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.

Challenge Your Values To Change Your Perspective September 30, 2009

Everyone goes through cycles of peace and trauma.  If a value you have held for years no longer increases your peace, if it keeps you stuck in some unhelpful place or mind-set, it may be time to release it.

Values prop up your sense of self, your ego. It can be strengthening to think:

I have good values.

My values tell the world who I am.

I adhere to my values.

I am consistent in my beliefs.

My beliefs are moral and elevate me above others.

As values are things you hold in high esteem, if you commit yourself to them, by extension, you hold yourself in high esteem.

The threat inherent in change, especially when it concerns your cherished, deeply held beliefs, is that you will lose a part of yourself, and your connection to the cadre of others who share them.  But over-identification with your values can stunt your personal growth.

Values give you a template for living; however, circumstances change requiring a shift in your world-view. Perhaps, it is better to value openness to life, even though it is a far riskier place to dwell.  Allowing for change means you will feel raw, exposed and vulnerable as things flow and morph into something new.

Luckily, you are much more than your values. The fullness and complexity of your true self dwarfs the handful of ideas you clutch so desperately. As if there could be a hard and fast guide to life. Be the witness. Watch your life unfold. Allow the mystery. Cultivate curiosity. Embrace change. Emerson was right when he said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  In other words, sticking to your guns may afford you a sense of security but ultimately redound to your detriment by limiting your experiences.

Holding on to a value or belief that has outlived its usefulness stands in the way of your own development. Even worse, you inflict psychic pain on yourself by perpetuating a deep, inner conflict between an unhelpful ideal and what is real. In the past, that belief was probably very useful, both pragmatically and in bolstering your identity. Now, as you find yourself in a new stage of life, some beliefs may impede your becoming the person you want to be.  For example: If you believe divorce is to be avoided at all costs, you may live out the rest of your life in an unhappy union.

The desire for a black and white world is a relic from your childhood. Intellectually, you know things are all shades of gray, but that old habit of thinking dichotomously loves rules for living. The clear cut parameters of how to behave are comforting to the little child inside. The adult you is capable of much more.  You can discern all the colors in the spectrum, which allows for a greater appreciation of differences, including the difference between your thinking at age ten, or twenty, or thirty, etc. Your mind is large enough to contemplate many ways to think and live, not just the ones you have experienced, so far.

To be alive is to change. Let go of useless beliefs. They only stunt your growth.  As you progress through life different things will be more or less meaningful.  For example: Most people think killing is bad; however, in a war, or to protect yourself, killing is allowable. Different circumstances demand tweaking, or radically shifting, your beliefs.

Ideally, when you took your marriage vows you believed it would be until death. But, life intruded.  The question to ask yourself when contemplating a change in values is: “What will this shift in my thinking say about me?”  If you believe it makes you a bad, or less worthy, person, it will. If you believe it is part of your maturation process, you will mature.  Superseding the ego isn’t easy.  It does not like being eclipsed by anything, including new ideas it has propped itself up on for years. You are in charge. You can make the ego take a time-out while you explore other ways of looking at the world.

If sticking to your values means you die inside (and martyrs have done that since time immemorial) you’re choosing from fear and rigidity. Francois de la Rochefoucauld said, “The only thing constant in life is change.” Defy it and you will wither.

Sometimes, perfectionistic thinking bars the way to greater emotional freedom and peace. Sticking to your guns can be a rigid, absolutistic approach to life.  By thinking things like: “I must adhere to my values or my life will fall apart. I won’t be safe without these rules for living. People will think less of me. I will have  no moral compass.” You perpetuate the ideas that keep you mired in old ways of acting and reacting to new life circumstances.

People will always think what they want. You have no control over them. You can control what you think about yourself and, luckily, that’s the most important thing. There may not be a visible path through this journey, but if you trust your intuition, the melding of your heart and mind, you will find your way.  It is scary, there are demons along the way, but every great quest is fraught with challenges. You can do it. Trust the universe, trust yourself, trust the process; and, when you can’t—just breathe.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Reclaim Your Power September 29, 2009



“He who controls others may feel powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”    Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching 


“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”   Anonymous


“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”   Alice Walker



It is so easy to relinquish your power to someone or something. With addictions, you surrender your power to a substance, or an activity. With people, you allow others to decide how you will feel and behave.


Next time you feel lousy, ask yourself:


Am I handing my power over to someone or something?


If so, reclaim it!  Consciously decide to take it back. Remind yourself: no one and no thing is the boss of you. 


In the moment, you may feel weak, sad, impotent, angry, worthless, anxious, or something else. Luckily, a feeling isn’t a fact. The truth is, even if you are feeling downright awful you can still reclaim your power.


Start with the suggestion above. If you are not ready for that just let yourself sit with whatever you are feeling. Use your power to make it OK to be where you are now. Give yourself that gift, rather than the self-inflicted punishment that comes from fighting what is. It may not feel good, but it’s fine and you can stand it. It won’t last.


When you are in a different frame of mind, tackle the larger issue. Do you really want a substance or activity controlling your life? Do you enjoy letting people push your buttons? Of course not.


If someone says something that catalyzes a negative reaction, use paradoxical intention and agree with them. This is the last thing they expect, and the opposite of what you have previously done; but, it is incredibly empowering. Set aside your doubt that this incongruent technique will work and try it. Scour their comment for something with which you can honestly agree. Saying it will immediately take the wind out of their sails and you will feel in control.


Practice assertiveness. The essence of assertiveness is repetition. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with each reason why you won’t do what someone wants you to. Just say something like: “I have other plans.” When the person responds with, “Oh, come on, what could be so important that you don’t want to do X, Y, or Z?” Just say, “I know you’re disappointed, but I have other plans.” It doesn’t matter what your plans are. They could be staring into space, eating a brownie really slowly, or cleaning out your garage. It’s irrelevant. There’s something else you want to do. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of why you’re choosing it over spending time with them. Taking care of yourself and doing your heart’s desire will make you, and everyone you come in contact with, happier. If you really enjoy this person’s company suggest another time; otherwise, get off the phone or away from them ASAP. 


Many people have trouble being assertive because they don’t believe they can ask for, and get, what they want. This is the time to fake it ’til you make it. Think of someone you know who is assertive and pretend you are that person. How would she handle this situation?


No one likes giving a response they know will be met with disappointment, so resist the urge to embellish. Often, this is where people lose their resolve, and allow their friend or family member to influence them.  Unfortunately, the result is you’re doing something you don’t want to do and feeling resentful. If you act assertively, and honestly, your relationships will benefit.  Not only will you feel more self respect, you will give others a cosmic permission slip to ask for what they want by setting an assertive example.  


If you have an addiction, get help. There are on-line groups, 12 step meetings, therapists, books, family, and friends waiting for you to reach out. (If you choose to see a therapist make sure they understand addiction and OCD.) Reclaiming your power over yourself is a heady, wonderful experience.


Use affirmations to shore up your resolve (see Affirmations, also see Powerlessness, Control, & Acceptance.)


We become what we practice, so practice thinking positively.  Assume you will achieve the freedom you want. Picture it. Daydream in detail about a life where you are the captain of your own ship.  Think about anything at which you have succeeded. Didn’t you envision it happening? Then, take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Once you pay attention and focus your energy on what you want doors will open. Actually, they are opening all the time it’s just that your own limiting thoughts of what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t have, and who you can and can’t be get in the way. Allow goodness, success, peace, and self-confidence to grow by inviting them in. At first, it may be difficult to combat those old notions of how you are and how you can be. Persevere. Show yourself the strength of your resolve. 


