How I Avoided Bitterness After Divorce

Comments 91

Lilly asked: My main question is how did you keep yourself from becoming bitter toward life and women? Not all men (or people) seem to recover from the line in the sand their spouse may have drawn due to the belief there is “evidence there’s a better way.” My spouse is now stuck in bitterness toward me and women in general (because of my audacity to expose that we were doing it wrong). All in all, he would have preferred to have kept his head in the sand it seems. Just wondering from a man’s perspective what keeps some in the game and others eager to jump into a world of solitude and hate after being hurt.

The Disclaimer

That’s an interesting question. Learning about empathy and what that actually means is probably the most important thing I’ve learned post-divorce.

I still have a long way to go, but have made strides.

Because of this newfound ability, I understand and respect that every other guy is not me.

With the exception of severe mental illness and non-sobriety, I believe that when a person shares an honest story about WHY they believe, think and feel the things that they do, a reasonably honest and empathetic person should be able to connect those dots and understand how the other person arrived at those life conclusions.

It might sound like a copout, but I don’t mean for it to. I WANT every guy to agree with me all the time and do what I think is best because I think marriage and relationships, as a whole, would improve overnight. (Which might not be true. I’m just guessing, and I’m wrong sometimes.)

But that won’t happen. I know that it won’t. I know that only a certain percentage of men will ever share enough commonalities with me in terms of life experience, education, emotional makeup, personality type, etc. to draw the same conclusions I have.

I mostly write for them. Those faceless unknowns who I know exist because they sometimes reach out and say, “Hey, we’re kind of the same!”

That was my wordy disclaimer before answering the question, which I hope made clear “This only applies to me, and the vast majority of other people aren’t anything like me, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much.”

Lilly asked: “… how did you keep yourself from becoming bitter toward life and women?”

I faked it at first.

I WAS bitter toward life. Not women, I don’t think. But I was poisoned by cynicism and was wallowing in Woe-is-Me-ism for a bit. It was pathetic.

The early days were dark ones. I didn’t want to die, but for the first and only time ever, I didn’t care whether I did. Everything hurt — head and body — every second of every day with lousy sleep and disturbing dreams for several weeks and months.

It was unsustainable, and I can’t be sure of what or where I’d be had those feelings persisted.

They did not.

Some percentage of healing came simply from the passage of time. I think most people heal if they just keep breathing and stay alive. Like any wound, there might be scar tissue, but the body mends. And life goes on.

Some other percentage of the healing came because of the self-improvement work I was doing.

In my previous 33 years pre-divorce, I’d NEVER set out on any sort of meaningful self-improvement journey. I don’t know why. Maybe everything felt good enough.

But now I was on a self-improvement journey. It felt like I’d spent a lifetime blind and finally could see.

I identified several self-sabotaging things I regularly thought about, felt and did. Then I worked to do better.

I started reading more with an emphasis on books I believed would make me a smarter, healthier, and more-capable person.

It was intoxicating at first.

Not many people read things I wrote then, but it still served as a mechanism to share ideas. Combined with my first-person divorce stories, people found relatable examples of how the common marriage breaks down. Because that’s what my marriage and divorce turned out to be. Typical. Average. Something that happens all the time.

For shame.

I’m motivated to help others avoid the same fate. Sharing those stories was truly therapeutic.

Who I am today isn’t entirely about my life choices.

I had really excellent parents who loved me (still do) and whose selfless intentions to make my life the best it can be have NEVER been in question.

I have really excellent, loving, predominantly functional extended family members. They are very good, loving people who made me feel special and cared for throughout childhood and into adulthood.

I have awesome friends. I don’t often see or talk to most of them because they’re scattered all over the damn place, but I love and miss them, and when we get together, it’s always fantastic.

I grew up in a nice, safe town with nice people. I currently live in a reasonably nice, safe town with nice people.

Throughout my life, there was a reasonable expectation that, when I woke up in the morning, today would be a good day.

I spent my entire life taking THAT for granted. How much would the wealthy pay for that luxury? To wake up optimistic every day because the vast majority of their human experience was positive?

That was my life. I didn’t have money and things and impressive life experiences.

But I had THAT.

It’s a priceless and incalculably valuable gift I was given. I did not earn it.

But because I was young and couldn’t know what I didn’t know, I didn’t actively appreciate the charmed state of being.

And then, BOOM. Marriage falls apart. Woman I love leaves. Son I love more than life itself goes away half the time at EXACTLY the same age I was when my mom and dad divorced when I was 4.

The psychological and emotional fallout is impossible to describe, though I’ve tried. Only the people who lived through something similar get it. Sadly, that’s a large amount of people.

My default state of being for most of my life was one of hope and optimism, and I can’t be sure what percentage of that mindset is rooted in upbringing, and what percentage is from me making the choice. That hope and optimism was always rewarded because things tended to work out for me, even when there were hiccups along the way.

Today, I recognize how fortunate I was to have that, and that many other people have had to overcome much more than I because of those unearned advantages. 

Bitter toward life?

This is going to sound silly, but it’s basically mathematically impossible for us to be alive.

The mathematical odds of the Earth’s relation to the sun and the millions of years of life formation on this planet, and then all of the things that can kill our fragile bodies, including birth, where the doctors at an Iowa hospital told my parents I probably wasn’t going to make it around 5 a.m. one morning in 1979.

But then I did.

And everyone else did, too. It’s, like, pretty much impossible that we’re here and alive and conscious and able to have this conversation.

The odds of you and I being alive are the same as two million different people rolling a TRILLION-sided dice and all rolling the exact same number.

The odds of us being here are pretty much zero.

Yet, here we are.

It’s a damn miracle, Lilly.


Life is a song.

And laughing is always better than crying. And love is always better than hate. And forgiveness is always better than guilt/anger/resentment. And redemption is always better than shame.

When I wake up in the morning, there’s a chance I’ll have a blah, crappy day. There’s always that chance.

But on the other hand? There’s always the chance it’s going to be the day that the greatest thing that ever happens to me, happens. It might be the best day of my life.

Even if it’s not, maybe I’ll have an amazing father-son moment. Share a really kick-ass kiss. Laugh until my cheeks hurt. Learn a new life secret that makes everything better. Make some sort of important personal connection. Or maybe even write something here that resonates with human beings around the world, who then write me nice things to say so.

Among all of that is the perfect combination of “stuff” that makes me me, and not a guy who gets hopelessly bitter and angry.

Being bitter and angry is horrible and feels bad.

Being content and grateful is amazing and feels good.

To me, there’s no choice at all.

We can live in the darkness, or try our best to light it up.

And I choose the latter.

When we decide to make today better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today, I believe that’s exactly what happens.

I love life and people because I choose to. I choose hope because it’s so much better than the alternative.

And that’s why I’m not bitter, and God-willing, never will be.

91 thoughts on “How I Avoided Bitterness After Divorce”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am about to leave my husband and he just isn’t believing that he had anything to do with this decision. He has “ignored the damn dishes” and made it my problem for making them dirty in the first place. I wish I could share your blog with him to help him understand but he wouldn’t read it or see himself in it even if he did read it. But you also give me hope that one day he won’t hurt so much and might find a new happiness, so thank you for that. Keep writing, you are very good at it.

    1. I’m really sorry to hear about the state of your marriage. I understand. Very much. It must be an incredibly difficult and painful decision to arrive at over time.

      Thank you for the kind words about my writing.

      Here’s to learning from mistakes and finding hope in new opportunities for all involved.

      Good luck to you both.

  2. What a great question from Lilly and such a wonderful response, Matt.
    My “Feelin’ Good Friday” just got greater. You’re the spring in my step today. Thanks Matt!

