Archive | June, 2011

College Smart: Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

College Smart: Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

Posted on 28 June 2011 by Michelle Reed

Comments (0)

Healing Conversations


Healing Conversations

Posted on 27 June 2011 by Patricia Gras

What I learned this week: I play a major role in the challenges or problems I face with other people, therefore I take responsibility and if I don’t, sooner or later I have to deal with it.

What I am grateful for: One of my dear friends allowed me to have a healing conversation of few words with her the day before she died. We both knew she would pass but we both silently understood that it would be okay.

By Bianca Perez and Patricia Gras

We have all been in a situation when someone we love is going through a difficult time and finding the right words to comfort them seems downright impossible. What are we supposed to say to people with heavy hearts and minds or going through the “dark night of the soul?”

In the upcoming episode of “Living Smart with Patricia Gras” airing on July 3rd at 3pm, author and Emmy Award winning journalist, Nance Guilmartin guides us through the steps we should take to effectively communicate with someone going through difficult times.

Guilmartin says that truly listening is often better than having the perfect words to say. During her successful career as a journalist, Guilmartin found herself on both sides of the fence after losing loved ones and having friends who experienced grief themselves.  Guilmartin found that people’s best intentions are rarely successfully expressed when devastating events take place. She was then inspired to write her two books The Power of Pause and Healing Conversations: What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say.

As an educator, Guilmartin teaches her audiences that these powerful conversations are essential to the healing process, which is why they must be treated delicately. She says we become too obsessed with trying to fulfill what we think the person needs rather than actually listening to what the other has to say. Guilmartin says. It’s best to “So go in easy and first listen for what they might need or what they may not yet be ready to accept.  Be a friend, not a rescuer.”

The problem may very lie in our own definition of actually “listening.” According to Nance Guilmartin,“most people think listening is, ‘Well, I wasn’t saying anything.  I was listening.’  But of course your mind is rehearsing what you want to say and you’re having a reaction or an opinion or it’s not what you expected and so you’re in this whole mental mess.  So listening is to listen for what you don’t know.

Listening is only the first step of Guilmartin’s “Ten Principles of Healing Conversations.” The other principles include pausing, comforting, self-evaluation, preparedness, showing up, being resourceful, taking initiative, and showing compassion.

Likewise, Dr. Cecilia Sun, Assistant Director of the University of Houston’s Counseling and Psychological Services, holds listening to be of the utmost significance. “The best things to do,” she says, “are to listen, emphasize, and normalize. Many statements that are intended as encouragement end up minimizing or invalidating the other person’s experience.“

While grieving and depression generally passes with time, it is not uncommon for people to seek help from professionals to alleviate overwhelming emotions. However, we are often scared or hesitant to even recommend counseling to our loved ones. Most of the time, it is hard for us to decipher whether someone needs professional help or if the grief they are experiencing is normal. Dr. Sun offers that the first step is to recognize the signs and symptoms of distress which include, but are not limited to:

-complaining of sadness or crying more often
-being irritable on most days or having unexpected angry outbursts
-losing interest or pleasure in most activities
-avoiding friends, activities, school/work, social events
-increasing use of alcohol and/or drugs
-exhibiting severe behavior change, such as a quiet person becoming wild or active
-worrying or being unable to think of anything but the problem
-experiencing declining grades or other academic problems
-showing greatly increased energy, decreased need for sleep, euphoria, or manic behavior
-thinking or talking about death or dying.

In the event that such symptoms are present, she says it is best to “talk with your friend privately and allow time for the conversation. Express your concerns honestly in terms of what you have noticed in their behavior. Be caring and firm, not judgmental. Ask about your friend’s intentions directly and do not agree to keep his/her concerns a secret. Acknowledge the stigma some people associate with therapy services and emphasize help-seeking as a sign of strength.“

Regardless of what the situation may be, the best thing do is to be there for those we love during their trials and tribulations and participate in these difficult, but powerful conversations. As for ourselves, it is always important to surround ourselves with loving and supporting people who would do the same. We must also remember that there is never any shame in offering or asking for it. After all, time heals all wounds, but friends are an amazing way to expedite the process!

To learn more about healing conversations, watch “Living Smart with Patricia Gras” featuring Nance Guilmartin on Sunday, July 3rd at 3pm and then again on Friday, July 8th at 10pm.

You can also visit Nance Guilmartin’s website at:

Comments (2)

A Question About Post-Partum Depression.

A Question About Post-Partum Depression.

Posted on 21 June 2011 by Patricia Gras

Question: Did you know your hormone levels can make you really depressed and at times psychotic?

Here, you can watch the Episode of Living Smart with Patricia Gras, where Patti interviews Laurel Spence, the Maternal and Child Health Director, Physician Assistant Program, Baylor College of Medicine and an Instructor, School of Allied Health Sciences.


Comments (0)

Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

Tags: , , , ,

Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

Posted on 20 June 2011 by Patricia Gras

Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

By:  Lezlee Brinkman, Patricia Gras


Patti’s reflections:

What I learned this week: Although I support the institution of marriage, I knew enough about myself, not to get married.


What I am grateful for:  I am glad my parents loved each other enough to stay married and care for each other in their old age


This week’s blog features Dr. Donald Cole, licensed Marriage and Family Counselor, who will be featured on the Living Smart episode airing on Houston PBS June 26 at 3 pm and repeated on Friday,  July 1 at 10pm.  In this blog, we explore the issues of criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt in marriage.


According to the Center of Disease Control, in 2010 the divorce rate has decreased from 44 percent to 41 percent for first time marriages, decreasing the overall rate of marriages for young adults between the ages of 25-34 by 10 percent.  Studies have shown that an increasing amount of people are electing instead to cohabitate without formally getting married.


Popular culture and the changing views of a new generation may be the reason behind a couple’s reticence to join together in holy matrimony.  It may also be that women are electing to wait until they have firmly established their careers before taking the plunge.  On the other hand, perhaps it is simply a matter of recognizing that both men and women are unprepared to do the work.  For those people who want to learn the techniques of how to have a successful and enduring marriage, there is help.


Dr. Donald Cole is a marriage counselor at the Center for Relationship Wellness in Houston, Texas. He and his wife are committed to helping couples save their marriages by using the Gottman method.

Dr. Gottman has been the nation’s foremost researcher in marriage and parenting for over thirty-five years.

“Back in the mid-‘90s, I began reading Dr. Gottman’s work, and it just resonated with me”, says Dr. Cole.

“What we’ve learned is it’s not so much about being a good communicator as being good at understanding and repairing our miscommunications”, says Dr. Cole.

Dr. Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman founded the Gottman Relationship Institute in Seattle, Washington.  At their center, the Gottman’s have outlined through their method the biggest pitfalls couples may encounter within their relationship.

“The methods that have grown out of the Gottman method seem to really be effective with the couples with whom I work, and that’s a lot of pleasure for me”, says Dr. Donald Cole.

The Gottman method, as known as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, breaks down four of the most destructive cycles couples commonly find themselves.  The first attitude is criticism which is where person may launch an attack of their partner’s character instead of simply complaining about the real reason the person is bothered.  The second attitude or cycle is defensiveness.  Many times defensiveness is in reaction to the partner’s criticism of the other partner.  For example, someone might tell their partner, “You’re always late!  What’s wrong with you?”  Reflexively, the accused partner might get defensive and fire back, “Well, I might be late sometimes, but you never put gas in the car.”  This is a classic defensive move, according to the Gottman method to deflect and to change the subject.  The third attitude is stonewalling which is an emotional withdrawal from the conflict. Both men and women can be guilty of this tactic but it is found mostly commonly among men.

“The research does show that in heterosexual couples, men do the stonewalling about 85 percent of the time.  I think it does have something to do with the fact that men have a more active alarm system—generalized alarm system—where we’re the ones who tend to react to danger or threat more forcefully,” says Dr. Donald Cole.

Finally the last cycle that people may find themselves is contempt.  Contempt is in some ways according the Dr. Cole is “the most toxic of the Four.”

He explains that by the time a couple has reached this point they may be saying things like, “Why did I ever marry this person? I can’t believe I ever got involved with someone like you.”  By the time the marriage has reached this level Dr. Cole says, the marriage is in real trouble.

Dr. Cole discusses some solutions from the Gottman method that might help bring couples back from the edge.  First, couples could try gentle complaining which is where someone talks about what is upsetting them in terms of “I”.  “What I need or what I feel” are good starting points for a conversation.  Next is taking responsibility for ones actions instead of trying to shift the blame.  Third is self soothing.  This is often associated with stonewalling.  Many times the person may simply just need a few moments to themselves to catch their breath.

Dr. Cole says, “Outside they may be looking really calm or really stoic like and no feelings, but inside, they’re churning a great deal.”

Finally, creating a culture of fondness and admiration between one another is the key before allowing contempt to get too far.  “One way of thinking about this is the happy, successful couples—they seem to observe their partner to catch them doing something right—something that makes them feel good so they can talk about that,” says Dr. Cole.


Check out Dr. Donald Cole’s website at:

Check out Dr. John Gottman outline the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse

Comments (1)

The Wiener Effect

Tags: , , , , ,

The Wiener Effect

Posted on 13 June 2011 by Patricia Gras

Patti’s Reflections:

What I learned this week:
Everyone has skeletons in the closet so pointing fingers at others for their misdeeds is futile exercise, what we need to focus on in improving ourselves daily.

What I am grateful for
I recognize I am not perfect and yet have to love and embrace my imperfect self anyways.

Credit: Associated Press

The Wiener Effect
Sara Irvine and Patricia Gras

Another scandal, another week of wasting hours of airtime on celebrity culture. Why did he do it? Why do we care? Why did he lie? When will this be over? Do we want this man representing us in government?

Successful, powerful people can have empty emotional lifestyles. And they usually do. With traveling far from their loved ones, working long hours, and the constant pressure in the spotlight, their lives do not usually contain the emotional intimacy that is naturally needed by human beings. Is that why Wiener spent so much of his idle time twittering or communicating with women he didn’t know personally. Was he addicted to being online? (A very common problem we don’t care to admit, cause we are too busy twittering!)
Is this why many politicians have acted out their sexual behavior in more bizarre manners? New York Representative. Anthony Weiner’s recent social media sleazy scandal left the American public stunned but not surprised. Politician sex scandals blur somewhere between a reality show on MTV and real life. Just recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10-year affair, New York Rep. Christopher Lee shirtless on Craigslist, and John Edward’s mistress have both shocked and entertained America. It seems as if the scandals are popping up like everyday news. Or is it that our media in its attempt to make more profits, focuses on the mysterious personal lives of celebrities?

According to sex addiction expert Robert Weiss, in his interview with Life Healing Center’s 4 Therapy, there is a particular type of personality that tends to be enticed by the spotlight. Weiss explains, “public figures are the type of people who need consistent attention and validation from others.” He goes on to say, “even though this is a perfectly normal trait to have as a human being, as these figures strive for their fame and recognition, they sacrifice the emotional support and affection they also need from those who are actually close to them as people.” And, when you’re a busy politician, sitting in an unfamiliar hotel room at the end of the day, exhausted, alone, and far from all loved ones– this scenario opens up a situation for distractions or addictions.

The wise words of a long-gone New York politician, and U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, do not seem relevant to some of our politicians anymore: “No man can lead a public career really worth leading…if he is himself vulnerable in his private character.” Do traits such as dignity or honor still exist? Even though our Founding Fathers are remembered with such dignity and honor, it makes one wonder if they too were involved with such similar scandals, maybe so, but perhaps they just didn’t have social media sites to catch them, or the mainstream media was covering real news and letting other media cover the personal lives or titillating stories of their leaders.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of Houston PBS.

Comments (9)

Is Your Money Safe?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Is Your Money Safe?

Posted on 10 June 2011 by Patricia Gras

By: Mila Clarke and Patricia Gras

There’s an opening in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but the Federal Government is having a difficult time filling it.

It is reported that President Obama plans to appoint Harvard Law professor, and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren to lead the agency, but the GOP does not agree with his appointment.

Warren’s out-spoken nature and her hard hitting questions, has given her enemies in the GOP; In early May, 44 Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Obama saying they would not consider any nominee to the CFPB director until the CFPB is properly reformed, knowing that Warren was a front-runner for the job.

The type of reform those Senators want is for the CFPB to be a board of directors, instead of a single individual; They want the Agency to go through the appropriations process (to make sure their spending isn’t wasteful); Lastly, they want to make sure that the CFPB doesn’t cause a bank failure, by restricting the CFPB’s regulations, and keeping banks deregulated.

The CFPB, which Warren helped jump-start, was created to educate, supervise and study consumer trends in order to give Americans a fair shot at understanding finances and regulating financial practices in a time where the economy seemed to be getting worse, and the Federal Government was developing a strategy to stabilize it.

In December of 2007, the housing market fell, causing the worst American financial crisis of its kind since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The crisis has its roots in real estate and the subprime-lending crisis. Commercial and residential properties saw their values increase abruptly in a real estate boom that began in the 1990s

Increases in housing prices paralleled with the investment and banking industry lowering lending standards to unqualified buyers allowing them to take out mortgages. At the same time, government deregulation blended the lines between traditional investment banks and mortgage lenders and real estate loans were spread throughout the financial system in order to disperse risk; however, when home values failed to rise and home owners failed to keep up with their payments, banks couldn’t pay for these investments and they had the choice to raise capital, or go bankrupt.

Not long after, oil, and fool prices rose in the U.S., and then, the unemployment rate soared, and some of the U.S.’s major financial institutions and auto companies failed and had to be bailed out by the Federal Government. This finally led to fiscal reform and within the legislation created to boost the financial market, the CFPB was created, and Elizabeth Warren was appointed by President Obama to serve as the sole special advisor of the agency.

The CFPB would help clarify to Americans what the fiscal policy Washington is passing really means to them.

When Warren was asked in June of 2010 if she would want to head the CFPB, and she said that she just wanted to wait for Congress to pass the necessary legislation, and then she would worry about forever after.

Forever after is finally here, so what happens now?

Although there’s still great opposition against Warren in the GOP, a recess appointment, (which happens the Senate does not convene) might be Warren’s only chance to get in.  Other organizations like the National Council of La Raza, and the Progressive Change Campaign committee, highly supports Warren, and are urging constituents to send e-mails in favor of Warren to their Senators. See Elizabeth Warren on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart discussing the history of America’s Financial Crisis, and what the Federal Government is planning to do about it. Find out what the CFPB does for Americans. 5 Reasons why the Banking industry opposes Elizabeth Warren.


Comments (0)

Patricia Gras (Twitter)

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Must Read Books

  • 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  • Kite Runner by by Khaled Hosseini
  • Mistress of Spices by Chitra Divakaruni
  • Paula by Isabel Allende
  • The Kingdom Within by John A. Sanford
  • The Middle Passage by James Hollis
  • The Nature of Evil Daryl Koehn
  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Take A Closer Look