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.

Support January 19, 2009

Filed under: Support — chocophile @ 3:56 pm


Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  

Abigail Trafford claims “It takes two to get married, but you get divorced by yourself.”


I believe it takes a village to get divorced.  


Here’s my list of the supporting cast necessary to help you through divorce, or any major life crisis:


CHILDREN.  If they still live at home and are under 18, their very presence is life-affirming.  One sweet hug can heal a day’s worth of pain.  If they are adult, they can provide an ear to what only they will truly understand: the dynamic between their parents.


FAMILY.  There is nothing as deeply bolstering as the support of loving family members.  


FRIENDS. The gift of friendship, insanely unbalanced support, and humor while navigating the turmoil of divorce is like finding a well in the desert.


MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Whether it’s your doctor, dentist, or acupuncturist, they can be a literal life-line to health and wellness through a physically trying time.


ALTERNATIVE HEALTH PRACTITIONERS.  A massage therapist, Reiki practitioner, yoga teacher, or meditation master can be invaluable as you sift through your relationship with yourself and your Higher Power.


PSYCHOTHERAPIST OR COUNSELOR.  If you are lucky enough to get a knowledgeable and compassionate therapist you will have an extra dimension of support and guidance.


ACCOUNTANT.  Getting your financial house in order is crucial to feeling secure.


CLERGY. If you are lucky enough to have a Priest, Rabbi, Imam, or Minister with whom you feel safe, meet with them.  They can offer some extra sanity and perspective.


MATRIMONIAL LAWYER, OR MEDIATOR.  A necessary part of the divorce process, unless you are so amicable you can do everything yourselves online.


COMMUNITY.  Whether it’s your gym buddies, fellow congregants at your house of worship, or seeing the same people every morning at Starbucks, feeling part of your community will ground you differently from anything else.  If you have been struggling with an addiction, this is the time to try a 12-step program.  Immersion in a community of people who can understand your particular demons, will support you like nothing else.


STRANGERS.  Will Rogers once said, “Strangers are friends I haven’t met yet.”  Every anonymous smile, whether at the grocery store, library, or on the street is worth its weight in gold.  The gentle openness of a stranger renews your faith in humanity, reinvigorating your optimism for a better life ahead.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


15+ Ways To Create A New Life After Divorce January 16, 2009

Filed under: 15+ Ways To Create A New Life After Divorce — chocophile @ 2:01 am


Whether you are recovering from a grave illness, death of a partner, or divorce, all necessitate remaking your life.  You, alone, have the power to creatively and uniquely design the life you want.


Here are some questions to consider as you embark on that path:


1. Am I exerting an appropriate amount of choice and control in various aspects of my life: friends, work, leisure, religion, family, hobbies, volunteering, etc?


2. How much solitude suits me?


3. How much company nurtures my soul?


4. What lifestyle supports me best? How much time and energy am I willing to devote to attaining and maintaining that lifestyle?


5. What kind of relationship do I want with my children?  What is my part in achieving that?


6. How can I set up my finances to create fiscal peace?  Do I need to figure out a budget? Do I have a handle on my expenses? If not, what can I do to be more financially responsible?


7. What feeds my mind?


8. Which qualities am I looking for in a friend?


9. How good am I at setting and keeping healthy boundaries?


10. How and where do I replenish myself spiritually?


11. What tools do I need to create a healthy routine vis a vis exercise, meditation, good nutrition, and sleep?


12. What work and activities are meaningful to me?


13. Am I looking for an intimate relationship?  If so, what traits and qualities do I seek?


14. How important are sex and affection to me?


15. How much do I enjoy my own company?


16. What energizes me, and what enervates me?


17. Have I allowed myself to fully grieve?



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Betrayal: When Your Ex Gets Your Children to Lie To You January 15, 2009


There is little compelling literature on the effects of divorce on adult children, though you can be sure there are consequences.  Judith Wallerstein’s bleak statistics notwithstanding, no one really knows what’s better for children: staying in a disturbed household with unhappy parents or dealing with the chaos of divorce.  Naturally, things are different if the children are adults when the parents split.  It’s still no day at the beach, but the issues shift.  Certainly, trust, optimism about the viability of long-term marriage, and insecurity play out for almost all children, whatever their age.