  3. Something I’ve always tried to do is stay in the present, with an eye on the future.

    Yeah, there are a lot of things that have happened that haven’t worked out the way I had hoped. But they’ve already happened. “What if” is pointless to me, because all I really have is “what is”.

    The past makes us who we are, and gives us guidance in the form of life lessons that we can take to try and improve, to ensure we don’t continue to make the same mistakes.

    I’ve never been a very angry or bitter person, because it seems pointless. It seems like a way to stay trapped in the past, when all you can really do it try to keep moving forward.

    I think that’s what kept me afloat at the times it felt like everything was breaking apart.

  4. Fromscratchmom

    I’m smiling at all y’all across the Internet (and tired enough to wax southern; my husband always told me that happens when I’m tired or angry. lol)

    I have been rediscovering my natural personality. When I’m not confronted by total toxicity from a person who should be safe, when I’m able to be positive AND get positive in return for it, life is just so much better. And I’m blessed to get a lot of positive feedback in my life now.

    I’m also discovering that in a lot of ways I can recognize all the many things my soon-to-be-ex has been wrong about and still not be bitter. It’s been hurtful. And I see him clearly now for who he really is, which I guess I’d never done in the last twenty years. And I’m thanking God that I’ll be legitimately and fully free as well as for His blessings helping me heal from having loved someone I shouldn’t have ever trusted with my heart. I’m getting to a point of experiencing many glad moments and many peaceful moments.

  5. I’m glad that you made it, Matt, in that early morning in 1979.

    I may be one of the few who have (virtually, at least) walked alongside you from almost the beginning. I started reading about 3 years ago, after your wife had left but before she took the couches if I remember correctly. You bought your Jeep (and then regretted it!) somewhere around there, right? You posted a hilarious Easter Bunny cartoon, I remember that.

    I may be misremembering some of the details, but the point is, I remember. There was some bitterness in the early days, it may have been cloaked in vodka and humour, but it was there. I remember because I was bitter then too.

    But their was always a little bit of hope, too. That came out very clearly. I was healing and you were too, and following along with your healing have me a lot of hope for my own situation. I wasn’t alone, you know?

    It helped a lot. More than you know. It’s been a pleasure, sir, to be a vicarious part of this journey you’ve been on; to watch you learn and grow.

    Keep being yourself, Matt. Keep hoping, and inspiring hope in others.

    1. On a personal level, that you remember these written-about milestones and have been on much of this journey at the same time means much more to me than you might realize.

      From a “feels” standpoint, this is one of the very best things I’ve read here.

      Thank you, Anita.

  6. I read Lilly’s comment slightly different. She asked how you keep from “becoming” bitter. I know many men who were bitter right after their divorce or split, myself included. I think feelings of bitterness at that time are difficult to avoid. Then time and distance start healing things. But for me it wasn’t enough. I still felt bitter until I chose not to.

    I remember sitting at the kitchen table, alone, and feeling the bitterness intensely. For some reason a visual of a path with a fork and two continuing paths came to me. I literally asked myself which path I was going to take. I think I chose wisely. I think all of our feelings are a choice.

    That was sixteen years ago. This time (it’s happening again) I’m finding that choice is much more difficult.

    1. Fromscratchmom

      It is more difficult. I know. I’m praying for you. I was married at a young age to a guy who was a serial cheater. I had a profound level of negative emotions washing over me at first, but zero desire to go back to him or ever have anything to do with him on any level. Then I sort of “got over” most of it but I had severe depression. Then I got treatment for depression.

      This time after twenty years connected to someone who was far better in several different ways, or so I thought, but who now has decided to not honor his commitment to me, it has been a very different experience. I don’t think I can describe the enormity of all the differences. But the good news is that only six months in I’m healing anyway and as heinous as the whole experience has been, it’s also proven to me how much I’ve been healing in my life (something I’ve been working on for ten years) because I haven’t slid back into the abyss (clinical depression). My tendency toward depression and other things that were essentially bio-chemical imbalances went back into my early childhood. I’m in control now and not through pharmaceuticals but through natural healing.

      You will face a lot. There’s just no point in denying it, when in reality even trying to honor and validate it leaves us all with words that just aren’t big enough. But you can do this.

    2. Mike,

      I believe feelings are a choice too. By changing how I think about a situation I can change how I feel about it.

      But that’s way too simple. I am sure you know this too.

      There are a lot of other factors involved. The cognitive part of my brain only controls a fraction of what I feel. The primitive part of my brain can make me feel bitter and hopeless even when my cognitive thoughts are choosing forgiveness and accountability. My living environment can be so stressful and depressing that my body and brain are also stressed and depressed. These are real factors too.

      I love the message of Matt’s post, it is so important to consciously work on accountability and choosing hope. But I think some people have a higher happiness set point by birth and have it easier than those who are genetically predisposed to depressive thoughts.

      And I think those who have had repeated traumas or disappointments have it harder than those who have had one. It’s like standing in the ocean and getting knocked down by a big wave. The first one I can struggle to stand and recover. But with each wave it gets harder as I become more exhausted and my brain recognizes and anticipates the horror of history repeating itself.

      And the very LAST thing that helps me is thinking that I can just choose to be happy under those circumstances. Because I don’t really have that choice at that moment.

      I can choose to survive. I can choose to figure out ways to soothe my freaked out amygdala so my body can calm down enough so that my cognitive choices matter in the future. But it’s like thinking my car into stopping when the brakes are broken. Or choosing to start my car without the key.

      I am sure you know all this. I just wanted to say that I understand why it would be harder this time. It absolutely does not mean it cannot be done. But I think it requires more work arounds than simple cognitive choice.

      And I say this as a person with a low happiness set point. I have to work really, really hard to be able to choose hope. Frankly, I’m a litter bitter about all those high happiness set point people telling me how it not being bitter is just a choice. 🙂

      1. And I forgot to add that I was not thinking of Matt when I was writing about people pushing just choose hope as an easy thing. I don’t think that’s what his message is in his blog.

        Though I do think he has a pretty high happiness set point 😉

    3. I am sorry , Mike. I think that divorce is one of the most gut wrenching experiences someone can have. So much is out of your control. And, the picture you had when you made your vows is nothing like reality- I am sure you feel a huge burden of blame on yourself and on your partner. (I may be wrong, but I imagine that is how you could feel).
      I don’t have any words of wisdom, other than just do what you can, and what you know is right, today. Then the next day.

  7. ‘We can live in the darkness, or try our best to light it up.”

    I’m really grateful that there are people in the world like you, Matt. Don’t take that for granted, it’s a special quality. Many people don’t make that choice.

  8. Reblogged this on BLUE SUN and commented:
    DERAIL PITY – Factors that influenced how one man avoided bitterness after divorce, complete with disclaimer – one size does NOT fit all! From life circumstances, our support systems, our gratitude, and our responses; how one man managed to find positive inspiration in it all.

  9. fromscratchmom

    Of necessity a lot of emphasis gets put on self-improvement and personal responsibility. You cannot have healthy growth, functioning, choices, and relationships if you do not take responsibility for yourself. However there is another side of the coin. Your well-being will be negatively impacted by unhealthy people who are in your life. And the reverse is true to whether you are thinking of your impact on them or the idea that their being healthy will have a beneficial impact on you, which it totally will.

    Since I have gained so many book recommendations here I wanted to come back here and let y’all know that the first two chapters of a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting have just been pre-released on the internet and I thought they were great.

    1. Fromscratchmom,

      Thanks for the link. It looks very interesting! I love how he was using Dan Siegal’s work as a framework. It is so true that “you need to connect in ways that rewire you.”

      I defintely need some rewriting 🙂

      Here’s my favorite quote:

      “My goal here is to help you see that the things we always try to do to get better — which includes working on our abilities, thinking styles, initiative, strategy, communication, accountability, perseverance, adaptability, and so forth — are certainly valid, but insufficient.

