Knowing the risk factors and the value of self care

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This past week was taxing. As an NYC trauma therapist of over three decades, you would think I’d be immune to the atrocities of life, but there are still catastrophic upheavals that shake me to the core. Serving as a therapist and a witness to a mother desperately trying to save her young child from continuous sexual abuse can take its toll, especially when molestation escalates and litigation ensues. The backdrop of bureaucratic ineptitude and collective skepticism, in spite of the glaring evidence, could make a pacifist run amok. Fortunately, in peer supervision, my colleagues offered me the opportunity to…


Exploring the planet offered me renewal and growth

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ ,

I was born into abominable circumstances in which mere survival was a daily struggle. My mother’s untreated paranoid schizophrenia catapulted her into violence and ineptitude. The chronic infidelity and cruel derision inflicted by my father galvanized a rage in my mother that culminated in assaults with hammers and knives. Eventually he bolted, leaving my sister and I to fend for ourselves with an out of control psychotic parent. He wasn’t all that sane himself and he most definitely lacked a moral compass. Truth be told…


How coercion can lead to emulation

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As a complex trauma therapist in NYC for over three decades I’ve witnessed the extensive decimation caused by narcissistic abuse. As a survivor of character disordered parents and subsequent victimization, I too have endured the torment of complex trauma brought about by narcissistic abuse. Fortunately, with time, healing, and the safety of no contact victims can slowly shed a way of being that accommodated the insatiable demands and brutality of one’s abusers.

Transformation from a performative, traumatized and disconnected state to embodying authenticity can result. In some cases however, there are victims of narcissistic abuse that morph into a replica…


What seems taboo can actually be healing

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I always grappled with the classic portrayal of the clinician as a wall of neutrality. This was especially true when I began interning at mental health faculties as an undergrad in psychology. My boundaries were not appropriately stringent and to top it off, even now (as my clients have informed me) I am still not proficient at shielding my visceral reactions behind a poker face.

Perhaps it was my identification as a victim of complex trauma, along with my mother's plight with schizophrenia that hindered my ability to effectively drop into my role and authority as a therapist-in-training. …


If it doesn’t destroy you it will change you for the better

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It is typically when traumatic memories collide with memories of intimate communion, and there is no rational thread to hold onto that folks desperate for relief will contact me for trauma therapy pertaining to narcissistic abuse. As a licensed and credentialed clinician with over thirty years of clinical experience treating complex trauma and addictive disorders in the public and private sectors of New York City, I can patently attest that the symptoms evidenced by victims of narcissistic abuse are indicative of severe relational trauma requiring comprehensive treatment. Accordingly, the healing process is exceedingly demanding.

Perhaps it’s the devastation of the…


The backlash of romanticizing traumatic victimization

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“Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.”
~

My trials and tribulations with trauma became a saga that I wore like a badge of honor. The agony of my existence set me apart and I defiantly proclaimed my separateness. I had no parents to confide in, no safe space to call home, no security. I was a pariah and the truth is, the world shuns and debases. Upholding my stigma with defiance was an…


It’s all for the greater good

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If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking. ~

Whether in person or through digital means, basic human decency matters to me. After all, how we treat others is a measure of ones character. This is especially crucial when differences of opinion come in to play. It’s during those times, depending on the topic or the issue at hand, that the impulse to malign, belittle and cast aspersions can be strong. If one has a basic sense of humanity, one’s aggressive impulses will be responsibly managed so that instead of regressing into a vitriolic rant a…


When primary supply is no longer useful

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To discard is to get rid of something that is useless and unwanted. In the context of a relationship, it is the ultimate form of degradation. A break-up with a malignant narcissist is characterized as a discard, because like a piece of unwanted garbage the victim of narcissistic abuse has lost their value, and the narcissist with absolutely no compunction will simply ditch the relationship like expendable trash. It’s at this point the horrifying truth that the victim has denied, minimized, rationalized or bargained with, reveals itself with full devastating force.

Indeed, at the discard stage of the relationship any…


A prescriptive that always pissed me off

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I was fourteen when I was kicked out of a high school summer school class for wearing cut off denim shorts and a midriff top. The science teacher was frothing at the mouth with rage over my daring to be enticing. I was both stunned and humiliated, albeit in hindsight it’s clear who the inappropriate one was. Nevertheless the onus was on me for arousing desire in a lecherous adult male, regardless of my age or my intention.

I learned early on that dressing in a way that evokes salacious comments is both something to be desired and shunned. …


Opening up to the desire to receive

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“We come here (literally) reaching for intimacy and love. But it seems soon after our arrival, we’re made to believe that they’re luxuries not necessities.”
~

I used to be so ashamed of my loneliness and my insatiable hunger for love. I believed my emotional deprivation was an anathema to desirability. Contemptuous of my longings, I convinced myself that being aloof and self sufficient was what others valued, especially men. So I would pretend to not require tenderness, affection and adoration. I broadcasted that I was independent (which I was) and fine being alone (which I wasn’t).

It’s…

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW

NYC Therapist & Author. Complex Trauma & Addiction. Dual citizen, traveler, lover of art and nature. I appreciate the absurd.

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