Saturday, November 17, 2018

Being Still

Henry David Thoreau loved long walks. It’s when he got to be most still from his best true self within. He writes:

“Nature never makes haste; her systems resolve at an even pace ... Why then should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the last deed? The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient. He each moment abides where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step ....”

Only when you’re still and calm can you see clearly within your self. When you’re agitated or rushing, you can’t see things for what they really are.

My client Lita found her calm center in meditation and prayer. Daily, she draws from that deep well of the Word as she prays and meditates.

She also does that while taking long walks in nature. By walking, she’s also able to get a touch of stillness for self nourishment.

With practice, you and I can develop the same quality of stillness consistently in our life. Such discipline opens the door to greater alignment with the core of our being.

Especially when times of loss or crisis comes, we need this discipline and ability. Amid stones thrown into our clear pool of water, we know how to calm the waters so we can see again clearly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

When Feeling Trapped

Martin feels trapped. For years, he feels “forced” by his parents into psych wards and brain drugs for his depression. In and out, he is getting too tired.

Expression is particularly difficult for Martin. During our sessions, his Mom in particular bears the brunt of his wrath. Yet at the same, he shows care for her.

In his mental attempt to escape his current situation - torn between love and hate - Martin shifted to ambivalence. An expression and attitude of indifference.

Because of this, the still capable part of Martin remains untapped. He resigns to his plight, feeling trapped by the very people he loves the most.

The last time I heard about him from his Mom, he was again taken inside a psych facility. He was found sitting in a corner of the airport, refusing to go home, that he had to be “forced” again.

Ambivalence, the sense of being trapped, is especially dangerous. It’s a common precipitate cause of lingering depression and mental disorders. 

Getting aware of faulty mental values and taking self-responsibility are leads to remedy ambivalence. Ways to express one’s self out of the trap.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

All You Need

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film “Dead Man Walking.” A brutal convicted murderer seeked out a nun as counselor. He requested that she be with him when he dies.

Unrepentant until before his day of execution, he received strength from the nun. He finally admitted to his crimes, taking the nun’s compassion in.

In the end, he said to the nun, “Thank you for loving me.” At the moment, he’s to be lethally injected, the nun asked him to look straight at her, saying “I want the last thing you see in this world to be the face of love.”

As a doctor, I do my best to help people heal and save life. But when death and terminal situation comes without accomplishing it, I’ve no choice but yield.

Without exception, all we need is love. True love to find our true self. Love that illuminates both life and death. It’s a most elusive gift for a lot of us.

Preventing any illness, trauma, or loss from destroying our self is to get to the bottom of this love that’s all we need. 

Search your inner self. Shape your internal and external experiences of rich, genuine love in your life. Go for what is everlasting. No one can determine this for you.

 “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Music and Moods

It’s usually demonstrated that our feelings are influenced by our mind. What our mind conceives can produce certain types of moods.

But music seems to furnish an exception. Like drugs, it’s able to influence our feelings while bypassing the mind!

Just recently, the capacity of music to affect moods was something I experienced. After hearing the song “I’ll Never Love Again” by Lady Gaga from the film “A Star Is Born,” I noted an effect on my moods.

It brought memories of my past heartbreaks. And, reminder of my fast promise not to love again amid my grief and sadness. The music temporarily brought me out of my reality-based mind.

Music has power. It can be used to construct (life-giving) or destruct (death-giving). Quite often, both are true and possible.

I’ve learned in one study that as many as 30,000 people who commit suicide each year are into rock, heavy metal, or other music that depressed their emotions.

In Scripture, we read the story of musician David. He was once called by King Saul who was tormented by an evil, depressive spirit.

When David came to play on his harp with sweet music, it had a lifting effect on King Saul’s moods and perspective.

Let our self be filled with music, but not just any kind of music. It has to be wholesome, uplifting, and inspiring to usher us to do what gives life.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

What Makes Recovery Difficult

As a therapist, I’m privy to people’s most secret, hidden selves. My work has been to take on their pain and collect the pieces after trauma, breakdown, or loss.

At times, I see the most perverse, distorted, or even evil parts of human nature and existence. Cruelty, deception, manipulation, abuse, conflict, betrayal.

Therapy and recovery becomes most difficult and stressful with certain characteristics.

• borderline personality, sociopathic/psychopathic personality etc
• threats of suicide
• chronic depression
• medical illness (strokes, brain disorder etc)
• rejection of personal responsibility (“you fix me,” blaming)
• hostile and argumentative
• impatience and impulsivity (“fix me quick”)
• substance addicts and abusers
• shallowness (literal, concrete, unable to access or express internal states)
• fear of intimacy (avoidant, seductive)
• ignore boundaries
• want something that cannot be given

These represent only a partial picture of what can make recovery specially difficult.

