Saturday, January 24, 2015

Humor As Healing Resource

Humor has survival value. Life's hurts are more endurable when you have a sense of humor.

As a therapist, I could always sense when a hurting counselee is getting well. He or she begins to quit taking himself or herself so seriously. It comes with a sense of humor, laughing about one's self.

Let me suggest how to experience it. Look into the eyes of a child who is quite loved and caressed. Watch the child playing with you. Savor the child's natural joyfulness. And you'll experience the sheer delight of a child's laughter.

Learn humor from the children. Anthropologist Ashley Montagu writes, "It is natural for children to laugh and to see the humor in all sorts of things, whether they be real, imagined or their own creation. They revel in the comic."

As the popular Proverbs says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." (17:22)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Choices

If there is one thing I've learned in my counseling practice, it is that I must not steriotype or generalize people into "labels." Each person is unique. He or she is an individual in his or her own right. To generalize is to steriotype. That dehumanizes, because it denies people of their individuality and free will.

Any one can overcome challenges or pain in life. Yes, every one, provided he or she chooses to. Every human being possesses free will. He or she is endowed with personal power to prevail over life's wounds rather than drown in them. With healthy choices and support, a person can move in new and positive roads.

For example, on the basis of parents who abused or mistreated you during your childhood, does that reality automatically lead to a miserable life for you growing up into adulthood?  Not necessarily, my friend! Why? Because you can choose to refuse to become a victim of your past. You have within your deepest well the innate ability to see promise in the pain: the promise to overcome the pain of your difficult childhood. You have free will to make healthy choices if you truly desire to do so.

Healing is a choice. When you adopt this philosophy to your own unprocessed pains or unfinished business in life, you build yourself up. You reinforce your capacity to become a victor or achiever in life rather than a victim.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Healer of Wounds

The streets of Manila and beyond are laced with gigantic images, photos, and streamers of him for the state visit. He asks the government to take them down. He says he prefers to have the image of Christ venerated. "Focus on Jesus, not on me," he says.

That's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit-ordained former professor of psychology and literature in the university. Today, he is more popularly known all over the world as Pope Francis, the head of the Vatican.

When once asked the question, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?," by the editor of an Italian Jesuit journal La Civolta Cattolica, he answered:  "I don't know what might be the most fitting description. I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner ... The best summary, the one that comes from the inside, and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."

Pope Francis is a revolutionary healer and leader.  He reaches deep into the very core of the minds and hearts of people. He preaches against personal and institutional corruption and worldliness. He describes it as "self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God." Among the clergy, he denounces the power hungry and the hypocrites in the Vatican Curia. He urges us to live our lives focused on the "things that really matter."

He likens the church to a hospital. He says that the church's foremost mission is to "heal the wounds, heal the wounds." Speaking of ministers of the Gospel, he says "people need pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials ... those who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost."

It's not hard to see why he's called the People's Pope.  He's a simple, humble man on a redemptive mission. People simply love him for being the genuine one.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When Hurt Self Is Masked

As a therapist, I see people at their absolute worst. I do what it takes to enter their pain and hold space for them. I've become privy to their most secret, hidden selves. I've been delegated to pick up the confidential pieces of their disappointment, trauma, or relationship wounds.

A consistent portrait in therapy is the presence of the "hidden self" on client situations and behaviors. These include the following signs that often mask the real, wounded self:

*  Client who refuses responsibility ("you fix me")
*  Client who fears intimacy (avoidant or seductive behavior)
*  Client who ignores boundaries (chronic lateness, missed appointments, nonpayments)
*  Client with hidden agendas
*  Client who is argumentative (hostility, skepticism)
*  Client who is impatient ("fix me quick")
*  Client who is literal and concrete (unable to access or express internal states)
*  Client who feels hopeless (actively suicidal)
*  Client with poor impulse control (offenders, abusers)
*  Client who demonstrates severe anger or hostility
*  Client who prematurely terminates therapy
*  Client who manipulates
*  Client who is sociopathic or criminal in ways
*  Client who is sexually seducing

Therapy is a doorway of healing for the hurt, hidden self. All these masking behaviors above can be stopped when the real self is finally liberated from underneath in the process of recovery.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Compulsion To Repeat

As I write this, I'm in a fitness first gym taking drinks in the lounge area. The place is so pleasant with lots of wonderful facilities and staff. Yet when I'm on the treadmill or walking around thinking of seeking assistance, I'd sort of catastrophize: "What if the treadmill I'm on gets derailed?" "What if the staff just looks at me or refuses to help or leaves me alone?"

My overreaction in me was out of proportion to the reality of my external situation. During my childhood onwards to adulthood, I was traumatically abandoned emotionally by my own father and mother who eventually separated and lived different lives. They were not there even physically during my most distressing times growing up. Now my obsessive thoughts in the gym centered on not being supported or given needed attention -- being left alone or behind.

Much of neurological research supports what every psychotherapist from Sigmund Freud until this modern day knows firsthand: the compulsion to repeat. Brain researchers explain that severe overreactive responses stem from enlarged "neuronal imprints" in the brain from previous stressful or traumatic experiences. Such distort how a person experiences aspects of subsequent painful stimuli that other people may not be capable of noticing.

This supports the concept then of "the more difficult childhood was, the more difficult adulthood is."  When contamination in the foundations or core materials are embedded in childhood, it serves as an overly sensitive "filter" shaping one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards subsequent life events. It's kind of like a tape recorder whose button is still on and therefore stuck. The brain responds to what's not existing on the outside because a contamination is still existing on the inside.

Psychotherapy rests on the principle that ancient wounds, deprivations, or pains have been numbed out or buried alive, and need to be worked out. Until they are worked out and sufficiently healed, they'll continue to be acted out, acted in, or projected onto others. It's unfinished business that needs expression to heal compulsivity which continues to unconsciously relive old wounds and life-damaging patterns.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Resolutions

Although a New Year's Resolution is always observed to get broken, it's never too late to lead you to finally do something. For your over-all health. Psychological. Physical. Emotional. Social. Spiritual.

Here are some suggestions. Take your choice what to include in your own new year's resolution. Every new year is a gift of 365 opportunities for your life.

