Translate

power by WikipediaMindmap

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Changing Your Sex Script: The Beginning Phase: Sexual Arousal - Part 1

In my prior article, Understanding Your Sex Script I began a discussion about sex scripts based on Dr. Ian Kerner's book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex.   

Changing Your Sex Script: The Beginning Phase: Sexual Arousal
            
As I mentioned, a sex script is a detailed description of a sexual encounter that reveals what happened, what didn't happen, what was pleasurable for each individual and what wasn't.  

Sex scripts are analyzed in terms of their beginning, middle and end phases (see my prior article for details).  The focus of this article will be on problems in the beginning phase of the sex script where couples often struggle.

Stop Approaching Sex as a Performance-Based Activity: Pleasure is the Measure
Many couples approach sex as a goal-oriented or performance-based activity with the goal being orgasm.  

Obviously, orgasms are pleasurable and have many health benefits, including:
  • Good Heart Health: Orgasms lower cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
  • Improved Sleep: When stress is reduced, sleep often improves.  
  • Improved Immune System: A study of college students showed that having an orgasm once or twice a week increased immunoglobulin levels 30 percent higher as opposed to those in the study who weren't having sex.
  • Increased Emotional Intimacy: Orgasms release oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone," which deepens the emotional bond between you and your lover.
  • Improved Pelvic Floor Health: The contraction and release of the muscles in the pelvic area tones the pelvic floor, which improves core strength as well as bladder control. It also helps to intensify orgasms.
  • Post Sex Glow: During an orgasm blood flows throughout the body.  When blood vessels dilate, it produces increased oxygen.  Increased oxygen stimulates collagen, which improves overall skin health and helps to prevent wrinkles.
  • Increased Happiness: Last but not least, in addition to the oxytocin, orgasms feel good and they provide a sense of well-being.
    Pressure to Perform Sexually
Notwithstanding all the benefits of having orgasms, when a couple places too much emphasis on orgasms, it often places too much pressure on each individual.  

Then, rather than sex being enjoyable, it becomes a chore.  And when one or both people don't have an orgasm, it can be a source of humiliation and shame if sex is approached as a performance-based activity.

As I've mentioned in my prior articles, instead of orgasms being the goal of having sex, a better approach is to focus on the pleasure of having sex with someone you care about. 

As sex educator, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. emphasizes in her book, Come As You Are, "Pleasure is the measure"--not orgasm.

The Beginning Phase of Your Sex Script
Problems often develop for couples right at the beginning phase.

For instance, it's not unusual for two individuals to have very different experiences with regard to sexual arousal.  

One person might experience spontaneous arousal where s/he might be ready to have sex just by thinking about it, whereas the other person might experience responsive arousal and might need more a build up to get sexually aroused (see my article: Spontaneous vs Responsive Sexual Arousal). 

Despite what is often portrayed in pornography, movies and TV programs where both people are ready to have sex at the drop of a hat, these differences in sexual arousal are very common and can lead to misunderstandings in a relationship.  This is especially true if the person who experiences responsive sexual arousal feels pressured and the person who experiences spontaneous arousal feels disappointed and rejected.  

It's important for both individuals to be able to recognize their own sexual arousal pattern and be able to talk about it with their partner because when they can talk about it, they can adjust their dynamic so that sex is pleasurable for both of them.  

So, for instance, the person who experiences spontaneous arousal can recognize that context is very important to the person who experiences responsive desire and s/he can slow down to meet his or her partner where they're at during this beginning phase of their sexual script.

It's also important for each individual to understand his/her partner's "turn ons" and "turn offs" (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes).  

As Dr. Nagoski says in Come As You Are, "The process of becoming aroused is turning on and ons and turning off the offs." 

But how can you do that unless both of you know what your turn ons and turn offs are?  

If you just assume that your partner wants what you want, you could be seriously mistaken.  And if you don't tell your partner what turns you on and turns you off, your partner might not know.  So, this lack of communication can ruin the beginning phase of any sexual encounter.

Often this lack of communication occurs because each person feels too ashamed to talk about sex (see my article:  How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex).

When a couple has difficulty talking about sex, which can lead to disappointment and frustration, they often avoid having sex because sex has become a source of shame and tension between them.  Even though each of them might want to have sex, they don't know where to begin to have this discussion.  This is often compounded by familial, religious, cultural and other issues.

