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Sunday, February 17, 2013

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.

photo credit: Melissa Segal via photopin cc

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photo credit: fabiogis50 via photopin cc

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