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.

Don’t underestimate your ability to handle life’s challenges October 12, 2016

 

 

Anxiety, anger, or any other negative emotional reaction is often triggered by underestimating your ability to handle life’s challenges and overestimating the severity of a possible negative outcome. In the midst of a crisis or life transition it is all too easy to be thrown off course. Whatever sense of emotional terra firma you felt can suddenly morph into quicksand. At those times, it’s important to remember your brain is hard-wired to ferret out all possible negative consequences and present them in rapid succession.

 

This hard wiring is known as the negativity bias. As unpleasant as it feels to be flooded with negative outcomes in a given situation, it’s actually what preserved the human race through millennia. Your brain comes equipped with an internal system looking for danger 24/7. In the days of wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers this was a great boon. Now, not so much.

 

In addition, humans have a natural tendency towards one trial learning. When something really bad happens your memory automatically encodes it to last, just so you will be extra alert to the possibility of it happening again in the future and as prepared as possible. Happy things are wonderful but not necessary for your safety, so they don’t get encoded as quickly or deeply. The more traumatic the event the more thoroughly it gets wired into your memory.

 

While that unconscious process has been very helpful historically, in day to day life it can lead to a lot of anxiety and hyper-vigilance.

 

The good news is some researchers believe you can shift this innate negativity-positivity template by focusing on everything good. A 5:1 ratio is supposed to do the trick. While it won’t erase the negative memories, it can make you feel more emotionally balanced and shift your outlook.

 

The irrefutable fact is you have managed to live through every daunting thing that ever happened to you. Those experiences may have been super challenging, even physically or emotionally painful, but if you’re reading this, you are still alive. When life seems uncertain and you feel off kilter it is important to remember you are resilient. These days, there are a plethora of studies trying to quantify and parse out what makes someone resilient. The fact is being alive is unassailable proof you survived. That’s resilience. Whether you went through the experience kicking and screaming or with great equanimity and grace, at the end of the day you were still standing.

 

The following are a few techniques for dealing with those times when you think you won’t make it.

 

Decades ago, Dr. Albert Ellis coined the term: discomfort anxiety to describe the intense anxiety you can feel when anticipating any unpleasantness, whether in a relationship, at work, medically, financially, or socially. He suggested asking yourself:

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Then, “What is the likelihood of that actually occurring?”

The final task was to imagine yourself coping with that outcome. Actually getting curious about how you would handle it, finding similar situations in the past you navigated and lived through, and even imagining different ways you could deal with this new challenge. It’s like training for a marathon, only this training is psychological and builds emotional muscle.

 

Another technique to help you remember your inner strength and coping capacity is to write a list of some major issues you have faced, whether vocational, medical, relational, financial, or emotional and how you dealt with them. The more you can remember and list, the better, as each will remind you of your flexibility and resilience which tamps down feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

 

There will be some days when you might simply let the hours pass without doing any major intervention, allowing what happened and just inhaling and exhaling. Even if you have successfully used some tried and true interventions in the past, like breath work, reframing your thoughts, or yoga nidra to calm your nervous system, this moment may be differently challenging and call for the super compassionate approach of soothing yourself with calming, loving words, plenty of rest, and healthy food. Getting through it and experiencing your emotions along the way is the holy grail.

 

There are times, though, when the only control you have is how you choose to react. People get divorced, lose jobs, have serious illnesses, lose loved ones, and experience financial reverses. Often there is nothing you can do about those shocking, tumultuous experiences. Grieve, rant, rave, cry, let your emotions flow.

 

Last but not least, ask for help. A friend, family member, neighbor, therapist, church mate, or a stranger on a hotline, can be there to support you. Asking for help when you need it takes guts, and only adds to your repertoire of coping skills.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

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Why Do Most Therapists Care So Much About Your Childhood? September 16, 2016

Filed under: Childhood's Impact on your Life — chocophile @ 5:32 pm
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“What’s past is prologue.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

 

The thing about the past is that it’s not the past.

Irish saying

 

 

People are often deterred from starting therapy because they think they will have to dredge up unpleasant things from their childhood, which can feel daunting. Yet, childhood experiences will surface, as they typically influence your present relationships. That doesn’t mean you have to excavate every disturbing event from your past, but it usually includes dealing with the issues and patterns that keep paying undesirable emotional and behavioral dividends in the present.

 

If you are working with a seasoned therapist you trust, the journey is fascinating. After all, who or what is more interesting than you? Good therapy helps you develop compassion for whatever you went through, as well as appreciation for how resilient you are, both of which can lift your spirits.

 

It’s perfectly natural to have some anxiety about retrieving unhappy childhood memories as you might fear being flooded with feelings of worthlessness, rage, depression, and anxiety. Fear of being retraumatized and feeling as helpless as you did growing up is a real concern that deserves attention. Therapy can help you manage those concerns, while only going as fast as you feel safe to go.

