Helen* sent me a lot of text messages today. They were not from her to me. The messages were from her (soon-to-be-ex) husband to Helen.
And there were many, many text messages.
*I talk about "Helen" a lot. She's not a real person and she's not a real client. She's more like a composite character. I will never reveal an actual conversation that I've had with an actual client. Ever.
In most of the messages, Helen's husband was telling her what he thought of her behavior in their pending divorce -- more specifically, what he thought of her decision to seek financial support from him and one-half of the assets they had accumulated over the course of their long-term marriage.
Helen's ex believed that, because he'd made more money than her during their years living together, she didn't "deserve" half of the assets.
You don't need me to tell you what he said about the weekly support payment (you can already take a pretty good guess at that, right?!)
Helen's ex also told her -- in some of the text messages -- that he told their (adult) children what he thought of Helen's behavior. One of the kids circled back to Helen and asked her why she was "doing this to dad."
Helen responded to a good portion of the messages from her ex. She responded multiple times.
She has also invested a great deal of time and mental energy trying to explain herself to her adult children.
I know exactly why Helen responded to her ex's messages.
I also know exactly why she sent to me all of the screenshots showing me what he said to her, and why she told me about what her adult child said to her after that.
Helen's brain is telling her that her ex is harassing her, that he's "turning the children against her."
Helen's brain is telling her that it is extremely important for me -- her divorce lawyer -- to understand how awful her ex is.
Helen's brain is telling her that she's confused about why he would speak to her like this.
And Helen's brain is (quite loudly) telling her that she doesn't deserve how he's "making" her feel.
After all, Helen was a faithful, devoted and "good" wife for decades.
Here's the truth, friends. . .
Helen's brain is lying to her, and it's going to fight to present evidence to support those lies.
Helen's brain is lying to her when it creates that irresistible urge to respond to the text messages from her husband, and when it whispers to her that her lawyer needs to know about all of her husband's bullshit.
Why is Helen believing that she has to explain any of it to me, especially when I've already explained to her that she is not going to get "graded" her performance as a spouse (and neither is her husband), and that the text messages that she sends to and receives from her husband have zero impact on the financial outcome of her divorce?
What is the underlying belief system that Helen's brain is so stealthily sneaking past Helen that she does not even realize that it is a subjective belief -- and not a factual circumstance?
Well, there's a bunch of different beliefs, actually, that Helen's brain is holding onto, but they're all basically one foundational belief dressed up in different costumes.
That one foundational belief is dressed up in different costumes because -- like I said -- Helen's brain is super sneaky.
Have you figured out what it is?
Helen's brain is telling her that she has to explain herself to me, to her kids, to the world -- that she has to convince me that she doesn't deserve the "harassment" that her husband is dishing out to her.
Helen's brain is telling her all of the reasons why -- she was a "good" wife, she was always there for the children, she worked outside of the home and contributed financially. I mean, maybe she never made close to what her husband made for money, but still she always worked.
It is bullshitting her when it creates that irresistible urge to defend, and to explain to me why she is deserving of a fair financial settlement.
Helen's brain is bullshitting her when it tells her that she needs the kids to believe her so that she can feel better. (Yeah, I know, you're all going to have a hard time with that one.)
I would really love to talk to Helen about boundaries, about how they are very simple and how establishing them from a clean place is what she really needs to do, and then the rest of it will be easy.
But before I can do that, I need Helen to see that foundational thought error. And here it is.
The sneaky foundational thought -- that Helen doesn't realize is a thought she's choosing -- is the thought that she did enough. Enough for her husband, enough for her children. That there was an "enough" that she needed to reach -- like a finish line in a race, or a minimum passing grade.
That's a not a thing, my friends.
And the problem with Helen believing that it's a thing is that she then believes that she has to provide the evidence of having achieved the thing. Then, by doing that, she creates an opportunity for someone to challenge her evidence.
And once she did that, she set herself up to worry about making sure that the other people -- the people closest to her -- also believe that she achieved the thing, crossed the finish line, passed the test.
That's kind of trippy, right?!
That trippy narrative is messing with Helen right now. Helen's husband is not responsible for this narrative. He is not sending her harassing messages. Her child isn't making her feel bad. That's not a thing either.
Helen is creating her own feelings, because she's having a bunch of her own thoughts, and because she's believing the thoughts.
Helen wants me to believe her thoughts. It is important to her that I believe that she's passed the test. Helen thinks that, if she can convince me that she passed, maybe I can give her something that will make her feel better.
Helen also does not know that her husband is a totally neutral circumstance. What he says and does is totally neutral.
What her adult children say and do. . . NEUTRAL. (I know, you'll push back on that.)
What isn't neutral is Helen's brain. That is where all of her pain is coming from.
So that's where I need to begin with Helen. . . inside of her own brain.
Helen doesn't realize it yet, but that is where all of the power is.
Talk to you soon, my friends.
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