NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

As a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in New York City, this is the time of year when I see new clients coming to therapy because they've decided to make important changes in their lives. This is the time of year when many of us take stock, think about our lives, and make New Year's resolutions about the things that we want to change about ourselves. 

Making and Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Clinical hypnosis (also known as hypnotherapy) is a safe and effective way to change old habits and create new and positive changes. Whether you want to develop better communication skills in your relationship, change old eating habits, stop smoking, or create an overall healthier lifestyle, clinical hypnosis has helped thousands of people to overcome obstacles that were keeping them from making those changes on their own.

At the beginning of the New Year when people make their New Year's resolutions, many people start with enthusiasm, motivation and determination to make the changes that they want to see in their lives. However, after a month or two, many of those same people get frustrated and discouraged when they don't see the changes happening fast enough, and they abandon their efforts. When you work with a licensed mental health professional who has advanced training in clinical hypnosis, you're able to work more deeply on the unconscious issues that keep you from making the changes that you want to make. It's not as much of a struggle as when you try to do it on your own.

If you, like many others, are at the point when you've made your New Year's resolutions and you feel determined to make those changes, here are some tips that might be helpful:

Recognize that Change is a Process:
Since change is a process that happens over time, and usually not a one-time event, recognize that making changes, especially if you're trying to do it on your own, might take longer than you think.

Focus on Changing Your Behavior:
Instead of focusing on specific results (e.g., wanting to lose a specific amount of weight by a specific date), focus on changing your behavior. So, for instance, instead of saying, "I want to lose 15 lbs. by March 1st," focus on eating healthier and more nutritious meals. When you focus on healthier eating habits, your goal will be a broader change that will be longer lasting, more holistic and more effective than planning for particular weight loss. You're also more likely to keep off any weight that you've lost when you have a broader goal.

Choose Only One or Two Changes at a Time:
If you overwhelm yourself with too many New Year's resolutions at a time, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. Choosing one or two behaviors that you would like to change is more likely to be effective. As you see positive changes in those one or two areas that you want to change, you'll feel more confident about yourself. Then, after you've consolidated your gains in these areas, you can consider other areas that you'd like to change.

Decide What You'd Like to Add to Your Life As Well:
When you decide to make a change in yourself, decide what you'd like to add to your life as well. So, for instance, if you want to stop smoking and you know that you tend to smoke when you get anxious, think about what pleasant activities you can substitute for your old smoking habit when you feel triggered by anxiety. Attending a yoga class, going to the gym, talking to a friend, learning to meditate, or some other healthy activity that you would enjoy, might be among the activities that you choose to add to your life. So, it's not just about "giving up smoking." The overall goal is to lead a healthier life, you're learning new coping skills for when you get anxious, and you're also adding healthy activities to create greater happiness in your life.

Recognize that You Might Slip Back into Old Behaviors:
This gets back to the idea that change is a process. So, it's better not to engage in all-or-nothing thinking when you're trying to make changes in your life. Recognize that you might slip back into the old behaviors that you're trying to change. Plan for these slips so that you're prepared if and when they occur. For many people, this is the time when they become frustrated and they give up on their New Year's resolutions. So, rather than berating yourself and giving up, acknowledge that you're human, you had a slip, recommit to your goal and move on.

Consider Clinical Hypnosis:
If you've tried all of the above suggestions and you find that you're still struggling to keep those New Year's resolutions that are so important to you, you might want to consider attending clinical hypnosis sessions with a licensed mental health professional who has advanced training in hypnotherapy.

Remember, there's a big difference between a lay "hypnotist" and a licensed mental health professional who is a hypnotherapist. While the "hypnotist" might know some hypnotic techniques, the licensed mental health professional who is a hypnotherapist has advanced therapeutic training and is recognized as a licensed professional in your State.

I am a licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist in NYC. I have helped many clients to make positive changes so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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 28, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: An Inspiring and Uplifting Film: "Nicky's Family"

I recently watched the movie, Nicky's Family, for the second time within the last year, and I enjoyed it even more the second time than the first.

Czechoslovakia:  The Country Where Over 660 Children Were Saved by Nicholas Winton

In case you haven't seen this wonderful documentary yet, I highly recommend that you see it (it's now available on Netflix and Amazon), especially if  you like inspiring and uplifting movies.

"Nicky's Family" is a documentary by Natej Minac about Nicholas Winton, currently 104 years old, who saved the lives of over 660 Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia by arranging to transport them from their country to loving homes in England.

This was an immense undertaking during that time, before there were computers and before the Internet.

He met with the parents, who made the tremendous sacrifice of giving up their children, realizing that, in all likelihood, they would never see them again.  But these parents also knew that allowing Nicholas Winton to find their children new homes in England was the only way that their children would survive.

It's hard to imagine how devastatingly painful it must have been for the parents of these children to let them go--to say nothing of how frightening it had to be for these children to be transported by train to a country completely unknown to them.

These children, who now have grandchildren, would have certainly been killed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II if it were not for the dedicated work of Nicholas Winton, who worked against formidable odds to save their lives.

After the war, Mr. Winton (now Sir Winton) modestly kept quiet about his work--until his wife discovered the book that he kept with all of the names, pictures and records of the British adoptions for these children.

In 1988, he was honored on the BBC show, "That's Life," where he got to meet the people that he saved in the audience.  This is one of many poignant moments in the film.  And his modesty, so emblematic of people in the 1940s, is deeply moving and refreshing.

The documentary is narrated by Canadian journalist, Joe Schlesinger, who was also one of the children that was saved by Nicholas Winton.

A Child Today in the Czech Republic

Not only do we hear the personal stories of their lives from these individuals who were saved, we also get to meet their children and grandchildren, many of whom, inspired by Winton, have gone on to do their own devoted work for children all around the world.

We hear the word "hero" a lot these days.  Nicholas Winton is a hero in every sense of the word and deserves the recognition that he is finally getting after so many years.

This is a heart-warming true story that will lift your spirits.

