Tag Archives: family and divorce

The Power of NOT Holding it All (together)

Photo by: Roel Wijnants

Guest Post by: Lisa Nastasi, Ph.D.
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Life post divorce is a steep learning curve on a rocky path. Like the Irish saying, “If God is going to give you a rough path, lets hope he provides strong shoes.” If you’re like most divorced (or nearly divorced) women, your rocky path started long before the actual divorce. Maybe you discovered your ex was cheating or had moved and hidden money. Maybe you realized he no longer loved you and was just sticking around because it was the easy thing for him to do while he led a totally separate life. Maybe he had been threatening you or putting you down for years and you felt trapped. Maybe vindictive in-laws or other relatives were part of the mix that led to the rupture.

Whatever the scenario, when a marriage breaks down, it’s rarely a pretty picture. Bottom line, if you have anger and rage and sadness, you have earned it, and then some! Often times, in our “new-age world” we are told these emotions aren’t good for us, aren’t part of “The Secret,”  aren’t going to help us get what we want, aren’t going to attract a new man (who needs a sad bitchy chick who would rather cry then give a BJ?). So lets all be positive and grateful and hey, there is always someone who has it worse then you, blah, blah, blah.
Do these thoughts about rising above, focusing on your joys, and being forgiving really help you?
Answer. . . .doubtful.
Why? It’s not because they aren’t useful and relevant and hey. . . .good thoughts. They are not helpful and the thoughts and emotions will return because trying to use them exclusively after surviving a malignant divorce is like trying to pour honey over a pile of shit and claim it doesn’t stink.
A malignant divorce is one that involves a purposely vindictive ex who:
1) doesn’t care about the children and/or who uses them to manipulate,
2) who lies and cheats and has stolen from you and continues to do so because the system lets him,
3) has left you holding the ball and the playing field.
(Not all divorces are like this. If your ex was fair and honest financially, is kind and respectful to you and your children and respects the time you shared even though one or both of you knew it was right to move on, then you are in a different group. If you find yourself still struggling with sadness and loss—totally normal with any ending—then keep reading too. Your experience is different from those of us who have suffered through a  malignant divorce but you may still find it helpful).
Anyway, attempting to be Suzy Sunshine when life has shit on your head, never works.  First, we need to heal and then we can be happy again. It’s that simple, but it’s not always easy.
Part of any healing is being honest with yourself about what you are feeling. As Rumi, the 13th century mystic and poet advised about thoughts and feelings: “welcome and invite them in—the dark thoughts the shame the malice—each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
And what is your guide trying to show you? You guessed it! Where you need healing.
When I was in India at the end of January, I told my meditation leader, when she asked how I was doing during one particular session, “I’m angry.”  I’ll spare you all the gory details, but know that it was related to my ex-husband’s behavior. I felt guilty about being angry, especially since I was in India—a spiritual country—and with a mediation teacher who was the living embodiment of peace and inner beauty. I waited for her to tell me not to be angry, to think happy thoughts and to lecture me on all the damage that being angry was doing to me, my children and my mitochondria so that now I could label myself as not only angry but guilty and self-destructive.
Instead she smiled a beautiful and peaceful smile and said, “If you’re angry. . . be angry!”
 Did I want to leap from my zafu cushion and hug her or what?
Instead, she taught me the meditation below and when we were done, I cried really warm and salty tears. They weren’t filled with self pity or despair or hopelessness. They were honest and they felt really good. In their sadness was a hint of joy, I swear it and not because I had tried to think myself happy. The happiness that resides in each of us, no matter what we have been through in life, was just able to peek through, because I wasn’t so busy trying feel something I wasn’t.
Here is the meditation which helped me find it, and I’d like to share it with you and may all beings everywhere, be happy and free!  Lisa xx

Lisa Nastasi, Ph.D., taking a break during her month journey in India for meditation and healing. She attended Shreyas, an ashram outside of Bangalore.

