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.

Trust July 29, 2011


When people show you who they are believe them.

Maya Angelou


If hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickenson said, then trust floats on gossamer wings.

Most people lose that child-like trust with the end of a first love, but not all. I have known a handful of souls who maintained it until death, or appeared to, but it’s certainly not the norm. Life intrudes on the fantasy that someone will be an all-loving, supportive parent. Paradoxically, if you had toxic parents, it’s even harder to relinquish this desire as yearning for a kinder, gentler life becomes a mission to get what you missed as a child.

Whether trust is broken by an affair, an addiction, or the gradual departure of someone’s heartfelt interest, it requires a radical shift in your world view. Emotionally adjusting to that cognitive terra incognita takes time and energy, but is worth it as it builds maturity and a commitment to being responsible for yourself.

At the end of the day, if you truly trusted someone and found out he or she was unworthy of that level of faith, you may swing to the opposite side of the pendulum and feel wary of everyone. That’s OK. It’s temporary. When you have been badly burned it’s natural to fear fire. Eventually, you will allow people into your heart again. You may never trust anyone else 100%. That’s fine, because the real task is learning to trust yourself. Before we explore ways to build self trust, let’s look at what trust entails.

Trust may mean your parent, child, mate, friend, business partner will:

Take care of you when you’re sick or old.

Tell you the truth.

Treat you kindly.

Be faithful.

Keep your secrets.

Honestly, and with compassion, share most of their thoughts, feelings, and personal information.

Listen to your thoughts, opinions, and concerns.

Have your best interests at heart.

Everyone has their own notion of what trust feels like. On some level, trust is having faith in someone else’s ability to truly know and support you. This may mean nurturing, protecting, listening, contributing financially, knowing what you are thinking without you having to say it, anticipating your desires, etc. As you can see, it’s a tall order. The most realistic approach is to hope someone who loves you will do their best, most of the time, to act for your highest good. It doesn’t hurt to remember that everyone is after their own happiness, and they will usually put that before yours. So, if the relationship is reciprocal and they feel they are getting most of what they want, they will make a bigger effort to please you. If not, they will have less incentive.

There are three important things to remember about trust:

1. Your decision to trust someone is a gift to you, not to them. You do it for peace of mind.

2. You can always trust people to be themselves.

2. If they betray you, it is a reflection of who they are, and says nothing about you.

If you have been betrayed and your trust was breached, it may be a good idea to use the above concepts as mantras until they become automatic. When something bad happens, it is all too easy to let feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and grief distort your perception. Thinking more clearly will change your feelings from anger, despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, depression, and anxiety to acceptance, optimism, sadness, and concern, all of which will help you adjust to a new reality.

Trusting yourself is much harder than handing yourself over to someone else. After all, you came into the world as a helpless infant who needed adult care and attention, so on some very deep level, it’s tempting to want to feel fully nurtured by someone. Since everyone has some abandonment issues, this desire is heightened by the fear that those we love the most will eventually leave. The good news is until you drop the body, as they say in India, you can always count on yourself. It may take a lot of practice to prove to yourself you are truly capable of healthy self-care, but you are. Keep at it and the emotional rewards will accrue, until, one day, you will automatically guide yourself towards self-loving thoughts and behaviors.

How can you build inner security and self-trust?

Patiently accept your own pace as you move forward in your journey.

Take responsibility for yourself emotionally, financially, physically, socially, intellectually, vocationally, and spiritually.

Practice supportive self-talk by saying loving things to yourself. Even if you are lucky enough to have friends, family, or a therapist who repeatedly tells you calming,
helpful things, there is something deeply soothing about being able to hear those words in your head, and comfort yourself with them anytime—knowing you really mean them. Either way, the more you hear them, the more quickly they will become second nature, eventually eclipsing the cacophony of internal self-downing you may have been immersed in for as long as you can remember.

Everything, no matter how awful it might feel in the moment, is for your highest good and personal evolution. When you are struggling, miserable, grief-stricken, and saturated with anxiety, it seems almost impossible to remember this deep truth. Even if you don’t believe it, just keep repeating it. Eventually, you will see the way life constantly shifts and changes. It’s just like a seesaw, only now, you know you are the fulcrum.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Complaining: A Path To Authenticity and Less Pain July 15, 2011

“What annoyances are more painful than those of which we cannot complain?”
Marquis de Custine

“Things are seldom what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream.”
From H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan

Have you ever noticed yourself vacillating between feeling grateful and complaining? Take heart, they don’t cancel each other out, nor do they have to compete. As strange as it may seem, both are necessary for you to maintain a balanced view of life. Repressing negative thoughts and feelings is not healthy or desirable. Allowing the full spectrum of emotions is your ticket to a more authentic, content life. If we weren’t supposed to experience rage, frustration, anger, irritation, jealousy, envy, or any other “negative” emotion they would all have been extinct by now. The fact that everyone has the full complement of feelings is evidence they are necessary. Having them and acknowledging they exist is not the same thing as expressing them inappropriately. It is far better to write in your journal than to escalate your anger into road rage, or homicidal behavior. Unfortunately, many people, especially women, are trained to think they have to be “sugar and spice and everything nice” as the old nursery rhyme used to say. Not only can this be stultifying emotionally, it can morph into all sorts of physical issues, some of which can be painful to the point of immobilization.

Dr. John Sarno, who wrote a number of books, beginning with “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection,” has always maintained emotions you find unacceptable get expressed physically in the form of TMS, tension myositis syndrome. The purpose of this muscle tension, and the pain it produces, is to distract you from negative thoughts and feelings you deem inappropriate to your self-concept as a good, kind, loving, generous, person. The cure is to allow 15-30 minutes a day to journal your nastiest, angriest, and most loathsome thoughts. On the face of it, you may think this goes against everything written on this site about envisioning the best and allowing it to come to you. It doesn’t. To paraphrase Carl Jung, we all have a shadow side and denying it only creates misery. By taking time every day to let your darkest thoughts and feelings rise to conscious awareness, you keep them from festering and expressing themselves in other, more insidious ways.

According to Dr. Sarno, it is typically the nicest people who suffer from TMS the most. They are do-gooders, perfectionists, self-critical, overly responsible, and prone to guilt. Naturally, allowing and acknowledging a slew of negative thoughts and feelings is anathema to people whose very existence has depended on being perceived as loving, giving, and kind-hearted. But, if not allowing yourself to peer into your dark side produces chronic pain, or other challenging physical symptoms that intrude on your life, you may want to experiment with a little emotional spelunking.

Do you want to be the person who is so invested in being seen as 100% lovely, kind, generous, patient, self-sacrificing, etc. that you are willing to live with inner emotional turmoil and physical symptoms? That may sound like a rhetorical question, but it isn’t. Many people choose that route because it can be incredibly ego-gratifying. If you find yourself suffering from chronic pain, migraines, IBS, insomnia, or other intrusive physical issues, you may want to give Dr. Sarno’s prescription a try. Let your inner two year old out, even if he or she is having a tantrum. You don’t need to express this part of yourself in public, but by acknowledging it exists you can blow off some steam before it implodes through a physical symptom.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Anxiety: A Multi-dimensional Approach To Peace July 12, 2011

Everyone feels anxious sometimes. Our technologically driven society has accelerated the pace at which people live, increasing the pressure to be available 24/7 and handle everything immediately. Along with all the other stresses of daily life in the 21st century, like jobs, family care, food preparation, education, home maintenance, doctor appointments, recreation, and socializing, this creates a sense of urgency that easily morphs into anxiety. While these are all externally driven, and fairly obvious, the deeper culprits are internal thoughts, far more slippery and harder to discern.

A holistic approach to lowering your anxiety (you will never eliminate it completely) focuses on cognitive, behavioral, nutritional, spiritual, environmental, and, if warranted, homeopathic and herbal support.

Many people think fear and anxiety are the same thing. They are not. Fear is when there is an immediate threat, like your house is burning down and you have no idea where you will live. Anxiety is when you are safe, but imagine your house burning down next week.

