NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Creating a Positive Rippling Effect

In my last post I wrote about The Positive Ripple Effect based on a chapter in Dr. Yalom's latest book, Staring at the Sun. I also gave case examples that I'm personally aware of about the positive rippling effect.

Creating a Positive Ripple Effect

Irving Yalom, Ph.D.
Dr. Yalom is an Existential psychotherapist and, while I'm not an Existentialist and I don't agree with all of his views, especially his views about religion and spirituality (basically, he says that he doesn't believe in any type of spirituality), I like his ideas about rippling and the positive effect it can have in an individual's social network and beyond.

The Positive Rippling Effect
When we hear about the positive rippling effect, we often hear about situations where someone has taken a big step towards affecting a change in his or her life as well as the lives of others: the person who engages in an act of courage who inspires others to act, the teacher or mentor who encourages others, the person who starts a movement that inspires others to join in, and so on.

But creating a positive rippling effect doesn't have to involve grand feats of courage or inspiring movements. More often, it's the every day small things that we do that can create a positive rippling effect.

It's a matter of being mindful of how we think and behave with others. It starts with our thoughts because our behavior is usually the result of our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. In my prior post, if the social services director believed that the situation was hopeless and she could not affect any change in her staff or the clients, she would not have implemented the changes that she did, which had a positive rippling effect in the environment and beyond (see prior post).

Change Begins with Our Thoughts, Attitudes and Beliefs
So, change often begins with our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs, and if you find that your thoughts tend to be pessimistic most of the time, it's worth questioning yourself as to what these thoughts, attitudes and beliefs are based on. Often, pessimistic thoughts are based on a history of disappointments and, in some cases, trauma. Other times, it's a learned pessimistic way of thinking that often is not questioned by the thinker. And, while you might be right that, in certain cases, there is reason to be pessimistic, if you find that this is your overall attitude towards life, you would probably benefit from stepping outside of yourself, taking an objective look, and questioning your overall beliefs and attitudes about life and other people.

So, as I mentioned, creating a positive rippling effect starts with our thoughts and manifests in our mindful actions with others. The positive rippling effect can start with simple acts: smiling at a stranger, giving your seat to an older or disabled person on the train, expressing gratitude to a spouse, friend, colleague or family member, and so on. These are small acts of kindness that, based on the phenomenon of emotional contagion, can ripple from you to that person and from that person to others.

Of course, if you're in a position to create a positive rippling effect by creating bigger changes in your environment, that's wonderful. But the point is that no one should feel discouraged about this because they're only focused on big changes. Small changes often have a way of snowballing into big changes, even if you're not always aware of it.

You can experiment with creating positive rippling effects by becoming aware of how you interact with others: Do you offer encouragement or discouragement? Do you tend to focus on the negative and the "glass being half empty" rather than seeing the positive? What is the quality of your engagement with others? Do you take the time to notice people in your environment and how you affect them? Are you conscious of being ethical with others? Are you empathetic towards others? Are you compassionate?

We all know how good it feels when someone offers us encouragement, compassion, inspiration, or engages in an act of kindness with us. It tends to open us up and allow us to feel that we can do the same for others.

Once you've developed an awareness of how you interact with others, if you don't like what you see in yourself, you can make a conscious effort to change. As with any change, it doesn't have to be perfect. The important step is to make a start. After you practice this for a while, the quality of your interactions with others often changes automatically so that you don't have to make such a conscious effort--you're doing it without even thinking much about it, and your affecting a positive rippling effect in your environment and beyond.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.