Only when a client and I are able to identify and explore can we hope for progress,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Doing Your Self Portrait

As with art, you can do self portrait. You may find your colors and patterns among your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

I’ve questions below that you can answer to help do your self portrait.

Here’s a tip: take notice of any of your answers that carry an emotional charge. It’s a piece in your canvass to help you accurately paint your self portrait.

•  What personal qualities do I have that I most like or am the proudest?

•  What emotions do I like to experience more but still find elusive?

•   What behaviors and feelings did my parent say most approved of in me when I was a child?

•   What personal qualities do I most love in others?

•   What personal characteristics do I hate the most in others?

You might find it helpful to gather your thoughts on these questions in a journal. In that way, you help your self better mentally picturing your self portrait.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be,” as May Sarton writes and puts it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Maturity, Any One?

Who is a mature person?

One way of finding out who is mature is to contrast it with the characteristics of the immature. For this post, I feel like giving you a little rundown.

A mature person ... is growing and open to new ideas and experiences.
An immature person ... is stuck or stagnant in personal growth.

A mature person ... acts rather than only talking or daydreaming.
An immature person ... acts indecisively and passively, paralyzed by fears.

A mature person ... has self confidence.
An immature person ... behaves defensively and suspiciously.

A mature person ... behaves in accepting, kind manner.
An immature person ... behaves in critical, judgmental, and controlling manner.

A mature person ... is reasonable and sees reality as it is.
An immature person ... attacks reality, logic, or common sense.

A mature person ... respects the boundaries and dignity of others.
An immature person ... violates the boundaries and dignity of others.

A mature person ... focuses on one’s change and responsibility for self behaviors.
An immature person ... focuses on blaming and forcing others to change.

A mature person ... can operate within reasonable limits and boundaries.
An immature person ... cannot operate within reasonable limits and boundaries.

A mature person ... is humble, sure of his value as a person.
An immature person ... is excessively proud or arrogant, driven by insecurities.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Healing Your Self Image

Many of us have this: a poor or inadequate self image. It’s a common source of self sabotage, emotional breakdowns, and damaging life choices.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, in his The Magic Power of Self Image Psychology, writes:

“The greater the level of self confidence a person has, the more he can practice humility. It is the person with low self esteem who puts on a false front of pretense and an air of pride. There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

What’s your mental image of you? It can nurture you or lead you to harm.

Too many people have lies or wrong messages imprinted in the bio-computers of their brains. They act out what they think and feel about themselves. Often, unconsciously, outside awareness.

So we go there - the unconscious. The automatic machine that responds to what we feed it - good or bad, success or failure.

Visualization and auto-suggestion are techniques that can be used to help heal your self image.

For example, you may look in the mirror and say:

“I can handle things today. I have 3 priorities to work on. And I believe I can achieve them. I have tremendous energy today.”

Visualize that as vivid as you can with full emotion and senses. Suggest that to your self in full force.

You may feel silly. But your unconscious is paying attention!

If you’re able to use these techniques constantly, your unconscious will “buy” your voice. And helps you develop new habits of thinking and feeling about your self.

It takes time. It takes single mindedness to change and heal your self image. It takes practice.

As you do, you find the best you have in you.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Consult Your Body

Each illness has a language. That includes the emotional or mental, not just the physical. So what I’m trying to say is, things have life and they speak.

Mind and body align to heal. When they’re misaligned, they create sickness. To miss this natural fact is a great omission.

Take my client Gracia, a genius lawyer. She experiences manic highs and many times would fool around. Get casual partners for sex. Drink a lot in bars. Take shabu.

Hardly could she accept her manic soars and addictions during sober moments. She knows she’s putting poison into her system.

In non-sober moments, she’s simply out of touch with her self and would gladly go naked all the way. Thus, resulting in crushing mania, depression, and panic.

One of Gracia’s counterpoints in her therapy work is consulting her body. Listening to it and the language it speaks. Learning to be in his body.

My aim was to center her, while keeping a freer or lighthearted tone. While processing with her, I’d ask about how her hands, face, feet, stomach, finger tips etc feel.

You see, Gracia had to grasp what her body was telling her. What her body was saying is not completely explainable by science, medicine, or psychology.

Gradually, she discovered a spiritual meaning to her body and behavior experiences. By tuning in to what her body is saying, very gently, it rekindled senses that brought her to see and move beyond them.

I believe God was in us when He created our bodies. He made us in His own image, as Scripture says. He breathed into our bodies a natural spirit that we can’t live without.

In healing everything from loss to depression to low self esteem, it’s important to consult the body as well. Not just what it’s telling, medically or biochemically.

Way what’s most will solve the problem is to read the language of our body with an attitude of spirituality to achieve complete wellness with fresh eyes.

