NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, January 28, 2024

What is a Growth Mindset vs a Fixed Mindset?

How we think about ourselves and the world around us, including whether we think in terms of a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, affects every area of our lives.

The Difference Between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset
People with a growth mindset see abilities and talents as learnable and capable of improvement over time.

The Difference Between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset

People who have a fixed mindset see these same qualities as stable and unchangeable over time.  

Someone with a fixed mindset who is considering becoming a business owner wouldn't believe they could develop the necessary skills and abilities they don't currently have. 

They would tell themselves, "I never had good business skills and that won't change, so there's no point in even trying."

Someone with a growth mindset who is considering the same endeavor would believe they could develop the necessary skills and abilities.  

They would tell themselves, "Even though I don't have business skills right now, I can learn and develop those skills over time so I can accomplish my dream."

A Growth vs a Fixed Mindset in Life
We used to think the brain stopped developing in childhood, but now we know the brain continues to evolve throughout the course of life so it's possible to grow new neural networks by having new experiences, learning new skills and expanding our knowledge.  

The Brain Can Evolve Throughout the Course of Life

Someone with a fixed mindset believes whatever they have developed already can't be expanded, but someone with a growth mindset believes there can be expansion through effort and learning throughout life.

What Are the Qualities of a Growth Mindset?
People with a growth mindset
  • Believe their intelligence, talents and abilities can expand and improve by taking relevant action and making an effort 
  • Believe they can achieve mastery
  • View constructive feedback as a learning experience and a source of information
  • Accept challenges
  • Believe setbacks are a temporary phase before achieving their goals
  • Become motivated and inspired by others' success
What Are the Qualities of a Fixed Mindset?
People with a fixed mindset
  • Believe personal traits don't change no matter how much effort is applied
  • Believe intelligence, abilities and talents are static and don't change
  • Believe making an effort to change intelligence and abilities is a waste of time
  • View constructive feedback as personal criticism and they often become defensive
  • Avoid challenges to avoid the possibility of failure
  • Hide the areas they need to improve because they're afraid they will be criticized
  • Give up on their goals relatively easily

What are the Advantages of a Growth Mindset?
People who have a growth mindset  
  • Experiment and try new things
  • Develop a sense of determination
  • Correct their mistakes along the way instead of seeing them as obstacles
  • View challenges as opportunities
  • Try new learning strategies
  • Allow their accomplishments to speak for themselves rather than seeking approval from others
  • Enjoy the learning process
  • Utilize constructive criticism as a way to learn and grow
  • Allow themselves to feel proud of their accomplishments

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.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Mind-Body Connection: What is Somatic Awareness?

Somatic awareness is a focused attention and interpretation of the sensations, emotions and physiological states of the body.

Somatic Awareness and the Mind-Body Connection

Somatic awareness is essential to understanding the mind-body connection, especially in Experiential Therapies like: 
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy)
as well as other mind-body oriented therapy modalities.

What Are the Benefits of Somatic Awareness?
Being able to identify what is going in terms of the connection between what's happening between the mind and the body can help you to understand what you're experiencing in a more integrated way.

How is Somatic Awareness Used in Trauma Therapy?
Somatic awareness can also help you to recognize how trauma gets stuck in your nervous system when you're doing trauma therapy.

For instance, a trauma therapist will often ask the client to slow down to become aware of their emotions and where they feel these emotions in the body.  

This provides a deeper understanding of the client's experience for the client and the therapist.

What Are Techniques Used in Trauma Therapy to Help Clients Develop Somatic Awareness?
Here are some of the techniques that trauma therapists use during trauma therapy:
  • Grounding: This technique helps clients to stay in the present moment, which is helpful when doing trauma therapy. There are many different types of grounding techniques:
    • Feeling your feet on the floor
    • Bringing awareness to other parts of your body
    • Running water over your hand
    • Tensing and relaxing your hands
  • Visualizations: Visualizations help clients to calm themselves by picturing soothing images.  For instance, clients can focus on a safe or relaxing place to help them to regulate their emotions. The place can be either real or imagined. So, a client can picture a place where they have been in the past, like a beach.  They can also imagine a place they create in their mind.  As they're experiencing the calming effects of the visualization, they notice where they feel this sense of calmness in their body as well as the emotions it brings up for them (see my article: Using Your Imagination as a Powerful Tool For Change).
  • Body Scans: The Body Scan Meditation is a technique where clients slowly sense into their body starting from the crown of their head down to the tips of their toes to sense what sensations they're experiencing. This meditation helps clients to regulate their internal state.
  • Breath Work: There are many different types of breathing exercises, like Square Breathing, which help increase clients' awareness of their emotions, physiological state and sensations in their body.
Somatic awareness is essential to understanding the mind-body connection.  

It is also an important part of Experiential Therapy for overcome trauma (see my article: Why is Experiential Therapy More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma?).

Before processing trauma, trauma therapists provide clients with psychoeducation on how to do these various techniques as well as why they're important in trauma therapy.

Aside from processing trauma, somatic awareness is also effective in helping clients with anxietydepression and other psychological challenges.

Aside from how somatic awareness can be learned in Experiential Therapy, it can also be learned in other mind-body modalities like yoga and mindfulness meditation.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling on your own to overcome unresolved trauma, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who is a trauma therapist.

Overcome unresolved trauma can help you to live a more meaning life.

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

I have worked with many individual adults and couples to help them overcome unresolved trauma (see my article:  What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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, January 25, 2024

How to Keep the Momentum Going in Your Therapy

In my last article, 4 Reasons Why Attending Sessions Consistently is Important For Your Progress in Therapy, I focused on why consistency is essential to success in therapy.  

I mentioned that motivation to change is what brings people into therapy and keeping the momentum going is how people make changes.

Keeping Up the Momentum in Therapy

What is Momentum?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines momentum as the strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.

A common example of momentum is the snowball effect, which refers to the effect of events building on each other as a result of momentum. 

What is Psychological Momentum?
Researchers who study psychological momentum describe it as a perceptual force that changes human behavior and performance.

Psychological momentum is linked to the concept that "Success breeds success." 

Keeping Up the Momentum in Therapy

The concept of psychological momentum is often discussed in sports when a team is on a "winning streak." 

Winning gives the team the mental and physical power to keep going. While they're winning, they gain confidence and feel unstoppable.

In politics, psychological momentum often occurs when a candidate wins a string of political races, gains confidence and the perception that victory is inevitable.

What is Psychological Momentum in Psychotherapy?

Clinical Vignettes
The two examples below are both composites of many different cases.  

The first case shows how inconsistency and lack of motivation has a negative impact on therapy and the client's goals.

The second case shows how consistency and motivation leads to psychological momentum which enables the client to be successful in achieving his goals.

In an effort to overcome low self esteem, Jim began weekly therapy.  After a few sessions, he started cancelling appointments even though he had to pay for the cancellations.  When his therapist told him it was important to come consistently to make progress in therapy, Jim ghosted his therapist. He didn't respond to her outreach. After a few months, he started therapy with a different therapist and repeated the same pattern.  When his friend, Joe, asked Jim how therapy was going, Jim told him that he thought therapy didn't work.  

When he heard his friend, Jim, say that therapy didn't work, Joe was surprised.  He told Jim that he had been going to therapy consistently for a year and he felt he was making progress in learning how to be assertive.  He also told Jim that, at first, he had his doubts as to whether he would ever learn to assert himself but, over time, his therapy gained momentum and he was happy with the progress he was making.  

To experience psychological momentum in therapy, it's important to be motivated and consistent.

Many people start therapy with good intentions and then become discouraged when they have to put in an effort to make changes and they leave therapy prematurely (see my article: Why Do People Leave Therapy Prematurely?).

Eventually, many of those people return to therapy because trying to cope with their unresolved problems is much harder than doing the work in therapy.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling with unresolved problems on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional.

If you're motivated and consistent in therapy, a skilled psychotherapist can help you to build momentum to overcome the obstacles that are keeping you from reaching your goals.  

Motivation, consistency and a willingness to do the work in therapy often leads to psychological momentum and a positive ripple effect in other areas of your life.

So rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist.

