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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Romantic Attractions: Can Limerence (Also Known As "Love at First Sight" or Infatuation) Turn Into Love?

Limerence is often described as "love at first sight." It's also often called infatuation, obsessiveness, a crush, an attraction, and so on.  It can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.  
Love and Limerence

I wrote two prior articles, What is Limerence? and What Are the 3 Stages of Limerence?, to define limerence, how it's different from love, and describe the various stages that many people go through, so take a look at those articles if you're unfamiliar with the concept.

How Does Limerence Turn Into Love?
In the current article, I'll be describing how limerence can turn into love.  

Limerence and Love

    Characteristics of a Stable Love Relationship
Love and limerence are different.  Love isn't based on fantasies, illusions or obsessions like limerence.  Instead, love is based on the following qualities (at a minimum):

Limerence and Love
Limerence and Love
  • Trust: Trust is the foundation of any loving relationship. Without trust a loving, healthy relationship doesn't exist.
Limerence and Love
  • Compromise: Each person can acknowledge their partner's perspective, even if they don't agree, and there's a give-and-take as long as it doesn't jeopardize either person's values.
  • Healthy Sexuality: Sex is consensual without pressure. Each person cares about the other person's sexual well-being and both are focused on pleasure and sexual intimacy (see my article: What is a Healthy Sexual Relationship?).
There are many other qualities in a loving relationship, but the ones listed above are some of the most basic.  You might also have other important qualities and characteristics that are specifically important to you, like religion, culture, finances, and so on.

    Steps You Can Take to Assess Whether Your Romantic Attraction Can Turn Into Stable Love
Here are some factors to consider:
  • Assess Whether You're Ready to Be in a Relationship: Before you do anything else, including talking to your partner, think about whether you are ready to be in a stable loving relationship. Compared to the fun involved with an infatuation, a loving stable relationship takes maturity and commitment. Contrary to what many people believe, you don't have to work out all your emotional issues before you get into a relationship, but you do need to be emotionally stable and ready.  Also, ask yourself if you're looking for a relationship as a way for someone else to complete you because that's not a good reason to enter into a committed relationship.
Love and Limerence
  • Assess Whether Your Partner is Ready to Be in a Relationship With You: Does your partner want to be in a committed relationship with you? Although this can feel uncomfortable, you need to talk about it if this is something you're seriously considering. Are you idealizing your partner? Are you caught up in fantasies or illusions about what a relationship would be like with them? Beyond being fun and having a good time sexually, is your partner mature, stable and responsible enough to be part of a committed relationship? Are they capable of forming a loving bond with you that can withstand the  challenges that come up in any committed relationship? What is their relationship history? Are they trustworthy? If you find yourself having thoughts about how you can change your partner, stop--you're going down the wrong path.  Assess your partner just the way they are right now.
Love and Limerence
  • Assess the Dynamic Between You and Your Partner: Even though you're having fun now, can the two of you interact in a way that includes the characteristics listed above for a stable relationship? You might not be able to tell yet if you've only been dating for a short time.  But assuming you're both interested in exploring the possibility of a committed relationship together, consider any positive or negative signs and how these characteristics balance out for you and what you're looking for in a committed relationship. 
Love and Limerence

  • Assess Whether You're Both Ready to Work on a Stable Relationship Together: Even the best relationships take work, especially after the stages of limerence.  Are you both willing and able to do the work to have a healthy relationship together? Are you both interested in the same relationship goals?
    Other Considerations That Might Be Important to You
You might have other considerations that are important to you, so take time to think about those factors. Write them down to get clarity for yourself and so you can communicate them to your partner, if you choose to do so.

Limerence, which is also known as "love at first sight" or infatuation, usually lasts anywhere from a few months to a few years.

By itself, limerence isn't the basis for a stable loving relationship, but it can be the fun beginning to a new romantic attraction.

Over time, if the right combination of factors are there for you and your partner, limerence can develop into mature love.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex 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.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Romantic Attractions: What Are the 3 Stages of Limerence?

In my prior article, Romantic Attractions: What is Limerence, Also Known As "Love At First Sight", I defined limerence and its similarities and differences to love.  In the current article, I'm focusing on the 3 Stages of Limerence.

Romantic Attractions: The 3 Stages of Limerence

As a recap: Limerence is a state of mind where someone feels infatuated or obsessed with the person they desire. This state of mind is often referred to as "love at first sight."  Limerence usually occurs during the early stage of a relationship.  Generally, it lasts anywhere from a few months to a few years for most people. It has similarities and differences with love, which you can read about in the prior article.

What Are the 3 Stages of Limerence?
  • Stage 1: Infatuation: This stage occurs during the early stage of a relationship. This is the "honeymoon" phase or the stage when there's a crush. Relationship experts often refer to it as the infatuation stage.  It's often characterized by obsession, possessiveness and jealousy as well as idealization of the desired person (as opposed to a realistic perspective).
  • Stage 2: Crystallization: Limerence begins to fade in this stage as the two people get to know each other. They're each beginning to get a more realistic perspective about each other.  If the two people become a couple, they face disappointments in each other as well as in other parts of life and they face challenges together. During this stage, although the perspective might be a little more realistic, they might also rationalize away individual problems as well as problems between them.  There is a strong impulse to try to maintain the earlier stage of infatuation even as it might begin to fade.  There might still be obsessive thoughts and emotions during this phase.
  • Stage 3: Deterioration: This is the stage where limerence deteriorates. Deterioration can happen quickly or slowly over time depending upon the two people and the situation involved. Instead of idealizing the other person, the person is this stage sees their flaws and problems in the relationship more clearly.  Any unrealistic fantasies fade.
Clinical Vignette: The 3 Stages of Limerence
The following clinical vignette illustrates how someone can go through the 3 Stages of Limerence. As always, the vignette is a composite of many clinical cases with all identifying information removed.

When Alice met Rick, she had not been in a relationship for three years.  Her last relationship ended badly after she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her.  

After that relationship ended, she was in despair because she wanted to get married and have children and, since she was in her mid-30s, she was concerned about her age.

She met Rick on a dating app and she liked that he wanted to meet her after a few texts.  So many of the other men she texted with on these dating sites seemed fearful of meeting in person.

From the moment she met Rick, she felt immediately drawn to him.  She found him very handsome, intelligent, charming and funny.  

After their first date, Alice couldn't stop thinking about Rick.  He texted her everyday and called her several times that first week.  He showered her with so many compliments and gifts that her close friends warned her that she was being love bombed, but Alice ignored them (see my article: 10 Signs You're Being Love Bombed).

After the first week, they were spending 3-4 days together even though they were busy with work and other commitments.  

Alice was so infatuated with Rick that she only wanted to spend time with him instead of spending time with her friends.  Rick also told her that his friends were complaining that he didn't hang out with them anymore, but he said he didn't care--he only wanted to be with her.

Sex was passionate between them. Alice never felt as free sexually as she felt with Rick. He introduced her to sexual role play and kinky sex, which she loved.

During that time, they agreed to be exclusive with each other, so they both got off the dating app.  By then, Alice was obsessed with Rick.  When her close friends suggested that she slow down, Alice ignored them.  

When Alice's old college buddy, Mike, contacted her to say he would be in town and he would love to see her, she told Rick about it.  He became jealous and angry.  Even after she tried to reassure Rick that her friendship with Mike had always been strictly platonic, Rick told her that he didn't want her to see Mike. 

Alice thought Rick's possessiveness and jealousy meant he loved her.  And, since she didn't want to do anything to jeopardize her relationship with Rick, she told Mike she would be out of town and she couldn't see him.  

Once again, Alice's friends warned her she was confusing jealousy and possessiveness for love, but she didn't pay attention to their warnings.

Shortly after that, Alice and Rick were in an Indian restaurant and she was surprised to see how rude Rick was to the waiter.  After the waiter left, Rick mumbled a racial slur under his breath--something Alice had never seen him do before.

Although she didn't like Rick's rudeness and she felt somewhat disheartened, Alice rationalized his behavior away by telling herself that he was tired and he didn't realize how he was behaving. But it continued to bother her.

By then, Rick wasn't texting and calling her as much.  He told her he had to stay at work late and his weekends were taken up by a special project he was working on.  

But Alice's best friend saw Rick holding hands with another woman in a restaurant on a Saturday night when he told Alice he was at work.

Romantic Attractions: The 3 Stages of Limerence

When Alice heard about Rick being with another woman, she was shocked.  She couldn't believe he would lie to her this way.  

She called Rick repeatedly the same day she heard about the other woman, but he didn't return her calls.  A few days later, Rick contacted her in a short text admitting he lied about being busy at work. 

He rationalized it by writing he didn't want to hurt her feelings.  He also told her he was no longer interested in seeing her anymore because he was head-over-heels about this other woman.

After that text, Rick didn't respond to any more of Alice's texts and eventually she realized he blocked her on his phone.

Shortly after her last contact with Rick, Alice began therapy to try to understand why she kept choosing men who hurt her (see my article: Choosing Healthier Relationships).

The vignette about Alice discusses the 3 Stages of Limerence from Infatuation to Deterioration.  

Alice was particularly vulnerable at that time because it had been a long time since she had been in a relationship, her last relationship was so disappointing, she wanted to get married and have children and she was concerned about her age.

During the Infatuation Stage, she was obsessed with thoughts of Rick and couldn't get enough of him. She ignored the red flags that her friends could see clearly, and she also ignored her friends' warnings (see my article: Do Your Friends See "Red Flags" About Your Relationship That You're Not Seeing?).

During the Crystallization Stage, she began to see flaws in Rick, but she remained ambivalent.  Although she saw these flaws, she rationalized them away by making excuses for him.

The Deterioration Stage came abruptly crashing down on Alice after her friend told her that Rick was cheating on her, he admitted cheating by text, told Alice that he only wanted to see this other woman and eventually blocked her from his phone.

Her illusions were crushed and she had no choice but to admit to herself she was making poor choices when it came to the men she dated.  

She also realized she needed help in therapy to deal with this problem. 

In therapy, her therapist could help her to identify the unconscious issues and blind spots related to her early history and help her to make better choices (see my article: Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?).

In the vignette about Alice, her relationship with Rick never developed beyond the limerence.  In the next article, I'll discuss what happens when limerence turns into love.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive 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.


Romantic Attractions: What is Limerence, Also Known As Infatuation or "Love at First Sight"?

Dorothy Tennov, Ph.D., coined the term "limerence" to describe the early stage of a romantic relationship.  She wrote about her research findings in her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Early Experience of Being in Love.

What is Limerence?
Limerence is a state of mind where someone is infatuated or obsessed with the person they desire.  It's often an involuntary state where someone has a strong desire to be with that person.  

Romantic Attractions: Limerence

Limerence usually occurs during the early stage of an attraction.  Generally speaking, limerence often lasts anywhere from a few months and a few years.  There can be individual variation.

Depending upon the individual and the circumstances, limerence can be categorized by either euphoric feelings or feelings of despair.

Limerence is also described as "love at first sight," although there is a difference between love and limerence, which I'll explain in a bit.

Romantic Attractions: Limerence

During the early stage of two people getting to know each other, limerence is often characterized by one or both people craving each other when they're apart. 

They want to spend more time together, be more affectionate and, if they're sexual, have more sex. One or both of them feel like they can't get enough of each other.

How is Limerence Different From Love?
The difference between love and limerence can be confusing because they look similar.

Similarities Between Love and Limerence
Both love and limerence start out with a dopamine rush.  

But limerence is relatively short-lived and conditional.  

Limerence can disappear if the person isn't getting what they want from the other person. 

For instance, if the other person isn't able to spend as much time with them as they want or if the other person doesn't express affection to them in the way they want or as often as they want, limerence can disappear.  

When the person in the limerence state doesn't get their needs gratified, they can feel like a bubble has burst.

Differences Between Love and Limerence
During the limerence phase, a person often idealizes the person they're infatuated with and focuses mostly on the other person's positive qualities and might overlook their problems (see my article: Relationships: The Ideal vs the Real).

Love is more fluid and less conditional.  Whereas limerence can make a person feel like their head is in the clouds, love is much more grounded.  Instead of being focused on what the other person can give them, they want the other person to be happy.  

Love goes beyond a superficial attraction. There is a deeper connection and an emotional vulnerability as two people get to know each other.  Over time, they experience life together and ride the waves of life's many challenges together.

To summarize the differences: Whereas love is based on rootedness, emotional connection, intimacy and it's reality based, limerence is based on infatuation, idealization, obsession, possession, conditions, jealousy and unrealistic expectations.  

Next Article: The 3 Phases of Limerence
I'll continue to discuss limerence in my next article which will focus on the three phases of limerence: Romantic Attractions: The 3 Phases of Limerence.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDRAEDPEFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive 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, May 26, 2023

How to Stop People Pleasing So You Can Reduce Your Anxiety and Increase Your Pleasure in the Bedroom

People pleasing, which is also known by the term "fawning," is often a trauma response (see my article: Trauma and the Fawn Response: People Pleasing to Avoid or Diffuse Conflict).

People who focus on pleasing others, to the detriment of their own emotional needs, often don't even realize they're doing it because it's such an ingrained trauma response from early in their life. 

How to Stop People Pleasing to Reduce Your Sexual Anxiety

They learned to focus on other people's needs to ward off conflict in family dynamics and to try to shore up dysfunctional family dynamics (see my article: Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families and People Pleasing).

As children, these people would extend themselves emotionally beyond what they were developmentally capable of doing, but they tried to do it anyway (see my article: Children's Roles in Dysfunctional Families).

A key component of the people pleasing involves feeling unlovable.  

Examples of Children Who Who Were People Pleasers 
The list below includes just a few examples of children who were people pleasers and who over-functioned in their family.

Children who were people pleasers in their family often:
  • Believed they had to take on the family problems in order to be liked or loved
  • Believed the family wouldn't survive unless they became people pleasers
  • Became overachievers and the family hero in an effort to please depressed, anxious or traumatized parents
  • Became pseudo-independent (i.e., they believed, erroneously, that they didn't need help or emotional support because they could take care of themselves--even though they were children
  • Sacrificed their own emotional needs for their parents and other family members
    • Agreed to do things they didn't want to do and lost touch with what they wanted and needed
    And so on.

    People Pleasing Children Become People Pleasing Adults
    Unfortunately, people pleasing (or fawning) doesn't stop when children become adults, and these behaviors often carry over into sexual activities so that sex becomes solely performative rather than being pleasurable to them.

    How to Stop People Pleasing to Reduce Your Sexual Anxiety

    Usually people with this problem are so hyper-focused on their partner's pleasure that they don't pay attention to their own sexual pleasure.  

    This creates performance anxiety because they're worried about whether they're pleasing their partner.  The result is that they can become cut off from their own emotions and bodily sensations so they don't enjoy sex (see my article: What is Sexual Anxiety?).

    Sexual People Pleasing and Performance Anxiety
    Sexual people pleasing often occurs when people are willing to do whatever they think their partner might like--even if it's not what they want or it has a detrimental effect for them--so their sexual partner will like or love them.  

    This creates performance anxiety for both men and women which can result in:
    • Worry or fear before, during or after sex
    • Negative thoughts or emotions about sex
    • Spectatoring (self consciously monitoring and critiquing their own behavior in bed)
    • Unrealistic expectations related to sex, especially with regard to their own sexual "performance"
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Anorgasmia (delayed, infrequent, less intense or absence of sexual orgasms)
    How to Overcome People Pleasing in the Bedroom
    Depending upon the specific problems involved, overcoming sexual people pleasing often involves different interventions, including medical treatment to deal with possible physical problems or rule out medical issues, trauma therapy and sex therapy.
    • Medical Issues: If there is a physical component to the sexual problem, like painful sex or erectile dysfunction, possible medical problems should be ruled out first.  For instance, many women assume that painful sex is solely the result of anxiety.  However, although anxiety might be an important part of the problem, it's also possible that there might be medical issues that contribute to the problem--like pelvic floor problems, which must be diagnosed by a medical doctor and often requires the assistance of a physical therapist who is a pelvic floor specialist.
    Seeking Medical Help to Rule Out Physical Problems
    • Trauma Therapy: Since people pleasing is often a longstanding problem that originated in childhood, there is often unresolved trauma that needs to be worked through in trauma therapy. A mind-body oriented therapy, like EMDR therapySomatic Experiencing , AEDP and Parts Work/Ego States Therapy is often helpful to bring about increased bodily awareness and work through trauma.  See my articles:
    • Sex Therapy: Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individual adults and couples with no physical exam, nudity or sex during therapy sessions. Performance anxiety is a common issue that sex therapists help clients to overcome.  See my articles:
    How to Overcome Your Fear of Getting Help
    If you feel fearful and ashamed to get help for trauma-related sexual problems, recognize that you're not alone.  Many people have similar problems.  In fact, these problems are common.

    You can start by finding a licensed mental health professional who addresses both trauma and sex therapy.  Therapists who specialize in both areas can be difficult to find, but you can use a therapist directory to locate someone in your area.

    Getting Help From a Sex Therapist Who Specializes in Trauma

    If you're already in therapy, you can find an adjunct therapist who specializes in trauma and sex therapy to collaborate with your therapist so you get the help you need.

    Make sure the therapist is a licensed mental health professional, which is different from a coach or mentor.

    Start by asking for a consultation so you can get a sense of whether you feel comfortable with a therapist (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

    Be aware that it can take time to develop a therapeutic relationship with a therapist, so be patient.

    Once you have worked through your trauma-related sexual problems, you can lead a more fulfilling life.

    About Me
    I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

    I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

    As a trauma and sex therapist, I have helped many individuals and couples to overcome trauma-related sexual problems.

    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, May 22, 2023

    Faking Orgasms Can Ruin Your Relationship

    In a 2019 research study by Indiana University, researchers discovered that 58% of women admitted to faking an orgasm at some point.  However, it's interesting to also note that the vast majority of those women reported that they no longer fake orgasms.  

    Faking an Orgasm Can Ruin Your Relationship

    These findings raise interesting questions as to why women felt the need to fake orgasms in the first place and why many of these women stopped.

    Why Do Women Fake Orgasms?
    Women cited many reasons why they faked orgasms, including because they wanted:
    • To make their partner feel better
    • To prevent a partner they liked from feeling bad about sex
    • To end sex because they were tired
    Why Did Many of These Women Stop Faking Orgasms?
    Women reported that they stopped faking orgasms because they now feel:
    • More confident in themselves and their identity as women
    • More comfortable with sex
    • Secure enough in their relationship that they no longer feel the need to fake it
    How Can Faking Orgasms Ruin Your Relationship?
    There are many reasons why faking orgasms on an ongoing basis can be detrimental to your relationship:
    • It's Dishonest: Faking orgasms is a form of deception. That might not be a woman's intention, but it's still a lie.
    • It Creates a Barrier to Emotional Intimacy: When there is a lie between you and your partner, this creates an obstacle to emotional intimacy. Even if the partner doesn't know about the lie, the woman knows and this often makes her feel guilty and ashamed, which is a barrier to emotional intimacy (see my article: Vulnerability as a Pathway to Greater Emotional Intimacy).
    • Sex Won't Get Better: If a woman's partner thinks the woman is having orgasms, there's no reason to make changes in the sex script to improve sex. That means that if the woman isn't experiencing satisfying sex, the sex will remain unsatisfying.
    What to Do If You Want to Stop Faking Orgasms
    • Stop Pretending You're Enjoying Sex That's Not Pleasurable to You: This decision is up to you. Both of you deserve to have pleasurable sex and, if you've been faking orgasms, you're not giving yourself to a chance to have good sex and your partner thinks you're enjoying sex when you're not. Once you stop faking, your partner is likely to ask questions and this would be an opportunity for you to get honest.
    • Have an Open and Honest Conversation With Your Partner: Once again, this is your choice. You can continue faking orgasms, and nothing will change, which means that you'll continue to have less than satisfying sex. Or, if you decide you want to stop faking, you can get honest with yourself and your partner. Sure, it will be hard and somewhat humiliating to admit you've been faking it, but after you get over the embarrassment and your partner gets over their reaction, there's a chance to improve your sex life and your relationship (see my article: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).
    • Talk to Your Partner About Making Changes to Your Sex Script: Instead of remaining stuck in a sexual rut, talk to your partner about your sexual turn-ons as well as your turn-offs. Then, ask your partner about their turn-ons and turn-offs. There's a possibility that your partner might feel badly about doing things sexually that actually turned you off, but if you're in a otherwise stable relationship, there's also a chance the two of you can work things out so you can improve your communication going forward and sex will be more satisfying for both of you (see my article: Changing Your Sex Script).
    • Seek Help in Sex Therapy: Two of the most common problems that bring couples to sex therapy is unsatisfying sex and discrepant sexual desire. When you get help from a sex therapist, you and your partner can learn to get comfortable with talking about sex and discovering new ways to improve your sex life.

    Getting Help in Sex Therapy
    Sex therapy is talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

    There is no nudity, physical exams or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

    As mentioned above, there are many reasons to seek help from a skilled sex therapist (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?)

    Rather than struggling on your own, seek help in sex therapy so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

    About Me
    I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

    I am a sex positive 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.


    Thursday, May 18, 2023

    Reparenting Yourself: How to Become a Good Enough Parent to Yourself

    Unfortunately, everyone didn't get good enough parenting when they were children.  

    Good enough parenting usually leads to secure attachment, but it's estimated that only 50% of people have secure attachment and the other 50% experience insecure attachment (see my article: What Are Attachment Styles?).

    Becoming a Good Enough Parent to Yourself
    If you didn't get good enough parenting, chances are that one or both of your parents probably didn't get it either.  

    How to Become a Good Enough Parent to Yourself

    Childhood emotional neglect and abuse are much more common than most people realize.  

    Childhood emotional neglect and abuse often lead to attachment-related problems later in life with adult romantic relationships (see my article:  How Unresolved Trauma Affects Your Ability to Be Emotionally Vulnerable in a Romantic Relationship).

    So, if you didn't get the parenting you needed as a child, reparenting yourself as an adult with love and self compassion is essential to emotional healing.  It will help you to build a strong sense of self esteem and self worth.

    The Role of Self Compassion
    Children who grew up without good enough parenting are often hard on themselves as children and adults.  If they had critical and shaming parents, these children internalize those characteristics in an unconscious way.

    How to Become a Good Enough Parent to Yourself

    This is why self compassion is so important.  For these people to heal, they need to learn to give themselves the compassion they didn't get as children.  This can be difficult to learn, especially if there's a part of them that feels they don't deserve it (see my article: Overcoming the Emotional Pain of Feeling Unlovable).

    Accessing a Self Compassionate Part of Yourself
    Parts Work, also known as Ego States Therapy, was originally developed by psychotherapists John and Helen Watkins in the 1970s. They specialized in hypnotherapy.

    Part of the work for individuals who were traumatized is learning to access a compassionate part of themselves (see my article: How Parts Work Therapy Can Empower You).

    This is often difficult for people who were traumatized to do on their own, so participating in experiential therapy is one way to learn to access and develop the self compassionate part (see my article: Understanding the Different Parts of Yourself).

    One way to do Parts Work in experiential therapy is for the therapist to help the client, as an adult, to imagine looking at their younger self who was traumatized so the two parts can have a dialog with each other.

    This dialog often involves the adult self asking the younger self what they need emotionally.  In other words, the adult self is in the role of a parent soothing the traumatized younger self.

    Then, the adult self gives the child what they need, which is usually a hug or hearing that they're lovable and so on.  All of this is done in the client's imagination in experiential therapy.

    Parts Work helps the younger part, who holds the trauma, to receive the loving and compassionate parenting they didn't receive earlier.  

    This back and forth dialog also helps to weave together a more integrated experience as the traumatized younger self and the adult self heal together emotionally.

    Imagining a Compassionate Other
    If it's too difficult to access a self compassionate part, clients in experiential therapy can start by imagining how a compassionate or nurturing person might feel and behave towards their younger self. 

    How to Become a Good Enough Parent to Yourself

    They can imagine what that person might have said to them when they were children that would have felt loving and kind. Or, they can imagine the loving gestures that this compassionate person might have made to them that would have communicated how much they cared for them.

    If someone can't think of anyone in their real life either from the past or from the present, they can imagine someone from a book, a story, a movie or some other imaginary person.

    Whether this person is someone they know in real life or someone imaginary, this would be considered an internal resource in the form of an imaginal interweave in experiential therapy (see my article: Experiential Psychotherapy and the Mind-Body Connection: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

    Talk Therapy Isn't Enough to Resolve Trauma
    Regular talk therapy can be effective for many psychological problems, but it's usually not as effective as experiential therapy for trauma because it tends to be intellectual (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Resolve Trauma).

    Clients who attend talk therapy can develop intellectual insight into their problems, but their problems often remain unresolved.

    Experiential therapy, like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, AEDP, hypnotherapy and Parts Work, use the mind-body connection to work through trauma.  

    Experiential therapy helps clients to resolve trauma on an emotional level using the mind-body connection.  This is important because the resolution of trauma happens on an emotional level--not on an intellectual level.

    Getting Help in Experiential Therapy
    If you didn't get good enough parenting as a child, you can learn to reparent yourself in a nurturing way with the help of an experiential therapist.

    A skilled experiential therapist can help you to access the internal resources you possess so that you can heal from your childhood trauma.

    Rather than struggling on your own, seek help in experiential therapy so you can overcome trauma and live a more fulfilling life.

    About Me
    I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex 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.