NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Dating: Is a Situationship Right For You?

Situationships have become a lot more common in the dating world in recent years as compared to how dating used to be (see my article: How Does Old School Dating Compare to Contemporary Dating?).

People who want to date without a commitment often feel situationships work for them. 

Dating: Is a Situationship Right For You?

Other people who want an exclusive relationship don't like situationships because the lack of definition, commitment or direction makes them feel uncomfortable.

So, let's explore the pros and cons of situationships in the dating world, but first let's start by defining the term.

What is a Situationship?
The nature of a situationships can vary with different couples.

Generally speaking, a situationship is more than just FWB (Friends With Benefits) and less than an exclusive relationship. 

Dating: Is a Situationship Right For You?

In this respect, as previously mentioned, a situationship involves no commitment. It can occur between people who start out as strangers or people who are already friends.

The basic characteristics of a situation include:
  • The Relationship is Undefined: You and your partner haven't put a label on your non-exclusve relationship. This might be because you just started dating so it's too soon to have "the talk" and, as a result, it hasn't been defined. It might also be because you're both fine with your situation as it is for now and neither of you has any intention to try to define it. It can also be because one of you likes things the way they are and the other is secretly hoping the relationship eventually becomes exclusive. 
  • The Connection is Superficial and Based on Convenience: You and your partner might be sexual, but your conversations are mostly superficial small talk. It's possible that your partner might hardly or never ask you personal questions about yourself. In addition, there's no consistency in how often or when you see each other, so it's based on convenience. You might see each other when neither of you have any other plans or if one of you has plans that have fallen through.
  • There's No Talk About a Future: As compared to people who are in an exclusive relationship, the two of you don't make plans for your relationship. You might not even make plans for future events like getting tickets for a concert or the theater. 
  • The Relationship Isn't Exclusive: As previously mentioned, there's no commitment to be exclusive in a situationship, so each of you can date other people.
  • There's No Follow Up: When you're together, you might really enjoy each other's company, but when you're apart, neither of you might take the initiative to contact the other or follow up with each other.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Being in a Situationship?
The pros and cons of a situationship are very much in the eye of the beholder.

If both people are genuinely interested in being in this type of casual relationship, they might find there are more advantages than disadvantages. 

Dating: Is a Situationship Right For You?

But if one person secretly wants a committed relationship and they're just going along with being in a situationship with the hope it will develop into something more, this can create problems.

The Pros
  • Less Responsibility and Less Emotional Investment: For those who want less responsibility and no need to invest emotionally in a relationship, a situationship can work if both people want this.
  • Freedom: You can enjoy each other's company when you're together, but there are none of the expectations involved with a committed relationship. This means you're both free to see other people.
  • Fun With Less Stress: As long as both people are on the same page, you can enjoy your time together without the stress involved in a committed relationship.
The Cons
  • Instability, Inconsistency and Stress: If Person A begins to develop feelings for Person B and Person B doesn't develop feelings for Partner A, Partner A might find the instability and inconsistency of a situationship to be too hurtful and stressful.
  • Different Expectations: You might both start out liking a situationship but, over time, if Person A develops feelings, Person A might have different expectations. Under those circumstances, Person A needs to communicate. However, a change in the relationship might not suit Person B who might still want to be free and uncommitted.
Tips on How to Handle a Situationship
  • Be Honest With Yourself: First, be honest with yourself. Know what you want. If you know you're not going to be comfortable with an uncommitted, undefined relationship, acknowledge this to yourself. There's nothing wrong with this--it's just who you are at this point in your life. Don't go into a situationship hoping to turn it into an exclusive relationship because it might never turn into that. Similarly, if. you know don't want to be in an exclusive relationship, there's nothing wrong with admitting to yourself that you want a casual relationship.
  • Be Honest With the Other Person: Don't pretend you want something you don't want. Being honest with the other person can save a lot of heartache in the long run even if it creates an initial disappointment.
Dating: Is a Situationship Right For You?
  • Communicate Your Needs Clearly: Along with being honest, communicate your needs clearly to the other person--whether it's at the beginning stage of a relationship or if you experience a change later on. Don't expect the other to know how you feel. 
  • Be Honest, Tactful and Gracious If It Doesn't Work Out: A situationship might work for a while, but there's no way to know how feelings might change over time for one or both people. Many relationships run their course whether they're committed relationships or casual relationships. No relationship is emotionally risk free, so if it's no longer working for one or both of you, end it by being your best self.
It's important to know yourself. Situationships aren't for everyone and that's okay.

At certain points in your life, you might an uncommitted, undefined relationship because it's what suits you at the time with a particular person. 

At other times in your life, you might not want a situationship.

You might also be someone who would never want such a casual, undefined relationship and that's okay too.

Just be honest and open about your needs and consider the other person's needs when you're trying to decide what kind of relationship you want.

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 25, 2024

Family Estrangements Due to Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

It's unfortunate that many LGBTQIA adult children are estranged from at least one family member due to homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. 

Emotional Support to Cope With Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia

This article will explore the reasons for these types of estrangements and suggest ways to get emotional support if you have been ostracized by one or more family members (see my articles: Coming Out as LGBTQIA and Coping With Homophobia in Your Family).

What is Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia?
Family members often feel fear, discomfort and mistrust of other family members who are LGBTQIA adults (see my article: Being the "Different One" in Your Family).

Heterosexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual people can also be transphobic and there is often fear and mistrust of bisexual people among heterosexual, gay, lesbian and trans people.

What is Internalized Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia?
Internalized homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is feeling phobic toward one's own sexual orientation or gender identity. This can range from minor discomfort to internalized self hatred.

Emotional Support to Cope With Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

An internalized phobia about one's own sexual orientation or gender identity can lead to hiding and feeling the need to "prove" a heterosexual identity in order to fit in. 

This often involves concealing oneself from close family members, friends, colleagues and others. 

Internalized phobia can also lead to a pervasive fear of being outed by others or that people in their life will find out in some other way, which can create, fear, anxiety and loneliness.

Why Do Families Cut Off Their LGBTQIA Family Members?
The following are the most common reasons for cutting off an LGBTQIA family member:
  • Refusal to Accept an Identity That is Different From Their Own: Many family members refuse to accept that their adult LGBTQIA children or siblings have an identity that's different from what they consider acceptable. Family members who stray from what is perceived as the family identity are often ostracized.
  • Shame About How the Family is Perceived By Their Community: Shame and embarrassment about how the family will be perceived by their community is often a reason why family members cut off LGBTQIA family members. The community might include their church or house of worship, neighbors, other family members outside the immediate family work colleagues and others.
  • Fear of Deviating From Family Values or Religion: In many families any deviation from what is considered the heteronormative feels like a threat to the family. This is especially true in enmeshed families where family members are expected to follow established norms and values. Family values often includes strict adherence to intolerant religious and discriminatory views.
  • Insecurity About Their Own Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: People who are insecure about their own sexual identity or gender identity often fear that if one family member isn't heterosexual, their own sexual orientation and gender might be threatened.
  • Refusal to Deal With Their Own Secret Sexual Orientation and Identity: Family members who have internalized phobia about their own secret sexual orientation and gender identity might ostracize family members who have come out because they fear their own non-heterosexual identity might be discovered. By ostracizing the family member, who has come out, they hope to try to "prove" they are heterosexual and loyal to their family's values.
  • Refusal to Set Boundaries With Other Phobic Family Members: Even when the immediate family accepts their LGBTQIA family member, they might not set appropriate boundaries with other family members who make phobic remarks. Even though they might not agree with these negative remarks, they are too afraid to confront the offending family members.
How to Take Care of Yourself If You Are Estranged From Your Family Due to Homophobia, Biphobia or Transphobia
Coming out to family members, especially family members who tend to be phobic, is a brave act.

Being ostracized from your family due to your sexual orientation or gender identity is an emotionally painful experience. It can exacerbate internalized phobia at a time when you might not feel grounded and safe in your identity.

Hopefully there's at least one family member who is accepting and supportive but, if there isn't, it's important to find an LGBTQIA community in your area if it exists or online.

Just finding others who identify as you do can be affirming. Even if you talk to just one person who has the same sexual orientation and gender identity as you can be helpful.

Get Emotional Support: LGBTQIA Organizations in New York City:
As of the date of this article, the following organizations can provide support for the LGBTQ population in New York City:
  • LGBTQ Community Center: (212) 620-7310
  • Astrea Lesbian Foundation For Justice: (212) 529-8021
  • Identity House: Support Groups, Peer Counseling Therapy Referrals and Resources: (212) 243-8181
Self Care and Pride

  • Callen-Lorde Community Center: (212) 271-7200
  • GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis): (212) 367-1000
  • The Audre Lorde Project (Brooklyn): (718) 596-0342
  • Institute For Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP) - Center For Gender and Sexuality: (212) 333-3444 (Affordable Psychotherapy)
  • Institute For Human Identity: (212) 243-2830 (Affordable Psychotherapy)
Get Emotional Support: LGBTQIA Organizations Outside New York City
Outside of New York City, you can contact the following hotline as of the date of this article:
  • LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564

Getting Help in Therapy
You are not alone.

Working with a licensed LGBTQIA affirmative mental health professional can provide you with the emotional support and tools you need to take care of yourself.

Get Help in Therapy

You might need to grieve family relationships and friends who are not supportive of your sexual orientation or gender identity before you can thrive in your life, but seeking help is the first step.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from an LGBTQIA allied psychotherapist so you can lead a more fulfilling life with pride and dignity.

My Other Articles About Family Estrangements

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, including the LGBTQIA community.

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.


Family Estrangements: Understanding the Barriers to Reconciliation

I've been focusing on family estrangements between parents and adult children lately.  

See my articles:

What Are the Most Common Barriers to Reconciliation Between Parents and Adult Children?
In the current article, I'm focusing on the most common barriers to reconciliation between parents and adult children.

Family Estrangements and Barriers to Reconciliation

These include but are not limited to:
  • Parents Who Believe Their Adult Child "Owes" Them: For most estrangements between parents and adult children this is the #1 barrier to reconciliation. While gratitude is important, when the parents' attitude is that their adult children must now pay them back for what they did, either literally or figuratively, this is can be burdensome for adult children in a way that creates a permanent rift. If there is already an estrangement between the parents and the adult child, the insistence that the parents are owed something can maintain the rift and make it nearly impossible to reconcile.  Common examples include an expectation that the adult child will:
    • Reimburse the parents for money they spent when the child was young
    • Buy them expensive gifts or pay for expensive trips to compensate them for the money they spent on the child when the child was younger
    • Follow in the parents' footsteps with regard to traditions, career, residence, religion, political views, choice of a romantic partner and so on
    • Fulfill a wish or an ideal the parents were unable to fulfill for themselves 
  • Parents or Adult Children Who Believe Any Changes in Their Relationship Should Only Come From the Other Person: Parents who take a rigid stance that any changes to reconcile an estrangement should only come from the adult child can be setting up a formidable barrier to reconciliation. Depending upon the particular situation, both sides might need to make changes or compromises. Parents who cling to the idea that adult children can only "show respect" for them by doing things the parents' way create barriers to reconciliation.  Similarly, adult children should also reflect on any emotionally healthy changes they might need to make to have a healthy relationship with their parents.
Family Estrangements and Barriers to Reconciliation

  • Parents Who Don't Accept Their Adult Child is Now an Adult: Recognizing that your child is now an adult can be emotionally challenging because it means accepting that they have changed and your relationship with your child also needs to change. This means they have more autonomy than when they were younger. You can no longer insist on making decisions for them. You also have to accept that you are older. Similarly, under most circumstances, adult children need to accept they are now adults who can no longer depend on their parents in the same way they did as young children.
  • Parents Who Believe They Have a Right to Interfere in Their Adult Child's Relationship: This is a common barrier to reconciliation. You might not like your adult child's partner, but you don't have the right to interfere in their relationship--even if you feel sure you know what's best. Worse still, if you demand that your child choose between you and their partner, you are creating an emotionally wrenching situation for your child and possibly setting up a permanent estrangement. Similarly, adult children should not interfere in their parents' relationship under most circumstances. (An example of an exception might be if the parent is no longer competent to make decisions for themselves due to health or mental health issues and the other parent or stepparent is engaging in abuse, including financial/elder abuse). See my articles: 
  • Parents or an Adult Child Who Hold Onto Grudges Over Petty Issues: Letting go of past resentment can be difficult. Every situation is different, so there might be situations where whatever transpired on either side was so egregious that it's beyond reconciliation, but this isn't usually the case. Many situations start off with something relatively small and become bigger the longer the parents and adult child argue about it, so it's important for both sides to let go of grudges related to petty disagreements. However, if the estrangement is due to abuse, no matter if it was on the part of the parents or the child, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the abuse, sincere remorse and a commitment to change (see my article: Letting Go of Resentment).
Reconciliation Between Parents and an Adult Child
Estrangements can be difficult to reconcile.

Here are some things you might want to consider:
  • Why You Want to Reconcile: Your attitude and underlying reasons for wanting a reconciliation can make all the difference between a successful reconciliation and a failed attempt at reconciliation. The best reason is that you miss them and you want them back in your life. One of the worst reasons for wanting a reconciliation is that the estrangement causes you shame and embarrassment among friends and relatives. If your concern about how others see you is your primary reason, dig deeper and see whether you can focus on having a healthy relationship between the two of you and not about how you look to others.
  • Be Ready to Listen to What They Have to Say: You might have a lot to say, but listening with an open mind is also important under most circumstances.
  • Reassess an Attitude That Something is Owed to You: Whether you're an adult child or a parent of an adult child, reassess an attitude that the other person owes something to you. 
  • Remember: It's a Process: Reconciling estrangements can take time. If the issues are large, don't expect one or two conversations to resolve everything. Be patient, tactful and kind. 
What If a Reconciliation Isn't Possible?
One or both of you might decide that reconciliation isn't possible.

If you're the one who wants the reconciliation, this can be very painful. But, ultimately, you have to accept this decision and, eventually, after you have grieved, learn to move on to live your best life.

If you're the one who doesn't want reconciliation because you believe it would be too harmful for you--whether you are the parents or the adult child--this decision brings it's own grief and loss that can be overwhelming.

Get Help in Therapy
Whether or not you choose to reconcile is your decision. You shouldn't be coerced or shamed into it. 

Get Help in Therapy

Whether you're the one who is attempting to reconcile or you're the one who has decided against reconciliation, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who can help you through the process.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed psychotherapist who can help you to work through these issues so 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 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, May 23, 2024

Estrangements Between Parents and Adult Children

In my prior article, How Can Trauma Therapy Help to Cope With Family Estrangements?, I began a discussion about family estrangements and how trauma therapy can help.

Family estrangements, also known as cutoffs, can occur between parents and adult children or between adult siblings (see my article: Healing Mother-Daughter Relationships).

Estrangements Between Parents and Adult Children

In the current article, which is a part of a series of articles on family estrangements, I'm focusing on estrangements between parents and adult children where the adult child has a problem with a parent's current behavior or past behavior.

In this article, I'll use the terms estrangement and cutoffs interchangeably.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Estrangement Between Parents and Adult Children?
Estrangements can occur for many reasons including but not limited to:
  • Abuse, including a history of childhood emotional and physical abuse and sexual abuse
  • Betrayal
  • Bullying
  • Psychological problems
  • Substance misuse and other compulsive or addictive behavior
  • Lack of emotional support
  • Political views
  • Money issues, including money borrowed, wills, inheritance plans and so on
  • Other reasons
How Common Are Estrangements Between Parents and Adult Children?
It's estimated that approximately 12% of parents and adult children are estranged.

Estrangements Between Parents and Adult Children

Most of the time cutoffs are initiated by adult children.  About 5-6% are initiated by parents.

How Long Do Estrangements Between Parents and Adult Children Last?
The length of time for estrangements varies based on the people involved, the problems between them and other individual issues between parents and adult children.

On average, estrangements between parents and adult children last about nine years. However, an estrangement can be days, weeks or months long.

Can an Estrangement Based on a History of Childhood Abuse Be Reconciled?
The best possible hope for a reconciliation is for a parent to acknowledge and make amends to an adult child.  

The problem is that parents who engaged in childhood abuse often don't admit any wrongdoing. 

Even if they admit that their behavior was abusive, they might try to minimize it by saying their behavior wasn't that bad. 

They might also try to minimize it by trying to deny how the early abuse affects the adult child now by saying something like, "That happened so long ago. Why don't you just get over it?" (see my article: How a History of Unresolved Childhood Trauma Can Affect How You Feel About Yourself as an Adult).

Needless to say, it's hurtful for an adult child, who was abused by a parent, to hear their parent dismiss or minimize the impact of the abuse. 

Under these circumstances, some adult children might feel confused and doubt their early experiences or whether they have a right to ask their parent to take responsibility and make amends.

When a parent isn't ready to take responsibility and make amends, they place a nearly impossible barrier for reconciliation. 

Even if the adult child decides to try to somehow put aside their hurt, they will probably still feel resentment and sadness, which might only allow them to engage in limited contact with their parent.

Even if a parent takes responsibility and shows genuine remorse for their behavior, a reconciliation isn't automatic. Emotional healing is a process and, depending upon the problem and the people involved, a reconciliation might be slow or nearly impossible.

Next Article:
In my next article I'll continue to focus on family estrangements and some suggestions on how to reconcile these cutoffs:

Getting Help in Therapy
Family estrangements are usually emotionally wrenching and traumatic whether you're the person who initiated the cutoff or you're the person who has been cutoff.

Getting Help in Therapy

Trauma therapy can help you to heal.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to start the healing process.

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.

One of my specialities, as a trauma therapist, is helping adult clients to heal (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapst?).

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, May 21, 2024

How Can Trauma Therapy Help to Cope With Family Estrangements?

Many people believe that family bonds are unbreakable, and yet many parents, adult children and adult siblings are choosing to have minimal or no contact with each other.

Coping With Family Estrangement

Family estrangements, whether they involve no contact or minimal contact, often bring a sense of:
  • Loss
  • Grief
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Guilt
These feelings come up even when people who have chosen to be estranged believe that estrangement is best for everyone involved.

Coping With Family Estrangement

Since family estrangement often goes against many people's basic assumptions and values about what family relationships should be, there is often a stigma attached to choosing to have little or no contact with family members.

The estrangement is difficult enough, but dealing with the stigma adds another emotional burden.  As a result, people often seek help in trauma therapy to cope with their feelings.

Family estrangements can be for a finite amount of time and it's possible, under certain circumstances, for family members to work out their problems (see my articles: Healing Mother-Daughter Relationships and Healing Father-Son Relationships).

Other types of family problems cannot be worked out either because one or more family members are unwilling and/or unable to work out their problems or because doing so would be emotionally or physically harmful to one or more people involved.

Each case is different and, as previously mentioned, a family estrangement doesn't necessarily mean a total cutoff. It can be a decision for minimal contact. 

How Can Trauma Therapy Help to Cope With Family Estrangements?
Assuming you and your therapist are a good therapeutic fit and your therapist has experience helping clients to deal with the trauma of family estrangements, trauma therapy can help you to:
  • Develop Insight and Understanding: Choosing to be estranged from your family can be a confusing and guilt-ridden process even when you know that it's what's best for your mental health. It's also equally true that being the family member who hasn't chosen estrangement and who wants a reconciliation can be just as difficult. Therapy can help you to develop insight and understanding about your family situation so that whatever decision has made (or you are considering making) makes sense to you--even though it brings emotional distress.  
  • Feel Emotionally Supported: A skilled therapist will be objective and not intrusive. She won't try to influence your decision-making process or try to get you to change your mind or advocate for a particular course of action. She will listen with empathic attunement and provide you with emotional support.
  • Develop Tools and Strategies: A skilled psychotherapist will help you to develop the necessary tools and strategies to cope with your situation--no matter if you're the person who has chosen estrangement or the person who wants a reconciliation. Depending upon your needs, these tools and strategies might include helping you to: 
    • Increase your self esteem
    • Communicate your personal needs
    • Develop relationship skills
  • Cope With Grief: Family estrangements are often traumatic for everyone involved. Even when you're the one who has chosen to be estranged from your family, you can still experience grief, sadness and loss. The estrangement can also trigger unresolved trauma. If you're the person who didn't choose the estrangement, you might feel helpless and hopeless to deal with the situation, which can also bring up unresolved trauma.
  • Heal Emotionally: Emotional healing can mean different things for different people. There are certain types of psychotherapy, which were developed specifically to help clients heal from trauma, including family trauma, which a trauma therapist can use, including:
    • EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy
    • AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) 
  • Take the Next Step in Your Life and Avoid Stagnation: Whether you have chosen the estrangement or you feel it has been imposed upon you, you might struggle with how to move on in your life. Moving on doesn't mean that you won't feel sad or angry. It means you recognize that, although your family situation is difficult, you know that getting  stuck indefinitely is detrimental to your well-being. So, you might need tools and strategies to avoid indefinite stagnation.

My Next Article on This Topic:

Getting Help in Therapy
As previously mentioned, family estrangements are often traumatic for everyone involved. 

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy

No matter what your role is in a family estrangement, you could benefit from working with a skilled trauma therapist who has experience helping clients with this issue. 

Rather than struggling alone, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who has the skills and experience to help you.

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

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma, including family 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, May 16, 2024

How to Use Pattern Interruptors to Stop Overthinking

This article is the second part on the topic of overthinking (see my article: Tips on How to Stop Overthinking).

What is Overthinking?
Overthinking or worrying can include overanalyzing and rumination about negative thoughts.

Overthinking, Worry and Rumination

Overthinking can also result in chain reaction thinking where someone worries about the future in terms of "What if...." thinking (see my article: Are You Catastrophizing?).

In other words, they worry about all the things that could go wrong--even when there's no objective reason to worry about these things:
  • "What if I get sick? Then I can't work. Then I can't pay my bills. Then I'll lose my apartment and I'll be homeless."
  • "What if my partner leaves me? Then I'll be all alone. Then I'll never meet anyone else. Then I'll be alone forever and I'll feel like a loser."
If someone gets stuck in overthinking and chain reaction thinking this often results in procrastination because the person gets stuck in a cycle of rumination and worry. 

In addition, someone can become mentally and emotionally paralyzed because chain reaction thinking leads to a pessimistic outlook on the future, which can leave them feeling helpless and hopeless as they anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong.

People who overthink often try to eliminate any possibility of failure and external judgment or criticism. This can keep them in an ongoing cycle of worry and overthinking without making a decision (see my article: Fear of Making Decisions: Indecision Becomes a Decision With Time).

What is at the Root of Overthinking?
For many people the root of overthinking and excessive worrying is fear of separation or loss.

Using Pattern Interruptors to Stop Overthinking

People who have a history of trauma often don't know how to manage their fears, especially when they're triggered in ways that bring them back emotions related to unresolved trauma (see my article: How Unresolved Trauma Can Affect You).

How Can You Manage Your Fears to Stop Overthinking and Worrying?
Managing a fear that can develop into overthinking and worry can be challenging, especially if this is an ingrained pattern for you.

Here are some suggestions that might work for you:

Managing Your Emotions: An important part of managing fear so you don't get stuck in overthinking and rumination is learning to learn emotional self regulation (see my article: How to Manage Your Emotions).

De-identifying With Your Fear: De-identifying with your fear involves being able to separate who you are at your core from your fear. This allows you to cope with your fear by maintaining equanimity.  De-identification from your fear can include:
  • Doing Mindfulness Meditation: Rather than getting stuck in chain reaction thinking, you observe your fears in a calm and centered way (see my article: How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation).
  • Tuning Into Your Senses: When you bring your awareness to your body,  you can tune into your senses in terms of what you're seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting (if taste is applicable). This can help you to calm yourself and separate yourself from your rumination (see my article: What is Somatic Awareness?).

Regaining Perspective
  • Asking Yourself: How would I feel about this 5 years from now?
  • Asking Yourself: How would a friend I admire (someone who doesn't get stuck in worry and rumination) handle this?
  • Looking at Google Earth: Looking at your neighborhood and zooming out to a larger view where you can see the Earth floating in space helps you to put your problem in perspective.
  • Looking at the Ocean: Standing on the shore and looking at the vastness of the ocean could put your problem in perspective.
  • Remembering Experiences With Past Worries: Can you think of times from the past when you got stuck worrying about problems that either never materialized or were minor compared to what you feared? Is it possible that the current problem might be similar?
  • Becoming Aware of What You Can and Can't Control: The Serenity Prayer can remind you of the things you can and can't control. If the problem is something you can't control, this can take some of the pressure off you. If it's something you can control or there are aspects of the problem you can control, you can take action.

How Can Ego States Therapy/Parts Work Help?
As I've mentioned in prior articles about Ego States Therapy, a form of Parts Work, we are all made up of a multiplicity of selves (see my article: How Parts Work Therapy Helps to Empower You).

Getting Help in Therapy

Most people are familiar with this concept based on John Bradshaw's writing about the Inner Child. However, the Inner Child is only one part of the many parts that make up who we are.

When I work with clients who have a tendency to overthinking things, I help them to identify the worrying part as one aspect of themselves. The worrying part is not all of who they are. It's just one part.

There are also other parts of the self that can be related to the worrying part as well as other parts that can empower clients.

If a client has a tendency to overthink, worry and get stuck in rumination, that part often has a long history going back to unresolved trauma. So, there is probably a particular part that gets activated in certain situations.

Clinical Example of Using Ego States Therapy/Parts Work to Overcome Overthinking
The following fictional vignette is based on composites of real situations with all identifying information removed to protect confidentiality:

Jane got highly anxious whenever tax season rolled around. Whenever she gathered her tax information, she felt highly anxious and fearful. She would ruminate about filing taxes, procrastinate to avoid doing them, and then rush to get the taxes filed at the last minute, which created even more stress and anxiety. 

When she spoke to her therapist about this, Jane discovered that doing taxes activated a young part of her who watched her parents get into huge arguments about taxes and finances in general. 

Her therapist used Ego States Therapy to give that younger part a voice. Then, she helped Jane to use the adult part of her, the part who knew objectively that she had nothing to worry about, to talk to her younger part to reassure her.  

This type of reassurance is something Jane never experienced when she was a child and as she and her therapist continued to work in this way, Jane felt her younger self relaxing, especially when Jane's adult self reassured her younger self by saying, "It's okay. You don't have to worry about this. The problems your parents had are in the past. I'm taking care of this now so you don't have to worry about it."

Over time, Jane discovered other parts of herself through her work in Ego States Therapy, and she felt empowered. 

Gradually, she overcame her fear of filing taxes and other similar fears.

Overthinking, rumination and worry are common problems for many people.

You can learn to interrupt your pattern of overthinking and worrying by using the tools discussed in this article.

If you find that the self help tools in this article aren't enough to help you overcome your problem, you can seek help from an Experiential Therapist who does Parts Work or other types of experiential therapy that involve the mind-body connection (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma).

Getting Help in Experiential Therapy
Experiential therapy includes mind-body oriented therapies including:
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
A skilled Experiential therapist can help you to overcome the thought patterns that are disrupting your life.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from an Experiential therapist so you can free yourself from your traumatic history 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.