 

No matter how inconvenient and annoying it is to have childhood issues still affect you as an adult, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Imagine you plant a tree. Every year as the sapling grows you force the trunk in another direction. One year you bend it to the right, the next you bend it to the left. After a decade you let it grow straight. For the entire life of that tree its base will be jagged. No matter how big and strong the trunk grows, the base will never be straight. The tree is incredibly healthy, but its early years are still obvious to anyone looking at it. Humans are far more complex than trees, and can cover up the effects of their early years in myriad ways; yet, those childhood experiences exert an influence.

 

Another reason therapists care so much about your childhood is evidence gleaned from the Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACE) which showed definite links between the amount of adverse childhood experiences and an increased incidence of health, mental health issues, and social problems. You can take the ACE questionnaire here: http://www.acestudy.org/the-ace-score.html. (You can read more about the study here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-ellen-stevens/the-adverse-childhood-exp_1_b_1943647.html)

 

Of course, you did not need to have major traumatic childhood experiences to have issues. New research talks about the difference between what researchers are calling “little t” and “big T” trauma.  “Little t” are things like incessant put downs, devaluing you as a person, snide remarks and sarcasm, while “big T” usually refers to war, rape, childhood sexual and/or physical abuse. Their findings show how anything that feels like family betrayal can actually be worse, long term, than cataclysmic events. The theory is family betrayals, or betrayals by an intimate, go to your very core and make you feel unsafe. Unsafe in your body, unsafe with people you desperately want to trust, and unsafe in your world. After all, if you can’t trust your family, whom can you trust?

 

It’s healthy to avoid pain, and revisiting traumatic experiences can be difficult. Luckily, there is a therapeutic technique called Internal Family Systems therapy that is both gentle and deep. It greatly limits the chances of being flooded with unpleasant or disturbing memories and their attendant emotions. IFS allows you to get to know your various parts, how they might be polarized, and whom they are protecting (vulnerable child or teen parts that still carry heavy emotional burdens). In addition, it helps you appreciate all the creative ways your protective parts have been trying to keep you safe, even when some of them have used alcohol, drugs, random sex, gambling, hoarding, etc. to keep your emotional Mount Vesuvius from erupting.

 

If the idea that you have a multiplicity of internal parts seems alarming, think of all the times you said something like: “Part of me wants to go to the movies, but part of me knows I should study for that exam tomorrow.” It’s second nature to notice different parts of you that want different things. What is less intuitive is how some parts use extreme behaviors, emotions, and thought patterns to protect you from feeling shame, grief, inadequacy, worthlessness, etc. IFS puts you in the driver’s seat. You control how fast you want to go, and if you start to feel flooded with an unpleasant emotion your therapist can help you unblend from the part creating it.

 

Of course, IFS is not the only path to freedom from the effects of adverse childhood experiences and trauma. Mind-body practices like yoga are extremely helpful in creating a new internal landscape, while fostering a different relationship with your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.

 

Philosophical approaches like Buddhism can help you sit with unpleasant emotions, watching them come and go with curiosity and interest, knowing they won’t last. Buddhist techniques also help you reframe whatever painful experiences you might have so you can see and experience them differently.

 

For those of you who have often thought people should just stop blaming their parents and get on with life, I am not suggesting anyone blame their parents. This is simply a way to explain how childhood experiences have a long term influence. While you can work wisely with them and feel better, it’s impossible to completely overcome their effects.

 

“Your suffering is your benefit,” is a Buddhist phrase often invoked as a reminder of the hidden gems in even the worst pain. Tibetan Buddhist monks go even further with their practice of seeking out suffering. No, they are not masochists, they simply believe suffering ignites the fire of compassion for yourself and others. Just as in the Buddhist practice of loving kindness, or metta meditation, you start with yourself.

 

For more information and guidance about metta meditation see these links:

http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm)

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

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

Filed under: Grief or Depression? — chocophile @ 3:16 pm
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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

 

 

Adult Children’s Revelations After Divorce September 23, 2015

 

Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Sir Walter Scott

 

 

As time moves on from your divorce you can be sure of one thing: There will always be new revelations from your children. At times, they will rock your world and make you question your own memories. Whatever they are, it is important to understand the truth will make you free (if it doesn’t kill you first). Eventually, that new knowledge, however shocking, will help you let go of a past you may have been romanticizing and allow you to more fully release any lingering attachment you felt for someone who was clearly not the person you thought you married.

 

The worst revelations are of abuse to your children and they will require deep work on everyone’s part. Learning of infidelity, especially if it went on for a long time, is also painful and the collateral damage can have long-lasting effects on your children’s views of marriage and ability to trust. Finding out your ex may have been undermining you for decades, or asking your children to lie to you can feel devastating. Since none of these past behaviors can be undone, the only good option is working to create the best relationship you can have with your adult child.

 

If your child was seduced into keeping secrets and lying to you, the history of those behaviors will always be there. The messages can quiet down, they can even be eclipsed with years of new thoughts and positive interactions, but they can never be erased. As a result, they will effect your relationship in inexplicable ways. Accepting that, and assuming everything happens for your highest good, is your path to peace.

 

To complicate matters even more, when children have been manipulated by a parent to keep secrets they usually feel guilty and ashamed. This guilt typically creates resentment for the wronged spouse because, on some level, the adult child knows they colluded with the other parent. When they interact with the parent they lied to their guilt creates cognitive dissonance and all they really want is to get away as fast as possible. These mixed feelings are often felt as resentment. (See chapter on Guilt.) So, now, you not only have to bear the brunt of the toxic behavior you knew nothing about, but your adult child’s possible guilt, shame, and convoluted resentment towards you. Add that to your parental feelings of protection for your child, no matter how old they are, and you get a very complicated situation.

 

As if that weren’t enough, they are dealing with anger at the toxic parent for manipulating, bullying, cajoling, bribing, and intimidating them. This anger can easily morph into depression, or anger directed within. It can also appear as anxiety related to dealing with either parent over the potential fall-out of choosing to keep secrets or reveal them.

 

If you felt abandoned or neglected as a child these revelations may feel like a re-wounding, and trigger old issues. If you learned of new betrayals by your former partner this knowledge can easily catalyze bodily reactions that make you feel unsafe. Unsafe physically, emotionally, or with the adult child who shared the information. It is hard to trust after being betrayed. (See chapter on Trust.)

 

What can you do to heal your inner wounds and your relationship with your child? First, remember, they were young, impressionable, and wanted their other parent’s attention and affection. Both of which may have been given by making your child feel special through sharing secrets, buying things, acting as a best friend, denigrating the other parent’s values, and all sorts of other unsavory behaviors. But, your child did not start this dynamic.

 

If the lies, bad-mouthing, and deception have continued into your children’s adulthood your path is even more complicated as expectations of adults are usually quite different from those for children. The good news is all of it can be worked with skillfully, lovingly, and patiently.

 

Here are some suggestions to help you heal from an adult child’s new revelations:

 

  1. Take plenty of time to let everything sink in. Do your best to react slowly. Talk with a friend, therapist, clergy member, or relative to work through the myriad effects of this new information.

 

2. Explore these revelation’s effects in your body. How do they feel physically? Where    do you feel them? Patiently work to find words to describe what you feel in your body as this will take the focus off your thoughts, and help re-ground you.

 

3. What are you feeling towards your child? Reach deeply to find all your feelings, not just the ones that show up immediately. Whatever they are, they will change with time.

 

4. When the time is right, talk with your adult child about your reactions to this new information and listen to how they feel.

 

5. What are your thoughts? Can you do some journaling? Try writing a List of 100. This is done by setting a timer for 20 minutes, pre-numbering a page with 100 lines, and writing as fast as you possibly can about your topic. No censorship. That means you write down everything that comes up, even if it is the exact same thing you just wrote on the previous 10 lines. Topics might be: 100 reasons I don’t trust my adult child.  100 things this revelation taught me. 100 reasons I am glad to be divorced from this person. Once completed you can easily group your responses into percentages, see which thoughts and feelings come up most frequently, and work with those first.

 

6. Does this experience trigger others from the past? If so, what are they and what emotions do they bring up? I am partial to Internal Family Systems therapy as it is a gentle, yet very deep, way of working with difficult issues.

 

7. Look for the benefits as well as the collateral damage. No matter how earth shattering the news there are always hidden benefits.

 

8. Emotional pain is almost always soothed with a combination of time and kindness. You can calm your body-mind with yoga, massage, exercise, good food, journaling, talking it out, music, sleep, nature, Bach’s Rescue Remedy, aromatherapy (lavender, citrus, balsam fir needle, cedar, or any essential oils you like), tea (hot drinks without much caffeine have been shown to calm the sympathetic nervous system), an epsom salt and lavender bath, and anything else that reliably works for you.

 

9. If you like talking to yourself as a way to work through things you might be interested in some new research that shows how using your name, or talking to yourself in the third person (using “you” instead of “I”) can be very beneficial. It’s explained here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304831304579543772121720600.

 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your truth. Your truth when you lived it in the past doesn’t change because of some new information. It may change your opinion of your ex, but it doesn’t change what you felt at the time. Whatever new information has come to light says nothing about you and everything about him or her. You may think it says things about your children, but they were impressionable and needy. Even if the deception continued through their adulthood it is still not about you. They were indoctrinated, felt special, safe, and avoided conflicts with the manipulating parent, all if which created intense cognitive dissonance. Compassion for them and yourself is the best medicine.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang 

 

 
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