Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How to survive this insanity.

This morning I started the day by reading about yet another legal insanity, this time from New Jersey where a court has ruled that deliberate alienation and kidnapping of children does not constitute "intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress" against the left behind, target parent. How a judge can say this and not giggle like a lunatic purely escapes me.

Aristotle claimed that the law is the triumph of reason over the emotions. If family law and jurisprudence are reason, then we are all doomed. Last one to leave please turn out the lights.

In the comments to this article, I find the gem "it takes TWO to make a relationship work ... it also takes TWO to break one". Clearly ellenb1 has never been dumped.

It is a characteristic of this game that the most transparent falsehoods get promulgated as supposedly trivial fact. Under these circumstances, it can be hard not to lose it and yet, as the father being ground into the dirt, you are the one who has the most to lose by going crazy. You must stay sane when confronted with this insanity.

How to do that?

When all is out of control, you must stay in control. You cannot control what is going on around you any more than the one-eyed man in the country of the blind can restore everyone else's sight. Pick your battles carefully.

What you can attempt to control is your little island of calm in the eye of the storm. That island is in your head. Your "happy place" as Peter Pan, and others, would have it. We can't expect it to be all that happy under the circumstances, but we can at least try to keep it as peaceful as possible.

Getting the right support is always the right thing to do. If you're like me, you'll develop a deep suspicion of psychologists, few of them have much real idea of how to cope with unstereotypical problems. Nevertheless, they are our culture's current idea of how to support the suffering in spirit.

Actual wisdom is better and usually must be found elsewhere. If you have wise friends, possibly even a priest or spiritual leader (preferably from a long established line of life's teaching and not something half-baked), then you are doing well. Trust them, but do not expect them to make your decisions for you, especially if they themselves have never been where you are. (Some "friends" will turn out to be unable to avoid saying thoughtless, insensitive things; you don't have to turn your back on them, they may be friends for other reasons, but manage interaction with them carefully.)

You'll be doing a lot of waiting around, in anterooms, waiting rooms, perhaps travelling, not doing much when life screams for action. You'll need either distraction or something to help focus your mind, sometimes both. Music is excellent for the purpose.

Buy an mp3 player.

Fill it with music whose emotional content attracts you but is not too intense. Classical music is good. I find the genre now known as Chillout to be very effective, full of complex, sustained rhythms that carry me along but do not push me into maudlin or overwrought melody.

For those times when you can stand to listen to a human voice, podcasts are excellent. Choose your sources carefully. The BBC, NPR and CBC have an excellent selection, but avoid subjects which may trigger the wrong moods. (The BBC's Woman's Hour, for example, is unlikely to help at all.) Look for high intellectual content, even if it is difficult for you to understand, just trying to follow what they're talking about may help you climb out of a pothole of despair. Flavor with some light entertainment as well.

Don't spend too much time watching TV. It is full of imagery and stereotyping that won't help. Try to stick to things that are rooted in fact, not fantasy. Documentaries and travel programs, for example, or historical dramas, or war stories. But not the majority of sitcoms, nor cop shows (the bad guy is all too often the bad guy).

Read. There is a small but growing body of literature out there which recognizes modern cultural desert in which we live, discusses its causes and seeks solutions. Again, fact rather than fiction. If you do read fiction, try some classics. Modern literature is also infected with the disease of political correctness, but Dickens, Orwell, and Dosteyovski were fortunate not to have lived under its cloud (although Orwell certainly saw it coming).

Exercise. This is where the mp3 player can really come into its own. A brisk walk listening to some opinionated fool carefully selected from the foolishness of the internet can be most therapeutic. Try not to argue with them out loud, it tends to draw stares and, after all, we're trying not to let the world think it's succeeded in driving you over the edge.

Find time for yourself. This is perhaps counterintuitive because family court is extremely isolating for a father. But you'll need space to breath, to figure out what you think is the right thing to do, to calm down and to center yourself. Turn off the TV, put down the book, find a pleasant view, or even just stare at a blank wall, and just be. Let the tears come, heave out a scream if necessary, tear things apart in your head, recognize and identify the emotions. Accept them as normal, you are under attack, and it is proper that you be angry, hurt, unhappy, depressed, despairing, raging, sick to your stomach with it all. But above all, keep it under control, let out a little at a time, and do not let it overcome you. Do not let it, and therefore them, control you. You do that. Not them. They are insane, but they have power, and they will use that insanity against you if they can. Don't let them.

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