NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, October 26, 2023

Are You in a Relationship With Someone Who Has a Dark Triad Personality?

If your relationship started out well but now you're seeing toxic personality traits in your partner, you might be in a relationship with someone who has a Dark Triad Personality.

The Dark Triad Personality

The Dark Triad psychological theory was originally proposed in 2002 by researchers Kevin Williams and Delroy Paulus who identified three malevolent personality traits:
  • Narcissism
  • Psychopathy
  • Machiavellianism
Any one of these traits would be difficult in a relationship, but the combination of all three traits in the Dark Triad Personality make them especially challenging.

So, let's look at each one separately:
  • Narcissism:
    • A need for admiration and attention
    • A sense of entitlement
    • Arrogance
    • A lack of empathy for others
    • Manipulation and exploitation of others for their own gain
    • Feeling like they're the "victim" when they are the ones who victimize others
    • Criticizing others
    • Envying others or believing others envy them
    • Expecting special treatment
  • Psychopathy: There are two types of psychopathy: Primary psychopathy and secondary psychopathy (psychopathy should not be confused with psychosis).
    • Primary Psychopathy:
      • Cold
      • Callus
      • Manipulative
      • Often successful
      • No remorse or guilt for the negative impact they have on others
    • Secondary Psychopathy:
      • Impulsive risk taker with bad results
      • Usually unsuccessful
  • Machiavellianism
    • Cunning
    • Deceitful
    • Acting only in their own self interest
    • Lacking empathy for others

How Do You Know If You're With Someone Who Has a Dark Triad Personality?
People who have a Dark Triad personality are very good at masking their negative qualities so you don't see it at first.  They often use their charm to disarm people until they get what they want.

Both men and women can have a Dark Triad Personality.  

A typical example is the man who is a "player" or "F-Boy" (see my articles: Understanding the Underlying Emotional Dynamics of Players - Part 1 and Part 2).

The combination of the following characteristics might indicate you're with someone who has a Dark Triad Personality:
  • They're Usually Successful:  Assuming they have primary psychopathy, they usually know how to succeed by selfishly putting their own interests first--often at the expense of others. In addition to whatever skills and talent they might possess, they know how to use charisma (and possibly good looks) to manipulate the right people who can help them to get ahead.  Then, they often discard those people because they're no longer useful to them. It's not unusual for them to engage in unethical or illegal behavior once they have succeeded.  
  • They Often Have Problems With Anger Management: They might not explode in front of their boss because that could ruin their chance for success, but they might unleash their rage and impulsivity at you behind closed doors. 
  • They Have a Hard Time Maintaining a Long Term Relationship: They usually have a string of brief relationships.  They might be in a relationship for a few years or more if they find partners with low self esteem who are willing to put up with their bad behavior (e.g., cheating, lying and so on).  Also, when they're in a relationship, they have no sense of shame or guilt about lying and cheating (see my article: What Are the 12 Telltale Signs You're With a Womanizer).
  • They're Cold Towards Others: While they're trying to get what they want, whether it's a sexual conquest or a job promotion, they know how to manipulate by appearing as if they're kind, friendly and agreeable, but this is only a means to an end. Once they've gotten what they want, they're cold and unfeeling.
  • They Engage in Impulsive and Risky Behavior: For people with primary psychopathy, the risky and impulsive behavior often pays off because they usually have good instincts--but this is not the case for people with secondary psychopathy.  People with secondary psychopathy often take big risks and get small or no rewards.
  • They Don't Have Morals, Ethics and Empathy: People with a Dark Triad Personality will lie, cheat and manipulate to get what they want and not think about the impact on others because they don't care. They're lacking in morals, ethics and empathy. They only care to the extent that it might get in the way of what they want.
  • They Bully Others: They might engage in verbal, emotional or physical abuse to get what they want. Their objective is to gain power over others.

Next Article: In my next article, I'll give tips on how to handle a Dark Triad personality.

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, October 7, 2023

How Mindfulness and Self Compassion Can Help With Body Acceptance

I began a discussion about the challenges of having a negative body image in a prior article (see my article: Is a Negative Body Image Ruining Your Sex Life?). 

In the current article I'm focusing on how mindfulness and self compassion can help with body acceptance.

Mindfulness and Self Compassion Help With Body Acceptance

How Western Culture Perpetuates Women's Body Shame
Women are bombarded with messages on social media, TV, the movies and magazines about how their bodies should look.  

When women feel their bodies don't conform to these images, they feel ashamed of their bodies. This also affects sense of self worth and how they interact in relationships. 

Helpful Tips:
The following tips can be helpful in the process of going from a negative body image to body acceptance:
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Women Who Have "Perfect" Bodies: Obviously, there's no such thing as a "perfect" body.  But you might have an ideal image you're comparing yourself to when you look at other people.  Instead of comparing your body to the bodies you see at the gym, on social media or in other places, find aspects of your body that you like.  Western culture gives subtle and not so subtle messages that women should compare themselves unfavorably to other women.  This is a form of misogynistic manipulation that keeps women competing instead of supporting each other.
  • Become Aware of Who Cashes In ($$$) On Your Negative Body Image: Fatphobia,  the stigmatization of weight gain and the idealization of thinness keep women feeling insecure about their bodies and makes them easy marketing targets in a capitalistic society. Ask yourself who benefits from your negative beliefs about your body.  There are plenty of industries, including the fitness and diet industries, that cash in on women feeling ashamed of their bodies. They often foster unrealistic expectations to keep women feeling insecure and willing to buy their products and services in an effort to have the "ideal body."
  • Become Aware of the Intergenerational Impact of a Negative Body Image:  The messages about body image are so pervasive that it's difficult not to internalize them. Once you have accepted these negative messages that your body should look a certain way, these beliefs perpetuate themselves and become an intergenerational problem where mothers can unconsciously pass them on to their daughters. As a result, that the trauma continues from one generation to the next. Make a commitment to let is stop with you.
  • Find Ways to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Body As It Is: If you look at yourself in the mirror, can you find at least one thing that you like about yourself? Find inspiration by focusing on the things your body can do instead of how your body looks.  Even if you are differently abled or have certain limitations, you can find ways to appreciate your body as it is.  For instance, learn to appreciate that your body is able to pump thousands of barrels of blood throughout your lifetime.  Similarly, think about how amazing it is that body has millions of cells interacting with each other everyday to keep you healthy.
  • Be As Compassionate to Yourself As You Would Be to a Close Friend: Practice being kind and compassionate to yourself in the same way you would be to a close friend. Show particular kindness to the parts of your body that you don't like. For instance, if you don't like your abdomen, be kind to it by giving it a gentle massage with your favorite lotion after a shower.  In this way you can tend and befriend your body just the way it is right now.
How Mindfulness Can Help With Body Acceptance: If you want to overcome a negative body image, you can learn to use mindfulness to become more aware of how you're continuing to give yourself negative messages and learn to let go of these thoughts.

Mindfulness and Self Compassion Help With Body Acceptance

Mindfulness is a state of awareness you can use so you can become aware of the negative messages you give to yourself about your body. 

To begin your mindfulness practice:
  • Become aware of the thoughts going through your mind and whenever you have a negative thought about your body (or anything else about yourself), imagine you're putting each negative thought on a cloud and watching it float away.
  • Don't criticize yourself for having negative thoughts about your body.  Instead, be compassionate and gently let each thought go.
Body Acceptance is a Process
Body acceptance probably won't help overnight, but if you keep practicing mindfulness and self compassion, you can begin to let go of the negative messages you give yourself and learn to accept and appreciate your body as it is.

Body Acceptance is a Process

This article focused on women.  However, many men also suffer from body image problems and the tips offered in this article can be helpful to them too.

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.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

What is Sexual Self Awareness?

In her book, Taking Sexy Back - How to Own Your Sexuality & Create the Relationships You Want, psychotherapist and relationship expert Dr. Alexandra Solomon discusses relational self awareness and a component of relational self awareness, which is sexual self awareness (see my article: Why is Self Awareness So Important to You as an Individual and in Your Relationship?).

What is Sexual Self Awareness?

What is Relational Self Awareness?
According to Dr. Solomon, relational self awareness includes:
  • Self Reflection
  • Self Knowledge
  • Sexual Awareness
  • Self Expression
  • Self Expansion
Relational self awareness involves a paradigm shift from focusing on finding the "right person" to focusing on yourself and becoming the "right person."

Instead of focusing outward, you focus inward in a curious and compassionate way, and by focusing on yourself you can create a healthy relationship with yourself.

In addition, you can discover your strengths, challenges and blind spots.

What is Sexual Self Awareness?
Sexual self awareness, which is the focus of this article, is an aspect of relational self awareness (see my article: Tips on Sexual Self Discovery).

What is Sexual Self Awareness?

Sexual self awareness is about getting curious about your thoughts, feelings and beliefs and how they affect your sexual relationship with yourself as well as with a partner.

Questions to Ask Yourself
The following questions can help you to develop sexual self awareness:
  • What were you told (or not told) about sex when you were growing up?
  • How were you told about sex and how did you feel about what you were told?
  • What was the impact of these early messages on you as a child and now as an adult?
  • Did you grow up in a sex positive or sex negative environment or was sex not even discussed?
  • What early childhood experiences affect how you feel about sex as an adult?
  • Do you feel you deserve sexual pleasure, including self pleasure and pleasure with a partner? Why or why not?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable with certain parts of your body to the point where you feel ashamed?
  • Do you have a sense of disgust about how you smell (e.g., a healthy vaginal smell)?
  • Are you uncomfortable touching your body so you avoid masturbation or avoid coming into direct contact with your genitals?
  • If you give yourself negative messages, how does it affect your sexual relationship with yourself?
  • Do you compare your body, including your genitals, to what you see in porn and in social media?
  • Are you too ashamed or scared to get regular medical check-ups (e.g, seeing OB-GYN for annual exams)?
In terms of your own sexual pleasure, instead of only focusing on pleasing your partner or just going along with sex because you think your partner "needs it," focus on yourself and consider:
  • Why are you having sex? 
    • For pleasure? 
    • For emotional connection? 
    • For procreation? 
    • Or for all of the above?
    • Different aspects of the above at different times and with different people?
  • What gets you sexually turned on?
    • How comfortable do you feel about getting sexually turned on?
    • What is your experience in your body of feeling turned on?
    • What does it feel like emotionally?
    • What does it feel like physically?
    • What does it feel like mentally?

Take the Time to Reflect on Your Sexual Self Awareness
Developing sexual self awareness will help you to understand what motivates you to have sex, how you developed your thoughts, feelings and beliefs about sex and what gets you sexually aroused mentally, physically and emotionally.

Taking the time to reflect on these aspects of yourself can also help you to develop sexual self esteem.

What is Sexual Self Awareness?

The questions posed in this article can help you to have a healthy relationship with solo sex (masturbation) as well as partnered sex (see my article: Keeping an Erotic Journal For Sexual Self Discovery).

If you're in a relationship, you and your partner can each spend time working on these questions on your own. Then you can come together to share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences. This can bring you closer together and help you to appreciate the positive aspects of your sex life as well as the areas you both want to work on.

If you're not in a relationship, developing sexual self awareness can help you understand yourself.  And if you want to get into a relationship, you'll have a better understanding of what you want from a partner.

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Many people didn't get the sex education they needed when they were growing up.

In addition, a lot of sex education is fear based in terms of learning only about the risk factors but not about the pleasurable aspects of sex.  This can create a sense of guilt and shame.

Sex therapy, which is a form of talk therapy, can help you to overcome shame and guilt as well as learn to develop a positive sexual awareness (see my article:  What is Sex Therapy?).

Individual adults and couples seek help in sex therapy for variety of issues (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

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

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist 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.