Hello, Suzie. My name is Sylvia Young, from Phoenix.
I need help healing. My husband passed away five years ago. Then about eight months ago, I learned about an affair and that he had been posting on dating sites. We were married for forty-six years. I knew he was not perfect. He had a horrible childhood and I stood by him through so many things. He would never leave me because the one time he was going to…he realized that even though I loved him, I would still go on with my life. The hurt is so bad. I need advice on how to stop thinking about this day and night. Thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to share your question. I can hear the hurt and the pain in your voice.
So first of all…
I’m just sending you as much love and compassion as I can. Your situation is…certainly a heavy burden.
Not only are you dealing with the grief of losing a partner and someone that’s been in your life for as long as you guys were together, but then now you are having to make this second discovery that he has this second life, this additional aspect of his personality.
Having to have this revealed eight months ago, I could just imagine how it must have set back your grieving process. And so I thank you for the courage to ask for the help that you need.
So, a couple of things came across to me in your question. One is that you have stood by your husband.
You know from your own words that he wasn’t perfect…and so the marriage wasn’t perfect.
And at the end of the day…the reality is, there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.
And yet, you have a history of being willing to overlook the imperfections…the ones that you knew about…which tells me that maybe the challenge that you’re having is the fact that this is just something that you didn’t know about. So, being blindsided by this new information is probably playing a bigger role in this than you might imagine.
The other thing that you mentioned here is that he was going to leave you at some point. So that suggests (or at least you’re telling me) that you’ve you guys have had your ups and downs. And in a marriage as long as you guys have had, that’s perfectly natural.
But what was interesting is your comment that he didn’t leave…because he realized that although you loved him, you were going to move on with your life. And it’s that comment. It’s that narrative. It’s that insight. It’s that courage that I want you to re-focus on. Because the reality of it is: Based on your own history, had you found out about this when he was alive….whether you stayed with him or not, you would have moved on with your life. So, I invite you to do the same thing here. Move on with your life, not because of anything else other than that’s who you already are.
The last piece you talked about is that you would like to know how to stop thinking about this.
And now listen, any one that’s walked this road (and I know many of my listeners have….I have)… anybody that’s walk the road of any kind of adversity, any trauma, grief, loss or betrayal….They all know how hard it is to stop the mind from the “what if”, ruminating, churning, the thoughts, the triggers. We all know what that feels like. So I absolutely understand, Sylvia, how the mind can take off and do its own thing. So when you talk about how to stop the mind from thinking about this, I understand what a challenge it might be.
So, the first thing I want you to know is that the brain is generating these thoughts for a specific reason.
And I know you might think the reason is to create fear and pain and worry. I’m not sure that’s the reason, but that is the byproduct of churning or ruminating or circling the same things over and over. That’s a byproduct. But I’m not sure that the reason the brain is doing this is to hurt you.
The thinking mind is ruminating over this over and over is a way for the mind to anchor in an idea….just SOME type of an idea…it wants you to absolutely remember.
Now, the brain evolved to do this for a specific reason because…when we (the human species) were out in the plains, when we were hunter gatherers…we needed to know where the tiger and the bush was. So you needed to know where the painful things are. And you needed not to forget.
So, it’s a survival mechanism to not forget negative things and to not forget where the pain and the anger occurred.
Now, if you’re facing a tiger…then, yeah, that survival mechanism is helpful. Here is the challenge: We have evolved past needing that. But that old brain, that reptilian brain is still doing the same old, same old.
So what do we do?
Here’s the thing. You’ve got to be willing to override that instinct. Override it, or overwrite it like you would a computer program. You’ve got to be willing to overwrite. And you’ve got to be willing to intercept. You’ve got to be willing to re-direct your focus.
These are things that are going to require effort and energy. So I’ll give you a couple of strategies that I use with my clients. But I give these to you with the understanding that it’s not going to be easy to get yourself to do these things. And yet, it’s going to be worth it.
When you hear yourself going down that same path, be willing to stop: S-T-O-P.
Just stop the brain. Stop the thought. Stop the process.
If you have to spell the word stop (S.T.O.P), that’s fine. If you have to visualize a stop sign, that’s fine. If you have to visualize yourself pressing a stop button, that’s also fine.
The next thing I want you to do is to dial down…
Like if you had a volume button on your iPhone, or something like that. Use the slider to slide down the volume of the thought.
In doing these two things, I want you to notice that in no way am I actually mentioning how to prevent the thoughts… because I don’t really know how to do that. Maybe they’ll come a point where we all learn how to prevent thoughts.
But as of now, the thoughts are triggered…and then our way of dealing with them or our coping mechanisms, is to interrupt them using the stop sign, visualizing, saying the word “S-T-O-P” or minimizing the volume on them (turning down the volume).
Another thing you can do if you’re having images come up in your mind…(for example, the mind is spinning an image of him sitting at the computer and making these posts)…you can turn down the brightness of the image that you’re looking at. Just turn down the brightness.
Now, in these three things that I’m suggesting, each one is communicating to your brain that you have control.
You have control over whether or not you continue. You have control over how bright and vivid you make the image. You have control over how loud you make the thoughts. Now, as you continue to practice this level of control, here’s what’s going to happen.
After a while, the brain is going to start to re-wire the way it’s processing. The good news is, Sylvia, you can escape this process. You can be released from this.
The challenge is getting yourself to do it.
So, I’ve talked to you a little bit about the how, but the how would only be possible if you know why.
So why put the energy? Why put the effort? Why do these interventions when sometimes you’re going to feel like you absolutely don’t want to? Why would anyone do this?
At the end of the day, it’s for your own self-interest. Because what you really want, Sylvia…if you want to heal, what you’re really saying you want is peace. And if you want peace, then you’re going to have to take control of the mind.
Sylvia, I hope you found something helpful here for you today. Whatever you decide to do, remember at the end of the day…Love Wins!