March 16, 2018

Do You Need to Write Yourself a Permission Slip?

You are worn out

You work hard. You put your partner, your kid, and your work before yourself because that is what you think a grownup is supposed to do. And you're tired. Your emotional and physical health are compromised.

I talk to clients and friends all the time who feel worn thin, but they believe they don't have any choice but to keep doing what they're doing because if they don't, their world might fall apart. Their kids won't get to the doctor or the after-school activity. The laundry won't get done, the house won't get cleaned, the dinners won't get cooked.

Life is not fun. And whether we recognize it or not, sometimes we're not effective because we're running on fumes.

Give yourself permission to take care of yourself

In her book Braving The Wilderness, Brene Brown talks about the idea of giving ourselves permission slips. When my daughter goes on a field trip for school, I have to sign a permission slip saying it is okay for her to go. So, Brene writes herself permission slips on Post-it notes. There is something about writing down the permissions that emboldens us to follow through. It is a gentle way of saying that it's okay for us to take care of ourselves. It sounds so simple, but very few of us follow through with this.

What do you need?

I was thinking about my clients this week and the things they wanted or needed to do but felt guilty about:

  • Permission to attend a support group for herself to deal with her transgendered partner's transition, even when feeling guilty about not focusing on supporting her partner.
  • Permission to stop multitasking to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.
  • Permission to leave work at 6 p.m. every night even if some of your coworkers stay later.
  • Permission not to check work email when at home in the evenings or on weekends.
  • Permission to exercise even though it takes away from family time.
  • Permission to eat meat, fattening foods, desert, or other "bad" foods.
  • Permission to say "no" to activities.
  • Permission to sit and read a book just for fun.
  • Permission to take time out and meet with a therapist.
  • Permission to be honest with your partner about sexual fantasies and interests.
  • Permission to throw yourself a party for your accomplishments.
  • Permission to rest when you are not feeling well.
  • Permission to buy that dog you've been researching and dreaming about.
  • Permission to be silly and play sometimes.
And on and on.

Take action today -- It's fun!

Here is your homework: write yourself some permission slips for things your want and need in your life and sign them. Then remove guilt and instead congratulate yourself for taking care of yourself and for modeling healthy choices. The things on your to-do list will still be there when you get back, but you will have the energy to start enjoying your life again.

You are worth it. You are enough. You matter, too!

March 4, 2018

Are you doing these 4 things that hurt your relationships?

Most people starting couples therapy come in focused on their partners’ flaws. Few people come into my office and say, “We’re here because I complain too often, I yell all the time and don’t help out around the house.” It’s understandable that when you’ve been repeatedly hurt by your partner, you would be defensive and see the need for change in them. Nevertheless, the only changes you can make happen are changes in the way you show up in the relationship during the good times and the bad. You take control of your relationships by learning to change yourself first.

4 Relationship Patterns to Look Out For

Renowned couples therapists, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have identified four communication patterns that are detrimental to relationships and often result in divorce. These are called the Four Horsemen:

 1. Criticism – a verbal attack often disguised as a critique or complaint

 2. Contempt – behaviors aimed at making your partner feel worthless, such as sarcasm, name-calling, insulting, mocking

 3. Defensiveness – making excuses usually in response to feeling accused or blamed 

4. Stonewalling/Withdrawing – physical or emotional avoidance, distance, separation

4 Ways to Mend Communication Mistakes

 Thankfully, the Gottmans have identified specific antidotes for each of the Four Horsemen. Once you take the first step in identifying your own unhealthy communication patterns, you can replace them with the following antidotes: 

1. Antidote for Criticism: Gentle Start-up.

Be cognizant of how you’re feeling and avoid voicing complaints when you’re tired or already frustrated or angry. Talk about what you’re feeling and make specific requests for what you need.

2. Antidote for Contempt: Build Appreciation 

Remind yourself and your partner of the reasons you love and appreciate them by verbalizing it on a regular basis. 

3. Antidote for Defensiveness: Take Responsibility 

Recognize the validity of your partner’s perspective and offer an apology when needed 

4. Antidote for Stonewalling/Withdrawal: Self-Soothe and Rejoin 

Take a time out to recognize any overwhelming emotions. Self-soothe and practice self-care but then return to the conversation when you’re ready.

How Healthy Are Your Communication Habits? 

Next time you find yourself consumed in an argument or a difficult conversation with your partner, take a step back and consider which of the four horsemen are showing up in your own behavior and make some changes. It can be easy to focus on your partner’s hurtful behaviors but it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture: this is a relationship you’ve created together and if you want to make positive changes, you’ll have to do that together, too. Think before you react, and remember that you’re talking to someone you love.

-By Guest Writer Ashley Giles, LCSW                                                                                                                              

If you need help with your relationships and would like to schedule an appointment with a Houston Therapist , you can contact us at 713-591-3612 or