About Me
I am a 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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Asking For What You Need in Therapy

Many clients who are in therapy have difficulty asking for what they need from their therapists.  This is especially true for clients who have a history of being physically or emotionally abused.  Often, because of the abuse, they're out of tune with their needs and, as a result, they might not know what they need.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy
Even the most empathically-attuned psychotherapist might miss the fact that s/he isn't working in a way that meets the client's needs, which is why it's so important that, every so often, the therapist and client reevaluate their work together.

Usually, this discussion is initiated by the therapist, but a client, who feels s/he isn't getting what s/he needs, can also initiate this conversation.

Here are some tips that may be helpful in getting what you need in therapy:

Tips on How to Get What You Need in Your Therapy:
  • If your therapist doesn't take time periodically to review the work you're doing together, you can take time to reflect on your own how you're feeling about your therapist and your work and then tell your therapist that you would like to talk about this.  Most therapists will be open to this.
  • Don't assume that if your needs aren't being met that it's your fault.  This is an assumption that many clients, who have been abused, make in their therapy.
  • If you're unclear about the way your therapist is working, ask about it.  Your therapist should be able to give you an explanation in simple terms that you can understand.
  • If you feel the work is going too fast and you're having difficulty coping between sessions, talk to your therapist about this so the two of you can come up with ways that you can cope better between sessions.  It might also mean that you spend more time processing what's going on between you.
  • If you feel the work is going too slow, tell your therapist about this.  S/he will can explain the way the two of you are working together and, if needed, might make changes in the work.  Also, this can help to clarify whatever beliefs or misconceptions that either of you might have about the work.
  • If you feel you and your therapist haven't developed a rapport after working together for a while, it might be that the two of you aren't a good fit.  It might also mean that, due to your history, you might have problems trusting and it might take you a while to develop a therapeutic alliance with any therapist.
  • Be aware that, due to ethical boundaries, your therapist can't be your friend or have a personal relationship with you outside of your sessions, even after you complete therapy.  So, if part of what you think you need or would like is for your therapist to be your friend, this won't be possible.  At the same time, it's common for clients to develop these feelings, including sexual attractions, for their therapist (see my article:  Psychotherapy and the Erotic Transference).  Even though you might be disappointed at first that you can't have a personal relationship with your therapist, a discussion about your feelings can be helpful in highlighting what you need in your life and how you can go about creating it outside of the therapy room.
Too often clients abort therapy prematurely because they feel too vulnerable or ashamed to have these kinds of discussions with their therapist (see my article:  When Clients Leave Psychotherapy Prematurely).

But, usually, even though you might not be accustomed to talking about your needs and it might take courage on your part, being able to talk about what you need helps you to develop self confidence and often helps to improve the therapy.

Also, if part of the problem is that there has been a misunderstanding or rupture between you and your therapist, there is a chance for repairing this rupture, which can create a stronger therapeutic alliance between the two of you (see my article:  Psychotherapy: Ruptures and Repairs in Therapy).

Getting Help in Therapy
Asking for help isn't easy, especially if you've spent most of your life denying your needs or being unaware of your needs.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy

Rather than continuing to ignore your emotional needs, if you're concerned about your therapy, speak to your therapist.  Even if you're feelings are vague, a skilled, empathic therapist can help you to clarify and express your feelings.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City 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 24, 2014

Feeling Empowered to Create a Joyful Holiday

During the holiday season, many people think about the childhood holidays they had with their families, which were disappointing.  As a adults, they look back on those times and feel sad as the holidays approach.

Usually, when clients talk about this in their therapy sessions with me, I remind them that, as children, there wasn't much they could do about miserable holidays because the adults were in charge.  But now, as adults, they have the power to create their own joyful holidays and their own traditions.  They're no longer dependent upon the adults to create the holiday occasion.  They can now use their own creativity to create the holiday they want.

Feeling Empowered to Create a Joyful Holiday
If spending time with your family of origin during the holidays is difficult, why not create your own holiday traditions with your family of choice--possibly, your significant other and your friends?

Developing your own holiday traditions and rituals can be fun as you use your imagination and creativity to have the kind of holiday that you desire.

I know people who consider their new holiday traditions with their spouses and friends to be their "real holiday" as opposed to their visits with their families.  Exchanging gifts, Christmas tree trimming, or Christmas caroling in their neighborhoods are among the traditions that they've incorporated with the people that they enjoy being with on the holidays.

Of course, there are many people who enjoy being with their families.  Not everyone had disappointing holidays.  But if you're someone who dreads the holidays because it brings up sad memories, remember that you're now empowered, as an adult, to create the kind of holiday that you want.

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, 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.

photo credit: andrihilary via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Time With Your Family: Balancing Your Expectations

We often get disappointed when we have expectations from our loved ones, especially around the holidays, about what we want and they might not want.  More often than not, if we try to impose our expectations on our loved ones, it's a recipe for disappointment and resentment.  Sometimes, we need to temper our expectations to be more flexible, recognizing that we can't change other people to make them do what we want them to do.

Holiday Time:  Can You and Your Loved Ones Balance Your Expectations?

New York Times Modern Love Article:  "A Holiday Built on Presence, Not Presents"
An article by Carolyn S. Briggs in yesterday's New York Times' Modern Love column caught my attention called "A Holiday Built on Presence, Not Presents" (a link to this article is provided at the end of this blog post).  She describes how she was disappointed last year when her adult children had a very different view of the Christmas holiday than she did.  Whereas she wanted a more traditional Christmas holiday, her children felt it was more of a "consumerist sham" of a holiday.

Ms. Briggs says she had hoped that they would all fill their Christmas stockings with messages of love and appreciation for each other, but her children weren't interested in this, which was very disappointing to her.

Ms. Briggs  also discusses how she was disappointed when she was younger during the time when her parents were divorcing.  She says that she and her brother pooled their money and bought and decorated their own tree because there was no tree that year.  In hindsight, she says she doesn't want to guilt her children into doing what they don't want to do on Christmas.  She has changed her expectations of what Christmas will be like with her family this year.