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

I have helped many individual adults and couples to overcome their problems, including unresolved trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

4 Reasons Why Attending Sessions Consistently is Important For Your Progress in Therapy

Many clients ask at the start of therapy how often they need to attend therapy. 

Since most of us have busy lives, this is a legitimate question.  

Consistency is Important For Progress in Therapy

It's also common for people to feel anxious and ambivalent at the start of therapy (see my article: It's Not Unusual to Feel Anxious and Ambivalent at the Start of Therapy).

Research indicates that attending therapy sessions on a weekly basis is essential to make progress in therapy.

The importance of attending weekly sessions is something I discuss with clients at the start of therapy because it's important for clients to know that therapy is a big commitment and the reasons why weekly sessions are essential.

4 Reasons Why Being Consistent is Important For Your Progress in Therapy

Consistency is Important For Progress in Therapy

  • Developing Internal Resources to Work on Problems: Most therapists, especially trauma therapists, help clients to develop the necessary tools needed to work on unresolved problems.  This is called resourcing. During weekly sessions, your therapist can help you develop the necessary internal resources before you delve into trauma work. Weekly sessions also allows you and your therapist to discuss which resources are working best for you.  If you skip sessions, you're delaying the resource process which also delays working on your problems (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills in Therapy).
  • Accountability: Usually goals are set at the beginning of therapy and you and your therapist talk about how you're progressing in terms of what you want to accomplish in therapy.  It's easier to track your progress if you're coming weekly than if you skip appointments.  Cancelled sessions often leads to a decrease in motivation and a reduced sense of accountability.  This is one of the reasons why most therapists have a cancellation policy.

Getting Help in Therapy
Are you considering therapy?

Before I meet with clients for an initial appointment, I talk to them on the phone for 10-15 minutes to get an idea of what they want to work on and whether I have the expertise to help them.  There is no charge for this brief talk on the phone.

After that, if clients want to set up an initial appointment, I schedule an appointment for them either in person or online.  

During the first appointment, they can see whether they feel comfortable with me to continue coming for weekly sessions.

Working on your issues in therapy provides you with an opportunity to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way from having the life you want.

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

With over 25 years of experience, I have helped many individual adults and couples to achieve their goals (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Tips on How to Improve Your Sleep

Good sleep is essential to your health, mental health and overall well being.  

How to Improve Your Sleep

Generally, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  If you're getting less than that, you might have insomnia.

What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep-wake disorder which has three primary symptoms:
  • Problems Falling Asleep (Onset Insomnia): An inability to fall asleep within 20-30 minutes
Problems Falling and Staying Asleep

  • Problems Staying Asleep (Middle Insomnia): Frequent waking up in the middle of the night after sleep onset, which is more than 20-30 minutes, and difficulty falling back asleep after middle of the night awakening
  • Early Morning Wakefulness (Late Insomnia): Waking up 30 minutes or more before the desired wake up time and before 6.5 hours of sleep. This often involves an inability to fall back to sleep.
A medical doctor will usually give a diagnosis of insomnia if a patient experiences sleep problems for three nights or more over a period of three months and no other condition is causing the sleep problem.  

There are also two different types of insomnia: 
  • Short term insomnia: Lasting at least one month but less than three months
  • Chronic insomnia
    • Persistent insomnia: Lasting three months or longer
    • Recurrent insomnia: Two or more episodes within a year
Common Causes of Insomnia
There can be many cases of insomnia, including:
Helpful Tips to Overcome Sleep Problems
See your medical doctor to get a diagnosis and rule out any other medical issues that could be causing a sleep problem.

There are also other things you can do on your own (always check with your medical doctor first before):
  • Exercise: Daily physical activity at an appropriate level for you can release endorphins, which is good for your overall health and can help to improve your sleep.
Tips to Overcome Sleep Problems
  • Practice Sleep Hygiene: Good sleep hygiene habits can help with insomnia, including:
    • Wake up and go to sleep at the same time, even on weekends
    • Make sure the room where you sleep is quiet, dark, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature
    • Remove electronic devices from the bedroom, including the TV, smart phone, computer and other electronic devices
  • Limit Napping: If you tend to nap during the day, limit it to 30 minutes or less and don't nap later in the afternoon.

  • Use Your Bed Only For Sleep and Sex: Don't do work while you're in bed. You want your bed to be associated only with sleep and sex. 
  • Eat a Healthy Diet: Eat nutritious meals. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime and limit caffeine
Get Help in Therapy
If you doctor has ruled out medical causes and attributes your sleep problem to psychological issues, like anxiety, depression, unresolved trauma or other psychological issues, seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Get Help in Therapy

Once medical issues have been ruled out, a skilled psychotherapist can help you to determine the underlying issues that are creating sleep problems and help you to work through these issues.

So, rather than struggling on your own, seek help from your medical doctor and, if the problem is related to mental health issues, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist.

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

I have helped many individual adults and couples to overcome mental health issues (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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

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

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Coping with Perfectionism in Your Relationship

Perfectionism can take its toll on a relationship because it often leads to criticism, conflict and lack of emotional and sexual intimacy (see my article: Overcoming Perfectionism).

Coping with Perfectionism in Your Relationship

Just like most other tendencies, perfectionism is on a continuum with some people being more perfectionistic than others.  

People who are perfectionists can be harder on themselves than they are on other people. 

Coping with Perfectionism in Your Relationship

Nevertheless, it can be challenging to be in relationship with someone who is a perfectionist, so it's helpful to know
  • The typical signs of perfectionism
  • The cause of perfectionism
  • How to cope in a compassionate way if your partner is a perfectionist
  • When to get help in therapy
I'll be addressing these issues in this article along with a clinical vignette as an illustration.

What Are the Signs of Perfectionism?
Some of the following signs can indicate a tendency towards perfectionism:
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Obsessiveness around details
  • Defensiveness around your own mistakes because making a mistake can be scary for you
  • A fear of criticism or disapproval from others
  • Equating self worth with accomplishments
  • Low self esteem
  • A need to control
  • Overthinking decisions or situations
  • Lack of flexibility
What Causes Perfectionism?
There are degrees of perfectionism with some people having worse problems than others.

Perfectionism is often caused by early childhood experiences with parents who had unrealistic expectations.  

Perfectionism and Childhood Trauma

Children who grow up in this environment usually try to avoid their parents' harsh criticism and judgment by trying to be perfect. But since there's no such thing as being perfect, they feel they are falling short of their parents' standards. This results in shame for them.

This creates a cycle where there is an internal push to strive to meet their parents' unrealistic expectations, but they feel they fall short again and again, which is traumatic for a child.

Having internalized their parents' disapproval for not being perfect, these individuals often grow up fearing the judgment and disapproval of others and seek to avoid those experiences by imposing unrealistic standards on themselves.  

In many cases parents who impose perfectionism on their children had parents who did the same to them.

What Are the Different Types of Perfectionists?
There are different types of perfectionists, which are described below.  People can be one of these types or a combination of types.

    Self Oriented Perfectionism
There are some perfectionists who only impose their unrealistic standards on themselves and they are more compassionate towards others.  

Self Oriented Perfectionism

Since they have internalized their parents' unrealistic standards and judgment, they have a hard time feeling the same compassion for themselves--even when it's pointed out to them.  Logically, they understand that they deserve the same compassion as they would give to someone else but, on an emotional level, they don't feel it.

    Other Oriented Perfectionism
People with other oriented perfectionism tend to impose unrealistic standards on others.  Sometimes this is with little or no awareness. In other cases people are aware but it's difficult for them to stop.

Other Oriented Perfectionism

    Socially Prescribed Perfectionism
People with this tendency feel perfectionism is being imposed on them by others.  In many cases, this is a projection of their own tendency towards perfectionism. In other cases, it's a realistic assessment of what's actually happening.

Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

Clinical Vignette
The following clinical vignette, which is a composite of many cases to protect confidentiality, illustrates how perfectionism can impact a relationship and how therapy can help:

Tom and Anna
After five years of marriage, Tom and Anna, who were both in their early 40s, sought help in couples therapy to deal with the impact of perfectionism in their relationship.

Anna felt she was at her wit's end with Tom's perfectionism. She felt constantly criticized by Tom for almost everything she did, including how she stacked the dishwasher, folded the laundry, cleaned the apartment and in many other areas.

She was frustrated by Tom's procrastination when they were trying to make decisions.  She told their therapist they had been considering changing their insurance policy for a few years, but they were stalled in the process because Tom was obsessively comparing plans, weighing the pros and cons repeatedly but unable to make a decision (see my article: Overcoming Fear of Making Decisions).

Tom and Anna both agreed that his perfectionism had taken a toll on their emotional and sexual intimacy because Anna felt so much resentment towards Tom. Even though she still loved him, she didn't feel close to him.

Similar to many other people who struggle with perfectionism, Tom spoke about having parents who had unrealistic standards. His father was especially punitive when Tom made a mistake.  

This created a lot of anxiety for Tom which he tried to mitigate by getting exceptional grades, being good at sports and trying to be perfect in every way.  Inevitably, since no one can be perfect, he fell short and had to endure his father's criticism and emotional withdrawal.  

Reaching over and taking Anna's hand, Tom said he wanted to overcome his perfectionism because he didn't want to ruin their and he knew it was harmful for him as well.  So, he agreed to attend individual therapy to deal with his unresolved childhood trauma while he and Anna worked together in couples therapy to save their relationship (see my article: How Unresolved Trauma Can Affect Your Adult Relationship).

Using EMDR therapy, Tom's individual therapist helped him to work through his childhood trauma of feeling unlovable and inadequate.  Although EMDR therapy tends to be faster than regular talk therapy, the work wasn't fast because these traumatic experiences were so longstanding and entrenched.

He also worked on his procrastination related to his perfectionism. For instance, instead of obsessively going over insurance plans, he sought help from an independent insurance navigator who helped Tom and Anna to pick a plan that was right for them. The navigator emphasized they could change the insurance by the next month if they weren't happy with it, so this made the decision-making less daunting for Tom.

Both Tom and Anna learned to do mindfulness meditation and a breathing exercise to cope with stress in their relationship.

Their couples therapist helped each of them to get curious about their dynamic rather than getting reactive with each other (see my article: 5 Tips For Reducing Emotional Reactivity and Arguments in Your Relationship).

In addition to helping Tom to be more self aware, the couples therapist helped Anna to set boundaries with Tom when he got too picky about things (see my article: Setting Boundaries in Your Relationship).

For instance, instead of getting annoyed with his criticism about how she folded the laundry, she told him she would do it her way or he could do it (or redo it) himself.  This was challenging for Tom but, over time, he developed a tolerance for things being less than his standard of perfection.  He also stopped criticizing Anna.

Since Tom had a hard time acknowledging his successes, their couples therapist also encouraged Anna to acknowledge and celebrate Tom's successes and for Tom to learn to take that in.

For example, when he won the Salesperson of the Year Award at his company, he wanted to brush it off, but Anna took him out for a dinner to celebrate.  At first, it was hard for Tom to take in Anna's praise but, over time, he learned to get comfortable with it and feel proud of himself.

As they worked on these issues, over time, Tom and Anna gradually revived their emotional and sexual intimacy.  

There were bumps in the road, but even though progress in individual and couples therapy wasn't linear, they made progress and their relationship improved (see my article: Progress in Therapy Isn't Linear).

Coping With Perfectionism in Your Relationship
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem because each couple is unique, but here are some steps you might find useful:
  • Acknowledge the problem and make an agreement to work on it together as a team.
  • Be aware that this problem is probably rooted in early experiences that need to get worked through in therapy.
  • Develop compassion for yourself and your partner.
  • Develop stress management skills, like mindfulness and breathing exercises, to cope with the stress.
  • Think in terms of progress instead of perfection.
Get Help in Therapy
Perfectionism is challenging to change on your own, especially since it's usually rooted in childhood trauma.

Depending upon the problem, you might need to work individually with a trauma therapist as well as a couples therapist.

So, rather than struggling on your own seek help from a licensed mental health professional so you can have a more fulfilling life.

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

As a trauma therapist, I have helped many individual adults and couples to overcome their 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.


Wednesday, January 17, 2024

How to Overcome Shame Spiraling

In the current article, I'm focusing on how to overcome a shame spiral.

Also, see the list of my prior articles about shame at the end of this article.

What is Shame Spiraling?
Shame spiraling can occur when someone feels intense guilt or shame which leads to negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Overcoming the Shame Spiral

Shame spiraling can occur in any area of your life.

Shame spiraling is common among people who have experienced trauma, especially developmental trauma, which is ongoing trauma during childhood (see my article: How Unresolved Trauma Affects How You Feel About Yourself).

How Does Shame Spiraling Occur?
Shame spiraling can occur in many different ways. 

It often happens when an individual feels they have failed in some way or they feel rejected.

Current feelings of shame trigger old feelings of being inadequate in some way, including feeling powerless or unlovable.

This leads to negative thoughts where a critical part of you engages in negative self talk.

These thoughts and feelings can become so overwhelming that you want to shut it all down as quickly as possible, so you might look for an escape with anything you think will bring relief (or, at least, a distraction) as quickly as possible.  

This behavior could include alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, overeating, out of control sexual behavior, and so on.

How to Recognize a Shame Spiral
Here are some telltale signs that you might be in a shame spiral:
  • Feeling intense shame or humiliation
  • Feeling intensely unworthy, unlovable or powerless
  • Feeling isolated and alone (even if you're around people)
  • Experiencing difficulty with regulating your emotions
  • Acting out destructively
Examples of Shame Spiral Triggers
Shame spiral triggers can occur in many different situations.

Some of the most common situations are:
  • Comparing Yourself to Others: When you compare yourself to people you think are more successful, more attractive, happier or wealthier, you set yourself up for a shame spiral trigger (see my article: The Problem With Comparative Suffering).
  • Receiving Criticism or Negative Feedback: Criticism and negative feedback can trigger a shame spiral when it leads to self doubt.  Even when criticism or negative feedback are in the context of overwhelmingly compliments and positive feedback, if you're prone to shame spiraling, you might focus only on the negative feedback.

Overcoming the Shame Spiral
  • Feeling Rejected: Whether it's an actual rejection or a perceived rejection, feeling rejected can lead to feeling unworthy, which can bring up earlier feelings of rejection. The real or perceived rejection can feel like a confirmation that you're unworthy.
  • Making Mistakes or Feeling Like a Failure: Even though you might know intellectually that everyone makes mistakes and everyone fails at something at some point, when it happens to you and you have an early history of related trauma, the recent episode can trigger a shame spiral (see my article: Overcoming Your Fear of Making Mistakes)
  • Experiencing Trauma or Abuse: Current experiences of trauma or abuse can trigger earlier feelings, which can lead to a shame spiral.
  • Experiencing Perfectionism: If you feel you have to be perfect, you're setting yourself up for a shame spiral. The need to be perfect usually begins at an early age when one or both parents have unattainable standards (see my article: Overcoming Perfectionism).
Steps to Overcome Shame Spiraling
  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: Rather than trying to suppress your feelings, acknowledge them.  This can be challenging because you might want to get rid of those feelings, but you suppressed feelings come back stronger than before.
  • Feel Compassion For Yourself: This might be difficult to do when you're in a shame spiral, but if you make a habit of talking to yourself compassionately, as you would to a friend you cared about, you can learn to do this (see my article: Acceptance and Self Compassion).
  • Write in a Journal: Being able to concretize your feelings in writing, as opposed to these feelings swirling and escalating in your head, can be helpful. Not only can it help you to discharge your feelings, writing in a journal can also help to make these overwhelming feelings more manageable and contained (see my article: Journal Writing to Relieve Stress and Anxiety)
  • Get Emotional Support: Shame thrives on secrecy and isolation. When you get emotional support from someone you trust, you break the cycle of secrecy and isolation. You can also get a different perspective on your situation (see my article: Tips For Overcoming Your Fear of Asking For Help).
Get Help in Trauma Therapy
As mentioned above, shame spiraling is usually indicative of unresolved trauma.

If you have been unable to overcome shame spiraling, seek help in trauma therapy (see my article: Mental Health Awareness: Reducing the Shame of Getting Help in Therapy).

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy

A skilled trauma therapist can help you to overcome unresolved trauma and build self confidence (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

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

As a trauma therapist, I have helped many individual adults and couples to overcome trauma.

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

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

See My Other Articles About Shame