Wednesday, June 3, 2020

2020 06 05 Voice Training Script

Have you found everyday conversations turned into arguments filled with criticisms or personal attacks?  Have you avoided certain conversations because you know it will end up in a fight?  Have you got into a fight but later could not even remember how it got started?  Do you understand your triggers, reactions, and patterns of interactions?

Hello, my name is Winnis Chiang.  I am a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in helping people to turn their communication breakdowns into opportunity for personal, relational and spiritual growth.  I not only work to solve your current problems but will give you a foundation of skills that will last a life time.

Today I'm going to talk about the "fight or flight" survival reaction, and how it break down our communication.

We often say "Fight or flight" but it's actually a "fight, flight or freeze" which is the physical and psychological reaction to a perceived threat, harmful event, or dangerous situation.

The "Fight, flight or freeze" survival instinct is the emergency responding system programmed into our brains to protect us.  It is natural and common to all mammals and human beings.  It is unconscious, meaning we have no control over it.

There are parallel among human behaviors and mammals.

In the animal kingdom, we have predators with sharp teeth and claws (like lions and bears), they are programmed to attack and hunt down prey animals (like horses and rabbits) which runs very fast for their lives.  Then there are animals (like opossum) that play dead to escape the predators, have you heard about "Playing Possum"?

Unlike animals, human beings can do all three by God's design in different situations.  However, sometimes a person gets stuck in ONE habitual reaction because that's the reaction that worked in their life.

When our five senses receive warning signals that our safety and security are threatened (for example when someone is pointing a gun at you), the programmed "fight, flight or freeze" reaction automatically happens and we have no control over it in the following sequence:
  • Stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) are released.  You have an adrenaline rush as if you just drank 20 cups of coffee.
  • Blood flow changes from normal (e.g. helping your digestive system to digest your lunch) to essential functions to get ready for battle.
  • Prefrontal Cortex (the part of your brain which governs your brain's reasoning and executive functions) goes offline and suddenly you have impaired thinking, processing, decision making and language skills.
  • Amygdala (the emotional brain) instinctively responds with "Fight, flight or freeze".

The Amygdala is the processing center for emotional responses.  It screens the information your five senses take in to.  As a result, certain sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and touch are time-stamped and stored into the hippocampus (which is the brain's memory filing system). When certain powerful memories are triggered by a specific cue there may be an emotional or body reaction. Because the Prefrontal Cortex is offline, we don't even realize what prompts us to get so upset!

We all tend to remember the central survival details, and the brain's filing system, the hippocampus, filters out the peripheral details.

When emotional and body reactions seem to pop up from seemingly unrelated occurrences, it can be disconcerting, confusing, frightening and overwhelming. When triggered, we find ourselves back in the "fight, flight or freeze" mode and those stress hormones got kicked in again and we become out of control.

Remember that "Fight, flight, or freeze" is our survival instinct by God's design.  Our previous experience programs us to react automatically in certain way to survive, to stay alive!  Do you have a repeated pattern of reactions?

Next time you are triggered and suddenly start to attack, run away, or play death, call a timeout.  Each of you will need time to calm down your emotional brain so that your logical brain can function again.  By reflecting on your feelings, thoughts and needs, you will have a choice of how to respond instead of react.  To learn more, please sign up for my webinar, "Breaking Destructive Cycles and Building Constructive Communication that Help, NOT Hurt, the person you love" on my website,

Monday, May 18, 2020

Grace Awakening on Mother's Day

My biggest joy on Mother's Day was when our son and his family Skyped us. Afterwards, James and I went out for our daily walk. Naturally we talked about his mother (Mama) and my Mom. As usual I missed my Mom who died young at age 48. This year we feel sad that we could not visit Mama who will be turning 98 soon. What has made the situation worse is that James' sister told us that Mama recently would sometimes forget that she has given birth to four children. I was lamenting about mothers when suddenly I heard James said, "Life is a bliss..."

got upset before he could finish his sentence and began to attack him verbally. My intense anger almost caused James to walk away, but he chose to stay with me. Soon after that I also chose to stop scolding him. As we continued to walk, we gave ourselves a chance to understand and be understood by sharing our feelings, thoughts and needs with each other.

The next morning, I made a collage with selected photos from 2017 to 2019. Let me give you a tour from the lowest left corner going clockwise.

I was holding my fourth granddaughter in 2017 while reading to her older brothers and sister. Afterwards, their Mommy took us out for ice cream. See how they had to stand on chairs to pick out favor? Two years later, I was holding my fifth granddaughter. Can you see how she looked back into my eyes? Her little big sister has become a toddler who loves playing with her little big brother! Before I returned to California, we celebrated Mother's Day ahead of time. My oldest granddaughter made me a beautiful bracelet and her younger brother cooked "egg in the hole" breakfast for all of us one Sunday before we went to church!

I flew back to San Francisco on Friday so that I could visit Mama with James on Mother's Day (see the oval photo in the middle). As usual, we had dinner, sang praises, and studied the Bible. Before we left, Mama asked us to stay overnight, and then take her to the park the next morning. Oh, how we cherish our weekly walk around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park all those years. See those photos of James walking with Mama in 2017-2018.

Due to the pandemic, Mother's Day 2020 was not easy for any of us. I feel helpless and sad whenever I think of people who died prematurely and others who have amnesia in old age and lose memories of their lives. When James wanted to share his thought on life, I cut him off too soon. As we walked, he finished telling me, "Life is a bliss either long or short because being alive is a gift from God. I just want to enjoy life with you."

God understands, forgives, heals, and never forgets His children. What a blessing it is to know Him!

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15)

If you are overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, fear, doubt and uncertainty during this pandemic, you are not alone. Please let me know and I will pray for you. If you want to talk with me, please book a 30-minute F.R.E.E. consultation on my website. May God bless you!

Better Late than Never. Belated Happy Mother's Day! 

Friday, May 15, 2020

May 15 2020 Speech for Voice Training

Hello, my name is Winnis Chiang and I help couples. Today I'm going to talk about relationships and communication in marriage and family.

Connections in life are important.  When someone said, "I don't care!" (whether it is "I DON'T CARE!" or "i dont care"), that person is probably is looking for someone who cares and yearning to be connected.

Relationship struggles, while extremely tough at times, are quite normal.  Have you or a friend said the following:

Everyday conversations are turned into arguments filled with criticisms or personal attacks
We avoid certain conversations because we know it will end up in a fight.
I thought we were soulmates.  Now we are worse than roommates!

With these craziness going on at home, I don't know whats going to happen to my child?
I feel disconnected and wonder what happened to the love we used to share.
Disagreement about parenting, money, in-laws, chores have turned us into enemies.
I am desperate and I feel hopeless.  I really don't know whether there is any way to move forward.

These struggles are not uncommon for couples.  I know because I was there.

In fact, normal couples are supposed to have growing pain in their relationships.  But what if the patterns of negative communications and painful interactions repeated themselves so much that they become triggers and automatic reactions that are destructive?

That's why I love to help individuals and couples to get the relationships they really want based on my own experience of growing pain.

You see, I met my husband in college and we got married after only three months of dating, I thought we would live happily ever after.  Imagine my shock when the honeymoon is over.

Like most Asian parents, we both love our son.  So we argued a lot about parenting.  He said I argued and I said he never listened.  I was feeling depressed and I thought about getting a divorce, but I didn't bring it up because I didn't want to hurt my son.

To make the long stroy short, it was during those times of hopelessness and despair that Jesus Christ found me and save me from my misery of living on my own terms, and the rest is history.  Our only son has grown up, got married, and now has five children of his own.  This year James and I will celebrate our 45th anniversary.  I know that relationships are challenging; yet I believe enormous growth is possible.  

I believe I exist to help couples to flourish and build stronger relationships and to prevent premature and unnecessary divorces.  Your issue might be something occurring just under the surface of the relationship, or it could be hidden within negative cycles of fighting and disconnection that have lasted for years.

One of our most important connections is with a romantic partner.  This relationship can be a great source of joy and support, yet it can also cause a great deal of pain and push us to confront difficult aspects of ourselves.  Whether you are in the middle of a crisis, struggling through a difficult transition, discovering unpleasant behaviors, or want to build a strong foundation for the future.  I am here to help you, directly or indirectly, get the support, strength and growth you want.

I love to help couples and families to live, love and work together.  Last Christmas, my husband and I had the privilege and joy to serve with our son in a Christian Mission Conference.  Right now, we are learning voice training together so that all three of us could be better speakers.  I'm grateful that our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ saved me 31 years ago and put us into this new path.

I help you work through frustration, anger, resentment to get to workable solutions.  My greatest pleasure is seeing couples emerge from a difficult or even traumatic situation feeling more intimately connected and committed than they ever thought possible.

I help couples with their major communication breakdowns.  I not only work to solve current problems but will give you a foundation of skills that will last a life time.

I have learned that couples improve their relationships faster with a thorough understanding of the dynamics underlying their behavior, and I'd like to invite you to my upcoming workshop called,

Breaking Destructive Cycles and Building Constructive Communication: Help, NOT hurt, the people you love.

You may choose to join me in the workshop in your preferred language:  English, Mandarin and Cantonese.  Please sign up on my website,

Monday, May 11, 2020

愛喜樂生命 Love, Joy and Life

How was your Mother's Day? Did you miss going out to eat? Were you sad you could not get together with people you love? Were you happy when you could use the phone, Whatsapp, WeChat, LINE, Text Msg, Facetime, Skype and/or Zoom to stay in touch?

My answers are Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. I tried to keep in touch with family, friends, brothers and sisters in our church family. This Mother's Day could be quite difficult for the sandwich generation who are caring for both elderly parents and their own children.

Instead of write this ezine, I looked at old photos and make a collage for Mother's Day. Please start with the bracelet from the middle bottom and travel clockwise around until ending at bottom right.

(1) Receiving a bracelet of LOVE made by granddaughter when I visited them last year.
(2) Reading to three grandkids while holding my fourth grandbaby.
(3) When little sister became big sister, she likes to feed herself.
(4) Holding my fifth granddaughter who was looking into my eyes.
(5) Taking three oldest grandkids out for Cold Stone Ice Cream.
(6) Enjoying breakfast made by grandson to celebrate Mother's Day ahead of time.
(7), (8) and (9) James walking with his mom in Golden Gate Park.
(10) Celebrating Mother's Day with James' mom last year upon my return.

As I was picking out photos and making the collage, a Chinese song came to mind and I started singing. Here is the song "Love, Joy and Life" on Youtube.

The song is written in Chinese but I have found a youtube that also has English subtitle.

Time cannot quench His love
For He loves me to ten thousand generations.
The world cannot hinder His love
because His love for me will never change.
His love prevails over death's dark haze.
His love drives away worry and sorrow.
Let the love of God overflow our hearts.
Joyful springs welling up from the depths of our hearts.
Worries are no more ... We have a life of joy.
Let the love of God overflow our hearts.
Life's sparkle bursting from the depths of our hearts.
Tears are no more ... We have everlasting life.

時空不能隔絕祂的愛 因祂愛我直到萬代 世界不能阻擋祂的愛 因祂愛我永不更改 祂的愛勝過死亡陰霾 祂的愛驅走憂愁悲哀 讓主愛澆灌我們的心 喜樂泉源湧自心底 憂愁不再 我們有喜樂的生命 讓主愛充滿我們的心 生命火花揚自心底 淚水不再 我們有永恆的生命

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Be Still and Know Who is God

"Mom, let me read something to you, okay?"

Although feeling feebly, I nodded. My son placed two pillows under my head before flipping through books and newspapers next to my bed. Finally he picked up the only book written in Chinese and English – my devotional. Leafing through, he cleared his throat and began to read.

That was in the summer of 2003, two days after I had a major surgery. I was lying in my hospital bed, dealing with pains on my wounds, feeling weak and worrying about my recovery. With half-opened eyes I watched my dear son.

As he read one article after another, my heart gradually became calm and still. His strong baritone voice carried the comforting words of God. My heart was filled with warmth and sweetness. I thought, “My son has really grown up. He just finished his second year of college. It is really special that he came home to help his dad and me to down-size into an apartment. And now, he is taking turns with dad to take care of me in the hospital. With a child like this, what else could I want?”

Suddenly, he grinned: “Hey Mom, here is another article quoting Psalm 46 verse 10.”

He began to read, and I got very excited, “Do you know we could sing this verse?”

As he was still nodding, I couldn't wait and started singing, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Spontaneously he accompanied me at the second and third stanza. “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God.”

We sang the song over and over again in English. As we worshiped God in the hospital, we received the truth of God, enjoyed His presence, and experienced His great love.

Time flies. In 2019, our son's wife gave birth to their fifth child. A month later, I visited them for 24 days. Since I was suffering sciatica pain at that time, I could not help much other than holding the baby. I could hold the baby all day, although I also enjoyed spending time with the other grandchildren, often playing one board or card game after another, or reading one storybook after another. Before holding the baby, I always turned off my cell phone and computer so that I could just sit still and enjoy the baby. One day my daughter-in-law came into the room to check on us. Quietly she took a picture. 

Whenever I look at this photo, I remember how my Father in Heaven is holding me in His arms. All I need to do is to hold onto Him, be still and enjoy His embrace and protection.

During this pandemic sheltering in place, sometimes I feel anxious, depressed, afraid and even angry after reading bad news and listening to people's suffering day after day. I worry about all the people I love ... Imagine my joy when I received a video with my grandchildren singing my favorite song! The love, grace and faithfulness of my God endure forever!

I first heard of the song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" on January 28, 1989.  That day was the turning point of my life, marriage and family. You can find out why it means so much to me from a 6-minute video recorded a few years ago via this link:

This song has been my favorite for 31 years.  It always reminds me that I can take whatever pain, grief, sorrow and troubles to the Lord in prayer.  You can pray to Him directly or let me know so that I can pray for you and with you.

Jesus told his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

Today is Good Friday. Jesus came from heaven to earth to save us. He suffered and died on the cross for our sin. On Easter Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. May you find protection, peace and living hope in Him.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Don't Block Happiness During Shelter-in-Place

Stay home, save lives! During the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us can make things better or worse even when we shelter in place.  After all, it might be a challenge to spend time with someone 24/7.

Couples and families in counseling always tell me how they argue about the littlest of things, and they don't like it. What they may not know is ... We all seek that elusive quality of “happiness.” 
Here are somethings to be aware of so that you can STOP them from robbing your happiness anytime, not just when you have to shelter in place. These behaviors affect your daily interaction with people, at home, outside, or on the Internet. Remember your actions and words really matter!
1. Impressing others ... with what you have —your possessions, your accomplishments—don’t result in real relationship or lasting happiness.

2. Blaming.  Your response to any situation is your choice. Try making it a learning opportunity—taking responsibility is empowering.
3. Controlling. It doesn't help you feel good about yourself. Honor your boundaries, but make space for others' needs and choices, too.
4. Criticizing. We are all unique and different, not better or worse. Appreciate the differences instead of zeroing in on shortcomings.
5. Whining. Complaining is ineffective, whereas asking for what you want is liberating.
6. Clinging to what is known. When you’re feeling afraid or insecure, be willing to let go of the familiar, take a risk and try something new.
7. Being Ungrateful. Stay aware of all the gifts, grace and blessings that you do have. Express gratitude then surely happiness will follow.
8. Lecturing. Another form of judging. Find more fun and empowering ways to share your knowledge.
9. Negative Self-talk. Train yourself to notice your mind's chatter. Working towards changing negative thoughts to positive ones will transform your life.
10. Fear. Don’t let fear get in the way of progress. Whatever you’ve been dreaming, get going on it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Talking about clinging to what is known ... This pandemic is very terrible and it's normal for everyone  to feel anxious, depressed, angry, afraid and lonely. Everyone needs understanding, support and encouragement from their friends and family during this difficult time. Besides, do you know this too sure shall pass?

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Things to Say Before It's Too Late

Last week, James and I spent a quiet Valentine's Day. After all, with so much bad news in the world, being alive together is God's blessings and grace.

As a pastor's wife and a licensed marriage and family therapist, I often hear people say, "we are an old couple" even though they are not that old at all. Seriously, when young parents feel that there is nothing left to say other than the trivialities of life such as: "Can you go to the dry cleaner? ... Have you pulled the garbage can out?" What is the implication?

Life is short. Why not say something true, good and beautiful while you have the chance to build a warm and loving relationship?

Deeper communication requires deliberate changes, including a willingness to reveal one's vulnerability. But isn't it worth taking a risk for your happiness and relationships? After all, your spouse is your life-long partner, and will be with you all your life. At least that was your original intent for your marriage, wasn't it?

Always remember that your body language and tone of voice are often more important than what you say. Of course, actions may speak louder than words. However, don’t let the Chinese culture and saying such as "Love is to be treasured in the heart but not expressed with your mouth" block you from expressing your love and care verbally. Please try to practice the following phrases that could change the atmosphere of your home:

"Thank you for... " Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do. Thank your partner for more than just what you asked him/her to do. For example, you might thank him or her for being a great parent, for always making time for the children.

"Would you please... " Expecting your partner to read your mind is expecting the impossible. Say what you want and need. When you articulate your wishes clearly, resentments don't have time to build up, and you can also work together to find win-win solutions.

"How do you feel about..." Ask, and then listen to your partner's response, withholding judgment or any need to change or fix the feelings.

"I feel... " State your feelings and tell the truth. Notice the difference between "I think" and "I feel" statements. Learn to use different feeling words (e.g. disappointed, hurt, frustrated, worried, appreciative, excited, etc.).

"I'm sorry... " Admit your mistakes and apologize for them. You may feel vulnerable, but your honesty is likely to inspire the same in the other person and open the door for closer connection.

"I forgive you...Accepting apologies for mistakes your partner makes is a way of letting go of resentments, and that frees you both.

"I appreciate your... " Shine the light on your partner's qualities. You'll create an arena of goodwill that shines back on you.

"What I hear you saying... " Listen, really listen, and let your partner know he/she has been heard.

"I agree with you because... " Validating your partner's point of view and perspective helps him/her feel heard and understood.

"What have you been reading recently?" Open up communication on an intellectual level and you may feel the warmth of common views -- or sparks of difference—that drew you together in the first place.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" Listen to your partner's vision, and then share your own. The question may inspire a new, shared plan or uncover the need to build a bridge between your dreams.

"I love you... " Find your own variations on these three little words; you can't say them too often. Don't be shy or afraid to express your love! Never use "I love you more than I can say" as an excuse!

Every day is our Valentine's Day when James and I walk, talk, read the Bible and pray together. Since our time on this earth is limited, we love to share life around the Word of God, and we hope that you will also seize the opportunity to express your love to those around you.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)