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.

Missing what you don’t really want August 11, 2016

 

 

How is it possible to miss something you no longer wanted?

Nyozi Adiche “Americanah”

 

We are hungry for what we have grown out of.

Mirabai Starr “Caravan of No Despair”

 

 

It seems so counter-intuitive to miss something you no longer want, yet it makes perfect sense once you consider the complicated nature of relationships and desires. Since no relationship is ever 100% good or bad, there can be a part of you that wants all the good things back. A part that misses the connection, history, habit, or feels lonely and grief stricken. In addition, that inner balance, between attraction and aversion, shifts in a nanosecond depending on your mood, hormones, blood sugar levels, and state of mind.

 

It is almost impossible to truly want or shun something 100%. Understanding there is, at least, a smidgeon of ambivalence in every preference makes the notion of missing something you mostly don’t want far easier to comprehend.

 

When a relationship ends you mourn for all your dashed hopes, the many fantasies you constructed about your future, and the loss of a constant companion. You don’t necessarily miss the person, in toto, though you will probably miss aspects of them.

 

Mirabai Starr says it well when she says you are hungry for what you have grown out of, as it implies you may not consciously realize you have grown out of it. Yet, the unconscious mind knows and shows you in dreams, not-so-secret longings, physical symptoms, and words that seem to tumble out of your mouth unbidden.

 

The same concept applies when you notice how your habitual ways of perceiving life, surroundings, friends, family, work, etc. get in the way of your deeper joy in the bounty of the moment, of thinking whatever you have is enough. What American hasn’t fed at the trough of longing? Advertising inundates you with desire for desire’s sake, so how could you possibly not crave things you don’t really miss or even truly want? Society trained you to constantly yearn for things and feel dissatisfied with whatever you have or experience in any given moment. This vague longing can easily infiltrate your life and lead to feeling depressed, anxious, worthless, and angry. It’s an easy step to believing the return of your absent partner will fill the void, heal you, and make you whole again.

 

Yes, something is missing. You have experienced a huge loss. Society led you to think you can fill the void with acquisitions and accomplishments. While those feel good in the moment, their joys often fade. Wanting what you have, being grateful for everything, even the sorrows that bring you to your knees, is a more reliable path to inner peace, self-acceptance, and embracing life on life’s terms. It’s the rare person for whom those are achieved and sustained with a new car, new spouse, or new job. Feeling your grief, even your longing, fully is the answer, even though it can seem excruciating in the moment.

 

It’s also easy to conflate missing a specific person who is no longer in your life with missing a fantasy you may have been nursing for years. Those fantasies are fed by the media and the unhelpful tendency humans have to compare their insides with other people’s outsides, which can lead to feeling bereft, inferior, or inadequate. How much grief comes from just thinking your life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s, even if you really don’t want what they have? (See Compare To Despair on this site.)

 

To make things even more complicated, you may not miss the person you divorced or broke up with but miss having a mate, or the companionship. Sometimes, especially when you are triggered and feel grief-stricken, your emotional brain can hijack your pre-frontal cortex where all the higher level thinking happens. This makes it all too easy to confuse a general longing for something indescribable with a specific longing for someone or something, both of which you may not actually want should they suddenly appear.

 

Addiction plays a role in this pattern of desiring, too, as a brain accustomed to craving can sometimes substitute something else to quiet the inner cacophony. How often have you wanted deep connection with another person but chose eating, TV, porn, shopping, drinking, drugs, gambling, etc., instead? You probably didn’t really want those things; yet, if you limit them or remove them from your repertoire you may miss their short-term alleviation of deeper desires for connection, calm, or meaning.

 

Cravings seem to demand satiation. Yet, taking the time to sit with them in non-judging awareness, feeling all their physical sensations, lets them subside. One way to see this in action is to get a piece of paper, pen, and a timer. Number the page from 1-15. On a scale of 1-10, where one is the least and 10 the most, rate your level of craving every minute for the next 15 minutes. You will probably notice slight shifts in their intensity. This proves how you can manage what you don’t like without giving in to your desire du jour, and shows you that your craving was not 100% intense 100% of the time. All things wax and wane, including desires.