Without help, a couple can go months, years and even decades without having sex, which can create emotional alienation in the relationship.

I'll continue this discussion in my next article.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're feeling stuck and unable to resolve your problems on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who can help you to work through your problems.

The first step, contacting a psychotherapist, is often the hardest, but it's often the frost step to leading a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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 or email me.












 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Relationships: Understanding Your Sex Script

In his latest book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex, Dr. Ian Kerner, sex and couples therapist and New York Times bestselling author, introduces the idea of sex scripts in relationships, provides clinical examples from his psychotherapy practice and useful homework assignments at the end of each chapter that couples can use to improve their sex lives (see my articles: Sexual Pleasure and Developing the Erotic Self - Part 1 and Part 2, and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).


Relationships: Understanding Your Sex Script

For couples who are having problems in their sex life, Dr. Kerner takes a look at his clients' most recent sexual encounter, assesses the entire sequence of events and helps the couples to tap into their eroticism to have more sexually pleasurable experiences.

What is a Sex Script?
According to Dr. Kerner, a sex script is a unique and detailed description of a sexual encounter that reveals the sexual interaction between the couple--what happened, what didn't happen, what was pleasurable for each individual and what wasn't.  He looks at the beginning, middle and end of the couple's sexual interaction.

Prompted by his questions, his clients reveal:
  • How did they decided to have sex on that day?
  • Who initiated?
  • When and where did it occur?
  • How did they generate sexual arousal physically and psychologically?
  • How did they intensify their sexual arousal?
  • What did they do specifically?
  • What didn't they do that one or both partners might have wanted to do?
  • What was off limits and why?
  • Who had orgasms and who didn't?
  • What was the emotional and psychological impact of that sexual experience for each of them?
  • Did it leave each of them motivated to have more sex?
  • Did things get stalled?
  • Did their sexual interaction work for each of them? Why or why not?
Although it might be awkward at first, couples learn to get comfortable to talk about the details of their sex life with their therapist and with each other as a way to have more pleasurable and emotionally connected experiences with each other.

Dr. Kerner explains that, on the surface, the details of the couples' last sexual encounter reveal their sexual behavior, but below the surface the sex script reveals the "emotional underground" for each individual.  He indicates that sometimes the sex script reveals the emotional connection between a couple and sometimes it reveals a disconnection between them.

What is a Sexual Desire Framework?
In addition to the questions above, Dr. Kerner indicates that he's listening for each individual's "desire framework," which he describes as how each individual experiences and expresses their own sexual interest.  He also looks at how each of them might overlap with each other or if there is a difference in how they experience sexual desire.

As I've discussed in a previous article, a desire framework includes whether each individual experiences spontaneous or reactive sexual arousal and if there are discrepancies between them (see my article:  Overcoming Problems in Relationships With Spontaneous Sexual Arousal vs Context-Dependent Arousal).  

It also involves the particular "accelerators" and "brakes" for each person (see my article:  Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes).

A Clinical Vignette
In one clinical vignette, Dr. Kerner discusses a husband and wife, Eva and Andy:  Eva initiates sex by telling Andy that she feels "horny" and by quickly pushing her husband's head down on her for oral sex.  This couple initiates without any eroticism--no seduction, no kissing, no foreplay, no caressing or tenderness to each other.  

After Eva has an orgasm, she says to Andy, "Enough" so he stops oral sex.  Then, she tells him, with little enthusiasm, that if he wants to, he could penetrate her.  But by that time Andy had lost his erection and his interest in being sexual.  Then, they each lie in bed feeling emotionally and sexually disconnected from each other, and neither of them is happy with their sex life.

As Eva and Andy discuss how they feel, Andy reveals he feels controlled and unmasculated by Eva in bed, and Eva believes Andy doesn't care about her. 

When Dr. Kerner analyzes their sex script, he says it lacks any eroticism or foreplay.  There is no "warm up," either physiologically or psychologically, to generate sexual arousal, which makes the sex unsatisfying to both Andy and Eva.

Over time, Dr. Kerner helps Eva and Andy to each see how their individual histories connect to how they relate to each other sexually.  

For instance, Eva felt emotionally neglected by her father.  Andy is aware of Eva's history with her father, but he hears it in a new way in their session with Dr. Kerner, and he feels compassionate towards her.  He now understands how she was traumatized, the emotional impact her childhood experiences had on Eva and how it relates to their relationship.

Over time, by working with their therapist and doing homework assignments between sessions, the couple understands each other better. They're able to try new sex scripts where they take their time to include both physical and psychological elements of sexual arousal.  Gradually, their emotional and sex life improves so they're happier together.  

It's not unusual for unresolved traumatic family of origin issues to affect relationships, as it did in the vignette about Eva and Andy.

I'll continue this discussion in future articles.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're struggling on your own with unresolved issues, you could benefit from working with an experienced psychotherapist.

Working through unresolved issues allows you to free yourself from your history so you can live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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.












Monday, April 26, 2021

The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies

In his book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex, Ian Kerner, Ph.D., LMFT, who is a relationship expert and sex therapist, discusses, among other things, the power of sexual fantasies and the seven core sexual fantasies (see my articles: Are You Too Ashamed to Share Your Sexual Fantasies With Your Spouse?Sexual Pleasure and Developing Your Erotic Self - Part 1 and Part 2).

The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies

Dr. Kerner emphasizes that whether it's a couple trying to rekindle sexual passion in their love life or an individual who wants to experience solo sexual pleasure, it's important to focus on both physical and psychological eroticism.  

According to Dr. Kerner, many people only focus on physical eroticism.  He says that psychological eroticism, using the erotic imagination, is also an important component of enhancing sexual arousal.  This is one of the reasons why sexual fantasies are so important.

So many people in relationships, including long term relationships, feel too ashamed to talk about their sexual fantasies with their partner or with their therapist. 

They fear being ridiculed or shamed or they feel guilty about even having fantasies because of their childhood experiences in their family of origin.  So, it's important for therapists to normalize sexual fantasies and tell clients that almost everyone has them.

Suffice it to say that there is a big difference between fantasizing and acting on fantasies in real life.  Many people who have sexual fantasies never intend to act them out in real life.  These fantasies are a way of spicing up their sex life--whether they're single or in a relationship.  

Other people, who are more sexually adventurous, are either acting upon their fantasies or contemplating acting on them. 

The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies
Dr. Kerner outlines seven core sexual fantasies in his book:
  • Multi-partner sex (three-somes, group sex, orgies, and so on)
  • Power, control (BDSM: bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, masochism)
  • Novelty, adventure, and variety (new sexual positions or behavior)
  • Taboo an forbidden sex (voyeurism, exhibitionism)
  • Partner sharing and non-monogamous relationships
  • Passion and romance (feeling intensely desired, a passionate love)
  • Erotic flexibility (exploring sexual fluidity)
The fantasies that are listed above are by no means an exhaustive list of fantasies.  They are just the seven core fantasies that many people have.  Within each category there is a tremendous range.

What If You're Not Sure What Type of Sexual Fantasies You're Interested In?
People will often say that they're unaware of having sexual fantasies.  Sometimes, with some prompting, they realize that they do actually have sexual fantasies, but they haven't paid much attention to these passing thoughts.  

If you're not sure of what type of sexual fantasies you might like, it helps to look into various fantasies to see what might be sexually arousing to you.

The following list are some ideas that people often find helpful in terms of discovering your sexual fantasies:
  • Reading or listening to erotic literature 
  • Listening to erotic podcasts
  • Talking to your partner, if you're in a relationship, to find out what turns him or her on
  • Watching ethical porn (made legally, respecting the rights of the performers and in good working conditions)
Be Gentle and Compassionate With Yourself
Unfortunately, so many people are harsh and judgmental with themselves when it comes to sexual fantasies.  Often this is a result of old, outdated messages they were given as children in their family of origin, their religion, culture and so on.  

There might be a part of you that feels ashamed for even having sexual thoughts.  Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS) or Parts Work can be helpful in identifying these parts of yourself so that they don't become an obstacle for you (see my article:  How Parts Work Therapy Can Help to Empower You).

Getting Help in Therapy
Even if you know logically that having sexual fantasies is common and normal, on an emotional level you might still feel guilty about it, especially if you have unresolved sexual trauma.  

If you're struggling with unresolved issues that you have been unable to overcome on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in helping clients overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

Overcoming unresolved issues helps to free you from a traumatic history so you can live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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.








Thursday, April 22, 2021

Developing a Secure Attachment Style: What is Earned Secure Attachment?

In a prior article, Relationships: What is Your Attachment Style?, I discussed attachment styles and how these styles affect relationships.  I also mentioned that if you have an insecure attachment, either anxious or avoidant, it's possible to change and develop an earned secure attachment style (ESA), which is the focus of this article.

What is Earned Secure Attachment?


What is Earned Attachment Style (ESA)?
As I mentioned in my prior article, people who have an insecure attachment style experienced insecure parenting when they were growing up.  Often this is intergenerational with one generation after another experiencing insecure parenting for various reasons.

In the past, it was thought that if you developed an insecure attachment style that you couldn't change, but we now know that the human capacity to grow and change enables people to develop an earned secure attachment style.  

How Can You Develop an ESA?
There are two main ways that you can develop an ESA:
  • Attending Psychotherapy: People who develop an insecure attachment style can develop an ESA by attending psychotherapy to work on unresolved childhood attachment issues to learn to develop a safe and trusting relationship with their therapist.  These individuals learn to make sense of their childhood history and work through their unresolved childhood trauma.  
  • Developing Trusting Relationships: Experiencing a loving and trusting relationship in a friendship or with a romantic partner is another way to develop ESA.  Loving and trusting relationships provides people with an insecure attachment style with new experiences within the security of these relationships.
Making Sense of Your Early Attachment Style
One of the hallmarks of ESA is the ability to tell a coherent narrative about your early history without defensiveness. This might sound strange--unless you have heard someone with insecure attachment talk about their childhood attachment history.  

For instance, someone with an insecure attachment style often gives a disjointed narrative about their childhood experiences.  These individuals need extensive prompting to get a full narrative or there are big gaps in the narrative because their memories of childhood are fuzzy or whole parts are missing.  

Sometimes people with an insecure attachment style, who have problems recalling childhood memories or have big gaps in their recall, will start to talk about their childhood and then defensively deflect the conversation to talk about something else that is unrelated ("I had an okay childhood, but last night I watched a horror movie").

Another more subtle example which is common with people who have insecure attachment would be, "I was often alone and afraid a lot as a child, BUT I grew up to be a stronger person."  In this example the person is defensively downplaying his or her childhood history because it remains unresolved and there is often shame about it.

Compare the above statement from a person with insecure attachment to this statement from a person with ESA, "I was often alone and afraid a lot as a child AND I know that part of that was due to the struggles my family was going through at the time."  

This statement by someone with ESA shows an ability to reflect upon their childhood history without being defensive or deflecting from the topic.

From Insecure Attachment to Earned Secure Attachment
When you move from insecure attachment to ESA, you develop a balanced and mindful approach to your childhood history without being defensive about it.

This change doesn't happen overnight because early childhood experiences have a profound effect on how you feel about yourself and others.  You might not trust others at first, including your therapist, but over time you can learn to feel confident in yourself and trusting of others who are worthy of your trust.

What Are the Signs of ESA?
  • An overall positive view of yourself and others
  • A belief that you are a worthy individual
  • An ease and comfort with being close to others 
  • A positive regard for people who have demonstrated themselves to be trustworthy and dependable in your life
  • An ability to depend on others and have others depend on you in a healthy way
  • An ability and comfort with being alone sometimes without the need to always have someone around
  • A comfort with others in your life who might need their own alone time
  • An ability to balance emotional intimacy and independence
  • An ability to tell a coherent narrative about your early attachment experiences (see above, Making Sense of Your Early Attachment Style)

Getting Help in Therapy
Not everyone is lucky enough to form trusting friendships and romantic relationships that help them to go from insecure to earned secure attachment.  

Part of the problem is that, due to unresolved traumatic childhood experiences of abuse or neglect, people often make poor choices with regard to their relationships or don't trust people who are actually trustworthy.

If you're struggling with an insecure (anxious or avoidant) attachment style, you could benefit from working with a psychotherapist who has the expertise to help you develop an ESA.

Rather than struggling on your own, you can seek help from a licensed mental health professional so that you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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.















Thursday, April 8, 2021

Relationships: What is Your Attachment Style?

In prior articles, I provided information about attachment styles as it relates to relationships (see my articles: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).  In this article, I give a more detailed description of attachment styles and how people with various attachment styles relate in their relationships.

What is Your Attachment Style?

How Attachment Styles Develop
We are all hired wired from birth to attach to our primary caregiver, which is usually the mother.  The reason why babies are born with the ability to attach is that their survival depends on their ability to attach and bond for getting their physical and emotional needs met from their mother.

Our attachment style develops at a young age primarily based on the interactions with our mothers as well as other experiences in life (see my article: How the Early Attachment Bond Affects Relationships).

Attachment styles are usually on a continuum from secure to insecure attachment.

What is a Secure Attachment Style?
About 50% of people have a secure attachment style.  If you have a secure attachment style, you're capable of having a good relationship (assuming you're also with someone who has a secure attachment style).

You have a healthy sense of self esteem.  Generally, you're also able to meet your partner's emotional needs without too many problems.  You are usually responsive instead of reactive (see my article: Responding Instead of Reacting to Stress).  

You don't play games or manipulate your partner.  You also don't personalize your partner's criticism.  You don't become defensive during conflicts, and you're able to de-escalate conflicts by problem solving, apologizing and forgiving.

What is an Insecure-Anxious Attachment Style?
About 20% of people have an insecure-anxious attachment style (see my article: Helping Your Spouse With Anxiety: Secure and Insecure Attachment Style Responses).

If you have an insecure-attachment style, you need to be very close in your relationship--so much so that you give up your needs to accommodate your partner, even when it's detrimental to you.  

When you don't get your emotional needs met, you become unhappy.  You tend to worry that your partner doesn't want to be close.  You often take things personally when they're not personal, add a negative twist to things and then project a negative outcome.  

To alleviate your anxiety about your relationship, you try to manipulate your partner.  This might mean you withdraw emotionally or you tend to break up a lot with your partner, but then quickly want to get back into the same relationship--even when you know that the relationship isn't good for you because your partner isn't able to meet your emotional needs.  

When you're in the relationship, you have a tendency to be jealous and want a lot of attention (e.g., frequent texting--even when you've been told not to do it).  

What is Insecure-Avoidant Attachment Style?
About 25% of people have an insecure-avoidant attachment style (see my article: How an Avoidant Attachment Style Affects a Relationship).

Among people who have an insecure-avoidant attachment style, there are two subtypes:  Dismissive avoidant and fearful avoidant.

    Dismissive Avoidant Attachment StyleNarcissists tend to be in this category.  If you have a dismissive avoidant attachment style, you tend to cut off difficult emotions (e.g., sadness, fear, shame, and so on).

    Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style: You want closeness, but you're afraid to get close or you have problems trusting potential partners.

Overall, as someone with an avoidant attachment style, your independence is more important to you than getting close.  You might be able to enjoy limited closeness, but that's the extent of it.  You tend to delay getting into close relationships and want your independence.  

Once you're in a relationship, you create emotional and mental distance by focusing on your dissatisfaction with the relationship, focusing on your partner's flaws, reminiscing about when you were unattached/single or idealizing a former relationship.

You can be hypervigilant about your partner's attempts to control you or limit your freedom.  You engage in distancing behavior by making unilateral decisions (without consulting your partner), ignoring your partner and flirting with other people.  

If the relationship ends, you bury your feelings about the loss because you have difficulty coping with your more vulnerable emotions.  

Relationships and Attachment Styles
People are often unaware that being in a relationship unconsciously stimulates their attachment needs.

Often, people with anxious attachment styles get involved with people who have avoidant attachment styles.  Based on the descriptions of these two attachment styles above, you can see how this would be problematic because each person tends to trigger the insecurities in the other due to their opposing styles.

These couples often have codependent relationships.  Often, people with an anxious attachment style aren't attracted to someone with a secure attachment style.  Unconsciously, they're attracted to someone with an avoidant style and vice versa.  This is usually because the other person's attachment style affirms their unconscious fears about relationships and they are unaware of this.

People with anxious attachment styles tend to get attached very quickly before they have had a chance to assess the other person.  They often idealize their partner and overlook potential problems.

As they're trying to make relationships with avoidant people work, they suppress their own emotional needs.  Initially, this makes them more attractive to someone with an avoidant attachment style.  

However, as their anxiety increases and they make increasing demands of their avoidant partner, the avoidant partner sees them as "needy" and defends against the demands by withdrawing emotionally.  This, in turn, creates a destructive cycle.

Anxiously attached partners, also known as pursuers, often don't recognize their partner's emotional unavailability.  Often, they hang on too long in a relationship that isn't working and where their emotional needs aren't being met.  They confuse their longing for love.

Although people who are distancers give the appearance of not needing an emotional attachment, they need their pursuing partners just as much to have their emotional needs met.  

If one or both partners have a significant history of psychological trauma, this also adds to the stress on the relationship (see my article: How Trauma Affects Relationships).

Conclusion
Attachment styles develop during infancy.  They are mostly based on the relationship the infant has with his or her mother.  

Attachment styles are on a continuum with secure, insecure-anxious and insecure-avoidant being the predominant styles.  

Aside from anxious and avoidant attachment styles, about 3-5% of people have a combination style as a secure-anxious or anxious-avoidant style.

One of the most common relationship combinations is a person with an anxious attachment style getting together with a person with an avoidant attachment style.  

These two styles often exacerbate each other's problems because the more the anxious/pursuer pursues, the more the avoidant/withdrawer partner distances, and the more the avoidant/withdrawer distances, the more the anxious/pursuer pursues so they're caught in an ongoing cycle.

People who have a secure attachment style tend to have the most successful relationships.

In my next article, I'll focus on how to change from an insecure attachment style to a secure style.

Getting Help in Therapy
Although it's rare for people to change their insecure attachment style without help, there are people who learn to have a secure attachment style in therapy.

When people are able to develop a secure attachment style, this is called an earned secure attachment.

If you're struggling with either an insecure attachment style, you could benefit from working with an experienced psychotherapist who has expertise in this area.

When you're able to develop an earned secure attachment style, not only will you feel more emotionally secure within yourself, you'll also have a better chance of having a successful relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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.


 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Helping Your Spouse Cope With Anxiety: Secure and Insecure Attachment Style Responses

When your spouse is experiencing anxiety, you want to be supportive and also take care of yourself.  Often, well-meaning people inadvertently respond in unsupportive ways based on whether they have either a secure of insecure attachment style (see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).  The focus of this article is to help you to be more aware of how you come across so that you respond in a supportive, caring way.

Helping Your Spouse to Cope With Anxiety

Insecure Attachment Styles
About 50% of the population, through no fault of their own, have insecure attachment styles.  The other 50% of the population have secure attachment styles. 

Attachment styles are complex and develop during early childhood.  The two most common insecure attachment styles are avoidant attachment style and anxious attachment styles.

Avoidant Attachment Style Responses:
If you have an avoidant attachment style, you're probably uncomfortable with being emotionally vulnerable because it makes you feel unsafe.  

It's also likely that you're uncomfortable seeing your spouse as emotionally vulnerable.  Even though you want to be emotionally supportive, your fear of emotional vulnerability causes you to want to dismiss or minimize vulnerability.  

Examples of avoidant attachment style responses:
  • "What are you anxious about? You have no reason to be anxious."
  • "You're making a big deal out of nothing."
  • "Oh come on.  That's ridiculous."
  • "It's all in your head."
As you read these responses, you probably sense how dismissive and lacking in empathy they are--even though this isn't what you intend.  

Anxious Attachment Style Responses:
If you have an anxious attachment style, you probably get anxious yourself when you see your spouse feeling anxious because their anxiety is triggering for you.  

You might feel insecure because, consciously or unconsciously, you worry about whether your spouse will be able to take care of you if s/he is preoccupied with anxiety.  

Also, people with anxious attachment style often have a fear of abandonment, so you might feel anxious that your spouse will leave you if s/he is overwhelmed with emotion:
  • "Your anxiety is making me feel anxious."
  • "Your anxiety is giving me a headache."
  • "If you're feeling anxious, you're not going to be able to take care of me."
Secure Attachment Style Responses:
Even if you developed an insecure attachment style when you were growing up, you can learn to respond in a more empathetic and supportive way:
  • Understand that anxiety is an inhibitory emotion, which means that, on an unconscious level, anxiety often suppresses deeper, more challenging emotions like shame or sadness, among others.  So, your spouse might not know why s/he feels anxious.  
  • Be fully present for your spouse.  This might mean that you might have to temporarily put aside or compartmentalize your own uncomfortable feelings to be supportive.
  • Encourage your spouse to talk to you if s/he feels comfortable to do so.
  • Listen to your spouse without judgment.
  • Ask your spouse what s/he might need from you.  Don't assume that your spouse wants you to fix the problem.
  • Encourage your partner to engage in healthy coping strategies like going for a walk, meditating, exercise (at a level that is healthy for him or her).
  • Encourage your partner to get help from a licensed mental health professional if his or her anxiety is chronic.
  • Consider getting help yourself if you tend to get triggered by your spouse's anxiety and you're aware that you need help with an insecure attachment style.