It's not unusual for adults to want to make up for what they didn't get as children.  There's something very sad about two children having to provide their own Christmas tree because the adults are preoccupied with their own problems.   Yet, we can't expect that, as adults, we'll always be able to make up for what we didn't get as children, especially when the experience involves other people, who might not want to go along with it now.

As I read Ms. Briggs' article, I couldn't help thinking about when I was a young adult and I had similar ideas to her children.

Coming from a very traditional family, when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I rebelled against these traditions and also felt that Christmas was all about consumerism.

But, as I was reading this article, I realized that my feelings have changed since then and I can now appreciate the holiday spirit.  I'm not cynical about the holidays, the way I used to be when I was a young adult.  My feeling is that, regardless of the consumerism, we can make the holiday whatever we want it to be.  We're not at the mercy of consumerism.

Reading this article, I looked back on myself as a young adult and thought about the times that I  must have disappointed my family when I didn't want to go along with tradition.  As I read the article, I could see both sides--Ms. Briggs' disappointment last year and her children's resistance.

As a therapist, I know that late teens and early 20s is an important time for young adults to develop their own ideas and become separate individuals from their families.  Seeing it from that vantage point, one could see why they wouldn't acquiesce to her wishes.

And yet, as someone who is a middle-aged woman now, I couldn't help wishing that Ms. Briggs' adult children had cooperated a little more--not because they believed in these Christmas traditions, but because they knew how important it was to her.

Is There a Way to Balance Our Own and Our Loved Ones' Expectations?
Could there have been some compromise?  I don't know.  Reasonable people could disagree.   This isn't a black and white issue.

But maybe the view that there might have been a compromise comes with age and life experience.  I couldn't have taken this view when I was younger.

When you're  a young adult, you're struggling to establish your own autonomy, which sometimes means having different feelings and opinions from your family.   When you're older and you're on your own, you have less to prove, and I think you can afford emotionally to be more generous.

In the end, I think Ms. Briggs came to the right conclusion--that even if your family doesn't experience the holiday in the same way that you would like as a parent, the most important thing is that you're together.

Wishing Everyone a Happy and Healthy Holiday.

I am a NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR 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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me

A Holiday Built on Presence, Not Presents
By Carolyn S. Briggs - 12/23/12 - NY Times - Modern Love

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Changes: The Need For Emotional Connection and a Sense of Belonging

I'm continuing my earlier discussion about the psychological aspects of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan trilogy, which I started with Part 1 and Part 2 of this topic.  I will continue to focus on Ms Ferrante's first two books in her trilogy, My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name.   In  this article, I'll discuss the topic, developing a sense of belonging.

Developing a Sense of Belonging

Making Changes
As I did in my two prior articles, I'm using the character, Elena Greco, from Ms. Ferrante's novels to illustrate how change, which includes developing your sense of self as a separate person from family and friends, can be challenging and how this challenge can be overcome.

As I mentioned in my prior articles, Elena Greco, through her determination and hard work and with the help of a teacher, was able to transcend her circumstances in a poor town on the outskirts of Naples to fulfill her dream of becoming educated with a much brighter future than she ever could have had if she followed in the footsteps of her parents.

At the same time, as anyone who has made similar changes knows, it's hard to let go of a way of life that has been part of your family for many generations.  It's even harder to feel that, with your education and broader horizons, your family and old friends might see you as being "different" now--even if they still love you and want you to succeed.

Many clients, who come to see me in my psychotherapy private practice, who are first-generation American, express how torn they feel emotionally between following their parents'  customs and rituals that have been part of the family for generations and adopting the customs of their new country.  

Some people, who have struggled with this emotional dilemma, learn, over time, to strike a balance between familial customs and new customs.

Others, who find it too difficult, might take an all-or-nothing attitude by either leaving behind all the traditional customs in order to blend in and feel that they belong in their new country, or by resisting all new customs.

Most of the time, it's almost impossible for people not to feel the pull of the traditional culture as well as the new culture.

The character, Elena Greco, who remained in her country, but who might as well have gone to a different country because of the changes involved in moving from a poor town near Naples and going to college in Pisa, is acutely aware of her family's and friends' mixed reactions to her.  She's also aware that she doesn't feel like she belongs in her new surroundings.

A Sense of Belonging is a Basic Human Need
A sense of belonging is a basic human need.

Developing a Sense of Belonging:  A Sense of Belonging is a Basic Human Need

From the time that we're born, we're hardwired for attachment to our primary caregivers and without them, we can't survive.

Similarly, from the days of cave men and cave women and beyond, survival depended upon belonging to a tribe.  No one could go it alone and survive.  During those times, being banished from the tribe meant death.

Although most of us don't live in small tribes anymore, we still have a basic need to belong, whether it's a need to be part of a family, a group or a community with shared values.

Getting back to Ms. Ferrante's character, Elena Greco:  Her story illustrates how painful it can be to make the transition and straddle between two different cultures.  Her story is also emblematic of the experiences of anyone who has made this kind of change.

At first, she was ashamed because she felt inferior to the classmates she met in Pisa.  She was mostly aware of how different she was from them, and she felt she didn't belong there.

Similarly, initially, many people who go through this transition are painfully aware of how different they are from the new group that they are entering into, whether, as in Elena's case, it's a difference of socioeconomic status, language, dress or other customs.  

Whether you're a college student in a new city or someone who has moved to another part of the country or the world, initially, you might feel uncomfortable because you feel like you don't belong.

But many people in this situation discover that they have much more common with people from the new group than they initially realized.  So, while you might be very aware of how you and others are different, it's just as important to realize that you probably have a lot in common too.

