We are all familiar with some of the most common types of fears, such as Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces and Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Other equally unnerving fears, whose names we may not know, include Thanatophobia, the fear of death, Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns and Aerophobia, the fear of flying. Here are some more obscure phobias which may surprise you:
- Xanthophobia, the fear of the color yellow
- Arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
- Nomophobia, the fear of being without your mobile phone (this is real!)
- Globophobia, the fear of balloons
When Fear Takes Hold
Very often during divorce mediations the parties tell me that they are experiencing one or more overwhelming feelings of fear. Typically, they are terrified of being financially insecure once they are on their own, scared of being alone and frightened of how the divorce will affect their kids. Here’s a look at how mediation can help reduce the fears of all three:
FEAR OF BEING FINANCIALLY UNSOUND
To the extreme, people with an intense fear of money, which includes fear of financial ruin, fear of spending and fear of thinking about it or even touching money, are diagnosed with Chrematophobia.
In the divorce scenario there are palpable fears and anxieties one or both spouses may bring to the table regarding their financial future, including:
- The lower-earning spouse is apprehensive about how they will meet their basic living expenses on their income, even when alimony will be paid.
- The primary breadwinner feels they are in jeopardy of giving away “their” hard-earned money and not having enough left to meet their own financial needs.
- One or both parties harbor grave concerns about whether or not they will be able to afford retirement.
- Both spouses are uneasy about the length of their financial agreement, with the breadwinner wanting to be released of their obligations as quickly as possible and the dependent party focused on what happens once financial support is diminished or terminated.
Mediation is the ideal forum to create tailored solutions to meet both of the parties’ financial needs. One approach is if there is an alimony award, the parties can agree to a higher monthly amount for a pre-determined amount of time, which then tapers down in steps versus all at once. The intent is to give the receiving party time to acclimate to their new financial situation and plan for their own needs in the future. Another approach is to work out a settlement that allows the less financially secure party to receive more liquid assets while the other party receives more retirement assets. The objective of these and a myriad of other approaches conceived during mediation is to alleviate financial fears.
FEAR OF BEING ALONE
For someone with Autophobia, the fear of being alone, irrespective of how many loved ones they have, being alone or just thinking about being alone can bring out extreme feelings of anxiety and insecurity. It’s not surprising people who suffered physical or emotional abandonment during childhood tend to be more prone to the effects of this fear.
While going through a divorce some people experience feelings associated with Autophobia. Their fear of being alone can be traumatizing to the point of derailing the divorce process even when they know divorce is the right thing to do, or, they may have even initiated it themselves. Their phobia-like responses may include panic attacks and a strong desire to avoid the “object” of their fear, in this case, divorce proceedings.
So how do we help clients who are fearful of being alone move forward? When I see a party struggling to manage their anxiety, depression or fear, I first suggest they seek professional mental health services. In my role as the mediator, I listen carefully to what concerns the person is expressing. I then try to help alleviate those fears by sharing real life examples of how past clients overcame similar feelings. I have found that people are comforted by hearing that others who were in a similar position not only survived the divorce, but are thriving today. My goal is to help each client feel more confident and secure about their future.
FEAR OF HOW DIVORCE WILL AFFECT THE CHILDREN
While there may not be a phobia named for it, “parental anxiety” is as real and difficult as any other type of fear, especially while parents are going through a divorce. Equally, the fear and anxiety children of any age may feel while the family unit is unraveling can be devastating.
Resolving a divorce amicably is a major step in reducing the emotional impact parents and their children may experience. Instead of exposing their kids to the drawn-out anger and spite that often comes with cases being litigated in court, parents can opt for the more peaceful approach offered by mediation. During mediation, parents – who understand the needs of their children better than anyone else – can create schedules and make other practical decisions based on their experience and unique family dynamics.
Moving Past the Fear
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
In my experience as a mediator, I’ve witnessed clients quickly gain a higher degree of control over their emotional responses once they realize they are in a safe and non-combative environment. By encouraging both parties to speak freely about their needs and concerns for the future, they are able to put aside their fears and work through the process until an amicable outcome is achieved.
When you need help with mediation, you can count on my 18 years of litigation experience and seven years of exclusively practicing family mediations to find creative solutions to expeditiously settle your case.