NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are

In a prior blog article, I began a discussion about parts work, also known as ego states work, in psychotherapy and how working with the various aspects of yourself in therapy, particularly the unconscious parts, can help to discover and overcome many emotional problems.  In this article, I'm expanding upon this topic with regard to understanding the different aspects of yourself that make you who you are (see my article: Making the Unconscious Conscious).

Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are

What Does It Mean to Have Different Aspects of Self?
We tend to think of ourselves as being unitary beings, but we're really not unitary beings.  We're made up of many different parts that make up the whole.

In this article, when I refer to "parts," "selves" or "aspects of selves," which are all different ways of referring to the same thing, I'm not referring to multiple personality disorder.  Instead, I'm referring to what is common in all of us--the fact that within each of us there are many subpersonalities which make up who we are.

At any given time, one or more of these subpersonalities might be predominant.  Most of the time, we don't notice these changes, unless it is such a departure from how we normally are that it gets our attention.

How Does It Help to Understand the Different Aspects of Yourself?
In a prior article, Overcoming the Internal Critic, I discussed a particular aspect of self that is problematic for many people, the internal critic.

The internal critic is an example of a part or aspect of self that comes to the surface at certain times and undermines a person's confidence.

Another example of a part is the "inner child," which John Bradshaw writes about in his books.  We all hold within us the "inner child" as well as the "inner teenager" and many other parts.

Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are

It's helpful to understand the different aspects of yourself in order to understand yourself and what aspects might be operating at any particular time.

So for example, if you're continually getting into unhealthy romantic relationships, even though you keep telling yourself that you want to make healthier choices, chances are good that there is a part of yourself that is unconscious, and it is at the root of the problem.

Working with a therapist who does parts work (also known as ego states therapy), you can get to know this part better as you work with your therapist to make the unconscious conscious.

The idea isn't to demonize or pathologize this part.  On the contrary, the goal is to be compassionate and get to know what this part needs and how it can be fulfilled in a way that is healthy instead of going from one unhealthy relationship to another.

All of this might sound very abstract, so let's take a look at a fictionalized example of how an unconscious part can operate in a particular situation and what can be done in therapy to overcome this problem:

Alice came to therapy following the end of another unhappy relationship.

At the point when she came to therapy, she felt hopeless that she could ever be in a healthy relationship because several prior relationships ended in the same way, leaving Alice feeling hurt and disappointed. She also felt that maybe there was something wrong with her since all of her relationships ended in disaster.

I introduced the idea of "parts" to Alice, which she intuitively understood.  She knew that she felt different ways at different times--some days she felt more confident than she did on other days, sometimes she was particularly critical of herself, and so on.

She described her last three relationships as being emotionally abusive.  Her boyfriends tended to be self involved men who cheated on her with different women.

Even after she discovered the infidelity, Alice's pattern was to remain in these relationships to try to win back the boyfriend that she was seeing at the time.

Even though there was a part of her that knew that her boyfriend would keep cheating on her, she felt compelled to stay in the relationship and try to win her boyfriend back.

When I asked her to remember how she felt about herself when she went against the part of her that her urged judgement, she described feeling a combination of self loathing, anger, sadness and fear.  She said she felt these emotions in her chest and upper stomach.

We used the affect bridge technique, which is a method that is used in clinical hypnosis (see my article:  What is Clinical Hypnosis?).

While she was in a relaxed hypnotic state, I asked Alice to go back to her earliest memory of feeling these emotions, the self loathing, anger, sadness and fear, in this way.

Alice remembered the time when she was five and her father was packing to move out of the family home.  Alice overheard her parents' arguments, and she knew that her father leaving the family for another woman.

At the time, as most children do at an early age, she blamed herself and begged her father to stay, but her father paid no attention to her.  He packed and left without saying a word.

At the time, her mother was depressed and tended to isolate herself in her room, so she wasn't emotionally available for Alice.

Throughout her childhood, she blamed herself for her father leaving.  She was convinced that if only she had tried harder to be a good girl, her father would have loved her more than he loved the other woman, and he would have stayed.

Alice described her father as being a handsome, intelligent man, who could be charming when he wanted to be.  She also described him as being highly narcissistic.

Later on in the session, as we were debriefing, Alice recognized the connection between her former boyfriends and her father.  Her boyfriends also attended to be handsome, charming, intelligent men, who were narcissistic.

