Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM, LMHC. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Post-Divorce Vulnerability November 29, 2008


After months or years of being on continuous red alert, things are finally settled. “Now, I can relax,” you might think, and, in some ways, you would be right; but, once you let your guard down it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed with the challenges of your new life, and to suddenly get sick.  I know it’s counter-intuitive to think you are more likely to fall ill when the extreme pressure is over, but the body-mind has a way of stepping up to the plate when threats are constant, and relaxing its vigilance when things calm down. How paradoxical that the same deep, cellular relief allowing you to open up and heal, makes you more prone to opportunistic colds and infections. However, it’s typical, after the real threat has passed, to suddenly get sick with something.  By taking very good care of yourself you can actually strengthen your immune system. 


The following simple, but not easy, suggestions will keep you healthy:


Eat well (lots of fruits, veggies, yogurt or probiotics, and whole grains).

Relax (meditate, resist over-scheduling yourself, listen to music, lie on the couch and read a book, have a cup of tea, take a warm bath, etc.).

Get enough sleep.

Soak up some nature (walk or drive someplace for a change of scene).

Keep writing in your journal; you are still processing and venting is good.

Remind yourself that you are over the worst, but that very same relief necessitates greater vigilance and self care.


While you know you have been through an emotional wringer you may not be aware of how romantically vulnerable you are.  By all means, date, but be careful.  Not necessarily so cautious of others as of your own new porosity and desire to connect. A strong desire to find someone may cloud your good sense.  Those of you who have been coupled for decades know the joys of long-term intimacy and may want to replicate them the first chance you can. Of course, some will run for the hills at the hint of anything serious; either tendency is a red flag and fairly screams: slow down. This is a perfect time to develop or renew your relationship with yourself.  If you have done almost everything as a couple, you can learn how to independently go to a movie, museum, or restaurant.  Even if the thought of doing things solo gives you the heebie-jeebies, experiment. You are not the same person you were years ago and you may love the freedom of doing what you want when you want without having to consider someone’s else’s preferences. Allow the joy of discovering new aspects of yourself, while making friends (see Losing Friends), and seeing where an open heart and mind lead.  If you feel some anxiety, let it work in your favor, as it does for test-taking, sharpening the mind and reaction times.  If more than a little nervousness plagues you, try some Rescue Remedy (see Herbal and Homeopathic Helpers).  Freedom can be a heady experience, but you will adjust and come to love captaining your own ship.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Loneliness: Widening Your Social Circle November 26, 2008


Transformation has many components, not the least of which is revamping your social network.  If you are ending a relationship, you are losing one of your major life supports. As if this weren’t hard enough, other friendships, even long-lasting ones, may dissolve.  What’s a solo to do? Connect, of course!


Luckily, there are seven billion people in the world, so the numbers are in your favor.  With one third of all American adults living alone, hundreds of thousands are looking to make friends, platonic or romantic. Dating sites abound, including free ones, like plentyoffish.com.  (If you go this route, please be sensible about meeting people in public, well-lit places. Don’t give out your phone number or any other personal information; and, you might want to google your new acquaintance’s name.)


There are two prerequisites to successfully expanding your social circle: open-heartedness and paying attention.  Every time you are out in the world, whether it’s the grocery store, the library, or a coffee house, focus on positive thoughts (see Affirmations) and smile.  There’s nothing more appealing than good karma. If you exude it people will be drawn to you. Hiding your light under a bushel is a sure-fire way to feel separate and alone.  Practicing openness (see Open Your Heart ) and smiling have the added benefit of increasing your joy, whether you meet your soul mate, or not.  Paying attention means if someone smiles back you notice and add an extra second of eye contact.  There are so many opportunities to connect, but you have to be aware of your effect on others. Then, smile a little more.


Notice how people react to your new habit.  You may not want to grin ear to ear, as that’s more than most people can assimilate without thinking you’re two shrimp short of a stir-fry, but you can practice a gentle, content smile.  Of course, if you’re feeling miserable don’t paste an artificial smile on your face, as that sends a very confusing and dissonant message. But, if you are in a neutral or positive state of mind, just let yourself have fun with this, and watch what happens.  It’s chaos theory: one thing changes and there’s a ripple effect across the universe.


