Posts by Stephen James

Helping you navigate through life

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The Most Difficult Years of Marriage

I’ve been helping couples in the context of marriage counseling about a decade and half. In that time, I’ve noticed something: the prime number years of relationships are often the hardest  (i.e. 1, 3. 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29…) Often, it seems these years correspond with significant transitions and pressure points in marriage. Learning the tools to handle these transitions and pressure points is essential to being satisfied in a relationship long term. Below are the questions I find couples asking during their “odd years”: Year 1: Where did the person I felt so in love with go?

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Show Your Self

Let’s be really honest here: No one makes it past seventeen or eighteen without receiving their fair share of dings—and that’s if they are lucky. By the time most people get their driver’s license, they have already experienced enough emotional and spiritual fender benders that their hearts are dented and their self-image is scratched for years to come. You know what I’m talking about: parents divorcing, grandparents dying, being shamed by a coach or mentor, being rejected by a girl or a guy, humiliating yourself in front of a crowd, being betrayed by someone you trusted, or having your hopes

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Life as Art

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just know the future, then everything would be ok.” This kind of magical thinking troubles a lot of us. It’s called anxiety, and thoughts like this carry the potential for a lot of wasted energy. Anxiety is a powerful self-willed illusion that says, “If I can outsmart life and predict the future, then I will be ok.” When we are in anxiety, we work over a problem until our brain is like a hamster on speed in a wheel—a whole lot of running with nowhere to go. What could go wrong? How many different ways? What will he say? What will she

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Wrestling with Hope

Written by Stephen James, MMFT, LPC-MHSP and Tennyson Dodd, MTS  Sage Hill Counseling has a latin phrase as its motto; Dum Spiro Spero. Translated it means, “While there is breath, there is hope.” When people first encounter this they often comment about how positive it makes them feel. Many imagine hope to be a profound feeling that things will work out for the best. When we really consider this phrase in connection to our everyday life, however, we run into something much deeper. For many of us, Hope is the biggest problem in our lives, not pain. The future is where the

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Sometimes It Hurts

The Gift of Living in Tension with Heartache There is great pain in trying to be authentic, living in the tension of family, work, faith, hobbies, and other responsibilities in a way that reflects who we want to be. The pain of not being with the people we most love is inevitable. From time to time, we all need some suggestions for how to live out our passions in this world, but too often we try to circumvent the pain of living in a broken world with strategies for success. But unless we have our hearts, all our strategies will

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8 Principles and Practices for Parenting from the Heart

(From Chip Dodd's & Stephen James' upcoming book on parenting—Giraffes on Ice, est. pub. 2017) Sometimes parenting feels like we are trying to thread a needle while wearing mittens. By design, parenting is paradoxical and is wrought with challenges. Our children simultaneously... •  need our assurance and test us, •  learn from us and teach us, •  confuse us and remind us of what it was like for us in our youth, •  demand increasing amounts of freedom and desire security, and •  give us hope and scare us about the future at the same time. For even the most committed and

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What if? What then?

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just know the future, then everything would be ok.” This kind of magical thinking troubles a lot of us. It’s called anxiety, and thoughts like this carry the potential for a lot of wasted energy. Anxiety is a powerful self-willed illusion that says, “If I can outsmart life and predict the future, then I will be ok.” When we are in anxiety, we work over a problem until our brain is like a hamster on speed in a wheel—a whole lot of running with nowhere to go. What could go wrong? How many different ways? What will he say? What will she

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