I’ve written blogs about the value of learning how to be comfortable living in uncertainty. I’ve written about the problems that spring from being uncomfortable with ambiguity. I’ve talked about how unreliable it is to hold on to cherished beliefs, and how all of these aspects can create huge problems for couples trying to resolve difference without giving all of their financial equity to courts, attorneys and other professionals in the process.
Today I will tie these foibles together by looking at how our human brain contributes to our downfall. Most of us have grown up thinking that our brains operate in much the same way that computer does, with a processing center and some kind of hard memory storage system that help us build a reliable pattern of processing information and recovering it accurately when it is necessary to do so.
If you do as I did, and perform a Google search for how reliable is memory, don’t be surprised to get 187,000,000 hits for this query. Start reading the articles and you’ll find they all suggest that our memory is very unreliable. You will find a concept in psychology called the Actor-Observer Bias. It suggests that we humans have a strong inclination to describe our own actions and motivations in a conflict more favorably, while being highly critical of the other person’s motivations. We professionals who work in this area can attest to seeing this phenomenon in challenging divorces.
Most of us have an awareness of how the painful experiences in life tend to fade over time. If this weren’t so women might never want to deliver a second child! Even emotional injury, like the trauma of war, can be healed over time. But an interesting counterpart is the finding that we have an ability to overestimate how happy something we are seeking will make us feel in the future. Despite this, the things we desire compel us to make choices that don’t always pan out. Sometimes this occurs as an experience many have believing a divorce will solve all their problems.
Psychologist tell us we often use logic and reason only to support our pre-existing beliefs. Our emotions have a more substantial impact on our perceptions than we ever realize. On top of this, our memory sucks! Even those of us who proudly boast that we have excellent memories. Memory is a complex process that depends upon a multitude of events. Scientists tell us that memory in fact accesses multiple areas of the brain, and depends greatly how the original message is encoded. The hypocampus and the frontal cortex work in tandem. Memory itself is a pattern of electrical synapses in multiple parts of the brain. A memory is not collected and kept in one piece.
Yet it is most common for us to react with absolute certainty that the events we recall are true and accurate reflections of what really happened. Every study I have found suggests this is not the case.
Coming into an emotionally charged situation of divorce we are better served by being open to other possibilities to explain what things happened in our marriage to bring us to this point. Couples who are most successful in reaching meaningful resolution of the issues depend less on being right than they do on finding a solution.
Keep in mind – we are all heroes in our own narratives.
To find out more about how collaborative law can support you in moving through a divorce, contact any collaborative professional.Tagged with: communication • conflict in divorce • conflict resolution • healthy divorce • Mental Health • productive conflict resolution