      The problem is that you can’t just change them on your own. You are already at your limits with the equipment you have. But your abilities will be changed, and your equipment will grow, as these capacities are developed in certain kinds of relationships.

      To get to the next level of performance, you certainly do have to think differently, but to think differently, you have to have a different mind, and your brain has to fire differently. To develop these differences in your mind and brain, the equipment in which thoughts and feelings and behaviors are embodied, you need to connect in ways that rewire you.”


    I have a lot of thoughts on bitterness but since I don’t have time to write them out now. I’ll throw in this Brene Brown video on blaming.

    Blaming (and being bitter) is the opposite of accountability.

    Accountability is a very vulnerable and humbling process. Even if we are aware of the need (which many people aren’t) and have the skills to do it (which many people don’t) we don’t want to go there because it is painful.

    I don’t want to do it on most days. It’s a lot like physical exercise. No pain, no gain.

  11. I think part of the formula is resilience. Resilient people don’t fear change quite so much, so they’re more ready to understand their roles in a situation and to alter patterns to avoid future pain.

    Others will deny the need to disturbe apathy until it takes them to the breaking point.

    To this day – 10+ years later – if you asked my ex “what happened?” he’d tell you “Things were fine, and one day, she went nuts and left.”

    Could we have salvaged things if he’d been willing to change? I think so…but I will never know.

    With my current marriage, although we’ve been struggling, he IS stepping up gallantly and is more than willing to do whatever it takes to save “us.” Most days, I am too.

    1. Katie,

      Glad you came back 🙂

      and that your husband is stepping up and you are both working together! That’s awesome.

    2. Katie said: To this day – 10+ years later – if you asked my ex “what happened?” he’d tell you “Things were fine, and one day, she went nuts and left.”

      This so describes my father-in-law. The poor guy would sit there and rehash over and over again what his ex-wife did, what his mother did, what his brothers did, what this person or that person did-and his main take away was “What’s wrong with all these people?”

      And we would be thinking-hmmm, all these people seem to have healthy relationships with everyone else except you. Maybe you are the common denominator and you have the problem??

      At one point we did confront him with the fact that he was less than perfect. It did NOT go well-we were attacked verbally and via email for years.

      My mother is similar. So we have these two family members who are in their 70’s and for decades have done an admirable job of denying they have done anything other than being wonderful people.

      A few years ago, I had to deal with an issue involving a 17 year old (long story). But after much discussion, this kid was able to say, I did such and such because I felt this way. I shouldn’t have done that. And then there were a few days of awkwardness as she began acting in a more appropriate way, and then all was well. It was really good for me to go through that experience and see that it was possible for people to own their shit and change! Because I had these two family members who for years refuse to change-but now I knew it could be done!

      Life is a journey, and I have realized that for whatever reason-crappy childhood? Bad relationship?-playing the victim may be satisfying at first, but I would rather be honest with myself and see where I am in the wrong. Because if it’s not my fault, I am powerless and there’s nothing I can do. I am at the mercy of whatever person or situation is responsible. But if I am at fault-I have power! I can grow and change! I can make things different!

      And this even flows into the situations where honestly I am not to blame. I can recognize that I can’t change another person, but I have the power to choose what type of person I want to be and how to respond in this situation. Learning this was a real game changer for me.

      1. The secret to life, I think, summed up fantastically.

        This was a good story. I’m sure it will resonate with many people.

        Thank you, Lissy.

  12. This is in response to Lisa and Katie,
    I don’t think resilience is a trait that a person is born with. Social science people actually refer to resiliency as the environmental factors that produce a well rounded, hopeful point of view. Family, the social environment (high crime vs low crime, ect.) and financial resources are all part of a persons resiliency. (Coping skills and interpersonal skills are too). So, at least with that you can choose to put those things that will make you more resilient in your environment.
    That’s one way you can choose happiness (both in a single life and in marriage), even when you don’t always feel great.
    This was good news for me, because when I used to hear about resilience, I used to think that it was about particular people- so great! one more thing I lacked, as though I were genetically designed for failure. But that really isn’t true. It’s the things you choose to have around you, and creating the supports everyone needs in life.

    1. Hey Linbo, glad you’re back! 🙂

      I relate to many of your thoughts here. There probably are some genetic factors I imagine, but the social factors count soooo much, and also what kind of messages you internalize about yourself and the world growing up (I do believe these messages can be changed with a lot of work though). Our psyches are so vulnerable when we’re little, and they’re so very powerful in influencing how we view and interact with the world. And these messages that we internalize depend so much on the external factors were surrounded by. The emotionally health of our parents, financial safety or lack of it and so on.

      1. Hi Donkey! Yep, I’m back. Thank you :). It was kind of hell week in school, it’s the last two weeks of the semester so, Everything was due- RIGHT NOW! Next week I am slacking and studying for finals. (Yay!)

        So, my response is for you and Lisa,
        I don’t know if there are genetic factors as much as there are biological factors. What I mean is that good feelings create certain pathways, and stimulate certain Neurotransmitters. So when we’re born and we know and understand love and security our brains get wired that way- and it’ s likely easier to feel those things since the brain is actually shaped to facilitate that same response (plasticity). (Maybe that is where the set point comes in?). And vice versa with negative feelings ect.
        I believe that is why things like smiling actually trigger better moods, and replaying a positive experience sets us up for being in a good mood, and having further positive experiences. Because we are stimulating or creating positive pathways.

        This is the most amazing thing about the natural world- The environment does have the capacity to change our brain as much as our brain has the capacity to change the environment. This is why and how we created our modern world and our modern brains. This concept also fits very neatly into my theological understnading of mans place in the world. So very neat.
        We can manipulate our own brains! (Manipulation in the sense of using our metaphorical hands…we can be goal directed in how we use our brains.).

        I think plasticity also accounts for a lot of depression and even some of the more debilitating illness’ like bipolor and schizophrenia- it’s the repeated stimulation of pathways and neurotransmitters that create increasing disability. (Not putting blame on the individuals at all- you cant really even choose to feel happy when you are seriously depressed. The person feels helpless.

        There may be some genetic predisposition to make more of less of a Neurotransmitter, but I thing we are all genetically predisposed to what I was talking about above.

        On a personal level- my first 26 or 27 years were full of struggle. Physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual (although I wouldn’t have even used that as a category when I was 26 or 27.)…The last 14 years have been a slow progression (with plenty of two steps forward, one step back ‘s) ..but towards a more stable and positive outlook.

        If I think about it, I should be amazed. The other day I was- and full of spontaneous gratitude. I wish I could keep that closer. ..Maybe I actually need to be more intentional there…
        Anyway, ramble, ramble, ramble….

      2. Donkey and Linbo,

        Ok this topic is a hot button for me because of a playlist in head from ALL the many people who have told me that happiness (or fill in nice word here) is a choice and if you are sad (or fill in negative word here) it is completely within your control by choosing to change your attitude. And if you don’t feel better quickly, it is your choice.

        I know absolutely no one is saying that on this blog. But it is important that I have a proper and correct understanding of this topic so I can adapt accordingly. From my research there is a genetic component.

        This is important to me because it acknowledges that some people will find it easier to be resilient than others. We can all improve by behavioral changes but the genetic lottery winners should understand that the rest of us have a higher mountain to climb.

        This is similar to people who have terrible childhood environments, they will have a harder time than those raised In secure environment. They absolutely have control over their behaviors but it is just going to be harder for them and that needs to at least be acknowledged.

        Here is a link from a Yale guy who talks about the genetic piece of resilience.

