Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace



This blog is not intended as a substitute for therapy sessions with a licensed therapist. If you are looking for help, please contact me at [email protected] or 214-736-7438.

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I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

Posted on 11 August, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (1777)

Remember the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!? It's one of my favorites. Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie sings a song near the beginning of the musical called "I Can't Say No." While the song is really about saying no to kisses from boys, the first few lines could apply to quite a few of us is many other situations:

I'm just a girl who can't say no,

I'm in a terrible fix!

I always say, "come on, let's go!"

Just when I oughta say, "Nix!"

Does this describe you? Do you say yes when you know you should say no, just to keep the guilt from setting in? Do you frequently find yourself agreeing to some task or another, a volunteer opportunity, one more [carpool, bake sale, PTA meeting, fundraiser, etc], when what you really want to say is, "NO!"? Do you envy others who seem to be able to turn down one of these "opportunities" without feeling guilty? Do you worry about hurting someone's feelings by turning them down?

Good news! You, too, can set boundaries and say no without guilt! Just imagine: You agree to tasks you enjoy. You spend more time with your family. You still help others, but you do it when it works for you. You don't have to overschedule anymore.

Place a high value on your time and schedule it.

Your time is just as valuable as anyone else's. You are allowed to be in control of your schedule. Make a schedule of all the activities you participate in each day and each week. This includes anything you are involved in, such as lunch with a friend, carpool, meetings, date night, work, time with the kids, etc. This will let you see any pockets of time that may be available, as well as when you are overscheduled. Use this information as you consider whether or not to join in, commit to, or add on.

Remember that saying no is not personal.

You are setting appropriate boundaries when you turn down something you don't have time to do well. It's not a personal attack or slight to anyone else, and it doesn't have to do with anyone else. This is how to walk away without feeling guilty or worrying about hurting feelings. Don't let yourself take on the responsibility for how someone else feels or what someone else thinks you should do. That is about them, not you.

Don't give in to peer pressure.

Just because Debbie and Susie are helping doesn't mean you have to do it, too. If you think it sounds fun and you have time, great! Go for it! But if it's just one more thing to fit in between carting the kids to soccer practice and getting dinner on the table, maybe it's okay to sit this one out. There will always be a next time.

Let your no mean no.

When you agree to do something, commit, follow through, and do it. But when you say no, don't later give in and say yes. If you do this, people will not believe you when you turn them down. They will think they can coax you into a yes if they keep asking. Because it worked in the past. Be kind, but firm when you abstain.

Try the broken record technique.

If you find that you have difficulty getting others to accept your no, use the broken record technique. Come up with a phrase and repeat it until the other person stops asking. See example below.

Super Pushy Person: We really need another volunteer for this weekend's school fun fair! Can you help out?

You (already knowing the weekend is half booked with activities, and planning to use the other half to relax with the family): No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

SPP: But it's only all day Saturday! Can't you come for at least a little while?

You: No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

SPP: But we really need you!

You: No, I can't help this time. We already have plans.

Hopefully, by this point, SPP is getting it that you are not giving in. You can change your tone of voice as needed, from, say, wistful regret, to matter-of-fact, to kind and firm, but don't give in after already saying no.

Saying no when you need to can change your life. You can stop feeling guilty and being disappointed with yourself for not following through. You can take back control of your schedule. You can feel powerful making good decisions about your time.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD

Posted on 4 August, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (1557)

Who Moved My Cheese? is a motivational book by Spencer Johnson. It is made up of a story he used to help himself deal with change in his own life. According to the introduction, his friends and colleagues noticed how much better his life was and asked for his secret. He shared with them the story of the cheese. It's a very simple story. Many people find it helpful, but some do not understand why such a simple story can be effective.

The cheese represents whatever we want to have in life. It could be a job, a relationship, money, a big house, freedom, health, recognition, spiritual peace, or an activitiy like jogging or golf. Everyone has his or her own idea of what is important, and pursues it because he or she believes it makes him or her happy. If we get the cheese we often get attached to it, and if we lose it, it can be traumatic. The maze represents where you spend time looking for what you want. This is, perhaps, the place you work, your community, or the relationships you have in your life.

A short summary: Two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two people, Hem and Haw, make up the characters. Their names ultimately define their roles and behavior. All four live in a maze and eat cheese to survive. Every morning they all put on their running gear and race through the maze looking for cheese. They eventually find some and settle in to eat. The mice keep their running gear nearby, knowing that eventually they may need to wear it again to continue the search for cheese. The people become too comfortable and forget this possibility. The rest of the story details how each of the characters handles change.

This story is often used in the workplace as a way to help employees deal with and embrace change, but may also show them that they no longer fit into the company if they are unwilling to make changes in how they do things. The story can be applied in everyday life, too. Are you a "Sniff," who sniffs out the situation and sees change early? Or maybe a "Scurry," who goes into action immediately? Perhaps you are a "Hem," who insists on keeping things the same as they always have been, even when outside circumstances are changing. Or are you a "Haw," who resists change at first, but eventually comes around? Once you figure out how you naturally react to change, you can choose a different tactic, if needed, that might make life a little smoother.

Below are Haw's inspirational phrases, written on the maze wall along the way.

Change Happens. They keep moving the cheese.

Anticipate Change. Get ready for the cheese to move.

Monitor Change. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.

Adapt to Change Quickly. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.

Change. Move with the cheese.

Enjoy Change! Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!

Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again and Again. They keep moving the cheese.

How to Prepare to Leave

Posted on 14 July, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (7421)

Sometimes when you are in a relationship you know it is time to leave. The relationship may be over even though you are still in it. It may be time to go because of a variety of reasons:

You're tired of being cheated on.

You're done putting up with verbal or emotional abuse.

You don't want to be hit and pushed anymore.

You long to emotionally connect with someone.

When it's time to go, you may know it's time, but still feel trapped. How do you get out of it? What do you do to get ready to go? Is it really possible to leave, or will you have to stay in this place forever?

Yes, it really is possible to leave. You may feel trapped now, but you don't have to continue to feel this way. I will detail below a few ways to prepare. For a full description of what to do, how to prepare, and other information, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also visit their website at

Develop a Network of Supportive People. You need friends now, more than ever. You may feel isolated or paralyzed, but you must find the courage to act. Now is the time to join a club or a Bible study, meet your neighbors, reconnect with old friends, make current acqaintances into friends, reach out to your family. These people can support you as you prepare for your new life. You may be able to ask them for help in finding a job or a new place to live, or transportation to a shelter.

Save Money. One of the biggest concerns for many people is money. Of course there are worries about supporting yourself and your children, or whoever may be with you. Money may be a way that the person you are leaving controls you, but nonetheless, you must find a way to save up. Open a bank account in your own name. Create retirement funds if possible (Roth IRA is my recommendation, but speak to a financial advisor to verify what is best for you). You will need money to be out on your own.

Get a Job. This is, of course, a great way to make money. If you already have a job, this one may be taken care of. If it's been a while since you have worked outside the home, remind yourself of your skills. Reinforce to yourself that you have value and worth. You can do this. Look over your resume and update it, or create one from scratch based on your skills and any previous jobs or positions you have held. You can include volunteer work. One website I have used in creating my own resume is the Rockport Institute. This site also has other helpful career info about finding a career that is a best-fit for you.

Go Back To School. This is a sub-heading of getting a job. If you find you need to add to your skill set, check out the local community college or online courses to see what might be of help and of interest to you. Colleges often have career counselors who can help you figure out what you might like to do, and give you some guidance toward a particular field.

Figure Out Where You Will Go. This may be an area where your support network can help. Do you need to stay at a shelter for a while? Or is it safe to stay with a friend or family member? Maybe you are ready to rent an apartment. Whatever the case, pick this place out before you leave. Plan how you will get there, what route to take, if you will take yourself or if someone will pick you up. Figure out as much in advance as possible.

It may take some time to make your exit plan, but have courage that life can be better for you. You don't have to stay in a dead or abusive relationship. You deserve more. You deserve better.

Resolution Check In: The Halfway Mark

Posted on 7 July, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (2811)

July has just started, which means we are about halfway through 2015. It's time, once again, to check in on your resolutions. Remember resolutions? Those ideas you had in January for how to improve yourself and your life? Somehow they don't seem nearly as exciting and motivating in the hot summer as they do at the beginning of the year.

All the same, it's a good time to evaluate the progress you have made toward those goals.

Think back to January, or pull out your list of resolutions.

What's on the list? What kind of progress have you made toward these goals?

Are these goals still valid, still something you want to pursue? Is there anything you want to change about them? Increase or decrease something, or add or subtract something?

Make sure to give yourself credit for anything you have accomplished, and don't beat yourself up for anything that has fallen by the wayside. If those resolutions in the gutter are ones you want to dig out and restart, do that. Tell yourself not to give up, that you can get back on track at any time you choose. You don't have to wait for the beginning of a year to start, start again, or pick up where you left off.

Don't give up!