NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

EMDR: Resolving Childhood Trauma to Lead a More Fulfilling Life as an Adult

While most people understand that childhood trauma, including emotional neglect, abuse and unmet childhood emotional needs, can create problems for them as adults, many people who had childhood trauma feel powerless to stop these problems from repeating in their adult lives.

Resolving Childhood Trauma to Have Healthier Adult Relationships

Current Emotional Problems as an Adult Are Often Rooted in Childhood Trauma
Many people who live their lives from one crisis to the next are so immersed in their day-to-day problems that it's hard for them to see that the core of many of their current problems are rooted in the past.

Of course, this is understandable because it's often very hard, when you're immersed in a crisis, to look beyond the current problem to gain perspective.

Current Emotional Problems Are Often Rooted in Childhood Trauma

But for many people, who are able to develop a perspective about how their childhood trauma affects them now, getting psychological help with EMDR therapy, a mind-body oriented form of psychotherapy, has been very helpful.

Let's take a look at a vignette, which is a composite of many cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

When Ina, a woman in her mid-30s, came to therapy, she was feeling hopeless about her life.

In the past, she had been through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and she learned important coping skills and learned a lot about how her thoughts affected her emotionally.

But even though she had gained some insight into her problems, she continued to live her life from one crisis to the next and having insight didn't change this, much to her frustration.

The current crisis was that, even though she was established in her profession and she earned a good income, she was constantly on edge financially.  She was behind in her mortgage and owed thousands in credit card expenses.

On the surface, Ina's problems didn't add up.  It wasn't that she didn't make enough money to pay her bills.

It was only after we explored her dynamics in her current relationship that the underlying link to her traumatic childhood became obvious.

Ina's Current Problems Were Rooted in Childhood Trauma

Ina's pattern in relationships, which she acknowledged, was to choose men that she had to "rescue."  Often, her boyfriends were unemployed and unwilling to work.

Usually, her relationships would begin with her boyfriend coming across like a loving, emotionally supportive man.

This is what usually drew Ina to each of them because she was a lonely child for most of her childhood and continued to feel lonely through much of her adult life when she wasn't in a relationship.  So, having someone that was loving and affectionate was very appealing to Ina, as it would be to most people.

But within a short while, inevitably, things would turn around:  The man who seemed so caring and affectionate would turn out to be someone who was emotionally and financially dependent upon Ina.

The pattern was usually the same:  After a couple of months, her boyfriend's underlying emotional problems would surface and Ina would feel obligated to do anything possible to "rescue" her current boyfriend.

Within a short time, Ina was emotionally, physically and financially drained by her current relationship.  She was also helping her boyfriend to the point where she was hurting herself financially.  But she was unable to extricate herself, and she felt like she was drowning emotionally.

Ina's current relationship fit the pattern but, in many ways, it was worse:  She noticed lately that a couple of her expensive pieces of jewelry were missing.

As hard as it was for her to think about it, she knew that her boyfriend stole them.  He was the only one who was in her apartment during the last month or so when she last saw the jewelry.

This was a terrible dilemma for Ina:  On the one hand, she was angry and hurt that her boyfriend took the jewelry, which was given to her by her grandmother, who died several years ago.

But, on the other hand, Ina felt too "guilty" to confront him about it.  She knew that her boyfriend, who refused to work, probably pawned her jewelry.  She also suspected that he might have a drug problem that he was hiding from her.

As we discussed this theft, Ina made a lot of excuses for her boyfriend:  He had a difficult childhood, no one ever loved him, and he just couldn't get a break in life.  She felt she couldn't be another person who hurt him by confronting him about the theft.

Logically, Ina knew that she was making up excuses--she realized that if a close friend told her this story, she could see that her friend's boyfriend was taking advantage of her.

But, despite seeing this and knowing logically from her prior CBT therapy that her thinking was distorted, on an emotional level, her feelings about her boyfriend made sense to her.  It was a very painful dilemma of her, and she wondered if she would ever be able to overcome these problems.

EMDR Is Often An Effective Therapy to Resolve Trauma
It has been my experience as a therapist, who is trained in psychodynamic and CBT therapy, that often when childhood trauma is at the root of current problems, clients who can see their problems are unable to make the necessary changes to resolve the type of problems described in the scenario above.

EMDR Is An Effective Therapy to Resolve Trauma

It's not that CBT and psychodynamic therapy don't ever work for trauma.  Both forms of therapy are often helpful.

But for many clients, who have insight into the underlying issues and the distortions in their thinking, their insight and understanding alone don't result in their being able to make changes so they can stop cycle of their problems.

In my article, The Mind-Body Connection: EMDR Therapy Can Help Resolve Childhood Trauma That Affects You as an Adult, I explain how Ina's childhood continued to affect her in her adult relationships and how EMDR therapy, a therapy that takes into account the mind-body connection, is often more effective in resolving emotional trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel that your current problems are related to unresolved childhood trauma, you can find a list of EMDR licensed psychotherapists in the US and internationally on the EMDR professional website:

Getting Help: EMDR Helps Resolve Emotional Trauma

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Unconscious Decisions Have You Made That Are Impacting Your Life?

In an earlier blog article, I wrote an article called Psychotherapy: Making the Unconscious Conscious.

In this article I'm focusing on how unconscious decisions can impact your life without your even realizing it.

What Unconscious Decisions Have You Made That Are Impacting Your Life?

Sometimes, you can get a glimpse of what these unconscious decisions are by paying attention to your internal dialogue or by looking at your dreams.  But much of the time, these unconscious decisions remain hidden away in the recesses of your mind.

Let's take a look at the following vignette, which is a composite of many cases with all identifying information changed, to see how these unconscious decisions can play out:

Ann was the first one in her family to go to high school.  Her parents and older siblings loved her and were very proud of her, but they would tease her about being "an egghead" because she was so dedicated to her studies.

Ann knew that they were teasing her, but she also felt that, as she got older and developed interests that her family couldn't understand, she felt she was moving away emotionally and intellectually away from her family.

