May 4, 2016

The Trauma of Living

Categories: Divorce

91560048-brain-complexity-gettyimagesOn my way to the world last week I stumbled upon an article in The Guardian magazine that caught my attention. Richard Bentall wrote the article, entitled Mental Illness is a Result of Misery, yet still we stigmatise it.

The article brings into focus on a shifting and changing perception of the focus of psychiatry, now being challenged by psychologists and psychiatrists. If you have an astute eye, you have already gathered that the article originated in Great Britain.

At issue is the current paradigm belief in psychiatry that aberrant behaviors have a extreme biological foundation that discerns discrete brain conditions as the biological basis for conditions such maladys as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among a myriad of other examples of mental illness. The results of this paradigm posit that these conditions occur out of the blue in people who are genetically susceptible, and that they are uncontrollable lifelong conditions.

This caught my attention because I have had an ongoing curiosity about problems that arise directly from the beliefs we hold. That conversation intersects with schizophrenia, and has brought me into awareness a growing number people who see profound problems with the ‘beliefs’ upon which our current understanding of ‘mental illness’ rests. Bentall’s article is but another voice in that wilderness.

Another recent article appeared that claims that schizophrenia is a very complex assortment of no less than eight different medical manifestations. Advancements in molecular genetics show that the same genes are involved when people are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHA and even autism. These findings make the understanding of such conditions increasingly difficult to easily ascertain. They suggest that hundreds or even thousands of genetic variants interact with each other in complex ways, and actually overlap with each other.

But I digress. The part of this article that most spoke to me is the shift from looking at biological imperatives and to focuse instead upon social and environmental factors. Bentall reports that he and his colleagues have found, after analyzing all the research on childhood trauma and psychosis, that exposure to trauma caused a three fold risk to psychosis. I liked that he uses the term, mental ill-health rather than mental illness.

Of course, beyond childhood trauma there is a myriad of adult adversities that cause trauma, including debt, unemployment, physical health, unhappy marriages and even more unhappy divorces. Which is why I am writing about this in the collaborative law blog.

Life is an ordeal. No one escapes without some kind of trauma, unless they have significantly decreased cognitive abilities. Even the best childhoods have considerable exposure to trauma. Remember the challenges of the teen age years! We can’t become mentally healthy by focusing only upon illness.

We all know that divorce is usually listed as one of the most profound stress inducing lifetime experiences that we can have. Collaborative practice has created a new paradigm that has innately discovered strong principles that reduce stress and trauma in the divorce process, thereby promoting health and wellness.

A paradox is that exposure to stress and trauma has the capacity to result in greater health and wellness. We do not have sufficient tools to accurately predict who has been most significantly traumatized by the time they are forced to deal with a divorce, and who will best be able to have the experience result in helping them become stronger and more vibrant.

The dictum of medicine that we have adopted in creating the collaborative law alternative is, First Do No Harm.

There are many incredible voices in the mental ill health discussion that share the view I have come to adopt. We do a disservice to the people we work with and to ourselves when we operate out of the old biological model stigmatizes how we talk about and describe the psychological view of mental disorders as disease. They say that these conditions all occur along a wide spectrum, and that there are countless numbers of invisible people who have these conditions and still function as happy and healthy members of society. In fact, many people who fit definitions for schizophrenia, bipolar disords, ADHA and autism lead highly creative lives as artists, musicians, scientists, poets and lawyers.

Contact any collaborative professional to find out how this exciting approach can provide a safer way to grapple with the trauma of divorce.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at

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