If you have ever talked about the ‘other woman’, like the ex-wife or the second or third wife, this blog is for you.
Truth be told, does your discussions about the other woman roll easily off your tongue? Are you honest enough to admit that it is fun to talk about the other woman and say mean things? Are your friends eager to participate and offer loyal, nasty confirmations?
Why is it so easy to malign the other woman? There are two answers to this question. We do not want to think of the other. It is uncomfortable and creepy to think about one woman marrying the ex-husband of another. No one wants to think about that, except your brain. Did you know that your brain focuses on exactly what you don’t want to think about? Psychologist Daniel Wegner’s studies suggest that our brains will focus on the thoughts that we want it to avoid. As soon as the brain is given the order to not think or talk about something, it focuses in on this subject like a laser beam. Dr. Wegner calls these thoughts “ironic errors” or the ironic monitoring process. You know the game. Don’t think about cows. Now, all you can think about are cows. It’s the same with the ex-wife. Don’t think about her at all.
The ironic monitoring process goes into overdrive when we want to ignore negative qualities in ourselves. It is our way of feeling good about ourselves, when we are actually escaping from our own bad habits. When we have a quality in ourself that we do not like, we often believe that we see that quality in others. The ironic monitoring process kicks into gear and we start to focus on others who have that quality or we think have that quality. Could it be that whatever we dislike in ourselves we see in others? Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman says, “You spot it, you got it.”
The next time you find yourself talking about the ex-wife, listen to what you are saying. What are you complaining about? Are you saying that the ex is mean? Are you saying she is demanding? Take a moment. Breathe. Is your ironic monitoring process kicking in? Are you seeing yourself? Is Dr. Lamm-Hartman right: if you spot it, you got it!