Mending Relationships Begins Within

December 3, 2019

Left untreated, our own hurt can turn a healthy relationship into a toxic, dysfunctional one.

One of the most common things I see in my work as a couples’ therapist is the struggle many people go through in their relationships with others. And usually the focus is not on themselves, but on the other—what that person is doing wrong, or his or her inadequacies.

What they often fail to see is that they are actually creating the dynamic from hurt inside themselves, and then projecting that hurt outward, onto the other person. By temporarily displacing the pain, they feel better in the moment; however, this becomes a circular process in which both people end up hurting each other, often more than the initial misunderstanding or discomfort.

As this cycle gets repeated, it can harden into a constant, uncomfortable static or, worse, into a deepening resentment that can turn a healthy relationship into a toxic, dysfunctional one. This is when many couples enter my office in hopes of saving what they once had. But even then, what they really want is for me to help their partners change into something they’d like more.

This, of course, is something that I cannot—and should not—do. My job is to reflect both partners back onto themselves, so they can see the part they play in their co-created dynamic and then decide how they might want to change something in themselves.

A Healing Process

Often people don’t really want to look at themselves, as these realizations can be too painful, dredging up old feelings of worthlessness or shame. However, if they can sit with themselves long enough, and look with compassion at the things inside that prevent them from being truly loving, they can begin a healing process that will transform them from within and positively affect every relationship in their life.

This process can be challenging for many of us who didn’t grow up with parents or caretakers who knew how to give love, show empathy or express compassion. If we didn’t have good models for loving in our early years, it’s something we don’t know how to do very well. So we must learn the skills of loving ourselves, which can take time to put into practice and to master.

But if we choose to take the time to learn—practicing healthy self-dialogue and trying our best to treat ourselves with kindness and care—we can heal the parts of us that have been yearning for attention and love all our lives. Then we’ll project trust and positivity that will impact others and call forth the same from them.

By showing our vulnerability, we can allow others to glimpse our deeper emotional selves, where they too might be touched by the tenderness and humanity that connects us all. Then what becomes recursive is a sensitivity and open heart, which, when shared, can set a new tone for all our relationships—one of compassion and love that contributes to the world around us.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Life is a Play, Love is the Answer

October 3, 2019

We have heard in various ways, from Shakespeare to A Course in Miracles to Buddhist teaching, that all of life is a play and we're merely characters acting and playing our various roles at each stage of our lives. Therefore, we create a consensus reality starting with our thoughts on the screens of our minds that we then project outward creating our world. Thus we collectively create the world as we know it. This can be difficult at first to recognize as true, as the world seems so real and distinctly outside of us and something that we could have no possible control over. However, everything comes from thought and then becomes the manifest world. And even though it may seem like we have no or little effect, one only has to look around to see the effect mankind has had over the years on our very planet. Especially today we can see how climate change, very much a product of human hubris, can even effect the planet in ways that we never would have imagined. Recently a funeral service was held for a large glacier that had disappeared in the Alps. This sort of rapid change could have never even been predicted much less comprehended even a decade ago.

So if life is an illusion or a play of consciousness, what is real, and what has purpose beyond our small, ego driven, materialistic agendas? And what can be deeply fulfilling as to give us a sense of being part of a larger experience of ourselves where we can find the peace that surpasses all understanding? The answer is love, which is truly the answer of every circumstance, problem, or emptiness we might face. It is the answer to everything really, and certainly the way out of the inherent struggle and suffering of our dualistic minds and the world. And it is our longing for love that can move us into a transcendent relationship with God or the Supreme or the Creator of the Universe. And it is in the heart where we can start to look and train our vision to see. It is here, in the home of love, that we can direct our minds that often rule out of fear, to seek the companionship of something greater and actually the only thing that will ever create the ultimate fulfillment which is the peace we all seek.

A Course in Miracles states that "The peace of God is everything I want, the peace of God is my one goal; the aim of all my living here, the end I seek, my purpose and function and my life while I abide where I am not at home." Everything else, though seemingly so fulfilling , is of this materialist world and can only offer temporary, transitory pleasure that only goes so deep. So it is our longing for God that is our true wealth. And it is by living out of our true nature that offers us and this world the only thing that is real, without compare, and that can be passed forward.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

The Healing Power of Unconditional Love

July 11, 2019

“Love, love, love,,,,all you need is,  love, love love” (the Beatles, 1967)

I grew up in a generation that was all about love. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we see so drastically how much times have changed. As politics across the world become more divisive, the need to give and receive love becomes more and more necessary. This human need is ever present and can be made conscious if one is able to tune in. Yet this can seem overwhelming at times, so that it’s often easy to give up and begin feeling like a victim of the world and everything all around us. However, A Course in Miracles teaches “I am not a victim of the world I see” and that the only decision that we ever have to make is whether to give in to fear or to choose love.

Fear is always related to the ego, which thrives on judgment and the narcissistic need to perpetuate self-aggrandizement. Most of the drama we see is at its essence a deep need for power over others in order to maintain the illusion of our own specialness and separateness from others. We have become too good at dehumanizing others (those of different genders, cultures, religions, politics) and thus turning them into objects. We fail to see that in doing so we too become similar objects to them and feel the need to defend ourselves against their judgments, which perpetuates the cycle of violence.

The only way out of this constant dilemma is to start loving. This may seem a bit naïve at first, unless we’re able to pause and take the time to start with loving ourselves - totally and unconditionally no matter what we’ve been told or even tell ourselves. This can be difficult since it may go against much of what’s gotten wired in psychically at early stages of our development (from our families or cultures). It takes real searching and openness to reflection from others (most poignantly from those closest to us) to become aware of how we’re treating ourselves. Very often this disparaging, negative treatment is what gets projected outward to others, as an unconscious intention to ease our own pain.

Loving ourselves unconditionally means having compassion and empathy for all that we are including our deficits, defensiveness, low self esteem and other areas that could use  improvement. So we try, with real acceptance and loving kindness, to acknowledge that most often we’re actually doing the best we can. If we’re hurting we can learn to take care of ourselves in the moment, instead of projecting our hurt outward onto others; i.e. hurt people hurt other people. Here we have the opportunity to interrupt the cycle of pain by accepting responsibility for how we feel and then taking ownership for what negativity we may be unconsciously putting out into the world.

Loving unconditionally loves without judgment, even when feeling judged or criticized by others and takes discipline and developing the skills to manage our emotions in the moment. It can also be seen as a spiritual practice, where we can learn to practice what in Buddhism is called skillful speech and right action. By staying conscious, we’re called to transcend whatever uncomfortable drama is being created in the moment for the sake of experiencing something bigger and better. And this something bigger is called peace, a peace that indeed surpasses all understanding as it’s greater than what the mind can imagine. It has a feeling of contentment about it that can be felt in the center of our being. And with it, the attendant joy that naturally radiates outward to others that can change the whole energy of a situation. Like our mediation practice, it is something that as we practice, we begin to transform ourselves from the inside out and model what Thich Nhat Hahn calls peace in every step and love with every breath.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Change your Lens, Change your Life

May 22, 2019

Perhaps you’ve read the Buddhist philosophy that all our suffering comes from disagreeing with our reality—from wanting things to be different than they are. It’s easy for the judging mind to get caught up in all the adjustments we’d like to make to life so it’ll be more to our liking. This applies to most things and circumstances, and very often to our partners. (If they could only be this way or do that, then we’d be happy.) And as we try fruitlessly to change our environments and the people therein, we’re actually increasing our own suffering.

Recently I had an experience that illustrated this philosophy beautifully, although initially it didn’t seem so beautiful. I went to a restaurant at a Caribbean resort and was escorted to a table right near the waiter’s stand, where they put used dishes. Of course that wasn’t where I wanted to sit. I wanted a table by the window with the lovely view.

I didn’t want to call the hostess back and ask for a different table, but I also wasn’t happy with where I was. So I decided that in order to enjoy my meal, I had to do something different. As I sat there pondering, I began to watch the waitresses going about their jobs, and after a few minutes I sort of entered their world. I noticed how hard they worked and how respectful, warm and friendly they were with each other, and it occurred to me that their sole job every evening was to serve me and my fellow guests—a job they all did with a smile.

Struck and a bit humbled by this realization, I felt immense appreciation for the part these servers were playing in my evening, and I began enjoying my meal with a much different and fuller sense of satisfaction. I also experienced real gratitude for the privilege of spending time in such a beautiful place, where all my needs were being met—the sort of privilege relatively few people in the world ever have.

What had I done that made the difference in my evening? I changed the lens through which I viewed my experience. As a result, I felt even more fulfilled by and appreciative of the reality I was in and the dinner I was about to have.

This is a strategy we can use on a daily basis when things aren’t quite to our liking. We can try to change how we see a situation and, more often than not, become more aligned with reality, so that we can be at peace in any given moment and enjoy more of our living.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Permission to Love

April 25, 2019

What seems so easy to do, and often isn't, is one of the real truisms of life. Unfortunately, this can be applied to the ability to express love. We grow up with voices in our head that counter what is really the most natural thing in the world--loving ourselves and others. These voices can come from unloved parts of ourselves that exhibit as unworthiness and lack of self esteem. They can also arise from feeling inhibited to authentically express ourselves, from a lack of loving role models growing up or from being loved but only conditionally. This feeling of being locked out of our own hearts can put us in a place of needing permission to love.

So who is it who will give us the permission that we need. Firstly that would be ourselves, however, if any of the family of origin wiring described above is in place, it's often very hard to love our selves and we must take to time learn how. So as we learn self-compassion, nurturing and love, we can hopefully find a partner who will love us unconditionally as we learn to love ourselves. This is more important than it might seem. Because if we've been sold a negative bill of goods about ourselves, it becomes hard to believe that we're worth the time and maybe the trouble for someone to learn to love us, wounds, warts and all.

Having loving people around us, who can see us, even in our struggle to feel (and act) worthy of love, is one of the most important things to cultivate as we move into adulthood and mature throughout our lives. And in finding a partner, one of things to look for is that person’s ability to love, which will allow us to be vulnerable with our wounded parts as we allow ourselves to grower closer and more intimately connected to our partner. This time, we’re hoping and trusting that rather be judged or shamed and told in so many words that we’re not good enough, we’ll be acknowledged, accepted and loved for our woundedness, which will begin the process of healing. As I’ve said so often in therapy, “We were wounded in relationship, and so it is in relationship where we must heal.”

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Our Words Create Our Worlds

October 25, 2018

Staying conscious in a world such as ours can be very difficult at times. So much of what’s around us can easily drive us back to sleep, or back to living unconsciously. Below is the sleep that the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi speaks of:

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

We have a choice at any given moment to stay awake to a bigger world—the one around us as well as a transcendent one. The primary way to accomplish this is through the words we use, since they carry great energy and weight. They can create either health and accomplishment or quite the opposite: depression and divisiveness, both within and without. Our words are the conduits of energy, meaning and emotional resonance.

A Course in Miracles states that there is no world except the one we project. Our inner world of thoughts and feelings is the one we project, like a movie projector projects images on a screen. When we truly see that our inner world creates our outer one, we can become much more conscious of the words we’re using to create our reality every minute of every day. Is it a world that is uplifting, that touches others or makes a contribution to those less fortunate?

We know how good it feels to be in the flow, where everything is just clicking and moving in alignment with what we need or desire. Our positive thoughts help create this flow and come from reflecting on ourselves with the kind of inquiry that Rumi speaks of. Who I am in any given moment is determined not only by how I feel emotionally, but also by the words or labels I use to define myself. We can all try to be more aware of the words we use toward ourselves and others so they bespeak our positivity, love and wholeness, and perhaps even our holiness.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

How to Truly Be in the Present Moment

July 25, 2018

Meditation and mindfulness are now in the current zeitgeist, and for good reason. We have heard of all their benefits, from relieving stress and promoting relaxation to more focused concentration and greater self-awareness. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily activities that propel us into the future that it’s hard to pause and savor this present moment. So what does being in the present moment feel like?

I had an experience recently that brought the idea home.

I was sitting outside and happened to see a small rabbit hopping along. It stopped not too far from me, and so I kept still to see what might happen. The bunny, too, remained motionless, and we sat together for a good many minutes. I wondered what he was doing, and where he might be going, and what his goals for the day might be. Then I remembered that animals don’t actually have any concept of time, and that they don’t have actual goals (other than survival), and that there is no place they’d rather be than where they are. And where they are is right smack-dab in the present moment.

As I sat with the bunny in stillness, simply being with myself and him or her, time seemed to slow down, and I was content in this “being with.” I really got that being in the present moment means that any concept of future doesn’t exist at all, that there is nothing more than this moment, and then this moment, and then the next.

It felt so freeing, not having to know what’s next, because “what’s next” doesn’t really exist—only “what’s now.”

After what seemed like quite a while, but was probably not more than half a dozen minutes (time seems so spacious when it disappears!), the rabbit slowly ambled away after communing with me (my projection, of course) and went about doing what rabbits do from moment to moment.

As for me, I appreciated being with another creature whose mere presence stopped my monkey mind from lurching from one thought to the next in whirly-burly fashion, with no real aim and no real way to stop itself.

This, to me, is the purpose of meditation, which is to slow down our thoughts (it’s impossible to get rid of them completely) so that we can experience the space between them long enough to feel the peace and contentment that this transcendence allows. From this place, we have a better chance at creating our next moments with greater consciousness and awareness.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Authentic Dialogue

May 17, 2018

The key to effective communication is for both parties to feel heard and understood for whatever they might be expressing and feeling. To accomplish this there is a three-step process that if done correctly, will ensure the intended result_ feeling more connected around difficult issues.

The first part is called mirroring and is simply to reflect back what the speaker is saying in as close to their own words as possible. This alone accomplishes much: it assures the speaker of being heard exactly for what they are saying, it eliminates any interpretation by the listener, and it curtails most any emotional reactivity, since mirrors do not react they only reflect. The simple act of mirroring before reflexively responding slows down the process so staying connected is more likely to occur throughout the dialogue.

Equally important is the act of validating what the speaker is saying no matter what one’s personal opinion or perspective might be. It is an attempt to make some logical sense of what’s being said by entering into the speaker’s world as non-judgmentally as possible. This says to the speaker they are being taken seriously for what they are saying and creates the experience of feeling “gotten”, something that is so important for all of us.

The third step in true communication may actually be the most important, as it has the potential to really create change. It’s the act of empathizing, which is to try to feel into and convey to the speaker that you can truly imagine what they must be going through or experiencing. This, “I can imagine that you must be feeling (whatever emotions)…” is in itself connecting and goes a long way to ease emotional hurt or pain and can be a balm to heal old wounds that often keep getting triggered.

This style of communication is powerful because it doesn’t allow for emotionally reflexive responses, interrupting, misinterpreting, drawn out nonproductive looping cycles or never ending explosive fights and dramas to occur. It also keeps a discussion on track by responding only to what is being said specifically in the ‘here and now’ without bringing in the past or getting side tracked by non relevant issues.

One might practice this with a partner or friend around some small issue or even just in sharing what’s going on in one’s life. After all, who wouldn’t want to really feel heard, validated and empathized with?

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Obstacles in Couples’ Communication

March 25, 2018

We communicate to fulfill seven basic needs:  to impart information, to solve a problem,  to express a need or a desire, to relay an opinion or a judgment, to express one's feelings,  to show or request empathy and to connect through humor or a shared experience.

In order for any of this to happen effectively, the speaker must be clear of the actual need(s) and the listener must actively listen, i.e. really take in and register what's being said and heard. This is actually a tall order since often the speaker isn't totally clear about what the need or the listener is not authentically listening.

For instance in a relationship if someone is feeling hurt, rather than tune in to that feeling and express just that, what gets expressed can be a judgment (usually hurtful in itself), or a past unresolved historical reference, or some kind of indirect feeling, which is often passive aggressive. So the listener is on his/her own to figure out what the partner needs, and it would never occur to someone to simply ask. To make matters worse, the listener often gets caught up in a defensive mode of emotional reactivity or alternatively tunes the speaker out completely and begins preparing a rebuttal. What unfolds is a drama of someone being triggered and then lashing out to which the other responds in kind.  This dynamic can actually grow in intensity or the exchange can flatten when one party shuts down and withdraws. This is naturally infuriating of course and results in the speaker feeling even more dismissed or angry because not only is the partner not really listening but they are no longer present or even engaged.

So how can one prevent such psychodramas and escalating tiresome tirades that can continue for hours in never ending loops of hurtful interaction?  The answer is a particular manner of communication called “authentic dialogue” that helps ensure that  both parties engage in effective communication and strategic problem solving.

My next blog post will explore this solution more fully, but in the meantime, you might tune into how this issue resonates with you personally, i.e. how you communicate with a partner or people in your life or if it reminds you of others, your parents, perhaps.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Make Love Your Priority

February 12, 2018

We all want to experience more love and happiness, yet sometimes we fail to connect the role we ourselves play in its creation and maintenance.  We know it’s best to engage with love in our hearts, but often that’s easy to forget when we’re caught in emotionally challenging situations. Yet at any moment, we can choose once again to love. Begin by first forgiving yourself (for forgetting), then forgiving your partner (for everything) and then start to practice loving actions even in the midst of the tension filled drama.

When we try our best to be considerate of others’ feelings and can extend the benefit of the doubt, we prioritize people differently with our thoughts and actions. By leading with unconditional positive regard it’s natural to follow through with loving actions of kindness.  These actions can include showing physical and emotional affection as well as   demonstrating engaged presence.  This means truly being present in your listening to another as well as consistently responding with empathy and compassion, thus building greater trust. Try being the partner you’d like to meet in the world and watch miracles happen in all of your relationships.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Please visit us for any counseling needs that may arise.

Michael Mongno is known as one of the leading and most accomplished life coaches in New York City. For over 21 years he's been working closely with individuals seeking personal development, and life and career changes. With degrees in business and psychology, and many years experience guiding others into success and fulfillment in a wide range of life expressions, Michael is the ideal coach for your aspirations, goals and transformations.

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