The Barnes & Noble Review
When Debbie Ford looked at the messy agony of her divorce, she saw peace. "I could either use this time to beat myself up or I could choose to see my divorce as a spiritual process," she explains. "I knew I only had one choice." Ford forged a path through her bitterness and guilt -- and, once through, she became a guide for others. In her new book, Spiritual Divorce, Ford shows us how to survive the painful lessons of separation and how to restore calm.
The lessons of Ford's book are neatly divided into seven laws: not too much to read in a weekend but enough to practice for years. First, Ford asks her readers to accept divorce as a reality. "To regain the big picture," Ford reasons, "we need to breathe deep and take the time to separate the facts of our present situation from our fears about what might happen in the future." Next, readers must stop trying to change that reality. "Give up the notion that you are right and the belief that you know what he's going to say," Ford suggests. "Step into a quiet place, into a bigger view of the Universe, recognizing that what's going on with your partner may not be personal." Then, as we stop trying to control partners and reality, she explains, we can allow God to guide us. Ford next insists that we accept responsibility for divorce, recognize what divorce has taught us, and work toward forgiving ourselves. With that, Ford promises, each reader can begin to build something new.
If these laws seem impossible to obey, never fear: Ford's book includes simple exercises and assignments that allow readers to practice spiritual growth. Over time, these exercises can help every person -- no matter how painful his or her circumstances -- to work toward serenity. For example, when readers feel unable to forgive their partners for a breakup, Ford lays out this simple plan: "Make a list of [your] partner's bothersome qualities and then name them as subpersonalities.... Lazy Louie, Irritating Irving, Steven the Stoner." Then, visualize yourself meeting these subpersonalities and asking each one what it needs. By performing this exercise, Ford promises, readers can better forgive their mates -- and themselves.
When life falls apart, as it does during a divorce, we need to reconstruct. With Debbie Ford's book, readers can use separation to reconstruct themselves spiritually. We can restore peace, or find a calm more lasting than before. (Jesse Gale)
Read an Excerpt
Things Aren't Always What They Seem
In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within methere lay an invincible summer.
-- Albert Camus, Summer (1954)
Divine guidance lays the foundation that gives us the support and understanding we need to begin practicing the Law of Acceptance. Acceptance is the essential ingredient that enables us to begin the healing process. We cannot accept a situation until we're ready to look fearlessly at the facts of our circumstances. We can't heal what we cannot see, and we can't heal what we cannot feel. Yet too often the pain from our past and our fears of the future keep us stuck and unable to see our lives as a whole. Our blurred vision prohibits us from being in the present and opening up to higher levels of awareness. "It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion," the I Ching states, "that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized."
Acceptance comes when we step out of denial and judgment and are willing to see the present exactly as it exists in this moment, without any drama or story line. Drama keeps us stuck in an endless spiral of excuses that prevent us from being able to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Our drama serves as a defense mechanism designed to protect us from the pain of our past. When we're caught up in our drama, we are no longer living in the present moment. Instead, we get hooked into every similar experience from our past that was left unhealed. We think we are responding to the challenges of ourlives when in fact we are reacting to all of our unresolved pain.
We must realize that what is happening in this moment is calling us to heal what happened to us in the past. To break free from the confines of our story we must distinguish what is real from what is unreal. What is from the past and what is happening now? What is our presentday pain and what is the unresolved pain of our past?
The drama of our story blinds us from seeing clearly the facts of our lives. Our drama is always personal. Its theme is "something is happening to me." Our story can always be traced back to some underlying issue that's been with us since childhood. For example: "I'm not lovable," "I can't trust men," "People aren't there for me when I need them," "Love doesn't last," Our story is invariably laced with "life is doing it to me."
An important aspect of our healing is learning how to separate the facts from the story. Fact is an unbiased observation of the events of our lives. Fiction is the story we create out of our unresolved emotions from the past. It is rarely based on the facts. Here are some examples that can help you to differentiate between fact and fiction:
"My wife left me" (fact) versus "My wife left because I am unworthy of love" (fiction)
"My husband emptied out our checking account" (fact) versus "My husband has deceived me and ruined my life forever" (fiction)
"My child had an emotional episode at school " (fact) versus "My child has been damaged for life by my separation" (fiction)
Distinguishing the facts of our lives from the fiction lays the foundation for acceptance.
When Dan and I separated, I was filled with fear and became overly dramatic. I was sure that my life was over and that my son would suffer from the same emotional problems I had experienced as a child of divorced parents. After weeks of torturing myself, I decided to write down exactly what was going on in my life without all the dramatic side effects. My list looked like this:
I don't have any money of my own put away.
My husband doesn't want to continue going to therapy.
He doesn't see any reason to get a divorce, even though we aren't living together.
- I will have to live inside his budget until I find a job.
- I will have to get a job.
- Dan will take my son for sixteen hours a week.
- We will sell our house.
- I will rent a home for my son and myself.
- I will no longer cook dinner every night for Dan.
- We will no longer be a couple.
- I will have to pay my own bills.
After looking at the list, all of the internal noise that amounted to a lot of drama about Dan not loving me, or how I failed at yet another relationship, disappeared. In light of the facts of the situation, my exaggerated fear that I'd be living on the street seemed silly. Every upsetting thought I had about Dan taking Beau away from me vanished. Inside my mind I had been having hundreds of crazy thoughts that contributed to a belief that my life was ending. Distinguishing between fact and fiction became liberating. The facts demonstrated that only my marriage was ending, not my life. And the facts showed that I was going to have to make some changes. Even though I didn't welcome these changes initially, by writing them down I realized I could handle them all.
Distinguishing between my story and the facts was a life-changing experience. It afforded me the freedom to view the events of my life apart from the dramatic hell I was living in. "Divine detachment is when the lower self steps away from the drama it has created and allows the higher self to observe and comment upon it, clearly and without emotion; honestly and without hesitation; completely and without reservation," explains Neale Donald Walsh, author of the Conversations with God series. He goes on to say: "You will know when this process is working for you because there will be no negativity, no judgment, no anger, no shame, no guilt, no fear, no recrimination or sense of being made wrong-just a simple statement of what is SO. And that statement may be very illuminating."
Living in the story of our divorce and the drama of our circumstances comes with a huge emotional price. It costs us peace of mind and prevents us from living in the present. It denies us access to the clarity of our wisest self and keeps us stuck in the pain of our past. Most of us don't realize all the ways we use our story to make ourselves feel important or to get attention. Recognizing our need to dramatize divorce helps us to break the unconscious motivation that prevents us from seeing with clear, loving eyes.