Shirin Peykar: “The movement I want to see happen is the sending of love from the inside out”

The movement I want to see happen is the sending of love from the inside out. It would start with each person feeling loved, valued, and worthy and sending that same attitude towards everyone around them regardless of what is said or done. As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know […]

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The movement I want to see happen is the sending of love from the inside out. It would start with each person feeling loved, valued, and worthy and sending that same attitude towards everyone around them regardless of what is said or done.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Shirin Peykar, Licensed Marriage, and Family Therapist and Founder of “Let’s Talk Divorce.” Shirin is a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and a nationwide divorce coach. Her areas of specialty include Narcissistic Abuse and High-Conflict Divorce.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, I was set on the goal of becoming an attorney to practice family law. After some self-exploration, I decided that my personality was more aligned with helping couples stay together and overcome the difficulty in their marriage if that was still an option. I wanted to learn about marriage, what a healthy relationship looked like, what made it last, what contributes to its demise, and everything in between. I was interested in supporting love way more than I was with enabling separation. Within 5 years, I earned a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California, I got married, and gave birth to a baby boy. Life appeared to be going well on the outside. I had everything I desired except for a healthy marriage. We separated 5 days short of our 4 year wedding anniversary, which was the most painfully eye-opening experience of my life.

I dedicate my career to supporting others going through a divorce so that they can feel empowered by their experience, but even more, so that they can explore and process the relationship patterns that led them to divorce. I also help couples stay together by learning new ways to communicate that don’t include defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, which are relationship killers. With couples, we work on creating a friendship between partners, understanding each other’s worlds, self-soothing when they are overwhelmed with emotion, as is often the case when partners are triggered during the conflict, and solidifying trust and commitment.

After all, the relationships we have in our lives contribute to our personal happiness, our health, and our wellbeing.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?

Having spent, at this point, thousands of hours working with individuals and couples in therapy, I have noticed themes in relationships in which partners attract the same unhealthy dynamics repetitively, but often unconsciously. Partners aren’t always aware of the unresolved relationship wounds from their childhood or adolescence such as abandonment, self-sacrifice, subjugation, entitlement, emotional deprivation and so on, which were helpful in childhood but damaging in adulthood. The needs of the child may not have been met by our parents or caregivers so we relate with the world, including our partners, from that place of need for love, security, attention, nurturance, empathy, safety, stability, and acceptance. This is problematic in romantic relationships because our partner cannot fulfill our needs when we are empty, but they can supplement the love we have for ourselves. The unhealthy patterns shift when we have re-parented ourselves with the help of an experienced therapist, being that in which we needed but didn’t receive growing up.

My personal experience with high-conflict divorce while raising an infant took me deep into the depths of grief and despair. I learned to sit through discomfort rather than avoid it. My plans, goals, and dreams were permanently altered following the divorce but eventually rebuilt with a stronger foundation. I made it a goal to look at and reassess my own personal patterns and relationship blind spots. I looked for the lessons behind the pain and grief. Having had this experience helped me understand my clients’ pain, shame, fear, anger and all the other emotions that arise with each stage of divorce.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

After my divorce, I learned a lot about Narcissism and how it shows up in relationships. Even though I was trained and educated in mental disorders, I missed a lot of the red flags in my personal life, which I think is interesting. It just goes to show that therapists are human beings just like the rest of us. We make mistakes, we learn, we feel pain. Therapists are not exempt from life experiences just because of our education and work experience. At the end of the day, we are humans first.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The first experience I had working with clients was with a couple struggling in their marriage. I felt inclined to save them because of my new role as a therapist. I had no idea what being a therapist was truly about. I’ve since learned therapy is about meeting the client where they are at, listening to their experience and holding the space for their pain instead of glossing over it just to get to action and change. I took on more responsibility in the past. The lesson that came was clients really just want a space to feel heard and understood. They don’t want to be saved or fixed even when they act otherwise. As therapists, we sometimes take on more than is ours. Our egos tell us that we should “fix” people when really, they aren’t broken. I remind myself daily that my most valuable work is simply offering my clients space to freely express emotions and explore the options in their life.

