What gives me the right to talk to you about how to live your life without anxiety? What is it about my life that qualifies me to feel that I have the answers?
The context for these videos
This is the fifth in a short series of videos in which I am picking stories from my own life to share with you – and using them to illustrate how I have achieved a life in which I feel I have become enormously rich terms of emotional wealth & well-being. In each video I use one of the Anxiety Freedom cards to illustrate my message. And the reason I’m doing this is to show you how you too can live a life free from anxiety and stress.
Please let me know what you think by commenting below!
Hi, today I’d like to share with you what I learned from getting divorced. Just to set the context, this is the fifth in a series of short videos in which I’m sharing stories from my own life to illustrate how I’ve reached a point where I feel quite abundant in terms of emotional and mental wellbeing. And in each video I’m picking one of the Anxiety Freedom Cards to illustrate my message, and I’m doing this to show you how you too can live a life free from anxiety and stress.
Over the past few videos I’ve revisited pivotal moments from my childhood and the early life, adult life, to share lessons that I learned. Today I want to share something that happened to me that I never ever anticipated in my youth. 23 years ago I decided to leave my wife, and my son, aged 11, and my daughter, aged 8, and for me this was a failure on an epic scale. It was something I never anticipated, I never thought it would happen to me, I was a family man, and eventually it led to me becoming quite seriously depressed, which I’ll talk about in a future video in a non-depressing way, I promise, but at the time it was a disaster.
But the card that I want to bring into this conversation is this one, it’s card number 13, and it’s Our Need to Give and Receive Attention. So this is the Anxiety Freedom Card that I’m using to illustrate this message.
So what’s the story here? Well I met my wife, my first wife, when I was 18 years old and we lived as a couple within six months. We had two beautiful children, we had a traditional lifestyle, I had a job, we had a mortgage, everything was rosy. And if I’m saying I lived a life rich in terms of emotional health, how does that fit with leaving my kids?
I want to point out that I haven’t always been that way, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and as Henry Ford famously said, “If you want to double your success, “you should first start by doubling your failures,” because that’s what we learn from, is the things that didn’t go right. And one way of looking at what happened in our relationship would be to say that we somehow grew apart, that would be some truth in that.
But I think we can say much more than that by focusing on the topic of the giving and receiving of attention. We were together 20 years and, when our kids were young, her attention was on creating a home, raising kids, and music. And our kids wouldn’t be the adults that they are today if she hadn’t put in an enormous amount of energy into giving them the attention, and the love, and the nurturing that they needed. My attention was on work mostly, and also on figuring out who I was, because we got together so young I never went through some of the things that maybe young adults go through about learning who they were, and I’d never really done that. So when our first child came, when my son was born, I had to adapt to not being number one in the house, that’s normal, that was has to happen when a baby arrives, they have to be the first priority. I understood that, I accepted it. When my daughter was born I couldn’t even get a conversation. I was starved of attention, that’s how I perceived it. Again, it’s normal, we have to acknowledge that raising kids is difficult and it takes an enormous amount of energy, attention, love, care, and everything else that you put into it.
But the point that I’m making here is that attention is the hidden currency. In my work I talk to people, and I help people who are stuck, and quite often I work with couples, and I discovered that quite often when there are problems in the relationship it’s because someone’s attention has been distracted and it might be by their work or their career, it might be by their kids, it might be by poor health, aging parents, caring duties as our parents get older. It might be by more practical things, like a new home, or a huge project at home. Or it might be to do with worries or anxieties, like money, or health, or disputes, or neighbors. It can be anything, but where our attention is focused is absolutely key to how we experience life and how things unfold for us. And I think when a marriage fails, the first question we often want to ask is, “Well, was there infidelity?” “Who did what with who?” And the point I want to make is that the question aught to be perhaps, “Where was the attention placed?”
And it is interesting postscript to this story because after I got divorced I put a lot more energy into being a dad. I kinda had to if I wanted to maintain contact with my children, so I saw them every weekend. And several years after the divorce I asked my daughter how she felt she’d been affected by my decision, which as I said, at the time was an incredibly difficult one to take. And I was shocked by her response, ‘cause I was feeling guilty, and what she said was that all she really remembered about me when I lived in the family home was my back of me being facing the computer screen, and that after I left she felt that she gained a father. Wow, I didn’t see that one coming, and I can now see that actually, in terms of attention and where I was placing my attention, that’s absolutely true. She had a lot more of my attention after I got divorced, which is kind of sad in some ways. I don’t regret what I’ve done, but I certainly admit that I’ve made many mistakes and I hope that I’ve learned from them.
So the point in this video is that attention is far more important than we generally realize. I sometimes talk about it as the hidden currency of our times. People do a lot of things for attention, to give attention, to receive attention, and they’re not always aware that that’s the prime motivation, it’s kinda like a hidden motivation. And if you think of attention like a torch, think, well, where am I shining the torch? What am I illuminating? What am I placing my energy and my attention to?
So, please scroll down, let me know what you’re placing your attention on, and whether it’s the things that matter most to you. What do you deliberately withdraw your attention from, and why? Because we’re all pointing our attention at different things every minute of the day during our busy lives, and it matters that we put attention into the things that matter most to us. So I’ve talked about attention, I’ve talked about my own divorce, I’ve talked about attention being a form of nutrition. I’d like to ask you, if you think this makes sense, if it’s helpful in any way, could I ask you to share it, like it, or just interact in it in some way? My work involves talking to people who are struggling, and I know that talking to people has helped them, I’ve got a good track record as a psychotherapist, and I wanna reach more people, and I can do that most effectively if you choose to interact with this video in some way.
So please share it, like it, comment on it, and just help me reach out to reach more people. And thank you very much for watching, listening, or reading, whichever form you took.