        “Let’s take a quick look at some genetic and biological factors that have been associated with resilience. While no one gene or gene variation explains resilience, genetic factors do play an important role in determining how an individual responds to stress and trauma. For example, DNA studies have found that polymorphisms (i.e., variations) of genes that regulate the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the serotonin system partially determine whether our biological response to stress is too robust, too muted, or within a range that is optimal for adaptive functioning. In addition, studies of identical twins, where one twin has been exposed to a traumatic stressor such as combat but the other twin has not, have estimated an overall heritability of posttraumatic stress disorder ranging from 32-38%. This means that genes are important but that they are only part of the story.”

      3. Lisa,
        I’ m going to check out your link. From the quote you provided, there are some things that I didn’t think about in my post. I’m not a doctor, and I certainly didn’t go to Yale, so yeah- I don’t know everything… :).
        Let me check it out and I’ll write back.

      4. Linbo,

        You said: On a personal level- my first 26 or 27 years were full of struggle. Physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual (although I wouldn’t have even used that as a category when I was 26 or 27.)…The last 14 years have been a slow progression (with plenty of two steps forward, one step back ‘s) ..but towards a more stable and positive outlook.

        If I think about it, I should be amazed. The other day I was- and full of spontaneous gratitude.”

        That is amazing that you have progressed so much over the last 14 years to the point of having spontaneous gratitude.

        Awrsome! Gratitude is just so important. I am trying to work to find ways to notice and be grateful for so many things. Not spontaneous yet though 🙂

        I am grateful for you and the many other commenters here. I am challenged and inspired and learn so much from everyone’s differnt perspectives.

      5. Lisa- same to you!! I really appreciate your thoughts, questions and how informative you are!
        According to the definition in the Huff article resiliency is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.”
        The term “Adapting well” is incredibly subjective. That is one thing we have to remember. We aren’t less resilient when our lives don’t look like the next person, or when it doesn’t look like what we wanted it to look like. It doesn’t mean we have failed when we still get triggered by certain things (I still do!)
        But overall- I live in a safe and comfortable home, I have a garden I get to work in, I have a working car, I have people who really do care deeply for me, I am going to school for something I feel passionately about (how successfully I am doing that depends on the week, but that’s life.) Overall my life is pretty good, I have been able to find some meaning and purpose.
        But, I still have issues and I don’t know if they will ever be completely resolved. So, resiliency to me doesn’t look like “no trauma ever happened”. It looks like “the trauma happened and this is how I have grown through it.”

        Genetics may have a part to play, but the message I want to get across is that whatever your experience is, its yours and its valid. It doesn’t really matter exactly why or how. People who haven’t experienced a particular experience don’t know what it is like…maybe they could use a few empathy lessons…
        Just because depression, or anxiety- or whatever it is, is a part of your make-up doesn’t make you less resilient. To me resilience doesn’t mean the problem is solved. It means you have adapted to learn how to handle it better.

      6. Lisa Gottman


        I have time to sneak in one last comment. One scientifically valid way of improving resiliency (and my conceptual happiness set point) is through mindfulness exercises.

        I have been starting a program recently through my couples counseling (Brent Atkinson’s model). They found that all the cognitive information is worthless if your amygdala is aroused. It is slowly helping to change my tendency to easily go into “fight” mode. Ideas often trigger me. Sigh. I come here partly to practice responding better.

        Here’s the quote from the article about mindfulness:

        “Emerging scientific research has begun to show that neurobiological systems associated with resilience can be strengthened to respond more adaptively to stress. For example, research using EEG and fMRI technology has shown that mindfulness meditation and training in cognitive reappraisal can increase activation of the left prefrontal cortex. This is important because people with greater activation of the left prefrontal cortex recover more rapidly from negative emotions such as anger, disgust, and fear. University of Wisconsin researcher Richard Davidson has proposed that resilience is largely related to activation of the left prefrontal cortex and the strength of neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Robust activation of the PFC inhibits the amygdala, quiets associated anxiety and fear-based emotions, and allows the PFC to facilitate rational planning and behavior.”

      7. Lisa,
        I appreciated that article. Mindfulness is good medicine! I try, but sometimes forget
        :(, but then I try again! What is interesting to note is that EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing works on the same structures, but a little different way. I want to say that the eye movement keeps the pre-frontal cortex busy so that the memories and emotions stored in the hippocampus have time to process, and have less impact. I think there is a connection between EMDR and with REM sleep as we process stuff at night when we dream.
        But, that’s a whole other can-o-worms, and I see you and FSM were talking about Epigenetics, so I we can just stick with that 🙂

      8. Lisa,
        I want to apologize. You were telling me about how mindfulness is a scientifically proven way calm the amygdala, because you were in flight mode, and I kind of threw EMDR at you.
        Yes, I agree meditation is an incredible way to slow down, and learn to listen to your body and emotions. We don’t tune in to ourselves enough. I had no idea what it actually did in the brain processing. So, when you mentioned the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala I immediately thought about EMDR. I guess I was trying to sound intelligent, I don’t know.
        You did end up saying that you were often triggered by ideas. Why do you think that is?

      9. Donkey,
        Hey there! You’ve mentioned your issues with boundaries. This is huge for me,too.
        And it’s playing out in my a few relationships now. I know I need to read up more on them.
        But, what I’m thinking is do you have anyone that you talk to about certain dynamics with- to reinforce your thoughts and actions? Kind of like “accountability partners” Counsellors are great for this,yes- but $. I don’t know if you’d be interested, but if you wanted to find me via Facebook (I’m on the MBTTTR page) and message me, I’d really like someone to remind me that my old patterns aren’t working and help establish new patterns (a little less publically than here.) I could do the same for you. This is more practical for me because even if I read and agree with stuff it’s hard work to follow through. Sound like a good idea? Either way- hope your doing well. I will be taking an Internet break for about a week soon (It’ll be at the end of next week). Lindsey

      1. Also, this might be similar to real gaslighting and the gaslighting effect. I know there may or may not be a real happiness set point but the happiness setpoint is quite a helpful concept to me to explain why some people are generally more glass half full and others more glass half empty.

        For me it is easier to change my environment and circumstances than my mood. Doing that often changes my mood.

        I have to work around the classic cognitive therapy model of thoughts create feelings create emotions. (And if course the model is not really that simply because it does include the body responses).

        And I know there are genetic factors for anxiety and depression and maybe the absence of those is what produces a happier point of view.

        I don’t know but I do know that I loathe people who say that depressed or anxious people can control everything through cognitive choices to be happy.

        And of course I know you are not saying that at all.

        “Still, people who want to become happier should consider focusing on changing their situations rather than their moods, Schimmack suggests.
        “There is a certain irony because the other aspects of happiness that are not reflected in emotions are easier to achieve,” he says. “But we try to chase emotional well-being, which is more closely related to the set point idea.”

      2. Ugh more typing problems. What I meant to say was:

        I have to work around the classic cognitive therapy model of thoughts create feelings create BEHAVIORS. (And if course the model is not really that simply because it does include the body responses)

      3. I made a comment about plasticity and depression, I hope you read it in its intent. I’m not putting blame on the person, but I am saying that there may be other environmental interventions along with medication that can help with the person getting on the right pathway. ..The reason I say this is because there has been a lot of studies done with schizophrenic patients that show a huge reduction in symptoms and decline, with an increase in functionality because of… wait for it…socializing.
        Having interpersonal and supportive relationships helps reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. (that’s freaking amazing to me. )

      4. “I made a comment about plasticity and depression, I hope you read it in its intent. I’m not putting blame on the person, but I am saying that there may be other environmental interventions along with medication that can help with the person getting on the right pathway. ..The reason I say this is because there has been a lot of studies done with schizophrenic patients that show a huge reduction in symptoms and decline, with an increase in functionality because of… wait for it…socializing.
        Having interpersonal and supportive relationships helps reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. (that’s freaking amazing to me)

        Yes I agree! I don’t think we really disagree that much except maybe on the genetic component. I don’t think you are blaming people.

