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.

Feeling & Healing December 21, 2008


If you’re feeling you’re healing.  Conversely, if you’re not feeling you’re not healing.  I know I constantly harp on this, but only because it is so important.  Making it safe to feel your feelings will get you through all the emotional detritus surrounding divorce, or any other life transition.  In addition, by moving through your grief, rather than trying to circumvent it, you will hone your intuition.  Those indescribable gut feelings, born of experience and understanding, will help you make better decisions in all aspects of your life.


We’re still burdened by our Calvinist past, it’s in the air we breathe.  Deep down most of us have a little voice in our head saying: keep a stiff upper lip, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and other aphorisms meant to keep us out of touch with our feelings.  They might have been useful in the past when people didn’t have the time to explore their emotions, and died young, but we’re living in a different age with a far longer life span.  We have all the time we need to plumb our depths.


One good way to do this is to write a journal entry on the emotion du jour with your non-dominant hand.  So if you’re a “rightie” write with your left hand, and vice-versa.  This allows you to access your unconscious mind more easily, and find out what you are really feeling.


Feelings are a conduit to understanding what you are telling yourself.  Once you are in touch with them you can ask yourself: “What could I be thinking to create that feeling?” Then, you can change your thoughts through Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (the original Cognitive-Behavior Therapy) which will replace negative emotions with more positive ones.


For example, if you are depressed your inner dialogue might be:

I’ll never feel better, and that would be terrible.

I’ll always be alone, and that would be awful.

I’ll never find anyone to love and who will love me; life won’t be worth living.


You get the idea. There’s typically an overgeneralization with an extremely negative assessment.  Actually, it’s often the pessimistic evaluation that really sinks our emotional boat, as we can then move directly to I-can’t-stand-it-itis (as Albert Ellis used to say).  Once we’ve landed there, we will undoubtedly feel lower than a snake’s wiggle.


The answer is to vigorously dispute the litany of negative thoughts that give rise to disturbing feelings, like: guilt, depression, anxiety, worthlessness, and anger. (See Annotated Bibliography for books by Ellis.)


It’s a common misperception that Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy is all about the rational and leaves emotions in the dust.  Nothing could be further from the truth. It is by acknowledging your feelings that you can figure out what you’re telling yourself.  Then, ask yourself: “Just because I think this is it really true?”  Once upon a time, people thought the world was flat and blood-letting cured all ills.  We think unhelpful and unrealistic thoughts all the time.  That’s fine, it’s human nature, and there’s no need for self-denigration.  Just replace your unhelpful ruminations with new ones, and let yourself feel better.


How about thinking:


I may feel lousy right now, but I’ve felt bad before and that didn’t last.  One thing I know for sure is everything changes.  Even if I do feel depressed it isn’t the end of the world.  I may not like it, but I certainly can stand it.  If I couldn’t, I’d be dead.  (I literally can’t stand being without oxygen and food, but I can stand feeling rotten.)


Just because I am flying solo now doesn’t mean I will be alone for the rest of my life.  Actually, this is an opportunity to learn to love my own company.  If I ended up without a mate, I could still enjoy life.  Plenty of people are partner-less and don’t view it negatively; many actually prefer it.  Mother Theresa didn’t need a mate to find meaning, love and fulfillment in life.  I may prefer someone by my side, but that’s who I am today. As a constantly changing and growing person I have no idea who I’ll be tomorrow or a year from now, so why torture myself with assumptions?


Am I the ruler of the universe?  Am I clairvoyant?  If not, how can I possibly know what the future holds.  With 7 billion people on the face of the earth it’s far more likely I will meet someone than not.  If I loved before I know I am capable of loving again; similarly, if someone loved me I will only be more lovable as I move towards being my truest self.


Another thing to remember is that emotions usually come in clusters, so when you feel one ask yourself: “What other feelings might be lurking around?”   When you ferret something out ask yourself what thoughts might be creating it and dispute those with as much vigor as you did the last batch.


Introduce more helpful, positive thoughts by using affirmations, Robyn Posin’s cards (see Annotated Bibliography), and the Litany of Love (see Litany of Love).  Read them all regularly until they’re second nature.  There’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to thinking optimistically, practicing unconditional self-acceptance, and larding on tons of gentleness to counteract residual negative self-talk.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Betrayal: Understanding It and Starting To Heal December 13, 2008


The greater the love and loyalty, the involvement and commitment, the greater the betrayal.

