For those of you that are divorced and who have to live with the reality of a bullying or hostile ex; one who refuses to love your children more than he hates you, brain retraining may be your way to freedom. Unlike the probate court judges and other officers of the court such as attorneys, parenting coordinators, and guardian ad litems who have agendas beyond the need to protect YOU and your children, as a parent, role model for your children and protector of yourself, your only agenda is to make sure that you feel safe and that your children feel safe and protected.
Feeling safe can be a challenge if you have an ex whose sole mission it is to intimidate you, harass you, belittle you and bully you. As wrong and abusive and distressing as your ex's behavior is, this type of harassment is not the sufficient in most court cases to necessitate a restraining order yet it's no less abusive to you or your children than more overt physical abuse.
Insidious ongoing mental abuse perpetrated by an angry ex towards you and in front of your children can be very emotionally disturbing and yet it doesn't have to be. Instead of waiting for courts and other officials to act reluctantly on your behalf, take matters into your own hands and change the way you view it, thus changing your life for the better in ways you never thought possible.
Here are five ways you can protect yourself and your children from being influenced by a bullying ex:
1. Know the origin of your pain. If you allow yourself to feel belittled because an ex attempts to bully and intimidate you, there must be a reason for it; a place from your past where you have stored unresolved vulnerabilities. Identify the origins of these negative beliefs from your childhood and attempt to resolve it. If you struggle to get there on your own, face your fears and get the counseling help you need to undergo this process successfully. This is a two-step process: Step one involves understanding the origin of your triggers in response to a hostile ex, and step two is brain retraining to overcome your fears.
2. Counter your Faulty Belief System. All of us have faulty belief systems. My good friend, colleague, mentor and supervisor, Winifred Bowersox defines faulty belief systems as thoughts that are ingrained in our brain from childhood that define how we see ourselves in relation to others as adults. They are faulty because they have come from a person's perception of reality as a child and therefore they are distorted. They have to do with the way a concrete thinking, typical child interprets the world around them to make sense of it. And because the interpretation is concrete and in the context of a child's mind, the beliefs are faulty. As adults we can become aware of our faulty belief systems and aware of how they impact our interactions in relationships with others, including ex's. An example of a faulty belief system in the context of an intimating ex is something like "If my ex is hostile towards me, I must have wronged them and I deserve it." Faulty beliefs that continue to monopolize thinking into adulthood are fear based; in other words adults are afraid to face their unresolved fears that are the foundations for these faulty beliefs.
3. Generate your mantra. Undoing the brainwashing of a faulty believe system involves developing a counter to the faulty belief in the form of a new and positive mantra. It can be something like: "Now that I see myself accurately, I know that I am a positive person who does not deserve others' hostility and who will not be impacted by the negativity of others."
4. Practice and be prepared. Now that you know the origin of your faulty belief system and that it will be triggered by a hostile ex, use your mantra before you encounter your ex. Practice it several times daily so that it's automatic in the presence of your ex. Be prepared to be triggered in the presence of an ex and know that just because you're triggered does not mean you have to react to the trigger. An internal trigger can be recognized and managed without reaction. The more internal control you display, the more you will believe you have control and will not allow yourself to be controlled by a hostile and bullying ex.
5. Role Model. When you use your mantra to retrain your brain, you not only send yourself a powerful message and retrain your brain that you are in charge despite the past and current negative circumstances, but you provide your children with the privilege of seeing this in action. It's through this process that the impact of your ex's negativity on your life over time diminishes. Your ex loses power every time they attempt to exert control and you do not respond to their intimidation. This shows your children that you are in control despite the negativity of a disagreeable parent and ex and thus life moves on in increasingly positive ways for you and your children, even when it can't for your ex.
Despite all that the court system offers today in terms of protection, ultimately it's up to you to protect yourself against the hostility of a bitter and vindictive ex. You are your own best resource for creating safety within yourself by using self-awareness, brain retraining and practice. The best news is that when you practice this, you teach your children to use it, minimizing the negative impact a toxic ex has on their psyches as well.