*  Forgive an enemy or one who hurt you deeply.
*  Smile. Laugh and make good jokes.
*  Spend less time on Facebook or on-line.
*  Spend more time with your spouse and children.
*  Listen.
*  Lower your expectations or lessen your demands on others.
*  Take up running.
*  Seek help for your severe unprocessed pains or unresolved issues.
*  Express appreciation.
*  Speak kindly to a stranger.
*  Join a small life support group.
*  Eat fruits and vegetables each day.
*  Pray, read the Bible.
*  Give a soft answer even though you're fuming inside.
*  Enter into another's sorrow or wound.
*  Find the time to keep a promise.
*  Make new friends.
*  Apologize if you were wrong.
*  Save money.
*  Give a gift to someone. Anonymously.
*  Pray for your extended family members, neighbors, city, and country.
*  Encourage an older person.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year-End Thoughts

Time to visit your thoughts. That would be my prescription for you this year-end. It's a most essential thing you can do as the holidays wind up.

Oh yes, your Christmas and New Year's parties and gifts and foods may have been special. The songs ... the smiles ... the smells ... the family fun. Every memory of your holidays weaves its way into the fabric of your mind that you can still feel the warmth.

But the best those warm holiday memories can offer you, in my opinion, is time to reflect. Quietly. Alone. At length. Even stroll a hill pathway or empty green park. Taking time to stop and listen. Maybe, a nice mellow music played at enough volume can submerge all your worries so you can think.

Years passed by. Have you ever been taken by the shoulders and made awake? Are there things in your life where you still need to look into the mirror and face realities as they really are? As Jeremiah, a prophet, once pictured: "Harvest is past, summer is ended. And we are not saved."

Is that a truth about you right now? If not, I suggest that this year-end, you come to terms with this need of being saved. You life, my life, follows a cycle of seasons. Multiple seasons, in various times of the year - summer, winter, spring, autumn ... varieties of peaks and valleys, colors, and changes. Each year, we go through the same life cycle.

How tragic to move through the seasons of each year without realizing your life's ultimate purpose! What can give meaning to the cycle of your life's seasons? What on earth are you here for? Time to reflect. Time to see.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Running Is Good To Your Mental Health

Let me give you one "secret:" Running is good to your mental health.


"Running the marathon gave me an inner strength that changed my life," says Henley Gibble, head of a running club in the U.S. "Whether it's fast or slow. whether you walk some of it or not, just finishing can have a profound effect on your confidence and self-esteem," adds Henley.    


Scientists, doctors, and runners describe specific reasons why running is good to your mental health. 

Here are some of them:

*  Running gives a euphoric feeling, a "runner's high," that benefits runners psychologically and emotionally;

*  Running releases endorphins that act as stimulant to emotional parts of the brain while running, boosting stronger feelings of euphoria;

*  Runners report experiencing being totally relaxed, happy, energetic, and satisfied with themselves;

*  Running releases a chemical called serotonin, which is a natural mood lifter that addresses negative energies associated with depression, lethargy, or stress;

*  Running improves your overall appearance and fitness level, which builds confidence;

*  Running faciltates ability to make new circles of friends and support;

*  Runners who network and increase their social contacts receive greater mental health benefits than those who run independently;

Indeed, while experiencing the runner's high is one of the best ways to feel happy and relaxed, running provides a number of general mental health benefits that can seep into your everyday life.


Run and get well!
 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Real Reason For The Season

It's Christmas again. What's the point?

If you're a homeless, disabled man begging for alms in the streets, would you hope for Christmas to bring you coins and hot meals? If you've come from a broken family with little to get by, could you know the point of Christmas? If you're weary in your loneliness walking in malls, would you catch the point of Christmas by having a lot of cash to shop around?

As always, the true point of Christmas gets obscured by widespread materialism and commercialism all over the world. We have layers of cultural cover-ups, such as parties, foods, gifts, toys, Santa Claus, lighted trees, shopping, and many others that most people lose sight of what Christmas is really all about. This phony Christmas has been around us for so long now. Multitudes of children and adults find it difficult to know what is real and what is make-believe. How sad that we can celebrate Christmas and take Christ the celebrant out of Christmas!

The real reason for the season of Christmas is traceable to the simplicity of the first Christmas over 2,000 years ago. Wise men bowed in worship. Angels filled the dark night. Hope was born in the souls of humans who walked in darkness. Salvation, healing, and forgiveness came to those who are repentant and will have a relationship with Him. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him 'Immanuel' - which means, 'God with us.' " (Matthew 1:23)

Isaiah also wrote, foretold hundreds of years before the event of the actual birth of Christ:  "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Also, hundred of years apart, the apostle Paul explained:  "But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4: 4-5).

You may feel depressed, hopeless, or traumatized today, but thank God, the real reason for the season is for you!  Get the true point of Christmas. Get it today. It holds the major key to your new life and total wholeness.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

How To Survive The Holidays

For those experiencing loss, emotional wound, or relationship breakdown, holidays such as Christmas and New Year can be excruciatingly painful times.  Death, divorce, separation, illness, financial lack, betrayal of friends or loved ones are great losses that can make holidays difficult.

Therefore, let me offer here some thoughts and tips on how to survive the holidays:

1.    Prepare emotionally and physically, beforehand;
2.    Remind your self that it's a passing season and it will be over soon;
3.    Don't self-medicate or anesthetize with drugs, alcohol, overeating, partying, sexual acting out to numb the pain;
4.    Manage your expectations and realities;
5.    Force your self to socialize and not isolate or hibernate;
6.    Call, text, or meet your therapist or closest friend when painful feelings get severe;
7.    Keep up your physical exercises or workouts (e.g. gym, running, walking etc.), no excuses!;
8.    Try to eat less and move more!
9.    Eat healthy foods;
10.  Reach other people who may be hurting and serve or converse with them;
11.  Don't allow people to push your buttons;
12.  Pray and read God's Word, get close to and trust God in all circumstances;
13.  Remember the reason for the season;
14.  Have fun!
15.  Practice gratitude and contentment;
16.  Educate your self, read self improvement books etc;
17.  Focus on your unique purpose in life;
18.  Enjoy your hobbies or passions;
19.  Connect in new, healthy ways with your spouse or children, family member/s;
20.  Reflect on and learn from your past mistakes to create a better you.
21.  Always hope, for the best is yet to come.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Age Regression

During Christmas and New Year holidays, countless people go to family gatherings. Many travel back to their family-of-origin homes. If you were able to remain a serene, emotionally mature adult during those visits or dinners, you just demonstrated "mindfulness training!" You've grown.

For 45-year-old Steve, it was a huge challenge or mess. Heading back to his parents' home and reuniting with his siblings for the holidays, he felt he's in a "black hole" again. After a few minutes under one roof, he started pouting and shouting angry words at his Mom and sisters. He was back into his childhood family role and wound from decades ago, unhealed.

Holiday age regression is a universal experience individuals and families face. The concept of age regression is a sort of poetic metaphor given down from Freud to modern psychology. You may be a wealthy CEO of a company, a well-functioning member of society, and still regress. You can forget all the progress you've made many years between birth and fleeing the nest. For a week or so of the holidays, you can be age 8 again!

Is there anything that can be done? Lightening up can be helpful. Commit to an adult posture. Find out if you're over-personalizing. Be mindful about potential replication of childhood hurts or scenarios; see them as they are and resolve to heal them soon. Stand up straight. Take deep breaths. Fold your arms in perseverance. Use the mental voice that you use in your daily adult life. Pray. Remember the real reason for the season. Plant your feet and you'll have a happy holidays!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

25 Healing Helpers

How do you take care of your self through a crisis stage? Here are some recommendations for you:

1.   True friends
2.   Asking for help
3.   Relief from indecision and tension
4.   Exercise, get physical
5.   Deep-level counseling/therapy
6.   Books, tapes, workshops
7.   New hobbies and recreations
8.   Exploring family tree origins
9.   Nutrition, healthy foods
10. Prayer/God's Word
11.  Healing support group
12.  Creative Imaging
13.  Complimenting your self
14.  Self disclosure
15.  Not sweating the small stuff
16.  Grow in your passions
17.  Humor/Laughter
18.  Try new possibilities
19.  Volunteer and serve the hurting
20.  Join a church or community
21.  Forgive the unforgivable
22.  Lightness, simplicity, contentment
23.  Bi-focalism (multiple perspectives)
24.  Intuition
25.  Balancing

Monday, December 15, 2014

Healing A 30-Year Psychiatric Patient

Many damaged emotions are deeply buried in layers of memory. At times, hurting people won't respond to traditional therapy, counseling, or hospitalization. In fact, in some cases, the traditional ways can discourage even more and deter people from experiencing the healing they so desperately need.

I'm reminded of a true story of a woman confined in the mental hospital for 30 years. It was told by Ruth Stapleton, sister of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. One time, this long time psychiatric patient was brought to Ruth. The patient couldn't communicate and was in trance-like state. This was one of the reasons why she was considered a hopeless case.

Ruth brought the patient down by the lake in the sunshine. There they talked in front of the lake amid the grass. The patient drank in the natural therapeutic effects of sun and water. While there, Ruth reached over and held her hand. And she started praying audibly even when the patient was unable to relate to her.

After some time of Ruth's inner healing prayer, the patient suddenly screamed. The woman remembered that, at the age of 12, she was raped by her father. This memory she had never shared to any psychiatrist or therapist. In over 30 years of psychiatric treatment, none of this patient's buried memories and hurts were successfully dug out.

You and I can learn a healing lesson here. Even an inexpressibly tragic, damaged memory can be healed when exposed to prayer and the person of the Greatest Psychotherapist who ever lived.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Think About My Heart

I think about my heart.

It beats about 100, 000 times each day. It beats to pump blood to every cell of my physical body. This adds up to about 35 million beats a year and 2.5 billion beats if I'm to consider what they say as the average lifetime.

According to medical science, every beat or contraction of my heart is similar to the effort I'll expend to hold a tennis ball in my palm and give it a hard squeeze. That's huge. I have a hard-working heart. Amazing.

My heart, as well as your heart, is only one example of a natural world that is designed to reveal to us something essential. There is power far greater than human. No doctor, no machine, no human genius can create or control the heart and its intricate hard-working muscle beats to nourish our bodies. Yet it's there, given to us, quietly giving life.

When I reflect on the power of the natural creation of my heart, I can't help but see the power of Someone who creates and cares for me and all humankind. Who operates my heart? Who operates yours? Even when there is suffering and I don't know why, I know in my heart that Someone is out there.

As noted writer, Soren Kierkegaard, put it, nature is "a temple not built by human hands," a classroom for higher religious education, a house of God.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mother's Lies

There was an intriguing film portraying a real-life true story of a mother who lied to her child. This Canadian TV movie enititled "Lies My Mother Told Me" was aired in the U.S. in 2005. The teleplay was nominated for Award for Best Direction in a Dramatic Program mini-series.

Consider Susan. She shunned her Dad for years because of her mother's lies. During her childhood years, her mother had an affair and played "Disneyland Mom" to buy her affections while telling lies about her Dad. To escape detection, the mother poisoned her mind into embracing her adultery and immoral lifestyle. It took time for Susan to find out who was telling the truth. But now, she has a healthy, close, and godly relationship with her Dad. Eventually, the truth won over her mother's lies and deception.

Because of problems of human nature, mothers (as well as fathers, of course) do hurt children with their hard, dark side. They can lie about themselves and what reality is. So, in the process of indulgence, the children get distracted from their emotional issues because it's easier to play than to process problems. They've become victims of psychological abuse who often grow up to be character-disordered as a result of mother's or father's lies.

Noted clinical psychologist and bestselling author, Dr. Richard Warshak, coined a popular two-word phrase that includes parental lies as part of child abuse. He refers to it as "divorce poison." According to Dr. Warshak, parental "divorce poison" or separation damages children in a variety of deceptive ways: outright lies, bad-mouthing, bashing, brainwashing, false allegations of abuse, retaliation, corrupting reality, circumstantial manipulation, among others.

Suffer the innocent, vulnerable children. Who can protect them?
 

Monday, December 08, 2014

I Don't Agree With Freud But He's Integrationist

I don't completely agree with Dr. Sigmund Freud, the so-called founder of psychoanalysis. I find him to be woefully and narrowly human. For me, he is essentially limited in his understanding of human nature.

Despite that, I like Dr. Freud being an "integrationist" in search of the reality of the human mind and condition. For example, he was known to be inspired by the fiction of Dostoyevsky, Sophocles, and Shakespeare;  the sculpture of Michelangelo and Leonardo;  the philosophy of Mill and Nietzsche.

It was not his medical training that formed the cornerstone of his psychotherapeutic approach. You know what it was?  It was much of his readings of King Lear, Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, and the Brothers Karamazov. Indeed, that's how first and foremost "integrationistic" Dr. Freud was. He was able to draw on the wisdom of poets, artists, philosophers, playwrights, neurologists. and his patients' real life experiences in coming up with a unified vision of what humanity is.

In the tradition of Freud as well as other therapists, I view my self as an "integrationist" too for the healing of the "whole person" with influences from diverse disciplines as well as my own real life experiences. Without integration and seeing the whole of life in healing our minds and souls, our knowledge of anguish and conflict would be hollow, our self-revelations one-dimensional.

Yet Dr. Freud, despite his "integrationist" effort, still misses the mark. His psychoanalysis is terribly inadequate. It fails to address the most essential part of the whole person.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tree and The Boy

Tonight, I'm reflecting on the story of a tree and a boy. It's based on a short film entitled "The Giving Tree," a simple thought-provoking piece about a Tree who loved a Boy.

The Tree and the Boy played hide and seek in his boyhood. The Boy would swing from her branches, playfully climbed all over her, ate her apples, slept under her shade. The Tree loved those carefree, happy years with the Boy during his childhood.

Then, as the Boy grew up, he spent less time with the Tree. At one time, the Boy, now a young man, passed by and the Tree invited him to play. But the lad was only interested in money. "Take my apples and sell them," offered the Tree. He did ... and the Tree was happy.

The Boy didn't return for seasons. It was a long time and the Tree was missing him. When the Boy passed by one day, the Tree smilingly invited him again, "Come on, let's play!" But the Boy - now fully grown - was obsessed building a house for himself. "Cut off my branches and build your house," the Tree offered. The Boy did ... and the Tree was happy.

Many years dragged by. The Tree missed the Boy a lot. It seemed he had forgotten the Tree. Suddenly, the Tree saw him in a distance and cheerfully shouted, "Hey, friend, come on and let's play!" But the Boy, now older, wanted to get away and take a vacation. "Cut me down and make yourself a boat to sail away," said the Tree. He did that ... and the Tree was happy.

Many seasons again passed -- summers, winters, springs, harvests, windy days and lonely nights -- and the Tree waited for the Boy. Finally, the Boy, an old, old man returned. He is now too old, too tired to play, to work, to build houses, to pursue money, or to travel the seas. "I have a pretty good trunk left, my Boy. Why don't you just sit down here and rest?" The Boy did ... and the Tree was happy.

As I sipped my drink, I sat still. I took time to reflect the years that passed ... as I grew older with the Tree and the Boy. I can relate to both -- and it hurts.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Visiting Vincent

Consider what happened to Vincent Van Gogh.

Somewhere in the 1890s, this extremely artistic nonconformist painter shared his interior canvass, "The sadness will last forever." Later, at age 37, he was believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died in the evening 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself.

Few know of Vincent's spirituality despite his psychological state. Around age 30, he had a Christian conversion and was known to read the Bible and sing worship songs. He found inspiration in John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and Thomas a Kempis' "The Imitation of Christ."

What happened to Vincent? you may ask. You read his biography and you discover that he has had life deforming disappointments of all sorts. He was alone. He was a victim, got wounded, and in need of special care. Yet he got injured, rejected, and betrayed by a lack of response in the church. Instead of being taken cared of, he was shot by the very people who were supposed to be instruments for his healing.

It's a pattern I have often seen. Like others, Vincent sought to be whole and serve God and then got hurt. Right after, he stopped trying. He stopped growing and focusing his spiritual and psychological lens. Vincent's story also confirms that life is meant to be lived and healed in a community taking the high road of support, encouragement, and unconditional love.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Every Human Is Beauty and Beast

This is so important to understand. There is no sense going further when you're not able to grasp this reality about being human.

Look up the people around you. Your spouse in your living room. The kids across the park. The couple or a man or a woman walking in the mall where you're having coffee.

These people are possibly wonderful human beings. Perhaps, they have talents and gifts that would make angels weep. They may have potential to accomplish greatness or help the world a better place.

Yet as certainly as these are true, it's also a reality that these very human beings also have the ability for the most evil deeds imaginable. The level of depravity or nastiness in each of us is simply there. It is part of what it means to be human.

Learning this, you can realize then that every human is both Beauty and Beast, both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, both image of good and image of evil. There can be a loving mother who is addicted to sex or affairs with men. There can be this successful celebrity actor or actress addicted to drugs. There can be this award-winning writer who is a murderer and a respected teacher who sleeps with his students.

This is, I'm sorry to tell you, unending catalog of darkness about the nature of humanity. This is what you and I forget when good things are flowing and all is well. We idealize or remake people into what we need them to be. We are not wise in our relating. And so when evil comes, we are shocked and then destroyed and then broken down and even unable to get back up.

To live in any sort of real connection to our selves, to others, and to the world is simply seeing what our humanity truly is. The idea is that if we learn this well, we can heal and live more effectively.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Infidelity Epidemic Among Women

Yesterday, I was at Starbucks having coffee talks with a friend I haven't seen for some time now. He shared about healing from his own infidelity. At some point, he also shared the "infidelity wound" of his brother who was cheated by his wife who had kids from two other men. My friend remarked that, culturally, men appear to cheat more than women.

The reality is, nowadays, infidelity is becoming a growing epidemic among women. According to a 2014 published research report of the Associated Press with the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 54% of women admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had. Another statistic result of the study reveals that 68% of women would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught.

The results of this psychological research has a transparent message. Infidelity, a form of mental illness and sexual addiction based on the DSM psychiatric manual, is now experienced almost equally by both men and women in our society. Countless adults who go through emotional or character breakdowns come from families whose parents were separated or divorced due to infidelity. Families and children are definitely at risk if the psychopathology or infection of this illness goes unhealed.

Mainstream media or show business is also a contributor to the problem of women infidelity. Women infidelity is not only expected to continue to be common. But it will also continue to be on the rise as long as women lack the necessary values to build their character, are treated as "objects" or poisoned by an addictive society or company. This is not an exaggeration ─ it’s a fact of our present-day life and culture.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Choose Joy

It's impossible to be perpetually happy in this life.

When I'm watching a nice movie, I feel happy. But when I head out to the house and discover a mess in the kitchen, my happiness may quickly dissolve.

Happiness is based on circumstances. And because circumstances or externals continually change, you don't permanently experience happiness.

Joy is different. It's psyche-deep, soul-deep. Joy comes from an unconditional, abiding sense of inner peace and contentment. In our society and culture, we sort of get too addicted in pursuing happiness. But in truth what we are actually seeking is joy.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being happy and having good circumstances. But remember, circumstances change. And because they do, happiness is temporary. It fails to truly satisfy.

Perhaps, you're going through very difficult circumstances. Loss of a job. Physical illness. Unfaithful spouse. Family breakdown. Bankruptcy. Abusive parents. Prodigal children. Business shutdown. Whatever it is, there is hope because circumstances change. Times change. As you do what it takes to improve your situation, you can experience pockets of happiness.

In the meantime, while going through trials, you can choose joy. You can have joy in the midst of hard times. Know the secrets of having true, abiding joy whatever your circumstances.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Is My Child Disturbed?

A Chinese mother once saw me with her child. Sobbing, she asked for help because her son had become self-destructive and disrespectful. Marked by impulsive behaviors, the son would shout at her and shut down on several occasions during our session. Here I was with a hurt mother and a child at high risk for developing emotional problems as an adult.

How do I know if my child is character-disturbed and in need of help? There are, of course, telling symptoms recognizable right away, like the one above. But in other children, it will take time to decipher. The earlier the "signs" are noticed and addressed, the better will be the prospects for healing and wholeness for your children.

Let me offer some of those "signs" here in spotting a wounded, character-disturbed, or attachment-injured child in need of help and support. The more of these symptoms a child has, the more severe is the condition:

*  Self-destructive behavior
*  Stealing
*  Hoarding and gorging on food
*  Cruelty to others
*  Lack of long-term friends
*  Marked impulse control problems
*  Phoniness
*  Speech difficulties or pathology
*  Abnormalities in eye contact
*  Lack of ability to give and receive affection
*  Obsession with blood, fire. gore, or things of darkness
*  Learning disorders
*  Lying and deceiving
*  Superficial attractiveness
*  Extreme friendliness with strangers
*  Isolation and withdrawal
*  Disrespect and rage against parents
*  School crime, bullying, or misbehavior
*  Severe depression, crying spells

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Late-Life Depression

A hospital patient, Mando, said, "After I had my heart attack, nobody noticed that I was also depressed. Everything was centered on my heart and how my valves and arteries are functioning. When I didn't want to eat or see anyone, they just blamed it on my cardiac problems. It took my son making an appointment with a therapist before anyone took notice."

Each week, I do therapy and counseling sessions in a veterans hospital with a lot of elderly patients walking around. So many of these senior patients are on medication, suffering from physical ailments. My doctor friend and chief of the surgery, Dr. Nap, once told me that it can be a challenge to recognize that diagnosis is not always simple. This is true, especially among soldier-veteran elderly patients who are generally reluctant to admit or face emotional distress.

In late-stage life, there is usually a high rate of chronic illnesses and medications. Some illnesses, like cardiac or lung problems, produce symptoms that are the same to those going through psychological anxiety or panic attacks -- erratic heartbeat, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. An elderly patient's condition can also be complicated by the onset of Alzheimer or dementia, since anxiety or fears appear to be part of these medical disorders.

Therefore, for late-life or senior patients, there is always a need to separate the medical and psychological/emotional/spiritual causes of depressive disorder/anxiety/fear symptoms. Sometimes, we can be surprised by our blind spots and misperceptions that we don't pay close attention to what elderly patients are really telling us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Truth and Emotional Pain

Truth is essential in therapy. It should be your badge. In your battle through to a liberated heart, truth is the chant you should announce aloud.

But the truth is, when it comes to emotional pain - pain that so hurts inside - it's healing truths that can set people off. Truth can be painful to see. It would be nice if truth is just truth and there's no pain in it and that's the end of it.

Yet, I can't recommend "truth therapy" enough for recovery from emotional pains. It's our best key. The greatest damage is often the unprocessed issues that continue to resonate even when the feelings of pain subside. It's the truth that tells us about our self, our relationships, and about the purpose of our lives.

The emotional pain inflicted on us is not just from the wound itself. But also, the "meaning" of the wound. You see, every bit of thorn that hits the mark in our hearts has a "message" attached. And it is the "message" that lives longer than the pain itself. It is often this "message" that often does the more lasting damage.

Thankfully, we can heal. We push the rocks to the surface as we strive to reclaim our wholeness with the "truth and nothing but the truth." It's the truth that can help us go through the pain, so we can get to the other side.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fishing In The Desert

What have you been looking for comfort or relief?

After being abandoned by her husband, Margaret instantly went to the bar to find rebound relationships with men. She fell into alcohol, drugs, sex, and out-of-control anger for countless nights.

She said that these make her feel good, though only for a moment. In desperate attempts to ease her pain, she shared that she found herself doing things that part of her finds repulsive.

I agree with therapist Dr. Talley who wrote, "Finding true love in a bar is like finding fish in the desert." Can you catch fish in the desert? Of course, you can't. Yet, lots of people go to the wrong places for feelings of comfort, assurance, or acceptance.

It's not uncommon for people to "self-medicate" their internal distresses through alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, an affair, shopping, rage, pornography, or anything/anyone. Then, only to find out later that these indulgences only make things worse in their lives and health.

It's never too late to make a shift. Change ways. Start by seeking help. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What do you mean "Oswald Complex?"

I know this to be such a common experience among us. We all know that we can tell a great deal about who our true friends are when hit by hard times. I hope that during seasons of suffering and pain, friends stand with us and encourage us and protect us to see the promise of a better day.

