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Assertiveness: Be All of You in Your Relationship

If you find it hard to say “no” or are rarely speaking your mind, you likely have a passive approach to communication. Maybe even to living. If you are not afraid of how things fly out of your mouth, and are only focused on your needs, you likely fit an aggressive style that can leave others hurting and distancing from you. Both styles can lead to hurting you or someone else.

One thing I have learned is that I used to value keeping the peace more than showing up and being real in relationship. I did not even know I was doing that, but I learned I was serving “peace” rather than genuine relating. Then, I realized I was selling myself short and everyone around me. I valued their needs over mine and at times could not identify my needs because I had lost touch with them long ago. I now believe it is human to have needs and it is spiritual to voice our needs and that this builds deep, authentic, realistic relationships. It is unrealistic to expect others to know what I have need of without asking specifically for it.

In Matthew 20:29-34, Jesus asked the two blind men who called out to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He likely knew their need, but wanted them to be specific with their faith in asking for what they needed from this relationship, so they could connect intimately.

Again, Jesus challenged a man in need, “Do you want to get well?… Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:1-14). He was looking for bold, faith-filled, assertiveness. Someone who was serious about what they needed and willing to speak up about it, even act upon it.

It can feel risky to admit you have needs, ask for what you need, and that you need people or God. In order to be true to yourself, and be close to others, embrace humility in your vulnerability, muster your faith, and speak your mind calmly with courage and kindness.

This phrase may help you take responsibility for your feelings and communicate what you need without blaming someone else as the problem. Counseling can help build assertiveness skills so you feel more authentic and more in charge of your life without appeasing others or pushing others away.

“I” Statement format:            “I feel ________ when you _________ because __________.”

Overcoming Shame From Failure

by Dr. Kara White, Psy.D. in Active, Articles, Blog, Self Improvement Comments: 0 tags: Communication

John Maxwell, in his book Failing Forward, tells the story of an experiment with a ceramics class. The teacher divided the class and assigned one half the task of spending the entire semester developing the perfect pot. The other half would be graded based on how many pots were made. It turns out, at the end of the course, the half that focused on quantity created the more perfect pot than the half focused on quality. His test proved that mastery comes with failure.

No matter where you are in your journey, moving through hurt, failure, or adversity is something we all have to embrace. When I was faced with great difficulty, I felt I had two options: be overcome with panic and despair, or find a way to go through it. My faith, support of family and friends, self-awareness, and intentional action to get help and help myself, enabled me to rise above adversity and become stronger.

In periods of difficulty, it is easy to be overwhelmed with emotion such as fear, panic, anger, confusion, and doubt. All of these emotions are difficult to feel, express, and work through to find relief. However, one emotion, that is particularly troubling in these instances, is shame. Shame, a universal experience, seems to fit in the category with embarrassment and guilt, but it is different. Brené Brown, from her book Daring Greatly, defines it as an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging ” (2012, p. 69). Failure easily triggers this experience.

I know I am in shame when I am irritable, avoiding people, experiencing a low mood, and start to become critical of others. I, then, take a moment to reflect on what has happened recently, to identify my trigger. Sometimes, I feel shame related to being a wife, such as not feeling sexy enough, not connecting or communicating enough, or fearing I have done something to create emotional distance. Other times, I may feel shame about needing clarity or stability during change.

When feeling shame from failure, how can we develop resilience? Brené Brown (2007) recommends you follow these steps:

  1. Understand how shame feels on you and what triggered it
  2. Reality-check your thoughts that tell us being imperfect means being inadequate
  3. Share the story with a trusted person
  4. Talk about how you’re feeling and ask for what you need

To read more about shame resilience, go to to find her booklist and blog.

Brown, B. (2007). I thought it was just me (but it isn’t): Telling the truth about perfectionism, inadequacy and power. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

Maxwell, J. (2000). Failing forward: Turning mistakes into stepping stones for success. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Knowing When To Seek Help

Some days are good. Really good… Some days are bad. Really bad… The bad days have progressively become more frequent. The hope of good days is beginning to fade.

It was a long day after a long week. Come to think of it, it’s been a long year. My daughter and I curled up in bed watching a movie as we fell asleep. I heard the sound of Adrian’s key turn in lock. My eyes immediately popped open. The door swung open and slammed against the wall. At that moment, I knew Adrian had been drinking. “It’s a bad day,” I thought to myself. The dog jumped and my daughter gripped me in fear. I squeezed her hand in an attempt to comfort her and possibly to reassure myself.

I jumped out of bed in an attempt to sooth Adrian. Not sure what to expect, I carefully walked on eggshells so as to not set Adrian off into a rage of anger. Nevertheless, verbal daggers in the form of criticism and put-downs were quickly thrown toward me violently striking me in the heart. I frantically attempted to nurture and reason with Adrian. I desperately wanted to prevent the explosion I knew was coming. With one sweep of Adrian’s arm, my late grandfather’s heirloom shattered into a million pieces on the dinning room floor. I felt angry, sad, and scared. Adrian walked away with no regard for what he had done. I quickly and silently gathered some items and left with my daughter and the dog.

The next morning, I woke up to several texts messages and voice messages from Adrian pleading with me to come back, promising me that the drinking is over for good and making commitments to get help and seek counseling to gain control over the anger. I thought to myself, “Today will be a good day. Maybe Adrian will finally follow through. Maybe we can finally escape this horribly destructive pattern.” My second thought was, “Adrian has promised all of this before. What will make this time different? We have gone through this pattern countless times before.”

My final thoughts were, “I do not want this life for my daughter, for myself, nor for Adrian. This time, I will change the pattern. This time I will seek support for myself.”

  • This story is fictional and created with the intent to illustrate an abusive relational pattern as to increase awareness, offer knowledge and provide support for those who may be engaging in an abusive relational pattern.


cycle of violence

Image Retrieved from

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2015), “Domestic violence is prevalent in every community and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.”

Obtain further information at

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. – Psalm 34:18

If the above depicted relational pattern is one that you find to be familiar, please seek help. Your life is worth it.

Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Or, online go to


DCADV. (2015). Domestic violence national statistics. Retrieved from

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Health and Wellness: Mind, Body, and Spirit

by Dr. Jermaine Thomas, Psy.D. in Active, Self Improvement Comments: 0

WellnessWhen it comes to living well, self-care is extremely important, as we are all beautifully made and endowed with a mind, body and spirit that require continuous care. Generally, when we possess something we consider beautiful, whether it’s a new car, a new electronic device, or fine jewelry, we are sure to maintain its upkeep by taking care of it. Taking care of our possessions is indicative of their value to us, thus we ought to care for ourselves all the more, as our mind, body, and spirit ought to be amongst our greatest treasure.

Taking care of our body is vital if we seek to live a healthy lifestyle. One of the ways in which we can care for our body is by maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. Eating foods from all of the major food groups, and having three square meals a day is a surefire way to ensure that our body is getting the nutrients that it needs. Also, exercising three to five days a week is a great way to care for our body, as regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of medical conditions. Lastly, good sleep-hygiene is important to maintaining a healthy body as well.

Taking care of our mind is just as important as taking care of our body. Engaging in activities we enjoy, reading, growing in knowledge, and surrounding ourselves with people that will provide us with the emotional support we need when our psychological resources have been pushed to the brink, are all ways that we can care for our minds.

Lastly, there’s our spirit. Our spirit desires to be fed just as much as our mind and body do, and staying in relationship with our Creator, either through prayer, reading sacred texts or attending church, are all ways in which we are able to nourish our spirit.

Caring for every aspect of our being is vitally important if we desire to live well, and if you or someone else you care for has found it difficult to live well in any aspect of life, please feel free to give us a call. It is our desire to treat the whole person, and we hope to get you or your loved one back to living a healthy and fulfilling life once again.

Going Fishing

by Stephanie Rose Torres, M.A. in Active, Self Improvement Comments: 0

girl_fishingDuring this time of the year most people tend to have a renewed sense of drive and motivation.

One might argue that one of the only thing the New Year restores are fantasy-driven resolutions that—more often than not—end in lack of accomplishment. This then elicits feelings like disappointment, guilt, shame, and frustration, just to name a few.

Some people may even question, “How did John/Jane accomplish his/her New Year resolution? How did s/he meet their goal?” Or one’s thoughts may evolve into a more pessimistic perspective, such as, “John/Jane must be lying about that…” (fill in the blank). This frame of mind is most often evident of many failed attempts that have led to the unfortunate loss of hope.

The purpose of this article is to reintroduce hope into accomplishing goals, however big or small. No tips and tricks needed—only tools and determination.

The first tool to keep in mind is purpose. A goal without purpose is like a fishhook without bait. We may have the lake, the fish, and the tool to catch the fish (the fishhook), yet the fish has no reason to latch onto the hook without bait. We must restore reason into our goal-setting. Your purpose serves as the motivation for action. The motivation that comes with the New Year is often temporary; yet purpose provides a longer-lasting incentive to accomplish a goal.

Another helpful tool is to filter goals through the DART Goal[1] method: Is this goal Detailed, Achievable, Realistic, and does it have a Time-Frame (DART)? For example, one of the most commonly stated New Year resolutions is  “to lose weight.” This may sound appealing and familiar, but how does this look like using the DART method. Is the  goal of “losing weight” Detailed, Achievable, Realistic, and does it have a Time-Frame (DART)? No.

Step by step, the following will explore possible adjustments to the stated goal that can increase the probability of accomplishment.

Detail: “My goal is to lose 20 pounds…”

Achievability: “…by eating 25% less of the portions of my meals…”

Reality: “…and exercising Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays…”

Time-frame: “…within 5-6 months.”

“My goal is to lose 20 pounds within 5-6 months by eating 25% less of the portions of my meals. I also plan to exercise every Tuesday, Thursday before dinner, and Saturday mornings.” We often create goals without knowing how to accomplish them. The DART method provides the how-to that makes our goals achievable.

Now you try: 1) Analyze the following and identify whether the goal is a DART goal. 2) Make the goal a DART goal, if it isn’t already. 3) Create your own!

  • I plan to be a more generous person. Y/N
  • I will eat only a salad every Sunday afternoon for the next 3 months. Y/N
  • I will make my bed every day before going to work/school. Y/N
  • ___________________________________________________________________


So the next time you go fishing, make sure you have the adequate bait for the fish you hope to catch.

[1] “Executive Functions” by Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, 2014.

Will Success Bring Happiness?

by Dr. Kara White, Psy.D. in Active, Business, Self Improvement Comments: 0

successAs we begin the new year many of us are setting goals and challenges for ourselves. Our ultimate goal maybe a successful life. But does this type of success truly bring a happy life? What good is success if we are not happy?

I’m from a small Michigan town, and my parents worked hard to provide a pretty satisfying life for me. They worked long-term in jobs that required limited professional training, hoping that one day their kids could go to college and avoid financial struggle.

I exceeded their dreams by getting a doctorate in psychology to be able to earn a quality living doing something I love. Yet my future success and stable living, do not make me exempt from hardship and struggle.

Too often, we find ourselves wishing to be in a better situation than where we are. “If I only had…” “If I only was…” as if having those things would save us from loneliness, despair, and hardship. What I have found from reading about successful people is that they were not successful because they did not have hardship, they just found a way to overcome it.

On the other hand, many of us are so caught up in our success, that it defines us. We rely on money for comforts that can ease our pain and loneliness, but not resolve it. Therefore, we then determine our sense of worth from our status when compared to others.

Understandably, you may have found this path exhausting and unfulfilling. Instead, consider cultivating a sense of acceptance for where you are at, foster gratitude, and view yourself as “enough” as you are. From this place of “being enough”, you can pursue wholeheartedly your goals with faith rather than fear.

Helpful Article

Dreams of Our Children


Unleashing Potential

by CCCOC Resources in Active, Self Improvement Comments: 0

Several years ago, one of our after-school program partners requested a crisis management session with Damien* at their Southside location. Damien’s twin sister had just died in front him as a result of an asthma attack. He and his family were shocked and grief stricken. Only a month later, Damien’s grandmother died during the night; he found her body the next morning. His caretaker, his closest family members, and his entire support system disappeared in the span of one month. Read more!

Cornerstone Counseling Center of Chicago