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.

No mistakes, only lessons. March 27, 2012

Panoramic awareness is based on a certain amount of trust, or optimism. Basically nothing is regarded as a failure or as dangerous. Rather, whatever arises is experienced as part of a creative and loving relationship toward oneself.

Chögyam Trungpa


There are no mistakes. All of life is a blessing given to us to learn from.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross


The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

John Powell


From a very young age we are trained to seek out and notice everything that is wrong. Beginning with our earliest days in school, we are told how to correctly spell, add, subtract and multiply. This vigilance for mistakes can be extremely helpful; however, there are times when it is inhibiting, like when the art teacher corrects our drawing, or the music teacher tells us the song we wrote is too weird. Of course, not all teachers take that approach, but if they do, it cramps our creativity. Picasso’s lopsided faces or Loudon Wainwright’s lyrics never would have gotten “A”s.


If we choose a profession like medicine, law, accounting or plumbing, we are again trained to seek out and eliminate what is wrong. Of course, you want your dentist or electrician to notice what’s amiss and fix it, but perfectionism in all areas of life is stifling. If you think you have to do everything perfectly from your first attempt, you won’t try many new things, and your days will be less rich.


On a more global level, we watch or read the news and learn of wars, floods, financial collapses, famines, and, once again, focus on everything that is broken or hurting.
It’s no wonder we see ourselves as lacking and needing repair.


What if you took the radical approach that you are perfect just the way you are, right now? Yes, you, with all your thoughts, feelings, talents, yearnings. You are whole, complete, and fine just as you are. You don’t need to lose weight, make more money, have more friends, or meet your dream partner to feel good and peaceful in yourself right this minute. You can choose to go against all that training of looking for defects and focus on the positives. In a way, this is similar to a gratitude practice, though in an evolved gratitude practice you can be just as thankful for the things you don’t enjoy as for those you love, since you assume everything is happening for your highest good.


By thinking you are complete as you are and you don’t need anything or anyone to make you better, you open your heart to your own sweet self, just as you are right this minute. You may not like everything about yourself or your life but you can work on accepting things and people as they are, including you.
Instead of doing a daily or hourly inventory of what’s wrong, look for what is right. By seeing everything as part of your journey, even when you you don’t like it, you can practice radical acceptance.


Here’s a different twist, try noticing what is upsetting as a way of reevaluating your judgment about your perception. It is a lot easier to accept things we deem difficult or unpleasant when we stop telling ourselves they should be different. Clearly, we don’t control the universe; but, we can learn to think differently about everyone, including ourself. By focusing on what is going well, and you can choose to view life positively if you change your attitude, you will feel more bouyant, open, and joyful. In the meantime, by embracing what you have previously shunned you welcome all life’s experiences, not just the puppies and rainbows.


Why not assume you are here for the full catastrophe, as Zorba the Greek said. Practice a bit of Buddhist mindfulness, or yogic witnessing, and observe without judging or evaluating. This doesn’t mean you will welcome a divorce, bad diagnosis, empty nest, bankruptcy, or other big challenges, but you will approach them as opportunities to learn, grow, and experience life in this moment, in this body, on this planet.


We yogis like to say everyone is our teacher. Everyone and everything. Some lessons are very hard and others easy; with practice, you can embrace them all.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


Guilt: The Useless Emotion October 1, 2008


Guilt is actually worse than useless, as it fosters bad feelings towards yourself and others.


It’s easy to think that guilt motivates you to do better in the future, but that’s not actually what happens. Guilt leads to resentment of the person you might have wronged.


Here’s how it works: if they didn’t exist you wouldn’t denigrate yourself; so, their very presence becomes a reminder of your perceived wrong-doing and a catalyst for self-reproach. This isn’t conscious resentment, it’s unconscious, but it negatively effects your relationship with them, and with yourself.


Here’s how guilt actually evolves:


You do or say something you wish you hadn’t done; or, you don’t do or say something you think you should have done or said.

You think, “I did a bad thing.”

You think, “I’m a bad person for doing that, or neglecting to do it.”

“I should be punished.”

Guilt is the self-inflicted punishment.


The real cure when we’ve done something we wish we hadn’t done, or neglected to do something we think would have been helpful, is to offer a heartfelt apology.  There’s no time limit on contrition.  As long as someone is alive you can ask for their forgiveness.


As for thinking you’re a bad person, there’s no such thing.  No one is completely good or bad.  Everyone has some good traits and some less good traits.   But it’s easy to become so self-downing that you convince yourself you’re lower than a snake’s wiggle.  The trick is to stop rating your whole self on the basis of one or two behaviors that may have been less than stellar.  As Albert Ellis used to say, “Rate your behavior but not yourself.”


Here’s a quick quiz to help you understand that concept:


Pretend I give you a beautiful wicker basket.  Even if you don’t like wicker baskets, you can appreciate the artistry.

Then, I start putting pieces of fruit in your basket.  A luscious looking peach, a mangy looking cantaloupe, a perfectly ripe pear, and a soft, brown banana.

What kind of a basket do you have?

Most people will say, “A mixed basket; there’s some good fruit and some rotten fruit.”

The answer is: You have a beautiful wicker basket.

You are the basket and all your behaviors are the fruit.  You can change things you don’t like about yourself, but your human worth is unassailable.


Punishing yourself has absolutely no upside.  Not only will you avoid the person you think you wronged (because of unconscious resentment), but you will make yourself feel rotten. Once you feel guilty and depressed you’ll be far less likely to apologize or make amends.  So guilt really is worse than useless as it prevents you from moving forward and enjoying happier relationships.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang


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