Getting Help in Therapy
Anxiety is on the rise and many people feel affected by it and their relationships are also negatively affected.

If you and your spouse are having problems with anxiety, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed psychotherapist.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT 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.

















Sunday, April 4, 2021

How Parts Work Therapy Helps to Empower You

As an experiential psychotherapist, I use many different types of experiential therapy to help clients to move beyond the intellectual part of their mind to get to the deeper, more creative part. Being able to access their creative, intuitive mind allows clients to access their imagination in a way that helps them to bypass the emotional blocks that would normally hinder their progress in therapy (see my articles: The Unconscious Mind and Experiential Therapy: The Symptom Contains the Solution).

How Parts Work Helps to Empower You

How to Access a Deeper Part of Yourself Through Parts Work Therapy
One way to help you to access the deeper parts of yourself is through Parts Work (also known as Ego States therapy or Internal Family Systems).  

Parts Work helps you to understand that each of us is made up of a multiplicity of selves.  When I say "multiplicity of selves," I'm not referring to multiple personality disorder.  I'm referring to the concept that everyone's personality is made up of many different parts, which includes your unconscious mind.  

You might be aware of certain parts but not others, so Parts Work helps you to access those deeper parts of your personality to help you to be more creative, solve problems and resolve inner conflicts.   

Most people have had the experience of thinking, "A part of me wants to change, but another part of me doesn't."  This is often the way most people approach change, whether they're in therapy or not, because change can be challenging and there's a certain amount of ambivalence about making a change--especially a big change--even when they know that the change would be beneficial.

Most people have access to certain parts of their personality, but they have no awareness of other unconscious parts.  Once you discover the parts of your personality that you normally don't have access to, you can use those parts, even after you complete therapy, to be more creative in solving your problems (see my article: Discovering and Giving Voice to Unconscious Parts of Yourself).

What Does an Experiential Parts Work Therapist Do in Therapy?
A psychotherapist who does Parts Work acts as a facilitator to help you identify and develop the parts of your personality by helping you to:
  • Identify the various parts relevant to your problems.
  • Calling out the various parts.
  • Establish a rapport with the parts.
  • Discover the role of these parts.
  • Appreciate the role of these parts as it relates to your problems.
  • Negotiate an agreement between conflicting parts.
  • Integrate the parts together for an overall sense of wholeness and well-being.

The Uses of Inner Active Cards in Parts Work Therapy
Inner Active Cards, which were designed by Sharon Sargent Eckstein, are a set of 62 color illustrated cards (plus 10 blank cards to create your own images) that depict the inner life of the various parts you discover.

I have used Inner Active Cards with clients in Parts Work therapy sessions by allowing clients to choose cards from the deck that resonates with them.  Then, they use the cards they have chosen to say what's going on for the person illustrated in the card, discover and identify a similar part of themselves and learn to use this part to be more creative and solve their problems.

Many clients find the use of Inner Active Cards to be helpful to access the various parts of their personality that aren't immediately accessible to them.  These evocative cards are especially helpful for clients who have difficulty accessing their inner world.  

Inner Active cards can be used in therapy or on your own.  When these cards are used in Parts Work therapy, they help to bring clarity to the various parts of yourself and, with the help of your therapist, facilitate psychological transformation.

How Does Parts Work Therapy Help to Empower You?
  • The premise of Parts Work is that the power to change resides within you.
  • When you learn to access the various parts of your unconscious mind, you have a tool you can use even after you leave therapy.
  • You can use Parts Work for any problem you might have.
  • Once you learn how to access and negotiate with the various parts of yourself, your sense of self and self esteem improve and you feel empowered.
Getting Help in Therapy
People often discover that regular talk therapy helps them to be more insightful about their problems, but this intellectual understanding often doesn't bring about the change they want (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy).

Experiential therapy includes Parts Work, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP, EMDR, EFT and clinical hypnosis, among other therapies.  

Rather than struggling on your own, you could benefit from working with an experiential therapist who can help you to overcome the obstacles getting in the way of your transformation.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Parts Work and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

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.