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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are You Able to Celebrate Your Progress or Are You Only Focused on How Much More You Have to Go?

Are you someone who has trouble giving yourself a pat on the back for the progress you've made?  Instead of celebrating the progress you've made so far, do you focus on how much more you have to go so you end up feeling dissatisfied with yourself no matter how much effort you've made?  

If this sounds like you, you're not alone.  A lot of people have trouble giving themselves credit for their well earned progress.

Are You Able to Celebrate Your Progress or Are You Only Focused on How Much More You Have to Go?

Long Term Goals Are Easier to Accomplish If You Celebrate the Progress Along the Way
When you're working on a long term goal, like getting a Bachelor's or Master's degree or any endeavor that can take a few years, it's easier to keep yourself motivated for the long haul if you're able to feel proud of what you accomplish along the way.

While it's important to be aware of the end result, if that becomes your complete focus, to the exclusion of the milestones along the way, it's easier to become discouraged because you're getting little satisfaction for your efforts.

People who have problems celebrating their progress are often very hard on themselves.  Many of them grew up in families where there were critical parents where nothing was ever good enough ("You only got an A?  Why didn't you get an A+").

Adults, who grew up in households where they weren't recognized for their efforts, have a hard time gauging what "progress" is, which is why they focus on the end goal rather than the steps they accomplish along the way.

Overcoming Shame and the Feeling of "Not Being Good Enough"
When children are only recognized by their parents for the end result, they internalize a lot of shame. With the shame comes the feeling of "not being good enough."

As adults, they often feel they have to prove themselves over and over again.  Only the end product counts, and it often needs to be "perfect."

Getting Help in Therapy
Life can be challenging enough without imposing such harsh standards on yourself.  If you're someone who has a hard time acknowledging your efforts along the particular path you have chosen, you can learn to overcome this problem in psychotherapy.

Getting Help in Therapy to Learn to Celebrate Your Progress

A skilled clinician can help you to work through these issues so that you're free from this emotional burden.  Letting go of shame and a punitive attitude towards yourself can help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

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

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 send me an email:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are Your Emotional Needs Being Met in Your Relationship?

One of the leading causes of relationship breakups is when one or both people in a relationship feel that their emotional needs aren't being met.  And, yet, so many couples are reluctant to discuss this important issue with each other.  

Every Relationship Goes Through Its Ups and Downs
You can't expect that your spouse or partner will always be attuned to your emotional needs.  There can be many reasons why your spouse isn't meeting your emotional needs at a particular point in your relationship, including financial or work stressors, anxiety, medical problems, problems with your children or other family members.

But if you find that, over a period of time, your emotional needs aren't being met in your relationship, it's time that you and your spouse sit down for a heart-to-heart talk about what's going on in your relationship.

Are Your Emotional Needs Being Met in Your Relationship?
What Does It Mean to Have Your Emotional Needs Met?
You and your spouse or partner won't always be on the same page about everything.  For instance, you might have particular interests that your spouse doesn't have or vice versa.  So, neither you nor your spouse are likely to meet all of each other's needs.  This is why it's healthy to have friends that you enjoy seeing where you have common interests that you and your spouse might not have.

But when I refer to having your emotional needs met by your spouse, I'm talking about, on the most basic level, feeling loved and cared about by your spouse.

Each Person Might Communicate Love in a Different Way
Many  couples, who have been together for a long time, stop expressing their love and appreciation for each other the way they used to when they first met.  For a lot of these couples, it's not so much a matter of not caring any more as it is that, over time, they've forgotten how to communicate these feelings to each other.  Or, in some instances, they might never have known how to do it.

For other couples, each person in the relationship might have a different way of expressing love and appreciation.  If each person in the relationship is on a different wavelength about how to express love and appreciation, each of them might miss certain gestures that are meant to convey these feelings.

For instance, a husband might express how much he loves for his wife by making sure that her car is always in good working order.  But the wife in this relationship might feel unloved because, from her point of view, husbands who love their wives express it by saying, "I love you" or by bringing them flowers.

Since they're both coming from different places about how to express love, the wife might completely miss that this is her husband's way of showing that he loves her.  She might just think her husband likes tinkering with the car.  And the husband might feel unappreciated for his efforts.  So, it's important for each person to understand his or her spouse.  And there can be some compromise around these issues if the couple takes the time to talk about it.

You Deserve to Have Your Emotional Needs Met
Many people struggle  with the idea that they deserve to have their emotional needs met, especially if they grew up in a household where their emotional needs weren't met when they were children.  As adults, they might not know what they need in order to feel loved.  Or even if they do know, they might feel so undeserving that they don't feel entitled to it.

You Deserve to Have Your Emotional Needs Met

Getting Help
If you feel you're not getting your emotional needs met by your spouse, you're not alone.  Many people seek out help in individual therapy as well as couples counseling because of this issue.

If your spouse is willing to participate in couples counseling, you both can learn to change the current dynamic in the relationship.  You'll probably also learn a lot about what your spouse has been experiencing in his or her relationship with you.

Even if your spouse isn't willing, at this point, to participate in couples counseling, you can benefit from your own individual therapy to learn to deal with this issue in your relationship and to avoid the anxiety and depression that can often develop when your emotional needs aren't being met.

I am  a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults 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 or email me:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trying to Avoid the Emotional Pain of a Breakup By Having the Next Romance in the Wings

There are many people who start casting an eye around for the next romance as their current relationship is ending.  They prefer to have a new person in the wings so they can begin a new relationship just as the current one ends.

Trying to Avoid the Emotional Pain of a Breakup By Having the Next Romance in the Wings

Why Do People Seek Out a New Romance as the Current Relationship is Ending?
There are lots of reasons why people want to have the next romance in the wings when they're going through a breakup, and many of those reasons are fear based:

Fear of Being Alone
Some people seek out someone new immediately because they're afraid of being alone.  To them, being alone often means they're undesirable.  They like to go from one relationship to the next without ever being single, if possible.