 

Like cravings, habits (including being habituated to a relationship) can form quickly.  It takes a certain amount of unhappiness with them to motivate change, and an awareness that part of the recovery process, if you let the habit or person go, is the feeling of missing what you no longer want. Give yourself time. Be patient as you become aware of space in your life where that person or addiction used to be. You can still be hungry for your original longing to connect deeply with another, to feel more alive and whole, or for relief from inner demons. The difference is now you realize there are better ways to accomplish those goals.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

What Ambiguous Grief Teaches Us About The Lingering Effects Of Loss July 3, 2016

Filed under: Grief and Ambiguity — chocophile @ 12:30 pm
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“I don’t like to use the word acceptance, but I think we can be comfortable with what we cannot solve.”

Pauline Boss, Ph.D.

 

 

Psychologist and family therapist Pauline Boss talks about “ambiguous loss” and the futility of thinking about closure with deep grief. There is no closure, she argues, when you can’t really put a period at the end of the sentence. When you lose someone through a senseless tragedy like 9/11 where there is no body to recover and bury. More prosaically, when you lose someone through divorce, addiction, or estrangement and they are still alive but disconnected from you. In these situations it is common to experience protracted grief and a sense of loss that seems pervasive and on-going.

 

What makes that particular kind of grieving even harder to bear is our society’s tendency to sweep sad and unpleasant things under the rug with the harsh and inherently blaming comment, “Aren’t you over that already?” No one fully recovers or gets closure if their child commits suicide, or their husband is MIA, both ambiguous losses. They are able to go on because they find meaning in life.

 

As a society we could all help each other by recognizing the lingering effects of grief, all grief, not just the ambiguous kind, and stop pathologizing anyone who still grieves years after a divorce or death. Healing happens, but its trajectory is different for each one of us.

 

Certain connections are so deep, like that between a parent and child, that there is no way to fully heal after they are torn apart through death, Alzheimers, divorce, estrangement, or uncertainty (those cases where someone is MIA or a body is never recovered). The least we can offer people dealing with loss is compassion and the refrain, “I am so sorry you’re going through this.” There is nothing you can say to make it better. All you can give is sincere caring, your presence, a hand to hold, or a hug.

 

One of the best ways to go forward if you are dealing with grief is to acknowledge that sadness may always be a part of you; yet, you can still find meaning in life. How you do that depends on your proclivities. It might be crocheting blankets for newborns if you had a miscarriage, participating in one of the many walks or runs for different diseases, sending care packages to men and women deployed overseas, or anything that feels useful to you.

 

Another path to greater peace is through mindfulness. Pay attention to whatever is happening now, whether you are drinking a cup of tea or folding laundry. This deliberate focus can imbue each minute with purpose and meaning. Noticing beauty in the natural world, a painting, music, or someone’s smile is another way of reconnecting with life. In her book Love 2.0, author Barbara Fredrickson says these micro moments of connection can be powerfully felt as love, even among strangers. The smallest positive interaction can infuse your day with a sense of warmth that lifts your spirits and satisfies your need for connection. The trick is to cultivate more of those moments by looking for them and being grateful when they occur.

 

Whatever you feel, the most important thing to do is allow all your emotions and let them carry you into unchartered territory. Then, they can flow through you, as opposed to being stuck inside festering. You might even find yourself understanding the term “sweet grief,” as fully experiencing your grief can feel sweet. It’s still heart rending, but in its depth there is a tiny sense of fulfillment. Perhaps, that unexpected sweetness comes from realizing you loved someone so much and felt so incredibly connected that you are capable of mourning so completely. That ability, to give yourself over to all your emotions, can be amazingly healing. Be brave, your body, mind, and spirit were created to handle all life’s vicissitudes, including great loss.

 

 

 

Suggested reading:

Pauline Boss: Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief

Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search For Meaning

Barbara Fredrickson: Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection

John Kabat Zinn: Wherever You Go There You Are

Pena Chodron: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Depression Really Grief? April 26, 2016

 

 

The following is a list of symptoms associated with major depression:

 

A persistent feeling of sadness

Loss of interest

Changes in appetite

Decreased energy level

Thoughts of suicide

Anxiety

Anger

Apathy

General discontent

Guilt

Hopelessness

Inability to feel pleasure

Mood swings

Sadness

Early awakening

Excess sleepiness

Insomnia

Restless sleep

Excessive hunger

Fatigue

Loss of appetite

Restlessness

Excessive crying

Irritability

Social isolation

Lack of concentration

Rumination

Weight gain or loss

 

All of these symptoms can also be caused by grief. Why bother differentiating between grief and depression? Because grief is a natural reaction to loss and the accrual of losses as one ages. Depression can be exogenous (catalyzed by external events) or endogenous (come from within, like a mid-life crisis, or existential depression). It can be acute or chronic, mild to severe, difficult or debilitating. The most compelling reason to make the distinction between grief and depression is:  If you know you are suffering from grief your expectations are different from those you might have if you think you are depressed. Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Everyone experiences it, though some with more awareness, compassion, and patience for themselves than others. If you mistake your grief for depression you might take antidepressant medication. Conversely, if you don’t pathologize your experience and recognize it as grief, you could ride its waves.

