consider the human brain.  It is where we process our experiences and learn from them. 

The neocortex isn’t functioning well when we are stressed.  The reptilian brain is taking all the energy.  To compensate, our brain creates shortcuts.  These shortcuts have been under construction since birth.  They help us process information when we don’t have the full energy to think.

So this is good news? That we have a way of using the thinking part of our brain even though we are stressed?  Kind of, but now always good.   

When we are stressed, we will try to put all new information into these old shortcuts.  So we absorb the information in ways we have trained ourselves in past times when we have been under stress.  This leads us to re-enforce beliefs we already have.  It does not allow us to create new visions.

Our brain does this because it is too hard to create new pathways.  This is biological.  Logic will not help us. 

That is why we need a safe environment when under stress.  One where there are no threats or perceived threats.  It lets our brains move to a higher level of thinking.

Our brain naturally tells us to pull back from things that are perceived as dangerous.  But when danger is not present, our human brain is attracted to growth. 

Once threats have passed, the brain can start not only processing the information, but it actually will start growing.  We re-write neuron pathways.  Awareness is broadened.  We can think of things we haven’t thought of before. 

That is why collaborative professionals work so hard to provide a safe environment to work in.  Fear and anger inhibits rational thinking.  It even causes a perception that there is more risk than actually exists. 

Feeling in control helps.  Understanding what is happening next helps.  Thinking rationally helps.
Posted by Barbara Bartlett

Problem Solving Skills
November 7, 2009 7:00am

Other places on this blog I talk about how to think through problems.  This an important skill to have, and it takes some talent to develop.  If you are going the court/litigation route to solve your divorce, you let your attorney and ultimately the judge do all your decision making.  If you want control over what happens, then you need to learn problem solving.  This allows you to be a  full participant in what is going to happen in your divorce. 


1.  Recognize that a problem exists.  You and your spouse are in disagreement about something.  Knowing there is a problem is an important first step.  Be confident you can solve it.


2.  Define the problem.  Is it mostly emotional?  Is it a matter of getting acknowledgement for something?  Or a reaction to a past problem?  Here is where I want you to think of what is your need that underlies the problem.  Set the goal for fulfilling that need. 


3.  Information:  What information do you need to help you solve the problem. 


4.  Options:  There are at least 3 options for any problem.  Probably more.  Think of all of them.  You might have to go back to the 'information' step in order to clearly see all the options.  Don’t say ‘No’ to the option, even if it sounds silly.  Write it down. 


5.  Decision Making:  Narrow the options down to ones that will work best.  Decide on the one that best suits your goals. 


6.  Make It Happen:  Put your energy into your decision.  Own it and make it happen.


Posted by Barbara Bartlett

Things to Keep in Mind
November 7, 2009 6:39am

1.  Transitions begin with something ending.  But at end of the transition is a new beginning.


2.  Everyone (spouses and kids) work thru the transition at different speeds.


3.  Healing cannot occur by fighting.


4.  Fear is usually the foundation of every issue in a transition.


5.  Treat your spouse as you would want to be treated. 


6,  Expect bumps in the transition.  I can guaranty there will be bumps. 


7.  Forgiveness is a way for you to heal. 


8.  Divorce is not a time to forget what matters most to you.


9.  The past does not have to control your future.


10.  You cannot control another person.  Don't waste your energy on that.  Use your energy to learn to accept that. 

Posted by Barbara Bartlett

November 6, 2009 8:57pm

You might surprise yourself on how much you try to control what your spouse does.  You probably do it without knowing it.  You feel you are being helpful.  Or trying to prevent a problem by instructing him/her how to do something.


You don't have permission to do that in a divorce.  You will only cause conflict if you try to tell your spouse what to do.


Nor is it good to try to have control.  It will set yourself up for failure. 


You can't control others.  You cannot control the paths they take or the responses they have.  Let go. 


You can only contol your own actions. 


Finallly, remember you cannot control the past.  It is physically impossible.  And you cannot contol the future since there are too many intervening factors. 

You can contol today.  And you can control your actions. 
And you can control your attitude. 

Posted by Barbara Bartlett

Reframing Helps Bring Respect
July 4, 2009 3:48pm

So you had a bad marriage?  You’re Anger and hurt.  Getting worse at the end?  Your spouse is truly evil.  Probably truly evil people exist.  They are in the movies all the time.  But is life that simple?  You married them.  Did you see them as truly evil then?  My guess is that you two discovered you had different expectations of the marriage.  You both grew frustrated.  Frustration led to conflict, and conflict to contempt.  One author said that once you have contempt, your marriage is doomed. 

Does that mean your divorce has to be like your marriage? 

Bad relationships that end well re-frame the entire relationship.    Think about that your parent that you came to hate in your teens.  But as you came to understand yourself and them, you learned to respect  them.  And after you had that respect, those memories of the irritating times were re-framed so that you remembered them differently.  You may very well find out that a respectful divorce may do the same thing for you and your marriage. 

Posted by Barbara Bartlett

Expressing Need
May 25, 2009 4:25pm

One of

One of the elements that make mediation, collaboration, or the hybrid method so successful is the process we follow.  The process provides for certain things to happen.  One of those things is the expression of need.


Seems such a simple thing, but it is often the turning point in understanding.  It happens early in the process and clears the path for the other steps we will go thru.  Simple, but not necessarily intuitive.  That is why we practice on stating your needs.


First, the reason you say your need is twofold.  It helps you focus on what is important. Fear may have caused you to mislabel your needs. Is it really this house you want, or just a home?  Is it custody of the children, or a need to continue in your same parental role. 


The second reason you say your need is so it is heard.  Your spouse needs to hear what you need.  And you need to hear what s/he needs.  We will be on our way to settlement once both of you sincerely hear each other.


At the root of your needs, you will find a need for security, to be respected, to belong and contribute.  You need to be trusted, and you have a need to trust.  


To communicate your need, have it meet this test;

          It is significant to you

          There is more than one way to satisfy this need

          It is something of benefit to you,

and not phrased as a detriment to your spouse.


I often call the rule for expressing need as the ‘toaster rule’.  To say “I want the toaster!” does not tell us anything about your need.  It gives no other possibilities on how to meet that need, even if we were to guess what it was.  And it is just flat out confrontational.  Doesn’t saying “I need toast in the mornings” state your need much better?  And now there are about 5 ways we can look at to meet that need.  And you stated it in a way where others will want to help you meet the need. 

the ele

Posted by Barbara Bartlett

May 21, 2009 2:40pm

Know your feelings.

When we try to resolve conflicts, we need to understand just what causes us to believe it is a conflict.  This is important to know because it is usually emotional feelings that causes most conflict.  The higher the emotion, the higher theconflict.


What is interesting is that once you explore your feelings, most people find that fear is the underlying cause of their strong emotion.  Fear can be manifested by anger.  Fear is a normal feeling when your life is changing as dramatically as it does in the divorce process.  It does not matter who wanted the divorce or why you wanted the divorce.  Fear does not derive from reason but rather emotion. 


When divorce becomes imminent, there is suddenly an uncertainty about your future, co-parenting, financial well being, and possibly loneliness.  Learning the origin of your fear will help you to express your fears at the collaborative table.  The collaborative table should be a safe place for you to express yourself and not feel vulnerable or threatened.  When you express your fears openly, it allows everyone to understand your stage in the transition process.  It also provides the opportunity for you and your spouse to communicate on a level to help understand one another. 


Know how you handle conflict.

We all have different ways of handling conflict in our relationships.  Some people avoid confrontation all together while others give in to their spouse’s demands to stop the conflict.    Others compete and escalate the conflict.  Some people simply compromise, which is a method of partially satisfying both parties needs.  We try to do it differently in the collaborative divorce process.


Collaborating is a way to explore methods of satisfying the needs of both spouses.  This requires stating your needs in an assertive way, but also a willingness to cooperate in hearing the other person’s needs.  Once each person conveys their needs we can then brainstorm on how to satisfy both.  


Rules for listening.

 At the collaborative table, both spouses will have a chance to state their needs.  It is each spouse’s responsibility to not just listen but listen well.  Listening well is the key to understanding the needs of each person.  It is also key to successful brainstorming in meeting both of your needs. 


First you must take the time to listen.  You must be focused.  You should always make eye contact.  You should never interrupt.  You should listen for the need.  It is a good idea to think of a way to restate the need so that your spouse knows that you understand.  Never judge the need,  but rather accept it as your spouses perception of what they need. 


Responding to your spouses needs at the collaborative table.

Responding in a constructive manner is a necessity at the collaborative table.  We all want to feel respected and have our feelings respected. Everyone’s goal at the collaborative table is to be heard.  In order for everyone to be heard, everyone must keep their ears opened. When hurtful things are said we tend to close our ears and thus, we stop listening. 


When you respond to your spouse’s statement of his/her need, do not withdraw.  Restate the need in a positive manner.  “I hear you saying…”, “Do you mean…"? Do not use judgmental language.  Do not try to analyze it.  Just simply understand it.


I hope these basic rules help those getting a divorce.  If you are in the Tulsa area, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Posted by Barbara Bartlett

Negotiating thru emotions
May 21, 2009 2:39pm

Believe or not, we all have the power to negotiate for ourselves, even where the emotion is high, like in divorce.  As in all things, you just need to be ready.


The first objective is to be heard.  That means you have to say your message in a way that keeps the other persons ear open.  So what keeps the other person's ears open?  The same thing that keeps your ears open. This is where that 'do unto others' stuff comes in handy.



     Listen without interruption

     No blame

     No intimidation

     No dragging up the last incident


To be successful at following these rules, your emotions need to stay in check.  Hard to do a lot of times.  So when you can't follow these rules, address those emotions before embarking on negotation.  In collaborative divorce, at least in the Tulsa area, we have coaches.  See other blog posts where I talk about the coaches role.  There are also counselors in tulsa that specialize in divorce counseling.  Both of you don't have to particiapte in the counseling for it to be of benefit. 


Be as emotionally healthy as you can, get the bad stuff behind you.  Then sit down and follow these rules to negotiate a settlement that is right for you. 



Posted by Barbara Bartlett
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