        As I said in my other comment if I am prickly on this topic it has nothing to do with your comments but a reaction to stupid things people have said to me.

        I agree with the socialization and lots of other things that can help with mental illness of various kinds. But (and I don’t think you are saying this at all). It is not as simple as people are making it out to be.

        People think you should take antidepressants and your depression is gone. And for many SSRI’s it is not much better than a placebo effect. But with a lot of side effects

        I hate the prevalent idea that people with complex issues can be cured with simple solutions. It is very often not that simple but because people think it is they are not empathetic to the real suffering involved.

        Anyway, my intensity is a response to those ideas not to the ideas you are presenting which are reasonable even if we might disagree on some points.

        I have to go but I will check in tomorrow. Thanks for the discussion!

  13. Jill McDermott

    As always…you made me smile❤️ And forward it on to someone i love and hope reads. Thank you❤️

  14. Awesome post, again! I too try to choose hope and optimism every day. Some days, that’s harder than others. 🙂 But I’m not about to embrace the alternative. Keep on being you, Matt. You are doing a lot of good here!

  15. To Linbo, Lisa, and Donkey, (I know I’m posting fully at the bottom hoping I’m not further confusing things!) I think there are many complex factors that few, if any, people understand in issues where conventional science knows or suspects genetics. I think the complexity of the human genome can be influenced. The study of this is referred to as epigenetics. And you can impact your own health as well as make gradual changes over the course of generations. So any area where genetics seems to be like a terrible sentence to me I remind myself that it may actually be epigenetic. And any area where genetics seems like a good thing I’m just as glad to hope maybe I’m due a little credit for my work on my epigenetic profile.

    Similarly, our human biochemistry is insanely complex, but we can and do impact it for better or for worse. I relate to Lisa’s frustrations and pains over the many “choose happiness” messages in our culture. But on the other hand by all that I’ve accomplished in all my varied healing efforts I sort of have chosen happiness, just not in the way most people think when they convey those messages! *big cheesy grin*

    1. Fromscratchmom,

      You had me at epigenetics. 😉

      I have to tell my husband that you brought up epigenetics in the comments because he laughs at my love for epigenetics. I was afraid to go there because I already trend too theoretical.

      So thank you Fromscratchmom! I can’t tell you how inspiring I find epigenetics to be! Our DNA is not destiny! Even that is not the final word!

      Sadly, this is a two edged sword and my love for Doritos is changing my epigenetics too.

      Ok, two other minor points. The science is still evolving so I hold genetic understandings lightly. But, it is still much more reliable than a lot of the laughable stuff that gets put out there in social sciences. So if I have to choose I defintely go genetic research.

      One of my man crushes is Francis Collins, are you familiar Fromscratchmom? He’s the former head of the Human Genome project that first mapped DNA and current NIH director. He is a Christian and started the website to make science and faith understood as compatible. His book The Language of God (talking about DNA) is really good.

      In a related note, my most hated and despicable examples of people being treated unkindly because they didn’t “choose” to be not depressed or not sick or whatever were sadly in church settings. That’s why theology matters! Gotta get the real message of love right.

      Love and epigenetics! In fact they are related to that quote from Henry Cloud’s book you linked too. This is exciting! We rewire ourselves through loving relationships. I bet we change our DNA through love too.

      “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

      1. Typed the wrong website it’s

        And I am not pushing a particular agenda. I just admire Francis Collins as a great scientist and also as someone who wants people to know that science is not incompatible with religious faith.

        I so admire people who use their gifts to help others. Maybe I’ll change my last name to Collins in a while to spread the love around to more if my man crushes. 😉

      2. Fromscratchmom

        Lisa Gottman, yes, yes, and yes to choosing love and rewiring our brains!

        [I say as I just woke up abruptly in the middle of the night having some kind of anxiety or terror and reliving the previous day’s fresh trauma …the horror of my husband-but-hopefully-not-for-long finally pushing the existence of his mistress and her state of living with him into the view and experience of my 18 year old. He’s deeply enmeshed in feeling justified and trying to force his chosen paradigm of justification on everyone else no matter how much further destructiveness and pain he’s causing in the process. I’m choosing good. I’m choosing love. (Played on repeat and sounding like the little engine that could) but it’s still painful when your life is obliterated and then repeatedly confronted with the destructiveness and abuses of the other guy! Not to mention when your kids are hurting that much!!! I’m praying for some fast legal closure to help me move on and away and beyond his repeating intrusions into my healing process!]

        And a resounding Yes! to epigenetic healing! I am only partly familiar with Francis Collins. I’m glad you mentioned him so I’m reminded and can look into his stuff again now! My focus has been the very old work from before conventional medicine caught up and started naming and exploring epigenetics, partly Weston A Price and partly the far more recent but still too early (and therefore relegated to quack status by some) Patricia Campbell-McBride. I’ve even done two years of her GAPS diet, which provided me a ton of physical and mental healing. It always kind of amuses when I come across something from one of her few but vehement critics because I can see not only the basis that already existed in conventional science for her theories but also the very recent studies that are truly validating parts of her work long after she first forged ahead. But “skeptics” who debunk quacks on the internet have a very specific agenda and it doesn’t necessarily include intellectual honesty. They sometimes have to pretend to address points by skewing them or by focusing on the most theoretical parts while ignoring the reasoning behind them, which is a shame considering how harmful and in need of debunking some of the real quacks are, but you can’t trust the agenda driven to do it!

        Perhaps a lot of people already know that there’s a very specific way that doctors used to commonly “experiment” within their own clinical experience and work with and adapt as they learned from their findings. That has gone wildly out of favor for a few decades now. But it’s actually a tragedy that’s it’s been so squashed and basically lost out of many patient’s lives. Dr. Sydney Haas knew it and used it, way back when, in developing his specific carbohydrate diet, which was The treatment for celiac for a long time until some new medical fads swept it under the rug, changing the diagnoses and limiting the treatment and leaving a ton of patients ignored that previously might have been helped. Researcher and mom, Elaine Gotschall used his work and her experience with her daughter’s health problems to further some of that understanding a little. And then finally Patricia Campbell-McBride, medical doctor and mom furthered it again and added some great gems not only related to the Weston A Price stuff but also some great gems that came out of the more recent medical research model of best-designed-scientific-studies too! You know how some innovators and clinicians still manage to take what a body of studies seems to show and then work with it as clinicians trying to incorporate it for patients. It’s hard to do in modern medicine if the studies or theories aren’t going to make a drug company a ton of money. But it’s sometimes gold when it happens. And a few of us can read a book and try a dietary intervention on our own without ever worrying about suing anyone or making the drug companies a part of our process, instead just owning our efforts and our results for good or ill. lol.

        I’m laughing because of your Doritos versus my super strict ways of using food as medicine…I was totally surprised that you are one of the few on the cutting edge with looking into epigenetics! My food stuff is an area of life where I’m constantly biting my tongue and reminding myself that no one wants to be told how to eat and also that I can totally understand how people love their junk food! I have been there!

      3. I am probably one of the most boring commentators because what I’m thinking is “yep.” …That’s it 🙂 . …Epigenetics are really fascinating, and the fact that we are now aware that is how it works, it has tons of consequences. Every time mankind does something to change his environment (lets say air conditioning), it has the potential to change his DNA. That’s kind of what I was trying to say earlier about how we change our environment, then our environment changes us.

