By Eileen L. Berman, Ed.D.
I see quite a few people in my practice, all with varied situational difficulties. However, I saw someone recently whose problem seemed to be quite relevant to today’s society.
Jane was recently divorced but was gainfully employed. She wasn’t passionate about her work but felt it was an OK job for now. As a result of the divorce, however, her emotional house was in a state of disrepair (see my book, Dealing Effectively With Job Loss). During this critical time, she had left the house she had formerly owned and was living in a rental unit in a shabby section of town which further added to her despair.
During one of our sessions, the purchase of a house came up. Jane was miserable living in a rental unit, missed her house, and felt if she could once again move into her own place she would find peace and comfort. She found something she liked but was hesitant about purchasing it. The fact that she questioned this move and wanted to discuss it were positive signs about her progress. I thought of others in her shoes … working in a shaky job market, undergoing recent trauma, alone and scared and looking for some sense of security … who might have jumped in without thinking it through.
Looking for something permanent or secure and seemingly safe is common when things get rocky. Looking to buy a home at this time is like looking for a new partner immediately upon separating from the old one! The same feelings of loneliness and desire to connect with something or someone are in play. If you succumb to these, you risk tying yourself to something or someone when you are least able to think rationally. In both instances, your emotions are leading you, not your intellect, and you are bound to make a mistake which could be quite costly, both financially and emotionally.
Wanting to find security in a new relationship or a new home is quite understandable. While it may appear rational on the surface (after all, who wants to be feeling lonely and miserable?) it’s an extremely bad idea. In both instances, you are not giving yourself a chance to heal and plan your life under more rational circumstances. You are bound to make a mistake because you’re doing both for the wrong reasons.
In past writings, I have talked about “freedom” and what it means to be free from relationships in order to do whatever is in your best interests. If you are saddled with a house…particularly at this time economically…you may not be able to get rid of it if you would want to. The same is true of a new partner! Both are risky endeavors at this time.
So we can look at this time as a newly found “freedom” to get yourself together… to rethink your life, which includes your job. As you begin to heal, you may want to take inventory of your life. Do you have other skills which remain untapped? Do you want to remain in the same geographic area or would you prefer to rebuild in another environment? Now that you’re “free,” you’re also free to make changes that are sensible…but in due time.
Right now, your mission is to heal and begin to rebuild your life with renewed confidence and strength. Now is also not the time to give up the anchors you have….friends, family, familiar places and faces. It’s a time for self-exploration and leaning on the support system (including your present job!) that you have built up over the years. It’s a time to take inventory of yourself and, when you are free from grieving the loss of your marriage with its inherent guilt, blame, and loneliness, to begin to think in terms of the future. Now, however, is about the present.
All of this takes time and patience. For some, professional help is needed to help verbalize your frustrations and face your anxieties. This is a much better route than latching on to something or someone during a time of mixed emotions and despair.
Being alone is not so terrible. Learning to relish your newly found freedom is a process. It can bring peace of mind as you realize what it is like to be “free” to make your own decisions, “free” to grow in many areas not open to you before, and ”free” of any and all encumbrances. If you step back and think about this, I believe you will take a deep breath and relish the air of freedom which has been bestowed upon you!
Eileen Berman, Ed.D. is a practicing psychologist and consultant in Rhode Island. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or suggestions.