I hope so. But I know, nevertheless, what crisis can do even to the best or closest of friends. Psychologists used an interesting term calling it the "Oswald Complex." A few days after U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, lead suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and being taken to the police station.

Handcuffed to two detectives tasked to protect him, Oswald was suddenly approached and shot by a man identified as Jack Ruby. As psychologists and investigators watched the film of the crime scene, they noticed that when Ruby approached Oswald with a gun, the two detectives actually pulled away rather than defended Oswald from the attack. And thus, the term "Oswald Complex." It became a description for people's act to pull away from those they've committed to protect, shield, or defend when danger comes.  

I surmise you may have experienced the "Oswald Complex" yourself. In fact, if you've gone through a humiliating season of crisis, such as financial bankruptcy or marital betrayal, it almost is sure you have. Suddenly who you consider friends disappear. They're confused about what to to do. Some believe in the lies or just withdraw from your company.  Perhaps, even relatives or family members may be stepping away from you or siding with those who mean to harm you.

What you need to do, when dust settles, is take a careful look at the kind of people you choose as friends. It can spell a difference in your future relationships, so you do not cycle through the same betrayals again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Every Depression Will Pass

I work a lot with depressed people. The greater the wounds or losses experienced, the greater the depression. Here's what I notice: when they're over the depression, they say something like "I'm a better person because I went through it! I discovered new things about me."

Like all things in this life, every depression will pass. However, it will pass only if you do the right things. With the right course of actions, you can shorten your depression. You can heal. You can grow. In fact, after healing through dark valleys of your soul, the experience could be one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in your life.

If you're depressed right now, go through each day ... one step at a time. Endure and reflect every moment. Pray. Seek help. Expand your circles of support. Look to the future with great expectation of how depression can make you the best that you can be in your life.

Sooner, thanksgivings will pour out your windows! There will be laughter spilling through your door. Things will get better. Your depression has passed. You'll thrive. You'll flourish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When Your Spouse Is Unwilling To Give Up OP (Other Person)

If you are married to a spouse who is sick with infidelity, it's vital that you don't allow or "enable" the behavior to continue. In cases when your spouse is unwilling to give up the OP (other person), you must confront him or her. And at the same time, make appropriate bold moves by refusing to accept your spouse's destructive behaviors.

If you're the betrayed spouse, here are some important healing steps and guidelines you need to bear in mind when your unfaithful spouse is not showing sincere evidences of remorse:

*  Listen to his/her actions, not his/her words;

*  Do not resort to criticism, lecturing, angry flare ups, and other putdowns;

*  Learn to charge neutral and calm your self as you enforce healthy boundaries;

*  You must be firm to require your unrepentant spouse to get help: "I love you and I want to remain married to you. But what you're doing right now is unacceptable and I cannot allow it to continue. Either you take positive and visible steps to change or there will be consequences. It's a choice between getting professional help for this problem or I'm going to leave you."

*  Make sure you follow through and keep your word.

*  Get your own healing, whether or not your infidel spouse changes. Professional help can facilitate and speed up your recovery.

C.S. Lewis once noted that we mistakenly equate love with kindness. He writes, "Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering."

Indeed, there are times when love must be tough. Pain is part of surgery, a lifesaver, in removing cancer. Real love inflicts legitimate pain in order to bring about healing and health.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Know The Way Out!

Over the years, when I consider how I might accomplish helping people heal in therapy, I'm reminded of a story.

A guy falls into a deep hole. He starts yelling for help. Soon, a doctor passes by and hears his anguished cry. The doctor looks at the hole, writes an Rx prescription and throws it to the guy below, and walks away. Then, a priest arrives and he peers into the hole. Seeing the man below, the priest writes out a prayer and throws it down before walking away.

The desperate guy below starts yelling louder. Soon, his friend comes by and hears, "Hey, Peter, help me. I'm down in this hole." So Peter jumps down into the hole too. "What have you done?" our desperate guy complains. "Now, we both are stuck down here!" "Yeah," says Peter calmly, "but I've been down here before and I know the way out."

Yes! And I do too. I do, not because I'm smarter or more skilled than any one else. I confess that I know the way out because I fell harder before and I believe much deeper than most people do. Perhaps, my only salvation was that I yelled longer and harder for help than most hurt people do. I know what it is like.

I know the way out. So, if you're going to see me and follow me out through the sessions, you are going to understand. It's one-on-one between you and me. I'll spare you nothing because the only way I got free was to be spared nothing by truth and people who cared for me.

I know. And I care for you.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Psychotherapy for Church Hurts

Yesterday, this was the book - "Healing Your Church Hurt" by New York Times bestselling author Dr. Stephen Mansfield - that I was holding when a woman greeted me in a bookshop. What followed was her telling me her long story. Her story and this book perfectly fit together!

Stephen Mansfield writes in his book: “When I had gone through a horrible church hurt myself, I began to realize how epidemic such things are. My friend George Barna has done a survey confirming that nearly forty percent of the folks we call “unchurched” in America are actually embittered ex-church members. This is tragic and it should change the way we approach the “un-churched” in America. Many of them are already Christians who are simply angry about how they’ve been treated by other believers. So, I wrote this book to show them a path to wholeness of soul and to show the way home. This is certainly my most personal and my hardest-hitting book. It needed to be. I trust it will help heal the current epidemic of ‘church hurt’ in this country.”

This book can be a tool for you if you're healing from what Stephen Mansfield calls a "current epidemic of 'church hurt.' " You can "rechurch" and part of your recovery may involve learning to heal internally from the hurts and reconnect with safe people in the church.

Relax Within Your Limits

In times of depression, deprivation, or trauma, there is always this need to learn to "relax within your limits." That involves ignoring negative feelings when new bad circumstances come. You don't need to add fuel to every painful feeling that shows itself.

For example, you're a single Mom. You have no job, only with limited survival resources. Your little girl comes to you and says she'd like to have a new set of toys. You know you're unable to have this extra expense at this time, so you have to say no. Your little child walks away from you.

Now, how do you feel? You probably may feel sad, guilty, or terrible. And these feelings have a tendency to add in to the mix of your already heavy burdens or stressful situation at present. Thinking about it, you can't let these feelings drag you down or determine what you do to make things better. Thus, there are times in depression or stressful situations, when you have to "step over" certain negative feelings and say, "I'll make up and do better next time, I'm going to ignore these feelings."

Choose to set limits. Be willing to relax within your limits, physically and emotionally. Learn from your frustrations, not add to them.

Friday, November 07, 2014

How To Stop Being A Victim

From victim to victor. That's perfectly possible. But you need to learn how to break free of being a victim.

Mary was a Mom of five and a successful businesswoman. She had married two men who turned out to be sex addicts and alcoholics, had a string of five boyfriends after separating from her last husband, and was presently in a state of breakup and separation from her recent boyfriend.

She began to see a therapist and said, "Until now I never realized what I was doing. With the help of counseling addressing my 'whole person" and this support group I joined, I saw more clearly the patterns that ended up hurting and damaging my life. My eyes are now open to avoid my previous mistakes and develop new habits. I feel a lot better about my self now."

What happened to Mary? She learned to stop being a victim. She transformed part of her life, the way she creates and lives her story. A major aspect of her therapeutic transformation is her emergent awareness of her true self and how this had been wounded by repetition compulsion unknowingly acting out unprocessed pains through dysfunctional habits, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The life story that she creates and tells now is one of a recovering or former victim to a stabilizing, brave victor.

As you break free from being a victim, you begin to integrate the experience and apply it to the rest of your daily life. That's what healing of your "whole person" can be - relaunching with a new YOU, bringing true happiness and purpose for living.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Finding A New Family

"I don't belong anywhere. I feel so alone in the world. It's a most horrible feeling!"

That's what came out of Marissa, whose parents emotionally and physically abused her while she was a child and now her husband just left her for a younger woman. 

She cried, "Even with my family, I don't feel I belong because they couldn't understand what I'm going through. They'll say 'Oh just get over it, it will be ok' and I'm still not ok. I could not make them understand the depths of what I'm feeling inside. They couldn't relate and see."

Championing your own inner healing involves finding a new family. If your family of origin is not healing, it's unrealistic to expect support from them when you're deeply wounded. In fact, troubled family members may say that what you're doing is stupid and they'll shame you for it. With the dysfunction in your family, what makes you think you'll get your nurturing needs met there?

So, in situations like this, it's healthy that you keep a safe distance and work on finding a new, nonshaming, supportive family. You need to go outside to find a healing life support group that you could join - a safe place where you share your hurts, your concerns, and your fears with other people who share your pain and experiences. 

A loving, supportive life group can do wonders for your recovery. The people in the life group can best relate to what you're going through and have typically been through what you're going through. This could be a life group of friends, a therapy group, a church community, an office/company sharing life group, or some 12-step group.

Angel, a member of a hospital-based healing life support group testified, "I got into this Healing Life Support Group in the hospital, and it became my family. This is a place I feel I belong because I could tell people how I feel and they understand. They've become my family because of the shared pain."

You need a new family. A healing life support group can be the “family” you need during your critical time of woundedness and loneliness. Find this new family.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Forgiveness and Trust

Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. Neither one is dependent on the other.

Forgiveness of debt is helpful as a therapeutic tool. It's been effectively used for treating a variety of clinical disorders. These include specific conditions such as mood disorders, impulse control disorders, and  adjustment disorders. Within the past three decades, psychotherapists, social scientists, and other practitioners have become increasingly interested in forgiveness and its potential for improving personal well-being and interpersonal relationships.

Manny's wife broke his trust. He discovered that his wife had been having an online affair with a foreigner. After verbalizing "sorry" and coming with Manny to a therapist, she continued to lie, deceive, and communicate with the other man. When he found it out again, she fled to the country where the paramour was working and lived in with him. Manny's wife takes the affair onwards - faking documents, progressively poisoning the minds of their kids, and manipulating elements of their environment in order to blame him and conceal the adultery. Manny's wife is a realistic picture of a sick woman.

Understandably, Manny is emotionally devastated. There's been so much anger and depression. But in order to heal, Manny needs to learn to forgive his wife despite the ongoing affair. His forgiveness is not dependent on his wife's stopping the unfaithfulness. Forgiveness is simply setting down the load, never to pick it up again within. However, learning to forgive his wife does not mean Manny has to trust her again. Possibly, Manny will not be able to trust his wife again because she continues to betray his trust.    


Forgiveness plays a big part in personal healing. You forgive for your sake, not for the other person. Forgiveness however does not mean you have to trust the other person again. Trust is earned, based on objective evidences of remorse. Choose to heal and be free by forgiving.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Growing Through Parenting Stress

I'm a parent of three young children. In one of my overseas trips, I felt a tug at my heart, wishing I had done more for them before I left. Or, there had been times in the past when I felt remorse at comments I made. I wished I could somehow take them back!  I'd think of ways to make up or remedy previous neglects. It's never too late, I believe.

Here are some things I've learned and gained from going through the stress of being a parent:

*  I learned patience, endurance, and sacrifice;
*  I learned to tap into my unsuspecting strength within myself when I had to nurture my kids when I myself was sick or internally distressed;
*  I learned I need to learn and practice empathy, for in trying to understand my child, I had to put my self in his or her place;
*  I learned how to listen not just to my child's voice but also to his/her hidden feelings and thoughts;
*  I learned to set aside what I prefer to see or hear from my child, so I can understand what he/she is expressing to me;
*  I learned what responsibility means as a parent;
*  I learned the joy of giving to my children without expecting any thing in return;
*  I learned what God's love can do to shape me to be a better parent.

Yes, children can put stress on us. But it can also be one of the most rewarding and fruit-bearing  experiences possible. Like you, I'm a parent. Both of us, we all, can grow through our children ... and the stress of parenting them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surviving Infidelity and Separation

Infidelity is like a super-typhoon. It rips your life, threatening to damage everything in its path. The whirlwinds of emotions bring fear, anger, and confusion, affecting your family, children, and friends. It hurts so much.

But then, your unfaithful spouse, instead of repenting or making up, continues on with the affair. You discover how he or she has been intentionally deceiving you with lies or hidden messages, and even manipulating elements of reality to blame you. You separate from your infidel spouse.

