“Going In” Doesn’t Mean Going Deep – Part II

“Going In” Doesn’t Mean Going Deep - Part II by Rachel Alexander

{5 minutes to read}  Part II picks up where we left off, providing the last three elements of how going in — the focusing way — need not mean going painfully deep.

1. The Right Distance

The focuser is in charge of the process. If something comes up that is painful or frightening, the focuser does not forge ahead in Spartan-warrior fashion. In fact, the focuser would give whatever came a wide berth and check to see how, or if, he wants to stay with it or get some more distance from it to survey it or leave it all together for another time. Perhaps this painful/frightening something is best viewed from several miles in the air. Or from Florida. The possibilities are limitless. The focuser interacts with what has come in a way that helps him disidentify with it, perhaps regarding it as an aspect, part or “something” rather than as “himself.” He does this from a place of grounded presence. He determines how close or far he would like to be from it. And perhaps how close or far it would like to be from him. Once the distance is right, he may consider what sort of contact it might like from him. If it’s a very intense thing — a loss, regret, or shame that is coming up — the focuser might need to just spend time with a very small aspect of it, or may feel best to sit at the opposite end of a formal dining table (in Florida) from it, just staying at that distance and being present there and seeing what comes.

To paraphrase Gendlin, to smell the soup, you don’t stick your face in it. You get the right distance so you can take in a bit of its warmth and aroma without submerging your head. The latter would cause third degree burns and nullify your olfactory function. By going slowing and attending fully to each bodily sense as it comes, and managing the distance so it doesn’t take us over or retraumatize our system, we build a new, safe way of knowing ourselves and our multiple facets.

2. Process Over Matter

Another critical aspect of focusing is this:

The important part is not contained within the substance of what we are turning towards, but in the turning towards itself.

In other words, the process is key. The act of relating in a new way is where change occurs. Take the analogy of clearing out a spare bedroom, the change, growth and relief comes in how we enter and move about the room, holding an attitude of gentle curiosity, a present mindedness devoid of criticism. This is the crucial bit. The inventory of the room is not determinative; how we relate to or “be with” the inventory is.

3. The Focusing Attitude

The focusing attitude is one of interested curiosity. It is one where we approach ourselves, others, whatever it is we’re bringing our attention to, with a gentleness, a compassion, and an interested curiosity.

By attending to what is most needed — with a focusing approach that makes it a loving, kind process — turning inward can become freeing and wonderful. More like going to a flea market full of treasures and curiosities than like cleaning out the garage. The attitude makes it possible.

Focusing works because we go slowly. It also works because we stay in grounded presence and approach everything checking if we have the right distance from it. We approach with interested curiosity, an attitude of respect and tenderness, as if approaching a child or small animal who has gone unfed for too long. We sit beside it with patience and allow it to build trust that we are here now, and are listening with no agenda apart from a willingness to learn what it needs right now.

Focusing attitude need not be limited to focusing sessions. It can be grown into a way of approaching everything. An ex-spouse, a child, an adversary, a friend. One’s self. How different a conflict or enemy might be once bathed in the warm lamp light of interested attitude. I invite us all to cultivate this delightful wondrous way of being with one another. Let’s begin immediately!

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

Positive Psychology

Balance the pH of Your Psyche with Positive Psychology and Focusing

Positive Psychology by Rachel AlexanderPositive psychology tells us that it only takes a fraction of a second for something negative to imprint upon us (and usually stay with us ever after). Positive experiences, on the other hand, don’t automatically adhere. We have to deliberately attend to positive feelings, and linger in them, in order for them to establish themselves and take root. “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences,” psychologist Rick Hanson tells us, “and Teflon for positive ones.”

What is the importance of cultivating positive experiences, memories, and feelings? For one thing, once they have taken hold, they can become a powerful internal resource we can call upon to soothe or recenter ourselves. An availability of positive references can help the system balance and manage stress and negative emotions, making us more resilient and less likely to be overcome by difficult external circumstance.

So this attunement is going to be an introduction into how we might do that. If you are going through divorce, you might not feel replete with positive experiences. However, this is the time when you most need all of your resources firing. Internal capital can be grown by simply, intentionally, taking time with even a minute of positive experience — a momentary relief, an instant of joy — and that is the purpose of this attunement.

Like balancing the pH of the body with an alkaline-conscious diet, so shall we approach our acidic psyches!

Positive Psychology-Minded Attunement

What follows is a transcript of the Positive Psychology-Minded Attunement audio file:

Let’s find a place where we can be quiet for a moment, slow down, and bring our attention inward. Just wherever we are, right now, emotionally, physically. Checking in with how it is for you, how the weather is inside, without trying to influence or change it. Just checking in like you would with a friend, asking how are you doing today, with an interested curiosity, a gentle, caring hello to whatever is here for you now.

Taking a few deep breaths, allow your exhales to be as long as your inhales. In this attunement we’re going to access something that would be pleasurable, delightful, peaceful for you — anything you experience as a wanted sensation. Keep it as simple and light as you would like. You might use something that happened today or years ago, or perhaps you will invite your imagination to invent something entirely new.

This could be the feeling of first stepping into a warm, fragrant bath and submerging your body into the lilac water. Perhaps it’s the sensation of sun-warmed sand between your toes. The smell of your dog’s breath and feel of her kissy, furriness, welcoming you home with the ecstatic delight of someone receiving a long-awaited hero returning victoriously. The hug of a child spontaneously expressing gratitude.

Or perhaps it’s a sound — the whistle of a far off train. Or a taste — the flavor of something you love. Mashed potatoes, for example. Perhaps it’s the feel of being welcomed and loved — being received and recognized. Once you have that, just check in with where you experienced that sense of “ah, I love this.”

Taking some time and welcoming whatever is materializing in your bodily experience. Allow the sensation to grow throughout your system so the whole of you can bask in it. Allow the sense to come into the knees and the soles of your feet. Invite it into the hip flexors. Sense this wanted sensation now in your lower back.

Notice how it rests in the corners of your mouth. Perhaps you sense a little awe. In your belly, does it become a bit more spacious or a bit more stirred or is there a sense of excitement? If it feels right, you might allow a hand to settle on the part of you that is holding the sensation.

Just enjoying this memory or this imagined wanted experience, as it visits with you. In your upper thighs, the soles of your feet, in the edges of your ears and in the crown of your head.

See if you can allow this experience to settle into your neck and shoulders. Noticing if you can sense it more strongly in one part of the body and only lightly in another area. Just lingering here, with all of this, as long as you like.

Allow the joyfulness to play inside you.

Spend a few minutes in this way, and return to this or explore another chosen experience. Do this as often as you like, supplying your body and spirit this nourishment. Develop this practice and with it greater ease and access to calm. Welcome the possible — a grounded, expansive inner space — regardless of the external climate.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

Why Open the Door? And Why Do You Still Have that Hideous Bedspread?

Why Open the Door? And Why Do You Still Have that Hideous Bedspread? by Rachel Alexander{6 minutes to read} Avoidance. Numbing. Most of us are adept at coping through these mechanisms also called (by me anyway) shoving junk into that third bedroom-turned-storage-room of our psyche, piling everything atop the hideous bedspread of the neglected spare bed. There is a visceral dread in even contemplating opening that door.

Why, we might ask, open the door at all?

Here’s why. Behind the door are parts of us that matter deeply. Gene Gendlin, the originator of Focusing, reminds us: whether or not we pay attention, these aspects of ourselves are there anyway. Neglecting aspects of ourselves does not rid us of their hold on us. In fact, often their hold dominates and runs us. The more we refuse them, the louder they grow. What we’ve shoved out of sight requires our attention. In fact, it has needed our attention for some time.

Take Paul, a man deep into a toxic marriage. In order to avoid looking at the issues (in his “third bedroom”), such as discontent, fear of action, fear of change, fear of how he may be perceived by others, threat to self-regard, dread of loss, and so forth, he has developed unhealthy strategies. He uses alcohol to suppress anxiety, develops insomnia and ulcerative colitis, embarks on emotional affairs at work (drawing others into the skewed reality he is living) and otherwise makes sideways attempts to get his needs met without attending to what is indeed there, but vigorously being exiled. His mental and physical health suffer. His life stagnates in some areas and spirals downward in others.

Why open the door? Because by turning our awareness to these parts, we can reclaim and access vital portions of ourselves and glean valuable information. We expand ourselves and our lives. We change. We can appreciate and ultimately gain more control of our energy and choices rather than being enslaved by what we are hiding from.

Our unwillingness to turn towards ourselves brings its own issues, with their own consequences.

Interestingly, the turning towards what we have exiled is often the main thing needed to transform it. Attention [really] must be paid (to butcher Arthur Miller’s famous line from Death of a Salesman). And the wonder is that the right sort of attention in and of itself changes everything.

To continue with the unsightly storage room analogy from the first paragraph: a focusing approach would not force you to take a week off from work, don a hazmat suit, sledgehammer, and slam into demolition mode. The focusing approach would meet you just where you are. Right there at the initial dread of opening the door.

First, we might turn towards that part of us that feels physical dread and see if we can be curious about that. We check for a bodily sense of the apprehension. We might find: “Something comes up inside that really doesn’t want to open the door. I sense that in my lower belly. It feels tight and tumbling like a sneaker in a dryer.”

Maybe asking what it’s afraid will happen to us if we open the door. Maybe asking into how it might like for us to be with it right now.

In this way, we go very slowly. We don’t bust down the door special-forces-style and thrust ourselves deep into the darkness of this daunting space. Instead, knowing that there is important information even while a hand rests on the door knob, we take time there, giving our patient curiosity to the part that doesn’t want to go in. This might be where we stay for some time, and then, perhaps, we’d turn our attention to the part that does want to go in and clear out the room. We might hold these parts with equal importance and spend time with each, asking into what they want and what sort of attention they need. We do this while remaining grounded in our body and the present.

Focusing in this way is typically done with a focusing oriented therapist or guide, or a focusing companion. A focusing companion is an individual trained in focusing. In a partnership, each party takes turns being the “focuser” and the “companion.” Partnerships often go on for years and meet weekly. There is an egalitarian, trusting connection — a specific type of listening and reflecting practiced that supports exploration and change.

By the time we actually open the door, it is easy, organic, as the conflicted parts have gotten the attention and contact they hungered for, and from that attention, relaxed their hold. And, importantly, we may now find that once-hideous bedspread has transformed into a delicious Yves Delorme down comforter and duvet!

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

Inner Architecture — The Resource of Your Own Imagination

Transcript of Attunement

Inner Architecture — The Resource of Your Own Imagination by Rachel AlexanderJust taking a moment to find a comfortable place to sit or stand. In this attunement, we’re going to take a tour through our own inner self, our own body and all that it encompasses, as if we were architectural structures.

As you settle into this space, slowing down, feel your sitz bones and your own weight relax. Feel your feet in contact with the ground. Let your body settle into space. Let your emotions settle. Welcome your awareness. Settle into yourself.

Begin to imagine what kind of structure you might like to visit. Whether it would be your own home, your own body, or anywhere you would like to visit. It could be a favorite museum, a dear friend’s home, or a Welsh castle. A place of comfort and security or a place of wonder.  Somewhere very far or somewhere quite familiar.

Allowing your imagination to arrive at a space in which you’d like to spend a few minutes.

Just as we might walk through a darkened home or mansion or magnificent venue of some kind, turning a light on as we go through each room until we have illuminated the entire house, so we are allowing our attention to lead us through the environment that is us. That holds and contains what is more than us. Lingering and taking in each space as we light it with our attention.

Maybe you picture holding a torch to light the medieval chandeliers of your castle, or carrying an oil can to light gas lanterns, or with your hand to flip on the dimmer switches on the walls of each room of your contemporary you-home, we will illuminate by bringing our awareness throughout.

Pausing a moment and noticing the whole feel of the structure that you have chosen or that has chosen you. Spending a moment right here.

Observing our inner architecture with the same attitude we might wander through a curious structure, illuminating each room. Giving attention to the space and allowing our sense of it our feel and impression of it to settle gently in us.

In this way, you might just enter into the foyer of your place. You might wish to spend the whole time right here. Sense into what your body wants. At your own pace, you might begin to wander, lightly holding the attitude of gentle interest as you would go through a new space or even a familiar space with this new awareness. See if you can allow a bit of reverence to come in as you stroll through the creation of your own inner world. This is the focusing attitude and the focusing way we might foster right now.

Taking all the time you’d like to explore, resting into, maybe luxuriating in this new disposition, appreciating both the subject matter, and the way in which you are relating to the subject matter.

Perhaps, before closing, you might take a few moments to get a bodily sense of what it would be like to carry this attitude forward into some of your day. Perhaps you could recall it when relating with yourself, with others, with your work. Perhaps in a resting pause, a breath, now and again.

And when you are ready, begin to bring your awareness into your fingertips, eyebrows, tops of shoulders, and into the environment around you. Opening your eyes if they were closed. Holding all that came and is possible as we bring our time together to a close.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

A 3-Minute Attunement (Reconnecting Within)

{2:30 minutes to read}

A 5-Minute Attunement (Reconnecting Within) by Rachel Alexander

3-Minute Attunement Transcription

Let’s begin by just slowing down. Finding a comfortable seat. Coming to wherever you are, sitting quietly, and finding your way into your body. Let’s settle here. Just slowing down together. Taking a few breaths now together.

We’re just going to have this space for a few moments and say hello to whatever is happening inside and acknowledge it. Here we are simply attending to and developing the inner relationship with one’s self; strengthening the ability to be present for and with one’s self, to keep company with.

Noticing your breath. Noticing if the breathing is constrained or easy. Not forcing it, not deepening it, just being with it exactly as it is. Dropping in, asking what the weather is like right now. Perhaps putting a hand gently on the core, on the belly, right below the navel. Just saying hello to whatever is there. Noticing if there’s a sense of a softening or maybe the presence of an unwanted feeling, maybe something jittery, tight or heavy. Seeing if you can say hello to all of that too, without deciding about it or interacting with it, just greeting it, perhaps with an easy nod. I see you there. I’m here too. We can be here, together, just as we are.

See if you can notice the back, the back body, behind the shoulders where the wings would be. Just sensing into that space. Perhaps inviting the whole system to let go a bit, allowing gravity to do its part to support you. And with this awareness, this mindfulness, this slowing down-ness, coming back and returning to whatever requires your attention. Allowing a “keeping-company-with” your own inner sense of how you are, even as you now begin to include the outer environment into your awareness. Know that you can come back to this space, make use of this tool, anytime to return to yourself; to reconnect with your own friendly companionship.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

A Triumph for the Best Interests of the Child

A Triumph for the Best Interest of the Child by Rachel AlexanderThe Overruling of Baures by the NJ Appellate Court

{7:12 minutes to read}  Relocation is among the most difficult family law issues for families and courts. Relocation is when the parent with sole or primary residential custody chooses to move out of state with the children. The change in parenting roles and developments in attachment theory, along with other areas of psychology are reflected in a recent court decision. The case of Bisbing v Bisbing went to the New Jersey Appellate Court about the issue of relocation.

In the case of Bisbing, the parties mediated their divorce, including agreeing to a parenting schedule for their twin daughters. While the parenting schedule reflected the mother having more overnights than the father, the father had significant weekly parenting time. He was integrally involved with the girls, coached their ski club, and had regular weekly parenting time.

The mediated Marital Settlement Agreement included language whereby the parents acknowledged that a move of either parent of a significant distance, in a manner that would dramatically affect the children’s access to both parents, would potentially impact the children negatively. The agreement stated that the parties recognized the importance of both parents being involved with the children in the manner proximity enables.

In this case, not long after the parties divorced, Ms. Bisbing notified Mr. Bisbing that she planned to remarry and move to Utah with the children. Had Mr. Bisbing consented, the matter would have ended there. Without the consent of the parent of alternate residence, the matter went to court.

The initial court granted Ms. Bisbing’s request to move with the children, presumably following the analysis under Baures v Lewis, and Mr. Bisbing appealed this ruling.

The Baures analysis follows:

Provided the custodial parent is relocating in good faith, for legitimate purposes – such as remarriage, availing herself of more family support, or a substantial employment opportunity – and not for the sole purpose of denying parenting time to the non-custodial parent, the court generally permits relocation. The reasoning is that the custodial parent should not be so restricted by her parenting obligations as to prohibit her enjoyment and enrichment of life. As the custodial parent achieves and accepts new opportunities, so too, the reasoning goes, are the lives of the children improved.

This rational made good sense in the days when one parent, typically the mother, would have close to 100% custody of the children, with the secondary parent being perfunctorily, often minimally involved. In such instances, it would be profoundly unjust to limit the primary parent’s mobility and ability to get on with her life merely to ensure the non-custodial parent a continuation of nominal parenting time. The Bauers analysis provided the moving parent a wide girth – provided the move would not cause inimical harm to the children, and the court would generally permit the relocation.

The Old Standard for Relocation

One of the issues in this case was whether the mother knew she wanted to move away with the girls and did not negotiate in good faith during the mediation. The Marital Settlement Agreement, the result of the mediation, included a provision about relocation stating neither parent would relocate more than 20 miles without the consent of the other parent. There was other language stating that the parents acknowledged that living within proximity of and having access to both parents is deemed to be important, and that relocating might detrimentally affect the children’s relationship with the other parent.

The New Standard: From Inimical Harm to Best Interest

In the case of Bisbing, Baures was overturned by the Appellate Court. This case reversed the looser standard of inimical harm to the child, in favor of the new standard: whether the move would be in the best interest of the child. This new analysis shifts the burden to the moving parent not only to show that the move is in good faith, but also to show that the move is in the children’s best interests. This showing needs to outweigh the presumption that the children are generally best served by having regular access to both parents. The new analysis also no longer rests on the presumption that what is good for the primary custodial parent is necessarily best for the children. In Baures, the analysis was the much lower standard such that if the move would do no harm to the child, it was permitted.

Important input from the therapeutic community says that children are served generally by having significant access and opportunity to build stable relationships with both parents, and that involvement of both parents in raising the children is optimal. This also reflects the changes in parenting that the last decades have seen, with more equal parenting time favored and 50/50 custody often being the norm. As the social, familial structures evolve, so inevitably does the law.

A final note: A couple years ago, a family judge fairly new on the bench, disclosed that relocation cases are the toughest and most gut-wrenching cases over which he presides. There is no outcome that leaves the parties untouched by some loss. On the one hand, this change may limit a divorced parent’s ability to get on with their life by remarrying, moving, or taking advantage of opportunities available to him or her. On the other hand, the non-moving parent and the children could be denied the fundamental opportunity to share these very important growing years, and may forfeit the opportunity to forge the sort of attachment that endures and provides a vital resource for a lifetime.

We will continue to see the law on this complex subject develop. Importantly, the needs and best interests of the child are perhaps being allotted the gravity they deserve.

Stay tuned.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305


What is an Attunement? (And is an Oil Change Included?)

What is an Attunement? (And is an Oil Change Included?) by Rachel Alexander{4:30 minutes to read}  A focusing session usually begins with a “lead-in” or something called an “attunement.” An attunement, much like a guided meditation, is a way of bringing awareness into our body and our attention into the present moment. It is an invitation to resource into what is immediately available to us. This begins with a sense of our body in its environment.

An attunement can be a valuable tool for people going through divorce or experiencing stress. It invites a safe return to solid ground. Divorce is particularly reviled for its power to destabilize and dysregulate people, muddling thinking and impairing decision making. Taking a few minutes to attune can help one to re-anchor back into the integrated self.

Before meeting with your attorney, before, after, and, if necessary, during a mediation, playing an attunement or using a few prompts from the practice, can help one reorient and reorganize.

With this in mind, I am creating a series of recorded attunements for my clients, so they can have additional tools at their disposal whenever they might be needed. These are meant to guide you back to your own wholeness, whether before seeing your spouse for a custody exchange, or after a difficult phone call regarding parenting or finance. It offers a way to come back into presence with yourself and to come back into grounded contact with the day.

An important part of focusing work involves learning to be a compassionate observer of whatever is occurring internally for you, right now.

Amazingly, when whatever is occurring has your full, friendly attention, no matter how unwanted or unpleasant it may be, it transforms.

When we’re grounded in our bodies, and in the moment, we have the ability to deal with everything else from a wiser place.

The attunement is a tool you can use anywhere and take with you everywhere. The more you practice with it, the more easily you will return to a grounded state. And there might be a shorthand way you’ll find for yourself, to get into this space — a new way of keeping company with and rescuing yourself.

Focusing Style Attunement Video

What follows is a transcript of the above Focusing Style Attunement video file:

So just finding a comfortable space where we can be together for maybe fifteen minutes or so. Putting down whatever you might be doing. Taking your time to get comfortable in your body.

You might have both feet on the floor, and your back supported so that the spine can be straight but not strained. Notice sitting, and give yourself a moment to observe how it is with you, just now. What is the quality of the surface you are on? Noticing the points of contact that your body is having with its immediate surroundings.

Introduce the notion, gently, that this piece of furniture is supporting you here and now. You do not have to hold yourself against gravity, or hold yourself up with your own mind. You can settle into what is there and is supporting you. Right now.

So however disconnected or overcome you may feel sometimes, which can happen in moments of great stress where you don’t even feel your body, it’s still here. It’s still here. Sometimes the awareness can be obfuscated, or blocked, but even then the body is still right here.

Notice the quality of your breath, is it easy or constricted. Not trying to change it, just exploring whatever is there.

Click here to read the rest of the transcript.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305


If I Can Waive Alimony, Why Can’t I Waive Child Support?

If I Can Waive Alimony, Why Can’t I Waive Child Support? by Rachel Alexander{5:45 minutes to read}   If I can waive alimony, why can’t I waive child support?

Fair question. Here’s why: Alimony and child support are two different things and are treated differently under the law. Alimony might be a right of a spouse, but child support is the right of a child. And just like I cannot waive my neighbor’s rights to quiet enjoyment, I cannot waive the right of my child to be supported by both his parents.  

Distinguishing one’s child from one’s self is emotionally nodulous. When legal rights and obligations affect parenting decisions, parents may feel that a most personal aspect of their lives is being invaded.

Under child support law, a child has certain rights and privileges, and is separate and distinct from the parent. However, under other laws the parent is liable and totally responsible for the child as though not fully distinguishable. This complexity is slippery to tread not only in the legal field, but in psychology and philosophy as well.  

When is a child recognized as a detached being even though still wholly dependent upon the parent?

Fortunately, for this article, we do not have to realize the depths of existentialism, separation, and individuation to glean the following:

Children have the right to financial support from both parents.

Child support is not meant to penalize or punish, but to protect. Children of divorce, historically, could face economic instability and deprivation, and legally mandated support was designed to address this.

Child support is commensurate with the income and finances of the parents. Support considers the needs of the children, what the child has become accustomed to and reasonably expects, and what can realistically be provided given the family’s increased financial obligations in transitioning from a single into a two household family.

Supporting one’s children is simply a codification of what parents are already doing — supporting their children. The privilege and aggravation of budgeting around your children’s best interests — their hobbies, needs, hopes, future education and career aspirations — is an integral part of progeny. The ability to have children, love, raise, and provide for them is one of life’s blessings. Divorce neither retracts this gift nor relieves parents of their obligations — financial or otherwise.

New Jersey has child support guidelines which provide a recommended monetary amount for the rudimentary needs of the child, based on the income of the parents and the time the child will reside with each parent. However, often the child support recommendation is insufficient or untenable for the family, or the child’s actual needs. Additionally, many expenses fall outside of child support, but within the parents’ attendant obligation to provide.

In divorce mediation, child support can be managed so that it works for all parties. Parents may set up a distinct account to be used for the child, each contributing to the account in a manner based upon his/her income. Parents might agree to each pay directly for specific costs for the child in a manner established during and consistent with the child’s life so far.

The central, organizing principle is, as always, the best interests of the child. Providing financial consistency and stability, to the extent possible in light of the changing circumstances, is in the best interests of the child. Appreciating child support as anything other than for the child is a sure way to derail the family and well-being of the child. Financially demonstrating a toxic relational dynamic through finances, particularly by compromising the child’s sense of financial stability and attachment security, is clearly inconsistent with prioritizing the child.

Parents are not on the hook for support because they are getting divorced — they are obligated because they have children. In fact, the commitment of financial responsibility has precious little to do with your spouse. It’s about your child.

When in the dark, this is the guiding light and principle. When we can meet our children’s needs we do so because we are parents. Because but for us, they would not be here. Because we love them and they are our primary concern.

This is part of the social contract and the human compact we entered. We support our young within the limits of our capabilities, financial circumstances, and what life has brought.

Child support is not so much about divorcing as it is about parenting.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305


Ungrateful and Pissed Off? A Curmudgeon’s Survival Guide for Thanksgiving

Ungrateful and Pissed Off? A Curmudgeon’s Survival Guide for Thanksgiving by Rachel Alexander{6:00 minutes to read}

Don’t look now, but here comes Thanksgiving!

When you are already in survival mode, a holiday can add insult to injury. If you are bracing for the holidays as a newly divorced family, maybe spending your first Thanksgiving without your kids or extended family, “celebrating” anything can seem absurd. Forced festivities can increase the sense of what’s missing and highlight not only what you are not grateful for, but what you’re actually pretty pissed off about.

During the holidays there is an expectation or even social insistence that you feel one thing when you’re actually experiencing quite another. That disconnect can be difficult to tolerate much less navigate. Here are just a few recommendations to normalize this experience and help us all get through the holiday intact.

1. Take it in small bites; which is also good advice for your digestion on this holiday anyway. How you may or may not be feeling this holiday is no indication of how you will feel in a week, a month, or for any other Thanksgiving hereafter.

Be invited to back away from a sense that this experience is prescient of the rest of your life. It is just right now that needs to be dealt with. And deal with it we will!

2. Trying to force yourself to feel anything other than what you’re actually experiencing tends not to work. It also tends to be a way of devaluing and negating yourself, and that’s something most of us do not need a repeat experience of.

Rather than forcing yourself to contrast how you would like to be or feel with how you actually feel, put your attention on being kind to yourself as you would a dear friend or beloved pet. Keep this simple. Check in with yourself frequently. Make yourself a cup of tea. Even treating yourself with more patience by giving permission not to rush is a kindness we rarely afford ourselves.

3. Do something that will distract and give your overstimulated emotions a break. Whether that’s watching a funny, stupid, scary or thrilling movie, or hiking with a group through the woods, do something that introduces another aspect of your capacity and emotional range. This can help create internal space and balance in a way that focusing on what’s wrong cannot.

4. One of our best resources is our own bodies. A simple, effective way to ground yourself and manage difficulty is through bodily awareness. A little bit of movement and physical activity can be enormously helpful. Even tapping your left then right foot several times while bringing your attention to the sensation of contact with the ground beneath can help stabilize run-away emotion. The body returns us to our connection with the earth and this moment.

5. Be here now. Focus only on this moment; this hour, what you’re doing now, staying away from a global interpretation, because our minds tend to go there when we’re feeling distraught.

6. Finding our way to gratitude when feeling like a curmudgeon is more like it. Let’s interact with gratitude by keeping it small and specific:

What am I grateful for right this minute?

It might be that you have a cell phone. It could be that you don’t have a cell phone. It could be that you have feet, if you have feet, or that you have a car that you were able to drive wherever you needed to go. It could be that you’re able to breathe easily and are over last week’s cold.

The act and importance of gratitude has more to do with reorienting ourselves to experiencing the fullness of what we already have rather than doing an actual tally. It’s a shift in how we relate to what is already here for us. It can be simple and basic; the sun rose and the moon is still held in the sky.

Or perhaps it can be wildly inventive. I for one am grateful I’ve never had to undergo an exorcism or be aboard an alien spacecraft (although some who know me may think that’s how I arrived here). I’m grateful not to be a giant octopus or sardine (they may be perfectly joyous but I think I would be cold).

All of these are just suggestions to help you navigate if you’re having a rough go during the holidays, particularly during Thanksgiving, when you might be put upon to identify what you appreciate.

This is holiday first aid.

If you’re having a marvelous holiday, good on you! You can disregard all of this. Feel great and rejoice! Extend extra kindness to those who need it.

Wishing everyone peace and love, now and in the future. A grounded, supported, and above all gentle Thanksgiving to all.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305


The “We Space”

The "We Space" by Rachel Alexander{4:12 minutes to read} The “we space” is what is created when two or more people are in a relationship. A couple has a different energy than each person on his own; a family has a whole dynamic greater than the sum of its parts.

Sharing a story about your day might be a different experience depending upon who you are telling. Recounting to your 15 year-old, your best friend or a work colleague will be a whole different thing. Not only might you use different language, emphasize different aspects, frame the story so it’s relatable to your audience, but your experience of being heard and being with your listener will vary.

Even a non-verbal experience, like watching the same movie, would have a whole different feel if shared with your wife as opposed to your ex-girlfriend. You are ostensibly the same, the movie is unchanged, but the experience is affected by the “we.” The difference has to do with whom you share the experience. Not only your sense of who you are while with the other, or your sense of who the other is, but all of what is created in your being together – the something between the two of you – the relatingness itself – which has its own particular quality. In fact, when couples choose to divorce, it often has to do with a deterioration of their “we space.”

“Me Space”

How we pay attention to ourselves and stay tuned-in and online with ourselves is the “me space.”

“Ooh! I’m getting a – I don’t know. I know we just walked into this restaurant, but I’m getting a weird feeling here. You know what, I’m gonna check out the menu next door.”

“You Space”

The “you space” is the other person, who is a whole kind of mystery and universe unto themselves. Often we are attracted to people who have an intricate and unique “me space,” where they are managing their own stuff in a particular way that appeals to us.

A relationship is more than the people inhabiting it. It is the relating that occurs between them. What happens when we sit down together on the sofa and engage? What is created between the two of us that is neither me nor you? We are both the players, contributors, but there’s something else. Almost like a child that is created between the two of you; without both of you it would not be there, and yet it’s neither of you. It is distinct and can, and ought, be treated as such.

The “We” of Divorce Mediation

The “we space” provides an opportunity in mediation. The “we space” is sans blame, sans judgment. Without the focus on what is who’s fault.

When we focus on what is between the two of you – two people in conflict, often in pain – we can begin to work with something much more malleable and faultless then either of you, your shortcomings or past foibles. In shifting our attention from each of you as separate entities, to the relating born of the two of you, we have an entry point for our work, and can begin to engineer something new together.

Like copilots of a ship, a Relation Ship, rather than determining who must walk the plank, we can direct our course towards the brightening horizon.

Rachel AlexanderRachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305