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Divorce, Uncertainty and Change: how to think about your running away fantasy

Our in-house consultant psychotherapist on why it is worth staying still and working on yourself and how you feel. By doing so you can then create the running away fantasy you really want

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve thought about running away more as an adult than I ever did as a child” (Anon)

This quote was sent to me by a client and really made me think. The urge to run away can be strong and manifest itself in many forms. The flight response is well documented and discussed often as a form of fear reaction. And I suppose wanting to run away is flight. It makes a great deal of sense – in evolutionary terms we are programmed to runaway from danger. If a bus is hurtling towards you, it is useful to try and jump out of the way.

The urge to run away can last a second or a long time depending on your current circumstances, previous experiences, and future expectations. Sometimes the feelings around the flight response can stay with our bodies for a while and feel uncomfortable. It makes us think or often overthink. This could be productive – reflecting is good practice and problems need solving. Or it may lead to endless ruminating and into a freeze response. It could also give you space to think about your fantasy exit.

There are many ways to calm an over stimulated nervous system. But what can you do with the overriding feeling that you want to run away? What is really going on for you? We have briefly considered the physiology of the flight impulse but what about a real desire to run away? To stay on your holiday forever. To up sticks and move to the Outer Hebrides and live alone. Or to move to the Maldives and make lots of new friends. Or just away – somehow, somewhere. Whatever your running away fantasy is, it is always very much not your reality. Can it become your reality or are you actually simply trying to escape something, perhaps yourself?

There can be times when life is wildly stressful – like during a divorce, or around a loss, or during a transitional phase in your life. Often this is when all your impulses scream at you to run away. This could of course be absolutely the best thing for you. It could also be a disaster.

If you have any doubt at all it might be useful to try two things.

One: Consider the following statement – spend some time thinking about it:

‘Wherever you go, there you are’
(Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn, University of Massachusetts Medical School)

If you are running away from your internal process, that will likely be similar or even the same wherever you run. So work on yourself, make yourself your most important person, find a therapist you like, practice the things that work for you, regulate your nervous system. And then meet your running away fantasy again.

Two: If you have any doubt – if you feel like you don’t quite know – then don’t. A huge amount can happen if you do the above work and sit with a problem longer. Give it some space.

Divorce can create massive uncertainty and change. It is completely understandable to want to escape anything that feels so challenging. But sometimes it is worth staying still and working on yourself and how you feel. By doing so you can then create the running away fantasy you really want.

In the meantime, I’ll be in the Outer Hebrides.

Counsellor / Psychotherapist
at Counselling Development

Emma Chamberlain is a respected and highly-qualified Counsellor / Psychotherapist based in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes. Emma is experienced with successfully working with clients experiencing a wide range of issues, including anxiety, depression, stress, panic attacks, emotional distress, low self-esteem, relationship problems, work-related problems, grief, bereavement and loss, fear, anger, trauma, self-harm, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, suicidal thoughts and those struggling with life’s transitional times.

Emma has a strong academic background including a BA (Hons) in Psychology and an MSc in Integrative Psychotherapy. Emma worked extensively as a Counsellor for MIND – the UK’s leading mental health charity. Emma is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and works to their ethical framework.

Emma works from a humanistic relational perspective following the Clarkson 5 Relationship Model. This offers a flexible relationship based approach to counselling / psychotherapy and can include CBT/ DBT and a range of other approaches. Emma’s current research interests include exploring how counsellors and clients work together when the client has Asperger Syndrome and she is experienced in working with adults on the Autistic Spectrum.

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