No beauty potion, diet, or plastic surgery is as potent as the combination of authenticity, openness, and a genuine smile.  It’s free, easy, and even changes your brain chemistry.  Yes, when you smile, certain facial muscles get activated and they send a message to your brain to create more joy.


All the above notwithstanding, the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself.  Period. So, treat your sweet self with as much loving kindness, gentleness, and patience you can muster.  It will not only redound to your benefit a thousand times over, but it will make you a people magnet.


Click on the following symbol to see a poetic and inspirational video on how to be alone:



Text Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Emotional vs. Physical Abuse November 15, 2008

Filed under: EMOTIONAL VS. PHYSICAL ABUSE — chocophile @ 3:19 pm

We have a two-tired system for the treatment of emotional and physical abuse.  If someone beats you up everyone is sympathetic and rushes to your side.  On the other hand, if someone emotionally abuses you people steer clear. They may even suggest you put it behind you, forget about it, get over it, or forgive the perpetrator.  They would never react this way if you were assaulted. They would be solicitous, kind, and caring. Why the difference?

I have been thinking about this imbalance for years.  I believe it comes from our Calvinist background, like so many things stored in our collective unconscious. The puritanical world view tells us we should put our shoulder to the wheel and just suck it up. So, because emotional abuse doesn’t show the way a black eye might, it’s easier to ignore.  We don’t have to deal with our own insecure attempts at helping someone feel better, soothing their hurt, or helping them see things differently. €We can put band-aids on cuts, casts on broken bones, and salves on wounds, but there’s no easy solution for emotional pain.  It’s elusive, slippery, and just when we think we’ve dealt with it, it returns.

Then, there’s its ubiquity.  Who hasn’t suffered from hurt feelings, or worse?  All of which would make us think we could be far more compassionate to each other, but we’re not.  Perhaps, it’s threatening to be around someone who is in emotional pain?  Maybe, it reminds us of our own vulnerability?  I know if my friend sprains her wrist I don’t automatically think I could sprain mine; but, if she’s stressed-out from money woes, issues with her children, or a major life transition, I can definitely identify.  Do we think emotional suffering is contagious?  It’s possible that being around someone who is in psychic pain effects us more deeply than we know.  Unlike the sprained wrist, where we can easily separate ourselves, we know we’re not immune to life’s vicissitudes.

When a friend or family member is going through a hard time, listening to them can be quite stressful.  Not only is there negative energy to contend with, but there’s the unconscious fear that, somehow, some of it will rub off on you.  This is simply superstitious, and prevents us from being present and supportive to those we love.  Yes, it’s challenging to sit with anyone in emotional pain; especially, when it manifests as rage or deep grief, but not being available cuts us off from our most precious gift: our humanity. Being a witness to the most intense feelings someone might ever experience is not only a gift to them, but to you. It helps you develop more compassion for others, and increases your compassion for yourself.

So, the next time someone is in dire straits and needs all the support they can get, put your arm around them and listen.  They don’t expect you to make it better, but they will be grateful for your tenderness.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang



Filed under: LEARNING — chocophile @ 3:03 pm


Neuroscientists maintain you have pathways in the brain that get stronger with each repetition.  This is adaptive, as it makes learning go from awkward to second nature.  Do you actually think about putting your foot on the gas pedal while driving?  That neural pathway is so deeply established you feel as if you’re on auto-pilot; the lesson has become almost unconscious.  Similarly, you have deeply ingrained thought patterns about your relationship with yourself and others.  These, too, have become embedded from years of repetition.


When you want to change a long held belief you need to assiduously practice thinking differently, as the old way is almost tattooed on your brain. It is not going to disappear and can’t be excised.  The only way to lessen its influence is to create a new, stronger pathway; and, the only way to achieve that is by constantly practicing new thoughts.


