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Monday, October 10, 2011

"Dialog in the Dark"

I recently attended an exhibit at the NYC South Street Seaport called "Dialog in the Dark" where for 45 minutes or so you go through the exhibit experiencing what it's like to be blind.

Of course, 45 minutes of experiencing blindness could never approximate the actual experience of being blind. But this exhibit does an amazing job, giving you a sense of what it's like.

Before you enter the exhibit, you are shown various videos about blindness and you are instructed on how to use a cane. Then, you enter into a waiting area where your blind guide, who will be leading you through the exhibit, greets you. Our guide was a wonderfully patient and upbeat man, Kerry. From the sound of our voices, he was able to identify each of the seven of us.

Then, the lights dimmed slowly and we found ourselves in total darkness. It was so dark that you can't even see your own hand in front of you--let alone the person who might be ahead or behind you. Using our canes, we listened for Kerry's voice as he directed us to move forward through an open door. He assured us that he knew every inch of the exhibit and that there was nothing to worry about--he would help us get through it.

The feeling of being totally blind and dependent upon a blind guide was surreal. Using our other senses--hearing, touch, smell--along with Kerry's help and our canes, we navigated our way through various "places," including Central Park, Fairway grocery store, the NYC subway, Times Square, and a cafe.

Although your rational mind might know that you're really in any of these "places", the exhibit is so true to life that your emotional mind and your imagination put you in those places. The "subway" felt particularly real with the sounds and motion of a moving train.

It's amazing how you can lose your sense of time when you're in total darkness and you're focusing so deeply on just trying to get from Point A to Point B.

To get a sense of what it's like to get around NYC as a blind person is truly an unforgettable experience that all adults should try. I won't give away all of the experiences in the exhibit because I highly recommend that you experience it for yourself. But one of the unique things that all of us experienced was that, by the time we were almost through the exhibit, we were each using some internal sense beyond our ordinary senses to navigate around.

Afterwards, Kerry sat with us in the "cafe" and answered questions. He told us about his own experience of losing his sight when he was a teenager. Amazingly, he was very positive and upbeat with a jovial sense of humor. We were all quite moved by him. From the reviews that I've read, there are 16 blind guides who have been trained for the NYC exhibit and it has been said that all of them are excellent.

At the end of the exhibit, the lights come back on again slowly. We were all grateful for our sight and we came away with a new appreciation for how challenging it is to get around NYC as a blind person.

If you're concerned about your safety, you're told before you enter the exhibit that they have special cameras throughout the exhibited where people are watching--just in case someone falls down or gets in trouble. But Kerry told us that thousands of people have come to the NYC exhibit as well as their exhibits around the world, and they have yet to have an incident.

This exhibit was developed by Andreas Heinecke, a German journalist and filmmaker. He was awarded the Ashoka Fellowship Award for his work as a social entrepreneur. In his 2008 TED talk, he talked about what inspired him to develop this exhibit.

To find out more about "Dialog in the Dark" and their various exhibits around the world, go to their website:

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

I work with individuals and couples.

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.

World Mental Health Day: October 10th

Today is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day is focused on creating public awareness about mental health issues around the world. The theme this year is "Investing in Mental Health".

According to the World Health Organization, many poor countries spend less than 2% on mental health. This includes war torn countries where people are severely traumatized so that people who need help badly are without resources.

To find out more about World Mental Health Day, go to the World Health Organization (WHO) website:

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

I work with individuals and couples.

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.

Relationships: Moving Beyond the "Blame Game"

As a psychotherapist in NYC who sees individuals and couples, I see many clients who can't move beyond the "blame game."

What is the "Blame Game"?
What I"m referring to when I discuss the "blame game" is a dynamic in a relationship where the two people involved are so busy blaming each other and deflecting attention from their own behavior in the relationship that they end up getting caught in an endless cycle of arguments where nothing is resolved. Getting caught up in the "blame game" doesn't allow you to really listen to your partner and understand what he and she is trying to tell you and, if both people are doing this, communication suffers. This type of dynamic often becomes habitual in relationships so that, no matter what the argument is, this dynamic plays out in a destructive way.