This caused Ann a lot of pain.  She knew that her mother, who was the valedictorian of her class in 8th grade, would have loved to go to high school.  But her mother needed her to help support the family, so  Ann's mother was forced to leave school.

What Unconscious Decisions Have You Made That Are Impacting Your Life?

Ann's mother told Ann how she cried for days after she had to leave school to get a job as a store clerk to help the family.  Ann's heart ached to hear her mother tell this story.

Ann would try to show her mother what she was learning in school.  She hoped that her mother would take an interest and, in a small way, it might make up, at least on an intellectual level, for what her mother missed by not going to high school.

But Ann's mother, who was once a curious young woman, showed little interest.  Ann knew that, in many ways, her mother had been beaten down by life, and she felt guilty that she had opportunities that her mother didn't have.

When Ann's high school announced that they were going to have tutoring classes to help students practice for the SAT college entrance exam, her parents encouraged her to sign up.  But Ann was feeling increasing guilty that she was going to have the opportunity that her mother really would have liked when she was a young woman--a chance to go to college.

Without realizing why, Ann kept losing the information from the school and forgetting the deadline to apply.  And every time her parents mentioned it, she felt anxious.

Then, one evening, Ann's mother came to her room and sat on her bed.  Ann wasn't sure why her mother came to her, but she could see that her mother looked serious and had difficulty starting the conversation.

Finally, Ann's mother took her hand and began to speak.  She told Ann that she thought she knew what was going on with her lately.  Then, she proceeded to tell Ann that she wanted her to do the best she could do and go as far as she could go without ever worrying that she would lose her family.

Her mother told Ann that she thought she understood what Ann was feeling because she had similar feelings when she was a young girl and she had an opportunity to go to elementary school and junior high and her mother was illiterate.  Even though she loved school, she felt guilty that she had an opportunity that her mother didn't have and would have loved.

She told Ann that, even though she understood, she wanted Ann to go to the tutoring classes, take the SAT exam, do well and excel at college.

Ann always loved and admired her mother, but she realized at that moment that even though her mother didn't have a formal education, she was a wise woman.

Ann went on to do well in college and to get a good job in college.  But she continued to feel guilty whenever she had opportunities that her family didn't have, and this continued to be problem for her until she realized that she almost sabotaged an opportunity for a promotion with a sizable increase in pay in her company's California branch.

At that point, she knew she needed help, and she started therapy to deal with the guilty feelings that she felt were oppressing her.

Shortly after she began therapy, Ann had a dream where she was surrounded by family members who were pointing their fingers at her in anger.  Everywhere she turned, she saw her mother, father, and brothers and sisters pointing their fingers at her in anger.

As Ann listened to her family members angrily accuse her of thinking that she was better than them because she had a better education and she made more money, Ann closed her eyes, put her hands over her ears and began to cry.

When she couldn't stand it any more, she screamed, "I don't want to do anything that takes me away from all of you!"

At that point, Ann woke up in a sweat with her heart pounding.

During her next therapy session, Ann told her therapist about her dream.  The dream upset Ann very much, and she knew that it encapsulated the feelings she had since childhood.

As she and her therapist discussed the dream, Ann realized that, throughout her life, she had been giving herself the unconscious message that she didn't want to do anything that caused her to feel separate from her family.

She knew that her family really wanted her to be successfully, and her guilt was her own, not induced by her family.

Over time, Ann was able to work through her guilt in therapy.  She also learned that everyone goes through periods in his or her life where becoming an individual means being more independent from his or her family.  But she had another layer to this process because of her family's history and her good fortune to have opportunities they didn't have.

What Unconscious Decisions Have You Made That Are Impacting Your Life?

As she worked through this issue, she accepted the promotion in California and felt good about it.  Her family was also very supportive.

Unconscious Decisions People That People Make That Impact Their Lives
Unconscious decisions that people make can take many forms.  Often, they involve their relationships with family members.  But they can involve other aspects of their lives.

Guilt, fear, anger and mistrust are often involved with these unconscious decisions.

Because these decisions are unconscious, they're usually hard to discern.  But they might come out in dreams, as in the vignette above.  They might also become increasingly apparent as a person engages in self sabotaging behavior.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel there are underlying unconscious decisions you've made that might be affecting your life, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed psychotherapist who has experience helping therapy clients to discover and work through this issue.

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Challenge of Keeping New Year's Resolutions

The New Year is usually the time when people take stock and make resolutions to change or improve their lives. Whether this involves losing weight, smoking cessation, or improved time management, most people start out with sincere motivation to change. But research has shown that, often within a few months, most of us become discouraged and abandon our resolutions. Often, people make the same resolutions every year--only to give up by March or April.

The Challenge of Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Why Do People Usually Give Up on Their Resolutions So Quickly
So, if people usually start out with such high hopes and determination, why do they give up on their resolutions in such a relatively short period of time? Well, it's obvious that there's no one answer for everyone.

For some people, the resolutions are either too vague or poorly defined. For others, their resolutions are things they think they "should" be doing, but the resolutions aren't really what they want. And, for others, there are unconscious underlying reasons that keep tripping them up. Unaware of these reasons, they keep looking for external obstacles for their difficulties in keeping their resolutions.

Becoming Aware of the Unconscious Intention
For example, weight loss, which is one of the most common New Year's resolutions, is very challenging for many people.

The Challenge of Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Often, the underlying unconscious intention for overeating is to feel loved, especially in families where food symbolized nurturing. The intention, to feel loved, is a positive intention. But the way it's being expressed, by overeating, has negative consequences, weight gain and, possibly, poor health.

If the person who wants to lose weight is unaware of these underlying intentions, he or she will continue to struggle with this resolution. Even if someone is aware that food symbolizes love, s/he might not know how to have this need fulfilled in a more positive way.

Achieving Your Goals in a Healthy Way
For people who have struggled year after year with the same resolutions, rather than feeling discouraged, consulting with a psychotherapist to overcome these obstacles can help them to achieve their goals in a healthier way.

New Year's Resolutions:  Achieving Your Goals in a Healthy Way
A licensed psychotherapist, who has experience with helping people to discover their underlying obstacles, and to set and achieve goals, can help clients to overcome longstanding impediments to their happiness.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist. I work with individual adults and couples. I have helped many clients to overcome obstacles so they can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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.

photo credit: Martin Gillet via photopin cc

Coping With Stress During the Holidays

Often, along with the joy of the holiday season also comes stress.

Coping With Stress During the Holidays

It's not surprising, given all the demands of holiday time, that people often feel emotionally overwhelmed at this time of year.

Shopping, entertaining, and attending holiday parties can take an emotional toll. But with some foresight and planning, you can learn to manage the stress of the holidays and actually enjoy this time of year.

Taking Care of Yourself During the Holidays
Knowing that the holiday season can be a stressful and emotional time and taking some preventive steps can help you from getting overwhelmed.

If you've had losses, like a death of a loved one, a breakup or loved ones are far away, it's normal to feel sad. Throughout the holiday season we're given explicit and implicit messages that we "should" be happy.

Coping With Stress During the Holidays
So, if we're having a difficult time, we can feel out of step with the rest of the world at this time. It might seem that everyone else is enjoying the holidays and we're stuck in a funk. But it's okay to feel your feelings, whatever they are, whether this means crying or expressing your feelings to a friend or loved one.

Coping With Stress During the Holidays: Taking Care of Yourself 

A Time for Gratitude
If you're alone during the holiday season, you can have a sense of community at a religious or community gathering.

If you're not religious or spiritual, you can volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, hospital or nursing home. Often, when we volunteer to help those less fortunate than ourselves, we not only help others--we also feel a sense of gratitude for what we do have in our lives, even if we're having a difficult time.

If you're fortunate enough to have good friends and family around, remember that the holidays don't have to be perfect.

When we have good memories of the holidays from childhood, sometimes our current experiences can feel flat as compared to those earlier times.

But we must acknowledge that things change. Rather than holding onto unrealistic expectations for the holidays, appreciate the people who are in your life now. Let go of unreasonable expectations of yourself and others. This will go a long way to helping prevent disappointments or misunderstandings.

When it comes to spending for the holidays, many people are scaling back what they would normally spend. If you budget ahead of time and stick to your budget, you'll avoid the stress of big credit card bills after the holidays.

Time well spent with loved ones or a homemade gift is so much more meaningful than exceeding your budget with an expensive gift.

Planning your time well can also help alleviate stress during the holidays. Once again, be realistic about what you can do. It's okay to tactfully say "no" to others when you know you'll be overextending yourself beyond what you can do.

Know Your Limits
It's also important to take breathers during the holiday season. Rather than pushing yourself beyond your physical or emotional limits, take breaks during the day.

A few minutes of mindfulness meditation or just closing your eyes and breathing can make the difference between your getting through the holidays feeling emotionally and physically in tact and feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist. 

I provide psychotherapy, EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and Somatic Experiencing therapy services in my private practice in Manhattan. I work with individuals and adults.

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.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Emotional Support From Your Family of Choice

Having the love and emotional support of family and friends is an important part of life for most people.  It can make all the difference between getting through difficult times with equanimity vs feeling isolated and overwhelmed.  We can't choose our family of origin.  Who are parents and siblings are turn out to be the luck of the draw.  But we can choose our family of choice.

What is a Family of Choice as Compared to a Family of Origin?
A family of origin includes anyone who is a blood relation:  Mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so on.

Emotional Support From Your Family of  Choice

A family of choice is anyone you choose to have close to you in your life:  Your spouse, romantic partner, friends, pets, and so on.

Getting Emotional Support From Your Family of Choice
Ideally, your family of origin would love you and be there for you in good times and bad.  But not everyone can depend on their family of origin for a variety of reasons.

That's why it's so important to have a family of choice that includes people whom you care about and who care about you and who would be there for you through thick and thin.

The following vignette, which is a composite of many cases, demonstrates the importance of a family of choice:

Gail grew up in a family where both of her parents actively abused alcohol.  As the oldest of four children, she often had to cook, clean and take care of the younger children in the family.

Throughout her years in school, Gail naturally gravitated to kind teachers and mentors who provided her with guidance and emotional support.  They liked her and saw something special in her.

Gail also developed friendships throughout high school and college that she maintained throughout her life.  These were the people that she turned to during good times and bad.  Her friends celebrated her successes with her.  They also supported her through difficult times.

When Gail went to college, her mother stopped drinking because her doctor warned her that there would serious medical consequences if she didn't stop.  Gail's father wasn't able to stop completely, but he cut back.

Gail knew that there is often a genetic predisposition for alcohol to be passed on from one generation to the next, so she decided not to drink.  She also hoped that her siblings wouldn't grow up to abuse alcohol like their parents did.  But one after the other developed either an alcohol or a drug problem.  They were old enough to make their own decisions, and they wouldn't listen to Gail.

Whenever she went home to visit her family, she knew that there would be some alcohol-fueled argument that would erupt between her siblings.  To ease the pain of these visits, she would plan to see friends that she felt close to and who would be there for her.

In her last year of college, Gail met her future husband, Don.  Prior to marrying Don, Gail dated many different men.  But she knew, given her experiences with her family, she wanted someone who was kind and dependable.  And when she met Don, she knew he was the one.

As a married couple, Gail and Don created their own holiday traditions where they included their friends and mentors.  Gail still loved her family of origin, but she knew that she couldn't rely on them emotionally or in any other way.

As the years went by, Gail's gratitude for her family of choice deepened.

Developing a Family of Choice
It's not always easy allowing yourself to trust people when you've experienced a lot of disappointments with your family of origin.   But if you open up and you allow yourself to take the emotional risk, you could develop a family of choice that can make life much more fulfilling.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you would like to have people that you' feel close to, but you have difficulty forming relationships, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who has helped therapy clients with this issue.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many therapy clients to overcome the obstacles that got in their way to forming close relationships with others.

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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Learn to Stop Interfering in Your Adult Child's Relationship

Parents, of course, want the best for their children, no matter how young or old they are.  In an ideal world, we would like them to be spared from heart break, disappointments, and the many potential pitfalls that are out there in the world.  

Learn to Stop Interfering in Your Adult Child's Relationship

It's natural to want to spare them from making the same mistakes that we made.  But in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your adult children and allow them to learn and grow, you need to know when to let go and allow them to lead their own lives with a minimum of interference.  

Learn to Stop Interfering in Your Adult  Child's Relationship

This is one of the biggest challenges for parents of adult children--learning to let go, allowing them to make their own decisions, and not interfering in their lives.  This includes not interfering in their relationships with partners or spouses.

The healthiest scenario for small children is for their parents to allow them, over time, to make age-appropriate decisions, based on a particular child's maturity level and development.  So, for instance, we don't allow five year old children to make life changing decisions.  But we could allow them to choose their own clothes for the day and which books they would like to buy with their allowance money.

Learning to Let Go and Stop Interfering in Your Adult Child's Relationship

If, over time, children grow up with a sense of age-appropriate autonomy and develop good judgment, based on learning to make decisions and learning from mistakes, chances are that they will be better prepared as adults to make more important decisions, including choosing a life partner and being in an adult relationship.

If we're constantly telling our young children what to do and not allowing them to make even minor decisions, they are more likely to grow up lacking self confidence and not developing the basic skills necessary to make more important decisions when they are adults.

Does this mean that children who have parents who are always doing things for them and not allowing them to make any decisions for themselves are doomed as adults to make poor decisions about relationships and life in general?

No, it does not.  Even children who have had parents who tried to control their every move can learn as adults to make good decisions.  It just might be harder and might take them longer than children who've learned over time to gain self confidence and good judgment by starting to make age-appropriate decisions from a young age.

The following vignette, which is a composite of many different stories, is an example of a parent attempting to interfere inappropriately in her adult child's relationship:

Mary was in her mid-20s and when she and her new husband discovered that she was pregnant.  As a young mother, Mary felt very insecure and anxious.  She also became very controlling with her son, Ed, as he was growing up, but she had no awareness of this.

Her husband tried to talk to her about it, but she wouldn't listen.   She was so fearful that he would get hurt or make a mistake that she watched him like a hawk.  When they were at the playground, she repeatedly told him to be careful on the juggle gym and the slides.  She became upset when he fell and bruised his knees.

Ed's pediatrician and Mary's friends also tried to tell her that she needed to relax. But Mary couldn't help herself.  She wanted to spare her son of any kind of physical or emotional pain.  Of course, this was impossible.  And, as her husband, her friends, and the doctor tried to tell her, her anxiety and vigilance adversely affected Ed so that he was insecure whenever he had to do anything new or make even the smallest decision.  He looked to her to solve his problems and make decisions for him, which she was all too willing to do.

This began to change when Ed reached adolescence.  He became rebellious and resented Mary's intrusiveness.  He wanted to have more independence, but Mary was unable to allow it.  This led to power struggles between Mary and Ed.  Ed's father was somewhat passive and although he didn't agree with Mary, he had stopped trying to get her to see what she was doing.

Ed struggled with making decisions.  During his early days in high school, he began hanging out with a rough crowd and started cutting classes.  He refused to listen to Mary or his father because he wanted so much to prove to them that he was his own person.  He also refused to listen to his school guidance counselor when his grades began to slip.  But when one of his teenage friends died suddenly of alcohol poisoning, Ed was very badly shaken up, and he saw the wisdom of the adults' advice.  From that time on, he applied himself in school and he made friends with serious-minded students.  He salvaged his grades just in time to get accepted at the college of his choice in another state.

Mary didn't want Ed to attend college out of state, but he was 18 and, legally, he could make his own decisions.  In his senior year of college, he became seriously involved with Susan, a young woman in one of his classes.  When he told his parents, his father was happy, but Mary worried that Ed might be getting involved with the wrong person before she ever met Susan.

When Ed brought Susan home to meet his parents, the situation was tense.  Susan could tell immediately that, although Ed's father was welcoming, his mother was leery of her.  Susan couldn't understand why Mary didn't seem to like her.  Susan thought of herself as being a kind, level-headed and caring person from a good family.  She had goals for the future, which she hoped would include Ed.  She was confused by Mary's wariness--until Ed explained how Mary tried to control just about every aspect of his life.  But, he told Susan, he wouldn't allow Mary to control his relationship with her.

By the time they graduated, Ed and Susan both got good jobs close to their college, and they moved in together.  Mary, who had been hoping that Ed would move back home, was upset that he decided to remain out of state with Susan.  Mary tried to persuade Ed to forget about Susan and come back home.

All of this culminated in a big argument between Mary and Ed where he told her to "butt out" or he would sever his relationship with her.   He assured her that he meant it and he was prepared to cut her out of his life.  When she realized that Ed meant it, Mary was very shaken.  She didn't want to completely lose her son, so she had a lot of soul searching to do.

After much thought, Mary realized she needed help.  She consulted with a psychotherapist who helped Mary to see how her attempts to interfere in her son's life had led to the current state of affairs.  Over time, Mary was able to admit that she had made mistakes with Ed.  She began to see that she had projected her own insecurities onto her son and this caused Ed to feel angry and resentful.

Accepting that Ed was an adult and that she had to learn to let go and stop interfering in his life was not easy.  But Mary realized that her relationship with her son was at stake.  So, she made amends with Ed and Susan, and she vowed to stop interfering and to respect that they were adults capable of making their own decisions.  This went a long way toward healing the rift and allowing Mary and Ed to develop a relationship based on love and mutual respect.  It also allowed her to get to know and like Susan.  Mary also focused more on improving her relationship with her husband as well as focusing on her own self development.

Letting go of your adult child isn't easy, but it's necessary if you're going to develop a healthy relationship. Interfering and trying to control your child's life or his relationship can lead to disastrous emotional consequences.

Getting Help
If you find yourself interfering in your adult child's life and this is causing problems for your child and your parent-child relationship, you owe it to yourself and your child to get help from a licensed mental health practitioner who works with this issue.  It could make all the difference in the world for you and your child.

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Adults Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children Often Have Problems Trusting Others

In my prior articles about children who were emotionally neglected, What is Childhood Emotional Neglect? and What is the Connection Between Childhood Emotional Neglect and Problems Later on in Adult Relationships, I defined childhood emotional neglect and gave an overview of potential problems that could develop for these children when they become adults.  In this article, I will focus on how adults, who were emotionally neglected as children, often have problems trusting others.

How the Early Home Environment Affects Children's Ability to Form Trusting Relationships 
Generally speaking, children who grow up in loving, stable environments learn how to trust.  If their early relationships with their parents are secure and stable, they're more likely to be able to form stable, secure relationships as children and adults.

Adults Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children Often Have Problems Trusting Others

In general, children who grow up in homes that are either unstable or where they are emotionally neglected, often have difficulty forming stable relationships as adults.  They are also often afraid to place their trust in others because they couldn't trust their caregivers.

The Early Childhood Home Environment Affects Children's Ability to Form Trusting Relationships

They often lack the emotional foundation for knowing whom they can trust, when they can trust or if they can trust others.  Lacking this ability to discern who can be trusted and who can't, they often make mistakes by either trusting people who aren't emotionally trustworthy or not trusting people who would be trustworthy if only they would allow these people to get closer to them.

An Inability to Assess Trustworthiness Can Create Emotional Havoc 
This inability to judge who can or can't be trusted can create havoc in their emotional lives.  It's not unusual for people with this problem to isolate themselves, especially after having a few disappointing adult relationships.  Their disappointments in adult relationships often follows years of being with untrustworthy adults when they were children.

Many People With Trust Issues Give Up on Close Relationships and Isolate Themselves
In my psychotherapy private practice in NYC, therapy clients, both men and women, who have this problem, will often tell me, "You know how men are--you can't trust them" or "I've never met a woman that I can trust."

While it's understandable that, given their history, they would feel this way, it's sad to see adults who just give up on relationships altogether, even friendships.

The Importance of Therapists Developing a Rapport With Therapy Clients Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children
Many of these clients come to therapy to work through their early childhood issues around emotional neglect, but they don't realize that there's a connection between the emotional neglect they experienced as children and their problems with trusting people as adults.

In Therapy: Adults Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children Often Have Problems Trusting Others

Asking them to consider that they could learn to develop the ability to be more discerning so they could make better choices in their relationships seems like a very daunting task to many of them.

Of course, the fact that they come into therapy at all, which involves placing a certain amount of trust in the therapist, is a huge step forward.  Given their history, it takes courage.

In order to do the necessary therapeutic work, I know I need to build a rapport with them, as I would with any client, but especially with clients who were emotionally neglected as children because they often fear being emotionally vulnerable.  And, with any form of psychotherapy, there's an element of emotionally vulnerability as clients open up to dealing with their emotional issues.

Many People Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children Are Too Afraid to Allow Themselves to Be Emotionally Vulnerable in Therapy, So They Never Get Professional Help
People who have problems trusting are often unaware that they can work through their traumatic history in therapy so they can develop the ability to trust and to learn who is trustworthy.  They would rather be alone than risk getting hurt again.  The vast majority of people with this issue, regrettably, never make it into therapy.  They're just too afraid.

Many People Who Were Emotionally Neglected as Children Are Too Afraid to Come to Therapy

From their perspective, the most important people in their lives, their parents, failed them so why should a therapist, who starts out being a total stranger, be any different?

They often find it hard to believe that a therapist could care about them.

Since they never get the help that they need, they continue to avoid getting involved in relationships--even though they often feel very lonely.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel your childhood history has had a traumatic effect on you that is holding you back as an adult, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed mental health therapist.

To make the process less daunting for yourself, you can interview a few therapists until you find a therapist you like and you feel can help you (see my article:  How to Choose a Therapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many adults to overcome the emotional obstacles that keep them from living a fulfilling life.

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.

What is the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

Sadness and depression are often confused but, in fact, they are very different.

At some point in our lives, we all feel sad, but being sad is not the same as being depressed.

What is the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

Whereas sadness tends to be a passing mood, depression is a serious mental health problem. It has physical as well as emotional implications.

APA's Definition of Depression
According to the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), to be diagnosed as depressed, a person must have at least five or more of the following criteria, as self reported or as observed by others, for two or more weeks where these symptoms represent a change from a person's prior functioning:
  • depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day
  • decreased interest in almost all activities for most of the day, nearly every day
  • significant weight gain or weight loss which is not accounted for by diet
  • insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping) nearly every day
  • psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • fatigue or low energy nearly every day
  • feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • problems concentrating or indecisiveness nearly every day
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts (either with or without a plan)

What is the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?

In addition to the above, people who are depressed often feel various aches and pains that cannot be explained by any particular medical condition.

Unfortunately, depression can last for weeks, months or, in some cases, for years.

Depression can be very debilitating, affecting a person's family, career, and daily activities of living.

Well-meaning but misinformed family or friends might tell a depressed person to "snap out of it," but depression is not a mood that people enter into and get over easily.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you suspect that you or someone you care about has five or more of the above symptoms, it is very important to get professional mental help as soon as possible, especially if there are suicidal thoughts.

Getting Help For Depression:  Many People Return to Their Prior Level of Functioning or Better

With treatment, many people return to at least their prior level of functioning if not better.

About Me
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, please 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.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What is the Connection Between Childhood Emotional Neglect and Adult Romantic Relationships?

Early childhood emotional neglect can lead to many problems later on in adulthood with developing and sustaining relationships.   In an earlier article,  What is Childhood Emotional Neglect?  I defined childhood emotional neglect.  In this article, I will discuss the connection between childhood emotional neglect and problems in adult relationships.

Childhood Emotional Neglect and Adult Romantic Relationships

Cycles of Problems From One Generation to the Next
Very often, parents, whose own emotional needs were unmet when they were children, have problems later on as adults being nurturing with their children.

As children, they didn't have parental role models who showed them how to form healthy, nurturing relationships.  This is especially problematic if there wasn't another nurturing adult, like a family friend, teacher or mentor, to mitigate the effects of parental emotional neglect.

Childhood Emotional Neglect and Adult Romantic Relationships

Aside from not having role models, it's usually the case that, since their emotional needs were unmet as children, they continue to have unmet emotional needs as adults, which gets in the way of their dealing with the emotional needs of their own children.

Under these circumstances, it's not unusual to see cycles of one generation after the next of children with unmet emotional needs who grow up to be adults who cannot meet the needs of their children.  This is especially evident when clinicians do intergenerational family genograms with clients where certain behavioral patterns can be traced from one generation to the next.

Potential Problems Related to Early Childhood Emotional Neglect
There are many potential problems that can develop for children who have unmet emotional needs.

The following list includes many of the most common problems:
  • problems in school, including problems with focusing in class, following the teacher's directives, completing homework assignments, acting out by fighting with other students or being truant from school, and so on
  • problems as a child (and later on as an adult) forming friendships and other relationships
  • problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive gambling or other compulsive behaviors, like overspending or sexual addiction, as a teen or an adult
  • problems with eating disorders, including overeating and obesity, anorexia and bulimia
  • problems with getting and holding down a steady job
  • problems with basic self care, including neglecting one's medical and dental health, getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously and so on
  • problems being compassionate towards oneself and others
  • problems forming healthy romantic relationships
  • problems with loneliness and social isolation
  • problems with self centeredness and narcissism
Potential Problems Related to Early Childhood Emotional Neglect 

The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of all the potential problems that can develop for a child, who has unmet emotional needs.

Despite a History of Emotional Neglect, Some People Are Inherently Resilient
Of course, there are exceptions.  I've met people, both in my personal life and in my professional life as a psychotherapist, who grew up in families where their emotional needs were unmet and, inexplicably, they grew up to be nurturing adults (see my article:  Resilience: Tips on How You Can Learn to Cope With Life's Ups and Downs).

Despite a History of Emotional Neglect, Some People Are Inherently Resilient

In many cases, especially where there weren't other adults outside their families who made up for the emotional neglect, it's hard to see how, against the odds, they were able to grow up with an ability to be loving and nurturing.  One possible explanation is that these people are inherently resilient.  Resilience is a basic part of their makeup, and it helps them to overcome many of the obstacles that most people, under the same circumstances, encounter.  But, as I've mentioned, these people tend to be the exception.

Emotional Blind Spots: Some Parents Are Unable or Unwilling to See How They Continue the Cycle of Emotional Neglect
Then again, unfortunately, as many of my psychotherapy clients tell me, there are many parents who have emotional blind spots (see my article: Overcoming Your Emotional Blind Spots).

Emotional Blind Spots:  Some Parents Are Unable or Unwilling to See How They Continue the Cycle of Emotional Neglect

From their perspective, they weren't nurtured as children but they think they were nurturing parents to their own children.  They're often unable or unwilling to see that, as adults with deep unmet needs, they've continued the cycle with their children.

In future blog articles, I'll delve deeper into the different aspects of this topic.

Getting Help in Therapy
If some of these issues are familiar to you, rather than continuing to be unhappy, you can work through these problems with a licensed psychotherapist so that you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and children.  

I have helped many clients to overcome the effects of childhood emotional neglect and abuse so they could lead happier, more meaningful lives.

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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

The concept of "emotional neglect" is often mentioned in psychotherapy journals, newspapers, popular magazines, movies, TV programs and social media.  But there is often confusion about what this term means.

What is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

When it comes to children's emotional needs, I think it's important to define "emotional neglect" in terms of unmet childhood needs.

Defining this concept is important to many adults, including psychotherapy clients and potential psychotherapy clients, who are confused and unsure as to whether they were affected by emotional neglect when they were children.

Defining emotional neglect is important for parents and parents-to-be, who might feel anxious about parenting their children and trying to create a balance between limit setting and overindulgence.

Teachers, day care workers, child protective workers, child therapists, health care workers, clergy and other people who come in contact with children often suspect that certain children might be suffering due to emotional neglect at home, so understanding this concept is important to them as well.

"Good Enough" Parenting vs Perfection
First of all, no childhood is perfect.  No parent can be perfectly attuned to his or her child 100% of the time.  It's not humanly possible.  There will be times in any childhood when a child's needs go unmet for a variety of reasons.

What is Childhood Emotional Neglect: "Good Enough" Parenting vs Perfection

When we refer to emotional neglect, we're referring to a pattern of behavior where a child's emotional needs were unmet more often than they were met.

The British psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott referred to this as parenting that was "good enough," where the parent created an emotionally nurturing home environment that he referred to as "a holding environment" most of the time (see my article: The Creation of a Holding Environment in Psychotherapy).

Of course, every child will be different in terms of his or her emotional needs, as most parents who have more than one child can tell you.

Resilience in the Context of a Nurturing Family Environment
The reason why most of us can sustain instances of parental lapses in emotional attunement is that most of us have a certain amount of resilience.  We can withstand certain lapses in emotional attunement as long as the parenting is "good enough" most of the time.

Resilience in the Context of a Nurturing Family Environment                              

So, if, for example, a parent, who is normally nurturing and attuned to his or her child's needs is distracted and doesn't notice on a particular occasion that a child is sad or angry and doesn't ask the child about it, this usually doesn't result in irreparable harm.

But if there are too many instances where a parent doesn't notice and doesn't attend to a child's emotional needs, this can be emotionally damaging to the child and often has long lasting traumatic effects into adulthood if the adult doesn't get professional help.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is Often Invisible and Goes Unnoticed
Unlike physical abuse where there are often physical bruises or other signs that are obvious, childhood emotional neglect is often invisible and goes unnoticed.

Since childhood emotional neglect usually involves a parent who is not responding to the emotional needs of a child, it is less obvious to see.

If, for example, people see a child who looks well fed, properly groomed and well dressed, they often assume that the child is being taken care of emotionally as well.  This is because many people judge situations by outer appearances.

Also, some children, especially children who tend to be overachievers, are very good at pushing down their own emotional needs under these circumstances and excelling academically.  If they are quiet children who aren't having behavior problems in school, teachers and other adults who come in contact with them often won't notice that anything is amiss with these children.

Many children, who come from families where their emotional needs aren't being met, learn how to hide their sadness by covering up their feelings.  They might appear to be outgoing or cheerful, but underneath, they're often unhappy and lonely.

Worse still, they're often hiding a lot of shame about their sadness and unmet emotional needs.  The shame that they carry often has serious repercussions for them as adults (see my article:  Unresolved Childhood Issues Can Create Problems in Adult Relationships).

In future articles, I'll continue to discuss childhood emotional neglect.

Getting Help
Many people come to therapy because of underlying issues related to their unmet needs in childhood that continue to affect them as adults.  

It's never too late to get help to overcome the effects of childhood emotional neglect.  

Working with a licensed mental psychotherapist, you can work through these issues in therapy so you can overcome them and lead a more fulfilling life.

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Are Fantasies About Someone Else Distracting You From Your Relationship?

It's not unusual for people who are in relationships, especially long term relationships, to fantasize about other people.  But if you find that your fantasizes about someone else have been distracting you from your relationship with your spouse, it's time for you and your spouse to ask yourselves what's going on in your relationship (see my articles: Fantasizing About Someone Else During Sex and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

Are Fantasies About Someone Else Distracting You From Your Relationship?

The old saying that "the grass always seems greener on the other side" is especially apropos when it comes to fantasizing about another woman or another man.  

In your fantasies about someone else, they're always just the way you want them to be:  always loving, sexy, infinitely patient, kind and understanding.  In your fantasy, the another person (like a coworker) might seem perfect for you.  
Fantasizing About a Coworker?  The Grass Always Looks Greener

Meanwhile, the reality might be completely different, and no one can live up to an idealized romantic fantasy.

The Reality Might Be Completely Different From Your Fantasy

While these fantasies might provide a temporary relief from whatever boredom or frustration you might feel in your relationship, if you find yourself spending more and more time engaged in the fantasies about someone else and not paying attention to your relationship, your relationship will eventually suffer.

Some Tips on What to Do If Fantasies About Someone Else Are Distracting You From Your Relationship:

Be Aware
Developing an awareness about how much time you're spending fantasizing about someone else is the first step.  

It's possible that, when you first began fantasizing about someone outside of your relationship, these fantasies were only occasional and weren't taking away from your relationship with your spouse.

But if you find yourself spending more and more time with your thoughts focused on someone else, you need to admit this to yourself and recognize it as a sign that there's a problem.

Don't Get Carried Away With Your Fantasies
If you don't know the other person well (or, maybe, not at all), don't allow yourself to get carried away with your fantasies about "how wonderful" it would be between you.  

Although it might be exciting at first, eventually you'd be dealing with the reality of day-to-day living where the two of you would have to deal with who will clean the bathroom and who will take out the garbage.  That's life.

Ask Yourself What You Feel is Missing in Your Relationship
Are you feeling bored or frustrated because you and your spouse are in a temporary rut or are the problems longstanding?

Be honest with yourself:  No relationship is exciting all the time.  So if the problems are temporary rather than longstanding, be patient and think about how you and your spouse can get through this period of time.

But if you sense that you're distracted from your relationship due to a steady decline emotional or sexual intimacy (or both) that's missing in your relationship, obviously, that's a more serious problem.

Take a Look at Yourself First
Often, people in relationships are all too willing to blame their spouse or partner before they look at themselves.  So, before you blame your spouse, look at yourself first.

Fantasizing About Someone Else?  Take a Look at Yourself First Before You Blame Your Spouse

Be willing to ask yourself if what's missing from your relationship is you.

If, after thinking about the state of your relationship, you realize you haven't been as attentive as you used to be, ask yourself why and what you can do to change.

Communicate With Your Spouse or Partner
Although you can't make assumptions before you talk to your spouse, you might not be the only one who is feeling bored or distracted.

Be tactful.

Don't tell your spouse that you're consumed with thoughts about someone else.  This would be hurtful to hear and it won't improve things between you.

Ask your spouse how s/he is feeling and if there are ways the two of you can enhance your relationship.

Remember What Brought the Two of You Together in the Early Stage of Your Relationship
It's easy to forget, especially in long-term relationships, what brought the two of you together in the early stages in your relationship.  

When I'm seeing a couple in my psychotherapy private practice in NYC, I can tell a lot about how the couple talks about the early days of their relationship.  If talking about the early days brings a smile to each of their faces and they gaze at each other warmly, there's usually hope that the relationship can be salvaged.  But if they gloss over the early romantic period or, worse, if neither of them can remember it, that's usually a bigger a problem.

Stuck in a Routine? Make Changes
Are you and your spouse stuck in too much of a routine?

While some routines are hard to change, there is probably room for change in certain areas of your life.

For instance, you and your spouse can probably make some changes in your love life or your social life.

So, if your lovemaking has become boring and predictable, talk to your spouse about how to spice it up.  Maybe you have a particular fantasy (maybe it's even one of the fantasies you've thought about with the other person) that you'd like to try with your spouse.  Talk to your spouse about it.

Sometimes, even making small changes can make a big difference.  Changes to your love life don't need to involve acrobatics or swinging from the chandelier.  It can be as simple as adding a little more sensuality to your lovemaking, like giving (or receiving) a massage.

Not Sure If You Want to Remain in the Relationship?
If you're really not sure if you want to remain in the relationship, this is a more serious problem.

Whether you're on the fence about the relationship or you know you want to end your relationship, you and your spouse could benefit from talking to a couples counselor.

While it's probably fairly obvious how you could benefit from seeing a couples counselor when you're not sure if you want to stay or go, it might not be as obvious why you would see a couples counselor if you're sure the relationship is over.  

When people ask me about this, I usually tell them that, even if the relationship is over, this person once meant a lot to you and there are better ways to end a relationship than ending it with bitterness and anger.

A couples counselor can help you to be your "better selves" rather than ending the relationship with animosity. 

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're having problems in your relationship, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional who works with couples.

Problems are usually easier to deal with earlier rather than later, so if you and your spouse or partner are having problems, don't wait.  Get help.

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

When Trust Breaks Down in Relationships - Lies of Omission

In prior blog posts about couples counseling, I've explored the topic of trust with regard to infidelity in relationships. This is one important aspect of mistrust in relationships. In this blog post, I would like to explore another aspect of trust and mistrust that I see as a NYC therapist who works with individuals and couples, specifically the topic of "lies of omission."

When Trust Breaks Down in Relationships: Lies of Omission

When we talk about trust, generally, we recognize that, in most cases, there are degrees of trust rather than either total trust or total mistrust, and this can change over time in a relationship.

We also recognize that when trust is an issue in a relationship, like most other issues, the individuals' family histories are often a contributing factor as to how the issue plays out and how it affects the current relationship.

A composite vignette should help to illustrate these points. As always, composite vignettes are representative of numerous cases and do not violate confidentiality:

Sandy and Tom:
When Sandy and Tom came to see me for marriage counseling, they were married for three years. Both of them were accomplished professionals in their 30s.  It was the first marriage for both of them.

The main issue that brought them into marriage counseling was that Sandy felt she could not trust Tom at times. They both agreed there were no issues of infidelity.

The main problem seemed to be that, over time, Sandy detected a recurring pattern where Tom deliberately withheld certain information from her about an insignificant aspect of whatever topic he was discussing.

Her concern was more about the recurring pattern of deliberately not telling her certain things and not about the particular piece of information that he left out. She was completely confused and hurt about Tom's lies of omission.

Tom acknowledged that he often felt a compelling urge to withhold information from Sandy. He agreed with Sandy that, when each example was looked at by itself, it didn't seem significant. However, when looked at as a pattern of his communication with Sandy, it raised a "red flag." He seemed to be just as baffled by his behavior as Sandy was, and he wanted to change this pattern.

Lies of Omission: Tom acknowledged that he felt a compelling urge to withhold information from Sally

To illustrate her point, Sandy gave numerous examples. Each of them seemed to be of no particular importance, except when looked at together as a pattern.

A typical example was when Tom told Sandy about a business dinner and discussed each person in detail--except one. He never mentioned that person at all. There was nothing particularly significant about this one person's attendance at the meeting, and Sandy had no reason to be concerned about this person.

What was significant was that Tom felt the need, as he often did, to withhold a particular piece of information from Sandy.

He acknowledged that he had deliberately withheld this information, and if he had not withheld this particular piece of information, he would have withheld some other insignificant piece of information.

Usually, later on, whatever Tom had omitted would come to light in some other way, and Sandy would be confused about why Tom had not told her.

Exploration of Tom's background revealed that both of his parents were loving and nurturing towards him, but they were also highly intrusive. As a child, Tom was not allowed to close the door to his room because his parents wanted to be able to see what he was doing at any given time.

As a result, Tom felt he had no privacy until he moved out to go to college. Tom had never thought much about this before but, as we continued to explore his family background, he traced back his pattern of engaging in lies of omission to the time he was about 10 or 11 years old.

Over time, as we continued to discuss this in marriage counseling, Tom realized that he resented his parents' intrusiveness and he compensated for it, without realizing it, by finding ways to withhold certain information from them.

Unconsciously, he found a way to preserve certain things for himself that he did not want to share with them. None of the things that he kept from them were significant--it was more the idea that he could have something for himself that his parents could not intrude upon.

Realizing this was a major breakthrough for Tom and it served as a starting point to change his pattern of communication with Sandy. And, once Sandy understood more fully how his parents' intrusiveness affected him, she felt a lot more compassion for Tom, and she became more patient.

When looked at from the perspective of a young boy who felt relentlessly impinged upon by his parents, you could begin to understand how Tom would develop an unconscious pattern of withholding information.

As a child, he didn't have the ability to stop his parents from being intrusive or to communicate his discomfort to them or to cope with it in other ways. As a result, he did the only thing he knew how to do to preserve a sense of privacy for himself.

So, what started out as a way to cope with intrusive parents developed into a maladaptive form of communication with his wife. And since his wife was not an intrusive person, in reality, Tom had no reason to continue this pattern, but it had become habitual.

Although it took a while for Tom to feel "safe" enough to be more open with Sandy, eventually, he did learn to stop engaging in lies of omission, and this significantly improved the relationship.

Tom Was Able to Change His Pattern of Lying After He Worked Through Childhood Issues

An Excuse to Lie?
Reading this vignette, some people might think that Tom used his family background as a convenient excuse to be withholding with Sandy.

However, as a psychotherapist in the room with a client who is describing the pain and feelings of powerlessness of never having privacy as a child and feeling constantly intruded upon by well-meaning but intrusive parents, I have a clear sense that this type of family background can have a profound effect on a child.

It's not a matter of condoning this behavior, but of understanding the origins of it. And the unconscious patterns that we develop as children often don't disappear automatically when we become adults. Often, we carry these patterns into our adult relationships where they have adverse effects.

Without understanding the significance of how certain patterns develop and just looking at these circumstances on the surface, many people might say, "Why doesn't he just get over it?"

However, often, once the roots of the problem are traced back, we can see the complexity of the problem more clearly.

So, rather than looking at it in terms of someone making convenient excuses for his problem, it becomes a starting point for understanding the problem and it often contains the key for the resolution.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner struggle with similar issues in your relationship, you could benefit from attending couples therapy with a licensed mental health professional to overcome these problems.

About Me
I am a NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing who works with with individual adults and couples. I have helped many individuals and couples to lead more fulfilling lives.

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 regular business hours or email me.