Healing from divorce takes times—likely years, as opposed to weeks or months. It is an evolutionary and transformational process.
DivorceForce recently had the pleasure to speak to Rivka Edery. Rivka is an experienced psychotherapist and author of “Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide.” In her book, Rivka takes you through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and applies it to the healing of trauma.
Our interview with Rivka Edery follows:
DivorceForce: By the name of your book, “Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide,” one can pretty much tell what you cover. What is your experience with the trauma of divorce and how one needs to transform during and after divorce?
Rivka Edery: The process of going through a divorce is complex, making it difficult to formulate a recovery and treatment plan. The most common defense mechanism, and the toughest one to work through, is denial. Up until the past two decades or so, divorce was a shameful taboo, and often not done, and/or spoken about. My experience with divorce encompasses professional experience, as well as family and friends who have gone through it. I can certainly attest to its painful effects. The transformation required during and after divorce includes knowledge of the circumstances, acceptance of each person's "side of the street," and if traumatized, the seeking of appropriate professional help. Often, those who are suffering through a divorce, or because of it, may seek to protect themselves behind an armored wall, perpetuating traumatic effects. Recovery from the trauma of divorce, just as with any trauma, cannot occur behind this wall of forced silence, ignorance and lack of helpful resources. It may be necessary to go through grief-work with a skilled professional to ensure that the painful emotional effects are not bottled up; but rather, processed and worked through for resolution, healing, and personal growth. This will be very personal, depending on the person and circumstances. The way is open to be in charge and responsible, embracing difficulties as well as personal assets and gifts.
DivorceForce: How does your 12 step guide relate to Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step program? What is different about it?
Rivka Edery: The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous comprise a spiritual program used to treat alcoholics and other individuals with a range of self-destructive and addictive tendencies. Trauma and Transformation: A 12-Step Guide, guides trauma survivors through the entire process of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. This powerful spiritual process is available to help in healing the physical, mental and spiritual wounding caused by traumatic experiences. Trauma survivors who utilize this approach, as an adjunct to their personal recovery process, will be utilizing the spiritual tools that are the foundation and inspiration of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These spiritual tools afford the trauma survivor the opportunity to heal and enrich their lives in whatever way that is personally meaningful.
DivorceForce: Talk to us about spirituality. You suggest that “applying spiritual tools to … recovery significantly alters a life of pain and confusion.” Can one recover trauma without spirituality?
Rivka Edery: The healing process is based on spiritual principles that speak to the human spirit. I define and personally live "spirituality" as good orderly direction. For example: integrity, connecting to something greater than myself, having faith in the goodness of life, making amends, correcting mistakes as I become aware of them, are examples of the spiritual tools in my toolbox. Anyone can pick up these tools, and refer to them however he or she wishes, so yes, one can recover from trauma without spirituality. The recovery from trauma is so unique to the individual, and I do not believe there is a "right" or "wrong" way—as long as a survivor is experiencing genuine relief, growth, and an awakened consciousness.
DivorceForce: You state, “My goal now is to remain my own best friend.” What does this mean, and how does one transform to this state of being?
Rivka Edery: When I shared my Fifth Step with my mentor, I was able to let go of a lot of the shame that typically accompanies traumatic and abusive experiences. This energy was now freed for the first time in my life, and I no longer had to carry a burden that was unhealthy and a stubborn stumbling block. Taking Step Four without "turning it over" (Step Five), would eliminate that gut-level, intimate sharing. Had I skipped Step Five, I would live a life dominated by false beliefs about myself, about my role in certain circumstances, and about traumatic events in general. Having survived trauma did not create a "wrong" in me; but rather, I adopted maladaptive coping mechanisms to survive. I discovered and accepted that these were no longer necessary or helpful. I now had a connection to, and relationship with, a power much greater than my perpetrator(s), traumata I went through, wounds I suffered, and hurts that were deeply embedded inside of me. It was through Steps Four and Step Five that awakened a very different perspective of myself. It helped me see that being my own best friend was about how I communicated to myself internally, both as a way of life, and in response to situations I had no control over. This was not an easy discovery, or process to rectify; but I was highly motivated to seek a life of authenticity, vulnerability, courage, and love—that was borne internally, and extended to everything around me.
DivorceForce: We find that so many people who are initially confronted with divorce feel completely overwhelmed and cannot move forward. We know those who have been through it say it takes time to start to feel better. Transformation is a never-ending journey, but how much time and investment is required to start to see the sunshine coming through?
Rivka Edery: The time and investment required to start to see the sunshine coming through can begin by answering the following questions, as openly and honestly as possible, holding nothing back. The goal here is to take the first step in describing your perspective on the situation.
- Did/do you feel like a victim without any say over the matter?
- Did you play any role in the divorce? (**When I use the term "role," it is not intended for blame, but for examining one's involvement. This allows for personal empowerment and clarity for future goals. With the knowledge of how the spouse contributed or did not contribute, one can map out a fitting plan for recovery.)
- Were you in situations where there was an unfair imbalance of power?
- Referring to the situation you just detailed, did you have any influence on the situation?
DivorceForce: Any other parting comments or suggestions?
Rivka Edery: Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions, and to share my experience, strength and hope with your readers! With the greatest sincerity and passion, I believe that if you apply yourself with an honest heart and the direction of a Higher Power, as you personally define it, transforming your trauma will happen for you in due time. This process of recovery is about becoming who you were meant to be, despite whatever you survived, at what age you survived it, and what you lack or are in possession of: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is well worth making the effort to inquire who you really are, and then discovering that through your True Self you are connected to everything else. If you are beginning to awaken to this truth, you have begun to awaken to the deepest reality of all living things: that life means that we are all connected on some deep, mysterious level of existence. However, it is no secret that living this life is not always easy or comfortable. Perhaps you may struggle with many issues by just being alive, and you have significant unanswered questions. It is easy to just stay as you always were, and not bother to: 1) search for your own personal truth, 2) seek the right path, the right guidance, and garner some answers that are appropriate for your questions, 3) examine your emotional inventory, 4) make decisions for your own spiritual good, and for the good of a more peaceful world, 5) amend your behaviors if that is required, and 6) seek a spiritual solution.
I am a true believer that anyone who genuinely seeks healing, transformation, and recovery, from their personal trauma of divorce, will find what they need. It is our human birthright to live a life of integrity and joy.
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