Recent neuropsychological research suggests we can change our brains; however, it requires lots of repetition. What gets fired gets wired. If you want to re-wire your brain you need to practice new ways of thinking. All forms of cognitive-behavior therapy (including the new age version espoused by the Hicks’), rational-emotive behavior therapy, as well as ancient techniques like yoga and meditation help you think differently. Thinking differently changes your brain chemistry, yielding better feelings. 


I know there are times when you feel lower than a snake’s wiggle and it’s easy to succumb to self-downing, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness.  Those feelings come from what you think. Luckily, you get to choose what you want to put in your brain, the same way you can choose which foods to eat.  It may not be second nature, yet, but noticing an unhelpful thought and choosing to think something soothing, uplifting, or energizing can become a habit. Be patient, these cognitive shifts don’t happen quickly, and they can feel awkward when you first attempt them. In time, the process will become automatic.


Have faith in your ability to create the life you envision. Practice assuming the best. You will conquer what you want to conquer and achieve what you want to achieve. It may sound counter-intuitive, but you can accept where you are and immerse yourself in positive thoughts at the same time.  Read books that make you feel good, watch the video link (bottom right hand side of this page) Positive Pause, listen to Abraham-Hicks’ CDs, and cultivate that inner smile. You know, the one that naturally spreads across your face when sense all your possibilities.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


How To Accept Anger and Use It To Your Advantage September 27, 2009

“Resistance is futile.”

The Borg

Most people are born with a resistance gene.  We fight anything we don’t like, or isn’t ego-gratifying, with a vengeance. When our life is in the blender, spinning around like a whirling dervish on crack, we resist.  We swim against the tide, rather than let go and allow it to carry us downstream. The Borg had it right: resistance is futile.  So why do we persist in fighting what is? The ego desires control, whatever the cost. How many of us blurt something out because we want to feel 15 seconds’ worth of power rather than experience some temporary impotence if we held our tongue? We act in haste and repent at leisure, as my father used to say. Why? Because for those few seconds we feel empowered. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like Ursula, the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid. At the end of the movie she has become a huge monster, bloated with power who bursts to death as that fury explodes. Of course, before she dies, she feels mighty strong. That’s the seductive part of unleashing our rage, and what often drives us to compulsively repeat our old pattern, even if it ends up in self-destruction.

Usually, I exhort you to feel your feelings; but, you can honor where you are without inflicting your anger on others. It is your choice. However, when the ego is in charge, it’s hard to pick the long-term joy in favor of the short-term pain that often comes with restraint. In the heat of the moment, controlling one’s little six year old inside is only likely to happen if  she knows you will take care of her. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.

How many of us really devote the time and energy to healing the little child inside?  The one who was criticized, bullied, or mistreated. Coddling that little one may feel silly, frivolous, or self-indulgent, but nothing could be further from the truth. Reassuring her that she can count on you to put her needs first, enables the adult you to rise to whatever challenge appears. When the little one inside doesn’t trust you to put her first, the adult feels less secure. In normal day-today interactions, this is not such a big deal; but, when we feel threatened, our first line of defense is the more primitive part, the inner six-year old.  If you have befriended her, in a loving way, by repeatedly showing her you will keep her safe and healthy (in all areas of life, like: sleeping enough, eating well, exercising, talking gently, and setting good boundaries), she will begin to trust the adult side of you and not need to get all those goodies from someone else. In other words, she can be less dependent on others because the adult you reliably gives her what she wants. The only way that little child will cooperate is if she feels secure that the adult living with her 24/7 is trustworthy; and that path is paved with TLC. Otherwise, she will take her victories where she can get them, even if that’s to her long-term detriment. (For example, she might enter relationships that are not in her best interests to get attention or love.)