As the betrayed spouse, you need to survive to start and sustain a needed healing process. There's no way around or easy way out. You're likely wishing that you could get through the pain quicker! But healing is a process. You take it one day at a time. It's a moment-by-moment process.

Here are a few generally well-tested, effective healing actions to survive your spouse's infidelity and separation from him or her:

*  Examine your self and the level of intensity of your pain (is it intensity 5 or 10 etc.?).
*  Seek help or professional intervention (therapist, counselor etc.) to go to the "roots," shorten your process, avoid long-terms costs, and complete recovery.
*  Take deep breaths and exercise, eat healthy.
*  Learn to reframe your suffering - thoughts, feelings, behaviors etc.
*  Spare your children from adult trauma and help them cope, get your nurturance somewhere.
*  Take time to know the real you.
*  Abstain from making major decisions, especially during the early stages.
*  Train yourself on emotional techniques to better cope with your spouse's infidelity and separation.
*  Always be with a friend.
*  Expand your circle of support or community (don't withdraw or isolate).
*  Have a clear, definite plan and weighing of your options.
*  Pray. Know God's part in your healing process.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gas-Lighting

Gas-lighting is an interesting term used in clinical therapy. It owes its origin from the film adaptations of "Gaslight" starring Ingrid Bergman in the 1940s. In the film, the main character (the husband) systematically engaged in psychological manipulation to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating elements of the environment. This then disoriented the wife and made her doubt her memory, perception, and reality.

I'm reminded of Tina who came to me, traveling so many miles from the province. She found out that her husband is gay and has been paying for sex with men during the years of their marriage. Tina was so confused and about to have a nervous breakdown. The gas-lighting behaviors of her husband involved blaming her and undermining her perceptions of the evidences she found out. She ended up looking down on her self and seeing "things" she had done that made her husband a homosexual and unfaithful spouse.


Gas-lighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that can deeply wound a victim. It involves projection, denial, lying - a special kind of transfer of painful mental conflicts to another person. Adulterous spouses, for example, may gaslight their partners, even flatly denying that they have been unfaithful or deceptive. According to mental health statistics, gas-lighting is indeed commonly observed among cases of marital infidelity, parent-child alienation, and sociopathic/psychopathic behaviors.

I know of only one antidote against gas-lighting: the truth. A wounded victim's ability to heal and resist the manipulation depends on his or her strength and trust to stand for what really is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are You Working For The Wind?

A story reminds me of a statement made by super-rich Solomon. It goes: "What profit has he who has labored for the wind?"

Martha's story was a loss of millions of pesos from a military-controlled financial investment scam. Her millions came from "earnings" she accumulated buying and selling goods using funds from stolen credit cards provided by a syndicate. After a time of imprisonment, Martha got out and went bankrupt.

Wealth can perish through misfortune. Theft as in Martha's case or through natural disasters and accidents, your dearest belongings may disappear. Even if you are able to protect them, you certainly can't take them with you in the grave. There appears to be futility in working only to acquire possessions that will ultimately disappear. Yet isn't that so common an "addiction" of people nowadays -- maddeningly seeking treasures that have sure expiration on earth?

Martha's story (as well as those of countless others) exemplifies much of our material world -- the emptiness of riches and the transitory nature of things of this earth. After all the reflections and lessons he learned, super-rich Solomon's final conclusion is, "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." The treasures of heaven are what truly matter. They don't expire and you can "take them with you." They yield lasting rewards that can't be destroyed.

Are you working for the wind?  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stress Reduction Alternatives

This morning, I'm thinking of alternative ways to heal or reduce stress. Often, in times of brokenness or betrayal, people feel rage. There are other ways we can discharge high levels of stress instead of overwhelming anger.

Although anger somehow releases some stress, it's least effective and even harmful. It costs too much. For one, anger can put a huge toll on you physiologically. It's known to damage relationships. In the long run, it harms your over-all health and isolates you.

Let me see, here's my broad list of some alternative stress-reducing strategies instead of anger. Hope it gives you some starting points and ideas.

*  Exercising
*  Crying
*  Humor
*  Writing
*  Deep breathing and relaxation exercises
*  Verbalizing pain
*  Recreation and hobbies
*  Pillow and bed beating
*  Music
*  Resting
*  Problem-solving activities
*  Sports, running, fast walking
*  Focused, intense work activity
*  Problem-solving conversations
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Psychological Crisis of Middle Age

As people reach middle years, there appears to be a developmental or psychological crisis common to all men and women. Psychologist Dr. Eric Erikson defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65. These are the years when people are faced more closely with the inevitable aspect of the aging process.

Not too long ago, I once saw a woman in teenage high-heels with lots of cosmetics and techni-colors in her dress. However, it was not difficult to guess her real age. All can notice her facial wrinkles, sagging breasts, slowness in movements, and other coarsening features. The cosmetic industry which normally works so well in youth had not squared well with this woman's inexorable reality.

I'm reminded of a research I read that shows that women in their middle years manifest psychiatric disorders almost five times as frequently as men. I believe the reason behind this difference is more cultural and psychological rather than physiological. The stress for middle-aged women appears especially severe in our culture where youth and beauty are given greater emphasis in women than in men to be perceived useful and needed.

For the middle-aged man, on the other hand, we hear stories of many who unconsciously struggle on stresses placed upon them by society, ordinarily measured in terms of wealth, power, or sexual potency. To escape the loss of fantasy hopes of youth or romance, for instance, numerous men will engage in extra-marital affairs or pursue much younger women for sexual conquests. It can be hard for men heavily gender-conditioned by culture to see that fulfillment has become improbable at a certain point.

In both men and women, a common source of psychological crisis is that physical changes in middle age force an inescapable confrontation with the reality of one's mortality. The defenses or illusions that work well in younger years can no longer be maintained in middle age. There is increasing evidence of the approaching limits of existence and one's own ultimate nonexistence. When a middle-aged man or woman is not able to meet this reality head-on and deal with it successfully, such a person can become psychologically and emotionally maladjusted.

Middle age can be a happy time for renewed capacity for productivity, creativity, and appreciation of the true meaning of life. Life on earth is a temporary journey of bitterness-sweetness, of laughter and tears, that can still be uniquely enjoyed by each one of us. As poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it, "For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress."