The reality of modern romance

“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…

Disowning the helpless self

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. ~James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Hate is a strong word. It connotes an all encompassing polarization in violent disdain. It is a painful emotion to carry and is taboo to affirm. Instead of confessing to harboring hate we might say we’re disappointed or feel betrayed. Perhaps we concede to being angry, but to hate is to admit to something else completely. …

Soldiering through a typical day

The shrill of the phone ruptures the serenity of Annabelle’s early morning reverie. It suggests an ominous intrusion, corroborated by the message coming through her answering machine.

“Hello dear, it’s mother. Are you there? Hello? Oh well- I guess you’re not in. Stop being such a stranger and give me a call or come for a visit. I love you dear.” Click.

Lying in bed with Cleo, her beloved cat purrs luxuriously into her ear. The warmth of the covers and down laden pillows coax her into inertia, but the furies of guilt swarming around her head disallow such comfort.

How deception harms

Miranda’s childhood familial environment of domestic violence, marital infidelity, control tactics and neglect contributed to her incurring complex trauma. Yet, in our therapy sessions, she is clear that out of all the injuries incurred, what hurt her the most were the constant lies and deception perpetrated by her malignant narcissistic father. It was his insidious, dishonest maneuvering that kept Miranda embroiled in a circuitous pattern of searching for ‘the truth’.

As an adult, Miranda’s state of anticipatory betrayal catalyzed volatile dynamics with men who expressed romantic interest. Expecting deception offered her a locus of control. She convinced herself that if…

Another movement and ideology that went awry

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” ~ Audre Lorde

It is a repetitive historical reality that all forms of ideology are ultimately reducible to the rule of a few elitists. Those who hold the most power, such as scholars, people of considerable monetary wealth, along with vast influence and special skills, consolidate to assert their collective authority. Eventually, due to the infiltration of internal dissent and discord amongst these powerful elite, ideologies and movements splinter off into factions. Feminism is no different.

Hence we behold conservative feminists…

Adjusting to the malaise of ground hog day

Ring! Ring! It’s 7:00 A.M.!
Move y’self to go again
Cold water in the face
Brings you back to this awful place
Knuckle merchants and you bankers, too
Must get up an’ learn those rules ~ The Clash / The Magnificent Seven

Prior to April 2020, the round-the-clock rigors of making my way via the MTA to my office in Times Square from my home in Brooklyn felt like a grueling task. Then the pandemic hit and lock down measures were established. Suddenly my home became my base for a virtual office. Initially finding my rhythm with a new routine…

It’s where I have my greatest regrets and my greatest triumph

“I remember awakening one morning and finding everything smeared with the color of forgotten love.” ~ Charles Bukowski

My childhood equipped me for subjugation, not love. As Bukowski’s words suggest, my world was sullied by love forgotten, love betrayed and love denied. Incessant abuse and neglect created a broken young woman imprinted with an attachment template of power-submission, which morphed into an intimacy disorder known as love addiction.

Paradoxically it was the desperate need for love that shattered me and the power of love that would inevitably save me. However, when immersed in the throes of addiction I could not…

Coping with a morass of misdiagnosis and hit or miss interventions

Being a seasoned complex trauma therapist in NYC who also specializes in treating narcissistic abuse, makes looking back at my recovery process a particularly somber experience. There is so much clarity in hindsight that I wish was attainable when I vacillated between states of hyper-arousal and numbing and could barely identify a feeling or acquire the slightest grasp of who I was. With sorrow, I recollect a lost young woman beset by flashbacks, process addictions, self-loathing and traumatic loneliness.

While I am grateful that my extensive history of healing has afforded me a comprehensive understanding of complex trauma that I…

Managing my disillusionment with the human race

Back in the day my rebellious cynicism was a badge of superiority. The writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Pär Lagervist’s The Dwarf brought me solace. Poe’s dark poetry resonated with my plight. I was contemptuous and enraged. I was also vehemently committed to making that known.

I especially enjoyed donning a nihilistic personae in my teen years when new wave and punk clubs flourished in NYC. Defiantly mocking the establishment to the music of The Clash or Patti Smith was cathartic. Of course, I deviated from the iconoclast role when dependency needs and survival fears kicked in. It was then…

When sex is used to procure and conquer supply

Healthy narcissism is the foundation for a robust mature self. It is what fuels life-affirming autonomy, initiative, competence, identity and intimacy. Folks evidencing healthy levels of narcissism are on the whole satisfied with life and are capable of experiencing humility, empathy, integrity and adequate levels of self-esteem. As to be expected, the sexual expression of an individual possessing healthy narcissism indicates a capacity for emotional communication, spontaneity, vulnerability, empathy and mutual companionship. Sex is understood as a natural part of one's humanity.

On the other hand, high levels of the personality trait known as narcissism can lead to overt and…

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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