Anger Makes Divorce, Litigation More Difficult
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Anger is being extensively written and talked about lately. Some say anger drove the results of the 1994 elections. I don't know if anger causes political consequences, but I do know anger causes divorce and anger frequently drives divorce litigation, destroying the lives of every family member as well as causing financial ruin.
I find it interesting that our modern English word "anger" is derived from the Old Norse word "angr" which means sorrow. I have long believed it is deep sorrow and fear that accompany divorce, not anger, and that the sorrow and fear are converted to anger because anger is more satisfying.
Physiologically, anger generates adrenalin which gives us a burst of energy. Psychologically, many of us are familiar with anger and thus more comfortable with it than with sorrow or fear. Anger may be the American emotion of choice because anger is experienced as strength, while sorrow and fear are experienced as weakness.
Additionally, anger is an unavoidable part of loss.
It's universally recognized that individuals who suffer a great loss must travel through various stages of emotional reaction if they are to recover. These stages include denial, anger, grief, and finally acceptance. Those who do not progress through the stages of loss also do not progress with life in a wholesome and productive way.
Divorce is one of the greatest losses anyone ever suffers, and divorcing individuals sometimes get stuck in the anger stage. If they do, they also frequently get stuck in the courts in litigation that never ends.
I once had the good fortune to hear the Dalai Lama talk about anger. He said,
"Anger is one of man's greatest enemies, yet it comes disguised as a friend. It comes to us as a protector. It gives us a sense of strength when we feel the most helpless. It gives us energy when we feel the most inert.
"However, the energy brought by anger is blind energy. It leads to inability to tell right from wrong. It clouds our perceptions and leaves us unable to create good solutions.
"Anger also consumes our energy, leaving none with which to engage in reflection or introspection, from which healing can grow.
"Anger is the inner enemy. It is the destroyer of happiness and the destroyer of our future."
Judges in divorce courts realize the destructive power of anger, and we often recommend counseling to address it. Counseling doesn't always make divorce better, but litigation fueled by anger always makes divorce worse.
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