Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

Tame the Blame and Shame To Encourage Positive Growth & Change December 3, 2013



Whether we talk of warring nations or wounded spouses, the one thing that maintains antagonism and distance is the tendency to blame and shame. To make matters worse, continuous fault-finding often leads to holding a grudge which can turn into damning the other so vehemently the chances for reconciliation become slim.


So, why do we humans persist in this behavior? Blaming serves deep psychological desires: to feel blameless oneself, to scapegoat another, to switch from a defensive to offensive position, to play god and punish people who hurt or disappoint us, and, last but not least, to protect one’s ego.


The common phrase: “Someone must be to blame for this” neatly addresses our society’s penchant to punish undesirable behaviors, even though that rarely increases the desirable ones.


The proliferation of prisons and recidivism among criminals are perfect examples of how blaming, shaming, and punishing usually create more bad behavior.


The urge to blame is typically triggered when you don’t get what you want, or feel entitled to. This knee jerk response may feel satisfying at first because it exonerates us from any responsibility and punishes another; however, it only hinders any chances for reconciliation and rapprochement. Most people intuitively know that, but assigning blame and meting out punishment are hard habits to break as both deeply satisfy the ego’s love of basking in self-righteousness. Unfortunately, the potential long-term gains get sacrificed for the short-term ego boost.


Here are some ways to tame the blame:


Watch how easy it is to rush to judgment. Then, take a minute to focus your energy on your heart center and gather up some compassion. Remind yourself: People who behave badly are usually just acting out their suffering. By remembering this and sending them some compassion, you can soften your heart. It softens towards them and you, for who never does hurtful, thoughtless, inconsiderate, or selfish things? By cultivating understanding when others miss the mark, you will find yourself lavishing more kindness on yourself, too.


Notice any demands you might have made of this person, situation, or of life. Any “shoulds, musts, or have-tos” you are generating in response to something you did not like or agree with. Ask yourself: “What law of the universe says people should behave the way I want them to?” or “Must life always be easy and fair?” or “What law of the universe says I must get what I want simply because I want it?” or “Must people who disappoint me be punished?”


On the other hand, if you find yourself full of self-blame, or guilt, please read the chapter on this site called: “Guilt, The Useless Emotion.” If you apply its suggestions and philosophy, your guilt will evaporate.


When you blame others you are effectively saying, “You are bad.” When you blame yourself, the internal message is “I’m bad.” Both can easily escalate to blaming and shaming, neither of which help anyone change for the better. But, worse than that, they entrench the thought that someone is a huge screw-up and deserves to feel lower than a snake’s wiggle. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter much whether that someone is you or another because when anyone feels unworthy, or ashamed, it hurts everyone.


When you feel ashamed it effects every aspect of your life: your relationships with friends, family, mates, co-workers, bosses, and yourself. Its tendrils reach deep down into your sense of who you are, what you can accomplish, and even your dreams. Lodged in shame is the kernel of unworthiness that blocks you from being your truest, most developed self as it saps your energy and enthusiasm for life. There is absolutely no upside in feeling shame. If you think your sense of shame comes from ideas instilled in childhood consider getting professional help. You can feel better. Everyone is born with a capacity for joy and wholeness, don’t let shame keep stealing yours.


Naturally, there are times when you will miss the mark. Taking responsibility never equals assuming blame or larding on the guilt. Paradoxically, by taking responsibility it is less likely you will ruminate over your lapses in judgment or behavior. Instead, you are likely to make amends and change some ineffective or insensitive behaviors.


On an energetic level, guilt and blame deplete your energy as they fuel negativity towards yourself and others. Emotionally, guilt and blame either make you feel depressed or angry. Behaviorally, they often lead to isolation, resentment, fights, shunning others, and a host of physical symptoms born from all that anger and tension.


Imagine how different you would feel if you ditched the blame and shame. What burdens would be lifted, and how much more easily you would flow through those inevitable times when people, life, or even you, disappoint you.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Patience: How To Cultivate It May 16, 2011



How poor are they who have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)


Patience is the best remedy for every trouble.
Titus Maccius Plautus (254 BC – 184 BC)


“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”
Barbara Johnson


Many years ago, when I was studying with Albert Ellis, he told a story about a man standing on line at the grocery store with half a gallon of ice cream. The line wasn’t moving, and his ice cream was getting softer by the second. He was feeling increasingly annoyed until he realized the line was held up by an elderly blind man. Suddenly, the ice cream didn’t seem so important.


Al brought that up to show us how quickly our feelings change when we think differently. The man adjusted his thoughts in a split second, and his feelings went from impatience to gratitude. The story also illustrates how patience is a beautiful thing once we open to it.


During my childhood, I recall my father saying, “All good things come to those who wait.” If I still felt impatient about something, he would add, “Act in haste, and repent at leisure.” While I now believe he was right, I had already inculcated America’s predilection for instant gratification, and didn’t have the slightest interest in delaying it.


Our culture is far more oriented towards immediate gratification than ever. We seem to have a collective notion that, as long as we put the pedal to the metal, we can achieve whatever we want. I believe both concepts are true and compatible, even though they may seem contradictory. Waiting, resting, and allowing things to develop are just as crucial to our creativity and productivity (whether in work, relationships, or hobbies) as is forging ahead with vision boards, imagery, affirmations, and good old grit.


In America today, waiting is often a close cousin to slothfulness and reviled with every Calvinist molecule we breathe. Patience with the process is not only undervalued, it is often scorned as laziness. But laziness and patience are as different as chalk and cheese. Allowing things to unfold takes a ton of energy and vision, especially, if you are someone for whom “moving forward” is an inner mantra.


Some people actually fear resting and taking it easier because they secretly believe if they ratchet down their activity level they will never be able to crank it up again. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rest rejuvenates and energetically prepares you for the tasks at hand.


My colleague, Robyn Posin, PhD., has often said, “Rest is a sacred act.” I couldn’t agree more. By resting you show yourself compassion, recharge your batteries, and allow time for new knowledge to sink in, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual. In addition, by cultivating patience with yourself it becomes easier to bestow kindness on others.


Advertising would have you believe that working yourself to the bone is fine, as long as you crack open a beer at the end of the day, go to a spa, or splurge on some other luxury. This lets the stress accrue until it feels as if you have to take a break. On the other hand, regularly giving yourself small treats, as novelist Iris Murdoch once said, is one of the secrets to a happy life. The joy you feel when you take a real break to do a little yoga, eat a leisurely lunch, or read a book softens the challenges of day-to-day living.


Life can be stressful enough without adding extra bricks to your load. Rushing, always pushing yourself to do more, thinking you are only as valuable as what you do, adds as much, if not more, stress than all the things on your to-do list. Often, these stressors feel like “shoulds.” Many years ago Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst, wrote a famous essay called, “The Tyranny of the Shoulds.” She was right in her assessment of how easy it is to be hard on oneself. By challenging these “shoulds” you can free up more time to be patient with whatever you want to achieve, whether it’s personal, professional, or avocational.


When you rush the process, whatever it is, you miss opportunities for growth, peace, and being in the moment. Of course, sitting with what is can be very challenging, especially, when it’s something you don’t want. It’s natural to crave the next better-feeling thing and want it instantly. Giving yourself the gift of patience allows you to digest what is happening now. What’s the rush? Hurrying can keep you from healing self-awareness, being in the moment, and just sitting with your thoughts and feelings. They may not always be fun, or pleasant, but rushing through them is often a guarantee you will have to learn that same lesson, whatever it is, again. If one of your goals in life is radical self-acceptance, practicing patience is surely a helpful strategy.


Here are a few ideas you may want to try if you notice yourself rushing frenetically from one thing to the next:


What “shoulds” rule your life? Take a few minutes to brainstorm. Once you have a list ask yourself where you can scale back, do less, or simply take more time to get something accomplished.


Do you have trouble saying no? If you want more time to rest and slow down, you need to practice feeling the discomfort that can come from not always giving others what they want, and possibly incurring their disappointment or rejection. This is especially true if you think your sense of worth depends on what you do, rather than who you are. Try saying no to one thing every day. How does it feel? If even thinking of saying no creates anxiety, ask yourself if it’s ok for you to really nurture yourself.  Saying no to one thing always means you’re saying yes to something else. Often, it’s the super nurturers who neglect themselves. If saying no has always been a challenge, you may want to read a basic assertiveness book like, “When I Say No, I feel Guilty,” or “The Assertive Option.”


Notice when you are impatient with yourself. Is there a correlation between those times and being over-scheduled? Have you taken on more than you can comfortably do? Practice talking back to that inner voice always egging you on to do more, and radically choose to do less.


Think back to a time when someone was patient with you. Perhaps it was a parent who taught you how to ride a bike, a teacher who helped you learn the alphabet, or a coach who cheered on every little improvement you made. Allow yourself to really feel that expansive, generous space in which you could learn something without rushing, and let it settle in your heart.


Do you find yourself rushing because you try to fit one extra thing into your day? Experiment with crossing things off your list and adding in time to read, rest, listen to music, take an Epsom Salt bath (this replenishes magnesium and relaxes your muscles), have a cup of tea, go for a relaxing walk, or watch the clouds move across the sky. Just be.


Give yourself the gift of more time by scheduling longer intervals between activities. For example, if you routinely take only 15 minutes to get dressed for a night out, leave yourself 30 minutes.


Last but not least, be patient with yourself as you develop this new skill. Patience is like a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it gets.



Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

We’re All In Recovery, So Welcome To The Club July 26, 2010



  • Whether it was a parent, teacher, grandparent, uncle, aunt, friend, boss, sister, brother, classmate, or co-worker, at some point, everyone has been affected by damaging remarks, criticism, physical abuse, harassment, or sexual abuse.


    You may think it extreme to say that we are all in recovery, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to add up the numbers: at least one in four women is a victim of sexual abuse, one in ten adults is addicted to alcohol, and one in four women is likely to experience domestic violence during her life. Then there are all the other issues flying under the radar, like elder abuse, bullying, and living with someone dealing with depression, guilt, hoarding, or addiction.


    Each person who is directly affected by these issues indirectly affects many more. And how could that be otherwise? Even the kindest soul reacts to abuse either by taking it out on others, himself, or both.


    When we look at the statistics, the chances of not having some toxic interactions are infinitesimally small. If that is true, and we are all negatively affected by verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, perhaps post-traumatic stress is far more common than we think.


    Surely, growing up in a family with an addicted parent leaves one traumatized. The trifecta of unpredictability, lack of primal trust, and insecurity, often all shrouded in a family pact of secrecy, is more than enough reason to embark on a recovery mission.


    If the Buddhists are right when they say our suffering is our benefit, we can all help by first recognizing how pervasive emotional trauma is and developing more compassion for ourselves, and each other.


    What would happen if our society recognized this epidemic of PTS? (I don’t call it a disorder as it’s natural to be incredibly stressed after trauma.) Ideally, we would cultivate gentleness for ourselves and our fellow travelers. We would all embrace a culture of recovery by speaking more kindly, acting more considerately, owning our own issues, cooperating rather than competing, embracing our natural sensitivity, and remembering that everyone struggles at one time or another.


    If we assume that each of us has been hurt, probably numerous times, we might be tempted to chalk it up to human nature and suggest everyone simply buck up; but, isn’t developing a thicker skin part of what led to these issues in the first place? Furthermore, how does burying our true feelings help in the long run? Doesn’t it make it more likely they will come out inappropriately in sarcasm, or even abuse?


    What if we used our collective pain to catalyze our evolution?


    What would our better selves look like?
    Would we be more generous, more patient, tolerant, and sensitive?


    What about how we treat ourselves? Could we show more generosity, patience, tolerance, and sensitivity towards our own sweet selves?


    What if, for one day, none of us took anything personally? Remembering that each of us is carrying far more baggage than is obvious.


    What if after being cut off on the road we thought, “I wonder what that person is dealing with that made them so distracted?”


    What if we assumed that every single person was dealing with something difficult, and we cut them some slack?


    What if we smiled at everyone, whether we knew them, or not?


    What if we practiced compassion?


    These days, there is a great awareness of how we have hurt the environment. When will we own up to how we hurt ourselves, and each other?


    Isn’t our treatment of the environment, animals, and others merely a projection of how we treat ourselves?


    I believe it is.


    By hurting anything we hurt everything.


    Today, why not vow to start a real new age by taking the very best care you can of your sweet self? If you do, you will watch that inner love manifest to everyone’s benefit.




    Copyright Nicole S. Urdang
 

 
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