Avoid Divorce Disaster

Divorce is one of those things that can really get out of hand when people’s emotions get over-heated.

People just go plumb frickin crazy.

I found online that someone started a Reddit thread asking divorce lawyers what kind of crazy things they’ve seen people do during the divorce process, and here are my three favourite examples:

“Took the couple two hours to decide who would get the groceries left in the fridge. Estimated value of the groceries was around $40. Two hours of my time, opposing counsel time, and mediator time added up to about $1,000. It all came down to a Costco/Sam’s Club sized jar of peanut butter. (Who keeps peanut butter in the fridge?!)” ammjh

“I had a couple arguing for three hours over who got the kids on Christmas day, only to discover at the end that they were both Jewish.” -msc2436

“I dated a divorce lawyer and my favorite story from his work was the man who was super pissed that the division of assets was 50/50 and that his wife’s lawyer had a forensic accountant who found his multiple offshore money stashes. In retaliation, he demanded half the dog. Not joint custody. Half of the dog, who was his wife’s much beloved, very spoiled little buddy. He burned through thousands of dollars of legal fees just to make her cry, by demanding that the dog be put to sleep and its ashes split, 50/50. People are delightful!” –TheNightWitch

When these people cool down, get some distance, and look back on their situation, they may eventually realize that they’ve experienced moments of genuine bona-fide insanity.


Drawing from the field of neuroscience, psychologist and author Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence) coined a term called the Amygdala Hijack and it pretty much describes what can happen to otherwise good people in distressing times.

Your amygdala is a part of your brain’s limbic system (“the emotional brain”) and plays a primary role in memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. It’s what triggers your Stress (fight/flight) Response.

In the moment of Amygdala Hijack, if you feel threatened, you will tend towards reacting irrationally and destructively.


Because, your “emotional brain” processes information faster than your “logical brain” and so it makes decisions without the aid of reason or logic. Your “emotional brain’s” primary interest is survival and it seeks to either avoid or eliminate the current perceived threat.

How this plays out in your life during a stressful situation (like divorce), is that, when you feel threatened, you immediately react emotionally and feel like hurting (or destroying) what you perceive as the cause of your threat (like the soon-to-be ex).

And then, when your “logical brain” comes online, it’s used to justify and validate your irrational decision – not evaluate it. Thus, you seek to hurt the other person and find ways to logically justify it.

Your “emotional brain” has hijacked your “logical brain” and it’s calling the shots.

While your crazy revenge-driven action feels pretty emotionally satisfying in the moment, the long-term damage is really not worth it at all. Not to you, or all those affected by your divorce.

When you truly distance yourself and look back, you will tend to regret these decisions for their lasting negative collateral damage – to children, family, and friends.


Being aware of this whole hijacking thing is half the battle.

Now the trick is to use your negative emotions like an alarm clock to “wake you up” and trigger you to immediately STOP whatever you’re thinking, saying, or doing in the moment and just take a few deep breaths. Become mindful of the hijack attempt.

Breathe slowly into your belly.

Breathing slowly and deeply into your belly helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and initiate what Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University calls “The Relaxation Response” – which is the opposite of the (fight/flight) Stress Response.

As you relax and become calm, there is increased blood flow to your “logical brain” (prefrontal cortex) and you regain your ability to evaluate your decisions and become rational.

From this place of greater calm, it is vital that you begin thinking about the long-term effect of the decisions you’re making today.

What is really important for all involved long-term? …especially the children?


I am a child of divorce. My parents split up when I was only 4 ½  years old. My older brother was 9 and the oldest was 16.

My Mom fell in love with another man – a friend of our family; a friend of my Dad. They had an affair and Mom became pregnant. She wanted to leave.

My Dad, being a child of adoption, initially begged my Mom to stay – asking that she not break up the family. He expressed that it wasn’t the unborn child’s fault for being here and that he would adopt him and raise him as his own.

Mom said no.

She saw in her new man an opportunity at a different life. A new start.

Dad asked that she at least keep me and my older brother together.

She did. She left her husband and took her two youngest boys with her.

My Dad’s first instinct was to kill the man who would be my stepfather.

(Can you say Amygdala Hijack?)

When my Dad cooled down, he realized he would be no good to his kids in jail. He had to accept his situation and make the best of it.

My Dad had to re-evaluate what was really most important to him. He realized that the #1 position went to his kids. They were most important.

He would now make his decisions based on what would be best for them, not him.

Dad had great respect for the sensitivity and intelligence of children. He knew there is no fooling a child. Children can feel when something is wrong; when someone’s upset; when things are stressful. You can try and hide your feelings but a child can feel the truth.

It was for this reason that he truly forgave his wife and his friend for their betrayal. He told me years later that he couldn’t superficially forgive them, it would have to be real, genuine forgiveness. This was because he wanted his kids to grow up in as stress-free an environment as possible. Kids can feel tension in the air – it hurts them.

Dad didn’t want to contribute to an already stressful situation. He wanted to ease his children’s stress by being genuinely welcome in his children’s second home.

It worked.

My Mom, Dad, and stepfather were truly good friends throughout life.

My Mom and stepfather eventually divorced after 20 years and, since then (1993), my Mom lived alone.

Most recently, my Dad and his wife helped take care of my Mom while staying in her home during her last Christmas in 2010. She was dying of cancer. 18 weeks later, she passed away.

Mom and Dad – friends to the end.

In my heart, I thank my Dad every day for the gift he gave me and my brothers through his forgiveness and acceptance.

Life would have been much different had he allowed his distressed emotions to take control.

He overcame the Hijack and prevailed. We all won.

He’s my hero.


If you or someone you know is going through or even considering divorce, please have them read this FREE REPORT about how to avoid 3 Tragic Mistakes people often make during divorce.

Please let them know about an important Divorce Education Workshop Series that’s available to help them avoid making poor decisions and learn about all the different options and resources they have available to them to create a better future.

DIVORCE: Phase 1 – Understanding the Process is the first module in the workshop series offered by the team at Building A New Way Forward in Kelowna on Saturday February 7, 2015.

For more information, please visit BuildingANewWayForward.com.


© 2015 Trent Janisch – thepoweryouare.com


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