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.

What is your story? May 28, 2010

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.”
Irene C. Kassorla

“What is your story” is a bit of optional homework you might like to explore.

Be extra gentle with yourself while navigating through these questions, as they may trigger a flood of emotions.

If you find yourself becoming defensive, remember there is no one right way to live your life; so, there is nothing you have to defend.
It’s all an experimental string of experiences.

If you notice a particular story you might like to re-write, or one that could benefit from a new chapter, take a little time to figure out what that next theme might be.
There’s no rush, so go as slowly as feels right to you.

What is your story?

Do you feel as if you are the hero or heroine, or is someone else taking center stage?

What script have you taken as the template for your life? Is it a comedy, tragedy, romance, adventure story, thriller, or all of those?

Does it need revising?

Is it out of date? If so, what would you change?

Spend a little time thinking of what the story line has been and what you would like it to be.

Watch your feelings and make it safe to feel all of them.

Has something opened up?

Is it your heart?

Your mind?

Your self-concept?

Is it a door to something mysterious?

What possibilities can you see?

Do you feel freer?

What would you like to do with that freedom?

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Feeling Stuck and Embracing Life’s Vicissitudes May 19, 2010

Have you  recently gone through a life-changing event or period? A divorce, the death of a loved one, unemployment, or an illness? Do you find yourself feeling stuck? As if you were in a perpetual state of emotional inertia? Did you think the worst would be over but feel as if you are flooded with residual anger, anxiety, guilt, resentment, depression, or grief? If so, you are not alone. Once the dust has settled, it is easy to feel smacked upside the head with life’s little 2 x 4, as the enormity of your new state has sunk in.

The good news is, it is all an illusion. You are still making progress, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. For many, the period after the dust settles is harder than the original shock; not because it is more draining or challenging, but because it is so surprising to be spinning in the vortex of adjustment when you thought you would be sailing forth into some stability.

If you really look at your situation, chances are it is more predictable than the initial predicament. You are dealing with other issues. You have landed on your feet and now take that for granted. You probably aren’t ranting, raving, yelling, or crying 24/7 (and you may never have been—outwardly), but you still find yourself wrestling with deep grief. Perhaps, a holiday triggers a flood of tears, or there’s a family celebration and you are excluded because it’s your former family. It could simply be you only see those who appear to be happily ensconced in a relationship while you feel lonely.  Or, everyone seems to have meaningful work but you. It’s anything that pushes your buttons and triggers feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt or self-downing.

Whatever the trigger, you can resist awfulizing. Awfulizing is a word coined by my late mentor, Dr. Albert Ellis. It is the habit of making something worse than it is. The antidote to awfulizing, i.e.. thinking things are terrible, horrible, awful, and you can’t stand them, is to look at the evidence. If you are able to breathe, you can stand whatever is happening. You may not like it, you may even hate it, but you can stand it. We all have some low frustration tolerance (LFT), another phrase Dr. Ellis used frequently. It refers to thinking we must have everything we want when we want it. Of course, we all want what we want, but that is different from leaping to the conclusion we MUST have it, or life is just unbearable. If you have been through any challenge, you may have thought you couldn’t stand it, but you did. No one said everything will be just peachy all the time.

If you want to lessen your suffering, you can practice some anti-awfulizing thoughts, like:

I don’t like this but I can stand it.

Just because I think it’s awful doesn’t make it so.

It won’t last.

I can live with not getting what I want all the time.

I may feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean I am.

Everyone suffers, why should I be exempt?

Sometimes, life is difficult, and that’s just as it should be.

I am here to experience everything, not only the puppies and rainbows.


If you want to take it further, try being happy you can feel anything. Then, invite the demons to tea. Cozy up to them. Discover their wiles so you can recognize when they are toying with you.
In the midst of your most miserable moments learn to be present. Breathe; sometimes, it’s all you can do. You are alive. Dead people don’t feel anything. Your job is to experience exactly what you’re living through right now.

A number of months ago, I was having acupuncture and the needle really hurt. As I was complaining, my sage practitioner said, “What does it feel like?” That got me to really get inside the pain. What was that sensation? Burning? Pressure? By investigating it, and changing my focus away from awfulizing, I gained some measure of control. The same is true with emotional pain. Go inside. Be the witness. Do something radical. Instead of pushing against what is, embrace it. Yes, this goes against your instinct to avoid pain. By doing what feels awkward, new, and scary, you increase your frustration tolerance and enter realms of awareness and acceptance you never knew existed.  Shift your perspective and give yourself the gift of loving what is.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


A Gratitude Practice That Doesn’t Make You Feel Guilty For Feeling Bad Despite Your Blessings May 4, 2010

Gratitude can be confusing. On the one hand, who doesn’t want to be grateful? Yet, when surfing the seas of depression, anxiety, anger, or any other intense emotion, gratitude may be the farthest thing from your mind.

Even if you are going through the most treacherous, challenging time of your life, there will always be something for which you are grateful, probably many things. The question is: Does feeling grateful at that moment help you move through your pain, or not?

People in 12 step groups are encouraged to adopt an attitude of gratitude, which can seem daunting in the face of giving up substances. It is also hard to adopt if you’re facing unemployment, divorce, illness, death, or any other major life adjustment. While it is great advice, it could benefit from adding: Focus on everything good in your life as you allow expression of all your feelings.

Without the added words it is all too easy to use this helpful reminder as a lash to whip yourself into an frenzy of guilt. You already face a hard situation; and, now, you are told you should feel grateful for all your blessings. For many this is more than a cognitive conundrum, it’s a invitation to self-downing. Not only are you miserable about some real life issues, you can’t even be grateful for what the universe has given you.

The first thing, as always, is to give yourself that cosmic permission slip to feel whatever it is you are feeling. Denying what is true for you now will only delay the deeper gratitude you want to feel. Paradoxically, by making it safe and OK to feel what your are feeling, you will get to gratitude more quickly.

The next step is understanding how, as a complex person, you are capable of floating two, or even more, seemingly mutually exclusive thoughts and feelings at the same time. Appreciating life is a great idea, but not if it means burying your emotions. For example, you can feel: gratitude and grief, gratitude and depression, gratitude, and anxiety, gratitude and anger, even gratitude and worthlessness. Perhaps, that is because gratitude is a thought rather than a feeling. When you think: I am so grateful I can see, hear, think, etc. you realize you are blessed and feel more joy in just being alive. While that’s wonderful it doesn’t eradicate your financial, health, or other concerns.

Recently, I was asked what I am grateful for. Rather than list all the usual suspects, I reframed the question to: For what would I like to be grateful? Immediately, I thought of 80 year old Jean Vanier who, when interviewed by Krista Tippet, said he was still working on loving reality. In other words, I would like to be grateful for everything; especially the things that challenge me. The body’s expressions of stress, bad moods, insecurities, ups and downs of relationships, day-to-day worries—all of it. Jean Vanier said he had been practicing for 40 years and he was still practicing; so, as a relative rookie I am not expecting an immediate turnaround. Just the ability to meander around the topic fills me with optimism.

If you try this philosophy on for size, or you have already adopted it, feel free to let me know how it has changed your life.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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