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Monday, January 17, 2011

Psychotherapy: Awareness and Acceptance

Awareness and Acceptance: Being Willing to See Things As They Are:
One of the primary sources of emotional pain is that we sometimes keep ourselves unaware and refuse to see and accept things as they are because we want them to be different. This is a common phenomenon that most of us struggle with at various times in our lives.


When There's No Awareness or Acceptance
This refusal to see and accept things as they are comes up all the time in psychotherapy sessions:

"My boyfriend keeps cheating on me, but I'll change him."

"My wife has been drinking too much for years, but she promises that she'll stop on her own."

"My teenage son was arrested again for selling drugs, but I think this is just a phase he's going through."

"My husband hit me again, but I know he feels badly about it and he won't do it again."

"My boss says I'm always late, but I wouldn't be if he would just get off my back."

"I just got my second DWI, but I don't have a drinking problem."

Denial Can Be Powerful:
It's understandable that, sometimes, we don't want to see things as they are because we want things to be different or we're hoping that things will change. This can distort our perception and judgment.

But as long as we cling to how we'd like things to be instead of how they are, we're living in denial, and the likelihood that things will change decreases as long as we're in this state of denial.

What Does Acceptance Mean?
People often have problems with the word "acceptance." They think that if they "accept things as they are" that this means that they don't care or they've given up or they won't take action to change the situation. But this isn't what this means at all.

Accepting things as they are is a starting point where you acknowledge the status of the current situation. You are aware and recognize how things are at that moment. Once you've brought some awareness and acceptance to a situation, then you can decide how or if you want to change it or if it can be changed by you or needs to be changed by someone else or if it can be changed at all.

Being Aware and Attuned:
You must be aware and attuned to yourself and the people and situations in your life first to be able to accept them or, if possible, make changes. If your basic emotional defense is to tune out, you might find yourself continually being surprised by what seems like your own and/or other people's "sudden" behavior--when, in fact, it's not "sudden" at all. It just seems that way to you because you're in denial and tuned out.

By keeping yourself blissfully unaware, which is often an unconscious process, you set yourself up for disappointments and rude awakenings when the situation you've been ignoring or in denial about worsens.

Cultivating Awareness and Acceptance, Then Taking Action:
As I've mentioned in prior blog posts, a regular practice of mindfulness meditation, also called Insight Meditation, helps to develop self awareness as well as awareness of the people and things around you.

Psychotherapy is also a form of self exploration as well as a way to develop insight and take action in the areas that you want to change.

When someone comes to see me for psychotherapy in my private practice in NYC, I work with him or her dynamically to not only help them to be more aware and honest about the situation, but also to take action where they can.

It's not enough just to talk about the problem, which is where many psychotherapy treatments get bogged down. If it's possible to take action, I help clients to feel more empowered to make changes. If it's not within their power to make changes, I also help clients to see the situation for what it is rather than what they want it to be.

If you find that your predominant way of coping is to go into denial or get stuck in wishful thinking, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional to help you overcome this problem.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist, and EMDR therapist.

I have helped individuals and couples to overcome areas where they're stuck in their lives so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

photo credit: Juan Manuel Cruz del Cueto via photopin cc