The Brain and Embracing Uncertainty in a divorce - Our Brains Are Programmed to Crave Certainty
Updated: Sep 15
Written by: Janet Henson, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
As a divorce coach, I help my clients deal with the emotional rollercoaster of divorce. Divorce is the second most traumatic experience in a person's life. One of the most frequent problems my clients face is dealing with the uncertainty divorce creates in their lives.
It's not unusual for people to stay in unhappy, even toxic, marriages rather than face the uncertainty of suddenly being alone and facing a new future. What I can say is that it is far better to leave an unhappy relationship and deal with short term uncertainty rather than deal with the certainty of remaining unhappy. It is a cliché, but you only have one life, so live it to the full and happily.
If I could read the future for my clients and gaze into a crystal ball to be able to tell them how their future would look and when they would know all the answers to the 'what if's' that constantly fill their minds, I would be in great demand!
The divorce journey is full of unknowns, the biggest unknowns that bother my clients are:-
Will my spouse agree to a divorce?
Will my divorce be high conflict?
Will my spouse be fair and honest?
How do I respond to my spouse's latest demand via their lawyer?
How do I manage the bills on my own?
How do I manage the finances that my spouse used to manage?
How do I handle my children's response to the news?
When will the divorce be final?
When will I know the financial settlement?
Will I ever be happy again?
When will I feel 'normal' again?
Will I meet someone else?
Where will I live?
When do I finalize the details for co-parenting arrangements?
Our brains are programmed to crave certainty. They dislike uncertainty. So, a bit like the fight and flight response. Because the uncertainty is incredibly painful, my clients often rush to resolve it as quickly as possible. Their actions often involve running away or lashing out, or taking a decision to hurt their spouse. After all, they want to get out of their painful uncertainty as soon as possible because their brain is wired to do this.
I teach my clients that they need to embrace uncertainty and stop from acting quickly, however tempting it is to do so. I teach them to envisage a STOP sign in their minds and follow a process before they take action. I ask them to sit down with each uncertainty as it presents itself and for as long as it takes to be sure the view and see it from all angles. Not from the angle of wanting to hit back at their ex for all the wrong reasons of retribution and revenge. Often these such decisions are not in the best interests of themselves.
The response needs to be considered with compassion and in the best interests of all parties involved, particularly children. Often clients have to see that they need to embrace the higher road. I always tell my clients to take time to respond, quite often if they receive a demand from their spouse's lawyer in the moment, they reply with emotion ruling the response. I tell them to sit on the demand until their initial emotion has settled, normally at least overnight. It's always better to say 'I don't have an answer at the moment. I need to think through how this will affect me, and I will get back to you. I Buy time until you have clarity and have sat down and examined it from all angles.
Consequently, embracing is not about taking no action; it's about taking the time to react in the best way possible by giving themselves the time to consider the decision. I also tell my clients it's a step at a time and once one thing is resolved, you feel more empowered to take the next step in the process. It's a learning curve that helps you overtime to make the brain wait and used to not craving immediate certainty. I teach my clients to also envisage the word STOP in their minds when they start thinking of 'what ifs'. They are writing a story in their mind that might never happen and giving themselves stress.
Like an addiction to anything, when the craving for certainty is met, there is a sensation of reward, but the brains drive for certainty often makes us make snap decisions that come back to bite us.
Janet Henson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Janet Henson is globally sought-after Divorce Coach, dedicated to guide men and women through one of life’s most traumatic emotional events - divorce. Janet quest is to banish the stigma that still surrounds divorce and prove that the end of a marriage can be the most empowering, life changing and affirming event ever to happened to you. Her coaching experience coupled with her own divorce experience enable her to develop coaching programmes designed to help individuals transform their lives by taking control of their minds and equipping them with the strategies and tools they need in order to successfully deal with this major life event enabling them to navigate and cope with their journey with positivity and to confidently transitioning into the next phase of their life. Janet specialises in divorces involving narcissistic abuse, high conflict, divorce in later life and expat divorces.