Relationships:  Moving Beyond the "Blame Game"

The first step in overcoming the "blame game" dynamic is becoming aware that this is the a style of communication that you're caught in. Both people have to be willing to develop awareness of this dysfunctional way of communicating and be willing to change it.

The following short fictionalized vignettes are examples of this "blame game" communication cycle:

Mary and Joe:
Mary can't stand it when Joe leaves his dirty plate on the counter instead of putting it in the sink. They've had countless arguments about this. She can't understand why Joe doesn't just put the dish in the sink. When she sees the dish, she calls out to Joe, who is in the living room watching TV, "How many times have I told you not to leave dirty dishes on the counter!" Inwardly, Joe feels embarrassed that he hasn't broken out of this habit, but he's annoyed that Mary is taking a superior tone with him, so rather than saying this, he shouts back sarcastically, "Oh yeah, right--like you're such a great housekeeper." From there the argument escalates to the point where Mary and Joe stop talking for a few days, and the issue remains unresolved.

Bob and Nick:
Bob opened the American Express bill and felt a jolt in his stomach when he saw the amount owed. Just last month, he and Nick had agreed to cut back on their expenses because they were living beyond their means and Bob's position as an adjunct professor was not secure. Bob approached Nick with the credit card bill and said, "We've talked about this before--we've got to cut back on our expenses. Look at this bill." Nick took a look at the bill and noticed that they both had charged bigl ticket items, "Well, I see that you've run up the bill as much as I have, so don't blame me." Bob responded, "But you know that I had extra expenses last month and everything that's on there was necessary." Feeling increasingly annoyed, Nick snapped back, "Are you saying that your needs are more important than mine?" From there, the conversation spiraled down. Instead of having a constructive conversation about how they can work together to deal with the problem, neither of them listened to each other and each one continued to blame the other.

Susan and Betty:
Susan and Betty are expecting Susan's parents for the holidays. They both find her parents difficult to deal with. Instead of discussing how they can work together to deal with this holiday stressor, they get into an argument as soon as Betty sees the email from Susan's parents about when they plan to arrive. Betty puts on a long face when she reads the email and says, "I really wish your parents would stay home this year. Can't you make some excuse so they don't come?" Feeling defensive, Susan says, "I know they're annoying, but they're still my parents. And you don't help the situation by sulking when they're around." Betty responds, "Well, why don't you do something about it? It's your fault--you allow them to come each year." From there, rather than discussing the situation openly and trying to come up with a solution that would be mutually agreeable, they end up pointing fingers at one another.

The "Blame Game" Doesn't Work
In the three scenarios above, we see that each person is so busy accusing the other person and defending him or herself that the issue isn't addressed directly. Instead, they get caught up in blaming one another and they move further and further away from trying to work out the problem.

Very often, in longstanding relationships, couples have a long history of engaging in this type of dynamic and they can bring up other unrelated and hurtful things to get back at their partner. If this goes on long enough, it becomes the predominant pattern for communicating--to the point where each person dreads bringing up issues, knowing that the discussion will devolve quickly.

Fair Fighting: Speaking from Your Own Experience
One of the principles of fair fighting in a relationship is that each person speak from their own experience rather than blaming the other person. So, for instance, in the scenario between Susan and Betty, rather than responding to Susan's parents' email by making a face and blaming Susan, Betty could have found a quiet, calm time to speak with Susan to tell her that her parents' visits make her uncomfortable and she's anticipating that there will be problems. Since Betty would be speaking from her own experience, Susan is less likely to get defensive. She might even feel free to admit that her parents can be difficult. From there, they could talk about what they would like to do, with each of them listening to what the other has to say.

Getting Help
There are times when the "blame game" pattern of communicating is so ingrained in a relationship that it's too difficult for the couple to change on their own. They might need the help of a couples or marriage counselor to help them to overcome this problem.

If you and your partner are caught up in the "blame game," acknowledge that this is what's happening in your relationship and have a heart-to-heart talk about how this is adversely affecting your relationship. If you can't work it out on your own, seek the help of a licensed mental health professional who works with couples before it's too late.

I am a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and SE therapist in NYC. I work with individuals and couples. I have helped many couples to overcome the "blame game" dynamic in their relationship.

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: