NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Living Authentically - Aligned with Your Values

As a psychotherapist in New York City, I often see clients who come to therapy in crisis because they no longer feel confident in themselves, they feel lost, and they don't know what they want to do with their lives or what they want in their relationships.  In many cases, their problems started because, somewhere along the line, often without realizing it, they began living their lives in an inauthentic way that was not in alignment with their values.  

Living Authentically - Aligned With Your Values

Before coming to therapy, these clients have often tried on their own through a variety of methods--talking to friends and family members, attending workshops, or reading self help books--to try to regain their footing, but none of these methods have worked for them. 

Core Values
As adults, we know that we have to make certain reasonable compromises in life, especially for important relationships in our lives. But I'm not referring to reasonable compromises. I'm referring to living in an emotionally inauthentic way that is out of alignment with our core values.

Over time, when we're living in such an inauthentic state, our sense of self can become eroded. Often, in order to live in a way that is so misaligned with our core values, we have to shut down a part of ourselves, so that we keep ourselves from being consciously aware that we're living in a way that is so out of synch with who we really are.

But no matter how much we try to suppress our conscious awareness, our unconscious is usually sending signals to us that become harder and harder to ignore. Over time, this signals often translate into physical symptoms. We might suffer from insomnia or have nightmares. We might feel anxious or irritable. We might get depressed. And we usually feel very tired from the energy that it takes to keep ourselves from being fully aware that we've lost our way.

But how does this happen? And why would people put themselves through such emotional turmoil? Well, the answer isn't simple and there can be many reasons. Often, people who are living out of alignment with their values are trying to please someone else--whether it's a parent or a spouse or a child or a boss. The fear of loss involved with disappointing others might be greater than the awareness of how self destructive it can be when we live in a way that is out of synch with our values. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we can do this without hurting ourselves or others.

A composite account of many cases:

Jane was going through a very lonely time in her life when she met Bill. She was in her early 30s and she had not been in a relationship for several years. She wanted very much to meet someone, settle down, and start a family. So, when she met Bill, a handsome, single, charming, intelligent man in his mid-30s with a good job on Wall Street, she was thrilled. They began dating, and he was very kind and generous with her. He talked about wanting to have a family, and Jane could see that he could be a potential partner for her.

Living Authentically - Aligned with Your Values

After they were dating for three months, Bill asked her if she would hold onto a package for him in her apartment. Jane sensed that Bill was being elusive about the contents of the package, so she tried to be very tactful when she asked him about it. This was the first time that Jane had ever seen Bill get annoyed. He accused her of not trusting him. Jane didn't want to upset him or jeopardize their relationship, so she assured him that she trusted him and she didn't need to know.

Living Authentically - Aligned with Your Values

After a month or so, Bill asked Jane for the package back, and she gave it to him. And this was the beginning of a pattern that went on for a few months. Inwardly, it bothered Jane that Bill wouldn't tell her what was in these packages, but she tried to convince herself that it didn't bother her. But, finally, after a few months, she felt that Bill owed her an explanation so she asked him again. This time, Bill was more open to talking to her about it, and he confided in her that he was dealing cocaine to colleagues on Wall Street, and he gave her the packages because he feared the police might have him under surveillance and he didn't want to be arrested for drug possession.

Jane was shocked. She had never been involved with anyone who was dealing drugs and she couldn't understand why Bill would be doing this, especially since he already earned a very good salary and bonus. They argued about it, but Bill refused to stop selling drugs. He had lots of "reasons" why he wanted and needed the extra money, and he saw no reason to stop.

At this point, Jane could have made a decision that would been in keeping with what she knew to be right for herself. She was fully aware now of what was going on and she knew that she didn't want to live her life with a drug dealer.

But, more than this, on an emotional level, she didn't want to lose Bill and she didn't want go back to being lonely. So, she convinced herself that she would be able to persuade Bill, eventually, to stop selling drugs to his colleagues and then there wouldn't be a problem any more. But from that moment on, Jane had no peace of mind. She began having headaches and difficulty sleeping. She was nervous most of the time. She began withdrawing from friends. She feared the police might follow Bill to her home and they would both be arrested.

Isolated and in crisis, she began therapy because she could no longer live with the pain of knowing that she was in love with a drug dealer. Only after she was able to admit how miserable she was and that he was knowingly placing her at risk was she able to end this relationship, start the repair work to her sense of self, and begin to understand how her lack of self confidence and loneliness caused her to go down a very slippery slope.

Common Examples of Not Living Authentically, Aligned with Your Values
You might not be able to relate to the above example because it might seem extreme to you. But living out of alignment with your values doesn't have to involve abetting a crime. There are many everyday examples of people making big compromises in their lives as a way to avoid the loss of a loved one:
  • the son who gives up his dream to be an engineer to become a doctor to please his father

  • the wife who stops going to church, even though this has been an important part of her life, because it annoys her husband when she goes

  • the daughter who hates lying, but lies to her mother's employer whenever her mother is too drunk to go to work
And so on.

Body-Mind Oriented Psychotherapy Helps People to Recover Their Sense of Self
Often, when people are living out of alignment with their values for a while, it becomes hard for them to recover a sense of themselves.

Living Authentically - Aligned with Your Values

Body-mind oriented psychotherapy, such as Somatic Experiencing or clinical hypnosis, helps people to recover their sense of self and get back into alignment with their values. Their logical minds might keep them in denial, but when they are attuned to the the mind-body connection through a mind-body oriented form of psychotherapy, they become attuned to what they need. Mind-body oriented psychotherapy is also often more effective than regular "talk therapy" in helping to heal the emotional damage.

About Me
I am a New York City licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing therapist and EMDR 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.