Scaling Maslow’s Hierarchy – America’s Divorce

I know divorce. It was a concept introduced to me at age six, when my young parents succumbed to their desires for more and decided to dissolve their marriage. The most destructive event in all of our lives, it threatened to destroy not only our family, but each of us involved either by choice or circumstance. Divorce is not something to be taken lightly, so when I see our leaders asking if America should get divorced, or that many citizens are ready for secession, appalled or astounded doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. Flippantly, we throw around this heavy word, with little regard for neither the horrific experience nor the externalities divorce creates. Want to know what is in store if we decide to tread this path? Perhaps after our journey today, some will be a bit more careful when discussing “America’s divorce”.

A growing trend

Divorce was still a relatively rare concept when I was young, at least in small towns across America. In fact, my best friend and I were the only school mates in our grade to experience this concept personally in elementary school. Thankfully, her parents divorced after mine, so they could learn some lessons on how to be more civil, but divorce is almost always difficult, even under the best of circumstances. So many tears, arguments, screams and nightmares come with the experience of divorce – the more emotional the players, the more dangerous the game becomes. A time of great change and great learning, my childhood stretched my emotional capacity to its limits and forever changed my trajectory in life, but I can only imagine how hard this time must have been for my parents.

Together since 20, at 26 they became the first of their friends, and more than likely their relatives, to experience the concept and head into the painful unknown. Being the first, they knew no teachers able to guide them through this extremely tumultuous time. Unbeknownst to them, they were riding a social “tidal wave” as the concept lost its taboo and peaked in the 80s.

Counting blessings

As a child, I was a victim of my parent’s divorce, so bear little to no responsibility and instead dealt with choices outside of my control. For my parents, they were the stars and the spotlight belonged to no one else. A harsh hand dealt to two people who had longed to feel special all of their lives. They were the ones who had to make the choice to upend our family, to admit they were inside a mistake that neither were able to fix, to see that there was no future that included both of them together. They had “failed” and no one could save them. To fail with no hope for redemption is a brutal experience for a human being, the harshest type of accountability we can experience.

The pain of emptiness is all consuming. Having something one day, then waking the next without it, gnawed at my insides and created a hole that took years to refill. Divorce makes it terrifying to trust anything or anyone. When your family is broken, your safety and belonging are challenged and one must recreate a solid ground alone. Hesitancy, anxiety, fear and uncertainty fill the psyche and become a constant enemy that fights viciously to overtake one’s soul.

Yet, I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the entire experience. Overall, I still had love. I loved them, they loved my brother and I, so even though we were breaking a part I didn’t have to to lose those emotional bonds; they would just be different. Of course, this mature understanding of the situation did not come easily. It took years of research, therapy, schooling, and maturing to come to terms and heal, and it left lasting scars. Scars, however, that I find bittersweet and am grateful for as they combined to create who I am today, and now allow me to see the situation from multiple perspectives.

Take heed countrymen & women

We think divorce is an easy way out. Americans today are happy to talk about what the land will look like in a civil war, how we want people who think differently to die, how great it would be if “X group” didn’t live in America any more. Those are the thoughts of children. Those are the thoughts of privileged people who have never experienced a group or family dismantled. Those are thoughts of humans who have either never experienced real loss, or are so spiteful for how much loss they have experienced that they want all to suffer along with them.

My parents were young, inexperienced at life and had no connections equipped enough to bridge the gaps that existed between them. Their reality became full of distrust, fighting, and pain; a perceived source for all of their unhappiness. They believed the only way forward was to fail together and dissolve the union. Their coupling had grown so toxic that the only path forward was to separate. Believing they were too different to bridge the gaps, they made the choice I believe they regretted for much of their lives. The strange thing is, they didn’t devolve because they were too different. Sure, they see life differently in some ways, but the thing that broke them was the fact that they were too emotionally the same.

The ties that bind us

Both inadvertently ached for the same thing. An ache that created a shared commiseration that was unable to be filled by the couple they created. The bond they shared was ultimately the same thing that pushed them apart. Neither of them felt they had ever really experienced unconditional love and support. They wanted what most of us want…someone to recognize what made them special.

Neither realized the depth of the hole this left in themselves or each other. This lack of realization meant they were unable to fill these holes within themselves or each other. Over the years, this continued to cause anger, frustration and ultimately resentment. They were unable to see that the same insecurities that plagued them also existed within the other. Even if they had, their age and lack of experience left them unequipped to help the other.

Of course, back in the mid-80s neither understood this. All they really understood is that they felt unappreciated and unloved. They were not getting what had been promised, because they did not understand the promise in the first place. It started with little things: slights, jokes, and spending less time together. It grew to outright cheating, and then anything to impose the same hurt they were feeling. Hatred was easier than fixing anything, blaming was easier than admitting anything, and so came the divorce. Each were convinced the issue was with the other, and both claimed to be the victim. They never really looked inside to see their contribution to the problem, and neither fully understood their affect on the situation. Neither wanted to see the shared pain, misery and confusion that they both had caused.

Americans think this is what they want. We like to feel we are ready for war. But that’s because we watch too much unrealistic media. Divorce is a breakdown of a shared culture. It happens when we not only stop getting what we want, but it starts to feel impossible to get what we need. The problem with America today is that our wants and needs are all mixed up. We need to redefine and reassess what matters. Take stock in what we have and really think about the importance associated with whatever we feel may be missing.

If not….

Divorce is a cool war, not a cold one. Everything is okay until it’s not. We can live on our phones talking smack to each other, feeling happy at the zingers we sling, and all is fun and games until both sides want to control the same thing. The first time both parties desire the same thing tensions rise and anger flares. In a divorce, the law takes over and the fights take place between lawyers and mediators, with violence a rare occurrence. This will not be the case if our country divorces. If our country divorces the fights will take place on the streets, in our neighborhoods and our cities with little regard for the law.

This divorce will be messy. While our country once had many neighborhoods whose inhabitants saw life from a similar vein, those borders have turned to vapor and diversity crisscrosses our land. America has been restructured based upon preference and much less based upon necessity or segregation. People live where they like: city/country/suburbs, hot weather vs. cold weather lovers, etc. All races, sexes, genders, shapes and sizes fit within each of our segments and Americans of all kinds live side by side.

What on earth do we think this would look like if any groups tried to secede? Who will give up their coasts, town squares, city councils and other aspects of life to move elsewhere and take up sides to fight a silly war? Ideas are grand, awareness is good, but action often looks different in practice. We need to be realistic. We need to take a breath. Let’s all be a bit more mature than my young parents exploring love and family for the first time.

Moving Forward

Groups at odds must first be understood if we want to erase their anger. Our hurt drives us towards hate. Hurt that comes from many places: changes that are too quick, or not quick enough; intercultural misunderstandings; dreams that feel out of reach; assumptions about our character; a lack of trust and/or empathy in our daily lives. Many of our people are suffering from feelings they struggle to understand, and emotions they are unable to diffuse. While it is unthinkable to believe one blog post can help bring clarity to these issues, I will humbly offer one strategy that has helped me and mine create a strong culture of trust. My hope is that this suggestion could help one or more people out there, and the more we can help the less chance we have of tearing our country apart.

AFDA

The AFDA method helps to transition our emotions to something manageable and proactively provides a path to harmony.

A – Admit – In order to solve anything, we must first admit what is happening. Identify and define the issue to provide clarity to the emotions one is feeling.

Example: I am feeling hurt because my spouse over talks me when I am sharing things I feel are important. This hurt makes me doubt myself and resent them.

F – Forgive – It’s totally okay to feel any emotion one feels. All emotions are human and natural and we do not have to be perfect. Our feelings do not make us unsavory. Our spiteful actions spawned from our emotions cause our shame or self disappointment.

Example: It is totally okay that I feel these emotions. I am human and deserve to be listened to because I matter.

D – Decide – Decide what you want. Do you want to be right? Do you want the other person to admit they were wrong in their actions? Do you want things to change? What should it look like? REMEMBER: It is often not possible to be right AND get what we want. It is important to choose which is the most important part in order to be successful.

Example: It is important to me to fix this because I do not want to feel this way any longer. I should find a way to share this with my spouse in a constructive manner to help us move forward together. Even if I am the victim, and did nothing to cause this I need to take control of the situation as my happiness is up to me. If I do not speak about this, or find a way to fix it then I am allowing myself to live in a vicious cycle that will cause me pain.

A – Act – Put your decision into action. Divide the action into steps if necessary and reassess along the way. REMEMBER: Action often needs repetition to create new habits. Do not be discouraged if things are not fixed right away. Keep repeating this process, if necessary, until you get the desired results.

This is the start of our Belonging – understanding the problems in order to create the necessary solutions. Seeing our part and doing our part to help change things for the better. Please join me next time when we dive deeper into our bridging our gaps and uncover additional ingredients necessary to raise our vibrations and scale Maslow’s hierarchy.

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