She also recognized that she experienced the same intense feelings with her boyfriends as she did with her father and this was why she became so determined to hang in and try to make the relationships work despite the infidelity (see my article:  Discovering the Unconscious Emotions at the Root of Your Current Problems).

Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are

Alice realized that she was recreating the same childhood experience in her adult life and hoping for different results.  In psychotherapy, this is phenomenon is known as repetition compulsion.

Alice realized that there was a part of her from childhood that was active in her unhealthy relationships.

Alice had to work hard to develop compassion and curiosity about this young part and not to be critical.

We continued to work with this part of Alice to discover what this young part needed.  In doing so, we discovered that this young part needed nurturing parents.  So, we used imaginal work to help Alice to imagine ideal parents.  Alice imagined parents who were loving, nurturing, understanding and who would never leave her.

Even though Alice understood the difference between her actual family history and the imaginal work that we were doing, and that her real parents were nothing like the ideal parents that she imagined, the imaginal work was still healing (see my article: Healing Trauma With New Symbolic Memories to understand how this therapeutic technique works).

The ideal parents that Alice created while doing imaginal work were internal resources that she could call on at any time.

As we continued to do this imaginal work, Alice was able to overcome the childhood trauma that was at the root of her relationship problems (see my article: Overcoming the Traumatic Effects of Childhood Trauma).

When Alice was ready to date again, she no longer felt drawn to men who were self involved and unkind, so she was able to enter into a healthy relationship for the first time in her life.

Recurring problems that haven't been resolved in regular talk therapy often have an unconscious aspect that remains undiscovered and which is at the root of these problems.

Using various therapeutic methods, like clinical hypnosis, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and Coherence Therapy, help to get to the root of these unconscious aspects.

Once the unconscious aspects, or parts, have been made conscious, a therapist, who uses these treatment modalities, can help the client to discover what the part needs.  Imaginal work is one way to provide for the part's unmet needs.

Usually, once the part's needs have been met, the part no longer gets activated to create problems.

For the sake of simplicity, I gave a scenario where there was only one unconscious part, but there can be more than one.

Whether there is one or there are many, the therapeutic work is usually the same:  Using experiential therapy to make the unconscious conscious, discovering the unconscious part, finding out what the part needs, and using therapeutic methods, like imaginal work, to help heal that part.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've tried on your own to work out your problems and you've been unsuccessful, you could benefit from seeing a licensed mental health professional.

Problems that have remained unresolved in traditional talk therapy often respond to experiential therapy like clinical hypnosis, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and Coherence Therapy.

Rather than continue to suffer on your own, you could benefit from getting help in therapy and working with a psychotherapist who works in an experiential 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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: The Psychological Benefits of Reading Literature

In a prior article, I began a discussion about how reading literature with complex characters is beneficial to the brain.  In this article, I'll expand on this topic and discuss the potential emotional and psychological benefits of reading literature.

The Psychological Benefits of Reading Literature

Aside from the enjoyment and emotional comfort of reading literature, there can be considerable psychological benefits of reading well-written literature with complex characters.

Developing Psychological Insight
As I mentioned in my prior article, when we read about a character, especially a character that we identify with, who overcomes psychological issues, we can gain insight into our own personal struggles and, possibly, see aspects of our problems in new ways.

We can also gain psychological insight from the characters' missteps and identify with their emotional vulnerabilities.

Developing Empathy
In addition, when we're immersed in well written literature, we often feel empathetic towards the characters and this could help in developing empathy for ourselves and others.

Learning About Other Cultures and Historical Times
By reading about other cultures and historical times, it opens us up beyond our own circumscribed lives.

As they open up a new world for us, literature offers us the possibility of new ways of thinking and feeling.  Literature can also give us a perspective about how history affects us now.

Developing a Sense of Curiosity
Being exposed to new ways of thinking and feeling can help to develop a greater sense of curiosity and psychological-mindedness.

Seeing conflicts and emotional dilemmas in a new light can shed light on our own problems and challenge habitual ways of thinking.

There are many examples in literature that provide the psychological benefits that I've discussed above.

Let's take a look at two authors, who are famous for providing stories with psychological depth, Jane Austen and Marcel Proust.

Jane Austen's Books
From Jane Austen's books, including  Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park, we can learn about what it means to get to know yourself as you mature, and to realize that you might not be the person who you thought you were, and the people that you thought you knew can be quite different from who you thought they were.

