How Trauma Impacts Relationships & Intimacy: The Broken Door Concept

The Broken Door Concept

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When we experience trauma, our bodies store it, along with our memories, our psyche and our soul. When we experience sexual trauma, our second chakra (the energetic center around the sacral area of the sex organs) can be thrown out of balance.  

A balanced second chakra is able to emit a sort of radar outward towards others that says “I am healthy and I only welcome healthy others’ into my space. I am discerning.  The doorway into my intimate space is strong and stays shut until I know I can trust and decide to welcome you in.”  

When our second chakra is out of balance, it operates like a broken door.  The level of broken-ness of our doors depends on our history.  If our attachment to our primary care providers was safe and consistent, our door is more likely to function properly, keeping people out when we want to and allowing others’ in when we invite them. If there was a sense of distrust, instability, neglect or harm with our primary care providers, the door may operate with less consistency and functionality.   If we’ve endured trauma, the door is effected even more.  

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If the door was previously broken due to poor attachment, and then further injured by trauma, we might find that the door is missing a screen or the hinges may not hold it in place or the glass may be busted in.  When people walk around with broken doors in this way, they emit an energy, much like a radar, that seeks out and attracts others’ with similarly broken doors.  In result, two people who have experienced trauma and/or insecure attachment may experience a magnetic force pulling them together.

This magnetic force that is experienced towards others’ who have broken doors is the psyche’s way of trying to replay and repair the trauma that broke the door in the first place.  The goal here is to engage in the relationship in a way that heals the past hurt and broken trust, but unfortunately, two broken doors within a relationship do tend to hurt each other more than heal. Oftentimes, this sort of instinctual match making can re-create trauma similar to their historical trauma, leading to re-traumatization and further damage to the door. That is, however, unless the individuals are able to engage in appropriate trauma resolution.  This is where therapy can be very helpful. 

When the traumatized individual decides they want to repair their broken door and heal the wounds that broke their door in the first place, finding a trauma specialist is an effective way to begin that journey.  When I engage in trauma work with my clients, I focus first to help them build trust in me and in the process.  I ask them about their goals and their history, and we come to an agreement for how they’d like their healing journey to proceed.  Once we establish our goals and direction for achieving them, we then start to discuss how they can protect themselves from further damage to their door.  

It is here that I may provide psycho-education on relationships and intimacy so that my clients can make informed decisions about how they want to protect themselves from further damage to the door while engaged in sexual trauma work. 

I have created this diagram showing different levels of intimacy with love and commitment, the most intimate, at the center and less intimate experiences, like interacting with strangers, in the outer ring.  Take a look and see if this is accurate for how you consider intimacy levels.  It may not be and that’s okay, but it is important to have a clear picture of your personal levels of intimacy so that you can make informed choices about who you’d like to allow into more inner levels and who you’d like to keep further out.  

  Levels of Intimacy

Levels of Intimacy

During sexual trauma work, it can be very helpful to pause any movement inwards in order to protect yourself from further harm or confusion. Oftentimes, when we lead with or rush into physical intimacy and sexuality before we establish trust or emotional intimacy, we run the risk of re-traumatizing. This can make management of life and relationships particularly difficult and slow down the reparation process of the door. Seeking a therapist who will help you set up protected space within yourself and your relationships is key to successful trauma resolution.  

For more information, to schedule an appointment in our Bryn Mawr or West Chester Offices near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or for any questions, feel free to contact me here or at SpilovePsychotherapy@gmail.com

Learn more about our services on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr at www.tiffanyspilove.com. Check out our helpful Instagram Account @spilovepsychotherapy

How to Communicate Effectively

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Basics of Effective Communication:

Effective communication is based more on how say things rather than on what you actually say.

A conversation can go very well or wind up in a lot of anger and upset, depending on the communication style used. Our means of communication impacts all facets of life. 

When communicating, the goal should always be to understand – not to be right.  When we approach situations with curiosity, rather than with anger or accusation, we tend to be better listeners, thus better problem solvers. Get the facts before you pass judgment.  Some styles lend themselves better to this than others.

Here are Four Different Communication Styles

  1. Passive Communication:

An example of passive communication: John doesn’t show up for the date he has with Sally and Sally feels angry and hurt by the situation, but doesn’t want to rock the boat. When John later calls her, Sally tells him she is fine and does not assert herself, making another plan with John.

Passive communication Is a style in which individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights and identifying and meeting their needs.  Passive communication is usually comes from low self-esteem.  The core belief associated with passive communication is: “I’m not worth taking care of.” People who are communicating passively may not respond overtly to hurtful or anger-inducing situations.  Instead, they allow grievances and annoyances to mount, usually unaware of the buildup. They are prone to explosive outbursts which are usually out of proportion to the triggering incident. Afterwards, they feel shame, guilt and confusion so they return to being passive.

People who are communicating passively will often: 

·      Fail to assert for themselves

·      Allow others to deliberately or inadvertently cross their boundaries

·      Tend to speak softly or apologetically

·      Exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture

Impact of passive communication:

·      Anxiety because life seems out of their control

·      Depression because they feel stuck and hopeless

·      Resentment (they may be unaware of the resentment) because needs are not being met

·      Confused because they ignore their own feelings

·      Unable to mature because real issues never get addressed.

Belief system:

·      I’m unable to stand up for my rights.

·       I don’t know what my rights are.

·       I get stepped on by everyone.

·      I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.

·      People never consider my feelings.

When Passivity is Appropriate:

·      When the results of pushing the issue would cause problems that outweigh the benefits. 

·      When issues are minor.

·      When there is a power differential that is not in your favor and the other party is getting agitated by your assertiveness.

·      When the other individual’s position is impossible to change.  

2. Aggressive Communication:

Example of aggressive communication: “What is WRONG with you?! You NEVER do anything right!” Individuals express feelings and opinions and advocate for their needs in a way that violates the rights of others. Aggressive communication usually comes from low self-esteem, is often caused by past physical and/or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive communicators will often:

·      Try to dominate others

·      Use humiliation to control others

·      Criticize, blame or attack others

·      Are very impulsive

·      Have low frustration tolerance

·      Speak in a loud, demanding and overbearing voice

·      Act threateningly and rudely

·      Not listen well

·      Interrupt frequently

·      Use “you” statements

·      Have piercing eye contact and overbearing posture

Impact of aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from others

·      Alienate others

·      Generate fear and hatred in others

·      Blames others instead of owning their issues, therefore they have trouble with personal growth

Belief system:

·      I’m superior and right and  you’re inferior and wrong

·      I’m loud, bossy and pushy

·       I can dominate and intimidate you

·       I can violate your rights

·      I’ll get my way no matter what

·      You’re not worth anything

·      It’s all your fault

·      I react instantly

·      I’m entitled

·      You owe me.

·       I own you.

3. Passive-Aggressive communication:

Example of passive-aggressive communication: “Fine. Whatever”. Individuals communicating passive aggressively seem to be passive on the surface but are really showing anger in a subtle, indirect or behind-the-scenes way.  Anger is expressed by subtly undermining the object of their resentments.  

Passive-Aggressive communicators will often:

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·      Mutter to themselves rather than confront the person or issue

·      Have difficulty acknowledging their anger

·      Use facial expressions that don’t match how they feel – for example, smiling when angry

·      Use sarcasm

·      Deny there is a problem

·      Appear cooperative while purposely doing things to annoy and disrupt

·      Use subtle sabotage to get even

Impact of a pattern of passive-aggressive communication:

·      Become alienated from those around them

·      Remain stuck in a position of powerlessness

·      Discharge resentment while real issues are never addressed so they have trouble with personal growth

People who communicate passive-aggressively

·       I am weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate and disrupt

·      I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must do so indirectly

·       I will appear cooperative but I’m not

4. Assertive Communication:

Example of assertive communication to let someone know they’ve crossed a boundary: “When you laugh while I tell you my feelings, I feel hurt and sad because I tell myself that it means that you don’t care. My request of you is to listen respectfully and let me know that you hear my feelings. Are you able to honor my request?”

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Individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others.  Assertive communication often indicates someone has high self-esteem.  These individuals value themselves, their time and their emotional, spiritual and physical needs and are strong advocates for themselves while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive communicators will often:

·      State needs and wants clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Express feelings clearly, appropriate and respectfully

·      Use “I” statements

·      Communicate respect for others

·      Listen well without interrupting

·      Feel in control of self

·      Have good eye contact

·      Speak in a calm and clear tone of voice

·      Have a relaxed body posture

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel competent and in control

·      Not allow others to abuse or manipulate them

·      Stand up for their rights

Impact of assertive communication:

·      Feel connected to others

·      Feel in control of their lives

·      Are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise

·      Create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature

Assertive belief system:

·      We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another

·       I am confident about who I am

·       I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options

·       I speak clearly, honestly and to the point

·       I can’t control others, I can control myself

·       I place a high priority on having my rights respected

·       I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner

·       I respect the rights of others

·      Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to it with to me

·      I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness. 

Pointers on Assertion:

·      Being assertive means you also must own what is yours to own.  If the other person has a point about your behavior, take it in as constructive feedback and see if it is something you’d like to change about yourself.

  • It is okay to say “I don’t know.”

  • It is okay to say “No,” or “I cannot do that.”

  • It is okay to make mistakes as long as responsibility is taken for them.

  • It is okay to disagree and to verbalize that.

  • It is okay to challenge others’ opinions or actions.  

  • It is okay to not accept another’s opinion as factual or accurate

  • It is okay to ask for a change in behavior.

Which communication styles do you respond best to? What are some of your goals for communicating effectively?

 For more information on communication styles and help learning how to be more assertive, contact us here.

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend by Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: 

Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend

 By: Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga therapy for anxiety and depression on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova and Lower Merion

 What if you could find a friend that would stay by your side always? Someone who’s sole purpose was to make sure you not only stayed alive but also thrived in your life. Someone who knew just what to do to provide you a pick-me-up when depressed or tired or could ease your body and mind when anxious or upset. What if you had access to this friend 24/7 and the only thing this friend needed from you was a willingness to accept their support? 

Well, my friends, I have some exciting news to share. This friend exists, and not only does the friend exist, it exists within you! Its your breath. You see, your breath is both a complicated and conveniently simple process that weaves together the communication between your body and mind. Linked to your nervous system, your breath has the capabilities of keeping you alive, soothing your body and mind and increasing energy. Your breath can let you know how you’re feeling and if you’re relaxed or tense. Think about it… when panic sets into the body and mind, the breath oftentimes responds rapidly, assuming the need to prepare for survival. Your breath may become shorter and choppier or maybe even appear nonexistent and stuck. This same breath, the one coming and going from your lungs, can be trained to deepen and soften during panic, activating your calming nervous system, thus subsiding the panic in both your body and mind.  Or, maybe your nervous system is feeling too subdued, you’re falling asleep at work or feeling unable to pull yourself out of bed to face the day. In these moments, accentuating the inhale can increase energy and focus, even lifting your mood in the moment. Your breath holds a wealth of resources for you. All you have to do is attend to it. Here’s some ways to access its usefulness.

1. A breathing practice to soothe the nervous system: Paced Breathing 

When to use:

To soothe anxiety, panic or restlessness, if you are having difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing, when you feel worked up or frazzled. 

How to use:

When attempting to soothe or relax the nervous system, accentuate the exhale. Paced breathing patterns the breath to increase the length of the exhale to twice as long as the inhale. You will count the breaths in your head. If able, breathe both in and out of your nose. If you need to breathe out of your mouth due to sinus issues, it can help to purse the lips so that the breath is able to stay long and controlled. Let your breath carry deep into your body… allow your stomach to expand on your inhales, and gently contract your stomach in on your exhales. Try the counts of 4 to inhale and 8 to exhale. If this feels difficult or creates more tension in the body, reduce the numbers, just making sure the exhale is 2x as long as the inhale. Our lungs often need time to practice expanding (in our society, we don’t usually use much of our breathing capacity from day-to-day), so be patient and just do what feels comfortable. Remember, this is intended to relax and soothe you. 

Here we go:

It can help to sit upright allowing spaciousness in your chest or lying down (especially if you are using this to help with sleep). Close your eyes if comfortable. If you prefer to have your eyes open, maybe gaze at a soft spot on the floor or in front of you. Now, inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, Inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, repeat this sequence multiple times. I recommend at least 10 rounds, but as many as you would like until you start to feel soothed, more at ease or fall asleep. 

Contraindications:

The only time to avoid this breath is if you are already relaxed or tired  and do not want to fall asleep of become more relaxed. If this is the case and you are looking for a pick-me-up, try the breath below.

2. A breathing practice to enliven your nervous system: Breath of Joy

When to use:

when tired, depressed, energy depleted, feeling stuck, lacking interest or focus.

How to use:

When attempting to lift your energy, focus or mood, accentuating the inhale wakes up the nervous system. Breath of Joy calls for 3 quick inhales and one large exhale. This breath can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Make sure you have arms-length of space around and above you. 

Here we go:

On your first quick inhale through your nose, swing your arms out in front of you. 

On the second inhale through your nose, swing your arms from in front of you, out to the sides in a “T” position. 

On the third inhale through your nose, swing your arms from the “T” position above your head in a touchdown position. 

Next, exhale forcefully out of your mouth with an audible “Ha” as you fold at the waist and swing your arms down by your legs

Repeat this at least 3 times, more if you like. 

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Contraindications- 

If you have any severe back issues, bulging discs, osteoporosis or hypertension, folding forward or hanging your head upside down is usually not safe. Good news, you can still do this breath! Just make sure to avoid folding over and instead swing your arms down by your side while exhaling a “Ha” forcefully.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to balance your mind and body through your breath and other yoga techniques, consider yoga therapy. To learn more about how to get connected with a yoga therapist, give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15-minute consultation.   

Bryn Mawr Trauma Therapy: 3 Things to Consider When Searching for a Trauma Specialist

  1. Do you want to learn skills or go deep?

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Before searching for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, you may want to consider what, exactly you are looking for.  Do you want to learn skills to help you tolerate the trauma memories?  Or would you prefer to engage in deeper therapeutic work to get underneath the trauma so that it can heal at the core?  

Skills such as DBT Skills are extremely helpful for daily life.  

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DBT has 4 tenants: distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation and mindfulness.  These skills are essential when doing trauma work for PTSD and for many other difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger management, eating disorders, self-harm and addiction.  

If you’d prefer to get underneath the trauma, you will need a therapist who can help you with skills to stabilize and one who is able to help you heal at the root of the problem. 

These skills are the building blocks that will allow you to be able to function and tolerate uncomfortable memories and emotions as you dive deeper into the healing work.  

2. Which Therapeutic Models Do you Prefer?

When looking for a trauma specialist in Bryn Mawr, you’ll also want to take the time to find out the model or theory that the therapist uses to help navigate your therapy.  If you’re looking for a safe space to process and talk things out make sure you find a counselor who is great at talk therapy. If you are looking for evidence based interventions to help you DO something with the traumatic material, you may want to investigate something like EMDR.  If you want to work more from the body or a creative place, you may want to look for an art therapist, a yoga therapist or an experiential or psycho-dramatic therapist.  Ideally, you’ll find a therapist who is able to choose a therapeutic tool from a large tool belt with many choices.  

3. What is your commitment level to healing?

Successful therapy is mostly about your commitment to healing.  Your counselor may ask you to consider abstaining from addictive substances, behaviors or eating disordered behaviors, especially while you’re engaged in trauma work. If you’re doing drugs, engaging in self harm or throwing up your food while you’re trying to heal from PTSD, it can side-track the process. Instead of taking the time in between sessions to allow your psyche to continue to process and digest the trauma, engaging in behaviors can numb the emotions and make it less likely that you will process and be ready for your next session.  When you commit to your own healing process, it means you are willing to look at all aspects of your life and work towards shifting the things that no longer serve you.  

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Commitment to healing also means consistency.  

If you engage in therapy every week, it creates synergistic momentum as opposed to dropping in only when you’re experiencing anxiety or depressive symptoms. Committing to consistent therapy will help you heal faster and more completely.  What is your level of commitment to healing from a traumatic past?

If you’re looking for a trauma specialist near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and need some helping finding the right person for you, please feel free to give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15 minute initial consultation.  We are happy to help you find the right trauma therapist for you.

Anger Management: 3 Ways to Channel Your Rage

Anger Management on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr

Anger is a tricky emotion, especially in our society.  We get messages that anger is “bad” and that we should never show it.  While we certainly don’t want to take our anger out sideways on innocent bystanders and we don’t want to rage at people we have anger towards, anger isn’t a “bad” emotion to be pushed away and shamed for. It is healthy to acknowledge, honor and express our anger as long as we’re not hurting anyone in the process.  Here are three ways to channel your anger:

 

1.  Acknowledge: 

Mindfully check in with your body and notice where the anger lives.  You may notice that when you’re angry, you clench your jaw. Many of us store anger in our jaws. Perhaps when you get heated, you feel your face flush.  Do you notice that you make a fist?  Or are you more someone who feels ashamed for having anger, so it’s stuffed down and manifests itself in an upset stomach or feelings of self-loathing?  However your anger manifests itself, the first step towards freedom is to acknowledge that you are, in fact, angry, even if you’re not quite sure why.

2.  Honor:

Trying to put the judgment aside, see if you can think back to when you first started noticing the anger.  Sometimes people believe that the key to anger management is to push the anger away and try to ignore it.  But, I’m of the belief system that what we resist, persists.  So if you want to get free of your rage and really learn anger management, try allowing yourself to be angry without doing anything about it, just noticing it in your body.

3.  Expression:

Anger Management on the Main Line of Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr.

Here are some skills you can try for expression of your anger.  Take what you like and leave the rest:

  • Journal about the anger
  • Write a ‘do not send’ letter to the person or thing you’re angry at
  • Sweat it out - Go for a run or engage in another form of physical exercise
  • Vent to a friend, therapist or another safe person not involved in the situation 
  • Rip up a phone book
  • Punch a punching bag
  • Create some art expressing your anger
  • Write out the story of what happened, then rewrite it with what you wish would have happened
  • Practice progressive relaxation
  • Learn assertive communication skills and directly address the issue with the person or situation

For more help with anger management, contact us here.  

What else do you find helpful for anger management?  Write your responses here: