NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Discovering and Giving Voice to Previously Disowned Parts of Yourself

One of the benefits of attending experiential psychotherapy is that you can discover and give voice to previously disowned parts of yourself (see my articles:  Ego States Work: Is There a Split Off Part of You Running Your Life?Reclaiming a Lost Part of Yourself and Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are).

Discovering and Giving Voice to Previously Disowned Parts of Yourself

Unlike other forms of psychotherapy, experiential psychotherapy provides an opportunity to delve beyond secondary emotions to understand primary emotions, which are often disowned aspects of yourself (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy Alone to Overcome Trauma).

For example, underneath anger there are often other disowned emotions, like sadness, shame, fear of abandonment and so on (see my article: Anger as a Secondary Emotion).

Fictional Clinical Vignette: Discovering and Giving Voice to Previously Disowned Parts of Yourself
The following fictional clinical vignette illustrates how experiential psychotherapy provides an opportunity to discover and express a disowned aspects of a client in therapy:

When she began psychotherapy, Tania complained that her husband, who refused to come to couples therapy, was usually too preoccupied with his work to pay attention to her when they were at home together.

Tania told her psychotherapist that, although she complained to her husband that she felt neglected by him, she saw no change in his behavior.  After telling him several times that she didn't like when he came home and worked without consideration for her, she would lose her temper and yell at him.  Then, they would argue and end up being more estranged from each other than ever.

Her husband usually responded to her anger by shutting down and "stonewalling" her (see my article: Relationships: Are You a Stonewaller?).

This would lead to an escalation of Tania's anger where she tried in vain to get her husband to understand how angry it made her to feel ignored by him.

She explained to her psychotherapist that on the rare occasions when her husband responded to her anger, he told her that she was so unpleasant when she got angry that he didn't want to be around her, which only increased Tania's anger.  So, they were caught in this negative cycle, which was only getting worse.

Tania said that their relationship wasn't always like this.  In the early years of their courtship and marriage, her husband was considerate and attentive.  He wanted to spend time with her and he didn't put anything else ahead of their time together.

But once he started his own business a few years ago, all of that changed.  He worked day and night and even on weekends.  He said he was doing it for them, but she continued to feel neglected and unloved by her husband.

To make matters worse, Tania grew up in a home where she was emotionally neglected by parents who were preoccupied by their work.  Most of the time, her parents passed her off to her nanny and spent little time with her leaving Tania feeling unlovable (see my article: What is Childhood Emotional Neglect? and Overcoming the Emotional Pain of Feeling Unlovable).

She told her psychotherapist that one of the reasons why she fell in love with the man who eventually became her husband was that he was so attentive and nurturing, which made her feel that she was special to him--a feeling she had not experienced before meeting him.

Now, she felt taken for granted.  She felt that her husband would prefer to work and spend time on the phone with his customers rather than spend time with her.  And, no matter how much she complained to him about it, he wouldn't change.  In fact, she felt that things were getting worse between them.

Tania's psychotherapist sensed that there were underlying issues beneath Tania's anger.  She sensed that anger was a secondary emotion and that underneath the anger, Tania had primary emotions that she wasn't dealing with.

Once Tania and her psychotherapist established a good therapeutic alliance and Tania learned the necessary coping skills to do the work, her psychotherapist recommended that they do experiential therapy so they could explore her emotions.

Using a technique from clinical hypnosis called the Affect Bridge, Tania's psychotherapist asked Tania to remember a recent incident where she felt angry with her husband because she felt he was neglecting her.

Tania remembered an incident that occurred a few days before where she and her husband were at home at night, and she watched him go into his home office immediately after they ate dinner.

As she felt her blood boil, she tried not to confront her husband because they weren't getting along, but at a certain point she couldn't hold back anymore and she rushed into his office to complain to him.  Rather than respond, her husband paid no attention to her and kept working, which left her feeling even more angry.

Her psychotherapist asked Tania to sense where in her body she felt her anger now as she spoke about that evening.  Tania responded that she felt her chest tighten, her throat was constricted and she felt her shoulders were tight.

Then, her psychotherapist asked Tania to sense underneath her anger to see what else she might be feeling.  At first, Tania had a hard time getting beyond her anger, but she stuck with it and she eventually sensed her sadness, hurt and shame--the same way she felt when she was a child and her parents neglected her.

As Tania and her therapist continued to talk about this and Tania allowed herself to feel her underlying emotions, Tania was open to seeing the dynamics between her and her husband from her husband's point of view.  She realized that the more she angrily demanded that he pay attention to her, the more distant he became.

Tania's psychotherapist validated Tania's need to be loved and paid attention to by her husband.  She also began exploring with Tania how Tania might approach her husband to explain what she was feeling.

At first, Tania was hesitant to make herself so emotionally vulnerable.  She feared that if her husband ignored her after she opened up to him emotionally that she would be devastated, so Tania and her psychotherapist continued to explore her feelings and how she could change how she communicated with him.

Tania waited until she and her husband had a quiet evening when he wasn't working.  As she discussed with her therapist, rather than berate her husband, she decided to talk to him about how much she missed him.

To her surprise, her husband responded affectionately to her and told her that he also missed how close they used to be with each other.  He also apologized for not spending more time with her, and told her that he would make more of an effort not to bring work home with him so they could have more time together.

In addition, to Tania's amazement, her husband agreed to go to couples therapy to work on their marriage.

After they were in couples therapy for a while, her husband told her in session that during the times when she yelled at him, he felt so overwhelmed that he shut down emotionally.  Tania learned that when it appeared to her that her husband didn't care, he was actually feeling emotionally feeling "frozen" and "paralyzed" inside, especially since their arguments triggered earlier childhood issues for him (see my article: Coping With Trauma: Becoming Aware of Emotional Triggers).

When her husband learned that Tania's early childhood neglect was also getting triggered when she felt neglected by him, he was compassionate and understanding.  He told her that he wanted to work out their issues.

Tania continued to work with her individual psychotherapist to work on whatever came up for her in her marriage and in her couples therapy sessions.  Whenever Tania was tempted to disavow her deeper emotional feelings, her psychotherapist helped to express them and feel less vulnerable.

Gradually, as the dynamic between Tania and her husband improved and Tania felt less overwhelmed, Tania and her psychotherapist used EMDR therapy to work on the root of her problems--the early childhood emotional neglect (see my article: Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR Therapy, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

As Tania progressed in her EMDR therapy, she and her husband got along better because she got less triggered when he had to work at home.

Also, since Tania and her husband were able to talk more openly with each other and express their emotions without fear, Tania was more understanding when her husband had to work and she didn't feel neglected by him because they made it a point to spend quality time together.  She was learning to separate her traumatic past from the issues in her marriage (see my article: Working Through Emotional Trauma in Psychotherapy: Separating "Then" From "Now").

It's not unusual for people to have unconscious aspects of themselves that they have disavowed without being aware of it.

Experiential therapy, which allows clients in therapy to get to the underlying issues, provides an opportunity to discover and express those disavowed parts so that clients can feel more emotionally integrated.

Getting Help in Therapy
It's very difficult to discover disavowed aspects of yourself on your own (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

Working with an experiential psychotherapist, you can work gradually and safely to understand and express the parts of yourself that are at the root of your problems (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples, and I specialize in working with trauma.  I tend to work in an experiential way with integrative psychotherapy.

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.