        Lisa.As far as the stupid things said by people in church. -Let me apologize for them.
        I love Jesus, I love his people (most of the time) but yes our “Holy Huddle” has made Christians some of the most narrow minded, stupid and un-Christ like people on the planet. We have to hold so tight to what we think the Bible says, otherwise we are dishonoring God, that we cant actually get to the bigger picture of who He is and how we should really live our lives.
        “Choosing Joy” (plug in hope, happiness, love) should not mean contorting yourself mentally and emotionally to fit the criteria of what that means.
        More than likely, the people that think “its all a matter of will power” are so deluded and detached from their own emotions (in the name of Jesus) that they could be confronted with an issue again and again and steadfastly deny it, but just hold tighter to their “Will power”. It’s sad.

        FSM, I am wondering what part of the south you are from?
        In my small(ish) church community (About 150 people) the majority of women have used diet as a means to healing. Especially since there has been such a huge rise in idiopathic auto immune illnesses (where the main compenent is inflammation). Even I developed psoriasis in my mid to late 20’s (mostly on my scalp and a small patch on my knee), and I dont know one person in my family who has ever had it. -Epigenetics in action. And not in a good way!
        You mentioning healing via diet made me think- “ha! she would fit in nicely!”
        I have a harder time going on ,say, a raw vegetable diet, or even a gluten free diet but there are several women who are “hard core” into that.
        It really does work for them, but I’m the sucker who still occasionally goes through drive thru’s…shame on me…I need balance for goodness sake!

        Thanks for Francis Collins link, Lisa! I will likely go check it out.
        I’ve not heard of McBride or Price, but will check them out, too.

      4. Fromscratchmom

        Linbo, until I was 12, I lived in a part of VA that was sort of part rural, but really more blue collar near-ish to towns and cities. Then I lived in Columbus, GA for a year and finally then right by Stone Mountain, GA (almost in the shadow of the mountain but in Gwinnett County, which was a fantastic place for my teen years in a lot of ways. But then I went to FL for college and because of travel and moving other times in life and the nature of its-a-small-world-when-you-went-to-this-tiny-college and its-a-small-world-when-you’re-a-Christian stuff I’ve nurtured long distance relationships with Christians from all over including all over the south. Some of my extended support network are exactly as you describe with interest in all the same things, some are not really, and some are just beginning to ask questions and explore what can they do about all the things doctors are accomplishing little to nothing to help with in their family, like eczema, or autism, or autoimmunity.

        It’s a weird phenomena that I can’t explain but also can’t control that as I drive south through Kentucky my southern accent returns sometimes before I get out of the car and speak to anyone along the way, even though I’ve lived in Ohio for 19 years now. (I’m hoping to be free to move back to FL soon after our emotional and legal troubles of this awful time of life finally arrive at legal closure. So that will still put me in accent hodgepodge land as much as any place could. In Florida, Lord willing, what’s left of my seasonal affective disorder will be naturally taken care of!)

        I always was sort of a natural accent chameleon without trying to be. So my day to day is a mishmash and then some of my northern friends think I sound very southern and some of my southern friends think I sound very northern. I have my annual spring campout in just one week and I cannot wait to drive through Kentucky to Tenneessee again for a week in Pickett State Park with a huge group of some of the best people on the planet. I think I’m going to contact two friends in Rockcastle County (the boonies) KY to spend a night there and worship with them too. One of them will probably treat us to free massage or more likely free cranio-sacral treatments. I’ll tease her about that being the only reason I wanted to see her but in reality she knows it’s definitely not. She’s one of the most genuine, good-hearted and uplifting people I’ve ever met. And we always get to talk about the deepest issues of past trauma, of spirituality, of current difficulties, and of how everything relates spiritually and how to keep it straight and keep everything God-centered even when it’s hard to understand something and even when it means correcting ourselves over something “believed” but misunderstood for years. And I’m sure I would really love your group too! Oh boy, could I ever sit right down in the middle and comfortably discuss inflammation and gut health and cholesterol as the body’s defense to heal inflammation rather than the causative factor of anything!

      5. Fromscratchmom,

        You said. “I say as I just woke up abruptly in the middle of the night having some kind of anxiety or terror and reliving the previous day’s fresh trauma …the horror of my husband-but-hopefully-not-for-long finally pushing the existence of his mistress and her state of living with him into the view and experience of my 18 year old. He’s deeply enmeshed in feeling justified and trying to force his chosen paradigm of justification on everyone else no matter how much further destructiveness and pain he’s causing in the process. I’m choosing good. I’m choosing love. (Played on repeat and sounding like the little engine that could) but it’s still painful when your life is obliterated and then repeatedly confronted with the destructiveness and abuses of the other guy! Not to mention when your kids are hurting that much!!! I’m praying for some fast legal closure to help me move on and away and beyond his repeating intrusions into my healing process!]”

        I am so sorry you are going through this! But you are so strong to choose love and good boundaries. Your kids are lucky to have a mom like you!

        Sending you good wishes, Internet love and prayers today for better days soon. 🙂

      6. Fromscratchmom,

        You said: “I’m laughing because of your Doritos versus my super strict ways of using food as medicine…I was totally surprised that you are one of the few on the cutting edge with looking into epigenetics! My food stuff is an area of life where I’m constantly biting my tongue and reminding myself that no one wants to be told how to eat and also that I can totally understand how people love their junk food! I have been there!”

        This is the heart of my original response to Mike about it not being simple to congnitively choose something if my amygdala is really in charge.

        I DO know better than to eat junk food.
        Cognitively that is but junk food is how I self medicate to sooth my freaked out amygdala. It’s completely and totally dysfunctional. Just as much as an alcoholic or gambling or video game or or drug addict who uses an external thing to regulate their moods. I know this.

        I was shocked at ALL the incorrect crap that is passed off as nutrition science. It is absolutely WRONG in many cases. Type 2 diabetics told to eat carbs every 3 hours. Deadly wrong.

        I have become an obsessive researcher for this reason. On any given subject what I am told by people and even professionals is so often WRONG. It works against my quest for trying to trust people but that’s another story.

        I am just a little bit familiar with Weston Price. I began my nutrition research with Atkins after being told by a doctor to eat more grains and carbs to help my fatigue (big sigh on that one). Well, of course that only made me more fatigued.

        So I started researching myself first with Atkins books, then Gary Taubes Good Calories Bad Calories about the history of horrifying nutrition “science”. It is slowly becoming more widespread with recent concessions that fat is neutral not the root cause of heart disease. Dr Robert Lustig and Dr David Ludwug are more recent medical people who have written debunking the conventional wisdom as the exact opposite of what is really healthy.

        Anyway, as a result of all that research, I do know I should not eat simple carbs and Doritios. But my amygdala says otherwise. Just like you sometimes see doctors and nurses smoking outside a hospital. That’s why I think cognitive choices are of limited value sometimes. I have to find work arounds to sooth my amygdala and then be able get my intellectual knowledge involved.

        I don’t want to make it about willpower. That’s not smart. I read a great book on that. Roy Beaumeister’s Willpwer book says that we all have a finite amount that is easily depleted each day. Successful people set up their lives do they DON’T have to use their willpower in most situations.

        They put exercise on an routine schedule so it’s never a choice for example. Too many choices delete your precious willpower each time I have to choose no.

        Just some random thoughts.

      7. fromscratchmom

        Linbo, I meant to also say that I am not at all convinced that all veg or all raw veg is the best path to health for hardly anyone. I know a bunch of people doing it for less than three years now all happy with it. I was happy with it at one point in time too. Besides my own story of the harm it did me I know of many people who tried it and ended up eventually with serious new problems and then gave it up. I never want to discourage people from their own path if that is what they believe is working for them. But I do want to encourage you to not think of that as what you “should” do and also to not think of that and drive-thrus as two opposite ends of a spectrum. 😉

        Nowadays and for several years now I eat a very traditional diet with lots of animal products including homemade broth, homemade probiotic foods and drinks (or since I was walked out on and went into survival mode, health food store equivalents when I can manage to make that happen in that weeks budget). And that is the diet that has been healing me. So I have a million and two differences between the way I eat and the standard American diet (or drive thru food, which also gets pushed into my life here and there now while I’m in survival mode and overwhelmed 24/7) but there are also many funny contradictions between the way I eat and what is popularly thought to be healthy by the mainstream in America who think they should eat less fat and less animal products.

      8. FSM (and Lisa :)…I have a long sordid history with food. I wore a womans size 10 , by the age of 10. And I was considered obese by time I hit 14. A faulty thyroid help to drop about 80 pounds when I was 17 or 18. (I dropped it in about 3 or 4 months and my mom never bothered to ask what was going on . She just thought I was dieting. Ha! I didnt even know it was my thyroid until about 7 years ago and then everything kind of made sense.) But Food- It is still is my go to drug.
        & I really don’t know if it is a reasonable goal to never use external “crutches.”
        I like what Lisa said about “Smart people don’t depend on willpower” (and I am really sorry I don’t copy and paste like I should- I am on my laptop and it does not cooperate all the time, even when I use ctrl C I have a hard time copying…)
        I think the two biggest personal habits I have ever overcome were #1 Smoking- I started when I was 13 and quit when I was 26 (that was a big year, apparently : )..
        I reasoned with myself that even though I wanted a cigarette (in that moment) I didn’t want to smoke. So I told myself I only have to make one decision, then just keep making that same decision. It worked (with the help of those orange slice candies…I lost 2 teeth from all the sticky sugar, but I don’t smoke anymore.. :)! The 2nd thing was exercising. I ended up sleeping in my shorts and T-shirt and having my shoes right next to my bed so that I wouldn’t have the chance to talk myself out of it when I woke up in the morning. I would just put my shoes on and go. …A few life circumstances over the past few years have had me slacking on the frequency and intensity of exercise. But, I still do it, and who knows- after school maybe (kind of hopefully) I will get back into it. So, the man whose book you mentioned was right, putting things in place so they are just what you do is incredibly helpful in following through with the desired behavior.
        Diet is still one of the things I cant seem to say “Ok, I’m going to do it” and then just do.
        FSM, while I did partake in a great opportunity to have organic fruit and vegetable shares from a co-op in Houston weekly I never really tried the all raw diet. I think everyone’s body is different and has different needs. The woman I am speaking of has had some of those chronic fatigue issues that are so common now. The raw diet is great for her. I definitely need my protein- in the form of animal protein. I really loved having the organic fruits and veggies. I had never smelled apples like the ones we would get. The colors were beautiful! Seriously- my food was sooo pretty! And I found candy stripped figs- o let me count the ways…they really are like candy.But, while all that was great- it was expensive and a lot of work and guess what- I would still go find something else to eat that wasn’t as great for me.
        I typically do try to grab salads when I go through drive throughs- there are some really good ones since people started pushing for healthier options.

        As far as the most recent understanding of diet and our health- definitely refined sugars,wheat products and I would say artificial sweetners are the bigger culprets than unsaturated fats in heart disease, and autoimmune illness (including diabetes/insulin resistance ect.). Most health professionals know this by now, so I am a little shocked that someone would recommend grains and carbs for fatigue. (Whole grains, maybe just to substitute).
        Also the 3 hour carb thing I think is supposed to be for carb consistency.It keeps your blood sugar at a consistent level. When it drops too low your liver just creates more sugar anyway,and if you dont have the insulin coverage that can throw you into ketoacidosis- which is very scary for type I diabetics. If you are still making insulin, the consistent carb thing is supposed to stimulate realease of insulin, without increasing your sugars drastically.
        At least I believe that is what the theory is behind that, it may play out differently for different people.

        FSM- just to echo what Lisa said earlier and I’m sorry I didn’t directly address- but yeah, I am praying for you as you are dealing with the divorce.I am sorry you had a nightmare. Your processing all this crap and it is hard work.
        I love that you are making plans for the future and are “choosing good and choosing love”. Ill be singing this mantra along with you if it helps 🙂 .

      9. Just to clarify (not that it makes a big difference, but there really is only one woman who does a raw veggie diet and about dozen more that do gluten free. )
        Anyway- It doesn’t look this discussion is exactly going to hope or anything deeply meaningful. Ya’ll have a great week.

      10. FSM, I have a list about a dozen people who would sit down right along with you and talk about “all things healthy”. …Did you know they are talking poop transplants for obese people, and for people that have poor gut health? There are poop pills, but I think they are going towards some other means of “transplanting”- I cant remember for the life of me how. It’s hard not to laugh thinking about it, but it is supposed to really help.
        Also, have you ever heard of Juice Plus? One of my super, all natural, heal by nature and diet friends swears by juice plus. Me? I’m just interested in the gummy chews- cause they’re gummy chews for crying out loud!

      11. fromscratchmom

        Linbo, One of my health interested friends is very into in juice plus to…but gummies! yes! lol. …and then there’s poop transplants. I’ve read all about them and even had two people recommend it, but decided since I don’t know anyone in this country who isn’t sick in some way or totally toxic in their diet and lifestyle I doubt there are many good donors and I just stuck with working on my own microbiome in all the ways I’d already been learning without really considering that. I don’t have a lot of squeamishness about me but that left me not having to worry about if that would be a barrier even to me. lol.

        Linbo and Lisa, thank-you so much for the prayers! I know I’m missing a million things I would have said something conversational to… but wow the emotional work of this past weekend! I’m overwhelmed. I’ve actually had more trouble with crying at work today than at any other time in the months since the abuser decamped. Its crazy. It’s just strain. Everything will be OK and not only that it will be better for being not with an abuser and for facing the things I’m having to face my oldest and my youngest saying about their experiences and feelings…and current needs some heavily related but many either not or only indirectly.

        So in relation to the deeper things that we usually get going in these comments, right now I am an example of how just how much divorce (and destructive people) take out of a person! But someday I will be an example to show that healing is real!

      12. FSM,
        I am praying for you as I type this. Nothing is required of you- not by me.
        Be a mess if thats where you are.

        Psalms 56:8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

        John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

        Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

      13. Fromscratchmom

        Wow, such great references to add to my morning meditations. Thank-you, Linbo!

  16. Lisa Gottman

    Hey Matt,

    I can’t send you a message through Facebook I emailed your gmail account. (It’s my own tech problem I’m too tired to figure out) Can you read those?


    1. Lisa Gortman

      Hey Matt,

      I can’t send you a message through Facebook I emailed your gmail account. (It’s my own tech problem I’m too tired to figure out) Can you read those?


    2. Thanks Matt! I owe you one comment agreeing with 100% of everything you say.

      Of course, it might be followed by 25 more with a few little points here and there 🙂

  17. Ok- one more message. Just being transparent…So, one of the biggest reasons I have returned to this sight as I have is because #1) I really appreciate Matt’s writing, but I appreciate even more his desire to be a really great human being. #2) The really good content of the discussion #3) The really good content of the people having the discussion.
    I am learning about group therapies right now, and as I read about them, along with visiting this sight I am aware of the value of just the interaction.
    I’m writing this because I am aware that it I don’t seem to contribute to the bulk of the really meaningful conversations, at least in a meaningful way- especially when it comes to the topic of divorce. I don’t know that I really can, because I don’t have personal experience of marriage or divorce. But, I do think a lot about other topics that are frequently discussed (like hope, gratitude, boundaries, being a kick ass human being… ect.), even if I am not that skilled at discussing them.
    So, all that to say, that I hope its not inappropriate of me to disclose parts of “my story” and be more interested relationally than I may seem about any particular topic. (I do have relationships outside of here, and I am beginning to think that is just my MO across the board.)…
    So, anyway it may be weird for me to even write or mention something like this, but I wanted to put it out there because I do experience a level of anxiety when I post,…. or when I don’t post …or if I should have posted way before now, or when I shouldn’t have posted THAT! , ect…you get the picture?
    So,I guess I am asking if that seems reasonable and if everyone is cool with that.
    and OMG, did I just make this the weirdest thread ever???

    1. Linbo,

      Your comments are very much appreciated!

      I enjoy hearing your unique perspectives. I don’t think you have to be married or divorced to add a lot of insight into all kinds of subjects here. 😉

      Have a good Monday!

      1. Lisa Gottman


        Best compliment I’ve had in a while! 😉

        Storytime. One time this guy at work tried to insult me as too theoretical (can you even imagine someone thinking that about me?).

        Anyway, he kept calling me Spock but he had to stop because I loved it and considered it a compliment.

    2. I appreciate your comments!
      …I’m not married, I’m not divorced, and I don’t have kids either. 8)

      I sometimes get this fear that Matt will kick me out of the comments section for talking too much, or make this blog a men’s only kind of thing or something like that.

      The horror! What would I do?! :p

      1. Aww! Thank ya’ll! (Wasnt fishing, but I really appreciate your words.)..I missed your input yesterday, Donkey- maybe thats what my problem was.. : ).
        And I’m glad I’m not the only one! I was kind of feeling like an elephant trying to fit in with a bunch of sheep :).
        Awesome guys, thanks 🙂

      2. Limbo said,
        “I was kind of feeling like an elephant trying to fit in with a bunch of sheep :)”

        Hey, we’re not sheep who just mindlessly eat up everything Matt says! We question it!

        (*sheepishly*) Well, Lisa does.


      3. Lisa Gottman



        Best compliment I’ve had in a while! 😉

        Storytime. One time this guy at work tried to insult me as too theoretical (can you even imagine someone thinking that about me?).

        Anyway, he kept calling me Spock but he had to stop because I loved it and considered it a compliment.

        1. There should be, like, four or five more “Travis”‘s at the beginning of this comment.

          That would be so rad.

      4. Meant no offence Travis, Travis.
        you could always just tell me to flock off 🙂 har, har.

      5. Lisa Gottman



        Your wish is my command.

        I can’t put a comment in the right thread or copy and paste correctly either.

      6. Lisa said,


        Your wish is my command.”

        So glad this wasn’t in the thread about sex or my wife would tell me my MBTTTR days were over.

      7. Travis, (only one time)

        Thanks making me laugh.

        Anyway, you Star Trek loving wife would totally understand when I explain that you love Kirk and I love Spock. Does that make Matt McCoy in this comment thread?

        I am far too theoretical for anyone but my husband to put up with. Two Spocks in love 😉
        Of course this Spock is also a dance mom.

      8. Aww, bummer! I thought Travis Travis (Travis, Travis, Travis, Travis) had a nice ring to it.

      9. Thank you Matt. 🙂

        If you do make this a men only thing, I will consider going undercover, like Lisa suggested. I’ll call myself Ronny and make lots of non-committal manly grunts. Except when there’s talk about Sofia Vergara, then I’ll make happy manly grunts. 🙂

        Lisa, when I picture Spock as a dance mom, I think it’s easier for me to understand how you feel about that particular part of parenting. 8)

  18. Once again, thank you, Matt …

    You give me hope that my ex husband won’t stay stuck in resentful anger and vicious bitterness forever …

    We will never be together again … but I would love to see him own up to his share of responsibility, work through it and heal and move on and be happy with someone else …

  19. So I read through all the comment trails and I’m going to be lazy and just throw one down here at the end that really touches on a bunch of topics in them.

    One issue I have with all the “choose to be happy” messages that get thrown around is that I think it encourages people who are uncomfortable with anger (or other so called “negative” feelings”) to further suppress it and that is not healthy. Undoubtedly, I have this opinion because I am one of those people – I tend to try and “get past” anger without ever really feeling or processing the anger because being angry scares me. Unlike Matt – I grew up in a fairly dysfunctional family where I was not given much in the way of love and acceptance. I grew up believing (because I was told regularly) that all the dysfunction was my fault. I turned into an adult that is always trying to take care of other people and be “good” enough to be worthy of being loved. And my baggage hurt my marriage every bit as much as my husband’s baggage / behavior. There was a time in my life that I actively suppressed and denied any sort of anger because I was afraid once I opened that box I would find that all I am is anger – that there isn’t any end to it and it would consume me utterly. Not true and I have found that learning how to express and process my anger as it occurs is a lot less destructive than holding it in until I explode.

    So for me – as backwards as it seems – choosing to be happy means I have to choose to feel, own and process my “unhappy”. Because if I don’t it just leads to blow ups and feeds that part of me that says “you are not good enough” . (I am working on changing that script too not just on processing anger) I still struggle though – with how to express anger and then let it go – on how you don’t suppress but also don’t wallow in it.

    I absolutely believe that our own thoughts and attitudes, genetics, epigenetics, experiences, and environment ALL influence our individual happiness set point. If there were one simple answer to how to change that someone would have found it by now don’t you think? Its not like millions of people have not been searching for the “key to happiness” for like, forever.

    There is also a long history of mental illness in my family. I know I have a very strong predisposition to depression / melancholy. I’m grateful that the bipolar seems to have skipped me. Anti depressants help me level out the toughs a little. I still have to do all the cognaitve work, and take care of myself physically with exercise, good sleep and nutrition because they don’t do nearly enough to “make” me happy, with meds alone I’m just a little less unhappy.

    I also completely believe that brain plasticity is real and we can do things to impact it – but think HOW MUCH we can change it is probably limited and that we don’t really know yet the best ways to do so.

    To Fromscratchmom – I am so with you sister. My ex to be seems to be determined to make this as painful as possible for everyone. I don’t understand why since he is the one that wants the divorce and I have finally agreed – but he keeps on looking for ways to make it rough on me, on the kids, on himself by shoving hoe poor lifestyle choices in everyone’s face. It’s a mystery.

    And finally I have to say how much I love that I’ve found some place that discussed doritos and epigenetics in the comments!!

    1. Tina,
      ” So for me – as backwards as it seems – choosing to be happy means I have to choose to feel, own and process my “unhappy”.”
      I can agree. There wasnt a whole lot said about it, but for me “resilience” doesnt mean feeling happy- at least not all the time. That is impossible, we werent made that way. And yes, denial of anger is denying the part of you that got hurt. That wont heal it, it usually just festers until everything is effected by it. Experiencing pain sucks, but your life doesnt end there (good news?? 🙂
      For me, part of “choosing to be happy” (And maybe we need to find a better word), means choosing the things that will not harm me, but will bring me joy and hope for continued growth. I think maybe the definition of happiness may be a part of the problem. Sometimes we really dont know (either because we never experienced it or we never asked ourselves) about the things we really value and want in our lives so we dont even know what we should choose.
      There is no doubt in my mind that “Choosing happiness” is not choosing to turn on an emotional light switch.

  20. Ok, so I had this conversation this morning that made me smile.
    Me to a tiny 92 year old lady : “so, I heard you had a fall”
    Tiny 92 year old lady: ” Yes, I fell forward and started rolling, and I thought ‘this isn’t so bad’.
    Staff Nurse: “She broke 8 ribs”
    Everyone looks at tiny 92 year old lady.
    Tiny 92 year old lady nods and says “It was a rough landing.”

    Whoo- talk about a high happiness point. 🙂

  21. Pingback: How I Avoided Bitterness After Divorce | Top World Blog

  22. Pingback: How I Avoided Bitterness After Divorce –

  23. Pingback: How I Avoided Bitterness After Divorce - Romantic Toys

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.