The Power of NOT Holding it All (together)
Find a comfortable place to sit, with your back straight.  You can be on the floor or in a chair.  The important bit here is that you are self supporting.
Take a few long, slow and deep breaths. Really pay attention to your breath.  Where can you feel it most easily?  As it enters/exits your nostrils?  As it fills your stomach?
Allow your stomach to expand with each inhale. Can you feel tension release with each exhale?
Gently close your eyes or keep them softly focused a few inches in front of you. Gazing at nothing, hold everything.
With each breath, allow yourself to settle.  Allow your mind to fully inhabit your breath and your body and this present moment.
What does this mean?  It means when you catch your mind wandering off to a thought, pull it back gently. Like you are tugging on a kite. Gently return it to your breath.  Let your mind rest on the waves of your breath. Inhale. Exhale.
Stay with this for a few rounds of breathing.
Inhale. Exhale.  Simple, uncomplicated. Breathe.
Stop putting any energy in resisting whatever you may be feeling. I don’t care if its not pretty and neither should you!
Make space for your feelings. They are yours and thus they are precious. Say hello. Make friends. They are there anyway.  Invite them in. Hold them and breathe. Relax your stomach area. Release.
Now lets have some fun.
Let whatever feelings you have ebb and flow with your breath. See the feeling (s) now and give them a color.  See the entire spectrum of your life. These feelings as just one color in the many colors that make up your life. Breathe.
As you quiet your mind and quell resistance to whatever you are feeling, see if the silent witness of your heart, your inner observer has something to say about all of this. Be aware that the painful emotion isn’t you at your deepest self or essence.
Do your best to hold your painful emotion(s) lightly so you can make space for your inner witness, the observer part of you that is happy, calm and wise.
Don’t allow the painful or angry voice to define you or your actions or your outlook. Observe it, greet it, welcome it, but don’t live from that space or allow it to run the show.
Shift the way you hold it.  Hold it lightly. By that, I mean, hold the pain or anger lightly, like in a bubble—with gentleness and compassion for yourself. When you are ready, open your eyes.  Throughout your day, when upsetting events, thoughts, emotions come into your consciousness, put them in your bubble of lightness, breathe deeply and pause.  What do you notice?  Lather, rinse, and repeat until this method of working with what ails becomes a part of you.
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Top 5 Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make

Experts say most couples—across all socio-economic, educational and racial backgrounds—tend to make the same mistakes when going through a divorce. These blunders wreak emotional havoc on your children, leaving psychological scars that can take years to heal. This week I interviewed Rebecca E. Eberlin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, family coach and staff member at the UCLA Family Commons in Los Angeles. Eberlin, who also runs “Navigating Divorce For Children” and other parenting workshops, has identified the top mistakes divorcing parents make and ways to avoid them:

1. Reacting emotionally—instead of rationally—in front of the kids.
Parents often react emotionally because they are in so much pain or when they are in situations that are highly charged,” says Eberlin. (Examples include: slamming doors, yelling, throwing things, slamming down phones, etc.)

What to do?: Take 10 seconds to think before you speak or react—especially when you are responding to a spouse’s verbal attack or offending comment.

2. Holding serious discussions in front of the children. This can even be calm conversations about moving, finances, schooling, dating, etc. Think about the impact of insecurity and fear these conversations may have on your child listening to this.

What to do?: Stop the conversation. Figure out a way to discuss these issues away from the kids. If this means you and your Ex meet at a coffee shop, with a mediator or therapist, or on the phone after the kids are sleep: make a plan to talk away from little ears. (And if one parent refuses to play by the rules and consistently brings up upsetting topics in front of the children, Eberlin says walk away calmly or hang up the phone or skype and send a note later explaining that you need to find a better time to talk.)

3. Focusing 100% of your energy on yourself.

What to do?: Simply shift the focus on the children. Even if only one parent does this, it will help the kids tremendously, says Eberlin. “People become consumed by themselves during a divorce. They lose sight of the fact that children need to be the focus at all times. Kids need to be considered in all decisions such as where they move, how they move, when to bring in another partner, serial dating, even marrying another partner.”

4. Forgetting to help your kids better transition back and forth between homes.

What to do?: Prep your children ahead of time. Every time your child has to transition to or from dad’s or mom’s house, the parent with the child needs to prep him ahead of time. For example, if the child is going to daddy’s house after school on Friday, (after a week or two with mommy) mom needs to remind the child, at the very latest, on Thursday afternoon that daddy is picking her up at school. She should also ask what she would like to pack or bring? “The more dialogue you have about the transition, the more secure the child will be,” advises Eberlin.

5. Bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the children.

What to do?: Hold your tongue. Even if one parent refuses to behave, you can be the example by not engaging in the negativity. “I remind them (divorcing parents) your child is 50% that other person,” Eberlin says. Remember: even young children start internalizing and begin to think they will be just like the father or mother you are saying nasty things about.

Resources: 

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