Jane Austen's Historical Home

We learn how to take the perspective of seeing ourselves through someone else's eyes.

In Sense and Sensibility, two sisters, who have different ways of relating and responding to their worlds, learn from each other, over time, which helps each of them to gain self understanding as well as a new perspective about others.

There are many lessons to be learned from her books about family relationships and romantic relationships.

Austen also gives us guidance in how to live ethically under unethical or corrupt circumstances.

Marcel Proust: In Search of Lost Time
Let's look at some examples from another book that is considered a classic, In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust:

As a young Frenchman, the protagonist falls in love with Albertine, whom he first sees at a beach resort called Balbec, which was modeled after the resort town of Cabourg in France.

In Search of Lost Time: Balbec (Cabourg, France)

Initially, he is obsessed with her and her friends and tries to find ways to meet them.

After he begins a relationship with Albertine and she moves in with him in Paris, he is torn with ambivalence as to whether he wants to remain in the relationship or he wants to end it.

While she is awake, he is tormented with jealousy and suspicion, and he wants to end it, but when she is asleep, all the love and tender feelings that he has for her arise in him again, and he wants to remain in the relationship.

As most people know from their own experiences, being in love often involves ambivalence as well as irrational behavior, including irrational jealousy where there is no objective reason to be jealous.

The protagonist wants Albertine to love him more.  But how he goes about trying to increase her passion for him (by being dismissive and rejecting her) has the opposite effect.

Rather than serving to increase her passion, his emotional distance and rejecting nature serve only to alienate her and she eventually gets fed up and leaves him.

After she leaves, he realizes that he made a terrible mistake and, after a few false starts, he eventually writes to her offering to do anything to get her back.

The story goes on with many twists and turns.

Reading this part of the story, many people could identify with the protagonist's ambivalence and his irrational behavior, including believing that a "cold shoulder" towards a loved one would make the loved one even more passionate to pursue the relationship.

No doubt sometimes giving a lover a "cold shoulder" might work temporarily, but it often backfires in the end (if it works at all), as many people who do this realize when they're thinking more clearly.

In addition to the psychological insights about romantic relationships and friendships, Proust gives many other examples where people use psychological defense mechanisms, including denial, to cope with difficult situations.

As an example, Charles Swann, who is in love with Odette and wants to pursue a relationship with her, receives an anonymous letter about Odette's personal history of having many sexual affairs with rich men and even worked as a prostitute.  At the time, this would have been scandalous.

In Search of Lost Time: Swann In Love With Odette

Swann is intelligent and has a momentary insight that Odette is only interested in him for his money, but he is also somewhat naive.

With an unconscious gesture of wiping his glasses clean, which is a metaphor for his defense mechanism of not wanting to see, he ignores the warning signs that he has been seeing as well as the information in the anonymous letter. Instead,  he pursues the relationship to his detriment.

Rather than giving a lengthy explanation about Swann's unconscious choice of choosing to ignore his insights and anonymous warning letter, Proust shows Swann making the a small unconscious gesture of wiping his glasses clean.  From this small unconscious gesture, the reader can see what Swann refuses to see about himself and Odette.

Many people could identify with Charles Swann and remember times when they ignored internal and external warnings by pursuing a relationship fraught with problems because this is a common mistake that many people make when they fall in love.

As another example, many of the characters are either part of the aristocracy or part of the bourgeoisie in Paris.  Madame Verdurin, who is a bourgeois Bohemian hostess, has social gatherings with her "little clan" of acquaintances, including artists and musicians.

Proust, who is an astute observer of interpersonal relationships and who used people that he really knew (or composites of people that he knew) in his book, provides us with a humorous description of Madame Verdurin, who outwardly professes a disdain for aristocrats by calling them "bores" and professing that she would never attend one of their social events.

But, despite what she says, everything else about her, her gestures, her looks, her demeanor, says how much she longs to be accepted by aristocratic society, who reject her early on in the story.

During that same time period, Sigmund Freud was writing about how unconscious thoughts manifest, despite what the conscious mind might believe.  Similarly, In Search of Lost Time, Proust gives us rich descriptions of the unconscious thoughts and motivations of his characters, including Monsieur Swann and Madame Verdurin.