 

Grief is not a mental illness, even though it may look like one; especially, if you are experiencing complicated grief. Grief can result from obvious life experiences, like death of a loved one or pet, and less obvious experiences, like job loss, diagnosis of illness, a move that takes you away from friends and family, divorce, retirement, and even the natural effects of aging.

 

Another major reason to figure out whether you are dealing with depression or grief is that with depression it is all too easy to create a second layer of feelings such as anger, guilt, anxiety, and even more depression as you think things like:

 

I shouldn’t feel depressed.

I should be stronger and fight this.

I am such a failure.

I will always feel this lousy.

It’s horrible to feel depressed.

I can’t stand it!

 

You can also have secondary issues with grief if you think:

 

I should be over this already.

I hate it when I cry in public, it’s so shameful.

What’s wrong with me?

I’ll never stop feeling this sad and that will be awful.

 

 

The difference is that secondary issues are far more common with depression than with grief because grief is a healthy, human reaction to loss. Any loss, and the accumulation of losses over a lifetime. Depression effects some people, grief effects everyone.

 

Depression typically hides anger. Grief, on the other hand, may shape-shift into anger, but it isn’t usually hiding other emotions. The kaleidoscope of feelings grief can mimic simply appear as they are felt.

 

If you know you have experienced a recent loss, or something has triggered all your losses to coalesce into a hard knot of sadness, remember: grief is a normal, natural process that helps process raw emotions. No doubt, you will feel it physically as well as emotionally; but, this is just one of the ways the body-mind reboots your system. It happens on all levels: emotional, physical, and spiritual.

 

Imagine this scenario: you go to the doctor with a variety of symptoms fearing you have some dreaded disease. She tells you you are healthy as a horse, but you may want to adjust your diet, sleep schedule, work load, and make more time for leisure, nature, and rest. You leave the office feeling buoyant. Why? Because there was nothing wrong. You may have had symptoms and issues, but you are really OK. The same is true of grief. It can feel pretty awful and disrupt the flow of life, yet it’s benign. You’re fine.

 

How can you figure out if you are depressed or dealing with grief? Ask yourself what has recently happened in your life. Write a list of any changes you can think of, both internal and external, over the past 6-12 months. Look at your list. Did you move? Get divorced? End a relationship or become estranged from a family member? Change jobs? Face an illness? Have a sudden drop in income? If so, it is likely you are dealing with grief, not depression. Grief is the consummate shape-shifter and can mimic depression, anxiety, anger, worthlessness, and guilt. By taking the time to truly assess whether you are in grief or depression you can wisely choose a course of action tailored to what is really going on.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding solid ground when you lose your way September 27, 2015

 

I got lost but look what I found.
Irving Berlin

 

 

When you lose your way and forget who you are, your beauty, your kindness, your connection to all that is, come back home. There is a trail of breadcrumbs leading to your true self. A self capable of curiosity, creativity, confidence, courage, unconditional self-acceptance, and peace.

 

There is a part of you that can be ok in this world with its mind-boggling contradictions, daily challenges, betrayals, and unanswered questions. You can let it all just be. The knowable and unknowable. Give it a cosmic permission slip to soothe, annoy, delight, or dismay in its myriad ways.

 

Let whatever comes come. It won’t last.

 

You are here for it all. A vessel for experiences. If you woke up this morning there is still space in you for more. When you’re full, you’ll go. Now, just be.

 

Take a moment to let life fill you with its wild buffet: hunger/satisfaction, connection/disconnection, sound/silence, meaning/meaninglessness, joy/grief. They all pass.

 

Be curious.

Be open.

Listen.

Look.

Feel.

Taste.

Touch.

Move.

Pay attention.

You won’t be here forever.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 

How Abandonment Issues Affect Intimate Relationships August 25, 2015

Filed under: Abandonment: its affects on intimacy — chocophile @ 12:12 pm
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“Finally, I decide I am my own case history, and if I don’t dig in to understand what I am doing, I will be spending the years ahead in a vexing pattern of intimacy and abandonment.”

Dominique Browning in “Slow Love”

 
Dig in is right. Dig in and root around is even more accurate. Of course, merely looking at the past will not excise it, as insight alone rarely leads to change. The intimacy and abandonment issues Ms. Browning refers to are some of the most deeply felt on earth, which gives them the greatest capacity to create suffering.

 

When do these issues of intimacy and abandonment get tangled together? In childhood. Everyone has some level of abandonment issues. Even a child brought up in the most loving, secure household still felt abandoned when his parents left the house. Babies have no concept of “I’ll be right back.” So, when Mom or Dad left the room they felt abandoned. Quickly, they learned parents will come back, but that primal experience of being left alone, perhaps eternally, is still part of their experience. If your parents divorced while you were still growing up, even if it was amicable, you will undoubtedly have some abandonment issues. Ditto if you were hospitalized as a child. Even more likely if you were outright neglected or abused. (Recent research into trauma has found that abuse by a family member has the potential to create just as much post-traumatic stress as living through a war.)

 

Though radically different, the capacity for intimacy also develops from birth. Did the baby get fed, held, changed, soothed, and spoken to? If so, there is an inner template for feeling safe. It is almost impossible to have intimacy without some sense of safety. That safety may be internal or external, but the greatest intimacy usually occurs when both coincide.

 

The ability to open to true intimacy with another is fraught with anxiety, while abandonment scares the wits out of most people. Yet, people seek intimacy even though it carries the specter of potential abandonment. The possibility to truly connect with another is wildly alluring to most humans. Who wouldn’t crave that sense of closeness, safety, and connection?

 

Trouble appears when your sense of relationship safety is jeopardized. It could be something minor, like your partner saying the wrong thing, forgetting your birthday, or simply misunderstanding you. It could also be something more threatening like finding out your mate is having an affair, emptied out your joint bank account, or really doesn’t want to retire early and spend 24/7 with you. For anyone with abandonment issues small or large events like these can trigger fears of being abandoned again. In relationships, these fears play out in an inability to commit to someone, a pattern of approach-avoidance behaviors, a penchant for starting fights to re-establish space, and any number of creative strategies that dance between the poles of engulfment and abandonment. To someone with these long-standing issues, neither feels safe. One again, the deepest sense of security can be found within.

 

When you know you can find refuge in yourself your “need” for someone else to be with you and pledge their undying troth is reduced. Of course, people couple up for many other reasons, and being in a relationship can be one of the greatest experiences on earth, as well as a conduit to self growth. However, if it is a hedge against existential anxiety it will probably be a Pyrrhic victory.

 

The potential for re-traumatization and more deeply embedding abandonment issues increases with each relationship in which you pin all your hopes and dreams on the other person, instead of yourself. Of course, the Disneyfication of society only exacerbates this dynamic, as it historically reinforced the notion that: ” One day my prince/princess will come,” implying that once that happens you will live happily ever after. What a damaging view, as it puts the controls for your emotional health in someone else’s hands.

 

Developing a compassionate, caring, patient, nurturing, inquisitive relationship with yourself is the holy grail of inner peace. While it is wonderful to have friends and family to depend on, you will always be with yourself. Every minute of every day. Wouldn’t it be incredible to feel safe with yourself?

 

No one feels 100% safe and sound. It’s impossible. Yet, if you regularly practice some of the following suggestions you will begin to notice a greater sense of inner peace and self-acceptance, as well as an increased tolerance for life’s challenges.

 

Everyone has different aspects of themselves. There may be a part of you that wishes everyone well, and another part that feels jealous of a friend’s success. You may notice a part that feels curious, and a part that judges or criticizes. Befriending all your parts and approaching them with curiosity and compassion is key to integrating them.

 

(If this idea interests you, you may want to learn about IFS, Internal Family Systems Therapy by Richard Schwartz. Here is an animated video to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsJOVs_e1v4. If you want a more detailed explanation check out this video with Richard Schwartz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99HuL_Bk-SU.)

 

Get therapy if you have been struggling with these issues and not making any headway.

 

Develop a sense of inner safety by responding to internal alarms of feeling threatened, anxious, angry, depressed, etc. with self-compassion. Kristin Neff’s short video explains them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11U0h0DPu7k.

 

Watch the ebb and flow of your emotions. Notice how no emotion lasts forever.

 

Keep current with your inner and outer life through journaling. This allows you to more slowly process thoughts, feelings, and events. It is also a wonderful way of watching yourself grow and change.

 

Understand your triggers. Triggers to what? To past trauma that has the capacity to flood you with unpleasant emotions. Once you know your triggers you can more easily avoid people and situations that press your buttons.

 

Listen to lectures on Buddhism. You can start with podcasts by Tara Brach and Jonathan Foust. Pema Chodron’s books and CDs are also marvelous.

 

Set healthy boundaries with people for what you will and won’t allow, even if it means cutting the toxic ones out of your life.

 

Create safe practices that help you feel empowered physically, mentally, and emotionally. When you feel stable and grounded in yourself you are less likely to continue any relationship that keeps you swinging between intimacy and abandonment. Some supportive behaviors include: yoga, meditation, journaling to acquaint you with your internal dialogue and repetitive thoughts, relaxing, getting enough sleep, eating well, spending time with the natural world (even if it’s simply looking at the clouds or smelling a flower), giving yourself what you want when you want it (within reason, of course), taking time for friends and family, creating a home that feels welcoming and safe, and consciously balancing work, family, solitude, exercise, and rest.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Breathing: 10 Breaths to Create Joy February 16, 2015

Filed under: Breathing: 10 Breaths to Create Joy — chocophile @ 4:31 pm
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Humans needed to survive in harsh conditions since our earliest cave dwelling days. As a result, our brains got very good at sensing danger. If we had a traumatic event, or even a close call, we had to learn from one experience to avoid those situations and any that looked like them in the future. A great survival skill, not so great for living anxiety free day to day.   To counteract that natural predisposition and create new neural pathways of joy, try the following:   Take 10 slow breaths whenever you are happy.

 

Contentment also counts as happiness, at least, according to the Buddha. Following his example, you don’t have to wait until you are completely blissed-out, everyday little joys are ripe for reinforcement.   When you eat that first strawberry of the season, laugh out loud while reading a great book, notice the birds singing, watch children play, hear your favorite song, try something new and are surprised at how much you like it, get kissed or touched by a loved one, figure something out that eluded you, find yourself happy for no reason, or anything else that floats your boat, STOP and take 10 slow breaths while focusing on your happy feelings. You might even see if you can notice where in your body you sense them and breath into those spaces. For the fullest positive effect cultivate a feeling of gratitude.

 

Our brains are wired to remember dangerous, bad, or threatening situations. It’s called the negativity bias. That ship has sailed, it’s simply how we’re designed. Since neurons that fire together wire together, you can create new neural pathways through this practice. Not only will you feel better in the process, your amped up joy will strengthen your resistance to stress.

 

If you want a more physically oriented practice that helps you access good feelings when you are feeling depleted or down,  try this yogic Breath of Joy:

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Self-Soothing February 18, 2014



Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Haruki Murakami


If you grew up in a family where there was little nurturing, or unpredictable nurturing, especially during the first 18 months of life, you may have a difficult time self-soothing. Alternatively, if you were lucky enough to have had parents, or any caregiver, who was adept at calming you down with a hug and loving, kind words, you have taken in those behaviors and can claim them as your own. When life gets challenging, you know how to emotionally realign.


If it wasn’t merely the absence of loving interaction in your childhood, but the trauma of abuse or neglect, it can be extremely hard to imagine you deserve to feel good about yourself. You do. The past doesn’t have to be your future, no matter how long you have been feeling unworthy.


If you didn’t get loving reassurance when upset as an infant or child, you can still retrain your mind to quiet negative self-talk. Those internal diatribes often get triggered by a break-up, job loss, death, or bad diagnosis, and can easily activate anxiety, panic, or numbness.


Like anything else, the only way to get really good at self-soothing when you don’t have an inner template from infancy and childhood, is to practice giving yourself what you would ideally like from someone else. Learning self-calming techniques can be simple. The only way they get entrenched to the point you will actually use them in a crisis is if you practice them regularly, especially when life is not in turmoil.


Think of times when you have handled bad news. No matter how you dealt with them, you lived. No one says you have to navigate life’s stresses elegantly. Sometimes, just getting to the other side alive is good enough. So, please don’t trip yourself up by rating how you are dealing with a given situation. Give yourself credit for simply getting from one breath to the next.


While there are a plenitude of great ways to work with your thoughts from traditions in Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there are times when you simply want to feel better immediately, without having to dispute whatever thoughts led to your disturbance. Having a cache of self-soothing techniques can be incredibly helpful.
Here are some I find especially good at calming the inner chaos:


First, remember these two truths:
All things end, the blissful and the miserable.
You can stand what you don’t like, unless you brainwash yourself into thinking otherwise.


In the Internal Family Systems model, we have a term called a “part attack.” It is when one part, let’s call it the “scaredy cat” takes over and floods you with anxiety. Of course, you could have other parts that inundate you with depression, guilt, worthlessness, or anger. Regardless of the specific emotion and the part involved, it usually feels very overwhelming. It can even seem immobilizing. When that happens, you can consciously call upon other parts inside you, like a resilient part, an inner loving parent, or any other part that helps you feel safe and heard. Let that part listen to the one causing the part attack. Hear all its concerns, validate them, and ask what would make it feel safe. As unusual as this technique may sound, it is incredibly soothing and effective.


Experiment with Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds. They are remarkably simple and no one will know you are using them, so they can be used when you are disturbed in public. Here’s a link to get you started: http://jsj-holds.blogspot.com/search/label/attitudes (once there, scroll down the page for photos and more detailed information).


Check out the chapter on this site called Breathwork. It is full of techniques to help you switch from your sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) to your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).


Use a technique I call Notice & Name. With compassion and curiosity notice where in your body you feel a particular emotion. Now, do your best to describe it. You can start at the crown of your head and work down to your toes or from the soles of your feet moving up to the crown of your head. Pay attention to any areas that feel tight, twitchy, hot, cold, obstructed, itchy, or tense. See if there is pressure, pain, a particular shape, motion, texture, color, heaviness, lightness, buzzing, singing, humming, scents, emptiness, numbness, burning, etc. Once you describe it, just sit with it. You might ask what it would like from you, or what it is trying to tell you. (I know this also sounds a bit different, but it really helps take the focus away from intellectualizing to paying attention to the body.)


Try a mantra. You can use English words and phrases like the ones found on this site under: Affirmations, Manifesto for Emotional Self-Care, and It’s OK Sweetheart; or, you can try one of the Sanskrit mantras listed under: Mantras. By repeating thoughts that run counter to your internal dialogue, especially if it’s harsh, you can actually create new neural pathways. In time, these become so strong they will supersede the old, self-critical ones.


Do some yoga. Even if it is just one posture. Not only will it calm your nervous system, and make you physically strong and supple, it will also help you meet your emotional and psychological issues with more awareness and compassion. By holding postures that don’t always feel comfortable you build up your frustration tolerance, and gain a new appreciation for your inner fortitude.


Try a wonderful meditation called : “Soften, Soothe, and Allow” by Chris Germer. Here’s a link to the free downloadable version: http://www.mindfulselfcompassion.org/audio/SoftenSootheAllow.MP3


If that seems like too much effort, use the simplest technique of all:
As you inhale say: Breathing in I am breathing in.
As you exhale say: Breathing out I breathe out.


It is incredibly difficult to grow up in a family where you have been unseen, mistreated, or physically harmed and come out thinking you deserve joy. You do. You deserve every goodness the world has to offer. After all, you weren’t born believing you were unworthy. People and experiences had to teach you that. Just as you learned one way, you can learn new ways of being tender and compassionate to your sweet self. I know it’s a ton of work. The good news, as the French psychologist Émile Coué said years ago, is: Every day in every way you are getting better and better. These self-soothing techniques simply accelerate the process.

 
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Shanti, Shakti, Prema, Bhakti Meditation For Centering December 31, 2013



This is a very short, restorative, centering meditation you can do sitting on the floor, sitting in a chair, or even lying down.


To start, center yourself with a few deep diaphragmatic breaths, making each one a bit slower and more relaxed than the last.


With your hands in prayer, and thumbs touching at the third eye, quietly whisper or think the Sanskrit word SHANTI which means peace. Do this a few times while you focus your attention at the third eye, a little above and between the eyebrows.


Move your hands, still in prayer, to your lips and whisper or think the Sanskrit word SHAKTI meaning power. As you breathe, allow yourself to feel your own power and commitment to what you want in life.

 

Now, with your hands in prayer at your heart whisper or think the Sanskrit word PREMA, for love. Breathing slowly and mindfully, focus your energy on your heart and your intention to deepen your compassion for yourself and others.

 

When you are ready, with your hands at navel height, place the back of your dominant hand in the palm of your non-dominant one, cradling it. Whisper or think the Sanskrit word BHAKTI, for devotion. As you breathe calmly and slowly, remind yourself where you want your energy to flow by asking: “To what am I devoted?”