Developing a Sense of Belonging:
  • Look for and Accept Opportunities For Connection:  Before you get to know people, you might make certain negative assumptions about them.  But you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that your assumptions aren't correct when you take the time to get to know people.  If there are opportunities to connect, accept them, keep an open mind, and get to know others.
  • Get to Know People as Individuals:  It's not unusual, at first, to see people who are part of another group as being all the same.  But, in reality, we are all individuals, so it's important, to get to know each person as an individual rather than making assumptions about them because they're part of a particular group.
  • Discover Common Values:  Common values can create bonds.  While you might not share the same exact values, looking for some common values can be a start towards developing a sense of belonging.  So, for instance, even though you might be from a different religion, you and the new people that you're meeting might share a wish for there to be peace regardless of religion. This can be a powerful bond.  Or, for instance, you might discover that others have had similar losses and a similar understanding of what it means to cope with loss and emotional pain.  This can also serve as a powerful bond.
  • Strive to Be Non-judgmental:  Acceptance is different from agreement.  You might not agree with everything about the new group but, in most instances, you can learn to be nonjudgmental.  This doesn't mean that you take on values that you might not believe in or that you're not discerning about what's best for you.  It does, however, mean that you don't automatically judge someone as unacceptable because you and s/he might have different views.  
Getting Help in Therapy
Sometimes, unfamiliar people and places can be overwhelming, even when you've tried to get to know them and discover commonalities.  You might feel lonely or depressed because you feel like an outsider.

Developing a Sense of Belonging:  Getting Help in Therapy

You're not alone.  Many people before you have struggled with the same problem and have learned to overcome it.

Rather than struggling on your own, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who has experience working with people in this type of situation.

Getting Help in Therapy to Develop a Sense of Belonging

Getting help in therapy can make all the difference between feeling like an outside and developing a sense of belonging.

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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Making Changes: What to Keep and What to Let Go of in Your Life - Part 2

In the first part of this discussion, Making Changes: What to Keep and What to Let Go of in Your Life,  I began a discussion about Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan trilogy and the various themes in her books about change, courage, self identity, loss, friendship, family, trauma and triumph over adversity.

Making Changes:  What to Keep and What to Let Go of in Your Life

In this article, I'm expanding on this topic by discussing the challenges involved with making changes, even when these changes are positive, by continuing to use Ms. Ferrante's stories to illustrate my points.

In Ms. Ferrante's books, starting with My Brilliant Friend, the protagonist, Elena, has an opportunity to continue her education beyond elementary school to high school and even to college.  Coming from a poor community on the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1950s where most people are just struggling to survive, this is highly unusual, especially for a girl.

Although there is no doubt that this opportunity is a change for the better, higher education, especially for girls, isn't valued by Elena's parents or most of the people in her small town.

From a practical point of view, her parents are just scraping by, so the cost of a higher education is a luxury that they can't afford, especially in a society that sees women as eventually getting married, having children, and being subservient to her husband.

Determination to Change in the Face of Adversity
How does someone like Elena, who in her wildest dreams, never even imagined that she could attend high school--let alone college, deal with the internal and external conflicts that arise in this situation?

Once the financial obstacles are removed, Elena is determined to succeed even though there are still many practical and psychological obstacles.  She stays focused on what she wants--even though there is still a lot of uncertainty and she knows it will be difficult.

Step by step, she perseveres.  She studies hard.  In situations where she has no experience and she feels socially inadequate, she is a keen observer of others and learns by example.  She also struggles with her internal demons that tell her she's "not good enough."

Feelings of inadequacy and doubt weigh on her throughout much of the story, but her determination, intelligence and ability to adapt help her to keep going.

Making Changes and, as a Result, Feeling Like an Outsider
Elena also struggles with feeling like an outsider among her peers in college, many of whom had opportunities and social experiences throughout their lives that she never had.

Although she earned her right to attend college, she must still confront class and social prejudice among students who are much more privileged than she is.  But she learns to win over these students with her good nature and patience.

Nevertheless, throughout it all, she's aware of not only what she has gained, but also what she has lost while she is in college. This includes the security of the world she has known her all of her life. It also includes the certainty of the role she would have taken as a woman in the 1950s in a small provincial town.

Although, given her dreams, she might not have been suited for this limited role, it seems pretty certain what it would have been:  wife, mother, daughter, sister, someone whose needs would have been subordinated to others' needs.

Even though this limited role might have been unappealing, the certainty of it and her place in her community would have been assured, especially as compared to the uncertainty as she forges a new path, which is unchartered territory for women in that place and time.

Going against the tide in her community, she must also contend with feeling somewhat like an outsider at home because she's now a college student, an intellectual (in a poor community where intellect is often devalued compared to having more concrete skills), and someone who has learned to speak Italian in an eloquent way, as opposed to speaking in the dialect of her community.

So, initially, she feels like an outsider in both worlds.

She has many doubts:  Which world does she belong to once she leaves her home town and goes to college in Milan?  She no longer completely fits in, as she did before, in her home town.  She is also aware that her family and old friends sense this and they are also confused and disturbed by it.  They're ambivalent.  Some people from her home town who admire her also mock her at the same time.  She's different now and, for many of them, her advances highlight their shortcomings.

Anyone who has ever made a major change where it involves going against tradition knows what this feels like.  Certainly, it can feel very lonely, and it takes a lot of courage to persevere (see my article:  Feeling Like an Outsider in an Insider's World).  Even then, it might feel like something old and familiar is irrevocably lost.

This is especially true for Elena because during that time there was no clear path for women to excel in the region where she lived, even women with a college degree.  Times were changing in Italy, but the changes were just beginning to occur in the larger metropolitan cities.

Major Life Transitions and Changes in a Sense of Self
Feeling like an outsider also brings up a related issue, which is how this affects one's sense of self.

As Elena is transitioning from her sense of self from her early days in Naples to her new sense of self as a college educated woman, the change feels daunting.

Even after she receives recognition and praise by her professors and peers, she is constantly afraid of saying or doing "the wrong thing."  She fears that she will be "found out," shown to be an imposture and a fraud to her new acquaintances as well as to herself.

This is a common experience among people who are making big changes during that transitional phase.  For Elena and others in similar situations, they no longer feel completely comfortable in their old world, but they're also not completely comfortable in their new world.

During that initial phase of the change, their sense of self hasn't been integrated and consolidated yet.  This often comes gradually over time.  And the inner critical voice, which says, "Just who do you think you are!?!" can be even more disturbing than the external critical voices.

Integrating Change With the Many Aspects of Self
When you're making major changes, it takes time to integrate these changes to develop a new sense of self.