Whenever you make a demand of yourself, have a perfectionistic goal, assume the worst, or focus on the future, you are stoking your anxiety. It may seem as if anxiety appears unbidden, but it doesn’t. Your repetitive thoughts and worrying create tension. Tension can trigger butterflies in your stomach, teeth grinding, hyper-vigilance, dry mouth, digestive issues, insomnia, sweating, trembling, twitching, nightmares, rapid breathing, decreased concentration, tachycardia, headaches, muscle tension, dizziness, changes in appetite, jumpiness, and exhaustion, just to name a few.

The first thing is to pay attention to your thoughts. When you feel anxious, ask yourself:

“What am I thinking to create this tension?” Then, pretend you are a scientist and ask, “Are my thoughts true? Can I back them up with real data?”

Imagine each thought sitting on the witness stand and you’re the prosecutor.
Challenge your worst case scenarios by asking:

How do I know this will happen?

Even if it does, who says I can’t handle it?

Must I see challenges as awful, horrible, or unbearable?

Haven’t I dealt with everything that has happened to me, so far?

Where is it written that I have to enjoy everything?

How does not feeling or acting in control 24/7 make me a failure?

Do I have to do everything perfectly to deserve some peace of mind?

Everyone’s life is a series of peaks and valleys, why should mine be different?


Now, answer these questions honestly, and you’ll see how much freer and more relaxed you feel.

It is also helpful to keep an anxiety diary where you write down when you feel anxious, and rate each episode on an intensity scale from one to ten. This helps you see varying levels of anxiety, and shows you your biggest triggers. Conversely, thinking of times when you felt relaxed, and seeing what they have in common, increases your chances of finding behaviors that cultivate more inner peace.

One of my favorite techniques to combat anxiety through re-framing your thoughts is the following:

Number a piece of paper from 100, at the top, to one at the bottom, counting down by five. So you have 100, 95, 90, etc. all the way down the left side of the page.

Now, think of the worst thing that could possibly happen to you physically, like an incurable disease, and put it at number 100.

At the bottom of the page, put the most minor physical thing that could happen to you, like a paper cut or a stubbed toe.
Figure out where things like blindness, breaking a leg, a stomach flu, etc. might go until you have filled in all 21 lines.

When you next feel anxious, look at your list and ask yourself which thing you would trade for your anxiety right now.
Try to choose the thing you would really rather have than your current anxiety.

Look at its corresponding number and that will tell you the percentage of badness you think your anxiety rates.

For example, you feel anxious about an upcoming test. After careful consideration, you decide you’d rather have a bad cold than feel this anxiety. A bad cold is number 10 on your list. So, now you know, when push comes to shove, you really only think your anxiety is 10% bad.

This helps you completely re-frame and reduce your perception of how bad your anxiety really is and lowers it. It also stops the tendency to catastrophize about feeling anxious.

Dr. Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, used to suggest Rational-Emotive Imagery as a way to fortify oneself against anxiety.

When not feeling especially anxious, you sit someplace comfortable, close your eyes, and make yourself feel anxious. (It may take a few minutes, so be patient.)
Try for an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Once you’re there, lower your anxiety to about a 2-4 on that same scale.

Open your eyes and ask yourself what you did to create your anxiety and how you lessened it.

You are likely to discover certain thoughts or images that create and deflate your anxiety.

The more you practice this, the more you will retrain yourself and feel less anxious. Aim for a few times a day for a month.

Remember, all humans experience some anxiety; so, the goal is not to extinguish all of it, but to get it to a manageable level.

Discomfort anxiety is rarely spoken of, but quite ubiquitous. It’s the anxiety you feel when you think you will be uncomfortable in a future situation. It may be anxiety about going for a dental cleaning, asking someone out on a date, or attending a party where you don’t know many people. In your imaginary scenario you won’t be in severe pain, but you may feel discomfort. Sometimes, it’s helpful to recognize discomfort anxiety as different from “regular” anxiety because it helps tamp it down.

You can also try experimenting with anti-awfulizing thoughts, like:

“I have had dental work before and I was fine.”
“Plenty of people ask someone out on a date and live to tell of it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I’ll be rejected. No one I know has ever died of rejection. I can deal with it, even if it is unpleasant.”

One of my all-time favorite anxiety busters is the 4-4-4 breath. With a closed mouth, breathing through your nose, slowly (slowly means like counting one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.) inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for another slow count of four, and exhale, for a count of four. Five cycles of this technique will shift your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). It’s incredibly simple, but very effective.
Another breathing exercise that is especially good for hyperventilating is to exhale and hold your breath as long as you comfortably can. Doing this a few times will also redirect your nervous system.


Pursed lips breathing. Inhale and exhale through pursed lips, as if through a straw. just three or four of these breaths will calm you by switching you from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).


Ahh breathing: Inhale and exhale with a long Ahh sound.


Heart breathing: You can do this with your hand on your heart, or not. Imagine inhaling and exhaling from your heart, right through your chest. (Also, check out many other breathing techniques in the breath section of this site.)


Though it may be hard to believe, just lying down with an eye pillow…especially, one scented with lavender…can really relax you. The pillow activates the oculocardiac reflex by exerting a gentle pressure on your eyes which slows down your heartbeat.


If you are near a fridge try the Dive Technique:  Grab a cold pack, or bag of ice cubes or frozen veggies. Put it on your forehead. If possible, have it cover the line between your scalp and lips. Hold your breath for 30 seconds.  In less than a minute this will calm your autonomic nervous system, lowering your pulse and breath rate. It works the same way your body immediately adjusts to cold water when your face goes into a dive: pulse and respiration slow down. An excellent ally for panic, anxiety, and PTS. To make it portable, just keep one of those instant cold packs in your bag, briefcase, or car.

Here are some vitamin, herbal, and homeopathic suggestions. Please talk with your health care provider before taking any of these as they may interfere with other medications you may be using, or be contraindicated for certain health issues.

200-400 mg of Magnesium Citrate gently lowers anxiety, and is an excellent prophylactic if you want to feel calmer on a daily basis.


Simply staying hydrated can help lower your anxiety as dehydration symptoms, like: dizziness, inability to concentrate and a racing heart can all feel like or trigger anxiety.
Bach’s Rescue Remedy has been helping people decrease their stress, panic, and anxiety since the 1930s. Just a few drops on your tongue, or in a water bottle you can sip all day, will soothe your jangled nerves.

Eat something. Low blood sugar contributes to irritability, anger, low energy (which can trigger depression if you are prone to it) and anxiety, as you can feel physically shaky when it’s too low. Don’t wait until you’re hungry, eat every few hours, even if it’s a balanced snack. Keep food with you as if it were medication; for you, it may be.

Rock Rose, another Bach remedy, is truly amazing at quelling panic attacks. Literally, within 20 seconds of taking a few drops under your tongue you will notice a cellular change in your system. You won’t feel drugged, but you will be soothed enough so you can go on.

Passionflower, an herb you can easily find as a tincture, is very gentle on your liver and can be used 2-3 times a day for many months with confidence. Think of it as a concentrated tea that tames anxiety. You may also notice a positive cumulative effect if you use it for a few weeks.

Melissa, also known by it’s English name: Lemon Balm, is an excellent soporific and anti-rumination remedy. It’s best taken 15 minutes before bed to quiet the mind and induce sleep. This herb is suggested for occasional use, or for a few especially challenging weeks, because long-term use can strain your liver.

While there are a plethora of mantras and affirmations that can quiet the mind, I especially like the following for their emotional strength and brevity:

I may be uncomfortable, but I can handle this.

My anxiety never lasts.

This will pass.

Even a panic attack passes naturally after 20 minutes.

Right this minute everything is fine, even though I may be feeling anxious. I’m still OK.

Last but not least, give yourself a cosmic permission slip to feel anxious. Paradoxically, the real culprit of persistent anxiety is telling yourself it is not OK to feel it. This self-censoring actually increases your anxiety and takes it from anxiety about the original situation (tests, doctors, finances, etc.) into anxiety about feeling anxious. The truth is: you have felt anxious in the past and survived. Thinking this way actually increases your tolerance for discomfort and allows you to start using all the above strategies and techniques.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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