Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


How I Healed My Family

T-Vine, Calistoga, California, USA

Mother's Day, May 9, 2021

He looked clearly uncomfortable. He was sad and hurt. I recognized it. His marriage was heading inexorably for divorce, his love was on the rocks. The suit was filed by his wife. He was obviously not a willing participant in the proceedings. They had two young children.

I bin there before  (as Huckleberry Finn may have said). His present circumstances mirrored a similar, brutal set from my own past. Having resolved them for myself, I've discovered something important, something worth sharing, something which may not be immediately intuitive for other fathers so sued, given the preponderence of reactivation at times like these. I broached the subject obliquely by telling him I had a good idea for a hypothetical divorce seminar. A whut?

Look: when the truth is told, there's no need for another seminar, and there's really no need for a divorce seminar. Really there isn't. Divorce and its ramifications are but facets of some relationships although not always ones that have us thrilled with their prospects. In any case, Werner's work with relationships and communication is already so all-encompassing and transformational as to have fully addressed both non-working and working relationships, its current curriculum full and complete without the need for yet another series. Telling him I had a good idea for a divorce  seminar, was just to make a point, to draw his attention to something.

I told him what my hypothetical seminar would not  address. It would not address amicable, uncontested divorces (there's no need). It would not address divorces with no children involved (there's little need). Generally, it would address divorces in which the respondent isn't a willing participant - in other words, in which the respondent doesn't want the divorce. And specifically, it would address divorces when children are involved, in which it's the father who isn't the willing participant - in other words, divorces in which the mother of the children sues their father for divorce, separating the father from his children for half their custodial time (if not more). When children are of a very young age, that's the onset of a heap of trouble and a world of hurt for everyone - like no  ... kidding!

How do I know? Because that was once my predicament. I got my idea for a hypothetical divorce seminar from being the father of young children sued for divorce by their mother, a suit in which I was the unwilling participant. And as became plainly and painfully obvious in a court of law, it requires two to make a marriage work but only one to dismantle it (all it takes is for the petitioner to correctly fill in the paperwork, dot all the "i"s, cross all the "t"s, pay the applicable filing fee, and it's bye-bye, rubber-stamped, good night, over).

"So what do you have in mind?" he asked, "what would your seminar address?".

You can blame, I said. You can look for ways to avoid the pain. That's time-consuming, laborious. And it could take years. You can seek the company of friends (or, for that matter, anyone who'll listen) to lessen the hurt by agreeing with you how inconsiderate, unkind, and dislocating the process is. You can complain to anyone who'll listen about how unfair the court system is, indeed how expensive  divorce is. And as for the infamous bias favoring the mother in child custody cases, you'll need a lot  of listeners to chill that one out. Oh, and the expected "everyone-knows" 50 / 50 split of all community property marital assets? Dream on, big guy! In the real world, the father pays inordinately more. That's just the way it is. "There's no way out, no respite and very little fairness in any of it" I said, "so listen carefully: I've got something (which is to say I finally figured something out) with could turn your life around, which will give you an access to freedom, a pathway back to your own strength and power, and the beginning of healing" (what he didn't yet get was I was pointing to something both prior to as well as outside  the box).

At first he seemed not to hear me, rambling on about the callousness (both to him the father, as well as to his children) of the process, about disillusionment and breach of trust, about how "... 'til death us do part" now sounds so capricious, so expedient, so out-of-integrity  until eventually I had to interrupt him. "Look" I said, "none of that is going to work for you.". But he already knew that. He'd already hit rock bottom. He knew he was square in the path of the steamroller. He just didn't know how to get himself out of its way.

"So" I said, "are you ready for my seminar?". "Yes, alright" he said, "anything's gotta be better than this.". "Good" I said, "it won't take long if you let it in.".

Then I leaned over and, very pointedly, pausing between each word for emphasis, said "You have to be willing to acknowledge her as the mother of your children. No matter what  she did, no matter what you think and feel about what she did, you have to be willing to thank her, to respect her, to admire her, even to worship  her as a goddess, as the mother of your children. You won't be compensated for any of that other stuff - not for the unfairness, not for the betrayal, not for the disappointment, not for the pain, not for any of it. So let it go. None of it (as unlikely as this may sound now) will last anyway. You'll get over it. It will all disappear in time. What will  last however, is she will be the mother of your children forever. You love your children, don't you?" I asked. He just looked at me, and squirmed. "Yes" (he could barely utter the word). "Then thank her for them!"  I continued, "acknowledge her for that. The sooner you do it, the quicker you'll begin to heal, the better it will be for you and for your children, and the faster you can begin having an amicable, workable relationship with her again.".

Then I just stopped talking. The silence hung thick in the air. You could cut it with a knife. And he just sat there saying nothing, looking forlorn. I waited. And I waited. And waited. Then finally he spoke.

"How do you know this works?" he asked, interested yet guarded. I replied "I was going through it all myself. I couldn't stand it anymore. I realized (much to my own chagrin) how stuck, small, and powerless I had become. I resolved to somehow reclaim being big. Where to begin? It came to me in an epiphany: I had to get big enough to acknowledge her as the mother of our children, to get big enough to let go of being small, to get big enough to let go of being the victim. So that's what I did, and that's what worked. It worked for our children too. It works for our children big time  that their Daddy honors their Mama and always speaks unabashedly of how great she is. That's how I healed my family. That's my whole seminar right there: you have to be willing to acknowledge her and celebrate her as the mother of your children. That's what works. Everything else falls into place and works out behind that. Life itself  falls into place and works out behind that. Really  it does.".

There was a long silence. I knew he got it. The question is: would he take it on (would he own it)? Hurt and anguish are the automatic concomitants of a process like this. So they come easy. But would he acknowledge her as the mother of his children with thanks and even even with gratitude? That's harder - because it's not automatic: it's an intentionally generated stand. It's a stand taken on nothing. You have to be a big man  to take a stand on nothing. Yet it's in taking this very stand that the breakthrough comes. It's outrageous. It's unreasonable. It's counter-intuitive. It requires courage and strength of character. Yet doing so will catalyze a transformation in your life: from being a victim, to being big enough to be cause in the matter. It works.

He nodded (to no one in particular). Some circumstances are just too awful to confront fully all at once. Really they are. Yet the sooner we choose to stand in a place where we're big enough to be cause in the matter, the sooner they release their grip on us, and dissipate. They do. Why? I don't know. It just works that way.

That's my seminar right there. And he was its first graduate.

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