James Hillman


Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott


Secrets, lies, cheating.  They’re all forms of betrayal, and they all destroy trust.


As a therapist I have seen my share of emotional havoc wreaked by betrayal; and, as a divorced woman I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of deception.


When facing a mate’s lies it’s important to remember that their lying says absolutely nothing about you and everything about them.  Either they were cowardly and couldn’t face you with the truth, or they have a diagnosable psychiatric condition like sociopathy (now euphemistically called Anti-social Personality Disorder).  Neither explanation makes them particularly appealing.


Unfortunately, you invested a good part of your life loving and trusting this person, so expect a hefty amount of cognitive dissonance and grief. Those feelings will dissipate, but not before you’ve danced more than a few pas de deux with them. Expect to feel outraged. Thoughts like: “How could s/he do this to me?” are the coin of the realm.


Bad things happen to everyone.  There’s no inoculation from betrayal.  You can be the best partner on earth and still be treated poorly. Actually, people who are pathological liars and sociopaths (both of whom are often narcissists) have an innate sense of who is a good mark.  They usually choose a hard-working, open-hearted soul who will be devoted to them. I am not referring to one-time liars here, but people who have lied throughout a relationship.  Not the person who had a one-night stand, but the adulterer who had a series of extra-curricular trysts. Not the person who made a silly financial mistake, but the one who repeatedly withheld information, lying by omission.  The virtuous mate persists in seeing their partner in the best light, despite evidence to the contrary.  Why? An honest person does not think others are duplicitous; it simply doesn’t occur to them. They habitually assume the best; and, everyone is subject to inertia (a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion). Normal responsibilities, like laundry, car-pooling the kids, and working are distracting. The luxury of trusting someone means not examining every little nuance for signs of secrets.


So, how do you wrap your mind around this situation and move forward?  First of all, if you are honest and forthright other people are, too.  I know it’s easy to question one’s judgment, but you are much wiser now than when you entered into this relationship.  In the future, you will be more cautious, but not so much that you lock up your heart.  Give yourself time.  You will heal.  Everything truly happens for your highest good, even though it may be impossible to see that now.


Here’s a radical thought: be happy you trusted someone.  It says something wonderful about you.  Everyone gets taken in by someone sometimes. Con artists are charismatic. They use their wiles to manipulate.  Be glad you found out the truth.  It may be a bitter pill, but there’s an antidote: loving yourself and living joyfully.  You may not be there yet, but you will be. People recover from the loss of their rose-colored glasses every day.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Dealing with Overwhelming Feelings December 3, 2008


Don’t be afraid of your fear.  When you fight tooth and nail against what is true for you now not only do you deny yourself great opportunities to grow, you add to your misery.  Whatever is front and center is exactly right at this moment, even if it feels lousy. It is perfectly normal to ride a roller coaster of emotions. One minute you’re soaring with joy and the next you’re in the abyss.  It’s just as it should be.  Your world is in crisis. Is it reasonable to expect emotional stability?


Being in the midst of a tempest means you’re internally adjusting from second to second. It’s natural to think you are coming undone, but you’re not.  When your body-mind-spirit is overloaded numbness is another self-protective option to cope with your vacillating emotions.  It’s OK.  It will pass.  The trick to walking this path is to make it safe to feel everything, even in quick succession, no matter how surprising or unpleasant.


Your dance of grief, joy, anxiety, optimism, etc. is unique to you.  Therefore, no one, no matter how much they care, can accurately assess or comment on your process. But, people will offer their unsolicited opinions and tell you what you should or shouldn’t be feeling.  Sift the useful from the useless and ditch the latter.


Trust yourself. Part of your task now is to discover how you can let go and catch yourself before you fall. Through trial and error you will learn to be your own life boat, making you feel safe by accepting all moods and emotions. Be patient with yourself as you lovingly witness them coming and going.  Ride them like a wave, welcoming each as a teacher offering vital life lessons.


Use all your experiences as catalysts encouraging a shift in perspective, and in your self-concept.  What a perfect time to reconfigure your view of you.  Let everything help you home in on what’s important, and avoid what’s merely distraction from your true path.


Remember: your taking the very best care of you not only improves your outlook, but it helps heal the world.  Practice loving your sweet self and see what happens.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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