Over time, your perception of yourself will include the former aspects of yourself before the change as well as the newer aspects.  This is somewhat of an oversimplification, but is generally true.

Often, it's only with the benefit of hindsight and self reflection that you realize how you've changed.

For Elena, this psychological process means that, along with the new aspects of herself that are developing, she also maintains the older aspects of self, her integrity, courage, empathy, and love for the people who are significant in her life--even if they don't feel they really understand her now that she's taken a step away from them by going to college with all the changes that this brings.

Moving Away Psychologically as Part of Changing
Moving away as part of changing doesn't only involve a geographic move.  Often, a psychological move is involved that can be much more subtle than physically moving away.

In Elena's case, her move away from what's familiar starts on a psychological basis as she allows herself to see the possibilities beyond the boundaries of her home town.  This might not sound so extraordinary these days to people living in the modern Western world.  But during the 1950s in her community, where Elena's story begins, the ability to see beyond her current circumstance is amazing at the same time that it's profoundly scary.

The initial phase of this psychological process, taking the psychic space that she needs to become the person that she eventually becomes, is necessary before she can make the geographic move.  Even with all of her initial doubts, she takes a psychological leap of faith that she could have a better life by going to college, even though the road ahead isn't clear.

I think the protagonist's psychological struggles and triumph over adversity is one of the many reasons why Elena Ferrante's novels are so inspiring.

In a future article, I'll continue to expand upon these themes.

Getting Help in Therapy
Change can be challenging.  Rather going through a major life transition alone, you could work with a licensed mental health professional in a supportive therapeutic environment who can help you to feel empowered as you accomplish your goals.

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.

See my article:  Making Changes: Developing a Sense of Belonging.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Making Changes: What to Keep and What to Let Go of in Your Life - Part 1

Most of the articles in my psychotherapy blog are about making changes.  These include changes to our internal and external worlds as well as changes in our relationships.  Sometimes making these changes involve making choices about who or what to keep and what to let go of in our lives.

Making Changes:  What We Keep and What We Let Go of in Your Life

Change:  What We Keep and What We Let Go of in Your Life
Change isn't easy, especially when it involves the possibility of letting go of strongly held personal identities, people, places, beliefs and things that have had a profound effect on your life.

Even when you know it's for the best, letting go is hard.  Letting go can affect how you see yourself, how you see others as well as how others see you.

It can mean that you give up someone or something that was cherished for a long time, as when you  give up a way of being, a relationship that has become unhealthy for you or a home.

There are also different levels of knowing.

Often, knowing that change is necessary starts on a purely intellectual level.  At the same time, on an emotional level, you might want to pull back and stay with what's familiar rather than dealing with the unknown.

The deeper emotional knowing often comes over time as the heart and mind become aligned.

Elena Ferrante and Her Neapolitan Trilogy
Based on several recommendations, I recently began reading the Neapolitan trilogy by Elena Ferrante, including My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.

As I read these books, I'm reminded, once again, of how much we can learn about ourselves and others from literature.

Over the course of the three books, the protagonist, Elena Greco, narrates her life story and her 60+ year relationship with her best friend, Lila Cerrulo, from the time when they were young girls growing up in a poor town just outside of Naples to their lives as women.  She takes us into the psychological worlds of these characters in a profound and gripping way.

Making Changes:  What We Keep and What We Let Go

There are many themes in Ms. Ferrante's books, including the changes that both characters make to overcome soul-crushing poverty.  These changes involve making difficult decisions as well as sacrifices.

As the narrator, Elena Greco, tells her tale, the reader is drawn in, sharing to this intimate story.

At the same time, the reader can reflect on his or her own life, similar experiences of friendship, family history, love, loss, fear, betrayal, trauma as well as a fierce determination to overcome personal obstacles.

Over the years, the intense friendship between Elena and Lila involves many instances of coming together and moving apart as they each struggle to make sense of their lives and the world around them.  Both of them are intelligent, perceptive and curious.  As children, Lila is the bolder one.

Then, through a combination of personal determination, luck, and outside intervention, one of them has an opportunity for higher education and the other chooses the path of an early marriage and financial stability.

Naples, Italy

There is irony and reversals of fortune along the way.  Efforts that seem long and fruitless bring unexpected surprises.  Efforts that appear to be a sure way out of misery lead to even greater misfortune.

Throughout the years, the two friends maintain a strong inner awareness of each other, even during times of estrangement.

Given how limited and impoverished their world is, both characters, as girls and later on as women, are courageous in the way they're willing to explore their inner world as well as the unknown world outside of their community.

For both characters, in different ways, this often involves going against the tide of long-held traditions, expectations, and community opinion in order to pursue their dreams.  Sometimes, it means risking it all and going it alone in a world where survival often depends on community. 

Ms. Ferrante, who also grew up in Naples, draws readers in with a compelling story and characters are well defined and true to life.  You can't help caring about them deeply as if they're people that you've known intimately all of your life.  And although the story takes place in Italy, Elena and Lila's struggles are universal, which is why I believe Ms. Ferrante has developed such a devoted following.

Not only do we feel that we know these characters--we actually do know them very well--they are each of us at one time or another in our lives. 

It is noteworthy that Ms. Ferrante's devoted following developed despite the fact that Ms. Ferrante (not her real name) remains somewhat of a mystery.

She doesn't do personal appearances to promote her books, nor does she do in-person interviews (her interviews are conducted via email).  She let her publishers know early on that, if there were going to be any prizes for the books, she would not be there in person to accept them.

As of this writing, she hasn't even divulged her real name.  So, her following is based solely on her beautiful writing, excellent reviews (see:  James Woods' review in the New Yorker magazine) and word of mouth among her fans.

Making Changes:  What We Keep and What We Let Go

While reading her books, I've come away with the impression that her stories might be personal, which could be one of the reasons why she prefers to remain anonymous.

Her stories are a reminder that even when change is for the better, it's often not so black or white because even positive changes often come with loss.

Whether it's a change in how we experience ourselves, a change in our close relationships or a change in the place that we call "home," there are often difficult choices to make.

What Does It Mean to "Let Go"?
What does it mean to "let go" of experiences that are deeply felt and have had a negative impact on us?

Certainly, it doesn't mean that we forget them.

The process of letting go of these experiences means letting go of the negative effect they have on us so that they're no longer running our lives, and we're no longer repeating destructive patterns because of these experiences.

If these experiences are particularly traumatic, part of the change, which is often made in psychotherapy, is working through these experiences so they no longer affect us in the present.

We Can Learn About Ourselves and Others Through Literature

I believe Ms. Ferrante's books are such excellent examples of many themes that I write about in my psychotherapy blog and discuss with my clients in my psychotherapy private practice in NYC that I'll continue this discussion in a future article.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're struggling to make changes in your life, you're not alone.

Many people who have struggled like you have found it helpful to work with a licensed mental health professional to work on these changes in therapy.

Rather than struggling on your own, you could benefit from working with an experienced psychotherapist who can help you to overcome obstacles that keep you from leading 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.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How to Change Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

In my prior blog post,  I described what signs to look for that either you or your partner is engaging in passive aggressive behavior.  I also gave a short fictionalized scenario to illustrate examples of passive aggressive behavior in a marriage.

How to Change Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

Changing Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship
In this article, I'm going to focus on what you can do, once you've recognized that one or both of you are engaging in this dynamic so you can change it.''

In my last article, I discussed a fictionalized couple, Mark and Sue, and the problems they were having with Mark's passive aggressive behavior, including "forgetting" to do a crucial chore around the house, procrastinating about their couples counseling session so that he did not come because the session would be over by the time he arrived and, during the next scheduled couples counseling session, "forgetting" his checkbook so that both Sue and he had to scramble to pool their cash so they could pay.

As I mentioned in the last article, this scenario is representative of many relationships where one or both people engage in passive aggressive behavior, and can ruin a relationship.

Of course, whenever there are two people involved in a relationship, the problems never rest with just one person.  Although Mark was the one who was passive aggressive, at this point in their relationship, Sue had become emotionally reactive to Mark's behavior because she was frustrated after so many years.

Changing Behavior in Your Relationship:  Emotional Reactivity

To start, after getting their family histories, since it was clear that both Mark and Sue were triggering reactions in each other, I asked Sue to look at her emotional reactivity to Mark, and I asked her to think about, journal it at home and think about how else she could have responded (see my article:  Responding Instead of Reacting to Stress).  Sue agreed and went home and journaled about several incidents where this occur and what she could have done differently.

To help them overcome their problems, I recommended:

Steps for Mark:
  • Write about several incidents where he engaged in passive aggressive behavior, including "forgetting," losing things, and procrastinating.
  • Reflect on these incidents and write about them in terms of how he felt about himself in these situations after the fact
  • Develop a greater awareness of his behavior and how it is affecting his relationship
  • Can he detect a pattern in his behavior?
  • How far back does this pattern go?
  • Where did he learn to engage in this behavior?  Was this a pattern with his family when he was growing up?
  • What were his feelings and intentions in these situations?
  • Did he get the outcome that he wanted?
  • Accept that he has certain feelings that he might not be comfortable with in these situation?
  • Is he willing to get feedback from Sue?
  • Is he willing to alter the behavior that is having a negative impact on his relationship?
  • What could he have done differently in each of these situations?
  • Practice being honest and tactful in his communication with Sue

Steps for Sue:
  • Write about her emotional reactivity to Mark when she is angry about his behavior
  • Reflect on these incidents and write about them in terms of how she felt about herself in these situations after the fact
  • Develop a greater awareness about her emotional reactivity and how it could be affecting the situation
  • Is there a pattern that she can detect?
  • How far back does her emotional reactivity go?
  • Where did she learn this behavior?  Was it a pattern in her family when she was growing up?
  • What were her feelings and intentions in these situations?
  • Accept that she is angry when she senses Mark's passive aggressive behavior at the same time that she recognizes that the way that she is reacting isn't helpful
  • Is she willing to hear feedback from Mark?
  • Is she willing to alter her behavior, which is having a negative impact on her relationship?
  • What could she have done differently in these situations?
  • Practice calming herself and being tactful in hr communication with Mark
There is no "cookbook" solution for this type of problem in couples therapy.  But, generally, the steps outlined above are a start.

In the next blog post, I'll continue discussing this issue, which is a common problem for couples.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your loved one are stuck in negative patterns of relating to each other, rather than allowing these patterns to ruin your relationship, you could benefit from attending couples counseling.

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

Learning to recognize passive aggressive behavior in your relationship is the start of not only becoming aware of this behavior but also the first stage in changing it before it ruins your relationship.

How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

Whether you're the one who is being passive aggressive or it's your partner/spouse, engaging in this behavior usually compounds whatever problems there are in the relationship.

What is Passive Aggressive Behavior?
Passive aggressive behavior is a passive resistance to whatever is going on between you and your partner.  It can be expressed in a variety of habitual behavior including:
  • procrastination
  • forgetfulness
  • obstructive resistance
  • stubbornness
  • irritability
  • caustic comments
  • petty complaints
  • vacillation/ambivalence
  • grumbling
  • sabotaging behavior
  • hostile comments
  • veiled hostile comments
  • resentfulness
  • sarcasm
  • belittling comments
  • covert belittling
Anyone can have a bad day and engage in one or more of the behaviors above, so please note that I have italicized the word "habitual" with regard to the list of behaviors.

The following scenario, which is a fictionalized account of passive aggressive behavior in a relationship, illustrates how this behavior can play out in a relationship:

Sue and Mark:
Sue and Mark had been married for 10 years.  They tended to argue whenever Sue asked Mark to do something that he really didn't want to do but that he would not directly address.  Instead, he would engage in passive aggressive behavior.

How to Recognize Passive Aggressive Behavior in Your Relationship

They considered couples counseling for several years because they would argue about Mark's passive aggressive behavior.  But their last argument, when Mark's procrastination in taking care of a simple plumbing job at home worsened the problem and resulted in an expensive plumbing bill with a licensed plumber, was the last straw.  After talking it over, Sue made the appointment for them to get help in couples counseling.

Sue arrived first and she waited in the reception area for Mark to arrive.  About five minutes before the session was scheduled to start, Mark called her to let her know that he took a nap, forgot to set the alarm, and now there would be no way for him to get to the appointment before the appointment time was over.  They would have to reschedule.

Sue was fuming as she rescheduled the appointment and said, "This is just one example of many of Mark's passive aggressive behavior."

During the second scheduled appointment, Mark arrived on time, but he forgot his checkbook, so he was unable to write a check for the session.  Once again, Sue was fuming because they had agreed in advance that Mark would bring his checkbook and pay for this session.  Instead, they spent several minutes at the end of the session going through whatever cash they had so they could pay for the session.

A future article will continue will illustrate how this problem can be overcome in couples counseling.

Getting Help
People who engage in passive aggressive behavior are often unaware that they are doing this, especially if it is longstanding, ingrained behavior, but they can learn to recognize the signs of this behavior and they can also learn to change it.

A licensed mental health practitioner, who has expertise in this area, can help you to determine if individual or couples therapy is best.

If the scenario above is familiar to you, you owe it to yourself, your partner and your relationship to get help.

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

I have helped many individuals and couples to change negative ways of interacting so they could have happier relationships.

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Choosing Healthier Romantic Relationships

One of the main reasons why people come to therapy is to learn to choose healthier romantic relationships. This usually follows a long pattern of choosing emotionally unhealthy relationships where there has been hurt, anger, disappointment and, at times, abuse (see my article:  Are You Attracted to People Who Hurt You?).

Choosing Healthier Romantic Relationships

Confusing Sexual Attraction With Love 
There are many reasons why people develop a pattern of choosing unhealthy relationships.  Most of the time, these choices are unconscious so they are out of people's awareness.

One reason, as I mentioned in an earlier article, Relationships: Confusing Sexual Attraction With Love, is that people make decisions about relationships based on sexual attraction because they confuse this with love.

Falling In Love With Love
At the beginning of a relationship confusing sexual attraction with love often leads to confusing reality with fantasy as people fill in the gaps of what they don't know with what they think they know about a new romantic interest (see my articles:  Relationships: Falling In Love With Love and Are You In Love With Him or Your Fantasy of Him?)

What If You're Only Attracted to People Who Aren't Good For You?
This is a common problem.

What If You're Only Attracted to People Who Aren't Good for You?

Romantic attractions are complex phenomena that are based on unconscious patterns--whether they lead to healthy relationships or not.

All of us, to a greater or lesser degree, are attracted to people who remind us, on an unconscious level, of our earliest relationships with our parents.

People who were lucky enough to have grown up in emotionally healthy families are usually less willing to put up with unhealthy relationships because these patterns are unfamiliar to them.

If they do get into an a relationship with someone who isn't good for them, they're less likely to stay in it because they're aware that it's not good for them and they don't want it.

For people who were not fortunate enough to grow up in a healthy family, they're more likely to be drawn to romantic partners who will repeat similar patterns to the ones that they experienced in their early family relationships.

Choosing Unhealthy Relationships Without Being Aware of It

As I mentioned, for most people this is an unconscious process.

Becoming aware that this is your pattern is the first step.

The next step is changing this pattern in therapy so you don't continue to choose unhealthy relationships.

But many people despair that they'll either continue choosing unhealthy relationships, based on their attractions, or they fear that they'll have to settle for someone that they're not attracted to at all.

Given this perspective, people who make unhealthy choices in relationships often feel pessimistic about changing this pattern.

From Unhealthy to Healthy Relationships:  Developing an Attraction Over Time
Very often, people who become instantly attracted to someone who isn't good for them do so based on an instant attraction and fantasy of who that person is.

I don't know how many times I've heard clients in my psychotherapy private practice, who have this problem, tell me that they always seem to choose the one person in a crowded room who will eventually make them unhappy.

On the face of it, this seems strange:  How can this keep happening?

As I mentioned, attraction is a complex phenomena but, on an unconscious level, we're constantly picking up information about other people without even realizing it.  Some people think of this as "picking up a vibe."  So, there can be 100 people at a party and the person who keeps repeating the same pattern of choosing someone who is unhealthy for them will unconsciously find that person in the crowd.

This is why I usually tell clients to question overpowering instant attractions where they don't really know the person that they're attracted to.  These kinds of instant attractions, where people often feel bowled over by a new person, usually has the seeds of dysfunction.

This is why it's so important, if you're interested in getting into a healthy relationship, that you take things slowly and take the time to get to know the person.

Contrary to what many people think, attractions can develop over time as you get to know someone.  These attractions, which aren't based on fantasy or unconscious unhealthy choices, are more likely to lead to a healthy relationship than the overwhelming instant attraction.

For people who grew up with a lot of "drama" in their family this can sound boring.  They're used to high highs and low lows, so that if things are going on an even keel, they feel something is wrong because they're "hooked" on drama (see my article:  Hooked on Drama: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster).

Before they can get "unhooked" from dramatic and dysfunctional relationships, they usually need to work through a history of unresolved family trauma that is at the heart of these patterns of choosing romantic relationships.

From Unhealthy to Healthy Relationships:  Developing an Attraction Over Time

Attractions that develop over time are usually based on things that are more substantial than physical attraction.  Sexual chemistry can and does develop over time.

Becoming Emotionally Healthy Makes Dysfunctional Relationships Less Attractive
One of the problems for people who choose unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships is not only that they have an attraction for them, but they have a high tolerance for emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse.

As people become healthier in therapy, these unhealthy relationships become unappealing.

The challenge is often sticking with therapy long enough to work through the early family trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have a pattern of choosing unhealthy relationships, you could benefit from overcoming this problem in therapy with a licensed mental health professional who has experience helping clients with this issue.

This is a common problem for many people who grew up in dysfunctional families, and change can be challenging.  But many people, who seek help in therapy, do change.

Rather than going through your life continuing to choose unhealthy relationships, you can get the help you need to begin choosing healthy loving relationships.

