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How will your ex feel if released without rancor? If you can't imagine, put yourself in the same position. Don't you want a joyful new beginning? Don't you want to meet people with are sensitive to your needs? If you forgive your antagonist, that person ceases to be an antagonist. You need to go home. I cried and pleaded, but thirty minutes later, he walked away to join his friends inside the club. Where had I gone wrong? No dating advice I'd encountered had covered that moment in your life when you're on the street, alone, outside of a lame club, eyeliner and snot dripping down your face, pining after someone who sends mixed messages and makes you feel foolish. This wasn't my first time pursuing someone like Brian. I knew I was going after the wrong people, but I didn't know how to fix it. A week later, desperate to feel like I was still moving forward, I hired Nadia, a new age dating coach. Nadia and I sat cross-legged on the rug in her office/living room/Zen garden/energy nexus. She helped me understand that I liked Brian because he was fun and exciting to be around but that he wasn't really what I was looking for in a husband, and I didn't like the anxious side of me he brought out. In her stern Russian accent, she said, Your homework is to focus on how you want to feel in your relationship. We also don't often have the same support that we do as adults, including self-nurturing practices, healers, friends, coaches, and therapists who can help us make sense of our experiences and reactions. As kids, we make up our own stories and beliefs that we carry into adulthood but that don't serve our highest and greatest good. Part of our trauma work can be to forgive ourselves for what we have created and to help ourselves see the experience through a different lens. Inner-child work can help us do that. How it works is you start by checking in with your body.

You notice an emotion you're feeling or tension or pain in a part of your body. Let's say you feel it in your gut. Then you'd ask yourself, What does it feel like? Questions like these move you out of your head, into your body, and then into where that trauma got stuck and stored. From there you'd ask, How old does it [that pain or stuck energy] feel? Instead, that person views you through a lens of gratitude. As your children realize that they won't be forced to take sides, they feel freer to open their hearts to you. I'm sure you would agree that people don't intentionally invite fear, greed, avarice, revenge, hate or injustice into their lives. To the contrary, they want serenity, love and joy. But you can't get any of these feelings if you don't give any of these feelings. It is simple basic physics: whatever you express, others express toward you. To find a caring, gracious and devoted person is to be that person. If, instead, you criticize and attack, the caring, gracious and devoted person is facing someone else. In your childhood, didn't you want to spend meaningful time with your parents? Didn't you want their friendship? During our next meeting, I shared my response: I want him to make me feel smart, funny, appreciated, and secure in our relationship. Nadia nodded approvingly. On the long walk home from that session, homework in hand, I felt frustrated. As much as I appreciated Nadia's help, I was still obsessing over Brian. Even in that moment, I wondered where he was and what (or whom) he was thinking about.

I checked my phone and considered sending him a text. In that moment, a calendar invitation popped up. It was from a guy at work named Scott. We'd met eight years earlier, when we'd had lunch together in college with some mutual friends. The summer before this one, he'd reintroduced himself at the Google shuttle stop. Usually a childhood age will immediately spring to mind. Then you'd ask, When do you remember feeling like that? When did you have that same feeling in your belly? For instance, say you remember being eight years old and standing in the hallway at school, staring at a picture you painted in art class that was hanging on the wall. You felt really uncomfortable, thinking kids were judging it and that it wasn't good enough. In this memory, you--as your adult self--can go stand or sit next to yourself as an eight-year-old. You don't change the situation, but you adjust the way you relate to yourself at the time. As the adult, you may say to the child, Hey, that is an awesome painting. Your younger self will probably say, No, that was really bad, and I don't agree with you. Then you respond by saying, Really, you think that looks ugly, huh? Didn't you want their respect? Didn't you want a mutual give and take? If you didn't have this kind of relationship, didn't you wish you had? All children long for a loving, respectful union with their parents, and they resent the person who tries to prevent them from having it. Your children may not react immediately to the harshness of your position but, eventually, they will weigh it against the loss they felt in their hearts.

How do you want to fare in their memories? Children instinctively want to forgive and move on, but they also want your love. Let them have both. They learn what works and what doesn't by watching you cope. Demonstrate your belief that people deserve a second chance regardless of their choices. Shortly after that, I'd invited him to another lunch--this time a Harvard alumni gathering at work. During that meal, I'd announced that I wanted to learn the statistics coding language R. He said he'd just dropped out of a math PhD program and offered to tutor me. We started meeting weekly at work. He was a natural teacher--kind, patient, funny. Based on the visualization you produced in R, what can you say about the distribution of eruption times for Old Faithful? It's bimodal? Unfortunately, he undermined our budding flirtation by mentioning his dislike of exotic travel and the Burning Man crowd. I wrote him off. But that was before. You're having a dialogue with yourself and creating space to have an honest, open conversation about your thoughts and feelings--and ultimately beliefs. For every negative thought or emotion, you get to counter with a positive, life-affirming one. That alone, that cheerleading and support that you're giving to yourself, can create so much healing. If you didn't feel loved or supported in that moment as a kid, you get to give that to yourself now as a wiser, older, more mature, and more nurturing human being. You don't change the past, but you get to change the love that surrounds it.

Many of the experts we talked to said that inner-child work can be one of the most powerful ways we can experience self-forgiveness. As a child, we may have bought into the belief that we weren't good enough, or we sucked, or we were ugly, but as an adult, returning to that moment and seeing our younger selves for what they went through, we get to say, I forgive myself for having judged myself all of these years. Wow, I had no idea how hard I was on myself and still am. But I didn't do anything wrong. The key is that you're forgiving yourself for the judgment you've held on to for all of these years. This is what brings you the second chance you seek. Divorce often means that one person in the union ends up with less material goods. Losing possessions can be traumatic when a divorce changes a person's lifestyle. But the more importance you give to materiality, the more your children believe that materiality is the source of all their happiness. If you're in apoplexy because you aren't receiving your share, your children will assume that without those material goods, your life will have no meaning. Is this the message you want to convey? If the division of property leaves you and your children with less than you had before, this is your opportunity to reassure them that material goods are not the source of happiness. You help them to make this transition by encouraging them to enjoy the goods they so have. This teaches them that things come and go in terms of the picture they see with their eyes, but the love in their hearts is constant if they appreciate what is. You only go to extremes to wrangle support from a reluctant giver because you fear that without that support, you won't have what you need. On that walk home, I realized Scott had many of the qualities that I'd told Nadia I was looking for. And he made me feel smart, funny, appreciated, and secure in our relationship. When I reevaluated Scott through the new lens of what mattered, I realized those initial surface-level preferences were distractions. I loved how I felt around him, even if he shuddered at the idea of staying up all night and partying in the desert. In the years since, I've discovered that Nadia's advice was not just smart--it was backed by mounds of research.