Sigmund Freud and the Unconscious Mind

Reading about the unconscious thoughts and motivations of the characters in the story, you can't help but recognize yourself and others, if not in exactly the same situation, then in other situations where denial was used as a psychological defense mechanism.

In Search of Lost Time is about many things, including an aspiring writer's struggle to gain confidence in himself and in his writing, how unconscious memories are aroused by certain sensory experiences, the passage of time, how people and places change over time, and how our perspective about life and relationships can also change over time.

Sometimes, while reading literature with complex characters, a psychological insight might come to the reader as an epiphany.  Other times, it will come as a familiar recognition.  It might also come as a relief that these psychological phenomena are common to other people and not just to the reader.

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, October 12, 2015

How Reading Literature Has a Positive Effect on Your Brain

I've always been a proponent of having children learn to read for pleasure early in their lives. I've always enjoyed reading from the time I was in the first grade.  My interest in reading was encouraged by my mother, who would read to me everyday when I was a young child, and who each week brought me to the library, a place that seemed magical and filled with possibilities to me.

Reading Literature Has a Positive Effect on Your Brain

I was also fortunate to have a first grade teacher who recognized my love of reading and gave me beautifully illustrated books that were a little challenging for me at the time, like "Heidi" and "Pippi Longstockings," to inspire me to continue reading.

Reading Literature Has a Positive Effect on the Brain

Without the present day distractions of video games and the Internet, my imagination came alive and took flight as I read about characters who lived in places that were so different where I lived.  This also created a curiosity in me about people, customs and places outside of my immediate surroundings.

Reading and Brain Research
We now have research from neuroscience which reveals that brain scans taken while people read a detailed description, a metaphor or an emotional conversation between two characters in a story stimulate the brain.

The Broca's area and the Wernicke's area, among other areas of the brain, are parts of the brain that are involved in interpreting narratives.

Reading Literature Has a Positive Effect on the Brain

According to Annie Murphy Paul, a journalist who writes for the NY Times, the brain doesn't make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and actually living the experience.  She says that the same parts of the brain are stimulated.

This is similar to hypnotherapy, where the unconscious mind, including imagination, are engaged in a hypnotic state and the brain doesn't distinguish between the imagined images or metaphors and actual lived experience.  This is one of the reasons why clinical hypnosis is effective.

Reading Literature Has a Positive Effect on the Brain

As most people who love literature know, reading also gives us an opportunity to enter into the experience  of the protagonist, especially if it contains rich metaphors and descriptions and lively conversations between characters.

Entering into the protagonist's world, we can have an intimate emotional experience of his or her relationships, insights, doubts, fears, joys and sorrows.

By having this intimate emotional experience, we can't help to compare the protagonist's experience with our own.

It's often easier to develop psychological insights when the experiences are outside of ourselves, like, for instance, when we see a protagonist struggle and overcome a particular emotional dilemma, than it is when we're going through it ourselves.

In doing so, we can also develop insight into our own personal experiences, notice something that we've never thought of before or see an experience in a completely new light.

Good literature has a way of transporting us into new psychological states as well as new places in a way that reading nonfiction usually doesn't.

I'll continue this theme with specific examples in a future article.

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, NYC Psychotherapist.

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings and Express Them in a Healthy Way

Many people resist allowing themselves to feel their feelings fully, especially feelings that are uncomfortable for them, like anger or sadness.  What they don't realize is that by resisting these feelings, they're actually intensifying them.  They might avoid their uncomfortable feelings for a while, but these feelings will probably surface again stronger than ever.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way Rather than Resisting Your Feelings
                                                    The Problem With Resisting Uncomfortable Feelings

Aside from uncomfortable feelings coming back with greater intensity, the psychological energy that it takes to repress these feelings can be exhausting.

For some people, who manage to numb these feelings, they also end up numbing all their feelings so that they don't feel much of anything, not even happiness.

Resisting Uncomfortable Feelings Usually Intensifies Them

Rather than labeling feelings as "good" or "bad," it's important to realize that feelings are a normal part of being human.

This doesn't mean that you have to wallow in them or obsess about them.  It means that you accept yourself as a human being with a range of feelings.

Learning to Feel Your Feelings
Many people, who are afraid of their uncomfortable feelings, are afraid that if they allow themselves to feel their feelings that they will become overwhelmed.

But, for most people, making time and space for feelings usually has the opposite effect, rather than expanding, the feelings tend to settle down.

Feelings are more likely to become overwhelming when they're suppressed (see my article: Coping with Grief).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feeling in a Healthy Way, Including Sadness and Heartache

Rather than suppressing the feelings that make you feel uncomfortable, here are some tips that you might find helpful:

Rather than avoiding your uncomfortable feelings, create space in your mind and body for them.  

What do I mean by that?  I mean that you allow yourself, at the right time and place, to express your emotions in a healthy way rather than squelching them.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way, Including Anger

This means that, among the many ways you can allow yourself to feel your feelings in a healthy way, you can cry, talk to a trusted friend or loved one about how you feel, punch a pillow to let out anger or frustration, go for a walk or run, express your emotions in a personal journal or draw.  

The Mind-Body Connection: Feeling Your Feelings in an Embodied Way
Feelings are energy in your body, and the body often holds onto feelings, including unconscious feelings (see my article: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

The mind-body connection is important when you're learning to deal with  uncomfortable feelings because the feelings aren't just in your mind, they're also in your body.

Some people like to use movement or dance to express their feelings.  You don't have to be a dancer or "talented" to do this.  

If you can sense into your body, you can feel where your emotions are in your body.  So, for instance, if you feel your hands are clutched in anger, ask yourself what your hands feel like doing in order to express themselves.  Maybe they feel like getting wrung out or maybe they want you to rotate at the wrists.

If you sense that you're holding onto tension in your shoulders, what movement can you make to loosen up your shoulders?

This might feel awkward at first, but your body often knows intuitively what to do and, after a while if you keep trying this, you'll gain a better sense about where uncomfortable emotions are trapped in your body and learn to express them in intuitive ways.

Another example is heart openings poses in yoga where there is a more expansive feeling in your chest.  These poses often release emotion.  It's not unusual for people doing heart opening poses in yoga to feel a release of emotion.  Experienced yoga teachers know this.

Learning to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way Also Means Taking Personal Responsibility
There are some people who think that allowing themselves to feel their feelings means that they can be physically or emotionally abusive towards others.  But that's not what I mean when I say to feel your feelings in a healthy way (see my article: Understanding and Expressing Your Emotions in a Healthy Way).

Feeling your feelings means that you do this in a healthy and responsible way with yourself and other.

No matter what you're feeling, you're still responsible for your feelings.

So, feeling your feelings doesn't mean that you take them out on other people or that you abuse yourself. 

Learning to feel your feelings in a healthy way means that you find healthy outlets to express yourself without abusing yourself or others.

Managing Your Stress Level on a Regular Basis
Aside from allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable feelings that you're aware of in your mind and body, it's also important to manage your stress on a regular basis so these feelings don't get to the point where they overwhelm you (see my article:  Staying Emotionally Grounded During Stressful Times).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way: Manage Your Stress Levels on a Regular Basis

Find stress management techniques that work best for you.

It's different for everyone.

Whether you practice meditation or yoga, go walking on a regular basis, or whatever works for you, be consistent so that you'll feel more balanced and grounded (see my article: Safe Place Meditation and The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when, despite your best efforts to cope on your own, you might need professional help from a licensed mental health professional, especially if you're overwhelmed by a traumatic event (see my article: The Benefits of Therapy).

If you've tried and you're unable to cope with the feelings that are coming up, rather than trying to go it alone, seek professional help, especially if you're feeling depressed or anxious (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

If you're feeling suicidal, it's important that you get help immediately, which could mean calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room if you feel you're in imminent danger of hurting yourself.

It takes courage to ask for help, but most people discover that taking the first step of asking for help is usually the hardest and then it tends to get easier from there (see my article: Overcoming Your Fear of Asking For Help).

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way: Getting Help in Therapy

Recognizing that everyone needs help at some point in his or her life can make it easier to pick up the phone and ask for 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, October 3, 2015

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy

Even though no one wants to feel unhappy or experience emotional trauma, it's an unfortunate fact of life that we will all have distressful experiences in life.  There's no way to avoid it.  So, it's best to learn to develop resilience in order to strengthen your ability to cope with adversity when it occurs (see my article:  What is Emotional Resilience?)

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy

Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up in a family where they are taught to handle stressful situations or where resilience is modeled for them by their parents.

In fact, many people, who grew in homes where there was overwhelming family stressors, might have learned maladaptive ways of coping with stress.

For example, in families where one or both parents drank excessively, used drugs, gambled compulsively or engaged in other maladaptive behavior, many children integrate these behaviors at an unconscious level, and many of them develop the same dysfunctional behaviors.

It's important to recognize that the integration of these maladaptive behaviors occurs on an unconscious level.

Even though these children might tell themselves that they never want to engage in the same self destructive behaviors, the unconscious mind has taken in what they have experienced with their parents on such a deep level that it can easily become part of their own behavior when they become adults (see my article: Discovering That You've Developed the Same Traits That You Disliked in Your Parents).

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy
Psychotherapists who use the mind-body connection in therapy usually assess clients in therapy to evaluate their strengths, coping skills, and where clients might need help to become more resilient (see my article: Developing Coping Skills in Therapy).

For most people, the issue of resilience isn't so black and white.  It's not a matter of being resilient or not.  Many people bounce back under certain circumstances, but they might find it more challenging in other circumstances.

So part of the clinical assessment is to determine where clients have been able to bounce back in the past and where they find it more challenging.

As part of taking a personal history with a client, a skilled psychotherapist is listening for information about these different circumstances and how they might relate to the current presenting problem that brings the client into therapy.

This helps the mind-body oriented therapist to develop a collaborative treatment plan that can use the client's strengths in one area to help with another.

Even when the client feels (erroneously) that they have no strengths to call upon within themselves or they have problems accessing their underlying strengths, they often know of other people who have exhibited the same strengths that they wish they had.

Or, even if they can't think of anyone that they know personally, they will probably have seen resilience in a character from a movie, TV program or in a book.

A psychotherapist, who works with imaginal interweaves, which are used in mind-body oriented psychotherapy as a way to help clients develop internal resources, can help a client to imagine the strengths the client has seen in others, whether he knows them or not.

The wonderful thing about imagining someone else's emotional resourcefulness is that you tap into your own emotional resourcefulness, possibly resources that you didn't even know you had.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized scenario to illustrate how this works:

Jane came to therapy because her boyfriend had just broken up with her.

On an intellectual level, Jane knew that she had gone through other breakups before and that she eventually bounced back, even though in the beginning she felt completely overwhelmed and hopeless.

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy

But on an emotional level, Jane felt helpless and hopeless to deal with the loss of her boyfriend.  So, it was immediately apparent that there was a disconnect between what she knew intellectually, based on her prior experience, and what she felt emotionally.

Jane also blamed herself for the breakup.  She blamed herself even though she couldn't think of anything that she could have done to make her boyfriend want to leave her, and her boyfriend assured her that it had nothing to do with her--he was just incapable of sustaining a relationship.

She had the emotional support of close friends and family members, which she appreciated.  But it made little difference in how she felt.

Jane also had the respect and admiration of her professional colleagues in a challenging career where she had overcome many obstacles to become professionally successfully.

But none of this made any difference for her--she still felt helpless.

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy

At least, that's how she felt on an emotionally level.  Logically, she thought that she would probably meet someone new in time.  So, here again was another disconnect between her emotional self and her logical self.

As part of her personal history, Jane revealed that her mother was in and out of her life as a young child.  When she was younger, Jane was given no reason why her mother suddenly came and went.

But as a young adult, she learned that her mother had a drug problem and she attended multiple inpatient rehabs, and this is why she disappeared from Jane's life so many times.

During those times, Jane's maternal aunt would move in to help Jane's father take care of her.  While her aunt made sure that Jane's basic necessities were taken care of, she was emotionally cold and distant with Jane.  And Jane's father worked two jobs, so he was usually out of the house.  When he was home, he was often too tired to interaction with Jane.

So, there was often no one at home to provide her with the love and nurturing that she needed (see my article: What is the Connection Between Child Emotional Neglect and Problems Later On in Adult Relationships).

As an only child, Jane grew up feeling lonely most of the time.  She spent most of her time at home alone playing by herself, wishing that her mother would come back home.

When her mother came home, she would spend time with Jane, which made Jane happy.  Despite her drug problem, her mother could be warm and loving.

But Jane's mother was often inconsistent in her behavior.  She would make promises to Jane, but then she wouldn't keep them.  The most devastating of these broken promises was that she would stay with Jane and she wouldn't go away again.

As a young child, not knowing that her mother was struggling with a drug addiction, Jane would believe her mother each time that she promised that she would never go away.  And each time Jane was heart broken when she came home from school and she discovered that her aunt was there because her mother had gone away again.

With no explanation as to why her mother left, Jane would blame herself, as most young children do under these circumstances.  She thought she must have done something "bad" for her mother to leave her again.  She would go over and over in her mind what she could have done to make her mother angry (she assumed her mother left each time because she was angry with Jane), but she couldn't come up with anything.

Based on Jane's description of her history of blaming herself as a child for her mother's absences and also blaming herself for the recent breakup, it was apparent that there was an old ingrained unconscious pattern that was repeating itself over and over with people who were emotionally unreliable (see my article: Falling In Love With "Mr. Wrong" Over and Over Again).

As part of helping Jane to develop internal emotional resources, I asked her to bring in 10 memories where she felt confident about herself (see my article: Coping Strategies in Mind-Body Psychotherapy: Remember Memories of Feeling Confident).

It was not a surprise that Jane's positive memories involved achievements in school and in her career because her academic and career achievements were where Jane felt the most confident.

I used clinical hypnosis to help Jane to remember one experience at a time where she felt strong and confident.  Despite feeling helpless and hopeless about her romantic life, Jane was able to access that confident part of herself, and we used hypnosis to help her strengthen those experiences within herself.

Initially, when I talked to Jane about positive role models for imaginal interweaves, she couldn't think of anyone in her life that was a powerful, nurturing or wise person.  But I encouraged Jane to think beyond her immediate family  and friends to possible experiences with teachers, mentors or other people who had a positive influence on her.

Then, Jane remembered a high school teacher that she admired who was warm and friendly and who motivated and encouraged Jane.  Beyond that, Jane's knew that her teacher saw something special in her and this helped Jane to feel more confident in herself.

She also remembered an older professor who was wise and kind, and a former supervisor who was a mentor whom she also considered to be a wise person.

In addition, Jane remembered a few female characters from books that she read that she admired for their strength and perseverance, so we also used them as part of her imaginal interweaves.

Then, we used EMDR to help Jane overcome her feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about the recent breakup.

During the EMDR processing, we did a "float back," also known as a "bridge back" or "affect bridge" to take Jane back to her earliest memories of feeling abandoned by her mother (see my article: Healing Old Emotional Wounds).

Jane began to realize that what made her romantic breakups so devastating was that these earlier memories of being abandoned, which were still powerful for her, got triggered.

So, in working on the earliest memories of feeling unloved and abandoned, she was able to work through the early trauma as well as the feelings of being abandoned in the recent breakup.

Developing a More Resilient Self in Therapy

EMDR is also a powerful treatment modality that helps clients to make connections where there have been disconnections.  So, Jane's emotional feelings and her logical thinking about herself became more integrated.

Jane also realized that she had a lot of strengths that she had been unaware of and that she could call on these strengthens during difficult times.  All of this helped Jane to develop a much more resilient self.

Some people are fortunate to have developed resilience as they were growing up, and their resilience helps them as adults to get through tough times.

Many other people are resilient in some areas of their life, like Jane who overcame obstacles in her career to become successful, but they might be more vulnerable emotionally in their personal lives because of their family history.

A skilled psychotherapist, who knows how to help clients to develop a more resilient self, takes a full history, assessing the client's strengths and vulnerabilities, and provides clients with tools to develop resilience.  This process will be different for each client.

When there has been significant emotional trauma, an experienced therapist, who uses mind-body oriented therapy, like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing or clinical hypnosis, will also help the client to work through the trauma.

Reading an article about developing a more resilient self in therapy might make it seem that this work is quick.  But, even though mind-body oriented therapy usually works faster than talk therapy, it's not a quick fix, especially if there is longstanding complex trauma.  With longstanding trauma, it can take anywhere from months to years, but there is often relief along the way.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have tried to overcome your emotional problems on your own and you feel stuck, you could benefit from getting help in therapy from a licensed mental health professional who uses mind-body oriented therapy.

Developing Resilience: Getting Help in Therapy

Although you might feel hopeless, you might also be surprised to discover the many strengths that you do have that you have overlooked and that can emerge in a mind-body oriented therapy.

Rather than suffering on your own, you could be helped in therapy to transcend your problems to lead a more fulfilling life.

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

Helping clients to recognize their strengths, develop a more resilient self and overcome emotional trauma are my specialties.

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.