This will be the most enduring therapy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Are You Ready for Freedom?

The French call it “metro, boulot, dodo.” It means the grinding daily routine of “commute, job, sleep.”

There’s something about it that creates an inner void.

I got all too familiar with this pattern when I got my first corporate 8-to-5 job after college. Only after several months with it, I felt bored and imprisoned.

I’m reminded of a client, Riza, 33, who had an experience similar to mine. She said that she developed depression and panic attacks because of her job.

Emotionally and physically, Riza’s just enduring work chained to a desk she can’t stand. She felt unfree, un-living.

Like most people, Riza and I experienced the “metro, boulot, dodo” syndrome.

In our sessions, Riza first blamed her parents. She grew up laboring under her parents’ insecurities and misapprehensions about money and their employment. She learned her “condition” from them.

Finally, she discovered a secret, which is refreshingly simple: whatever passion or idea you have, put it to work, out into the world, learn what works and what people want from you.

The last time she updated with me, she has now become her own boss, a successful entrepreneur, displaying her paintings in public exhibits and making lots of money online while traveling.

Riza started with leaves falling from the trees, in a French syndrome state. But now, after taking bold steps to fight for purpose and freedom, she has become who she really is.

Are you ready for freedom?

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will,” as Charlotte Bronte put it in Janeeyre.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Essential Four

The mind, heart, body, and spirit  are interconnected. Psychoneuroimmunology demonstrates this in 20th century scientific revolution.

Problems and  pains arise when these four work at cross purposes. A wound or change in one affects the others. 

I once counseled a talented young woman, Carol, whose parents overaffirmed and overprotected her. She received only praises since she was a child.

One day, in a moment of rage, she confessed to her parents that she lost her job and was impregnated by her boyfriend. Carol dashed it all as her parents’ fault. 

She’s gifted. But she was too much praised and affirmed. She learned none of the lessons and experiences that a critical look at her gift and choices would have taught her.

The lack of integration or balance inflated Carol’s ego. Her self struts in unmanageable pride and vanity.

Just as Carol was a case of an overaffirmed person, Cesar will illustrate the opposite. He was underaffirmed.

Throughout his childhood, his mother made him feel an “unwanted baby” born out of poverty. His father, on the other hand, abused him verbally and physically.

Before any group of audience, Cesar would weep and break into tears. Privately, his mind overthinks. His body aches or falls ill. His heart pumps with panic attacks.

All these progressively drove Cesar to rage. When he grew up in his mid-20s, he actually had a nasty fistfight with his father. He described it as his “out of the mind,” “out of the body” experience. 

Your mind, heart, body, and spirit all offer checks and balances to protect and sustain your health. Your well being depends on how well each one of them listens to and nurtures the others.

A lack of integration and balance among them is costly. Your mind ignores. Your heart mislabels. Your body breaks. And your spirit falls out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Accessing Wonder

It can be a wonderful life. Each one of us deserves it.

But it looks to me that we’ve been missing our natural gift to access wonder and beauty in our everyday.

We walk around in a hurry. Heads down, sideways, or fixed. Glued to our smartphones or other devices. Worried by a myriad of things.

Creativity author Tiu de Haan once defined wonder as “ a delight in the possibilities of existence, awe, a sense of adventure and curiosity ...”

I like that picture. Wonder is accessible. Kids, lovers, creatives, the spiritual, even those in emotional trauma can access wonder if there’s openness to its consciousness.

Each day, after my writing and therapy work, I always walk into the wonderland of my own making. Armed with my phone and camera and sometimes a backpack, I set off for the experience from indoors.

In the city streets where I walked, I’m struck by how much around me are just waiting to be truly “noticed.” Sunsets, flowers, cars, bus paints, foods displayed, bright colors of dresses etc

I once had long walks in the seashores and beaches of Thailand where I had a client. I settled and deliberated on resistance and rejection, “Will my client be more open, receptive, and improve?”

Wandering around amid nearby Buddhist altars and temples until a passing little boat leaped out of my vision in the seashore.

It whispered, “This too shall pass. Keep moving on.” The passing little boat was a “wonder generator” at a time when I needed it.

Well, that’s grace. A wondrous, transformative moment. I think that if you’re accessing wonder in an intentional way, you’re creating magic and meaning.

Accessing wonder is therapy for the self. It’s a deep discipline. It provides a feeling that a Higher Power is waiting for you to receive gifts and blessings.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Driving the Ghosts Away

How do you heal a haunted house? Drive the ghosts away?

In ancient Chinese literature, you find an answer:  you move into it a happy family.

The happy family just goes about their life with joys and community. Loving. Caring. Truthful.

When faced by ghosts, strange sounds, apparitions or things swirling around inside the haunted house, members of the happy family simply don’t bother.

Isn’t that so cool?

I imagine how the ghosts can get tired of the happy family. Little by little, they’re driven away from the house. The concentrated energy of the happy family does wonders.

Inner demons. Strange sounds of thoughts and feelings. Fears. Don’t panic or get overwhelmed by the havoc they bring in.

Do as the happy family did.

Be aware of your inner strengths and resources. Express your joy and resolve to counteract even the most damaging, unsettling, hurting circumstances or people in your life.

There’s nothing like focus on your power and beyond to a higher One. In driving away those ghosts and goblins invisibly inhabiting your haunted house within.

Indeed, when you get down to it, there’s a bottom-line answer:  if haunted by inner ghosts, come from the depths of your heart and spirit.

Healing your “inner haunted house” lies in your heart-centered and Spirit-centered focus. That’s where the real haven is.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Getting Unstuck

Change is painful.

But nothing is more painful than being stuck in a life where you continue to harm your self and not grow. You don’t belong there.

It’s easy to get stuck. Unable to move on, take action, or make a decision.

After a series of failures in business, my client Donald just chose to stay home. He couldn’t have the energy any more to look for oppprtunities or work.

Naturally, his wife feels sad and depressed about his condition. She too finds her self stuck through her husband’s lingering cycle.

Donald is immobilized. His low self-worth is blocking him to move on. He worries a lot. He judges himself harshly.

Maybe you yourself have experienced being disappointed with  how your circumstances turned out. And you just felt too hard to move on.

Once when I was much younger, I too got stuck like Donald. House-bound, nursing emotional trauma wounds. I just waited for things to happen to me.

Then one day, a ray of light passed through my heart. I found a major key: life-purpose. I explored and reassessed things that make me feel alive.

My life-purpose key opened the way for me to get unstuck. Let go of the past. Change my perspective. Make small changes. Believe in my self and my Higher Power.

With my reframed life-purpose, I received bountiful energy. I experienced great inspiration pursuing things that I’m passionate about and willing to fight for.

Indeed, moving on doesn’t happen to us. It happens from within us.

That’s how to get unstuck.

Bobby’s Story

It’s a habitual pattern Bobby is locked into. He flirts with and courts women. He pays extraordinary effort, attention, and romance to win them.

Each time, after a woman has given in to commit to him, he changes. He starts to withdraw. In fact, he’s used to instantly disappear once a woman gets too close.

It has happened at least 8 times already. The same old ritual, the same familiar results. Bobby is leaving a trail of broken-hearted women.

The question revolves around understanding what’s happening to Bobby. Where can his “inadequacy to loving” be traceable? And can women truly have a relationship with him?

Bobby is a man who can’t love. He’s afraid of it. Or, to use a special term, “commitmentphobic.”

David Allen, MD explains and writes in his Psychology Today blog:

“Some commitment phobes may not truly be afraid of commitment per se. People who appear to fit this bill may in some cases be playing a dysfunctional family role originally dubbed the go-between by psychiatrist Dr. Sam Slipp.”

Women then who date or get involved with men who can’t love naturally put themselves in peril.
A woman may be invested in the relationship but he’s just there for the sex.

Delusion kicks in. Self esteem is hit. Time is wasted, lost. That’s what happens with unhealed men who can’t love.

Bobby needs to be serious about healing and change. His secret fears are masked by his commitmentphobic relationships with women.

He can also truly love if he chooses to. But he has to heal first. Then, learn anew what real love is.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Is Your Language Accurate?

Language is important to our personal psychology.

Everybody has core struggles or fears. The use of language is basic to making sense of them.

Without truthful language, we end up dysfunctional. The lies we tell ourselves only perpetuate the exaggerations and irrationalities within that harm our minds.

Last night, Sarah, a pretty 30-year-old client, was using language to me that she got used to.

She said she never felt pretty and would withdraw socially when in the company of beautiful women. Her language bears no resemblance to reality.

“Look at you, you’re not that pretty,” Sarah vividly remembered her father saying when she was still a child. That’s how language got her mentally boxed in.

“He who has real power is also capable of determining concepts and words,” once wrote a Nazi writer Carl Schmitt.

Identifying the roots of your emotional wounds takes you all the way down to a ghost. It’s found in the machine of language unexamined.

Parents and “original caregivers” originally shaped us through their words and language. You may not have read Schmitt but their words is textbook Schmitt language.

In the vulnerable mind of a child, it is what Mom or Dad says it is.

Listen deeply then. Examine your language. Know how you speak to your self. Truth and wisdom is the reward you get for that.

If you begin with the promise to your self that you’ll do this language task, you’ll heal. Your prior insecurities and fears will soon disappear or appear tiny.

Your new language re-shapes your life in positive, healthy ways.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Looking at Your Loss

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
— Helen Keller

Loss is painful. It’s natural to grieve. To desire to avoid or minimize it.

In times of loss and grief, you can be driven by it to feel, think, and behave in certain ways. On an existential level, your reactions may confuse you about purpose.

Like it or not, it’s impossible not to experience losses. Emotional loss is inherent in all that we deny, ignore, fear, fight, or protest.

Hilda, for example, was clear that she has a problem. She wanted love and romance, but she couldn’t find an appropriate partner. 

In her loneliness, she fell for her boss who was a married man. And therefore, unavailable and inappropriate. She pursued him and had sex with him.

She said during session, “I believe he’ll leave his wife and marry me.” Fixated on her fantasy or emotions, it was a method she chose to her madness.

When his wife found out, she began to hide. And her boss broke up their affair. She felt spaced out, suicidal, and depressed.

It’s understandable that Hilda, like many of us, fears being alone and lonely. She wants a solution.

But, in attempting to solve the problem, she found her self “counterfactualizing.” We wonder then how it is that Linda does things that only increase her losses. 

Looking back, Hilda realizes she wasn’t thinking clearly or realistically. She finds out that a secret of her self gave the unconscious solution that later shocked and mystified her.

Self sabotaging behaviors spring from misguided loss-perception. To avoid losses, we consciously and unconsciously attempt to solve dilemmas we go through.

When you feel stuck, unhappy, or confused, explore your self by asking: “ What emotional losses am I trying to avoid, deny, or ignore in this situation?” “Is there a wall between me and my heart?”

Friday, September 28, 2018

How to Be Fully Conscious of Your Self

Self-growth involves full consciousness.

Both of your light and darkness. Both of your limitations and potential. Both of your strengths and weaknesses.

Both sides are true for every human being. They co-exist although they oppose each other.

The way to growth is to accept and cultivate this innate paradox of our selves. You approach wholeness when you do so.

Here’s our problem:  we tend to shy away from one or both sides of the truth about us. We invalidate the reality of our selves as a result.

Jon railed at his limitations. His doctors advised him not to go motorcycling anymore after a serious brain surgery. He protested to his wife who’s taking care of him.

He chafed against medical advice, still went on motorcycling at great risk.  In part because his condition reminds him of his mortality or inevitability of physical death.

In Jon’s case, he’s not fully conscious of himself. His paradox. He can deny loss or truth but he can’t control it.

To be fully conscious of your self is accepting the paradoxes and limitations of life and death. It’s to see the whole picture. To neither deny any side. To honestly assess what really is.

As Anais Nin once wrote, “I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.”

You gain by being more deeply conscious of the use of your life and self.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Knowing Who You Are

Do you know who you are?

If we search the world’s best authorities, you’ll discover one common message.

When you don’t know who you really are, it wounds.  It hurts.

I’ve known of a 30-year-old client, Meryl, who felt antipathy for men. She had a string of lesbian relationships since her high school.

Yet at the same time, she expressed wishes of being “normal.” Not knowing why, Meryl would behave rudely towards men and continue to pursue women.

She told me in-session: “How irrational of me! I’m beginning to hate you too doc!”

Such experiences are orchestrated by one’s “secret self.” Something is hidden, unknown.

Dr. Carl Jung speaks of “shadow” when referring to the unknown, hidden self. It includes all your unwanted, negative aspects of your personality and values.

These aspects of the “shadow” then orchestrate much of what you think, say, feel, and do. They’re a part of you which keeps pulling the strings.

What’s more, you do this to your self outside your awareness.

Ignoring parts of your self (quite common among the dysfunctional) that you hate or pretend they’re not there, is akin to ignoring a wound. Things can get worst.

By the same token, if you’re denying or overlooking your good parts and qualities, you miss hidden treasures within you. That can benefit your life.

Knowing who you are is comprised of bringing more of your hidden self into the light. That gives you oppportunity to redeem parts of you that have been walled off.

Until you see it, you can’t heal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Protecting Your Self As You Care

"The most compassionate, effective route to healing people is to be a supportive presence, not to attempt to live their pain for them." (Dr. Judith Orloff)

As a young executive, Nors works as a personal assistant to their company's CEO. She carries extra weight, assigned to do work of multiple departments by her boss.

It's natural for Nors to want to please her boss-auntie. Even care to ease her boss' angst over serious personal problems and decisions.

But she doesn't stop there. Inadvertently, she takes it on. Absorbs everything. Suddenly she's the one feeling desolate and bereft when she's ok before.

When I was a beginning psychotherapist, I too would fall into the same trap. My clients would go home feeling better. And I'd be a sickly wreck from everything I absorbed.

This kind of "empathy" wasn't good for me as well as for those who see me for help.

I've learned therefore the value of protecting my self as I care. To be a catalyst for people's healing and wholeness without compromising my own well-being.

Wounded people themselves taught me a lesson: I can't attempt to live their pain for them. It's not my job. Nor it's yours or anyone else.

It's not love to deprive a person of his or her life experiences. And learning lessons or maturing from them. It's sabotage.

I knew this once with a situation with one of my adult children. She overspent from her job's salary and her car was about to be taken legally.

Feeling to be a bighearted Dad, I rescued her financially before. But this time, I noticed a fine line between helping my daughter and trying to do it for her.

In response to her pleas, I cared and got honest with her yet still let her be. I chose to honor her growth process.

Thankfully, my daughter learned an invaluable lesson and came out well. It would not had happened if I did too much for her.

Compassion, empathy, or the desire to help is human. But striking a balance to protect your self and the other is essential.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Lighthouse You Need

I love the lighthouse.

For me, it’s beauty rests in helping a traveler to center and protect himself.

It warns you of danger and guides you safely you on your way.

Inside our mind, the “lighthouse” is that still point for the centering and protection of self.

No matter what is happening.

In our daily life, we make choices in both extreme and ordinary circumstances. It’s through these choices where our mental “lighthouse” has potent ramifications.

Begin by asking your self, “What in my inner self and life throws me off center?”

An ex-lover said to Melinda, “You won’t get another man to get interested at or love you. You’ll never be successful in anything.”

Did Melinda buy into it? Will her energy dim as a result?  It depends on how her inner “lighthouse” is able to center and protect her self.

Dealing with an intrusive parent. An abusive or betraying spouse. A controlling boss. A stranger flashing you a dirty look. Or, dire situations involving life and death.

Imagine being able to see the light in the darkness ... to center your self ... to protect your self and become unshakeable.

Through your inner “lighthouse,” you tune in. You see right through the dangers. You locate weak spots or triggers within, points that need securing.

You find relief from not being susceptible to being thrown off center. You know exactly why and what to say and do to bring out the highest good for your life.

There’s nothing like a stable lighthouse to counteract even the biggest, baddest, most traumatic of experiences in your life. Check it out often, within.

“Look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what it’s beacon light can rescue.” (Thomas S. Monson)

Monday, September 24, 2018

Did Job Take Anti-Depressants?

Think of Job during ancient times. The Bible records his horrific trauma wounds and losses. He lost everything - wife, children, properties, health, friends etc.

Did Job take anti-depressants? Sure answer: No.

Psychiatry and brain drugs is an “infant” field began only a few decades ago. It's totally non-existent during Job's time and much of human history.

Yet humans healed from trauma and loss to low self esteem or depression and a host of other mental health issues.

Enter DSM. It's known as Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a bible of mental disorders birthed about 60 years ago by APA (American Psychiatric Association).

Chances are, when you go to a psychiatrist or another MHP (mental health professional), he or she will be sizing you up according to this bible.

This bible is basis for medical prescription of brain drugs worldwide. Dealing with labels rather than persons makes it convenient for the Big Pharma multi billion business.

I'm a psychotherapist and psychologist, a MHP.  Why do I have a problem with this bible and its associated brain drugs?

Firstly, I reject the pathologizing of human experience by DSM into clinical or mechanical codes/ labels/symptoms. They don't reflect the "whole person."

"Your essence can never be labeled," says author Dr. Judith Orloff. Every person is unique. Honor the individual. I value that, let it speak to me.

Secondly, brain drugs don't carry any scientific evidence to justify its use. Besides, they produce harmful long-term side effects on the brain and overall health of individuals who take them.

Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry and leading advocate of drug-free psychotherapy, writes:

"Advocates of psychiatric drugs often claim that the medications improve ... ability to benefit from psychotherapy, but the contrary is true. There are no drugs that improve mental function, self understanding or human relations. Any drug that affects mental processes does so by impairing them."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Life Lived or Un-Lived

"Spring has passed. Summer has gone. Winter is here ...and the song I meant to sing remains unsung. For I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument." (Rabindranath Tagore)

Life can be lived or un-lived. 

Life that's lived leaves a legacy. 

It doesn't waste time on earth. It steps into what you can become and meant to be.

I met Willie. He's amazing. He wanted to be a good human being free of bondages. When he entered recovery, he worked out things that blocked his life goals. 

He blazed a trail after he "saved time" investing on learning what it takes to live life. He's now all geared up to prepare to be of service to humanity in his business.

Life that's un-lived, on the other hand, is filled with hidden secrets. 

Unresolved business. Unprocessed pain. "Too busy" wasting limited time. 

Mona is missing the opportunity of her youth. At 30, she has been in and out of psychiatric treatment facilities for over a decade.

She keeps blaming. Then, re-blaming. Planning, then re-planning. Postponing, then re-postponing. Nothing to show for it ... after all of her constant stringing and unstringing.

Don't allow this to be you. Un-living.

You have a purpose to accomplish in your One Life. Use your gifts and time wisely. Make a difference in people's lives. 

Live life. To the fullest. Leave a legacy to this planet.

Because one day, you will be no more.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Become Your Own Champion

In my therapy sessions, I'm always struck by how much people are thwarted by other people's negativity and criticism.  Such erases or diminishes joy in our lives.

A parent puts you down with hurting words. A friend doesn't approve of your passion. Your ex is sending you bad vibes and texts. A business partner is double-crossing you.

And then, you find your self dwelling on negative energy. You're possessed!

Such state of "possession" can affect you, creating anxiety, depression, fear, or physical dis-ease.

Time to train your self to become your own champion. When you champion your self, no one else can diminish or degrade you.

What do you do to become your own champion?

Here are some psychotherapeutic strategies that benefit me and those who see me:

•  If someone is sending you negative thoughts, words, or energy, deflect them. Avoid dwelling on them. Paying attention to negativity gives it influence over you.

•  Don't lead a thought or emotional life based on assuming that others' negativity can harm you. This perpetuates anxiety or fear.

•  Know and deal with what stops you to be your own champion. A common culprit is the wounded child you carry within.

•  Center on the strength of your inner self. Nurture it. It's the best defense against any negativity.

It's really up to you to do what it takes to be your own champion. In dark, negative periods - yours or other people's - be especially wise and active.

"The darkness declares the glory of the light."  (T.S. Eliot)

Friday, September 21, 2018

From Tears to Growth

"We must translate pain into action and tears into growth." (Menachem Mandel Schneerson)

Tears are healthy. When they're allowed to surface, they help heal our pain.

But note, instead of healing tears, we hide. A lot of us escape pain by becoming "aholics." 

"Aholics" are of varied kinds, such as foodaholics, alcoholics, workaholics, drugaholics, rageaholics, shopaholics, gameaholics, social mediaholics, among many others.

Rebecca, for instance, has become a sexaholic after experiencing traumatic relationships. 

Daily, she watches porn, and have sex as often as possible with a boyfriend or different strangers.

Her inner thirst for sex feels insatiable. She wants more each time. 

The compulsion serves to block a pain she's not fully aware of. Always it only makes her feel guilt-ridden and self-pitying afterwards.

After some of my sessions with Rebecca, she began to shed tears. She discovered old pains that she still needed to process and release.

Beneath her sexaholism was a deep sadness and pain over the men in her life. That's how her "aholic" was birthed.

Her father abandoned her when she was still a child. Her brothers abused her to no end. And her husband of 13 years betrayed and left her for another woman.

Rebecca gave it time in therapy. She processed the pain of each of those "snapshot moments" of her past wounded attachments to men. 

For much of her life, she's cut off from her buried feelings and unable to cry. But this time, she's much more and better able to.

Tears allowed Rebecca to express and release the pain in a natural way. In doing so, it cleared her blocked emotions so she can grow and feel anew.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Let Death Heal and Teach You

"To die is different than anyone supposes, and luckier." (Walt Whitman)

Birth. Life. Death. 

"There is a time for everything under the sun... a time to be born, a time to die," as the writer of Ecclesiastes pictures our earthly cycle.

Years ago, I visited my sister in the hospital. She's  41. 

In the ICU, she's left with the machines, given only a few days to live from cancer.

I'd never seen a human being in such terrible physical state - mere skin and bones. 

When she opened her eyes, tears just flowed.

I felt helpless. I couldn't do much but hold her hand and prayed for her. 

At that sacred moment, there felt a kind of primal interchange that occurred between us.

My sister gave me lessons through her death.

Death heals by teaching us about the full reality of what life really is.

There's a lightness that comes from grasping the bigger picture of the cycles of life we all go through.

In a way, I deal with death or near-death issues in my therapy sessions. 

All the time, in subtle or not-so-subtle varied scenes and relationships of life.

Think of how acceptance and appreciation of death will alter your concept of birth and life. 

Of the meaning of our limited days. Of fleeting childhood and youth. Of family and work. 

Of loss. Of grief. Of illness and aging. Of eternity.

I can tell you when you die, there's nothing to fear. Your spirit is alive and timeless as you depart from your body - as you surely will.

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will never die," Jesus promised (John 11:25)

Let death heal and teach you. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


ODD. It stands for "oppositional defiant disorder." According to the DSM V doctors' manual on mental disorders, it's a prelude to a more serious type of conduct disorder.

Children, teens, and adults may suffer from ODD. It can be mild, moderate, or severe in a continuum.

Helen, a university student, feels angry at the world.

At home, she habitually argues and fights with her parents and breaks house rules. In school, she excessively argues with professors and other authority figures.