If you have the motivation and self-discipline to take on this task, understand: the old neural pathway can be reactivated under certain circumstances.  Let’s say you have successfully adopted a new, positive belief about yourself.  You go home for a visit and someone says something that pushes a button in you and stimulates the old pathway, and your former pattern of response.  That pathway may have been dormant but it is still there.  Luckily,  just because an old thought or pattern rears its head doesn’t mean it’s taking over. Don’t be discouraged. You can constantly repeat your positive thoughts until you have reinvigorated the new pathway.


The more you practice thinking positively, the better you will feel.  Start with the Litany of Love or Affirmations pages on this site.  Pick one and repeat it many times a day.  Watch as this new neural pathway gains strength and eclipses your old patterns.  Pay attention to how that effects your feelings. Consciously choose thoughts that increase your well-being.  When old, unhelpful beliefs show up, gently and lovingly replace them with something optimistic.  Eventually, these new ways of looking at yourself and the world will become second nature.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang 


Material Loss: Whatever You Own Owns You November 7, 2008


Someone very smart once said, “Whatever you own owns you.”


It’s fairly typical when splitting up to lose some of your favorite possessions.  Just another loss to tack on the list? Perhaps. But, it could also be one of those famous “divorce opportunities” where something that appears negative ends up positive.  What’s so great about giving up things you loved?  It’s a chance to simplify, to pare down, to appreciate life more and stuff less.


Necessity can catalyze creativity like nothing else.  If your walls are suddenly bare try hanging up that old quilt.  If your ex took all the silverware eat with chopsticks, any take-out place will be happy to give you a pair.  If you need a small table stack some large books.  I once copied a Joseph Albers abstract painting on an entire wall using less than $10 worth of paint.  Freecycle is a great way to get furniture, exercise equipment, clothing, kitchen supplies, all kinds of things, for free. Thrift shops usually have discounts for people over 55 one day a week, and Habitat for Humanity has stores all over the country where you can buy furniture for very little.  It’s amazing how a can of spray paint can make something look great in a few minutes.


Of course, there are things you will miss; and, superficial as it may sound, you could find yourself grieving over a particular piece of furniture.  Is it the couch?  Is it seeing your life reduced materially and then feeling bereft?  Is it symbolic?  It doesn’t matter.  Just feel your feelings.  Whatever they are now will change.


Everyone’s comfort level is different, know yours.  Some folks feel secure and grounded with lots of stuff around, while others feel oppressed and tethered.  There’s no one right way. Because you are in a state of flux, you may not know what feels best.  Less may have been more, but now it’s just less. Experiment. Allowing yourself to discover new preferences opens you up to feeling surprised and noticing how you’re changing.


You have been adjusting in many ways: emotionally, financially, socially, physically, and sexually.  Here’s yet another adjustment.  It isn’t easy (see the Rumi poem, The Guest House, under the Quotes To Live By category for some perspective), but it isn’t all bad.  Maybe you get a couch from Freecycle and make a new friend in the process? Your changing life is full of opportunities.


Perhaps this is a chance to experiment with a stark, Zen look?  What about Wabi-Sabi, a style that values worn items?  Maybe you would gain from asking all your friends and relatives if they have anything to give or lend?  Not only will your creativity be stimulated, you’ll see how adaptable you can be.


Of course, it’s not fun to see the trappings of your life be hauled away.  Allow yourself to miss your stuff. As Madonna said, “I’m living in a material world and I am a material girl (or boy).”  We can’t help it.  We’re attached to our things.  I’m sure cave men and women loved their special stick for roasting Woolly Mammoth.  Yes, it’s another loss. Don’t pretend otherwise.  Just know you can handle it.  Having to focus on something tangible can be quite centering.


In my situation, I bought my wasband’s half of the furniture.  Nothing was particularly valuable, but it was all familiar. I thought facing a half-empty house would be overwhelming.  The decision was a mixed blessing.  I got stuck with a houseful of old, mostly uncomfortable furniture, while he shopped for new things, all of which had no history.  There’s really no great solution.  Whatever you choose, or is foisted on you, has pros and cons, just like your new-found freedom.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


True Beauty: From The Inside Out November 2, 2008

Filed under: True Beauty: From the Inside Out — chocophile @ 7:54 pm


The older I get the more I want my inner light to shine.

Beauty comes from inside.  It emanates from being your true self.

While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the most important beholder of you is you.


Have you ever known someone of average appearance who felt so good about him or herself that they positively glowed?  It was beyond looks: pure positive energy.  Someone who knew Joe Namath told me when Joe walked into a room everyone, both men and women, was mesmerized. He certainly wasn’t the handsomest man on earth, but he exuded charisma. Animal magnetism is the openness that lets your good, loving energy shine through.  Now, obviously, when you’re in the throes of divorce, or any particularly stressful time, you will undoubtedly feel pretty ragged. Later on, when you see the plethora of people out there it can be easy to do what the Buddha exhorted against: compare yourself.  (See: https://holisticdivorce.wordpress.com/category/compare-to-despair/) Resist.  Remember, you are unique, incomparable.

There is an old saying: Beauty is as beauty does. No doubt, you have had the experience of meeting someone stunning but after getting to know them revising your opinion. Almost always, it’s because some of their unlovable behaviors eclipsed a beautiful exterior.  Conversely, how often have you met someone average looking, but after getting to know them finding they morphed into someone captivating?  Here’s proof from your own experience that beauty is more than skin deep.

Develop your mind, your soul, and your compassion; then, see whom the cat drags in.  At the very least, you will enjoy your own company.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


The Road To Hell…

Filed under: THE ROAD TO HELL... — chocophile @ 7:29 pm


The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Whenever you are going through something particularly taxing, you can be sure everyone will have an opinion.  And, they have to share it.  People come from all sorts of emotional and psychological places, so remember to take what they say with a pound of salt. They are not you, and can’t know what you are feeling, unless you tell them.  They want to say something useful; in fact, they often think they have to say something, which is how so many unhelpful, even hurtful, things are bandied about.


Someone told a friend of mine that his marriage of 30 years was all for naught.  Not exactly sensitive; especially, when the person thought the marriage had some very good parts, as well as a few lovable children.  (The last thing you want to do when looking back on a long partnership is to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Nothing and no one is 100% bad.)  Another person’s friend hung up on her because she didn’t respond correctly to her friend’s attempt at being helpful.  Countless folks will tell you how you feel.  I even heard one person tell a friend she was fine only to have the friend argue vociferously that she wasn’t.  You can be in deep grief and still enjoy some peaceful, good moments.  Going through a major life transition doesn’t mandate feeling lower than a snake’s wiggle 24/7.  


Though you are probably extremely sensitive, try cutting cut people some slack when they don’t understand, or respond in ways that push your buttons.  Most of them are really trying to help.  They think they get what you are going through because they may have had a hard break-up, too; but, even if they went through a similar experience, it was through their lens, not yours.  No marriage is identical to any other, and you’re the only authority on you.    


Another facet of people telling you what they think you’re feeling is when they tell you what you “should” feel. Don’t let anyone invalidate your truth, your experience.  There’s no right way of dealing with divorce. This is probably the only time you are divorcing this particular mate, so it’s really a mystery how you will feel from one moment to the next.  It’s impossible for someone else to know what you need to heal. They may have the best intentions, but to you their comment sounds like a criticism–you’re not even grieving correctly.  This is a perfect opportunity to practice being true to yourself.  Politely thank them for their insight, and immediately dismiss it from your mind.  Again, you’re the expert on you.


When you feel attacked or misunderstood, it’s very hard to remember that the other person, in most cases, is trying to be kind; but I would suggest assuming the best…unless it’s followed up by more of the same. Sometimes, a friend may be threatened by your situation.  We therapists have a term called projection.  It refers to someone foisting their own agenda, values, preferences, and issues on you and calling them yours. There’s nothing like a life-changing event to threaten other people and their choices.  Projection is not done consciously, nor is it done with hostility.  It’s a defense mechanism, and protects one’s ego.  So, it has nothing to do with you; except that you’re the recipient and it doesn’t feel good.  Again, if this happens infrequently, try to let it go.


Having navigated these shark-infested waters, you may find yourself giving unsolicited advice.  Step back and listen.  What your friend really needs, more than anything else, is an opportunity to vent.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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