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 13, 2014

Self Reflection and Basic Mindfulness Techniques

In my previous article, Creating Time for Self Reflection: Mindfulness, I began a discussion about mindfulness as one way to engage in self reflection and included some of the benefits of mindfulness.

Self Reflection and Basic Mindfulness Techniques

In this article, I'll continue the discussion by providing some basic ways that you can begin to develop a mindfulness practice on your own, if you haven't done so already, so that you can reap many of these benefits.

The Roots of Mindfulness Practice
Although mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, there are many other religions and spiritual practices that include some form of prayer or meditation technique that can be considered mindfulness techniques.

The Roots of Mindfulness:  Buddhism

But you don't have to be religious or even consider yourself to be a spiritual person to practice mindfulness in your everyday life.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, helped to bring attention to mindfulness practices to the general public.

The research that he conducted among patients showed that mindfulness practice can lead to physical and psychological improvements.

Basic Mindfulness Techniques
I think that many people, who aren't familiar with mindfulness techniques, believe that mindfulness techniques tend to be mysterious esoteric practices that would be difficult to learn and, as a result, they feel discouraged about learning to engage in mindfulness.

But, as I mentioned before, practicing mindfulness doesn't have to be connected to any form of religion or spirituality (although it can be), and it doesn't have to be complicated at all.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, so I'm going to begin with very basic techniques that can help you to get started.

Mindfulness and the Mind-Body Connection
One of the reasons why I love using mind-body oriented approaches to therapy, like EMDR, clinical hypnosis and Somatic Experiencing in my psychotherapy practice in NYC, is because I believe that the mind-body connection is crucial for overall health and well being, and these types of therapy all have in common that they focus on the mind-body connection.

Mindfulness and the Mind-Body Connection

Since my focus in this article is how you can begin to develop basic mindfulness techniques on your own, I'll begin with the simplest techniques that don't involve attending psychotherapy.

A Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Noticing Body Sensations
One basic way to practice mindfulness is to just notice the sensations in your body.

To practice mindfulness in this way, you don't need to know how to meditate and you don't even need to know anything about the mind-body connection.  You just focus on your body.

A Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Noticing Sensations in Your Body

Here are some simple steps:
  • Focus on the physical sensations that you're experiencing right now.
  • Notice what you're sensing in your body without judgement, which means just noticing.  This can include noticing an itch, a tingling sensation, a pain, a sense of fullness or emptiness in your stomach, muscle tension, scratchiness in your throat, and so on
  • If you like this technique, you can start at the crown of your head and do a slow body scan from head to toe and just notice what you feel--again without judging it.
  • If you get distracted, it's okay.  Just bring your attention back to your body.
Another Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Noticing Your Emotions in Your Body:
After practicing noticing body sensations, if you find you enjoy this, you can add noticing your emotions in your body.

A Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Noticing Your Emotions in Your Body

This is a technique that I use with clients in my psychotherapy private practice with EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and clinical hypnosis, but you can also do it on your own (see my article:  Mind-Body Psychotherapy: The Body Offers a Connection to the Unconscious Mind).

Basic steps to noticing your emotions in your body:
  • Begin by noticing body sensations (as outlined above).
  • After you do a body scan from head to toe, begin to notice where you feel emotions in your body without judgment.
  • If you're new to this, it's easier to start by noticing certain sensations in your body and beginning to tentatively identify which emotions this might be related to.  So, for instance, if you sense tension in your jaw, tension in your shoulders or clenched stomach muscles, ask yourself what emotions might be connected to these sensations.
As you practice noticing emotions in your body, you will become better at identifying these emotions and using this information to develop a greater sense of self awareness.

One of the keys to practicing these mindfulness techniques is being nonjudgmental.  So, if you find yourself beginning to berate yourself for feeling certain sensations or emotions, just notice that you're doing this and, if you can, allow those judgmental thoughts to float away.

Another Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Notice Your Cravings
Noticing your cravings can help you to become more mindful of your cravings, whether it's a craving for food, alcohol, drugs, overspending or whatever it is.

A Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Notice Your Cravings

Whatever the craving is, if you just notice it first, rather than immediately giving in to your craving, you'll soon discover that cravings often come and go.

Basic steps to notice your cravings:
  • Begin by doing a body scan, as outlined earlier in this article.
  • Notice, without judgment, where you're experiencing these cravings in your body (mouth, stomach, etc).
  • Rather than denying or actively trying to get rid of the craving, just allow it to be.  If you don't indulge in the craving, it often just passes.
  • Notice what it feels like in your body and emotionally to have the craving come and go.
Another Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Mindfulness Meditation
There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation, so I'm going to focus on a basic way to get started.  After you've practiced for a while, you can find your own way to practice.

A Basic Mindfulness Technique:  Mindfulness Meditation

Basic steps to practice mindfulness meditation:
  • Find a quiet place and time where you won't be interrupted for at least 15 minutes (you can increase the time, if you like, as you develop your mindfulness meditation practice).
  • Sit quietly and notice your breathing.
  • Notice what it feels in your body to breathe in and what it feels like to breathe out.
  • Allow your thoughts to come and go without judging them or trying to hold onto them (this includes both "negative" thoughts as well as positive thoughts).
  • If you get distracted, bring your attention back to your breathe again.
Later on, if you like mindfulness meditation, as I mentioned, you can develop your own unique way of practicing.  But, in the beginning, this is all you need to do to start.

Practicing Acceptance, Self Compassion and Being Nonjudgmental
Allowing judgmental thoughts to come and go can take practice.

Self Reflecting and Basic Mindfulness Techniques:  Acceptance and Self Compassion

When you start practicing mindfulness techniques, you might need to allow these thoughts to come and go many times.  That's okay.  It usually gets easier over time with practice.

Getting Help in Therapy
Many people have problems getting started with basic mindfulness techniques on their own because they feel overwhelmed with emotional problems.

If you're feeling emotionally overwhelmed, you're not alone.

Seeing a licensed mental health practitioner can help you to overcome your problems so that you can live a more fulfilling life.

Seeing a psychotherapist who has a mind-body oriented approach to therapy can help you to work through your problems in a more holistic way.

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.