Articles for the Month of May 2015

4 Predictors of Divorce



John Gottman is an author, expert and well-respected relationship therapist with a theory about what kills a relationship most effectively. For nearly three decades, he’s studied couple’s relationships and counseled partners looking for ways to preserve their connection. He’s found that certain behavioral patterns are predictors of divorce.  Scientific evidence indicates he’s right most of the time.  Gottman named these relationship patterns the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

When Gottman’s relational “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” come riding into your marriage, you and your spouse are in real trouble! This kind of trouble won’t blow over or resolve itself. These horsemen bring hurt, disconnect and divorce in their wake.

You’ll need to get to know your enemies and defend your love against them if you want your marriage to survive. According to Gottman, these four predictors of divorce are enemies of your happy relationship:

1. Criticism:

Thoughts and remarks to or about your partner deal the first blow to the safety, trust, and loving feelings between you and your spouse.  This is an attack on your partner as a person, rather than their actions and behavior.

When you begin to pick each other apart and continually voice displeasure with the other’s faults, hurt and resentment build. Soon efforts to repair the rift and refocus on the aspects you appreciate about each other become less prevalent and appreciation for each other fades.

2. Defensiveness:

This behavior is easy to indulge when you feel attacked. Very quickly, the emotional walls go up and tender feelings are barricaded behind them. Walls make hearing and seeing your partner clearly much more difficult. Emotionally-available connection is severed, misunderstandings increase, and miscommunication amplifies negative interaction.

Once defensiveness becomes your go-to response, along comes blame and a lack of self-examination, which make apologies and reconciliation extremely difficult.

3. Contempt:

This predictor often spells certain doom in a relationship. Contempt is a lack of respect. It is cloaked in judgment, dripping with sarcasm, and full of negativity, conflict and resentment. A relationship without respect deteriorates quickly and painfully as you lose the ability to see anything positive or worthy of preserving.

Usually one or more of the following things are going on:

You’ve determined your partner isn’t worth much without your direction or commentary.
You’ve judged your partner’s behavior and character as generally negative and unchangeable.
Your communication has broken down into “you” language (you always…, you never…), personal attacks (you’re so clueless!) and universal characterizations (everyone knows you’re wrong).
You no longer acknowledge the emotions and needs of your partner. You actively invalidate them, alienate, ignore or put down his or her feelings, shutting down intimacy and breaking emotional ties.

4. Stonewalling:

According to Dr. Gottman, stonewalling is “when a listener withdraws from an interaction by getting quiet or shutting down.” This behavior, characterized by withdrawal and silence, is often a result of feeling mentally or emotionally overwhelmed. It’s an effort to regain a sense of calm and control, which is understandable, but a refusal to engage at all devalues the relationship and isolates you from each other.  Stonewalling sends an undeniably hurtful message to your partner. The lack of eye contact, disinterest and intentional avoidance say, “You’re not important and I’m not interested in moving our relationship forward.”

John Gottman offers these divorce predictors or “Four Horsemen” as a warning, but also a reason for hope.  If you know what to look for, you, your partner and an experienced relationship counselor can help defend your relationship against the subtle sabotage of the “Four Horseman.”  I’m a coach/counselor in San Antonio, Texas.  Call me to make an appointment if you need help with your marriage.


How Depression Keeps You Down with Negative Thinking

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on May 3, 2015

San Antonio Therapist


Negative thoughts wear you down. 

Depression likes it that way.

Negative thinking is like the persistent whisper of the neighborhood gossip. Distracting, generalizing, and full of half-truths.It drains you like the critical opinion of a nit-picking parent. Judging, harsh, finding fault after fault.

It’s like the belittling commentary of a controlling boss. Pressuring, questioning, and undermining your confidence. Negative thoughts, once they’re off and running, like to keep running. Soon, your head is full of so much self-doubt and internal pessimism that before long, you’re defeated and deflated. Soon, your depression is empowered.And you feel helpless to do anything but spiral further and further down. But remember…Depression wants you down there. Hurting, hiding, thinking one sad thought after another. Trapped by your own mind.Depression, egged on by negative thinking, will actually have you believing that one bad day means they’re all bad.Assuming all the mistakes of your past and present add up to an inevitable future mess.It will keep you too wrapped up in worries and ruminations to live above the sadness.To feel better at all, you have to accept that your thoughts control how you feel.You have to learn to fight the negativity in your own mind.It’s not easy. It probably won’t feel good at first.But depression must not be allowed to win.To gain the advantage, you’ll need to change the course of your thoughts with renewed commitment and new skills.To keep depression weak and the spiral downward brief, incorporate these strategies to help you reset your mind:Fight Depression: Deal with your negative thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions.

How do you think yourself into a depressing corner?

  • Are you guilty of seeing the world as black and white, right or wrong, with no room for the unexpected or compromise?
  • Do you tend to generalize your experiences? Does one failure mean your life is a failure?
  • Are you obsessed with “what if’s” and looming disasters? Do you wonder why you should even try?

There are hosts of ways to end up in a negative thinking rut. Challenge your usual thought patterns. Take a breath and ask yourself if they are really valid.

Fight Depression: Change the backdrop

Buried under the covers, ruminating in a darkened room, or parked in front of the TV are great places to let negative thoughts take root and grow.

It’s better to get outside and soak in the vitamin D.

Inhale like your life and mind depend on it.

Depression doesn’t care much for sunshine and fresh air.

Fight Depression: Embrace Exercise and Relaxation

Negative thoughts have a much easier time sneaking in and taking hold when you are not at your physical best.

Your brain and body need the endorphins that accompany exercise. Those natural chemicals are the key to feeling good.

Your body also needs to rest and let down. Stress and a hectic lifestyle are easily transformed into negativity. Meditate, take long baths, get a massage.

Fight Depression: Reframe your point of reference

Depression wants you all to itself. It attacks your self-worth and ability to connect with others. Negative thinking is often self-oriented, self-doubting, and self-pitying.

It just makes sense to turn your focus outward.

Fight the desire to isolate yourself with unnerving thoughts.

Reach out to friends, family, or a counselor.

Run some of your more persistent negative thoughts by other people and you may obtain a clearer, more accurate perspective.

Depression wants you down there.

Hurting, hiding, sad.

Change your mind. Don’t let it take you down.

If you are struggling from depression that persists and live in the San Antonio area, please contact me or make an appointment online.  Let me help you.

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A Remedy for Fear and Anxiety Is Here!

Relief for fear and anxiety

Mindfulness Meditation

by Cathy Neville, LPC, on May 2, 2015.

Fear and Anxiety

Emergency! Disaster! Catastrophe! The alarm bells are sounding in your head and you’re not even sure why. You’re tense and jumpy. All you know is that something is wrong. Something says run. Something says fight…again.You’ve had more than enough. How can you make anxiety subside and retreat? If you’ve reached a point where intrusive, anxious thoughts are getting in the way of your life and relationships, try mindfulness meditation as a way to help silence the alarms.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice or habit of being present. Learning how to remain “here and now” is the objective. Being present helps you notice and observe the thoughts and feelings that support disturbing emotions, without needing to respond. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to disconnect from negative thought patterns, become aware your bodily responses and refocus on the present moment. This practice has an extremely beneficial impact on anxiety.

Consider the following ways mindfulness meditation soothes and alleviates worry, fear, and your anxious “high alert” condition:

1. Mindful meditation allows you to watch and pay attention instead of worry and panic.

The wandering, fast and furious thoughts typical of an anxious mind are brought under control through moment-by-moment awareness.

This method keeps your attention focused on observation of thought as it comes. Essentially, mindfulness meditation lets anxiety have its way. You become aware of anxious feelings rather than hide from them.

Seeing anxiety and feeling it doesn’t mean you must engage it or control it. It doesn’t mean avoiding it either. In a mindful state, you remain in your body, aimed only in the moment. Your breathing is steady and controlled.

Each moment happens naturally. You do not attempt to change it or affect it. You are simply aware. No breath, physical impression or emotion is given less than your undivided attention.

2. Mindfulness soothes the need to overthink.

While you are in a present, observant mental state, stressors are less likely to become anxious episodes.

Mental space once reserved for worry is no longer filled with countless things, people or events you cannot control in the future or past.

People with general anxiety disorder (GAD) seem to be particularly benefitted by mindfulness meditation. Sufferers of the disorder deal with persistent and unmanageable worries, sleeplessness and irritability.

Studies like that of Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a well-respected psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, reveals that therapies incorporating mindfulness meditation help reduce anxiety beyond the improvements shown in groups which employed other stress management techniques.

3. Mindfulness meditation helps recognize the truth.

Mindfulness helps you face fears by acknowledging it for what truly is, exactly as it is. You can better determine whether they are productive answers to real problems, or the result of unrealistic thinking.

Without the distress and reaction of “fight or flight,” the reasons for your anxiety can be determined accurate or untrue.

Recent research supports this idea. In the British Journal of Clinical, researchers at the Bergen in Norway published a review of how effective mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) is on anxiety. Nineteen studies were included. The research revealed that when therapeutic interventions focused on developing a new relationship with “distressing thoughts, feelings and behavioral impulses” rather than replacing or controlling symptoms, less distress occurred. Basically, MBT shapes a new perspective of anxiety. You can observe the perceived threats and fight or flight responses rather than become absorbed in them.

From a state of present consciousness, mindfulness meditation allows you to see things more clearly and become better at letting fear go.  Good news, don’t you think?

If you need help getting started with your meditation and you live in the San Antonio area, call me or make an appointment online, so you can start controlling your fear and anxiety.