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Friday, May 31, 2013

Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times: Part 2: Tips On How You Can Help Yourself

In my prior blog article,  Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times: Part 1, I introduced the idea that uncertainty, at one time or another, is a common experience for most people.  We can't avoid times of uncertainty, but we can learn how to cope with these difficult times.

So, I'd like to focus on the kinds of things you can do to get through uncertain times, and then in my next blog article, I'll discuss how I work with psychotherapy clients, who are going through difficult times, when they come to see me in my psychotherapy private practice in NYC.

What Can You Do to Help Yourself During Uncertain Times?

Stay in Contact With Your Emotional Support Network During Uncertain Times
During times of uncertainty, it's very important that you stay in contact with your emotional support network.  This is not the time to isolate.  Friends and family, who are emotionally supportive, can help you during difficult times, not only by being available to see you and talk to you, but also to remind you that you've gotten through difficult times before and, chances are, you'll get through this stressful time as well.

Stay in Contact With Your Emotional Support Network During Stressful Times
On the surface, this might sound simplistic, but looking beyond the surface, it's often true that, when people are going through a lot of stress and they're caught up in their worries, they forget just how resilient and resourceful they really are.

It often takes people who know you well, but who aren't directly involved in the stressful situation, to remind you of your strengths.  This isn't just a matter of cheer leading.  It's really about these loved ones helping you to reconnect with your core strengths, which you can lose touch with when you're filled with worry during uncertain times.

Take Extra Care of Yourself During Uncertain Times
I can't stress this enough:  It's important for you to take extra care of yourself during stressful times.  Many people do just the opposite, and this makes a difficult time even worse.

Take Extra Care of Yourself During Uncertain Times
Getting enough sleep, eating well, engaging in exercise that's right for you, meditating, and finding other healthy ways to take care of yourself is essential to getting through a difficult time.

Also see my blog articles:  
Staying Emotionally Grounded During Difficult Times
Mind-Body Connection: Responding Instead of Reacting to Stress

Reconnect With Your Core Emotional Strengths:  What Did You Do When You Were Faced With Challenges in the Past?
It can be very helpful to remember a time that was difficult from the past and to ask yourself how you were able to get through that time.  Even if your current problem is very different from your past problem, there are often core strengths that you can call on within yourself that you might not be in touch with now.

What Worked For You in the Past When You Were Faced With Challenges?
For instance, maybe, in the past, you were able to step outside your problem and be more objective about it.  Maybe this enabled you to think of new possibilities or possible solutions that you couldn't see when you were immersed in your subjective experience of the problem.  Maybe it also enabled you to objectively assess that the odds of the worst case scenario occurring were very low, and this provided you with a sense of relief.

Think of Someone You Admire:  What Would He or She Do?
Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you might not be able to get in touch with your own strengths.  You can get caught up in a cycle of negative thought patterns that rob you of self confidence.

But, taking yourself out of the situation completely and thinking about someone else that you know and admire, you can begin to imagine what that person might do with a similar problem.  This could be a friend, a family member, a mentor, or even someone that you haven't been in touch with for a long time, like your high school coach.


Think of Someone That You Admire: What Would She or He Do?
It doesn't matter if this person isn't in your life any more.  In fact, it doesn't even have to be someone that you know.  If you can't imagine anyone you know handling the situation, you can imagine someone that you don't know personally.  So, it can a character from a movie, TV program, play or book that you admire and that you think would be a good role model for you with regard to the particular situation that you're dealing with at the time.

What matters is your ability to use your imagination in a positive way to help you tune into the qualities that you like in this person and to imagine yourself having these qualities as well.

Imagination is Very Powerful in Both Positive and Negative Ways
Just think about how your imagination can take you deeper into worry and self doubt, even when there's not much objective evidence for what you're imagining.

So, rather than using your imagination to create worst case scenarios, why not use your imagination to connect with someone or something that will help you?  It can be just as powerful and lead you out of your sense of worry and stagnation.

Also, see my blog article:
Using Your Imagination as a Powerful Tool For Change

I will discuss this further in my next blog article as well as how I help clients in my psychotherapy practice in NYC learn to stay calm during stressful, uncertain times.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing 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 (212) 726-1006 or email me:  josephineolivia@aol.com


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times - Part 1

At one time or another, we've all experienced anxiety that's fueled by uncertainty.  We live in uncertain times, and learning how to tolerate uncertainty and to stay calm is important to overall health and well-being.  But how can you really learn to stay calm in the face of uncertainty? I will begin this discussion today by describing this common problem, and in my next article, I'll discuss how I help clients using a mind-body oriented approach to therapy.

Anxiety and Self Doubt, Fueled By Uncertainty, Is a Common Problem
As a psychotherapist in NYC, I see many clients who come to therapy because they're feeling anxious and filled with self doubt about uncertain aspects of their lives.  Unfortunately, for many people, uncertainty permeates every aspect of their lives.   This makes it difficult for them to cope and maintain a sense of emotional balance.

Anxiety and Self Doubt, Fueled By Uncertainty, Is a Common Problem

Uncertainty in Our Personal Lives and at Work
Uncertainty can occur in just about any area of our lives, including our personal lives and at work.    The ambiguity that is involved with uncertainty can cause a lot of stress, especially if you allow yourself to go over and over a situation in your mind trying to figure out every angle, every possibility, and every possible solution.

Worrying About Uncertainty Makes You Feel Worse
The more you allow yourself to worry, the more anxious you'll become because, in many situations like this, there are too many unknowns that you can't control, and worrying obsessively only makes you feel worse and less able to cope with the problem.

Worrying About Uncertainty Makes You Feel Worse

Let's take a look at an all too common example of uncertainty:
Imagine that you're dating someone that you really like. You always look forward to seeing this person, and she (or he) seems to really like you too.  All along, everything seems to be going well. It looks like this could develop into a wonderful relationship.  Usually, you talk or text every couple of days.

But then, suddenly, out of the blue, you stop hearing from her (or him) for several days.  You leave phone messages and send email, but you hear nothing.  There's only silence and a rising sense in you of uncertainty and anxiety as you wonder what happened.

Uncertainty Can Lead to Anxiety and Self Doubt
This type of situation, and the uncertainty that goes with it, would cause many people to feel anxious.  They would wonder if they were responsible, somehow, for this sudden lack of communication.  A lot of people would obsess about what they said or did during the last date that might have caused this sudden estrangement.

As Anxiety and Self Doubt Build, Even a Negative Response is Preferable to None
A clear answer is usually preferable to ongoing uncertainty, and most people would rather have a definitive answer, even if the answer is "I don't want to see you any more" than to continue to wait and wonder.

Often, in situations like this, the need for clarity can lead to making mistakes as self doubt and anxiety build to an intolerable level.

Anxiety and Self Doubt Can Lead to Regrettable Mistakes
So, let's say you're in this situation, your imagination takes over and your thoughts are off to the races:  "Maybe she (or he) started dating someone else that she likes better and she doesn't want to see me any more."  And as anxiety and self doubt build inside you, you might say to yourself, "She's got some nerve brushing me off this way!  Who does she think she is, anyway?" and you might allow yourself to get carried away by your thoughts and send an angry text in haste.

Then, a day or so later, you get a text back and she tells you that she has been home very sick with a nasty flu, so sick that she couldn't even pick up the phone or write or read a text.  But the first text she saw, as she started to feel a little better, was your angry text, which made her feel awful.  She says that she'd rather not date anyone who can be so cruel, and she asks you not to contact her any more.

So, maybe you wouldn't go as far as sending an angry text, but it's not hard to imagine that many people would.  The point is that in this case and many other similar examples, the anxiety that was fueled by uncertainty and self doubt can lead to your making big mistakes because the imagination conjured up the worst case scenario.

Maybe the situation can be salvaged or maybe not.  But this example highlights the need to be able to develop the capacity to tolerate uncertainty with a sense of calm and emotional balance.

The Mind-Body Connection: Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy
Over the years, I've discovered mind-body oriented psychotherapy is usually the most effective type of therapy for learning to deal with anxiety that is fueled by uncertainty.   In upcoming blog articles, I'll give you tips on what you can do for yourself to help you get through difficult times.  I'll also discuss how I use the mind-body connection and, specifically, clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing therapy, and EMDR to help clients to develop the capacity to stay calm during uncertain times.

The Mind-Body Connection: Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

Also see:  Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times - Part 2


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overcoming the Heartbreak of a Breakup

Anyone who has ever gone through the agony of a heartbreak knows that, at the height of the emotional pain, it can feel like you'll never get over it.  All you want is relief--a pill, a potion, a magic cure, something, anything that just makes it all go away.  You don't want to hear platitudes that feel completely irrelevant to what you're going through  at the time.


How Can You Overcome the Heartbreak of a Breakup?

Finding the Right Balance For Dealing With the Heartbreak of a Breakup
Everyone goes through the heartbreak of a breakup in his or her own way.  Some people jump right back into dating immediately, wanting to just "move on" from the pain and put it behind them as quickly as possible.  But most people who do this usually discover that it's not so easy, especially if your former lover or spouse meant a lot to you.

You Can't Just Flip a Switch to Turn Off Your Feelings
Most people can't do the equivalent of just flipping off a switch to turn off their feelings.  Although no one wants to endure suffering, denying your feelings will only prolong the pain.  Sometimes, it takes a lot more time than we would like.  You might think you can just "move on," but your heart might tell you a different story about what it needs to heal.

Isolating Won't Help You to Overcome the Emotional Pain
Other people do the opposite:  They isolate themselves from everyone and vow to never date or get involved in another relationship again because they don't want to go through the loss and emotional pain again.

Unfortunately, You Can't Avoid Loss and Pain
Vowing that you'll never open yourself up to loss and pain again isn't helpful and it's not realistic because, unfortunately, loss is part of life.  Even someone who is in a loving. long term  relationship knows that if s/he doesn't die first, the spouse or partner will die at some point.  Should they have never gotten involved so they could avoid the pain?  Most people would say no.

So, how do you maintain a balance that's right for you by neither trying to push your feelings down  nor vowing to spend the rest of your life as a hermit?

Here are some tips that might be helpful:

Awareness
Burying your feelings, whether you do it by going into a social whirl, drinking too much or using drugs (which I obviously don't advise), or hiding out isn't going to help you in the long run.  It might feel good momentarily, but those unexpressed thoughts and feelings will usually come right back, sometimes stronger than before.  So, being mindfully aware, although it might be momentarily unpleasant, helps you, in the long run, to overcome the emotional pain.

Acceptance
Denial isn't going to help you in the long run.  The more time and energy you spend trying to resist the pain, the longer it will take to go through it.

Why is this so?  Because the only way to overcome the hurt is accepting it and going through it.  There's no going around it, as much as you might want to avoid the emotional pain.  While you don't need to feel these painful feelings every minute of everyday, you need to take time to allow yourself to grieve.

Often, emotional pain, similar to physical pain, comes in waves.  You can feel the intensity of the pain as it rises.  It often hits a peak, then you cry, write in a journal, talk to a friend, see your therapist, or do whatever it is you do to cope in a healthy way that helps you to deal with these feelings.  After a period, the feelings usually subside for a while until they begin to intensify again.  This could happen many times in one day.

Knowing that the emotional pain usually comes in waves is helpful.  It's rare that a person would feel 100% overwhelmed with emotional pain 24/7, just as it's rare that physical pain is always off the charts all the time.  It ebbs and flows.  Usually, when people become more mindful of what's happening to them, they realize that there are some moments that are better than others.  But it gets easier over time if you accept the fact that there will be pain, there will be some bad moments, and, in time, there will be some good moments too.

Action
Acceptance doesn't mean passivity.  It doesn't mean you accept that there's nothing you can do ever to make yourself feel better ever again.

You can take healthy steps to feel better:
  • Taking extra care of yourself is very important when you're going through a heartbreak:  eating nutritiously, getting enough rest, pampering yourself in healthy ways
  • Maintaining contact with your emotional support system  
  • Writing in your journal 
If you've gone through a heartbreak before, at least, you know that it usually gets better with time.  You also know that you got through it and went on with your life.  You might have felt, initially, that time should have stopped when you got hurt, but it didn't, as cruel as that felt at the time.  But remember:  You got through it.

Getting Help
Self care and emotional support from your loved ones is very important when you're in emotional pain, but it might not be enough.  Your loved ones care about you and that's important, but they won't know how to help you work through the pain in the way a skilled psychotherapist knows how to do it.

Getting Help From a Licensed Psychotherapist to Help You Heal From a Heartbreak
A skilled therapist knows how to create a therapeutic "holding environment" to help you to heal (see my blog article below about this).

Working through the emotional pain in therapy can help you to mourn and heal, so rather than continuing to suffer, you could benefit from seeing a licensed therapist who has experience helping people to overcome the emotional pain involved with a breakup.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to work through their emotional pain so they could go on to live fulfilling lives.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com

Also, read my articles:
Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships
Overcoming the Fear of Falling In Love Again and Getting Hurt
The Creation of a "Holding Environment" in Psychotherapy
Journal Writing Can Relieve Stress and Anxiety

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Infidelity: Your Spouse Cheated on You: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Many clients in my psychotherapy practice in NYC have told me, over the years, that if their spouse ever cheated on them, they would leave their marriage--there would be no if's and's or but's about it.  These are mostly clients who have had problems in their relationships, but infidelity wasn't one of them.  But I have found that for couples where one of the spouses has been unfaithful, many of them decide to work it out and try to regain trust.  And many clients who were sure they would leave if their spouse cheated often feel differently when they're faced with this problem.

After Infidelity:  Some Spouses Decide to Remain Together

Infidelity:  Should You Stay or Should You Go?  No One Can Decide For You
Infidelity is a topic where many people have strong feelings, one way or the other.  And, of course, no two couples are alike, and no one can tell anyone else what's best for the other person's relationship.  It's up to each couple to decide.


Infidelity:  Should You Stay or Should You Go?

There are many individuals who decide to try to work out their marriage even after the other spouse has cheated.  Often, this is a very hard decision to make because of all the emotional pain and anger involved, as well as the judgment that well-meaning friends and families have about the decision to try to reconcile that the hurt spouse has made.

Well-Meaning Loved Ones Aren't Always Helpful
Clients, who decide to stay with a spouse who has cheated, often tell me that they have looked to their friends and family for support.  But, instead, they experience their loved ones as being critical about their decision.  They hear comments from them, like "Once a cheater, always a cheater."  And this makes them feel very alone and unsupported.

Infidelity: Well-Meaning Loved Ones Aren't Always Helpful

Let's take a look at one possible scenario where a spouse decides to try to work out her marital problems after her husband cheated.  As always, this is a fictionalized case based on a composite of many cases so there is no breach of confidentiality:

Ann and Bob:
Ann and Bob, who were both in their 50s, were married for 25 years when Bob confessed that he had been having an affair for the last few weeks.  Bob was filled with guilt and remorse, and could barely look at Ann when he told her about the affair.  He told her the affair was over, and he wanted to stop lying to Ann about where he was going and work things out in their marriage, if Ann was willing.

Ann had no idea that Bob was having an affair.  Her initial reaction was shock.  She never would have imagined in a million years that Bob would cheat on her with another woman.  They had been "high school sweethearts," raised two children together who were on their own, given each other emotional support during the deaths of each of their parents, and stayed together through thick and thin.

At first, Ann wasn't even sure how to respond to Bob.  As the initial shock wore off, she began to feel waves of emotional pain that she felt would overtake her.  She felt like she was in a dream.  Everything felt so unreal.  She was sure she would wake up from this nightmare and everything would be back to normal. But when she saw Bob crying, she knew this was no dream, and she told him she needed time to think about what he told her.  In the meantime, she asked him to go to a hotel for a few days to give her time and space to think, so Bob moved out for a few days.

When Ann called her best friend, Mary, for emotional support, Mary was also in disbelief because, she said, "Bob didn't seem the type."  Then, she advised Ann to contact a lawyer and get a divorce.  But Ann knew she wasn't ready to do this.  She called her older sister, Karen, who was also shocked.  Karen told Ann that Ann could stay with her until Bob packed up his things and moved into his own apartment.  But Ann wasn't sure she wanted Bob to move out permanently.  The problem was that she wasn't sure what to do.

After a few days of crying and staying in bed with the covers over her head, Ann told Bob that he could come back so they could talk.  She was still filled with a lot of emotional pain and rage, but she felt she and Bob needed to communicate and she needed answers.  She felt that if he could just explain what happened, maybe she could begin to wrap her mind around this situation.

When Bob came home, he was very sheepish.  Ann could see that he was filled with regret and concern for her.  Although she was furious with him, part of her felt a certain compassion for him.  She thought to herself, "Normally, if he looked so sad and upset, I would be the one comforting him, but I can't comfort him now.  I'm so hurt and angry that I can barely take care of myself."

Bob began by apologizing to Ann again and telling her that he knew that, in having the affair, he was selfish and he never meant to hurt her.  He knew there were no reasons that could justify his infidelity.  Then, he explained, with much difficulty, how the affair began after having drinks with a woman he met at a conference, who lived in L.A. and who was in NY for a few weeks.

Bob couldn't explain what happened to him.  He couldn't understand it himself, but he knew that this other woman meant nothing to him.  And, when he came to his senses, he ended it.  He considered not telling Ann, but he knew it would eat away at him and he felt this secret would come between them, so he decided to tell her.  If he knew nothing else, he said, he knew that he still loved Ann very much, he didn't want to "throw away" 25 years of marriage, and he wanted to try to work it out with her, if she could forgive him, so they could be together for the rest of their lives.

Ann had hoped that some explanation would help her to understand how Bob, a dedicated husband and father, could stray from their marriage. But, after Bob spoke, she felt no closer to understanding it than before.  She was confused as well as hurt and angry.

As the weeks passed and they tiptoed around each other, Ann wondered if she played some role in this.  She was clear that Bob was responsible for his own actions, but she also knew that their marriage was made up of two people, and maybe there were problems in the marriage that contributed to Bob's infidelity in some way.

Her older sister and best friend were urging Ann to leave Bob.  Ann understood their concerns, but she knew she wasn't ready to just throw away their marriage, even though she didn't know if she could ever trust him again or ever get over the hurt and pain.

Feeling very alone, she began her own individual therapy to sort out her feelings.  Bob also began his own therapy to deal with his guilt and sadness and sort out his feelings about what he did.  After a couple of months, both therapists recommended that Ann and Bob go to couples counseling because it was obvious that each of them wanted to try to salvage their marriage.  Ann also stopped talking to her sister and best friend about her marital problems because talking to them only confused her more.

During their marriage counseling sessions, Bob and Ann had a chance to begin to reconcile their problems.  It wasn't easy, and there were times when Ann wanted to give up, but she stuck it out.  They began to look at the problems in their marriage that they had swept under the rug, including that they had not had sex with each other in more than five years, mostly because Ann wasn't feeling that sexual.

The work was slow and painful.  But they each had their own individual therapist to help them with feelings that came up in their marriage counseling and at home.  Over time, Ann and Bob began to feel that they could start to move on. Ann felt she could, slowly, begin to trust Bob again.  She felt that the open wound she felt as being cavernous was beginning to heal.  They began to be emotionally and sexually intimate again.  She took each day as it came, and she tried not to look too far ahead.

Trying to regain trust after a spouse cheats is a very complicated process.  For many people, there's no going back once it has occurred.  They work out their emotional pain without their spouse, but it can  affect their ability to enter into future relationships and trust again.  It's not so easy to just "move on," as friends might advise.

For other people, who aren't ready to give up on the relationship, it can feel overwhelming to sort through the many psychological layers involved.  When a couple decides to try to work out their relationship, if possible, it's best for them to be in couples counseling and for each person to have their own therapist.

Even though people who are close to you might feel that they know what's best for you, no one knows better than you and your spouse about your relationship so, although your loved ones might be well meaning, it's up to each of you in the relationship to decide what's best for you as individuals and, if  you remain together, as a couple.

Getting Help
If you and your spouse are dealing with the emotional pain involved with infidelity, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed psychotherapist who has worked with this problem before.  Most skilled therapists who have expertise with this problem will be objective and not try to steer you to either break up or stay together.  The role of the therapist is to help you decide what's best for you.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:  josephineolivia@aol.com

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Choose a Psychotherapist

At various times in our lives, we all need help. Trusted friends and family members can be a source of strength and support to help us cope with difficult times. But sometimes friends and family are not qualified to help us work out our problems. At those times, you might decide to see a psychotherapist.


How to Choose a Therapist?
Choosing a therapist can be a daunting task, especially if you've never been in therapy before. How do you know what to look for? How do you know if a particular therapist is right for you? There are many different types of psychotherapy. How you do know which one would be best for you?

How to Choose a Therapist

Feeling Comfortable with the Therapist
I believe that the most important factor in selecting a therapist is whether you feel a connection to the therapist, regardless of who recommended the therapist or what type of therapy they practice.

So, how do you know if you feel a rapport with a particular therapist? I recommend going for a consultation and trusting your gut instinct.

Now, it's true that you might not feel comfortable the first time that you go. After all, it's not easy talking about personal things to a stranger. So, you might need to go a couple of times before you can distinguish your initial discomfort, which is normal, from what might not be a good match between you and the prospective therapist.

Make Sure the Therapist is Licensed
Make sure that whoever you see is licensed. I cannot stress this enough. Unfortunately, there are many people who call themselves therapists or counselors, but they're not licensed and they have no professional training.

Unlicensed, untrained wanna-be "therapists" usually do more harm than good and it's best to steer clear of them. If you're not sure if they're licensed, you can contact the State Professional Licensing board or go online. If they're licensed, their names will appear with their license number and the date of their license. Of course, having a license is no guarantee that they're a good therapist, but at least it's an indication that they meet the State's profesional requirements.

Ask for a Consultation
During the consultation, feel free to ask the prospective therapist questions about training, skills and experience. If a therapist is unable or unwilling to answer these questions or s/he becomes defensive or turns the questions back on you, move on.

How to Choose a Therapist:  Ask For a Consultation

You also want to know if the therapist has experience working on the particular problem that you are experiencing. You can also ask about their particular theoretical orientation. A therapist should be able to explain this to you in a way that you can understand without using jargon. Many therapists are eclectic, which means that they work in many different ways, depending upon the needs of the client.

During the consultation, ask yourself:
  • Do I feel heard by this therapist? 
  • Does the therapist seem interested in what I'm saying? 
  • Other than normal anxiety that most people feel during an initial consultation, do I feel comfortable? 
You might need to interview a few therapists before you find the right one for you. And don't feel badly or that you'll be hurting the therapist's feelings if you decide to choose someone else. Any professional therapist understands that not all therapists are good for all clients.

If fee is a consideration, talk about the fee. Do you have out of network benefits that will provide you with a partial reimbursement?  

A Meaningful Experience in Therapy
When you find the right therapist for you, you are likely to have a meaningful experience. You'll have a chance to free yourself from old negative patterns that are keeping you from thriving in your life. Psychotherapy can be a rewarding, life changing experience. Good luck in your journey.

I am a licensed NYC Psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

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

To set up a psychotherapy consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com

Memorial Day: A National Day of Remembrance

Memorial Day was designated as a National Day of Remembrance by Congress because it seemed that so many people had forgotten the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a day when we remember and honor soldiers who have served our country and who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

As a National Day of  Remembrance, we're asked on Memorial Day to pause at 3 PM to quietly remember those who died.  It is a small thing to ask for those who gave so much.

Memorial Day: A National Day of Remembrance



Memorial Day: A National Day of Remembrance



Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice Throughout Our History





Josephine Ferraro, LCSW
NYC Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing Therapist
(212) 726-1006 




photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Pete Zarria via photopin cc
photo credit: Beverly & Pack via photopin cc











Saturday, May 25, 2013

Overcoming Trauma With EMDR: When the Past is in the Present

Many psychotherapy clients ask me why they continue to feel so bad about a trauma that occurred many years ago.  Most people assume that "the past is in the past." But when you have unresolved trauma, the past is definitely in the present and can get triggered by present day circumstances.  I provided an example of this phenomenon in my prior blog article, EMDR - Overcome Trauma That Keeps You Feeling Stuck and in Emotional Pain.


Overcoming Trauma With EMDR: When the Past is in the Present

Let's explore this further to try to understand how traumatic memories from the past can get triggered in your current life.

A Veteran With PTSD Can Get Triggered By a Loud Noise
The example that's often given is of a veteran who comes home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and gets triggered by a loud noise, like the sound of a car back firing.

A Military Veteran With PTSD Can Get Triggered By a Loud Noise

The loud noise triggers a trauma response.  Depending upon the severity of the veteran's PTSD, he or she could have a range of responses from a mild startle response to diving for cover as if he or she is still on the battle field.

The Body Reacts Before the Mind in Dangerous Situations
The interesting thing is that when a person reacts to the trauma, his or her body reacts first before the mind reacts.

This is true not only for traumatized veterans who are reacting to memories that get triggered, but also for everyone who is in a potentially dangerous situation whether it's in the past or the present.

Having the body react first before the mind when you're actually in current danger can be very useful.

For instance, if you're in the woods and a bear begins to run after you, your body will react first by pumping adrenaline through out your body and usually your legs will start running before your mind even has time to process the thought, "Oh no!  A bear is running after me!"

An Angry Bear About to Attack:  A Person's Body Will React Before the Mind

If you had to wait for your rational mind to react first before your body reacted by running, you might end up as the bear's lunch.  That's why, under circumstances of present danger, it's better for your body to react first because your body knows what to do--run like the wind!

"Is It a Stick or a Snake?"
Another example of the body reacting before the mind is one I remember hearing from Nancy Napier, LMFT in Somatic Experiencing trauma training.

The example is this:  Imagine yourself hiking in the woods when your eye catches something in your path and your body has an automatic response of jumping back.  Only after your body has reacted will your mind ask the question, "Is this a stick or a snake?"

Potential Danger:  Stick or Snake?  Your Body Will React Before Your Mind

There might be only a microsecond between your body reacting and your mind asking the question, but it's definitely more efficient and safer for the body to react first, especially if it really is a poisonous snake.  Then again, if you realize that it's really just a stick, you're relieved and you can keep walking.

Your Body and Mind Still React, Even When It's a Memory of the Traumatic Event and Not Actual Current Danger
When what you're feeling is the memory of a traumatic event, as opposed to being in actual danger in the present moment, your body will still react when it's triggered by a current event.

Depending upon the severity of your reaction, you could react with a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  There would be a build up of adrenaline.  You might find yourself shaking and your heart pounding, but since you're not in actual danger at the moment, you won't be discharging this mobilized energy by running--the pent up energy will stay in the body.

If you're constantly being triggered in the present by traumatic memories, you can see how this isn't useful the way it is when you're confronted by a bear or the possibility of poisonous snake in the present moment and you would use that energy to flee.

When you react as if there is present danger when there's none and this happens over and over again, it can be exhausting on a physical and emotional level.  It can compromise your immune system and cause health problems.

There Are Many Different Types of Events That Can Cause PTSD
The example I gave above of the combat veteran, who gets triggered by a loud noise, is the classic example of PTSD.

But there are many different situations, aside from combat trauma, that can cause PTSD, including emotional abuse, physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, getting robbed or mugged, natural disaster, terrorism, and any other emotionally overwhelming event.


Hurricane Sandy: Two People Can Go Through the Same Event and Have Different Reactions

What is An Emotionally Overwhelming Event?
What is an emotionally overwhelming event?  It depends on the individual.

Two people can go through the same event and one person might develop a traumatic response and the other might not, depending upon many factors, including personal history, personality, and other factors.

An Overwhelming Event From Your Past Doesn't Have to Cause Full Blown PTSD to Get Triggered in the Present
What many people don't realize is that the overwhelming event doesn't have to cause PTSD in order to get triggered later on.  You don't have to meet the full diagnostic criteria for PTSD to have a traumatic response and get emotionally triggered.

There is what is known in trauma work as "Big T" and "Smaller T" trauma, which I explained in a prior blog article: EMDR and "Big T" and "Smaller T" Trauma.

When You Get Emotionally Triggered By a Memory, It Can Feel Like You're "Going Crazy"
Sometimes, the person who is feeling emotionally triggered might not even realize that they're being triggered by a memory of a traumatic event.  This can make the person feel like they're "going crazy."

So, when I work with clients who are confused by their emotional reactions, I educate them about how past memories can trigger emotional reactions in the present.

It's usually reassuring to clients to know that they're have a common reaction to the memory of an overwhelming event.

Getting Help
EMDR is a safe and effective form of trauma therapy when it is used by a skilled therapist.  


Get Help From an EMDR Therapist to Overcome Trauma and Lead a More Fulfilling Life

Rather than continuing to be triggered by past memories, you owe it to yourself to get help from an experienced EMDR therapist to resolve your trauma.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing 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 (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com.




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Thursday, May 23, 2013

EMDR: Overcome the Trauma that Keeps You Stuck and in Emotional Pain

People often start psychotherapy to overcome trauma that keeps them stuck and in emotional pain.   My experience, as a psychotherapist in private practice in NYC, is that EMDR is a safe and effective form of therapy for trauma when practiced by a licensed, skilled EMDR therapist.

Getting Into Relationships With Romantic Partners Who Keep Hurting You
There are many situations that cause people to get retraumatized in their lives.  One of them is when people keep getting into relationships with romantic partners who hurt them.  Why does this keep happening to certain people over and over again?  Is it just bad luck or is there something deeper going on?

Getting Into Relationships With People Who Keep Hurting You

Of course, every situation is different, but it's often true that when someone keeps getting into relationships with people who cause them emotional pain, they're unconsciously repeating an old pattern from their childhood.  This phenomenon usually involves unresolved childhood trauma that keeps getting repeated in one relationship after the next.

It's usually hard to see this phenomenon on your own and it's even harder to try to change it by yourself without help from a skilled psychotherapist.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized example, which is a composite of many different psychotherapy cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

Susan
By the time Susan came to therapy, she was at her wit's end.  Her two-year relationship with Sam was falling apart, and she came to our psychotherapy consultation hoping she could find out what she was doing "wrong" so she could save her relationship.

Originally, Susan wanted to attend couples counseling, but Sam wanted no part of this.  He came to the consultation because she begged him to, but he made it clear that he wasn't interested in couples counseling.  In fact, 10 minutes into the consultation, he dropped a bomb by telling Susan that he wanted "out" and he was waiting until our appointment to let her know so that Susan would have a place to deal with the emotional aftermath of their breakup.  And, having said that, Sam stood up, gave Susan back her apartment keys and left the session, leaving Susan in tears.

I wish I could say that this is very unusual during a consultation.  But, unfortunately, this wasn't the first time that two people came in to talk about their relationship where one person used the session to bail out.

After I helped Susan to calm down, she said that, although she was surprised, this wasn't totally out of character for Sam, and he had a way of bailing out when the going got tough.  Their dynamic would be that she would pursue him when he left and take all the blame for their relationship not working.

Apparently, Sam never had to take any responsibility.  They just resumed their relationship with Susan "walking on eggshells," hoping that Sam wouldn't leave again.

When this happened during the consultation, Susan wanted to pursue Sam again, but she agreed to stay to talk about what happened.

They reconciled after Susan's first session.  But during the next month, Sam was in and out of their relationship on a weekly basis whenever things got tense.  Susan was working in therapy to change her behavior so that she wasn't continually graveling before Sam.

In our therapy sessions, she began to realize, for the first time, how awful she was being treated by Sam.  She also became exhausted with their on again/off again relationship until, finally, she decided that she just couldn't do it any more, and she allowed him to leave without pursuing him again.

Without the chaos, we were able to explore how this dynamic, which went on in her prior romantic relationships, was a recreation of her relationship with her father, who was a cold distant man.  He would manipulate Susan's mother and Susan by constantly threatening to leave the family when he didn't get his way.

This resulted in Susan's mother allowing him to use the family savings for very risky business ventures which usually failed and left the family on the brink of financial disaster.  Susan's mother was so afraid of the father abandoning her and Susan that she would give in to his outlandish schemes.

Susan grew up to be an anxious child who had nightmares of her father leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere.  She was so afraid of being abandoned by her father that, even at the young age of five, she would take on the blame for whatever her father was angry about.

Children at that age often blame themselves for their parents' problems, and Susan was no exception. The problem was that there was no one to tell her that she wasn't to blame.  Her mother was too overwhelmed and preoccupied with accommodating the father, so she wasn't emotionally available to comfort Susan.  And Susan's father was too narcissistic to feel any empathy for Susan.  He was mostly concerned about getting his way.

So, when Susan began dating, she continually chose men who were like her father because these men were familiar.  It was also her way, in an unconscious effort, to try to have a different outcome than what she experienced as a child.  In other words, she was still trying to be the "good girl" in her relationship who would be so good, kind and accommodating that her boyfriend would love her and never leave her.  Except it never worked out that way because these men were too self involved and didn't have the capacity to be part of a loving relationship.  So, these relationships didn't end well.

When Susan was able to see that she was repeating the same pattern over and over again, it was an eye-opening experience for her.  But she felt it would be impossible for her to change.

We began talking about EMDR, a trauma therapy that was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.  And she agreed to try it.  After spending several sessions developing internal resources and coping skills, we began our EMDR work on the current situation but focusing more on the older trauma that was getting emotionally triggered in Susan's relationships as an adult.

EMDR is a Safe and Effective Form of Trauma Therapy That Helps Restore Your Sense of Self
As we worked through her emotional trauma, Susan began to feel more confident and less burdened by her traumatic past.  With EMDR, she was able to work through the current and prior trauma so she  was free of her traumatic past.

EMDR
EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing isn't magical.  But I have found it to be one of the most effective forms of trauma therapy--much more effective than regular talk therapy.

Many of the clients that come to see me for psychotherapy have had a lot of talk therapy and they have developed intellectual insight into their problems.  But they haven't healed and they continue to be affected by their trauma.

Getting Help
If you have unresolved trauma that keeps you stuck and in emotional pain, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed psychotherapist who is an EMDR practitioner.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, Somatic Experiencing and EMDR therapist who works with individuals and couples.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com







Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 3: The Consultation

In prior blog articles, I discussed the common fears that many people have when they consider attending psychotherapy to recover from emotional trauma as well as how to find a licensed psychotherapist who has an expertise in trauma (see links below to these article).  In this blog article, I would like to focus on how to handle a psychotherapy consultation with a trauma specialist.

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma
As I've mentioned in prior articles, I consider the first session with a new client to be a consultation, whether they're coming for trauma therapy or not.  The consultation is an opportunity for both the client and the therapist to find out if they would be a good match.

Providing the Therapist With An Overview of the Problem During a Psychotherapy Consultation
When clients call me for a consultation, I usually let them know that I will be asking them during our first session for an overview of their problem and what they would like to get out of therapy.

The reason why I only ask for an overview is because I want enough information to have an idea of what the presenting problem is for a particular client, but I don't want the client to feel overwhelmed at the end of the session because they feel they have divulged too much to a stranger.

Providing the Therapist With An Overview of the Problem During the Therapy Consultation

I assure them that I can (and I have) helped clients with all different types of trauma, and so I can hear anything.  But, very often, when people start talking about their trauma, especially if they delve into it very deeply too early on, they often get emotionally triggered.  If this happens, it can be a frightening experience for the client, and it might actually make them too afraid to pursue therapy.

So, no actual trauma work is done during a consultation.  It's a meeting where you and the therapist meet for the first time and see if you're comfortable with each other.  It's understood that most clients have some level of discomfort and a certain amount of ambivalence about starting therapy.  But beyond that, you want to get a sense of whether or not you feel a rapport with the therapist.

I want people who come to see me for therapy to feel safe emotionally.  It's of the utmost importance to me that people leave my office feeling emotionally intact and not overwhelmed and emotionally vulnerable.  So, an overview is usually a safe place to start.

Ask the Therapist Questions
To get the most out of your consultation with a psychotherapist, I recommend that you think about what's important to you with regard to working with a therapist before your first appointment.  I suggest that you write down your questions to help you use the time you have in your first session well.

What Kinds of Questions Are Helpful to Ask to a Trauma Therapist?
Of course, everyone is different in terms of what they want to know, but generally, it's a good idea to ask:
  • Are you a licensed psychotherapist (never do trauma work with anyone who isn't licensed)?
  • How long have you been a practicing therapist?
  • What is your expertise in trauma?
  • What type of advanced training do you have with regard to trauma treatment?
  • How much experience do you have working with clients who have the same type of problem

What Kinds of General Questions Are Helpful to Ask a Therapist?
  • Which graduate school did you attend?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What are your specialties?
  • What is your fee?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
I'm sure you might have other questions that you're interested in, but these are the most common basic questions for a psychotherapy consultation.

What If You're Not Sure After One Consultation?
If you're not sure whether or not you want to see a particular therapist after one consultation, you can ask if you can have a second consultation.  You might also want to meet a few therapists, although many people find it diffiult to go through this process a few times with different therapists, so this is up to the individual.

It's best to go with your gut feeling in these matters.  You don't need to worry about hurting the therapist's feelings if you decide you want to choose a different therapist.  Most experienced therapists know that not all therapists are for all clients, so they won't take it personally.  You're the one who has to feel comfortable.

Getting Help
Many people who have emotional trauma procrastinate in getting help.  In the meantime, their emotional trauma often has a detrimental impact on their lives.


Getting Help

Rather than continuing to suffer with anxiety and shame, get help from an experienced psychotherapist who has an expertise with trauma so you can overcome your trauma and live a more fulfilling life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is working with emotional trauma.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 1: Common Fears

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 2: Finding a Trauma Therapist

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 2: How to Find a Trauma Therapist

In my last blog article, Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Overcome Trauma - Part 1, I explored some of the common fears that many people have that keep them from getting the help they need to overcome emotional trauma (see link to article below).  In this article, I'll focus on how to find a licensed psychotherapist who is a trauma expert.


Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Overcome Trauma: How to Find a Trauma Therapist

Somatic Experiencing and EMDR Are the Most Effective Forms of Therapy For Trauma
As a psychotherapist who is a trauma expert, I've found that Somatic Experiencing and EMDR are the most effective forms of trauma therapy for most people.

Both Somatic Experiencing (SE) and EMDR tend to be more effective than regular talk therapy to overcome trauma.

Somatic Experiencing and EMDR are being used effectively in the US and all over the world for people who want to overcome emotional trauma.

Somatic Experiencing and EMDR Are the Most Effective Forms of Therapy For Trauma


I've included links to prior blog articles that I've written (below) that explain how to choose a psychotherapist, and what EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are.  I've also included the professional websites for Somatic Experiencing and EMDR that provide international directories of therapists as well as links to books by Peter Levine, Ph.D., who developed SE and Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., who developed EMDR.

Seeing a Licensed Psychotherapist is a Must 
My recommendation, and I can't stress this enough, is that you seek a licensed psychotherapist.

There are trauma therapists who are listed on the Somatic Experiencing website who are not licensed psychotherapists.  They have learned how to do Somatic Experiencing and they might be certified, but they aren't licensed therapists and don't have experience doing psychotherapy.

Licensure in various states can vary.  In New York City and most other states, you can't call yourself a psychotherapist unless you have a license.  If you're not sure what type of licensure they have, ask.

Being certified as an SE therapist is not the same as being a licensed psychotherapist.  Being a certified SE therapist (or SEP) means a person has attended all the workshops and attended the required number of supervisory sessions and personal SE sessions to get certified by the SE Training Institute.

Also, a person might be licensed as a bodyworker or massage therapist and become certified as a SEP, but they are not licensed psychotherapists.  This is not to say that these individuals aren't knowledgeable.

But if the trauma work goes beyond a certain clinical depth, they will have to refer you to work with a licensed psychotherapist who is a Somatic Experiencing psychotherapist because they are not allowed to work outside the scope of their knowledge.  

That will mean that you will have t start over with someone else.  There are enough licensed psychotherapists who are excellent SE therapists that you can find, certainly in NYC and on the West Coast.

With regard to EMDR, at least when I was trained several years ago, you could not learn EMDR unless you were a licensed psychotherapist, so you are much less likely to encounter this issue.  But, once again, if you're not sure, ask.

In my next blog article, I'll discuss the first session with a psychotherapist, which I recommend that you consider as a consultation.

As a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist, I work with individual adults and couples.

I specialize in working with emotional trauma.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com

Articles From My Psychotherapy Blog:

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 1: Common Fears


How to Choose a Psychotherapist

Overcoming the Freeze Response Related to Trauma with Somatic Experiencing

What is EMDR: Big T and Small T Trauma

Somatic  Experiencing and EMDR Information With US and International Directories:
Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute

EMDR International Association and Directory

Books
Book About SE: Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences - by Peter Levine, Ph.D.

Book About SE: In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restore Goodness - by Peter Levine, Ph.D.

Book About EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principals, Protocols and Procedures - by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.

Book About EMDR: Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life With Self Help Techniques From EMDR Therapy - by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.



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Monday, May 20, 2013

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 1: Common Fears

It's a sad fact that millions of people throughout the world suffer with emotional trauma and never get professional help from a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma.  Whether it's trauma that originated in childhood or trauma due to war, terrorist attacks, sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuse, or trauma due to natural disaster, there are millions of people who either don't have access to trauma therapy or who have access but are too afraid to attend trauma therapy.


Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Overcome Emotional Trauma

In the US, Europe, Latin America and many other parts of the world, we're fortunate to live during a time when there's a variety of effective forms of trauma therapy to choose from to help people to overcome emotional trauma.  These include EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

But even though there is effective treatment available for trauma, too many people are afraid to get the help they need and they continue to suffer needlessly.   

Why Are So Many People Afraid to Attend Psychotherapy to Overcome Emotional Trauma?
The reasons for people's fear vary, but include:
  • a fear that the therapist will plunge them back into the traumatic experience and they will feel overwhelmed
  • a fear that they will be blamed for their trauma and the therapist will see them as being "bad"
  • a fear that some part of the traumatic experience that they might not remember will emerge and they'll "fall apart"
  • a fear that they'll have nightmares that will overwhelm them
  • a fear that they'll feel helpless in therapy
  • a fear that their own poor sense of self will be confirmed by the therapist
  • a fear of going to a new therapist based on bad experiences with prior therapists
  • a fear of the unknown
I'm sure there are many other fears that people have that I've left out, but the ones I've given above tend to be among the most common fears that I hear about when clients come to see me about their emotional trauma.

It's Not Unusual For People to Be Afraid to Attend Therapy to Overcome Emotional Trauma

These are common fears that many people have when they're considering going to therapy to overcome trauma.

Although unfortunate, it's understandable that traumatized people are often too afraid to seek the treatment that they need.  But there are ways to make the process a lot less frightening, starting with finding a psychotherapist who is a trauma expert and asking for a consultation to find out how the therapist works.  

What do I mean by this?  Well, many people have a misconception that they will have to delve deeply into their trauma history on Day One in therapy.  But this isn't true.  

A skilled clinician, who is a trauma expert, will make sure that before any processing of the trauma begins, the client has the internal resources or coping skills to do the work.  Also, he or she will know that it takes time to build trust and a rapport, which is necessary for any client, but especially for clients with trauma, to feel comfortable.

You Can Overcome Your Emotional Trauma By Seeing a Psychotherapist Who is a Trauma Expert

In upcoming blog articles, I'll provide recommendations on how to seek a referral to a trauma therapist, how to handle the first session which, in my opinion, should be considered a consultation rather than a session to do trauma work directly, and ways to make the process feel much safer emotionally.

As a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist, I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialities is helping clients 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 (212) 726-1006 or email me:  josephineolivia@aol.com

Overcoming Your Fear of Attending Psychotherapy to Recover From Trauma - Part 2: Finding a Trauma Therapist

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Therapist's Thoughts About "John," a Book By Cynthia Lennon


Having recently read "John," a book about John Lennon by his first wife, Cynthia Lennon, I was quite moved.  I would recommend this book highly to people who are curious about John Lennon and would like to know more about the personal history of this creative genius based on Cynthia's account.

John Lennon the Man vs John Lennon the Icon
As most people know, John Lennon and the Beatles were idolized by millions.  They achieved unimaginable success as a group. 

John Lennon

When we idealize people to such a degree, we place them on high pedestals from which they can only fall when their personal lives are scrutinized with such detail from childhood to death.  

As a young girl growing up during Beatlemania, I was one of the millions who idolized the Fab Four and loved their music, and I still love their music.  

So, as an adult, I hesitated, at first, to read "John" because I wondered if I would be disillusioned by Cynthia's account of John the Man, a husband and a father, as opposed to the revered public persona of John Lennon the Icon.

John Lennon and The Beatles
But, as soon as I began reading Cynthia Lennon's book, I realized that she gives quite an empathic account of John's life and her marriage to John.  

Given the circumstances of their life together and the aftermath of their relationship, based on her account, I don't think many people could have blamed her if she did otherwise.  But, to her credit, she seems to present a balanced picture of a man with early trauma, who is thrust into the spotlight at such a young age, seemingly unprepared for what fame would bring.  

I already "knew" certain aspects of his life that had received a lot of publicity before and after his death--or, at least, as much as anyone can "know" things about such a famous person that you've never met.  

I knew that he lost his mother as a teenager.  I also knew that his father was not around much when he was a young boy and then, presumably, disappeared from his life later on until after John became famous.  I'd heard stories that his Aunt Mimi, who raised him, was not a nurturing figure in his life.  

I had also already read stories and heard accounts that when he left Cynthia to be with Yoko Ono, he had little contact with his first son, Julian Lennon.  For me, this was one of the hardest aspects of his life to reconcile with the public persona of John Lennon, who advocated for peace and love.  

Of course, everyone has conflicting aspects to his or her personality.  So, this isn't so much a criticism of John as it is an observation that he was human, after all and, like all of us, had human flaws.

Transgenerational Trauma
But, as a psychotherapist reading about how John left his first son, Julian, based on Cynthia's account, I couldn't help looking at the transgenerational trauma that occurred when his father left him and when he left Julian.  

For a son, losing a father as a young boy is a major loss and an emotional trauma.  I often see psychotherapy clients who have lost one or both parents at a young age who vow that they will never abandon their children because they love them and they don't want to see them hurt in the same way.  But, so often, many of these same parents end up abandoning their children due to whatever unresolved trauma and unconscious internal turmoil that is going on within them.  

This happens in so many ways, big and small.  Many young adults will say, "I never want to be like my father" or "I never want to be like my mother" and they mean this sincerely.  

But then, as older adults, they often find themselves doing the exact thing their mother or father did that hurt them and that they said they would never do.  Usually, this occurs because of their own unconscious internal conflicts.  And this is how transgenerational trauma is perpetuated, usually on an unconscious level, from one generation to the next.

John Lennon - Genius and Complex Person
Having never met John Lennon, I'm not going to presume to say what might or might not have gone on in his mind.  In Cynthia's book, "John," he is presented as a complex person with many conflicting, and seemingly unintegrated, parts to his personality.  

My impression is that Cynthia never thought John would leave her in the way that he did or abandon their child.  

As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many clients who are often stunned by similar behavior by a spouse or lover.  This can be one of the most devastating and traumatic experiences of a person's life--when you think you know your spouse or partner so well and then he does something so hurtful that you can hardly believe he's the same person you thought you knew.

It's not easy putting your life back together again after such a crushing blow, which makes Cynthia Lennon's resilience and resourcefulness all the more impressive.

I've included a link below for Part 1 of "John" which is narrated by Cynthia Lennon.  I hope you will enjoy it.

As a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist, I work with individual adults and couples.  

One of my specialities is working with trauma, and I have helped many clients to overcome trauma so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or send me an email: josephineolivia@aol.com


An Audio Excerpt from "John" (Part 1) as Narrated by Cynthia Lennon:




Also, see my blog article:  Psychotherapy and Transgenerational Trauma
Read my newspaper Psychotherapy Daily News

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