The little one will be inside as long as you live. It is never too late to develop her trust.  Once she trusts you, you can deal with other people’s behavior more effectively. What they do, no matter how misguided, hurtful, or oblivious, is less threatening, because you are less needy. Your inner child knows you will take care of her so she’s not on the defensive, and can relax.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Reaching Out During Times of Stress, Divorce, or Grief September 11, 2009


Whether you have been good at asking for help in the past, or not, now is the time to reach out.  When you experience a loss through death, the dissolution of a relationship, or transformation, grief engenders two primal desires.  One seeks solitude to nurse the wounds, while the other asks for company, someone to bear witness to the pain.

How is it that such seemingly contradictory desires bring solace? Each offers a different way to vent and heal. When alone, you can be completely uninhibited. Paradoxically, with a witness you connect even though you’re suffering from a searing disconnection.

As always, the number one imperative is giving yourself a cosmic permission slip to feel your feelings. Then, seek solitude, or companionship, whatever seems right in the moment. Grief is a consummate shape-shifter.  One day you crave company and the next shun it. Allow yourself to vacillate, depending on your mood.

If you have always been the independent sort, it can be incredibly hard to ask for help.  Perhaps, you were typically the giver, and secretly thought it weak to ask for help. You couldn’t be more mistaken. It takes strength to show your vulnerability. But habit is not your only roadblock, the ego is a bit of a tyrant and can also get in the way, especially if it thinks it’s being demoted. It is. Your psyche and soul get first place in this pas de deux with grief. Let the ego gain gratification from recognizing how courageous it is to do what you fear: picking up the phone and asking for what you want.

There is always someone with whom you can speak. If it’s 3:00AM you can call Crisis Services (or your local hotline).  Try logging on to Yahoo Groups and take advantage of a virtual support community, they are available 24/7.  If you have a bit more time, find a local group that deals with your particular loss.  Call a therapist (goodtherapy.org is a wonderful non-pathologizing resource). The crucial thing is connecting to someone compassionate.

This may sound obvious, but consciously choose people who will listen and be supportive. Now is not the time to consort with challenging friends or family. The last thing you need is to feel defensive about your process. Remember, there’s no right way to go through a crisis. There’s only your way, and you create it one breath at a time.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Fearless Open-Heartedness: Risks and Rewards September 2, 2009


Yes, you’re right.  If you open your heart you risk getting hurt.  But, what’s the alternative?  A life devoid of love and passion?  How alluring is that?  The illusion of safety may be appealing, but over-protection usually leads to isolation.  Is there a way to shield yourself and still be receptive?  Not that I know of.  However, if you pay attention you are more likely to see the warning lights. You know them.  The ones that signal danger ahead: proceed at your own risk. It’s easy to close your eyes when the first flickers appear, and even ignore blazing lights, but awareness can lead to protection, so listen to those gut feelings.


In the past, inertia, or blind optimism, may have motivated you to quiet those inner voices. Perhaps, you persevered until it was untenable.  At some point, you faced what you were trying to avoid and were thrust into a new reality, both frightening and exhilarating.  Now, even though you have been hurt, you feel compelled to be open, because the alternative is to live a diminished life.  I’m not suggesting rushing head-long into a relationship.  I am advising embracing life with enlightened open-heartedness tempered with self-protection and awareness.


If you let your passion have free reign it can feel like a freight train running over everything in its path.  That’s the time to remember to slow down. We all want what we want when we want it, and pausing, delaying gratification, is almost un-American.  We have been steeped in the idea that we have to immediately scratch every itch. If we are middle-aged, or older, it’s even easier to justify that orientation because time’s a wasting.  Carpe diem is the name of the game.  But, allowing a pause enables you to go forward with your eyes open.  Whether you choose instant gratification, or waiting, you know you have made your decision consciously.


If you’re female, once you have opened the door to your heart everything rushes in.  This is your biological destiny.  Women are all about containment.  You keep menstrual blood in for weeks every month, gestate a fetus nine months, manufacture milk until the baby is weaned, and last but not least, if heterosexual, you literally take a man in. Men, on the other hand, are all about expulsion, sexually.  Their very survival as a species depends on expelling sperm, while for women it is all about holding things in. Naturally, these biological imperatives effect our psyche big time.  Women are predisposed to hold on emotionally, and men to let go.  That’s a crucial difference, and it’s hard-wired.  You can be the most evolved person on the face of the earth, and these primal templates will govern your actions more than you might like to admit.


So, if you’re a man reading this guarding your heart comes more naturally.  You don’t have to consciously protect yourself as much emotionally, because you’re predisposed to not let things in.  Of course, you can suffer loss, but it’s to a different degree.  You are made to let go, release, and move on.  Women are designed to take care of their brood until they can be fully fledged, and that inclines them to stay connected. Disconnection, even from a bad situation, is still wrenching for most women.  (See Phantom Marriage Syndrome.)


If you choose to live and love know the risks.  An open heart is is a wonderful thing and can bring great passion and joy, but sometimes, you will be burned.  You don’t have to be rejected to feel hurt, being the rejector is just as painful.  We end relationships for all sorts of reasons: fear of intimacy, fear of vulnerability, and fear of ultimately being hurt, are the big ones; but, sometimes, we simply outgrow a partner, or learn of a betrayal.  Not everyone is evolving in the same way or on the same schedule.  Some people actually devolve and go back to a more infantile state.  It really doesn’t matter what the reason is.  Even if it’s the best decision you could possibly make there will still be feelings of grief and loss.


Be brave.  Open your heart.  Take risks.  One day you will drop the body, as they say in India. Until then, why not experience the fullness of life?


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Post Divorce: How to Ask For Help, Even When You Don’t Like To


There are different types of safety, but the most important one is the safe, secure feeling you can create within yourself.  When coupled, whether due to two incomes, another breathing body next to yours, or the sense that someone is there for you, it is easier to feel supported and cared for.  Once on your own you eventually face the reality of being solely responsible for yourself.


Of course, there may be friends and family; but, if you were part of a couple for years, you are now entering foreign territory. Even if you never really felt your mate had your back, you may still feel a loss of the illusion that someone was there.   It’s not uncommon to deny what we don’t want to see, so if your partner was there in body only you may not have consciously acknowledged that until your actual separation or divorce.


At first, this seems like its own Shakespearean tragedy; but, in time, you’ll realize you can manage just fine.  Many people have actually said they felt more secure after a divorce because they knew they could count on themselves and didn’t delude themselves with the fantasy that their mate would protect, soothe, or rescue them.  In fact, there are countless people who had very scary experiences while partnered where their significant other was absent or useless.  I know of women who underwent serious surgery and took care of themselves, people who were robbed while their mate slept soundly, or partners who secretly squandered the family’s money leaving no reserves.  But even in those situations, the illusion of the mate as safety net dies hard.


Remarkably, in most cases, you will find friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family who will give you more support than you were actually getting from your partner.  The trick here is to swallow your false pride and actually ask for help.  That may be a radical departure from your typical M.O., but it will build a coterie of people on whom you can depend. Some may be paid, like a great plumber or electrician, and some may offer their help gratis.  You’ll want both.  Whether you were partnered with someone who helped shoulder life’s burdens or you were the major domo, the situation is different now.  Be brave and ask for support.  Paradoxically, it will make you stronger.


We’re all fed a mantra of independence that goes back to Pioneer days, when the truth is interdependence is far more satisfying; but, if you’re out of practice, asking for help can feel like a Herculean task. Bite the bullet and ask, anyway. Couples have a tendency to become so isolationist that potential support can seem as elusive as a mirage, but it’s there.  You just have to reach out. In time, asking gets easier. Experiment.  Request a favor from someone.  See what happens.  Undoubtedly, you will be happy to have the help and they will feel useful. You would help them if they needed it, so why not give them the opportunity to assist you?  Let cooperation, rather than independence, be your new watchword.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


%d bloggers like this: