Friday, July 25, 2014

Healing From Church Wound

Just a few days ago, I was browsing inside a little bookshop when a book caught my attention. It's about healing and recovery from "church hurts." Some people suffer psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually due to spiritual abuse or neglect in the church.

I came to know the story of a man who got divorced due to his wife's affair. Bumped by his therapist/counselor one time in a mall, the man was asked how he was doing. His response: "Great everywhere but in church." He cited that his friends and brethren from the church did their best to avoid speaking to him. He felt neglected and alone.

What can you do when the very people who are supposed to demonstrate the love and healing of God don't care while your world is falling apart? Well, don't get angry at God;  He didn't do it! People in the church are fallibly human. So don't be attached to or focused on them to meet all your needs. If you're not being helped to heal in your present church, go find another church. Nourish your walk with God. You need Him in your ultimate therapy and life recovery.

If you're seeing a therapist who is trained in the integration of psychotherapy and spirituality, you may ask help or recommendations from him/her. It could spell a big difference in your journey.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Risk To Heal

Life is full of risks. Yet many people think that they can avoid taking risks to get whole and heal. That's not seeing reality as it is. It's fantasy thinking.

Helen Keller, who overcame the adversity of being blind, deaf, and mute, once said:  "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

If there is a person in the world who can be entitled to be withdrawn, isolated, or avoiding risks in life, it was Helen Keller. Yet, her life was a demonstration of taking risks every time she took steps. She became one of the world's famous educators and leading humanitarians. Keller traveled to 35 countries on five continents to do her work. At age 75, Keller embarked on the longest and most grueling trip of her life: a 40,000-mile, five-month trek across Asia. Through her many speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people.

If you're in an emotional trauma, breaking down, or suffering from some loss, you cannot protect your self from pain. You are subject to the human condition. By attempting to escape from or avoid taking risks, you harm your self. You get disconnected from family, friends, and support you need. You'll be obsessed with your safety and comfort. And so, your condition can get worse.

The simple truth is that, in order to heal, you need to take risks. If you are going to live, you will face risks. Life demands it. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Healing Your Loneliness

We all suffer from times of loneliness, in varying degrees. It's pain. But it's pain that tells you and I that we have something important to work on.

David never learned to get emotionally close to anyone. He was lonely even before he got married and later separated from his wife. That's largely because he was raised from a family where the interaction did not make him feel he belonged. His marital separation increased this traumatic feeling of not belonging or being lonely.

If you're severely lonely or feeling you "don't belong," as in the case of David, possibly the crisis itself can be used to help deal directly with the problem.  You need to work through your loneliness so you can get to the other side. You need to develop new resources within your self to spend time alone without needing to have another person around or choosing to establish healthy connections with others.

A mentally healthy person is balanced. He or she strives to establish a proper balance between being alone and being with others. That's how to heal your loneliness. Through your working on that balance.

Here are a several signposts to know that you're making progress in your balance in healing your loneliness:

*  You have stopped isolating, hiding, or withdrawing into your room or home.
*  You have learned not to allow your feelings of loneliness to control your thoughts and behaviors by engaging in addictive activities, such as drinking, gambling, pornography, overeating etc.
*  You're taking time being with people rather than working long hours trying to run from loneliness;
*  You're not hiding from your loneliness by being with people you don't enjoy being with.
*  You are filling up your time with activities alone and activities with others in good amounts to stay active and engaged with life.
*  You are comfortable being alone and have aloneness time.
*  You avoid or refuse having instant attachment or love relationship just to avoid being lonely. 
*  You educate your self on how to establish healthy relationships and apply them.
*  You choose to enter into romance or dating rather than needing it to overcome loneliness.
*  You've learned to take time for your self rather than keeping overly busy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Walk-and-Talk Therapy

If you are experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fear, I recommend walk-and-talk therapy as your best option.

Like Clay Cockrell, I find it so effective in my practice and helping people heal. You should try it!


Psychology and Chess Performance

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), one of modern psychology's most scientifically proven clinical therapies, is used to improve chess players' performance.

In a 2009 study done in the University of Almeria in Spain, a brief ACT protocol was applied to international-level adult chess players and it was proven effective.

Another study with an equivalent ACT protocol was also applied to a group of young players. Results showed that 5 out of 7 participants that underwent ACT had statistically improved chess performance.

Sports psychology is a growing trend nowadays. In the case of chess, the use of therapy approaches such as modern psychology's scientifically proven ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) are evidence of the value of psychological preparations in sports.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dance With My Father

Dance with my father. A father abandoned his child when she was too young. The child expresses her feelings towards her father. 

Lyca, 9-year-old daughter of a fisherman, approached me one time inside my psych debriefing room of Voice Kids at ABS CBN 2 studio and gave me a sweet hug and kiss.

Here below, she sings a winning Tagalog version of "Dance With My Father" on the way to the Grand Finals of the hugely popular singing reality show, The Voice Kids, over at ABS CBN 2 where I served as resident therapist/counselor of the kid-artists and their parents during the season.

I'm touched by the song, Lyca's performance, and her teary mother and father watching her. It's a "tune" by countless children all over the world.


Laura's True Story

As a member and advocate of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry, I have the privilege of knowing numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, etc. from around the world doing "wholistic" non-drug psychotherapy. One of the organization's board members is Laura Delano. Her true to life testimony struck me so well for I'd witnessed cases in my practice similar to her story.

I'm taking the liberty of "reprinting" her story below from the ISEPP file as an endorsement of her as well as a lesson that we can all benefit from. I am with Laura as well as others in this crusade of setting millions of people around the world free from the captivity of false medication for mental health.

Here's Laura's true story (from the ISEPP):  

"Laura Delano was first labeled 'mentally ill' at the age of fourteen, when she was told she had “Bipolar disorder” and was subsequently put on Depakote and Prozac.  After fighting back in high school, she eventually surrendered to the diagnosis as a freshman in college, when she embraced her psychiatric label and the belief that she needed 'meds'."  

"Laura spent the next ten years on nineteen psychiatric drugs, in and out of locked wards, outpatient programs, and intensive psychotherapy, and believed she had a life-long biochemical 'disease' requiring life-long 'treatment'— a belief that led her to hopelessness, isolation, and suicide."  

"Since September 2010, she has been free from psychiatric labels and psychotropic drugs, and she firmly believes that the human experience should never be pathologized.  She lives in Boston, Massachusetts, is a blogger, editor, and consultant at www.madinamerica.com, where she has been writing about her thirteen-year journey into and out of the mental health system, and works as a coach with people freeing themselves from psychiatry."
 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Transforming Connection During Illness

Chronic illness in general and terminal illness in particular is frightening. They can be isolating experiences for a patient and his or her family members and friends. What's sad is, at a time when a person needs support the most, he or she often gets it the least. Terminally ill patients can be so profoundly lonely.

My younger sister, many years ago, was dying of cancer. During one of my last hospital visits to her in the ICU room, her tears just erupted. She simply expressed her deep but hidden need to be profoundly touched, visited, and cared for even in the middle of her ordeal. An old adage says about the dying, "You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself." The nature of terminal illness and eventual death can be so difficult to grasp. Thus, any feeling of isolation from family and friends that such conditions produce may make people feel kind of dead already.

After the initial besieging of food, gifts, and calls from visitors, these may begin to disappear in a chronically ill patient's life as people want to go back to things as they were before. It's common that a patient reacts with feelings of self-doubt - "Perhaps, they don't love or like me anymore." "Perhaps, I was not able to give them attention during their visits." "Maybe, my husband has already changed since my illness."

If you're seriously ill or suffering from a terminal illness, you need transforming connection to help you cope or heal better. You need a safe haven and "space" where you can express your feelings that others may not be capable of handling or not want you to express. The pressures on the sick to keep their spirits up, force cheerfulness and superficiality, and think only positive thoughts can feel isolating. A wise, caring therapist or a support group can be a powerful therapeutic tool at this time. Seeking this help can be life-saving.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Do I Keep Choosing The "Wrong" People?

I feel for Alice. She isolates and disconnects. She has had five failed relationships with men - all of them physically and verbally abusive. Growing up as a child with an abusive, neglecting father, she currently continues to choose men who feel familiar, feel like home.

If she's treated with kindness, compassion, and respect, she feels anxious and guilty. Even in our therapy sessions, Alice expects to be "abused." She simply has no working model to encompass such benign, calm, or encouraging one-to-one relationship and interaction.

I'd like to call it "bonding to abuse." Some experts, such as Dr. Jon Allen of the famous Menninger Clinic, labels the phenomenon "trauma bonding." A classic example of "trauma bonding" or "bonding to abuse" is the concentration camp victim who learns to love or idolize her captor and tries to please him and gain his favor. According to Dr. Allen, "trauma bonding" requires two conditions:  there must be an imbalance of power and the victim must be isolated from other forms of support.

Children who grew up in homes with addiction, abuse, emotional deprivation, or psychological illness fulfill the conditions for "trauma bonding." There is this power imbalance between parent and child and the hurting child is often isolated and disconnected from other forms of support because of family secrecy and shame. This is how "trauma bonding" wounds are formed. Left unhealed, such as in the case of Alice, a victim can be bound to re-traumatize herself in the same way that she was previously traumatized.

Brain science and research also confirms the dynamic behind this "trauma bonding" phenomenon. It discovers that experiences or behaviors we had as a child become a "script" literally imprinted on the brain. We then operate from the contents of that "script" even into adulthood, choosing life circumstances that match up with the information stored in the "brain file." Thus in relationships, we are likely to choose, albeit unconsciously, what we know because that is what we have stored in our brain's filing system.

There it is. Knowing this, being aware of it, is the beginning of recovery. We can use the reenactments or repetitions in our lives to understand the location of where our "core wounds" lie, and where we need to heal.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Our Addicted Society

Let me tell you something that might sound radical to you: we all live in an addicted society. Society contributes a huge part into the corruption, dysfunction, or breakdown of individuals and families in our world. Would that be so difficult for you to grasp?

One time, I was speaking to a seasoned 80-year-old veteran lawyer. Constantly exposed to human corruption in his decades-long legal practice, he expressed deep disappointment over people and society in general. At one point, he quoted or paraphrased Emerson, to describe his experience, "Everyone in society is a prostitute. It's just a matter of price."

Several days ago, Norma came in to see me for "relationship" counseling. She has two boyfriends, and is struggling and hurting over her sex addiction. Often, sex addiction finds its origins in childhood abuse or abandonment.  In Norma's case, she was raised in a normal home with attentive, loving, and godly parents and no evidences of molestation or some trauma. Some other significant factor then contributes to her condition.

Norma described herself as still being sexually innocent when she went away to the city for work after graduation from college. She rented space in a boarding house and was exposed to pornography and sexual promiscuity for the first time. Her fellow female boarders would watch X-rated movies and she discovered their "phone sex" and going out with multiple men for paid sex. In time, Norma "eased into" the addiction gradually through repeated exposures to pornography and sex around her.

Now, aren't these representations of how society helps condition us toward addiction and psychopathology?  In the media, in the world of business, in politics, everywhere, people are "objects," not persons. Its essence is dehumanization, which encourages us to use people and sell our self for decorative and consumption purposes. As Madonna put it, "We live in a material world, and I'm a material girl." Human dignity and authenticity be damned.

Think, for a moment, just take a look around you. Society is diseased. This is one part of the reason why countless human beings get wounded and break down - emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Every addiction nowadays is traceable to the addictive virus present in the kind of society and world we live in. It's not "out there," it's everywhere.

We all need redemption and healing from this. But first, we all need to see it as it really is.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

When Drugs Produce Abnormal Behavior

Numerous medications can produce abnormal behavior. An article in a medical magazine for physicians in March 1992 edition of American Family Physician listed 44 different medications capable of producing abnormal behavior.

This evening, I've read one report to the FDA's MedWatch team on the violent side effects of psychiatric drugs. Aggression tops with 7, 250 reported cases;  mania, 2, 795 cases;  homicidal ideation, 872 cases;  hostility, 607 cases;  physical assault, 504 cases;  homicide, 359 cases;  psychosis, 191 cases; violence-related symptoms, 177 cases. To know more, you may check it out at http://www.cchr.org.

In the case of mental or emotional disorders, it's important to notice that countless numbers of them are placed on medicines, admitted to hospitals, given shock therapy and so on. They are told that their problem is medical or physical or organic, so they're given brain drugs. This is despite the fact that there have been no objective laboratory tests that prove it. None of these psychiatric diagnoses and procedures are supported by objective evidence of physical disease, illness, or science.

In medicine, diagnosis is made on the basis of organic changes in the physical body and established clinical test results. By contrast, in drug-prescribing psychiatry, diagnoses are made on the basis of subjective reports and behaviors of a person based on a set of symptoms. Psychiatry starts with a theory and then prescribes a pharmaceutical drug for a non-organic problem.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Expecting Instant Result?

Therapy is like running a marathon. You take it slow and pace enough so you can have enough energy  towards the finish line. When you go faster than you're supposed to, your body may break down and not be able to complete the race.

Put it in medical terms when you just underwent a major open heart surgery, how long do you think it's going to take before you can walk, jog, or run again? How long before you can run the marathon again if you're a runner? Doctors say it may take 4 to 5 years of recovery.

Addiction, divorce, or any kind of trauma wound is open heart surgery - emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You need to give it enough time. When your expectations for healing are too fast and you force the recovery too quickly, you have to do it over again and you get a relapse. You wasted time, money, and energy. What would normally take 2 years is going to take 6 or 7 years because you've done more damage to your self in the process.

You will heal. The prognosis is good. But be prepared for therapeutic exercises, workups, time for rest, going back into work in stages, and to allow people to be of support to you. When you have a lot of healing left to do on your inside, you need patience, wisdom, and resources to take things slow enough to have healthy gains. We are all by nature designed in this way.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Disorder That Does Not Specialize

Feeling chronically empty, bored, and numb, Lito, whom I met in the set of one GMA 7 TV shoot of "Out of Control," desperately seeks "excitement." To feel something, not to kill himself, he slashes his wrists and other parts of his body. He overdoses in alcohol and cigarettes, instigates brawls, and sexually acts up with multiple partners. He says, "I feel so dead, cutting myself and doing these other things are the only ways I know I'm alive."

What I notice to be a "disorder that does not specialize," BPD or borderline personality disorder, according the DSM-IV/V, is characterized by at least five of the following:  1. Impulsivity;  2. Unstable and intense interpersonal relations;  3. Inappropriate or intense anger;  4. Identity confusion;  5. Affective instability;  6. Problems being alone;  7. Physically self-destructive acts;  8. Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom.

Individuals with BPD often experience unprocessed emotional wounds. That's why BPD is also called and known as "emotionally unstable personality disorder." Underneath the madness lies a deep emotional abandonment trauma. I'm reminded of a book on borderlines by Dr. Jerold Kreisman. His book's title aptly describes a lurking overwhelming emotion inside a BPD:  "Don't Leave Me, I Hate You."  Because of the depth of abandonment wounds, clinicians working with BPD must walk a narrow path between giving support without rescuing and encouraging independence without signaling abandonment.

BPDs are known in mental health care to be one of the most difficult of patients to care for. There is usually a lot of work ahead to explore unconscious wounds that fuel breakdown on the surface. A lot of structure, consistency, and trust-building over time are needed to reach significant progress that leads to a point of stability and wholeness. There is no other way.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chess Therapy For Mental Health

Chess therapy is now used by numerous psychotherapists and doctors. It has become a popular creative psychotherapy technique in the past 20 years. This therapy has been known to produce positive results with children who have bipolar disorders, depression, ADHD, and neuro-behavioral disorders.

Chess therapy is a form used to form bonds between the psychotherapist and his/her clients. It is an alternate diagnosis for neuro-behavioral and mental issues that a client may suffer from. Chess therapy helps in cultivating an intentional rapport and connection between the psychotherapist and his patient to help him through any psychological or emotional problems that he may be facing.

Unlike other forms of therapy, chess therapy does not require the patient to lie down on a couch and pour his heart out to his therapist. Chess therapy involves active participation from both parties―the client as well as the therapist―to engage in a game of chess.

One time, Mark, a university-educated young man from Italy, visited me in the hospital. He's hungry for chess and wanting to inquire about chess therapy. When he arrived, I asked him to join my group session and share a bit about himself. After a short conversation, he's truly a "philosopher" guy immersed in heady ideas and abstract concepts.

But, most of all, Mark was going through some emotional difficulties and seeing me for psychotherapy to unpack his unexplainable psychological blocks. His preferred way: chess therapy. Chess did fit him despite his seemingly normal exterior or mindworks. It can be good emotional therapy too for "philosophers" to play chess.

Chess therapy was founded as early as AD 852-932 by a certain Dr. Rhazes who was chief physician at Baghdad Hospital. Dr. Rhazes uses chess strategies and tactics as metaphors in real life to help patients think clearer.

Wikepedia reported, "One of the earliest reported cases of chess therapy involves the improvement in an isolated, schizoid, 16-year old youth that took place after he became interested in chess. Chess provided an outlet for his hostile impulses in a non-retaliatory manner. Good use was made of the patient's digressions from the game and his newly acquired ability to speak about his feelings, fantasies and dreams which the particular emotional situation of the game touched off. The report demonstrates how the fact that chess is a game, and not real, enabled the patient to exert some conscious control over his feelings and thus learn to master them to a limited extent."



 World Boxing champion Manny Pacquaio's Therapy
before and after fights.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

The "Idol" Factor

Whenever I meet people suffering from some type of addiction or brokenness, I keep running into a conspicuous common factor:  the "idol" factor.  It's such a widespread personal factor in the lives of millions of people all over the world. Despite life-damaging circumstances and warnings, people with entrenched "idols" in their hearts still allow themselves to be taken captive.

Virtually every kind of stronghold, addiction, or adultery involves the worship of an "idol." For example, the stronghold of arrogance or pride is associated with the worship of the "idol" of self. The stronghold of addiction (e.g. sex, money, power, gambling, relationship, drugs etc.) is associated with the worship of an "idol" of object, habit, or substance. In one way or another, something has become "god" or object of chief focus of one's life, which then contributes to disease of self and life in general.

As long as our minds welcome and rehearse the lures of our "idols" in life more than the strength of God or the values of emotional health, we will be sick and impotent. Healing is a choice.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Betrayal Blindness

One time, Mary saw me for counseling. She just checked her husband's emails and social media accounts. To her shock, she discovered that her husband has been having secret multiple sexual relationships with various men in all their 20 years of marriage. Her husband is a gay sex addict.

Processing her grief and pain, she reached a point when she realized that she had to require something from her husband in order to heal. It's "get help or get out." She became so anxious and frightened about the possibility of her husband leaving her and cutting his support if she requires him to get help and rehabilitate. In the end, she chooses not to confront her husband. She chooses to look away.

"Betrayal blindness" is a state of mind in which you choose to keep a secret from your self. You have it when the reality that's happening in your world and the consequences of that reality are actually more frightening than you walking in through it to heal. So, in essence, you lie to your self. You turn a blind eye. You don't look at what's actually happening because it would cost you too much.

Indeed, we can be too afraid to look at and embrace truth. As a result, we choose to stay sick instead of heal. We tolerate the intolerable because we don't want to deal with the ramifications. It's "betrayal blindness," one of the most horrible bites one may suffer from away from recovery and wholeness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Self-Compassion

He didn't see it coming. Around the last rounds of a singing reality contest on TV, I watched Lito so focused and reality was treating him well. The coaches were picking and advancing him. Then, reality slap came in. He was removed from advancing to the semi-final round.

Lito saw me right after the loss. In the psych debriefing room, he was sobbing and crumbling a lot. Clearly "spaced out," he can hardly speak and on the brink of harming himself with his behavior. There felt a huge amount of sadness, sorrow, regret, fear, anxiety, and anger beneath Lito's surface.

When we are hurting or have suffered a loss, we all need to learn to be kind to ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done for many. For most of us, the default setting of our mind is to be harsh, critical, uncaring, and judgmental of ourselves. In every case, what's involved is learning to accept and embrace the gap between the reality that we've got and the reality that we want.    

So, we need to learn the therapy of "Self-Compassion." It's extending compassion to one's self in situations of perceived loss, failure, inadequacy or pain. Psychotherapist Dr. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Basically, this therapeutic tool, self-compassion, is the act of "holding your self with care." With it, we can find calm amid the chaos, heal the wounds, and come through stronger than before. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fatigue

"I'm tired all the time."

"I feel run down."

I'm all worn out."

Fatigue is a very common complaint people consult physicians about. It's a normal expected part of life. We all experience it. According to a medical source, fatigue is defined as "nonspecific cerebral perception of neuro-mascular sensations, chemoreceptor input and neural reactions to external stimuli."

Fatigue is subjective. It cannot be measured by clinical, objective diagnostic tools. It's hard to assess. In fact, the physical body can be weakened or susceptible to having symptoms when there is nothing wrong medically.

Ruling out medical causation or physical roots for the fatigue, that's where counseling and therapy can be of great help. Some questions can give significant insight in dealing with the problem of fatigue.

What problems or stresses are currently present in your life? How are you responding to those pressures? How much sleep do you get every night? What chemicals do you put into your body? How much time do you spend with your family or friends?

Many times, a change in focus will bring benefit of actually reducing or eliminating the effects or damage of fatigue. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Double Father's Day

It's "double" Father's Day I have today, June 15, 2014. I greeted my Dad a Father's Day. My 3 kids - Christine, 20; Paul, 17; and Angel, 11 - celebrated the day too with me dining out and strolling around.

At the same time, today is also the exact 80th birthday of my Dad. Though pretty frail and ill physically, his mind and zest are still in the optimum. While conversing with him several hours ago, my "father wounds" are no longer there. And my kids' "father wounds" appear to also be healing well. Hahahaha!

Here are surprises -my Dad still uses and reads an old Bible given to him by a friend/missionary from Canada, Paul and Alice Blackmore, in 1989. My Dad comes to seek and know the Lord through this Bible.  Also, my Dad does not text or go to the internet, he does not even have an email, and he still uses his antique typewriter for his writings. 
My amazing Dad!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Simply This: "Listen"

No matter who we are, we are all looking for someone to listen. A number of years ago, in a group therapy course in Ateneo, my psychology professor simply sat down and listened to each one of us in the circle. It was new to me. I hated to show my displeasure but I expressed it in her journal homework for us.

But the more I thought about it later -- what my psychology professor demonstrated -- I realized that she was teaching us something significant. She was right! Listening can heal. Everyone on earth is at least just a little bit lonely. There is no better recovery booster than simply this: listen. I love this lesson my professor taught us. It's so true.

Is there someone in your life, in your family, in your school, or in your office who needs your support?  Are you willing to make an effort to reach out to them? I hope so. For I have discovered that life is richer, the horizon is brighter, and the road gets shorter when traveled with kind, nurturing, and listening companions. Those who make such an investment find that it pays off all through the years in terms of personal growth and friendships.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Are You A Victim Of A Jerk?

It took a while. But Helen was finally able to let go of her sexually addicted, unfaithful, and abusive boyfriend. To help Helen with her growing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, I got her in touch with reality and to see what really is. She finally realized that she was victimized by a con man and predator who successfully preyed on her, and successfully victimizing a lot of other women.

Our world is full of "jerks" and you can be victimized by one or more. In its simplest form, being a jerk means "being selfish" or "anyone who selfishly uses or abuses any human being that is ultimately harmful to the other." The root of selfishness in a jerk is a sense of "entitlement" that simply shouts, "I deserve to get, be, and act the way I do."

In the psychiatric manual DSM IV/V, "narcissistic personality" is one of the recognized mental disorders. Narcissistic personality is another definition of a jerk. Of course, it came from the root word "Narcissus" in Greek mythology. The character, Narcissus, sat gazing at his reflection in a pool for so long that he fell in love with himself and became so enthralled with his appearance that he turned into a flower that bears his name. Simply put, narcissism is self-centeredness.

In my practice and in the lives of countless people, I've observed too many lives damaged by jerks or narcissistic personalities. The pendulum has swung too far, creating enormous grief and suffering in the lives of victims. I've known increases in abuse, in compulsions, in addictions of all kinds, and in existential despair over the fallout and abandonment committed by jerks.

You can overcome the abuse and damage of a jerk in your life.  You begin by walking away and getting your healing ....

Monday, June 09, 2014

Why Not Sing Your Own Song?

All her life, 48-year-old Patty followed the control and dictates of others. These people include not only her domineering father, but her husband of many years, who would soon become her ex-husband due to his serial infidelity.

Because of her marital crisis, she paid me a visit to sort out her "hitting bottom." This began a process of healthy change for her. She learned something important in therapy. She finally saw her reality of being controlled all her life and it's time to take control of her self for a change.

In therapy, Patty realized that she had never been aware of how powerless she had always been due to her need for other-approval. She didn't become disrespectful to her father, but she started becoming more assertive and independent. In regard to her unfaithful husband, tears streamed down her face, but something snapped inside Patty. She took a stand, created healthy limits, and learned not to honor the dishonorable in her husband.

Patty is now sounding better. She is beginning well to sing her own song.

Friday, June 06, 2014

False Hope of Self Change

In hurting, addicted, or broken people, a most common lie is this, "I can figure this out by my self. I can recover alone." I know, this may sound discouraging for those of us who determine to stop some harmful or life-damaging habit. But it's reality of our human condition. Self-change is hard, and powerlessness or relapse is so common among us.

In an effort to understand why self-change often fails, two Canadian psychologists (Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman) did a long term research on it. Their research was published in the American Psychologist September 2002 issue, where they proposed what they termed the "False-Hope Syndrome" (FHS) of self-change.

According to this research-based theory, a factor why self-change often fails is because of "unrealistic expectations." Suppose a long-time alcoholic, drug addict, or serial adulterer promises to stop his or her habit in one month all by himself. Polivy and Herman will most likely qualify this as "false-hope syndrome" because the hopes or expectations are too ambitious and unrealistic. Initial efforts may lead to success. But very soon, however, the change stops. At this point, it's so common to find excuses or reasons why the effort fails.

We all live in a culture that does more harm than good when it tells us, "All the answers to your problems are inside you." It's spoken out of context, misapplied, and giving false hope that compounds failure in people's lives. The fact is, we rarely know how to solve our problems. In the midst of our false hope and confident talk, the glaring reality is we are all somewhat damaged and our minds are "sick" to some degree.

As a result, if we choose to "figure out by my self" with our disabled minds to get us well, we are headed for trouble. Our imperfect, damaged mind on its own does not have the capacity to lead us to truth, wisdom, or the healing we need. We need to choose to connect to others and seek appropriate help. This can bring us to the beginnings of true hope for self-change.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Why Do Psychiatrists Prescribe Drugs?

As I would talk with Dina, I learned that her daughter Liza has been significantly taking psychotropic drugs for over a decade now. During all this time, Liza is also frequently in and out of a mental hospital or psychological facility due to bouts of severe depression, violence, and addiction.

Today, Liza takes additional prescription drugs for her developed multiple organic diseases, including hypertension, gastrointestinal disease, and diabetes, aside from psychiatric drugs she's maintaining. Sadly, Liza's psychological and emotional states continue to deteriorate despite the psychiatric drugs she's taking.

On one side of Liza's situation, we have specific organic causes and objective laboratory results evidencing her physical condition. On the other side are clear non-organic psychological and emotional problems. In between these is this area of unproven diagnosis of "chemical imbalance" (still a theory, not a fact, up to this day), implying that psychological/emotional problems are organic. Liza has been told her mental problem is organic and thus needs pharmaceutical medication.

Since there is no conclusive scientific, objective proof that brain drugs change anything in the brain or body, why are organic drugs prescribed by psychiatrists for non-organic mental problems? Let me share three pieces of thought that could be possible reasons why psychiatrists recommend drug use. First, psychiatrists usually have only biochemical theories to guide their treatment of patients with psychological or mental health problems. Medical protocol requires and justifies their use of medication.

A second possible reason has to do with the psychiatrists' untrained competency in real-life psychotherapy and counseling. They may have been conditioned to accept the "lie" that medication is the answer to mental illness without doing any thinking themselves. They know nothing else far superior or appropriate to find answers to people's mental health problems.

A third possible reason why drugs are prescribed by psychiatrists can be the most grievous: pragmatism. Pharmaceutical drugs are a trillion-dollar industry where doctors profit too. Thus, psychiatrists may find themselves trapped in the hopelessness of naturalistic or materialistic thinking and business pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and medical community in treating mental illnesses.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Catharsis

Catharsis is a therapeutic benefit of inner healing. It's sometimes referred to as "emotional housecleaning" or corrective emotional experience. It involves the expression or the venting of strong feelings.

This therapeutic benefit usually has several components:

*  Reality testing - with aid of consensual confirmation and validation from therapist or support group members;

*  Risk taking - supportive enough therapist or group to permit the taking of risks;

*  Facilitation of deep and honest interaction with others;

*  Recognition of unhealthy individual habits or interpersonal behaviors;

*  Strong expressions of emotion that is interpersonally directed

Part of the curative aspect of "catharsis" is a great relief simply in knowing that one is not alone. Beyond the simple relief of sharing, just knowing that other people experience the same feelings, thoughts, and struggles make it easier to break down internal barriers and start healing. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

A Cardiologist Story

For many people, hurts and losses are experiences of brokenness. And before they can rebuild, trust, or go on in their lives, they need to learn to pick up the pieces. Then, choose to begin again.

I heard the story of a cardiologist who was performing heart surgery on a woman patient. In the course of the surgery, he massaged her heart once; nothing happened. Then he massaged her heart twice; nothing happened. He massaged her heart again, thrice this time; still nothing happened. Finally, the cardiac doctor leaned over the ears of his woman patient and whispered these words:  "Mrs. Smith, the surgery is going well. It's ok to make your heart beat again." Shortly after hearing those words, the patient's heart began to beat again.

In our healing journey, we take time. Then we reach a point of development when we need to choose to begin again. To rebuild. To trust again. To make something new. Hope will not manifest itself, good things can't come when we remain stuck. Or shut down before reaching the mountain top.

It's not going to be easy. But you can.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Anton Boisen and Mental Health

This evening, I came across a biography of Anton Boisen. Sometime in 1925, Anton Boisen was himself a patient in a hospital in Boston, U.S.A.  In his loneliest moments in the hospital, he needed someone to whom to address his needs. There was no one in the hospital to meet the needs of his "whole person."

Boisen realized that health is a "whole person" vitality. According to him, health is not attained by medicine alone but also demands the combined efforts of spiritual and psychological instruments. It is in the “wholistic” approach of healing the sick person that medical science, psychotherapy, religious faith, and other allied disciplines join forces and resources to form the “Healing Team."

In 1926/1971, Anton Boisen published an article revealing another need for involvement in people's emotional ills:

"We have therefore this truly remarkable situation -- a church which has always been interested in the care of the sick, confining her efforts to types of cases (physical) in which religion has least concern and least to contribute, while in those types in which it is impossible to tell where the domain of the medical worker leaves off and that of the religious worker begins (mental problems), there the church is doing nothing."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guilt

Guilt is self-blame. It's a realization that one has violated some principle, usually moral, ethical, or religious. It predisposes one then to lower ability to face life's stresses. Guilt, whether true or false guilt, can turn destructive if left unaddressed or unhealed.

Shakespeare, in one of his novels, describes two murderers: Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Both murderers suffered intense guilt reactions after the death of King Duncan. Macbeth's guilt produced hallucinations while Lady Macbeth began sleepwalking and compulsive wringing of her hands.

At times, in the hospital, there are patients who complain of guilt and would attempt to punish themselves by suicide or self-harm. Guilt feelings do prey on a person's mind and emotions to bring about a breakdown. In numerous cases of mental illness or psychopathology, the central problem is guilt. Unconfessed, unprocessed guilt inside. Personality disorders are always produced by this kind of real guilt.

How does one heal from this "wound?" It can be radically healed and resolved only by confession and repentance. It's a beginning to total freedom.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parenting and Self Worth

When Teresa blurted out, "I'm dumb. I'm no good!" she was expressing a deep sense of how she sees herself. She felt she was such a valueless person that no one could accept and love her. This feeling and thinking led to Teresa's years of sense of worthlessness, a low regard or judgment of her self.

Yet Teresa's "wound" in regard to her low self worth was exposed during her therapy. Early in life, both her Mom and Dad were constantly evaluating her everyday behavior and performance. Unfortunately, her parents' evaluations of her were consistently negative and critical. This developed a feeling of "badness" inside her. Teresa's shaken foundations of parental care led to her feelings of severe depression and suicidal behavior in her adulthood.

I'm thinking that it takes about 100 compliments to make up for 1 criticism in a child! Children are sensitive. They get easily discouraged and depressed. Healthy parenting of the children's psychological and emotional health means we need to support, encourage, and compliment them freely. We parents need to keep criticisms to the barest minimum to protect our children's sense of self worth.

Indeed, one way of looking at the widespread problem of mental illness in our society is that it's a way to cover up or compensate for lack of healthy self worth. Peel away all the psychiatric or psychological diagnoses down to the heart and core, and you'll discover that emotional problems stem from ancient love-wound or earlier childhood deprivations that developed an inability to love and value one's self.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trojan Horse

Many parents and spouses ask, "What happened to our family? I can't understand it."

In many instances, there is a "Trojan horse," an enemy that was pulled right into the middle of the home. And some parents and spouses don't even know it!

Around 1200 B.C., the city of Troy had been under attack by the Greeks for 10 years. But they could not conquer Troy because it's strong. So the Greeks came up with a novel plan based on deceit. They built a wooden horse, hid warriors inside, and placed it outside the walls of Troy.

The Greeks mad the mistake of pulling the Trojan horse inside their fortress. While they slept, the Greek warriors slipped out of the belly of the wooden Trojan horse, opened the city gates, let in all the other warriors, and slaughtered the sleeping Trojans! Without realizing what they were doing, the Trojans had destroyed themselves with the self-saboteur wooden horse. They had pulled the enemy right inside into their home camp.

Beware: some modern day Trojan horses may be right in the center of of your home and you are asleep!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Abused, Hurting Parents

Again this afternoon, like in many of my counseling sessions, a hurting Mom cried. She said, "My husband and I have invested much time and money on our son, and he's still violent and in alcoholism and drug addiction." This Mom's energy and hope are progressively being siphoned to a critical level.

Brokenhearted parents, hurting in secret, abound everywhere. These "abused parents" hurt in secret because they do not want to broadcast family and child-rearing problems to the world. "Abused parents" - that may be a new phrase or description for you. But I refer to brokenhearted parents as "abused parents" because I witnessed a lot of what children do is no less than parent abuse.

I wonder why our laws have "child abuse" protection services and interventions but there's none for "parent abuse!"  Surely, there are many parents of misbehaving children who turn to self-destruction. These "abused parents" need help too.  Carefully consider this:  bad parents, yes, but also good parents can have trouble with their children. The wrong company or peers can lure kids away even from loving, nourishing parents. Society and culture have tremendous influences at our children nowadays that are injurious to their mental, emotional, social, moral or spiritual health.

Think about it. To be abused and hurt by your own child is torture. If you are an abused, hurting parent yourself, you can heal. Never instantly decide that it must be all your fault as a parent. Do be reflective and discerning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Silicon Syndrome

Wearily Ritz' tear-stained face appeared before me. She's wife to an IT/engineer personality who thrives on his job, his technical genius, his career advancement, and his inventions. Ritz starves, from her husband's lack of understanding of her needs, from lack of emotional content, from absence of intimacy, from emotional disconnection.

Author/psychotherapist Jean Hollands calls the union of an engineer/scientist with a non-scientific partner the "silicon syndrome." It refers to a cluster of symptoms that results when a technically oriented thinker mates, works with, or loves a more emotionally oriented person. A major symptom of this is a crippling lack of communication and connection. The "silicon syndrome" couple does not know how to understand and translate each other.

I came to know the "silicon syndrome" in the form of pain in my family circles and in couples who shared their agony with me in therapy. I conduct my practice helping numerous couples heal from individual and relationship wounds. I recognize the "silicon syndrome" whenever the wife says "But he's always busy with his machine or computer." Or, "He's more interested in his technical stuff in the office than he is in me." I noticed that more serious symptoms appear like alcoholism, depression, pornography, affairs, or some type of addiction to signify that there is a disconnect in the marriage.

There could be hope. A purpose of healing is to mend the "silicon syndrome" relationship when it gets out of balance. "Silicon Syndrome" couples can learn how to live, work, and love together even when they're different and do things differently. It can be done. The work required may itch, scratch, or hurt for awhile but it can save the relationship.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Codependency

Codependency is a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is suffering from a psycho-pathological condition. In many instances, one's legitimate needs for love and security are blocked in a relationship by a dysfunctional person, often affected by narcissism or some type of addiction.

Dina, as a little girl, knew that her mother was unfaithful to her father. When her mother abandoned them, she took care of her father and her four other siblings. A few years ago, she gravitated toward a needy man and married him. The man turned out to be unfaithful and sex-addicted needing "rescue." Despite her husband's ongoing dysfunction and unwillingness to get help, she couldn't set healthy limits and let go so her husband can heal through his consequences.

Codependency doesn't look damaging because it feels loving. But the truth is, it obstructs thinking and clouds the dangers ahead. This is a result of codependency's lack of objectivity, being controlled, and controlling others. A codependent is a fixer with a warped sense of responsibility that enables or empowers the continuity of the other person's destructive patterns. He or she assumes the burden of the consequences of the other person's dysfunction and gets in the way of the healing process.

To know if you are codependent, ask your self some questions:

*  Do I fear what others think of me?
*  Do I make excuses for other people's poor choices and bad behavior?
*  Do I desire to take responsibility for other people's problems?
*  Do I have a sense of fear or anger if I'm not in control of a situation?
*  Do I allow people to speak to me in an abusive, disrespectful manner?
*  Do I try to control others?
*  Do I believe leniency is an expression of love?

Remember, most codependents don't believe they have a problem!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

When You Are Physically Sick

Our physical body does not last forever, at least not in this world. It breaks down over time, even when it's cared for carefully. At times, it gets injured beyond repair. Eventually, sooner or later, the parts of our physical body wear out. Physical sickness is simply an expected part of living.

Several hours ago, I came to visit my Dad who is turning 80 next month. He is a "strong" Dad! But at this time, he is having serious difficulties urinating and defecating, that he had to be taken to the hospital only a few days back. Examinations reveal that my Dad is suffering from an enlargement of the prostate and gastrointestinal illness. The doctors say that from hereon he has to wear a diaper or an artificial medical aid so he can urinate.

When there are no physical symptoms, we take our body for granted. Then when we suddenly get sick, we are forced to see our limitations. It vividly confronts us with the stark reality that every one of us inhabits a physical body which will someday decay or die. When you deny or avoid thoughts of illness and even ignore its obvious symptoms, it gets harder to accept and adjust accordingly when sickness does come.

Often, those unprepared or in denial of this reality are accompanied by psychological or emotional symptoms. Anger. Discouragement. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Bitterness. Confusion. When sickness slows one down or inhibits activities, some start to ask largely unanswerable questions such as "Why me?" or "Why now?" The state of being physically sick can truly be a huge psychological, emotional, and spiritual challenge to health care.

Every one needs to grapple with this inevitable reality of life. Face it now. Be prepared enough.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mind Reading

When one is hurt or betrayed by a loved one, it's understandable that one may feel angry, sad, anxious, or be obsessing. As a result, negative thoughts or thinking distortions usually occur in the way things are interpreted out of the wound that was inflicted. These then affect one's feelings and capacity to move forward.

Mind reading is one type of thinking distortion. Psychiatrist and author, Dr. David Burns described it as "drawing conclusions without testing them out." You assume someone is responding negatively or in specific ways without checking it out. You erroneously attribute insincere motives to the other person or believe you know the contents inside his or her brain.

I remember a betrayed wife who got so mad because her husband was not responding to her text messages one afternoon. When he came home, he violently threw forks and plates on him, only to learn later on that his cellphone lost charge and he experienced a car accident on the road. After checking with the police and his cellphone, she finally became convinced of the reason behind his husband's situation.

Mind readers resort to instant conclusions without verifying reality first. Of course, in certain instances, you can be correct in your reading or suspicions. It is more productive, however, if you check out the accuracy of your assumptions before you react. In this way, you protect the health of your heart and mind, and avoid unnecessary further wounding of your relationship.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Is Your History Repeating Itself?

Marsel did not make it right in his first marriage. According to him, since he was a little boy, his parents had been so cold, untouching, and physically abusive towards him. As he grew up, he felt great difficulty touching and handling warm emotions. He acted out these unproductive patterns he learned as a child in his marriage. Today, he found himself continuing those ancient self-destructive patterns in his second marriage.

We can learn much about ourselves by looking at our history and how we act out our internal feelings in our relationships. If you've been angry, you possibly express anger in your relationships. If you are lonely, you tend to be possessive as your reaction to keep the other person from abandoning you. If you are in deep emotional trauma and pain, you'll likely have relationships full of pain. If you have never received unconditional love or acceptance in your life, you will likely emotionally distance others to avoid triggering your love-wound.

The rubble of our personal history does not have to repeat itself into our present. We don't have to regress and interact the way we did earlier in life. We can all choose to learn from our pain and make room to rebuild our selves. The task of personal healing and growth is largely internal rather than external. And understanding our "leftovers" from our dysfunctional past is helpful in understanding where we are now.  A first major step is to become deeply aware of our selves, our patterns of interaction, and our ways of relating with others.

People who have painful love-wounds and experiences from the past will tend to repeat the patterns of their history in their lives and relationships. That is, until these past love-wounds and experiences are healed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Integrative Healing

Psychotherapy is a science of experience, not only from clinical research findings. To gain a unified vision of the complexity of emotion and behavior, one can go to literature and integrate influences from diverse disciplines. There is historical precedent that the most effective therapist and counselor is one who is learning and integrating as much as he can about everything.

Therapist/author, Dr. Rollo May, used ingredients from philosophy (Kierkegaard, Nietsche), psychoanalysis (Freud), phenomenology (Husserl), art (Van Gogh), theology (Jaspers, Marsel), literature (Sartre, Camus, Kafka), and concentration camps (Frankl). Dr. Sigmund Freud was an integrationist himself, finding the fiction of Dostoyevsky, Sophocles, and Shakespeare; the scultpture of Michelangelo and Leonardo; the philosophy of Nietsche, useful in his therapy work.

If you are hurting and in trouble in your life, seek a balanced integrationist therapist. With that choice, you can be assured that you'd be ushered to a place where knowledge of crisis or conflict is not hollow or one-dimensional.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Francis came to me with a "joker's smile" on his face. He cracked a lot of jokes during our sessions together. His wife had an affair and ran away from home with their kids. Francis' anger came out when his mother visited the house the next day. He cursed his mother during her visit and damaged physical property.

Francis' smiling joker's face during therapy sessions was his mask for deep anger. He was initially unable to freely express his anger in the beginnings of our therapy work because he had an "image" to maintain: a calm, relaxed husband who don't get angry at his wife. His face would look innocent and guiltless, and he would not admit yet that he was feeling so angry. 

Over enough time, Francis learned to let go and express his anger in healthy fashion. Tears began to flow profusely. Smoke finally got into his eyes! Therapy provided him the permission to feel angry, offered him ways to express it positively and constructively. His tears and outbursts during our sessions smoldered for a time amid the "forest fires" in his life at that point. And it was better that he took time to let the anger burn out that set him free eventually.

Expressing anger constructively is healing. Anger left unexpressed and uncontrolled will grow like a volcano. Until it erupts. It's essential that one gets through this anger trail of the recovery process in healthy ways - without destroying people and environment or destroying one's self.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Cost of Resisting Rest

A man sent his psychiatrist a note. It said, "I'm having a great time on vacation. Wish you're here with me to tell me why."

In the midst of a darkest chapter of my life, I began to learn to spell "rest." In trying to save time doing all sorts of things, I'd forgotten how to spend it. I realized I had not taken enough rest in decades, and I didn't need a psychiatrist to tell me why. The consequences or symptoms for my resisting rest were obvious.

I determined to take a break. Then came discovering trauma-producing, hidden things buried alive inside my heart I'd always been busy to notice or bring into the surface. Then came eating right and exercising, and nourishing my self spiritually. And each weekend, I won't miss the opportunity to hang out, walk, play, and dine with the children.

Have you ever experienced the therapeutic benefits of rest in your life? Above, the sky was filled with birds. While watching them, I was awed by the birds' freedom. No care for tomorrow's lodging. No thought of the location of its next meals. Yet, they still move and fly high based on how they'd been created, leaving the rest up to their Creator.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

An Anonymous Addict

An anonymous addict writes a description of the inner world of a sex addict:

"We know better than others the limits of our sexual addiction:

... that it is solitary, furtive, and satisfies only itself,
... that, contrary to love, it is fleeting,
... that it demands hypocrisy,
... that it enfeebles strong sexual feeling,
... that it is humorless and cruel,
... that it destroys good feelings about our selves,
... that is hollow,
... that it distances us from our feelings,
... that it works to exclude our family,
... that it exploits power over others,
... that it causes us to abuse our bodies
and
... that we end up broken and alone."


Friday, May 02, 2014

"I Don't Like My Self" - Elizabeth Taylor

Many years before she died in 2011 at age 79, Elizabeth Taylor was quoted saying, "I don't like my voice. I don't like the way I look. I don't like the way I move. I don't like the way I act. I mean, period. So, you know, I don't like my self."

Describing her self as an actress, Taylor said: "The Elizabeth Taylor who's famous, the one on film, really has no depth or meaning to me. She's a totally superficial working thing, a commodity."

These publicized statements capsulize Taylor's self-definition or self-esteem amidst her beauty, talent, material riches, and fame. The famous, wealthy American actress married 8 times to 7 husbands. She also had many romances outside her marriages. She owned so much materially, including a 33.19-carat (6.638 g) stone, formerly known as the Krupp Diamond, which was later sold for US $ 8, 818, 500 after her death.

At first, you might think, Elizabeth had everything yet possessed a bad attitude. But did she? Could she be on something profound? You've got to give Elizabeth credit. She was attempting every way possible during her lifetime to find what she was looking for. She was definitely a toast riding around the world, yet poor Elizabeth can't find gratification anywhere.

Elizabeth missed an essential secret in life and wholeness. All her life, she had been looking for gratification or happiness as well as her sense of self-worth in the wrong places. Unfortunately, she still came up empty and frustrated till the day she died. Ah, now that, my friend, is a lesson we all need to learn.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Journal Therapy

When I was in graduate school in the university, my clinical psychology professor required the students to keep and submit a personal journal. Every two or three weeks, she'd read her students' journals and jot down her comments on them. With such interaction with the professor through my journal, I received academic and personal support.

That time in my life, little did I realize that this journal which I wrote for that academic course will become a most effective method of self-analysis for me in discovering some hidden parts of my self. The exercise of journal keeping helped me discover the totality of my personality as I developed clinical therapy skills and counsel my self to become more personally and professionally effective.

A number of literary giants, including Albert Camus, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, among others, kept journals as a way to maintain their "sanity." Psychologist Dr. Carl Jung was the first to recognize the merits of the diary in therapy and counseling. For Dr. Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, his journal becomes a place for him to pour out his heart. It's a place for exploring his hidden motives, unconscious desires, and unprocessed pains.

Indeed, aside from a therapist, friends, or family, the journal can be a comparable source of support for our healing and growth. We all need a place we can go to cleanse ourselves, to talk through our wounds or issues, and to get our mental and emotional functioning tuned up. The journal allows us to do these for our selves.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Separated Is Married

Today, a fast-growing number of psychologically and emotionally wounded are the "separated but still married." Whatever the cause of the separation (e.g. adultery, addiction, violence etc.), quite a few seems to understand the tremendous pain and complications of those experiencing marital separation.

Assisting and relating to individuals through separation in therapy sessions, I've witnessed the trauma strike emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I've sat down with women cry rivers of mascara and men sob like children. I've held more weeping men and women than I ever dreamed would come across my path.

Separated spouses' common question in their thoughts is, "Is it right and healthy to date while separated but still married?" The answer is no. It brings psychological, emotional, and spiritual damages not only to the marriage but also to the children and family. Since there is still an existing marriage, dating, sex, romance or bonding with another person has no right to exist.

An unfaithful wife who is having an affair justifies by saying "But I'm separated!" Her perception belies reality. It's self-deception, a mind game. God does not participate in such deception. Even friends and relatives know the score. Separated is married. If one wishes to date and have a romantic or significant relationship, he or she must first bring finality to and legally end his or her marriage.

Author Joe Beam coins a term, "insulated immorality." By that, he refers to those who remain married, but are separated and dating or having sex with another. They are in effect refusing to face their conscience and take responsibility for their actions. Beam says they "insulate themselves against strong guilt" by justifying or rationalizing around their immoral, selfish behavior.

In the latest DSM V psychiatric manual of mental disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, Beam's "insulated immorality" is sexual betrayal falling under the manual's subcategory "sexual violence." The Bible calls it the sin of adultery, sexual immorality, or unfaithfulness. 

Regarding parenting/children of the separated and dating, Joe Beam writes:

" A person who remains married for the children’s sake, but is separated and dating, refuses to be what a parent should be. Children see and hear nearly everything. A parent who thinks she gives her children comfort by not pursuing divorce breaks their hearts if she dates. Because she has not divorced, they hope she and Dad may get back together, but that hope becomes confused when she dates someone else. (Of course, this applies to both parents.) Separation implies their parents could reconcile. If either parent has no intention of ever reconciling, separation creates a mean tease. Either reconcile or bring finality so that they can accept and adjust."

In life and therapy, truth heals. Deception destroys. If you are separated and still married, do the right thing. Whether you wish to save your marriage or not, seek help.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Are You Loving From An Empty or Full Bucket?

This week, I received a heartbreaking message from a divorced, 32-year-old Middle Eastern woman I'd call Riza. She is currently remarried after a time of promiscuity from the first divorce and left everything to be with her second husband in a foreign country.

After just less than a year of being with her second husband, Riza texted me the other night to pour out and describe her latest update. A part reads,  "I have walked out and gone to international airport to leave the country as my self esteem is very broken with my husband." What strikes me about Riza' s declaration is that it's her self esteem which got very broken, not the relationship with her husband.

I feel for Riza. My heart goes out to her. She is in a very painful place. Despite her natural beauty and "wanting to love and be loved," Riza still finds her self empty and have not been making good progress learning to truly love and receiving love with the various men who passed by in her life. She has a "mountain" to climb but has to learn from the pain first about her self and her former love relationships before she can move on to climb the top.

Divorce or ending of a love relationship is especially traumatic and destructive for those who "love from an empty bucket."  If the center of your life and love is in your partner and the relationship dissolves, your center is suddenly removed. Since the bucket is empty, what else is left of you?

What could it be like if the loving is from a "full bucket" within a whole person?  If loss, divorce, or ending of a love relationship comes, you would still experience pain and trauma. Of course. But it would not be so devastating and destructive because you love from a "full bucket." You would still be a whole person.

Are you loving from an empty bucket or a full bucket?