Cognition, Resilience, Self-Care

Divorce Recovery 101: Practice Self-Compassion

Check out thiths excerpt from Splitopia about self-compassion on the Greater Good Science Center website.  Based at the University of California at Berkeley, the Greater Good Science Center offers some of the best research and tools for living a happier, more meaningful life.

The GGSC sponsors research on well-being, and its website can connect you to inspiring blog posts, helpful podcasts and “Science of Meaningful Life” seminars.  I am so pleased that the GGSC chose to share the research on self-compassion cited in my book, and to let more people know about the work on this topic by Kristin Neff, at University of Texas at Austin and David Sbarra at University of Arizona.

Self-compassion is my first Principle of Parting, both because I was excited by the work of Sbarra on self-compassion in divorce, and because focusing on self-compassion is just the kind of counter-intuitive—but scientifically sound—approach we need more of.  It may seem like so many other things would be more important in divorce—making sure you have enough money, hiring a lawyer or mediator, finding a new place to live.  But as Sbarra’s research shows, and the experience of many confirms, going easy on yourself during a tough time can be the first step to positive recuperation and rebuilding.  It can help you avoid lashing out at your almost-ex in front of your children or making bad decisions driven by fear, anger or a scarcity mentality.

Sbarra’s work was some of the first to investigate positive psychology practices in divorce. The field of positive psychology more generally is beginning to look at how so-called “happiness research” can help people facing really difficult times, and I’m looking forward to Martin Seligman’s forthcoming book on the new subset of “positive psychotherapy.”

In the meantime,  we can probably all benefit from spending time on the Greater Good Science Center’s website.  The “core themes” listed on the website highlight its areas of focus: gratitude, altruism, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, happiness and mindfulness.  I’ve spent many hours listening to the very helpful “Happiness Matters” parenting podcasts by sociologist Christine Carter and registered nurse Rona Renner.  I’m currently thinking about taking the center’s free, 10-week online course on what it means to lead a happy and meaningful life, The Science of Happiness, taught by legendary well-being expert Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas.

Here’s to a happy and meaningful life for all of us!


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Amicable Divorce, Getting Along Better, Post-Divorce, Parenting

The Good Divorce, Canadian-Style

I was so happy to see this great article today in Canada’s largest-circulation national paper, The Globe and Mail, about how divorce is changing for our neighbors up north. “Divorcing with dignity: How modern exes are treating a split as an awakening,” looks at Canadian couples who co-parent cooperatively, celebrate holidays together, and even help out with each other’s laundry. I spoke to reporter Zosia Bielski when she was writing her piece, which is the most thorough and balanced piece of reporting about today’s changing divorce that I’ve seen.

As Bielski writes:

“These husbands and wives want what’s best for their kids, which is family, and they want to salvage their own sanity. Many are doing things differently because they saw the carnage of their parents’ divorces, with mom and dad not speaking or badmouthing each other in front of the kids. There are good reasons why some divorces go very badly: chronic infidelity, abuse, mental illness and addiction can make separating traumatic. But for others parting under less extenuating circumstances, divorce can be an awakening: Some people find they are better ex-spouses than they were spouses.”

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Cognition, Mindfulness, Resilience

The Secret Power of Letting Go

I had an epiphany on the subway in Manhattan today. While waiting on the platform for the #1 train to go downtown, I watched an uptown train pull into the station, load its passengers, and then rush right back out again. Whirrrr! The lights, the sound, the increasing velocity—the train sped into the dark tunnel and disappeared.

I’d like to let my own negative thoughts speed away, I thought. Just swoosh themselves right out of the station.

I never liked the subway when I lived in New York, and not having to cram myself into a dark, dirty underground transportation tube is one of the joys of living in Los Angeles. But today, it struck me as a great visual metaphor. The speeding-away train was a perfect image and reminder of what it might be like to notice one’s own negative thoughts and feelings as they enter, sit calmly on the still platform, and watch them rush back out.

I was thinking about this because I was holding a dog-eared paperback on my lap that I’ve been reading called The Untethered Soul: the journey beyond yourself, by Buddhist teacher Michael A. Singer. He writes about the idea that our true self is the one who observes our inner and outer world, not the details or disturbances that we see.

In the meditation and mindfulness traditions, overly identifying with our outer circumstances or inner thoughts and feelings is the cause of a great deal of unhappiness.

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Family & Friends, Parenting, Self-Care

Divorce Diaries

Three (or Four) Questions for Michele Traina 

13139372_1698226050449410_6434589311029617181_nPlaywright and educator Michele Traina married in 2009, and separated from her husband in 2014, when their daughter was about a year old. She and her daughter moved in with her parents in Clifton, New Jersey, while her ex-husband moved an hour south.

After a year of living with her parents, raising her daughter and working full-time, Michele decided to turn her experience into a one-woman play. Divorce Diaries features a 30-something mom living at home with her child and dog, and scrambling to keep it all together.

The play had its first showing in October, 2015, and she is continuing to develop it. I met Michele last month at a French bistro in Manhattan’s West Village, and discovered that she teaches theater at the same pre-K/kindergarten my son attended when I lived in Hoboken, New Jersey.

We’ll be collaborating on an event in Hoboken on June 16.  She’ll be performing scenes from her play, and I’ll be reading from Splitopia. You can Register for this FREE event here.

Wendy Paris: What made you want to turn your divorce into a theater piece?

Michele Traina: When I spoke to people about my divorce, I felt like they could really relate to the challenges I was facing of trying to juggle multiple things—to work, to be a mother, to date. I like to write about what I know, and I wanted to put my material out there and help other people who are going through any kind of transition in life while juggling multiple things.

Wendy Paris: What parts do people respond to most?

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Communication, Divorce 360, Image Cards, Resilience, Self-Care

Taking Control of Our Story


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