Fear of Dealing with the Emotional Pain of the Heartbreak
Related to fear of being alone, many people don't want to deal with the emotional pain of the breakup.  Rather than deal with painful emotions, they want to immerse themselves in a new relationship to avoid feeling the pain.

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide
While it's understandable that no one wants to feel the emotional pain of a breakup, thinking that you can avoid the pain completely by seeking out someone new is an illusion.

Running from the problem isn't the answer.  You might distract yourself for a while with someone new, but pushing down the emotional pain from the breakup will just cause it to manifest in other ways, including physical ailments (headaches, stomach problems, body aches, etc).

In addition, whether you realize it or not, you bring your old emotional baggage from the current relationship into the new relationship.

Learning to Cope With Emotional Pain Can Make You More Resilient
As much as we hope to avoid dealing with emotional pain in life, including the pain of a breakup, learning to cope with emotional pain, rather than trying to avoid it, is part of emotional development.

While you're going through the pain, it can feel awful.  But, usually, while you're recovering from the loss, you can learn a lot about yourself, relationships and life's lessons.

After you've healed, you usually realize that you can cope with a lot more than you might have realized, and you don't need to distract yourself with a new relationship, a drink, a drug, gambling or other potential emotional numbing activities.

Healing From Heartbreak and Building Resilience to Deal With Life's Inevitable Challenges
Once you've recovered from your loss, having gone through the emotional pain, you often become more resilient and better able to deal with the next challenge in life.

Just knowing that you were able to cope with the pain and you got through it, as painful as it might have been, can give you more confidence to deal with future adversity, which is unavoidable in life.

Getting Help
Everyone needs help at some point in his or her life.

If you find that you're having a difficult time coping with a breakup on your own or even with your emotional support network, you could benefit from seeking the help of a licensed psychotherapist, who can help you to work through the healing process.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and  Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples, and I've helped many people through the emotional healing process.

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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How Serious Medical Problems Can Change How You Feel About Yourself

When you're healthy and your life is going well, all other things being equal, it's easy to feel good about yourself.  But when you develop serious medical problems, it can change how you feel about yourself and about life in general.  When people develop serious medical problems, they often have a sudden sense of their physical and emotional vulnerabilities in ways they might not have experienced before.  

How Serious Medical Problems Can Change How You Feel About Yourself
Reactions to Being Diagnosed with a Serious Medical Problem:  Shock, Fear, Anger, Sadness
If the medical problem is unexpected and potentially life threatening, people often experience shock at hearing the diagnosis.  Initially, a sense of disbelief can create a sense of emotional paralysis and confusion.  When the shock wears off, people often feel a combination of fear, anger and sadness about the "unfairness" of being diagnosed with the illness.  

Each person's experience is different.  These feelings don't occur in a linear way or, necessarily, in this order.  They can happen all at once or in any order.  However it happens, it usually takes people outside of their everyday experience and it can change their perception of themselves.

Being Treated as "a Sick Patient" 
A day before you received a diagnosis of a major medical illness, like cancer or heart problems, you probably thought of yourself as a husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, friend, an employee and all the other identifications that we all take on in life.

Suddenly, after you've been diagnosed with a major medical problem, your doctors identify you as a "sick patient," a "cancer patient," a "heart patient" or whatever diagnosis is applicable.  This isn't a criticism of the medical profession.  It's just the way it is in many medical settings, especially hospitals. When this happens, you can feel like you've been reduced to one identification-- your diagnosis.

You're More Than Your Medical Diagnosis
But each of us, no matter what our health issues might be, is more than any particular diagnosis.  We're whole people with relationships, histories and, hopefully, dreams for the future.  After a while, if you take on the identification of your diagnosis, it can change how you feel about yourself, reducing you to a list of symptoms.

Words Are Powerful
For the sake of maintaining a healthy emotional attitude, it is far better to be thought of as "a person with cancer" rather than "a cancer patient" (or whatever diagnosis applies).

You might think that this is just a matter of semantics, but it's not.  Words are powerful. When you're identified as "a cancer patient,"the implication is that this is your primary or, worse, your only identification.  But when you're identified as "a person with cancer," the implication is that there is a lot more to you than just your medical diagnosis--you're a whole person with a life that includes your medical diagnosis but also goes beyond your illness.  Rather than losing your sense of self to your illness, you maintain all the different aspects of yourself.

Research has shown that a positive attitude can have a significant effect on recovery.  So, maintaining a healthy sense of self can make the difference between having a good or a poor medical outcome.  So, how you think of yourself, including your sense of identity, is important.

Finding New Meaning in Life While Dealing With a Serious Medical Problem
I know there are exceptional individuals who are given serious medical diagnoses who find tremendous new meaning in life.  They appreciate every day, their relationships take on new meaning, and they might even find a renewed sense of spiritual connection.

Finding New Meaning in Life While Dealing with a Serious Medical Problem
While this is certainly impressive and something to aspire to when you've been diagnosed with a serious medical problem, a lot of people, through no fault of their own, find if very difficult to get to this place emotionally, and pointing to these exceptional people can make these other individuals feel blamed for not being able to reach such an enlightened state.

Your Internal and External Resources
If you're fortunate enough to be an individual who is resilient and who has a good emotional support system among family and friends, your chances for maintaining a healthy sense of self, despite the illness, are better.

Resilience and a Good Emotional Support System Help to Maintain a Healthy Sense of Self
As a resilient person, who has emotional support, you might have an awareness that, during the course of your life, you've overcome other challenges and you could see your medical problems as one more challenge to be overcome.

But not everyone is fortunate enough to be resilient and have a support system.  In addition, sometimes, prior emotional trauma can get triggered when you're diagnosed with a serious medical problem.  At that point, you're not only dealing with the current medical problem, but you're also dealing with the emotions that get triggered from prior trauma.

Under these circumstances, it's not unusual to feel powerless.  Feeling powerless, due to the current situation as well as feelings triggered from the past, can cause you to feel anxious or depressed.

Suddenly, your life looks a lot different from before your diagnosis.  People who have been diagnosed with a major medical problem, often talk in terms of "before the diagnosis" and "after the diagnosis" with the diagnosis serving a dividing line in their lives.

Getting Help From a Licensed Psychotherapist
Working with clients who have medical problems, I often find that a combination of clinical hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing (SE) can be very effective to help them overcome the emotional challenges and maintain a healthy sense of self.

Getting Help:  Clinical Hypnosis and SE Can Be Very Effective to Maintain a Healthy Sense of Self
If you're struggling emotionally due to a medical diagnosis, you owe it to yourself to seek the help of a licensed psychotherapist who practices clinical hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing.  I've included links below for the Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis professional websites which include a worldwide directory of professionals as well as descriptions of both of these treatment modalities (see links below under Resources).

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults 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 or email me at:

Clinical hypnosis: American Society for Clinical Hypnosis

Somatic Experiencing: Somatic Experiencing Training Institute

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Talking to Your Spouse About Your Therapy Sessions

Psychotherapy clients often ask me for my opinion as to whether it's advisable for them to talk to their spouse or significant other about their therapy sessions.

Exploring the Meaning of Sharing the Contents of Your Therapy Sessions With Your Spouse
While I certainly don't have a "rule" about clients speaking to their spouse about their psychotherapy sessions, when a client asks me about it, I like to explore the meaning it has for him or her and how s/he thinks it might affect his or her participation in therapy.

After we discuss it, many of them come to the conclusion that, while it might be interesting, at times, to talk to their spouse about what they discussed in therapy, there might be times when they don't want to share everything.  

For most people, it's not a matter of keeping secrets from their spouse.  It's more a matter of having a place where they can come, where the time is dedicated exclusively to them, and where they can explore anything they want to talk about in a non-judgmental, empathic environment.  Most people don't have this experience in other areas of their lives.  

Therapy as a Special Time and Place For the Client
Therapy is a special time and place for the client.   Often, people like to reflect quietly on their therapy sessions afterwards.  Some people keep a journal of their thoughts and dreams related to their therapy.

Clients Often Like to Reflect on Their Therapy Sessions Afterwards
Aside from the fact that it's often difficult to convey to someone who wasn't there the personal experiences that they have in therapy, clients often want to take the time and space for themselves to fully experience the sessions.  

The Unconscious Processing of the Therapy Session Continues After the Session
Most clients, who have experience with therapy, know that the unconscious mind continues to process the session even after the session is over.  Since the experience is unconscious, they might not have a direct experience of it immediately.  But, often, this unconscious processing shows up in dreams, day dreams or a sudden, new awareness about themselves or their lives.

The Unconscious Process in Psychotherapy
Since this unconscious processing continues after the session, this process can be foreshortened by the feedback that a client gets from a well-meaning spouse.  When people who were not in the psychotherapy session hear about the session, it can seem totally different to them as compared to clients' personal experiences.  A lot goes on unconsciously between the therapist and the client that is unspoken, but is just as real an experience as any client-therapist verbal exchange.  

Trying to Explain Feelings That Are Often Ephemeral: Words Can Elude You
When a client attempts to explain the experience in therapy to a wife or husband, the client might be cutting short the unconscious processing by trying to concretize it too soon.  Also, if the spouse's reaction is something like, "I don't get it.  What's so special about that?" and the client tries to explain or justify his experience, it often takes away from the experience.

This is not to say that most spouses aren't supportive of their loved ones being in therapy.  It's not about that.  It's about allowing the unconscious process to continue to go where it needs to go without external input. 

If you think about what it's like to really convey a dream sometimes, you can get a sense of what it can be like, at times, to try to convey the experience of some therapy sessions.  When you tell your dream, often, words aren't sufficient to convey your internal experience of the dream.  Trying to explain your experience in therapy can be similar.  It can be frustrating.  

After a While, You Could Feel Like Your Spouse is in the Therapy Room With You
The other reason you might not want to talk to your spouse about your therapy sessions is that, once you get into the habit of doing it, you can begin to feel like your spouse is in the room with you in every session.

At times, that could be a very emotionally supportive feeling.  But, other times, knowing while you're in session that you're going to talk about your therapy to your spouse afterwards, could inhibit you from expressing yourself freely in the session.  Some clients, who talk about their therapy sessions with their spouse on a regular basis, might not even realize that it could be inhibiting their free expression in session.  

The other factor is that people often come to their own individual therapy to talk about problems in their relationship.   They usually feel the need not to share certain aspects of this with their spouse.

To Share or Not to Share:  The Choice is Up to You
When you're in therapy, the choice is yours as to whether or not you share your experiences with your spouse or others.  But, before you share, it's worth considering the potential effects that talking about your sessions could have for your treatment.

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

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

I work with individual adults and couples.  

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

When You "Just Don't Feel Right" and It's Hard to Put Your Feelings Into Words

There are times when you "just don't feel right"and it's hard to put your feelings into words.  You just know that something is wrong.  Not being able to put words to your feelings can be especially frustrating if you can't attribute your feelings to any particular event or memory in your life.

When You "Just Don't Feel Right" and It's Hard to Put Your Feelings Into Words
You're Not Alone
If this is happening to you, you're not alone.  Not being able to put uncomfortable feelings into words is a common problem.

Many people who have this experience think they need to know what's wrong before they come to therapy.  Then, aside from not feeling right, they often feel ashamed of not being able to explain what's happening to them.

You Don't Need to Be Able to Explain What's Wrong to Start Therapy
But it's important for you to know that in order to benefit from therapy, you don't need to be able to explain what's wrong.  A skilled therapist can help you to explore your feelings, discover the source of your problems, and help you to work through these issues.

The Mind-Body Connection
As a psychotherapist, I'm very interested in the mind-body connection, which is why I use clinical hypnosis, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing with clients.

When you learn to connect what's going on in your mind with what's going on in your body, it becomes easier to discover the source of your uncomfortable feelings and work through the problem.

You always have your body as a resource, and once you develop the skills necessary to tap into that resource, it's something that you'll always have, even when you leave therapy.

Using mind-body oriented psychotherapy isn't just an intellectual process, like many forms of talk therapy.  It's an integrated combination of your entire internal experience as well as what might be happening for you now or your memories from the past.

Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy:  Clinical Hypnosis, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing
When I use mind-body oriented psychotherapy, like clinical hypnosis, EMDR or Somatic Experiencing, I continue to help clients to connect with their unconscious process, the experience you're having that might be outside of your every day awareness.

I'm psychoanalytically trained, and exploring the unconscious is an important part of my work.

Finding Out More About Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy
If you're curious about mind-body oriented psychotherapy, like clinical hypnosis, EMDR or Somatic Experiencing, take a look at the links I've provided below.

Getting Help
You can also set up a consultation with me by calling me at my NYC office:  (212) 726-1006.

Free Yourself From the Emotional Pain that Keeps You Trapped

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

To find out more about me, visit my website:  
Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing Therapist

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about:
Clinical Hypnosis:  ASCH - American Society for Clinical Hypnosis
Somatic Experiencing:  Somatic Experiencing Training Institute
EMDR: EMDR International Association

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The System is Broken: Why Your Family Doctor Might Be Leaving the Medical Field

Family doctors, also known as primary care physicians, have increasingly stressful jobs.  Aside from what I hear directly from doctors about this, I also recently came across an article by Dr. Lydia Dugdale on a website called (see the link to Dr. Dugdale's article below).  

In her 1/21/13 article, Dr. Dugdale writes about the pressures of being a primary care doctor today, including: the manic pace of the work, pressure to spend no more than 15 minutes with each patient, extra administrative work that family doctors perform "behind the scenes" when they're not with patients, the struggle to find job satisfaction, burnout, and the fact that relatively few medical students are going into primary care treatment these days.
Why Your Family Doctor Might Be Leaving the Medical Field
The System is Broken
Dr. Dugdale articulates well what I've heard from other primary care doctors--the system is broken.  As a result, more medical students are opting to go into specializations.  Specialists are also under increased pressure, especially if they take managed care insurance.  But primary care doctors, whom Dr. Dugdale describes as "jack of all trades," have unique problems.

What Can Be Done to Fix This Broken System?
Dr. Dugdale, who says she loves working with her patients and would prefer to stay in the field, also has recommendations on how to improve the system.

Read her article:  Don't Make Me Leave Primary Care - by Lydia Dugdale, MD, educate yourself about what's happening in the medical field and what can be done to stem the tide of primary care physicians who are leaving the field.

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

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

I work with individual adults and couples.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

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Are You and Your Boyfriend on the Same Wavelength About Your Relationship?

After the initial stage of dating, when you're both having a good time and things are passionate, more than likely, you and the person you're dating begin to assess if you each think you're compatible to take your relationship to the next level.  If you want to be in a serious, committed relationship, part of dating is to try to determine this and to see if you're both on the same wavelength.

What to Do When You and Your Boyfriend Aren't on the Same Wavelength About Your Relationship
Are You Compatible With Each Other?
It's not always easy to determine if you're compatible with one another.  If you want to be in a long term relationship, it's important to know you want and what you might be willing to compromise about.

Communication is key, but not everyone knows how to communicate about this, especially when s/he feels there isn't a future for the relationship.  Some people will go to great lengths to avoid having this conversation because it often makes people feel emotionally vulnerable.  While it's understandable that it can be an uncomfortable conversation, avoiding talking about it isn't the answer.

Do You Both Feel the Same Way About Each Other?
Even when dating develops into a serious, monogamous relationship, as the relationship progresses, just  because you're in a relationship doesn't mean that you and your boyfriend (or girlfriend) are on the same wavelength about it.  Things change.  The relationship might continue to blossom and grow into a long-term relationship.  Or, you could end up breaking up.

Relationships often go through various stages, depending upon what each person wants.  It's important to know if what you want is the same thing that the other person wants.  If you both just assume that you both want the same thing, this is a recipe for disaster.

Potential Signs that You and Your Boyfriend Might Not Be on the Same Wavelength
  • You sense that there's something "off" between the two of you and, rather than talk to him about it, you walk on eggshells instead.  On some level you might know that your relationship is in some sort of limbo, but you avoid talking to him about it because you're afraid to have this confirmed.
  • You realize that he's not as available by phone, text or in person as he used to be (this assumes that there aren't any practical reasons for this), and you feel he's avoiding you.
  • He often becomes distracted when you're together and you don't feel as close with each other as you used to be when you first started seeing each other.  This can be especially hurtful to the person who might still be interested.
The items listed above can also be the result of other causes, so you'll have to use your judgment to determine if these are signs that you're not both on the same wavelength or there's some other explanation.

Talk About the Relationship
But rather than looking for signs, which you can easily misread, have an honest and open discussion with the person you're seeing after you're been seeing each other for a few months.

If your boyfriend (or girlfriend) says it's still too soon for him or her to determine if the relationship will develop into something more serious, ask yourself if you would like to continue seeing this person to see where it goes or if you feel it's been long enough and you don't want to continue to spend time together.  Assuming that you want to be in a long term relationship, this can be tricky and there are a lot of personal and practical factors to take into account when you're making this decision.

When both people come to the same conclusion--that the relationship has taken its course and it would be better to breakup, it's obviously a lot easier than when only one person feels this way.  But, even so, the breakup doesn't need to be acrimonious.  If you're the one who wanted to remain together and he's the one who wants to break if off, try not to take it personally.  If the reason you're breaking up is because you're not compatible, it's not anyone's fault.  And, of course, if you both agree on continuing together, it's not a problem.

Coping With Change
Change is inevitable in life.  Even when the change is something that we want, it can be stressful.  It's even more stressful when the change isn't something that we would have chosen.

Getting Help in Therapy
Although it's hurtful, if there is a breakup, your emotional support network and your ability to bounce back from adversity can see you through until you heal.  But if this isn't enough or if you don't have a good emotional suppornetwork and you're not feeling resilient at this point in your life, you could benefit from seekinelp from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to heal.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults 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 or email me:

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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Role of the Family Scapegoat in Dysfunctional Families

The role of the child who is designated as the family scapegoat in dysfunctional families is to serve as the identified "problem" in the family.  Also known as the family's "black sheep," the child who is given this role tends to be the focus of the family.  The family can point to the child who is placed in the role as the scapegoat and blame the family's problems on this child, which is the primary reason why families designate a particular child, usually the most vulnerable one, to be in this role.

When the Family Points to the Family Scapegoat,  They Divert Attention Away From More Serious Family Problems
More often than not, the family actually has more serious family problems than whatever problems the scapegoated child might have.  But by focusing on the child who is in the role of the scapegoat, the family is able to avoid looking at these more serious problems by pointing to this child as the source of their problems.

When young children are placed in this rigid role, they often believe that they're the source of the family's problems.  This is a heavy burden to place on a child and, aside from feeling overwhelmed by having this role imposed on him or her, the child often feels hurt, angry and shame.

The Role of the Family Scapegoat in Dysfunctional Families
Even if the child didn't have serious problems before, being burdened with this role can create its own problems.  It's not unusual for children who are in the role of the scapegoat to, then, develop emotional problems that affect them at home and at school.  This serves as further proof for the family that this child is the source of their problems.

Rigid Roles For Children Are Often Found in Dysfunctional and Alcoholic Families
Placing children in rigid roles often occurs in families where there is alcoholism.  Rather than deal with one or both parents' alcoholism, the family avoids dealing with it by saying that at least the scapegoated child is the "bad one" and is causing all the problems in the family.

If this family comes in for help, they usually point to the scapegoated child as the only problem because they want to avoid dealing with the alcoholism.  Sometimes, parents in these families go so far as to call  this child as "a loser,"which is a cruel and destructive way to describe any child.

Aside from placing one or more children in the rigid role of the "black sheep," these families often have other rigid roles, like designating another child as the "hero."  This is the child that the family points to with pride.  This child is pushed to be "the good one," and to get excellent grades and excel in other ways.

Even though it might seem preferable to be the "hero" than the scapegoated "black sheep," any kind of rigid role is destructive.  In the case of the "hero,"the child is expected to be perfect, which is another burdensome role to place on a child.  Also, parents often pit the "black sheep" and the "hero" against one another.

It's not unusual for adults, who were placed in this scapegoated role as children, to continue to feel like they're the "black sheep" in their adult lives.  Since they have internalized this role as children, they continue to believe it, sometimes for the rest of their lives, if they don't get help.  Internalizing this role can create feelings of low self worth, which can lead to problems with substance abuse, problems in relationships, and problems with the law.

Getting Help 
If you were considered the "black sheep" of your family when you were growing up, you don't need to continue to carry this burden as an adult.  You might not realize the toll that being designated as the family scapegoat can have on you throughout your life, especially if you believe it.

With Psychotherapy, You Can Free Yourself From Your History to Lead a More Fulfilling Life
Psychotherapy can help you to overcome the emotional burden that was placed on you as a child so you no longer have to carry this burden as an adult.  You can work through this issue, free yourself from the destructive effects of your history, and lead a more fulfilling life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults 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.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

You Want to Change Your Spouse, But You Can't, So What Can You Do?

It can be very frustrating to be in a marriage with a spouse who won't change.  You might see  clearly that your spouse's behavior is unhealthy for him and you, but he either can't or won't change.  With the best of intentions, you might speak to your spouse about how you are affected by his problems and ask him, maybe even plead with him, to change.  Maybe the two of you argue constantly about this.  So, what can you do when you feel his problems are ruining the marriage, but he refuses to change?

You Want to Change Your Spouse, But You Can't, So What Can You Do?
There Are No Easy Answers:  No One Can Tell You What to Do
No one can tell you what to do. Each situation is unique.  Of course, if you're in a situation that's dangerous, you need to get out immediately to remove yourself from harm's way, and stay with a trusted friend or relative.

Here are some of the most common issues I hear about as a psychotherapist from clients who want their spouses to change (for the sake of simplicity, I'm writing about husbands, but these issues also apply to wives):
  • "He drinks too much."
  • "He's gambling away our life savings."
  • "He's cheating with other women."
  • "He's constantly disappointing me by making plans and canceling."
  • "He belittles and embarrasses me in front of our family and friends."
  • "He lies to me."
  • "He refuses to have a discussion with me about our marriage."
  • "He's constantly watching TV, on the computer or iPhone, and he doesn't pay attention to me."
You Can't Change Him
If you haven't discovered it already, the one thing that's true in all relationships is that you can't change anyone, except yourself.  As much as you might see how much happier you and your husband would be if he changed, only he can change if he wants to change.  You can't do it for him, no matter how well meaning you are.  

You Need to Be Honest With Yourself
  • How much is this problem bothering you?
  • Do you think it's something you can't live with any more?
  • Do you feel like you're getting to the end of your patience with your spouse?
  • Are you contemplating a separation or a divorce?
You Can Only Change Yourself
In situations that aren't dangerous, when you've been feeling frustrated for a while, only you know how much longer you can deal with the situation.  If you've recommended marriage counseling to your husband and he refuses to go, you could benefit from going to individual therapy to help you deal with the stressful situation at home and to avoid becoming depressed and anxious.  

Get Help
It can be very confusing and lonely to go through this by yourself.  Even if you have good friends and supportive family, they might not understand.  A skilled therapist, who is objective, can help you to explore what you feel is best for you.  She can help you to develop the inner emotional resources that will help you to take care of yourself, whatever you decide to do.  

You deserve to be happy.  If you're in an unhappy marriage where your spouse refuses to get help or to participate in marriage counseling, you owe it to yourself to get the help you need to lead a more fulfilling life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults 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 or email me.

Al-Anon:  For issues related to codependency, many people find Al-Anon meetings to be very helpful.  Click on the link above and find a meeting near you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Success: Developing Determination and Perseverance to Accomplish Your Goals

Many clients come to therapy because they have a hard time completing their goals.  They begin a new project with enthusiasm and then, after a while, they find "reasons" why they can't find the time to do it.  There are times when you need to re-evaluate or change a goal.  But that's not what I'm referring to in this blog post.  I'm really talking about people who abandon their efforts because they're lack determination and the ability to persevere.

Lacking Determination and Perseverance
There are many reasons why people lack determination and perseverance to see their goals to completion.  Sometimes, people allow self doubt to get in the way and they have a hard time seeing themselves as a success.

A Lot of People Have Problems Sticking to Their  Goals to Completion
Anxiety and Depression Can Get in the Way of Completing Goals
Anxiety and depression can also get in the way of people completing their goals.  If you're feeling anxious and depressed, it might be all that you can do to just get through the day--let alone have long term goals.

Difficulty Sacrificing Short Term Pleasure For Long Term Goals
For many people, what gets in the way of completing their goals and achieving success is an inability to stay focused on the benefits they will derive if they persevere.  They get bored and allow their boredom to distract them.  They also have difficulty sacrificing short term pleasure for long term goals.

The following vignette, which is a composite of many different cases, so that no identifying information compromises confidentiality, illustrates this problem:

John, who returned to college when he was in his late 20s, was at the end of his junior year of college.  Originally, he left college when he was 19 because he wanted to earn money.  But after a while, he realized that his lack of a college degree was holding him back.  He had reached a plateau at work.  Senior positions required a college degree, so he returned to college at night.

Working full time and going to college at night was a challenge.  But what John found even more challenging was that he felt like he was "missing out" on socializing with his friends during the week.  They had all graduated college a few years before, and so they were free to go out to social clubs and parties while John was in night school.

This made John feel miserable and stuck with a dilemma.  On the one hand, he knew that he made a mistake in leaving college the first time, so he didn't want to quit again.  But, on the other hand, he also wanted to be able to go out more often with his friends, and he was too bogged down with his studies to do this.  Since he was not sure what to do, John decided to go to therapy to try to understand why he felt so ambivalent.

John discovered in therapy that he lacked the ability to stay focused on his long term goals.  He also realized that, when he was growing up, his parents, who struggled just to get by from day to day, also didn't have the ability to focus on long term goals.  So, he didn't grow up in an environment where these skills  were modeled for him.

Part of the problem was that his long term goals were undefined.  So, John's therapist helped him to define his goals more clearly.  John also learned tools to stay motivated and focused.  Getting organized, having clearly defined goals and a sense of purpose helped John to stay focused on his long term goals.  At times, he still wished he could go out more with his friends, but he held onto what he wanted to accomplish, and after he graduated college, he felt a real sense of accomplishment.

Getting Help
If you find that you tend to get discouraged and abandon your goals because you're lacking determination or a sense of purpose, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to develop the skills you need to succeed.

Therapy Can Help You to Develop the Skills You Need to Be Successful
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

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.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dreams: Looking Within Yourself for Inspiration

As a society, I believe we tend to be mostly outer directed.  We're bombarded with messages that to be happy we need to look a certain way or have certain things in our lives.  No sooner do we achieve the latest "look" and acquire the latest things that are supposed to make us happy than we discover that there's a "new look" or a new thing to acquire.  To try to keep up is like running on a treadmill that never stops, leaving us feeling more and more dissatisfied.

Looking Within Yourself for Inspiration
When we put our faith in things outside ourselves, we're bound to be constantly disappointed.  So, rather than continuing to run on a treadmill that never stops, we would do a lot better to look within ourselves for inspiration.

Dreams:  Looking Within Yourself for Inspiration
Dreams are a Rich Source for Inspiration
Exploring your dreams is one way to look within yourself for inspiration.

In an earlier blog, I discussed how you can use dream incubation to "plant seeds" for inspiration or motivation to make changes (see link below).

Developing the Ability to Remember Your Dreams
If you develop your ability to remember your dreams, your dreams can be a rich source of inspiration that are always available to you.  And the more skilled you become at remembering and using your dreams for inspiration, the better you become at it, just like any skill.

A lot people think they don't dream at night because they don't remember their dreams.  But everyone has at least 5-6 dreams per night.  We tend to remember the dreams that we have closest to when we wake up.

If you want to remember your dreams, make a habit of writing them down or recording them as soon as you wake up.  After a while, you'll probably notice interesting synchronicities and inspiration that comes from your dreams.  You might even have more intuitive experiences once you begin working with your dreams.

Rather than approaching it like a grim task, have fun with it!

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

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.

Also, see my articles:
Dream Incubation: Planting Seeds

Dreams and Embodied Imagination

Working with Dreams to Develop Creative Imagination

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Accepting the Things We Cannot Change and Having the Courage to Change the Things We Can

Most people like to feel that they have control over what happens in their lives and, to a certain extent, we do.  But not always.  And when change comes, it doesn't always come when we expect it or in a way that we would like.  Sometimes, it's in our power to have some control over the change.  Often it's not, and we have no choice but to accept it.

When change is foisted upon us in ways that are unexpected and scary, it helps to remember the Serenity Prayer:

The Serenity Prayer
Accepting What We Cannot Change
Rather than wasting a lot of time and energy railing against things we cannot change, we can accept the change and conserve our energy for the things where we can have an effect.

We might want to change other people, but deep down we know that we only have the power to change ourselves, and that's often hard enough without trying to change others.

Even when we think we know what's best for others and we think we can help put them on the right path, we can't really say what's best for anyone other than ourselves--as hard as this might be to accept.  Even when we know this, we might have to remind ourselves of it again and again.

Having the Courage to Change What We Can
Even when we want to make change, there's usually at least a small part in us that might not want to change.  We might struggle with ambivalence because change often takes us into the "Unknown."  Fear can keep us trapped in situations that we know aren't good for us.  This is one of the reasons why we need courage to make important changes in our lives.

Having the Wisdom to Know the Difference
Wisdom usually comes with experience and making mistakes.  None of us likes making mistakes.  Often, it's only with hindsight that we can see the value of making a mistake.  Sometimes, we have to learn lessons the hard way and, if we're open to it, the lessons bring wisdom.  Knowing the difference between what we can change and what we can't often involves stumbling and falling before wisdom comes.

Remaining Open to Life's Lessons
All we can do is remain open with humility to life's lessons and to the wisdom that comes from these life lessons.

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

I work with individual adults 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.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Overcoming Grief Gambling

News stories about former San Diego mayor, Maureen O'Connor, have brought to light the importance of getting help for grief gambling.  According to news reports, Ms. O'Connor gambled more than a billion dollars of her own money as well as money she embezzled from her foundation due to a combination of grief gambling, which is a syndrome that is more common than most people realize, and a medical condition that she was contending with at the time.  According to news reports, Ms. O'Connor started grief gambling after her husband and other people close to her died.

Overcoming Grief Gambling

What is Grief Gambling?
Grief gambling is a compulsive and addictive form of gambling.  It usually occurs among people, especially the elderly, who have had a lot of losses and who haven't learned healthy ways of dealing with their grief.

Rather than dealing with their feelings about their losses, people who engage in grief gambling use it as an escape to avoid emotions that are uncomfortable for them.  Generally speaking, they don't go through the usual mourning process because they avoid feelings that are uncomfortable for them.  Grief gambling can occur at any age, but it often occurs among the elderly because they've sustained the losses of so many people in their lives.

Overcoming Grief Gambling
Unlike excessive drinking or drug abuse, where there are usually signs of impairment, grief gambling is easier to hide.  People who engage in grief gambling can sit in front of their computers and gamble away thousands of dollars or, as in the case of Ms. O'Connor, more than a billion dollars, in less time than most people would imagine.  They can maintain their secret life of gambling for a while--until, inevitably, they must face the consequences of their losses because these games are always stacked in favor of "the house" and the odds are against the person gambling.

Compassion Instead of Criticism For People Who Have Problems With Addictive Behavior
While it's true that people who engage in irresponsible or illegal activities must face the consequences of their behavior, I believe that, rather than judging people who are caught in the grip of addictive behavior, we need to have compassion for them.  While it might be hard to understand how someone could get him or herself into a predicament where s/he gamble away a child's college fund or the family's life savings, it's important to not to be judgmental.

What Are the Consequences of Grief Gambling?
People who engage in grief gambling to escape feeling their grief have been known to file for bankruptcy.  Marriages are ruined, and jobs are lost due to this form of gambling.  Most people who engage in grief gambling don't engage in sociopathic activities to continue gambling.  But there have been other cases where individuals, caught in the grip of this addictive behavior, have engaged in "white collar" crime and other illegal activities to feed their gambling habit.

Grief Gambling and Denial
You might ask how a sane person could allow themselves to get caught up in such addictive behavior.  This is a complex subject, but one important factor is the psychological defense mechanism of denial.  Most people who are caught up in grief gambling know that it's only a matter of time before they have to face the consequences of their behavior, but denial keeps them from fully coming to grips with this.  Whether they tell themselves, "I'll just do it one more time, and then I'll stop" or "I'll stop after the next big win," denial keeps them going. 

The Psychological "Rewards" of Grief Gambling
The online games are designed to be compelling with psychologically-rewarding intermittent rewards for online gamblers.  Playing these games also stimulates the dopamine receptors in the brain, which also helps to make it addictive.  For grief gamblers who go to the casinos, the casinos reward "high rollers" with free hotel rooms, expensive meals, and just about whatever they want to keep them gambling.  They're made to feel very special.

Getting Help:  Psychotherapy to Deal with Grief
As I've mentioned in other blog posts, we're hard wired for attachment, not loss.  Needless to say, losing someone you love or, worse still, multiple losses of loved ones, is very difficult.  It's understandable that no one would want to go through the mourning process if he or she had a choice. But, unfortunately, loss is part of life, whether we like it or not or whether we feel we're ready to deal with it or not.

Aside from being at risk for addictive behavior, unresolved bereavement  can put you at risk for other psychological problems, like depression or an anxiety disorder.  Unresolved bereavement can also compromise your immune system, putting you at risk for medical problems.

When you work with a skilled psychotherapist, who has experience helping clients through their grief, you learn to mourn the loss of your loved one so that you can begin the healing process and you no longer feel overwhelmed by your grief.   You'll learn to develop healthy coping skills, rather than turning to grief gambling or other unhealthy activities.

Mourning is a process, and the process is different for each person.   In a society that tends not to discourage dealing with uncomfortable feelings, well-meaning people will often tell you to "just get over it."  But no one can tell you how long it should take you to mourn your loss.  With the help of a skilled therapist with whom you feel a rapport, you can get through this difficult time with the emotional support and new coping skills you'll learn in therapy.

Getting Help:  Gamblers Anonymous
For people with gambling problems, I often recommend that they attend the 12 Step program, Gamblers Anonymous.  At Gamblers Anonymous, people usually find supportive group members, many of them who have been successful at abstaining from gambling for many years.  Other group members are at various stages in their recovery.  The link to the G.A. website provides a list of meetings all over the U.S.

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

I work with individual adults and couples.  I have helped many clients to heal from bereavement issues.  I also have an expertise in working with addictions.

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.

How Somatic Experiencing Can Help You to Stop Giving 'til It Hurts in Your Relationships

Many people, especially women, are raised to believe that they should put everyone else first and put themselves last.  The underlying message is that other people are more important and you should ignore your own needs.  This often means giving until it hurts.  Whether this is justified on spiritual or family beliefs, it often leads to codependent relationships.

Giving 'til It Hurts Often Leads to Anger and Sadness
Giving until it hurts might seem like a noble belief to the person raised to believe this.  But, inevitably, giving until it hurts leads to hurt feelings, anger and resentment for the person who ignores her needs to please everyone else, especially if loved ones come to expect this and take it for granted.  Exclamations of, "Look at all I've done for you, and you don't even appreciate it" are often met with a response of, "I never asked you to do it," which just creates more problems.

Giving til It Hurts Often Leads to Anger and Sadness
Ignoring Your Own Needs Can Leave You Feeling Depleted and Out of Touch with Your Feelings
You can only ignore your own needs for so long without feeling emotionally, physically and, perhaps, even spiritually depleted.   If you've spent most of your life giving until it hurts, you might not even recognize that your emotional pain is caused because you're  not nurturing and taking care of yourself.  And you might just be going through the motions and acting the way you think you "should," putting on a mask for others.

Being Out of Touch With Your Feelings, You Might Be Just Putting on a Mask for Others
If you're feeling angry and resentful when you do things for others, this could be a clue that you're giving until it hurts and you need to reassess your behavior and your relationships.   But be aware that if your loved ones are accustomed to your being the one who is always giving, they might have problems adjusting to a change in you.

What Does It Mean to Put Yourself First and to Nurture Yourself?
You might not know what it means to nurture yourself or how to do it, especially if your identity is tied to being "the good girl" (or "good boy") who takes care of everyone else.  Until now, you might have derived a lot of satisfaction from putting others first.  Maybe you even chose a helping profession that involves taking care of others, like nursing or social work.  So, if you're giving until it hurts at home and at work, you could easily burn out.

Somatic Experiencing Can Help You to be More Attuned to Your Own Feelings
In order to discover what you would find nurturing, you need to be more in touch with your own feelings.  This is no easy task for someone who has been putting others first for years.  Often, in order to put others first, the person who gives too much to others pushes down his or her own feelings to be able to accommodate others.

Feeling your feelings, possibly for the first time as an adult, can be scary.  This is one of the many reasons why I like to use Somatic Experiencing for clients who are stuck in this way.  Somatic Experiencing is a gentle form of mind-body therapy where the work can be gently titrated to be emotionally safe and effective.

Somatic Experiencing Can Help You Be More Attuned to Your Feelings
When you learn to tune into your emotions as you sense them in your body, it provides you with an internal resource that you'll always have.  At first, you might only have a vague inkling of what you feel.  But, over time, like any skill, you can become better able to identify your feelings.  Not only can you learn what you need to do for yourself to take care of yourself, but you can also learn when you want to say "no."  Instead of overriding your feelings like you did in the past in order to accommodate others at your expense, you can learn to be tactfully assertive to take care of yourself.

Learning to stop giving until it hurts isn't easy, but once you've learned to be able to take care of yourself and have relationships with appropriate boundaries, you'll feel better about yourself and your loved ones.

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

I work with individual adults 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.

To find out more about Somatic Experiencing:  Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute where you will find an international directory of Somatic Experiencing therapists.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Power of Words

There is an old adage: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me" which could not be more untrue.

As a psychotherapist, I hear many accounts from individuals and couples about just how harmful words can be when spoken in anger and in haste. Words, whether used to attack in anger or used with love and compassion, are very powerful. And, yet, I think we often underestimate the power of words and don't stop to think before we say certain things that can't be taken back once they're said. Many times, these words, often thoughtlessly blurted out, can seriously damage or end a relationship or a friendship or cost someone a job.

Comforting Words
Words, whether written or oral, can also be comforting and supportive.  A few supportive words from a loved one can make all the difference.  Also, when we read a story that is comforting and soothing, it can be very healing.

Words Have the Power to be Comforting

Words Said in Anger Can Have a Lasting Effect
Often, the effects of these words far outlast the few seconds it takes to say them. I'm thinking in particular of situations where a parent tells a child, in moment of frustration and exasperation, "You can't do anything right!" or, even more damaging, "You're never going to amount to anything."

It's often the case that this child carries these words with him for the rest of his life, and they're there right under the surface waiting to be triggered later on as an adult whenever he feels (or he is made to feel) inadequate. I'm also thinking of situations between couples where, as arguments escalate, each person tries to say things that are increasingly more harmful in an effort to "win" the fight (of course, there's really no "winning" in these situations). Other examples come to mind, like road rage, where drivers become impatient with each other and words can escalate to physical violence.

Words Said in Anger Can Have a Lasting Damaging Effect
Many times, whatever momentary gratification is derived from saying these harsh words, especially in personal relationships, is far outweighed afterwards by remorse and regret. And even when there is forgiveness, the other person often doesn't forget what has been said.

It seems to me that, during the last several years, I've been hearing more accounts than usual of how damaging angry and unkind words have ruined relationships between children and their parents, in marriages, in friendships, between employee and employer, between colleagues and in other business relationships. Usually, these dynamics occur in person but they also occur by phone, via email, and in Instant Messaging. I don't know what accounts for this increase or even if what I'm seeing is representative of a larger dynamic. But if it is more prevalent today than before, perhaps part of it is the increasingly faster pace of our lives, or the ease and speed of technology for communicating, or if, somehow, as a society, we've become somewhat desensitized and insensitive to each other.

What is apparent, however, is that the more a person engages in this type of behavior, the more habitual it becomes, and the harder it is to break this habit. Of course, no one can be expected to be "a saint" and it's normal to have angry feelings. But we can control how and when we express ourselves. And so much of the damage that is often done with harsh and angry words could be avoided if we just stop and think before we speak.

Learn to Recognize Physical Cues to Prevent Yourself From Uttering Words You'll Regret

Learn to Recognize Internal Cues to Prevent Yourself From Uttering Words You'll Regret
If you're quick to utter angry and harsh words, learn to recognize the cues in yourself before you blow your top and say things that you're going to regret. These cues can be physical, like when you feel your face getting flush or you feel a knot of anger in your stomach or many other cues in your body that are particular to you and that you can learn to recognize as signs that you're about to lose it. These cues can also be mental or emotional, as when you recognize the thoughts that you're having just before they turn into words that you could use as weapons.

This is a skill, like many skills, that you can learn. If an argument is escalating and you feel yourself on the verge of losing it, take a time out and get back to the other person once you've had time to cool off. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment and see the situation from his or her point of view. Could it be that there's some misunderstanding that can be cleared up when cooler heads prevail?

Getting Help
If you find that you often use words in ways that you later regret and you're unable to stop this habit on your own, you could benefit from the help of a licensed psychotherapist.

I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individuals and couples.  I have helped many clients learn to communicate with others in a healthier way.

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

To set up a consultation, feel free to call me at (212) 726-1006.

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