After traumatic heartbreak and a five-year hiatus

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I was enraptured by his rakish good looks and unassuming charm. That he loved teaching high school kids and was a devoted father to his regal Bernese mountain dog exemplified strength of character. I believed his displays of sincerity and beneficence were proof of his virtue.

What appeared certain would eventually be dispelled, but when I was smitten and spellbound by infatuation, I did not see Jake for who he was. I certainly could not fathom that he would be my undoing.

Of course, my insatiable desperation and magnetic attraction to polished, garden-variety covert narcissists factored into my blind enchantment…

When familial roles and boundaries are distorted

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The bond between a child and a parent is specifically designed to cater to the comprehensive developmental needs of one’s offspring. In accordance with nature’s plan, the child’s successful attainment of developmental milestones such as the cultivation of trust, autonomy, initiative, industry, identity and intimacy (Eric Erikson) is predicated on receiving competent and loving parenting. This means that from infancy to late adolescence, the unconditionally dependent child will rely on their trusted caretakers for their survival and their growth.

However, children who are parentified (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1973) have thrust upon them responsibilities and roles typically reserved for adults. These…

A historical analysis of how moral gatekeepers determine freedom of expression

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Once upon a time a new class of people emerged. They were scholars and elitists, ‘special people,’ well ensconced in academia, politics, economics and military intelligence. They righteously demanded eradication of current norms and established ways of being. They insisted that prevailing antiquated inferior practices be replaced with new better ways of living. This required a purging of the old system by any means necessary. Accordingly, those who dissented were either re-indoctrinated, thrown in jail, exiled to other lands or done away with.

These notable visionaries pontificated a whole new outlook on life. Society will prosper! The masses will flourish…

Owning what you don’t want

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Let’s face it, saying no with tactful thoughtfulness is rife with paradox. No matter how you slice or dice it no one likes to have their desires rebuffed. Nevertheless, the blow can be softened. The old adage, ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it’ can indeed go a long way.

Prefacing a no with a cordial qualifier is a fairly standard way of mitigating harsh reprisal.

“As much as I’d like to accommodate…”

“If only I could, but…”

“I appreciate you’re request, but unfortunately I’m unable to comply.”

There are millions of variations to deliver a ‘no’…

No, it doesn’t always take ‘two to tango’

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Life is not fair. Fifty-fifty propositions are illusory. There are always power differentials and shortcomings. Ideals of perfection are a pipe dream. Ideologies always get corrupted. It’s crucial to tolerate these shortcomings. Doing so puts our human trials and tribulations in perspective.

Acceptance of ‘what is’ assists us with sensibly distinguishing what can or cannot be accommodated, tolerated and bargained with. From this place we can cultivate stringent standards and conditions that are critical to mental health.

That said, when I learned that my client’s couples therapist upholds the naive notion that all relational assaults are dynamically caused by both…

Navigating life without a familial tribe

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From childhood’s hour I have not been / As others were — I have not seen / As others saw I could not bring / My passions from a common spring / From the same source I have not taken / My sorrow I could not awaken / My heart to joy at the same tone / And all I lov’d I lov’d alone ~ E.A. Poe (Alone)

Like the folks who reach out to me for psychotherapy, I can personally affirm that the experience of being completely alone in the world, unsupported and on the fringe, was a pervasive…

You might say I’m a dreamer

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All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. ~ E.A. Poe

As a little girl and well into my young adult years, my life was submerged in a world of fantasy. Of course, witnessing my schizophrenic mother routinely retreat into psychotic reverie drove me towards taking refuge within. Untethered and unmothered, this is where I too could safely buffer myself from harm and invent distracting narratives.

“She daydreams in class’’ was frequently cited on my report cards by elementary school teachers. One teacher even went so far as to contact child protective services to discern…

Its impact on those seeking empathic resolution

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“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.”
Mahatma Gandhi

As a psychotherapist of over three decades in NYC, working through relational conflicts and disagreements with clients has become an expected and frequent occurrence. It is indeed, an integral part of the work. Likewise, as one who is also familiar with being a therapy patient, showing up for misunderstandings with my therapist was a valuable part of my healing and growth.

Engaging in difficult conversations taught me how considering others' perspectives could enhance my consciousness. It challenged me to hold a space for…

A glimpse at the grooming and abusing that occurs within the home

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In a memoir piece I wrote about my disturbing relationship with my narcissistically disordered father I elaborated on how his neglect, sadistic mockery, objectification and abandonment nearly destroyed me. The proverbial silver lining of having been groomed throughout my childhood to accommodate a narcissistic family system is being able to bring my recovery full circle by providing trauma treatment to those who like myself, were born into families defiled by parental narcissism.

Hence, given my personal plight and what I see evidenced in the survivors of familial narcissistic abuse who come to me for psychotherapy it’s become clear that when…

The reality of modern romance

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“To love rightly is to love what is orderly and beautiful in an educated and disciplined way” ~ Plato

Call me old-fashioned, but the dating habits I hear about from many of my male and female psychotherapy clients in their twenties and thirties makes me recoil in horror. Phone conversations are apparently an antiquated convention, and way too exposing of one’s authentic self. Accordingly, dates are typically established via text messaging. Overtures of adoration are conveyed through cyber-avatars, digitized icons and symbols. Should in-person interaction eventually ensue, cavalier inconsequential sex might follow.

When boredom sets in and it’s time to…

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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