June 8, 2017

The 15 Minutes That Can Change Your Day



When you sit up in bed in the morning, what are the first things you do? If you're like most of us, you reach for you phone and check emails, social media alerts, or the news. It's habitual, but it's not an optimal way to start the day.

Feelings of Scarcity Create Stress


What happens when you start off by checking your electronic device is that you start your day feeling anxious about everything you have to do that day, every email you have to answer, and every problem you have to solve. You start off with a sense of deficit and scarcity. There just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. 

Your morning routine is the foundation for the rest of your day, and if you start off with stress, you take this posture with you throughout the day. 



Short Circuit Your Stress


There's a way to short circuit this stress inducing habit, and it's a pretty simple concept. What you have to do is to create a new habit to replace the old one. Instead of immediately jumping into everything that causes anxiety, like emails and the news, spend the first 15  minutes of your day doing something that recharges or relaxes you.

But whatever you do, stay off the phone.

Instead of going straight for the phone, get up and give yourself permission to

  • Relax when you take your morning coffee
  • Do a breathing exercise
  • Meditate
  • Play with your dog
  • Snuggle with your kid or your partner
  • Sit outside and watch the birds in the trees
  • Read from your favorite book or magazine 


You may even want to use an app like Calm or HeadSpace, which have some great meditations, breathing techniques, and other relaxation techniques. What you do depends on what is relaxing to you. Yes, I know you have to get on your electronic device to use an app, but as long as you avoid the anxiety-producing side of it, there's nothing wrong with using your phone to meditate.

So commit to spending the first 15-30 minutes of your day in moments of relaxation before you get on your phone and start getting busy with life. With this small commitment of time,  I have seen my clients start to decrease their stress level throughout the day. If your day is already busy, I recommend getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier so you can do this. It is worth it!

I would love to hear about your experiences with starting your day with relaxation. Just leave me a comment and let me know how it works for you!

June 3, 2017

Ask A Therapist!



You can ask a licensed therapist questions about things you are struggling with (at no cost to you) on the Wilson Counseling website. All questions remain anonymous, so click this link, and fire away with your questions! If it is a question that is likely to be of interest to other readers, I will try to answer it on my blog.


May 19, 2017

Children and Eating - Developing Non-Disordered Eating Habits



As an eating disorder therapist, I get a lot of questions from parents about how to feed children and how to prevent eating disorders. A great resource for answering some of these questions is the Ellyn Satyr Institute. Ellyn Satyr is a Dietitian and Family Therapist and is recognized as a leading expert when it comes to issues related to eating and food.

I strongly recommend her website if you want answers to questions like these:

How do you handle a picky eater?
What feeding errors can make your child too thin?
Should you worry about your child's weight?
How do you raise a child who is a joy to feed?
What can you do about a child who does not eat fruits and vegetable?
How can you raise children who trust themselves and their bodies?
What is the role of the parent/child in terms of aiding feeding and exercise?

If you are concerned that your child's eating issues are more serious and might indicate an eating disorder, I recommend talking to an eating disorder specialist. At Wilson Counseling, we can help you determine the best course of treatment for your children if they are struggling with disordered eating or body image issues.

You can call our Houston Counselors at 713 - 591 - 3612, email at nancy @ wilsoncounseling. org or visit our website at www. wilsoncounseling. org to find out more.





April 21, 2017

Men, Sex, Rejection & Shame


Sometimes sex is about more than sex


One of my favorite songs to belt out in Karaoke is Radiohead's "Creep." It is a song I reserve for moments when I feel low, because singing sad songs when I'm sad seems to make some of the angst dissipate. 

The song came to mind when I was thinking about writing this blog post about what sex means to men. There are many misconceptions about what sex means for men. One of the biggest ones is that men seek sex primarily to satisfy their own physical pleasure. Therefore, when men are rebuffed, it can't really hurt that much because they have just missed out on physical pleasure. Nope. 

I have found this to be a harmful misconception because it minimizes the importance of sex for men's identity and self-esteem. Look at the lyrics to "Creep" to illustrate in song what I have found that men can actually gain in a loving sexual encounter with their partner - identity, acceptance, self-worth and a sense of belonging. This may be a little bit dramatic, but, at its best, in the sexual union, there is a sense of the wander coming home. When you accept me sexually, I matter, I belong, I'm so very special.  

When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I don't care if it hurts
I wanna have control
I wanna perfect body
I wanna perfect soul

I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so f****n' special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.
--Radiohead 




"Creep" also illustrates what happens when men don't feel accepted by their partners. There is a sense of rejection, of being a creep, a weirdo, and overwhelmingly, I think this leads to feelings of shame. Initiating sex is inherently a vulnerable act for anyone. 

Author, professor, and shame researcher, Brene Brown, talks about the concept of shame and sex for men in her book, Daring Greatly.  Here is an excerpt from the book. Apologies for the length, but it is well worth the read. 
 

It's Not About The Back Fat: Men, Women, Sex and Body Image

"In 2006 I met with twenty-two community college students, male and female, to talk about shame. It was my first coed large group interview. At some point, a young man in his early twenties explained how he had recently divorced his wife after coming back from serving in the military and finding out that she was having an affair. He said he wasn’t surprised because he never felt “good enough for her.” He explained that he constantly asked her what she needed and wanted, and that every time he got close to meeting her needs, she “moved the goalpost another ten feet.”
 
A young woman in the class spoke up and said, “Guys are the same way. They’re never satisfied either. We’re never pretty, sexy, or skinny enough.” Within seconds a conversation broke out about body image and sex. The discussion was mostly about how it’s so scary to have sex with someone you care about when you’re worried about how your body looks. The young women who started the conversation said, “It’s not easy to have sex and keep your stomach sucked in. How can we get into it when we’re worried about our back fat?”
 
The young man who had shared the story of his divorce slammed his hand down on his desk and shouted, “It’s not about the back fat! You’re worried about it. We’re not. We don’t give a s**t!” The class fell completely quiet. He took a couple of deep breaths and said, “Stop making up all of this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is ‘Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?’ That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex, it feels like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?”
 
At that point, half of the young men in the room were so emotional that they had their faces in their hands. A few girls were in tears, and I couldn’t breathe. The young woman who had brought up the body image issue said, “I don’t understand. My last boyfriend was always criticizing my body.”
 The young vet who had just brought us all to our knees replied, “That’s because he’s an a**hole. It’s not because he’s a guy. Some of us are just guys. Give us a break. Please.” 
A middle-aged man in the group joined in, staring straight down at his desk. “It’s true. When you want to be with us…in that way…it makes us feel more worthy. We stand a little taller. Believe in ourselves more. I don’t know why, but it’s true. And I’ve been married since I was eighteen. It still feels that way with my wife.”

I read those passages to my husband and asked him if it resonated for him. Without hesitation, he said, "yes, of course." It seems so obvious now, but I had not really made the connection between sex and shame for men in that way. I figured that men could feel sad, bummed out, angry, or rejected when their partner turned them down, but shame goes much deeper. Shame is a pretty heady emotion based on the idea that there is something inherently bad or wrong about me.

Why deny your husband something that takes so little, but means so much?


I had a friend one time who said something to the effect of "Why do we deny our husbands something that takes so little time, but means so much?" That stuck with me. 


Take a chance on your partner

A note about initiating sex. In many relationships, there is one partner who almost always initiates sex. If that is working in your relationship, great, but I recommend having a conversation about this before assuming all is well.  The act of initiating can be a power symbol of your sense of desire for your partner, and we all want to feel wanted. If you are not normally the initiator, I recommend you try initiating more often. I realize this opens you up to rejection, but there is no intimacy without vulnerability. Take a chance on your partner. 

There are times when we just don't have it in us to have sex. We may genuinely be tired, or depressed, or dealing with issues of past abuse or pain. I get that. Some of you may read this post and feel that it is shaming you if you ever say no to your partner's sexual initiation, but please know that is not the intention of the post. Your body is your own and your choice to share it is your own. 

I have found, however, that sometimes, over time in our relationships, we get lazy and take each other for granted. I hope this post will encourage more discussion about sex and and an understanding of the power we hold over each other of acceptance and rejection. I hope it will encourage us to pursue each other's mutual pleasure and edification. And don't forget to have fun! 

If sex is a source of conflict, shame, or pain in your relationship, professional counseling can help. 
You can call our Houston counselors at 713 - 591- 3612, email at nancy @ wilsoncounseling. org or visit our website at www.wilsoncounseling.org to find out more. 

March 26, 2017

Marriage Group starting in April!




Reclaiming Love: Improving Communication and Appreciation in Your Marriage



Struggling to love your spouse well?

Tired of fighting about the same things over and over? 

Do you miss the spark and warmth you had when your marriage began?

Sometimes we get stuck in a pattern of arguing, taking each other for granted, or reenacting hurtful habits. Just because you love your spouse, does not mean you have a perfect marriage. We are all a work in progress and our marriages are a work in progress.


Join me and Leslie Peacock, Director of Counseling at Christ the King Presbyterian Church as we lead a for a 4-week marriage counseling group.

In the group,  you will learn to:

  • Deal with conflict without hurting your spouse
  • Improve your communication
  • Recover the romance in your relationship
  • Enjoy the benefits of a deep connected relationship

We will meet on Sundays from 5:00 to 7:00 at Christ The King On April 2, 9, 23, and 30. The cost is $200 per couple. If you are interested in attending please contact Leslie Peacock at 713-400-6715.

February 26, 2017

In a Narcissist Relationship? What You Can Do About It.

image:daviddevroy.com


In my last blog post, entitled "Life With A Narcissit,"I talked about what it was like living with someone who has characteristics of narcissism or even full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. You may have recognized someone you know when reading about narcissism. It can be very overwhelming to deal with individuals who have these traits. Even as a victim, you may start to feel like there is something wrong with you. What can you do to remain emotionally intact?

Elly Prior has a great article about this entitled "How to Deal With a Narcissist Partner." Below is an infographic I created showing some of Elly's top 10 tips for surviving life with a partner who has
narcissistic traits.


Top 10 Tips For Surviving Life With a Narcissistic Partner



One of the most important skills you can use to protect yourself with a narcissistic partner is boundary setting. Setting boundaries simply means you are communicating what is and is not okay. It is kind of like establishing the rules or guidelines of the relationship. 

Setting boundaries not only protects you, it is a way for you to respect yourself and to ask for respect from those you interact with, including and especially your narcissistic partner. Setting boundaries will help you keep from eroding your sense of self respect. There is also the added bonus of modeling healthy behavior in front of your kids or others around you, so they can learn to protect themselves as well.


If you do not want to get emotionally swallowed up and spit out by your partner, boundary setting is necessary.


So how do you set boundaries? For the sake of brevity, I won't go into much detail about setting boundaries, but I will recommend you read this page on setting boundaries, which has a lot of good information about what to do and not do when trying to set boundaries. 

I'm not sure who Spartan Life Coach is,  and though I found his tone to be a little bit intense,  I found his youtube video on the "12 Steps to Dealing with Narrcissists" to be helpful.



 

What To Say To a Narcissist

 

If you are looking for some words to use when you interact with a narcissist, check out the sample dialogues below:

Narcissist: Says ugly things about you in front of your children

You say: "This is not good for the children. If you keep talking this way, I will remove the kids from the situation and tell explain to them what is actually going on. Although I won't say bad things about you, I will explain to them why this type of behavior is not okay. "

Narcissist: Swears at you on the phone and is verbally abusive

You say: "If you are willing to speak peacefully, I am happy to talk to you about your concerns, but if you keep talking to me in that tone with those words, I will have to hang up the phone. " (If they continue, hang up the phone. Do not attempt to argue or fight back.)

Narcissist
: Threatens to divorce or leave you if you don't do what they want.

You say: "If you choose to leave me, that is your choice. I have to be true to standing up for the things I feel I need in my life. "

You can't control your narcissistic partner, but you can control how you deal with him. And that gives you significant power over your own life. You are deserving of care, love, and respect, not abuse. If you can't get those things from your partner, I recommend you surround yourself with others who can treat you with dignity. 


Narcissists are Emotional Vampires


Narcissists are emotional vampires who will suck you dry if you do not stop them. It is normal for people who have to interact with them to feel crazy, but you are not crazy. You are just worn out by the constant blaming and barrage of attacks. Seek support, seek help. 




If you are struggling with the pain of being in a relationship with a narcissist, professional counseling can help.

You can call our Houston counselors at 713 - 591 - 3612 or mail us at nancy @ wilsoncounseling. org. Please visit the Wilson Counseling website at www.wilsoncounseling.org to find out more.

January 27, 2017

Life With A Narcissist

painting by Jody Kelly from narcissusmagazine.com

During the recent presidential election cycle, people threw around the term narcissist or narcissistic personality disorder a lot when talking about Donald Trump. Many articles were written and tweets tweeted about the subject. As a therapist, I know that I can not diagnose someone I have never examined, but the discussions did call to mind my clients who have partners that exhibit traits of narcissism or even full blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?


NPD is a mental health diagnosis that is characterized by an unhealthy sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Many people have traits of narcissism, but very few, about 6.2% of the population, would meet diagnostic criteria for NPD. You can learn more about it from this nifty animated video:




How does narcissism affect you in a relationship?


I can recall one client, Cindy,  who came to me feeling depressed and anxious about her marriage and down on herself. Years of living with a man who was critical, arrogant, and needy left her feeling like there was something wrong with her. She had a successful high-powered job, but at home she became a shell of a person.  

Cindy's partner tended to become angry and aggressive when he did not get what he wanted in the relationship. By lashing out, he had caused an emotional rift between them which led her to feel physically disconnected from him. She became uninterested in having sex with her husband. She had no desire to be naked and vulnerable with someone who worked to tear her down. Her partner became resentful about the lack of physical intimacy, as many partners would. In a healthy relationship, her partner at that point may have looked inward and asked what was he was doing that might have caused a rift or asked what could be done to fix it. But as a narcissist, he just blamed his wife. When his wife started menstruating, he became angry, screaming at her and telling her she got her period on purpose just to avoid having sex with him. To a narcissist, they are the center of the universe and what you do is either a benefit or a slight to them. He could not have any empathy with his partner and what she was feeling.


















"You have to do something about this abusive behavior or your brain and body are going to take you out of it - you are going to lose it."


There was a time when Cindy was so worn out she barely had the energy to describe her feelings. She told me "there is so much noise in my head, I don’t know why everybody can’t hear it. I wish people would just read my mind."A friend who was worried about her told her "You have to do something about this abusive behavior or your brain and body are going to take you out of it - you are going to lose it. " 

How therapy can help

That is when Cindy decided to start therapy. Therapy has made a huge difference in helping her know how to deal with her partner's narcissism. We worked to rebuild Cindy's sense of self. She learned how to have an assertive voice and how to set boundaries so that she was not wounded over and over. The boundaries protected her and taught her to respect herself. 

It was also really helpful for Cindy to discover that her partner has the traits of someone with NPD. Putting a name to it allowed her to read about the disorder, to understand her partner. It also helped her to know how to handle him when he was combative, arrogant, or when he just lacked basic empathy for her pain.  



Get out of the fog 

One of the resources that Cindy found helpful is a website called Out Of the Fog. It is a website to help family members and loved ones of people who suffer from personality disorders. Personality disorders are mental disorders in which people have unhealthy ways of thinking, functioning, and acting. A person with a personality disorder usually has problems understanding and relating to situations and people. The Out Of The Fog website is a great place to start to learn to-do's for dealing with someone who has a personality disorder, to find book recommendations, or to ask questions on the group forum. 


image:narcissusmagazine.com

There is hope if you are in a relationship with someone who has a full blown personality disorder, or just exhibits traits of narcissism. I don't recommend, however, that you find your way on your own. Talk to a therapist, post/read the Out Of The Fog forum, speak to a trusted friend. Being in one of these types of relationships is very draining. You are not crazy, silly, or weak. You are just tired, and that is normal. Therapy can be one way to learn the skills you need to cope. 

Stay tuned for my next post when I talk about ways to handle a narcissist. 

If you are struggling with the pain in your life, professional counseling can help. You can call our Houston counselors at 713- 591 - 3612 or email us at nancy @ wilsoncounseling . org.  Please visit the Wilson Counseling website at www.wilsoncounseling.org to find out more. 

January 19, 2017

Upcoming Houston Conference to Focus on Reducing Body Dissatisfaction and Preventing Eating Disorders



The Houston Eating Disorder Specialists conference is coming up on February 18th. This conference is not just for those struggling with eating disorders, it also has a track for professionals who treat eating disorders as well as a community track which will have useful information for caregivers and loved ones of those who have an eating disorder. These conferences have been extremely valuable to my client's and their families in the past. If you want to know more about it, or to register, please check out the Conference website below.

http://www.houstoneds.org/2017-heds-conference-schedule/