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Monday, March 6, 2017

How Psychotherapy Helps You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

All too often people are held back from accomplishing their goals because they are hindered by their personal history.  Struggling on their own, they're unable to overcome these obstacles. But psychotherapy offers an opportunity to free yourself from a history that has been holding you back (see my article: The Benefits of Therapy and What's Holding You Back From Achieving Your Goals?).

How Psychotherapy Helps You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

Usually, people don't understand how problems from the past affect them now because these underlying issues are unconscious and it's difficult, on your own, to make the connection between what happened before and what's happening now.

People, who feel stuck, tend to berate themselves for being "lazy" or "stupid" when the actual cause of the problem is unresolved emotional trauma.

While it's generally well known that the past can affect the present, it's often difficult to see this in your own personal situation.  And, even if you're able to see it, it can be difficult to overcome the underlying issues on your own.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized scenario which is representative of these issues:

Max was in a dead end job with little to no possibility of moving up or getting a raise.

He wanted to start his own business as a website developer.  He had developed websites pro bono for his friends and for nonprofit groups, and he received high praise for his skills, so he decided to develop his own website offering his skills to others for a fee.

How Psychotherapy Helps You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

Max knew there would be lots of competition because there were already many other businesses that already offered the same services, but Max wanted to give it a try.

After he developed the website for his business, he was ready to launch it, but he delayed because he had a terrible sense of foreboding.  He didn't know why he felt this way, but he decided to hold off for a while until he felt more comfortable with the idea of starting his own business.

A week turned into a month and a month turned into six months.  And, before he knew it, Max delayed launching his website for a year--even though he couldn't think of any logical reason why he was putting it off.

Whenever his friends would ask him how things were going with the launch of his website, he would tell them that he was still working on it. But his friends knew that Max was very talented and that something else had to be going on.

Finally, his best friend, John, asked Max what was going on and why wasn't he getting started with his business idea.  John knew that Max would be successful if he advertised his services, so he realized that something else had to be going on.

Max and John were friends for many years, so he felt more comfortable talking to John about it than anyone else.  He explained to John that when he was about to launch his site, he had a terrible sense of foreboding and he couldn't go ahead with it.

They talked for a long time over dinner.  John tried to convince Max to "just do it" and tried to bolster Max's confidence.  But he realized that nothing he said was having an impact on Max.  So, he suggested that Max see a therapist.

Max had been in therapy several years ago to deal with the loss of his grandmother when she died.

At the time, Max, who was very close to his grandmother, thought he would never overcome this loss, but his therapist helped him to work through his grief, so Max had a good experience of being in therapy before.  But he wasn't sure how therapy could help him now.

How Psychotherapy Helps You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

After he thought about it for a while, Max decided to return to his former therapist to see if she could help him to overcome his fear and procrastination (see my articles: Overcoming Procrastination and  Returning to Therapy).

Max told his therapist that he couldn't think of any rational reason that he was procrastinating launching his website.  He knew he had the skills and the business savvy to do it.  He also knew that he would enjoy this business.

Then, he described the sense of foreboding that came over him when he was about to launch his website.  He had no words to express the sense of foreboding that he felt in his stomach.

How Psychotherapy Helps You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

His therapist worked with the mind-body connection in therapy and she asked him to stay with the sensation as long as it was tolerable to him.  In response, Max said that, although it was uncomfortable, it was tolerable.

His therapist asked Max to just notice what happened next.

At first, Max didn't notice any change, but then he realized that the tension that was in his stomach was moving up through his chest and into his throat.  He said it didn't hurt and it was still tolerable, but it seemed odd to him.

Using a clinical hypnosis technique called the Affect Bridge, his therapist asked him to stay with the sensation and the emotions and go back to the earliest time that he could remember feeling these same sensations and emotions (see my article: Mind-Body Psychotherapy: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

At first, Max was skeptical about this, but he stayed with it and a memory came to him.  He said, "I don't know why this memory is coming up now and I don't know if it's related to what we're working on, but I'm remembering a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was four or five years old."

His therapist encouraged Max to stay with the memory, sensations and emotions and tell her what was coming up for him.

Max remembered that he used to see his grandmother everyday during that time because she lived in the apartment upstairs from where he lived with his parents.  Usually, he would have his afternoon snack with his grandmother at the same time every afternoon and they would talk.

He remembered on this particular day that his grandmother was reminiscing about her father when she was a little girl in her native country.  She had loved and admired her father very much, and she spent a lot of time with him while he worked in his workshop.

At the time, she thought her father was a genius, especially when it came to fixing things.  He had such a good reputation at what he did that people from their town and the surrounding towns would come with broken appliances or radios, after they had been to other people who told them that it couldn't be fixed, and her father fixed it without a problem.

Although he was admired by most people, there were a few people who had similar businesses who were angry and jealous because they felt he was taking business away from them.

His grandmother told Max that her father invented a farm tool that he was very proud of at the time.  He had hoped that tool, which was unique, would interest local farmers and that he would become financially successful as a result.

When word got out about her father's new farm tool, the men who were jealous of him began to spread malicious gossip about him.  They also maligned his invention.

Although people in the town generally liked her father, for some reason, they believed the gossip and began to stay away from his shop.

At first, her father didn't understand why his business had dropped off so much.  Then, word got back to him about the stories that were circulating about him, and he was stunned.

He realized that his competitors were jealous about his invention and they were behind the vicious rumors.  He also knew that the rumors wouldn't stop until he stopped trying to promote his invention, so he quietly put it away.  And, sure enough, the gossip stopped and people gradually came back to his business.

Max's grandmother remembered this time as being a very humiliating and sad time for her father, for her and the rest of the family.  When she spoke about it, she talked about her father and the rest of the family being powerless to stop what was happening at the time.

Then, she looked directly at Max and she told him, "It's better to remain humble than to be proud and try to rise above where you are or people will try to destroy you."

Max remembers feeling shocked and anxious as a child after he heard his grandmother's story about her father.  At the time, he knew that, even though this was an old memory for his grandmother, she was still very affected by it.  He could see the sadness and fear in her eyes and, as a child, he thought about it for a long time, although he didn't completely understand it because he was so young.

When Max discussed this memory further with his therapist, he had the sudden realization that this was what was holding him back.  He wasn't sure why or how, but he felt it in his gut (see my article: An Unconscious Identification With a Loved One Can Create an Obstacle to Change).

Then, he remembered many other times that his grandmother gave him similar advice based on her traumatic experiences as a child.

Although he knew that his grandmother had been traumatized and she was only trying to protect him, he also felt annoyed that he had been burdened with these ideas at such a young child.

"But how could such a memory from so long ago still be affecting me?" Max asked his therapist.

His therapist responded by telling Max that although this memory wasn't in the forefront of his mind, it had remained in his unconscious and had made an emotional impact on him at an early age, especially since his grandmother had such a big influence on him.

His therapist explained that the memory got triggered, without his realizing it, when Max was about to launch his website to advertise his services.  Even though his grandmother told him this story a long time ago, the memory remained in his unconscious mind and became the impediment to his going forward (see my article: Freeing Yourself From Family Expectations and Beliefs That Are Harmful to You).

Using EMDR Therapy, his therapist helped Max to work through this obstacle (see my articles: How EMDR Therapy Works - Part 1How EMDR Therapy Works - Part 2: Overcoming Trauma and How Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Can Help to Achieve an Emotional Breakthrough).

Over time, Max was able to separate his experience from his grandmother's experience (see my article: Working Through Emotional Trauma: Psychotherapy Helps You to Separate "Then" From "Now").

Gradually, he became comfortable with the idea of launching his website and he also became open to new possibilities in his life, including that he could be a successful business owner.

How Psychotherapy Can Help You to Open Up to New Possibilities in Your Life

By the time he launched his website, he had no fear, conscious or unconscious.  He anticipated that he would enjoy his business and he would be successful.

Often, people are stuck for reasons that they don't understand because the reasons are unconscious.

The Affect Bridge from clinical hypnosis is one of many ways that skilled therapists, who are hypnotherapists, help clients to overcome unconscious obstacles so that clients can become open to new possibilities and new ways of seeing themselves.

Getting Help in Therapy
Clients are often surprised to discover that unconscious memories that are creating obstacles for them.

Getting to these unconscious memories on your own would be very difficult.

If you're feeling stuck and you've been unable to move forward on your own, rather than suffering alone, you can get help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you identify the obstacles and work through them.

The first step, which is often the hardest, is making a call for a consultation, but it can make all the difference between remaining stuck and freeing yourself from your history (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

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