I don’t believe the research is comprehensive enough to predict much, but one thing seems clear: if a parent used a child, of any age, to lie to the other parent the child will suffer more.  It’s a case of short-term hedonism vs. long-term hedonism.  In the short run, the parent who enlists the child to lie to the other parent has the short-term benefit of a sense of closeness and allegiance with that child as they keep secrets that harm the other parent.  Clearly, this fosters guilt in the child, no matter what their age, as they know their behavior is detrimental to the other parent.  In the long-term, the parent who enlisted the child’s complicity in lying and keeping secrets ends up losing the child’s trust. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the child understands that parent will do whatever is necessary to help their own position, including using their child.


Trust is like a good habit: hard to make and easy to break.  When it’s gone, it may never fully return.  I remember, when I was a young woman, my father bought a house in England and asked me not to tell my mother.  (They were still married at that time, but divorced when I was 33, a long time coming non-event to me.)  It was a burden I did not want, but because I so desired a relationship with him, I agreed.  Eventually, he told her, but for those intervening years, I felt like a traitor.  On reflection, I believe his asking me to lie for him, made me trust him less.  If he could lie to her, he could lie to me.  A parent intuitively knows the child craves his or her love and respect, and can wield their emotional power to influence a child’s behavior, even if that child is an adult.


I believe that many parents who ask their children to lie for them have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD: all that matters is what’s best for them.  It may also be a way to prove to themselves that their child loves them as s/he is colluding with them against the other parent.


The DSM-IV-TR defines NPD as “an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts,” such as family life and work.


According to the DSM-IV-TR, a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits in order to be diagnosed with NPD:

  • grandiose sense of self-importance
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • need for excessive admiration
  • sense of entitlement
  • takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • lacks empathy
  • often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes


I include all this information only to show that, while divorce brings out the worst in many people, pre-existing personality traits (like NPD, and sociopathy; see “Betrayal” on this site) have a great deal to do with the emotional detritus that gets foisted on children, whatever their age.


Divorcing parents and their children need all the support they can get.  It is natural for them to rely on each other.  Many researchers focus on the negative effects of a parent’s unburdening to a child; but, if the child is an adult, the same behavior can catalyze a deeper, more mature, differently balanced relationship between them.  However, because divorce is a time of extreme emotional instability when poor decisions are the coin of the realm, asking children to lie is particularly manipulative and cruel.  Resist the impulse if you want your child to trust and feel safe with you.  If not, whatever short-term gain you think you have secured will undoubtedly accrue to your long-term detriment.


“The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce,” by Judith Wallerstein,  Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee, is based on a 25-year examination of the lives of 93 Marin County adults.




Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Wishing Can Make It So January 12, 2009

Filed under: WISHING CAN MAKE IT SO — chocophile @ 12:03 pm


The universe will bring your desires to fruition once you practice getting the message out, but you also have to notice when your wishes are granted.  This last part may sound really obvious, but it isn’t.  It’s imperative you pay attention.  We often overlook opportunities.  Once you ask for something be aware of whether it has come to you, even though it may be in a different form from the one you specifically requested.  It is also crucial to do everything you can to help the process.


There’s an old story of a very religious man who goes to church the day after he’s retired and says to God, “It’s me, Mike.  I have followed all your commandments, and now I want to ask you a favor.  I’d like to win the lottery.”  The next month, after not having won, he goes back to church and says, “I’m a little annoyed, God.  I can’t believe that after all I’ve done in your name you ignore my only request.  I gave to charity, volunteered with the fire department, and was a devoted father and husband. What’s up?”  Another month goes by and Mike still hasn’t won the lottery.  By now, he’s very angry and practically yells at God, “I can’t believe it.  I thought you would come through for me after everything I did to live an honorable life.”  God says, “You know, Mike, you have to buy a ticket.”


All desire is energy.  Desire is a thought impulse and thought impulses are a form of energy, the same material nature used to create all life.  An idea is an impulse of thought that impels action by an appeal to the imagination.  By using your imagination to clearly see what you want in your life right this minute, you can energetically attract it.  This is not some new age hocus-pocus, but a conscious concentration of thought and energy to create matter.  The focus is on the now, not the future. That helps you bring all the related positive feelings into the forefront of your mind.  The future is abstract, but the present is real.


Think of advertising, but here, you’re selling this new way of thinking to yourself.  You want to persuade yourself that you can create the life you want.  Years ago, someone interviewed a handful of self-made millionaires and asked them how they became so rich.  Each one said he had always pictured himself making loads of money, and did whatever it took to amass a fortune.  Money may not be what floats your boat.  Maybe it’s meaningful work, more free time, or a better relationship with yourself.  Once you set your intention, stay focused, and cultivate awareness of even modest shifts in your life, you will reap the benefits.  It’s a feedback loop: your visions and intentions create changes in your world.  Those changes catalyze new visions and intentions, and those, in turn, create more change.  


It’s a heady experience to see your personal power at work.  At first, you may not even believe it.  Think back to something you really wanted to learn when you were growing up. Perhaps it was reading, riding a bike, or driving a car.  In each of these examples you already envisioned yourself doing those things before you were adept at them.  Each time you made a little headway, your intention shifted to a time when you would refine your skills even more.  Eventually, reading, bike riding, and driving became second nature. But, if someone had told you when you were struggling to learn your ABCs that, with enough practice, you would almost inhale words, you might not have believed them. Similarly, the you that you are now may not be able to picture the you that you want to be.  But you can imagine a little bit of progress. Take baby steps. Do something to create momentum.   Moving slowly allows you time to assimilate change.  Day by day, you will become more self-actualized, more confident, and more joyful.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Fake It ‘Til You Make It January 11, 2009


There are many jewels in the AA program.  One of my favorites is : Fake it ’til you make it.  Contrary to what you might think, this doesn’t mean you are being phony.  It is simply practicing a new way of thinking, or a new behavior, in the hope that it will become second nature. In AA the practice is not drinking alcohol, but there are many opportunities for growth in other areas of your life.


An excellent way to see what might be helpful is to scan through the list of affirmations on this site and, as you read each one, monitor your reaction.  Is adopting this concept likely to change your world view?  Make it easier to emotionally adjust when things don’t go the way you think they should?  Enable you to be more flexible and open to new experiences?


Try a little experiment. Choose an affirmation and repeat it to yourself for 30 days as often as you can.  At least, twice a day.  At the end of the month ask yourself if your attitude or behavior has changed.  Very little is as powerful as what you tell yourself.  


Another approach is to heighten your awareness of your inner dialogue.  Is it kind and loving, or harsh and critical? If you find the latter is true, gently steer your thoughts towards something supportive and positive, away from the self-downing and negative. Since you have been practicing thinking a certain thoughts for years, substituting new ones, or faking it ’til you make it, is challenging.  Sometimes, you will think it’s hopeless. Persevere, with repetition your new ways of looking at yourself and the world will become automatic.  


Faking it ’til you make it can also mean you pretend you already believe those wonderful new ways of thinking, and act as if they were your truth. How would you react to bad news if you really believed that everything was happening for your highest good? How much more relaxed would you be if you really believed you don’t have to figure it all out now? How much more peaceful if you chose to believe you were calm and could handle anything that crossed your path?


If simply reading those last three sentences makes you feel better imagine how great your mood would be if you owned them.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Betrayal As A Path To Personal Evolution and Growth January 5, 2009


No matter how old you are there is still a little child inside you.  He or she craves truth and fairness.  Who hasn’t heard the lament “That’s not fair!” yelled in a playground or schoolroom?  Craving truth seems to be innate.  That’s why betrayal, whose coin of the realm is lying, goes against our grain so deeply.


Randy Pausch, in his famous Last Lecture (available on YouTube) said, “If I only had three words of advice I could give you they would be : Tell the Truth.  If I were allowed three more, they would be: All the time.”  Isn’t this fascinating?  When facing his own imminent death the most important thing he could think of was telling the truth.


You can tell the truth ’til the cows come home, but you cannot force others to be honest.  You can’t make them worthy of your trust.  When you fall in love and commit yourself to someone you assume the best.  If it turns out you misjudged them, such is life.  Disappointment comes to all who breathe.  Recovering from a life-flattening disappointment involves acceptance, and forgiving yourself for placing your trust in the wrong person.  If you conduct your life with honesty and integrity you really can’t grasp how others can lie. It’s like trying to see if you’re blind.  It just isn’t going to happen.  It’s a form of grandiosity, not to mention irrationality, to have thought someone you trusted would never hurt or betray you. You are just as vulnerable to deceit as the next person, even if it flies in the face of thinking you’re special—or, so special to that other person they wouldn’t deceive you.  The fact is: it was never about you.  Your behavior, whatever it was, didn’t make someone lie.  That was their choice.


Everyone gets conned.  If you doubt that, Google Bernie Madoff.  He pulled the wool over people’s eyes who were trained to be vigilant and untrusting, like the Securities and Exchange Commission.  So resist self-downing.  It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and think you should have seen the signs, but you couldn’t see what you didn’t seek.


An antidote to accepting incomprehensible behavior is learning to trust yourself.  That may sound counter-intuitive, given recent experience, but it’s not about trusting yourself to know everything.  It’s about trusting yourself to know you can handle anything life dishes out, and be better for it.  More compassionate, more loving, and paradoxically, more open.  You’ve been badly hurt, but you’re alive.  Start trusting yourself to take the very best care of you no matter what happens.  Let’s call it radical self-care (see Robyn Posin’s cards, listed in the Annotated Bibliography, for ways to re-program your thinking, and embark on a loving, caring, patient journey to your true self.). By practicing radical self-care you create a solid floor upon which to stand.  One that will support you when others disappoint or lie to you.

Trust yourself to heal and live according to your values.  You can’t be the only honest person in the world.


There are many who say the answer is cultivating more realistic expectations of others.  If by realistic they mean you ought to expect secrets and lies, I disagree.  If you prime yourself for the worst, that’s what you’ll get.  If you practice assuming the best you may get burned, but, in the meantime you will attract a mother lode of goodness.  Assuming the best doesn’t mean you live in denial.  You understand people can be deceitful, but you focus on drawing the honest ones to you.  If you meet someone who behaves creepily, so be it. Learn and move on.  Everyone encounters liars, cheats, and con artists.  No one has singled you out for this little karmic delight. Use everything to help you be the person you want to be.  Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see.”  It’s the same thing.  Be the upstanding, decent person you want to meet and you will naturally attract similar souls.


All blessings and peace to you on your journey.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Stress Busters January 4, 2009

Filed under: STRESS BUSTERS — chocophile @ 4:30 am
Tags: , ,


Apparently, my tea drinking grandmother was right: tea really is relaxing.  British researchers found regular consumption of tea normalized levels of stress hormones, and lowered blood pressure and heart rate. While I don’t need a study’s stamp of approval to tell me what I already intuitively know, it doesn’t hurt when science corroborates inner wisdom.  


The following are a number of simple, cost-effective ways to reduce stress.  I didn’t include yoga, because I have mentioned it before, but yoga is deeply soothing to every cell in your body-mind, and it does the spirit good. Please consider adding it to your arsenal of supports. 


*** Drink tea, especially caffeine-free varieties.  Chamomile is almost soporific it’s so relaxing.  It isn’t easy to incorporate a new ritual, but if you practice something for 30 days in a row it has a good chance of becoming a habit.  Do as the British, have a cup of tea in the afternoon, four o’clock is the traditional time, and see if it doesn’t re-set your mood for the rest of the day.  


*** Go for a stroll, hike, or just sit outside. Take advantage of nature’s curative powers, they’re free.


*** Call a friend.  Connecting is just as important as time alone, so reach out. 


*** Listen to music.  Choose whatever resonates with you, literally and figuratively, and make the time to feed your soul. (You might want to try Ultimate Om by Jonathan Goldman, see Annotated Bibliography.)


*** Think of three things for which you are grateful.  If you do this daily, think of three different things every day.


*** Look at the sky, or a tree; tune in to the beauty and impermanence of all things.  Research has shown that pausing to view scenes from nature helps refocus your attention.  People who work near a window are healthier, happier, more tolerant, and enthusiastic about their job.  In one study, prisoners who had windows with views of nature were sick 24% less frequently than those with no view.


*** Go inside and feel your body.  Take a little tour from your feet to the top of your head.  If an area feels tense just breathe into it. As simple as this sounds, it really works. 


*** Read a poem and let it change your perspective.  You can get one sent to your email by subscribing to panhala @yahoo.com  (the link is listed on page one of this site).


*** Use all five senses to tune in to your environment. Try this while sitting at your desk, eating something, walking, or taking a shower.  


*** Put a couple of drops of essential oil of lavender on a tissue and place it on your desk or chair.   Not only has lavender been shown to relax you, it also relieves physical pain.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang 


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