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Laura Giles, LCSW

bend, not break

How to Bend, Not Break

Most people endure at least one traumatic event in their lifetimes. Some have many. If you work in a high stress environment, like a hospital mental health care, the police force, or an incarceration facility, an overloaded nervous system could happen on a daily basis. So what makes some people bend, not break? The key to understanding this has to do with orientation towards time. Positive Relationship to the Past People with a higher level of resilience have a healthier relationship with the past. Although their past may not have been totally rosey, they reminisce, have more positive than negative memories, and feel that some good came out of the bad. People with a positive relationship to the past are more likely to honor traditions, eat with their families, have long, strong...

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what's right

What’s Right With Your Life?

We can be so conditioned to focus on what's wrong, growing, and fixing things that we forget to acknowledge what's right. So let's take a moment to pause and reflect on what's right with your life. When we do this simple, little practice, we our mental landscape can change. There is a zen story that illustrates what I mean. There once was a young man who was really unhappy. All he did was complain all the time. He heard of a zen master in the next village and decided to go see if he had a way out of his depression. When the young man arrived, he said, "No matter what I do, I always have problems. I can never get away from them, and it makes me perpetually sad." The...

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leaving an abusive relationship

What You Need to Know Before Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Leaving any relationship is not easy. When the relationship has been abusive, there are special emotional considerations that don't come with your run-of-the-mill breakup. Here are some things you need to know before leaving an abusive relationship that may make the break more bearable. It's Not Your Fault Your partner may have a habit of blaming you for things that go wrong. You may be wondering what you could have done differently to make the relationship easier. Whether your partner is blaming you or you are blaming yourself, let that go. It's not your fault. Abuse is a maladaptive way of relating that is hurtful and unhealthy. Nobody makes another person behave that way. It's a choice. You Can't Change Your Partner Along with shouldering the blame for the abuse, many victims say that...

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what does safety feel like

What Does Safety Feel Like?

If you grew up in a chaotic environment, you may not know what safety feels like. How do you cultivate something when you don't know what it is? It's like trying to describe chocolate to someone who has never smelled or tasted it. Nothing else comes close. It's something you have to experience to really get it, right? Here are some tips to get you there. A Calm Mind Depression is about focusing on the past. Anxiety is about highlighting the potential future. Safety isn't in either of those places. It's in this moment. If you are someone whose mind is always going, going, going, it may be hard to be here. So try this. Look at one thing that is within your view right now, or one thing that you're feeling...

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healing toxic shame

How to Heal Toxic Shame

Shame happens when we perceive we have done something wrong and someone else witnesses it. Instead of seeing the behavior is wrong, we believe that we are wrong, bad, defective, unworthy, or don't deserve love. Unlike guilt, shame requires a witness to exist. For example, if I believe that stealing is wrong and take something that doesn't belong to me, I will feel guilty. I won't feel shame unless and until someone knows I've stolen. Toxic shame puts us in shadow. We forget, if we ever knew, that we're creative, brilliant, worthy, amazing, daring, trustworthy, good, sexy people. Nothing can convince us otherwise because when we look out into the world, all we see is proof of our depravity. Stop the Crisis The first step to healing from anything is to...

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what causes toxic shame

What Causes Toxic Shame?

Sometimes I get clients who are really nice people, they seem honest, and really want to feel better, but they just don't budge. Almost always the underlying reason is toxic shame. They have a deep belief that they are bad, and they don't deserve to feel any better. That's utter nonsense. Everyone has a beautiful light inside. Sometimes we let poor choices overshadow it and we forget to let it shine. Or sometimes we grow up in invalidating environments and the people around us throw so much shade that we don't learn that it's there. Whatever the reason, we don't have to live with it. Every day is a new opportunity to have a different life. We just have to choose, then stay the course. Sometimes that's easier when we...

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Could You Be Carrying Toxic Shame?

I've never had any client come into my office saying, "I suffer from toxic shame." In fact, a lot of people don't know what it is or that it's a problem. They think of it as something "normal" or "not a big deal." Toxic shame can keep you from living a vibrant, healthy life. So let's take a look at it. Guilt Is Not The Same Thing as Shame Guilt is the unpleasant feeling that happens when you don't live up to your values or other people's expectations. For example, if I like being perceived as reliable, and I say that I will do something and don't do it, I may feel guilty about it. If I want my mother to think well of me, and I forget all about her birthday,...

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take responsibility

What Does “Take Responsibility For What’s Yours” Look Like?

In my previous post, I said that one way to reduce relationship friction is to take responsibility for what's yours. This is a part of having great boundaries and being effective. But what does this look like exactly? "Taking responsibility" means that you're taking charge of a situation and doing what needs to be done. It's very common for some people to play the Hero, Rescuer, or Mother role and do things for others or over give. "What's yours" means allowing others to fight their own battles, clean up their own messes, and do their own growing. If it's yours, own it. Everyone needs to grow up. It's natural. If you aren't taking responsibility for what's yours, you are short changing yourself of the benefits of your life experiences. Here...

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