Rest your hands in your lap, or if you are lying down, on your lower abdomen, and feel the effects of this soothing practice on your body, mind, and spirit.


If you would like some music in the background, I recommend the GRACE CD by Snatam Kaur, especially her track: LONG TIME SUN, a classic Kundalini chant, in English; or, the LOVE IS SPACE CD by Deva Premal.

 

Note:

I made a six minute audio version of this meditation that anyone is welcome to have by emailing me at: info@nicoleurdang.com.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

How to Handle: “Get over it already.” July 23, 2009

There seems to be a prevailing philosophy that all grief should disappear in a short time.  Its mantra, “Get over it already,” is uttered incessantly, whether you just broke-up, lost a job, had an accident, or buried a loved one. What’s the rush, and whose healing schedule are you on? Surely, not theirs. Grief work (which can include anger, anxiety, depression, remorse, resentment, and feelings of worthlessness) has no timetable.  It is as unique as your fingerprint; yet, there seems to be this belief that moving on as fast as possible is the only right way.  Of course, with this mandate saturating our culture, anyone who takes his or her time to fully grieve is left with the double whammy of having endured whatever sparked the grief and feeling like a failure because they haven’t “gotten over it” yet.

We all know plenty of people mask their misery with drugs, alcohol, random sex, and a plethora of other addictions. Could this possibly be healthier than dealing with it? In some circles as long as someone keeps their pain under wraps, and puts on a happy face, everyone can just party hearty.  After all, it’s no fun being around a grief-stricken soul; and it’s even worse feeling ineffectual because you can’t make them happier.  No wonder there’s such a deep societal desire to “get over it already.”

So, what is the best response to: “Aren’t you over that already?” (Especially, when it’s delivered in a tone that seems to imply, “What’s wrong with you?” and, puts you on the defensive).  In a perfect world, where everyone has their wits about them 24/7, it might be utter silence accompanied by a slightly quizzical look. This would circumvent the the knee-jerk defensive response to what sounds like a criticism.  A simple “No” might suffice, but you risk the person replying with, “Well, you should be!”  If there’s a little two year old inside you, and there is in almost all adults, he or she is likely to take offense at being told what to do.

Henry Ford II once said, “Never explain, never complain.”  Perhaps that’s the best guide. Unfortunately, if the person exhorting you to “get over it” is a close friend or relative, you might feel a vested interest in sharing your true thoughts and feelings, if for no other reason than not having them ever utter those words to you again. You might even share how you’ve decided to give yourself a cosmic permission slip to take all the time you need to process your grief.

If you’re feeling particularly honest, you could say: “When you ask that question I feel denigrated and judged,”  letting your comment hang in the air and putting the onus on the other person to respond.

Or, you might try: “One of the things this whole experience has taught me is that I can take whatever time I need to let go and forgive. I may never completely get over this. I’ve decided to make that OK, too.”

Then there’s the very direct approach: “I don’t find that a helpful question,” or, “Please don’t ask me that.”

I generally like to assume the best (or, at least some neutral motivation) on the part of people saying, “Aren’t you over that, already?”  Perhaps, they want to propel you to healing faster, because they don’t like seeing you in pain or they feel helpless in assuaging your misery. It really is all about what they think and feel, and their projection of what they believe they would do if in your shoes.  While understanding the genesis of their comment can be helpful, it doesn’t really solve the problem of the best response.  Clearly, that depends on your mood, with whom you are speaking, and your stage of grief. (Contrary to what Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, those stages do not follow linearly, and can come back to haunt you in all sorts of disorderly and unpredictable ways.)

You could say, “Perhaps, if you had this experience (divorce, break-up, death of a loved one) you would have already worked through your grief, but I haven’t. Part of my journey is making it safe to allow my feelings to evolve.”

A deeper issue here is having the courage of your convictions and the confidence to express them.  The only way to build confidence is by doing difficult things.  Assertively standing up for yourself can be very challenging, especially when you feel beaten down by life; but, that’s the time to practice speaking your truth. It will not only build confidence, but you might feel a new lightness from unburdening yourself and being authentic.

In a perfect world, people might have the sensitivity and awareness to say, “I am so sorry this situation is painful and difficult for you,” and just leave it at that.  But, if they continue to say, Aren’t you over that already?” perhaps responding with: “I appreciate your desire to see an end to my suffering. Thank you for your sympathy and concern.” could be liberating, and keep you from reacting defensively.

No one likes to feel judged, put-down, or chastised. If you know that question pushes your buttons it’s best to get away from it as quickly as possible, especially with acquaintances.  If you want to explain how you really feel to friends or family, that’s different as you have a long-standing bond with them, and presumably many years of relationship ahead.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem, & Self-Acceptance May 3, 2009

 

Despite what you may have been lead to believe, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-acceptance are all different and produce different states of mind.  Self-confidence is born of repeated experiences at which you eventually excel.  Self-esteem is based on thinking you are accomplished at something and that makes you better than someone else (essentially, you hold yourself in high esteem), while self-acceptance is unconditionally accepting yourself, right this minute, regardless of your talents and flaws.  

 

Self-esteem is the only one that can really wreak havoc on your sense of self, as it creates an emotional roller coaster. Let’s say you are rating yourself very well because you aced an exam.  Your spirits and ego are soaring; there’s no problem. But, now, it’s the next day and you find out you failed a test. The dark side of self-esteem rears its ugly head and triggers a barrage of self-abnegating thoughts.  Unfortunately, self-downing trumps self praise every time.  

 

Albert Ellis, the eminent psychologist and prolific author, said that the one thing you can do to enhance your life is to practice USA: unconditional self-acceptance.  This doesn’t mean that you love everything about yourself, but you accept everything.  Paradoxically, by accepting those traits you may not find especially endearing, you are more likely to change them.  You accept yourself unconditionally, but not all your behaviors, those, you can still rate.  (As someone recently suggested, rate but don’t berate.) If you find ones you like, great.  If you find ones that impede your relationships, vocation, or health, you can work to change them.  Because you have not reviled yourself for being fallible and engaging in some less-than helpful actions, you are more likely to change. Your ego is less involved in the result. You want to do something differently, but you know it’s not a prerequisite to liking and loving yourself, because you already separated your value as a human being from your behaviors.

 

Here’s a pop quiz to see if that made sense: pretend I give you a beautiful wicker basket. You may  not even like wicker baskets, but the craftsmanship is exquisite and you appreciate it. I start giving you fruit to put in your basket.  A cluster of dewy grapes, a brown, soft banana, a luscious looking pear, and a past-its-prime moldy cantaloupe.  What kind of a basket do you have?  If you answered, “A beautiful wicker basket,” you were right.  If you said anything about the fruit you were off track. Why?  Because I asked you about the basket, not what it contained. Practice thinking of yourself as the basket and all your traits, habits, talents etc. as the fruit. Just like with the fruit, you can ditch those pieces that aren’t useful, cook with those that still have some life in them, and add some fresh ones when the mood strikes.

 

Unconditional self-acceptance is a philosophical stance you choose simply because it will make you happier.  It’s no different from Louise Hay deciding that everything was happening for her highest good.  There may be no evidence to support it, but we get to pick what we want to think. It’s our choice to frame something as “good” or “bad.”   Why not choose those thoughts that make us feel joyful and optimistic?

 

One way to actively work to restructure one’s thoughts is to pay attention to all the times you think something disturbing.  When you notice those negative tapes playing, say “STOP!” to yourself.  Picture a huge, red, neon stop sign for extra emphasis. Then, consciously choose a happier thought. It may relate to something you were thinking, or it may be completely different.  If you were ruminating on a possible negative scenario in the future, imagine it working out just the way you wish it would.  There is absolutely no harm in this, despite all the superstitious junk with which we have all been indoctrinated. 

 

For most of my professional career, when people were worried about something bad occurring in the future, I have asked, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” The idea was, if they could parse through the worst thing and figure out how they would handle it, they’d be prepared and more relaxed.  It’s not a bad strategy, but it focuses on the negative.  Now, I like to ask people to imagine what’s the best possible outcome.  I assume that if they have lived through everything that has happened so far, they can handle anything else that comes down the pike. In the meantime, they can dwell on wonderful images of things working out well.  This does not meant they don’t make an effort to improve their lot, it simply makes it more likely that their lot will improve. Generally speaking, people who assume the best usually attract it.

 

This brings me to an observation I have made regarding the whole Law of Attraction school of thought.  It’s not New Agey, at all.  It’s ancient.  It’s all about changing your thoughts, i.e.: cognitive therapy, and watching what happens.  Not only will you feel better,  but you will be more open to new experiences and to changing out-dated, unhelpful behaviors.  Give it a try and let me know what happens.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
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