What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

Divorce is such a difficult life transition. A lot of grief arises from the death of the life we thought we would have. There’s a sense of loss about the dreams, visions, and plans we had with this person that will not come to fruition. Initially, we experience a state of shock and denial that the separation or divorce is actually happening. It’s a protective biological process that happens to keep us from getting overwhelmed with intense emotions of loss. But then the shock lifts and we feel bombarded with emotion. For most, negative emotions like sadness, anger, anxiety, shame and guilt arise and they are very uncomfortable. Common unhealthy responses to these emotions are avoidance, ruminating, aggression, self-blame, self-punishment. A common example of avoidance is rushing into dating right away because being alone feels too overwhelming. I encourage clients to allow themselves to feel the uncomfortable emotions and breathe through them. Become the observer of them, watching them visit you and then watching them leave. There are often lessons and messages in each emotion that are helpful to lean into and explore to avoid the recreation of patterns we are familiar with.

When the grief feels more manageable, I encourage clients to delve deeper into their love story. This is where we explore what happened that got us here. What contributed to the demise of the marriage? This is where we look at the individual’s contributions to the issues in the relationship. Insight and accountability are integral to change. The common unhealthy response people have to guilt and/or shame is placing 100% blame on either themselves or their ex. Sitting in anger initially feels more empowering than sitting in sadness so the individual will tend to linger there as a way to cope with grief. But the lessons get lost when we do not hold ourselves accountable, which eventually recreates more of the same. This looks like the same relationship with a new face.

Another common area to be mindful of is looking to receive love rather than looking to give love. Relationships can be corrective emotional experiences where we receive all that we didn’t from others in the past but only if we are on the same wavelength of love, not if we are needing or demanding it. Learning to love yourself first helps get you on that wavelength so you can attract the partner you desire. Self-love contains many aspects and ways of embodiment. I encourage the cultivation of self-love with the simple day to day behaviors that remind us that we are worthy of a love like self-care: drinking enough water, eating healthy, exercising and stretching, praising ourselves, eliminating automatic negative thoughts including criticism and judgment of ourselves and others.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

Yes, having supplements to our support system increases our levels of healing using various avenues. The book that I always recommend to help create new patterns in our relationships is “Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior and Feel Great Again” by Jeffrey Young & Janet Klosko. Podcasts are great sources of information as well. I recommend Divorce Team Radio with Leh Meriwether & Todd Orston. They tend to cover the legal aspects of divorce. Another podcast that covers all areas of divorce from finances to the emotional components is Breaking Free: A Modern Divorce Podcast with Susan Guthrie, Esq. and Rebecca Zung, Esq.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?

“I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me.” –A.G.

This quote captures a very important aspect of creating change, which is imperative post-divorce. It is the unlearning of our patterns in love that are no longer serving us. We need to examine the ways in which we have experienced love. Our divorce may be indicating our need to let go of the people that aren’t meant for us rather than hang onto them hoping to change them or the circumstances.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I offer a divorce support group in Los Angeles, California for anyone contemplating, going through, or already have gone through a divorce. Finding a support group is particularly important for those feeling alone in their experience or lacking friends or family they can turn to. This is a safe, non-judgmental space where people can converse with others going through similar situations, offer support to someone else, and explore topics pertaining to divorce. I’m planning on working on a virtual support group in the near future to expand to people anywhere in the United States. I am excited to offer support on a larger scale so that no one feels alone in their divorce process.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I want to see happen is the sending of love from the inside out. It would start with each person feeling loved, valued, and worthy and sending that same attitude towards everyone around them regardless of what is said or done.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to meet Deepak Chopra. His work holds a special place in my heart because I became acquainted with meditation during my divorce. The first time I meditated was when Mr. Chopra and Oprah held a 21-day meditation challenge on the topic of hope. It was during a time that I struggled with hope because I was in the midst of a high-conflict divorce battle. Meditating around hope and gratitude was truly life-changing. Meeting Deepak would be a special way to close the chapter to one of the most difficult times of my life.

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