I find it as no surprise then when she tries to argue, fight, or quarrel with me during sessions. She doesn't want to be in therapy.

According to her, it's "forced" only on her by the consequences of her parents. She blames them for what she's going through.

ODD, like most habits, is a learned behavior. It's usually borne out of a lack of positive attachment to a parent, chronic instability or stress in the home, or even personality disorders. 

IT (individual therapy) and PCIT (parent-child interaction therapy) is a standard combination to address the core concerns and wounds of ODD.

In IT, the ODD person learns to develop personal values and responsibility, practice mindfulness, control impulse, or upgrade anger management skills.

Like other behavioral disorders, ODD has deeper emotional roots. Permanent recovery lies in this curative component of IT.

The PICT, on the other hand, is geared towards developing positive and nurturing communications between parents and children. 

The quality of parenting is often associated to the genesis of ODD. Hopefully, through PICT, the ODD gains a healing breakthrough from its core relational roots.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Taking Charge of Your Fears

Debilitating fears carry a lot of history. They spend too much energy.

Yet so many of us always find ourselves giving in to them. Rather than facing and taking control of them.

"Doc, whenever I'm threatened by rejection, I always imagine a catastrophe. Then I'd feel automatically it's my fault and I'm no good," Jocelyn expressing her fear-thoughts.

Jocelyn was used to weakly assuring herself whenever she received compliments. She doubted her self. Always, in inner turmoil.

Recently, she wondered whether her boss really meant it when he told her how impressed he was of her work. She thought he's just being nice.

Thinking she can't survive rejection or disappointment which she feared a lot, she reduced her expectations. And, second-guessed her self.

By playing to her core fears, Jocelyn made it harder for her to believe that good things can happen. It only cemented her lack of happiness and peace.

In therapy, she learned to pause and process her childhood roots. She did work on the vestiges of her infantile fear-reactions.

At the same time, she took action by taking charge of her fears as she became deeply aware of them.

One way Jocelyn did was deconstructing her fear-thoughts. Reinterpreting her cognitive distortions.

"It's temporary. This too shall pass," she learned to tell her self when she'd think of or experience situational rejection, failure, and disappointment.

Jocelyn realized the feelings won't last the rest of her life.

She got better managing her fears by reframing the specifics of her situation. And, responding positively whatever the consequences.

It's true what James Thurber pointed out: "All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why."

Sunday, September 16, 2018


In the film "Awakenings," actor Robert De Niro plays a hospital psychiatric ward patient. 

He emerges from years of catatonic state after being administered an experimental drug.

In one scene, the hospital staff got alarmed about him. They noticed that the more he awakens, the more he wants to be, do, and see.

The hospital director confronts De Niro, "Are you aware of how much unconscious hostility you are exhibiting?"

De Niro answers gently, "If it's unconscious, how could I possibly be aware of it?"

We all have potential or power to create personal awakenings. 

To begin anew psychologically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually at any given time.

Celine, 29, was bored. She fantasized, played games, drank. She felt her marriage has become stale and smothering. She escaped through affairs.

In her therapy, she came to know how much she's fallen for a delusion. Yet she couldn't find a breakthrough to change.

Her guilt made her operate from less than her best self. This caused her to be disoriented and not at peace with her self.

When she spaced out after a night with another man, something happened. 

She saw images of her abusive father, and her own husband and kids waiting at home for her, in her mind.

It became a "wake-up" call for Celine. 

As if there was a secret "code" that was released within her. It engineered moments of clarity for her.

Francois de la Rouchefoucauld once wrote, "We are so used to disguising ourselves from others that we end up disguising ourselves from ourselves."

Even a small increase in self awareness goes a long way towards awakening from our disguises. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How's Your Movie?

I love movies. The best, healing ones. It's art that teaches us about life.

Actors, performers, and athletes use movie making techniques as a tool. Through it, they visualize characters or successful performances before the event.

I'm reminded of my university varsity chess team's movie making techniques in preparation for a national tournament.

We visualized actual moves, tactics, and strategies en route to the championship trophy. In my crucial match in Board 1, those visualized movies paid off.

How powerful those movies we made!

Do you know that we're all movie makers?

We all create "mental movies." And there are two types: good movie and bad movie.

Let me tell you about Adrian. He's a movie maker.

First off, when he entered therapy, he's struggling about a recurring bad movie. His mental movie was his primary way of compensating for his fear, anger, and worry.

Adrian's mental movie cost his life a lot. It was deeply wed to fantasy and unreality.

So much so that it led him to ignore or discount essential real-life functions. Such as, work, study, relationships, experiences.

During and after therapy, Adrian learned to produce a good movie. He got it. The secret to good movie making: walk out of a bad movie.

As psychologist Dr. Neuharth put it, "It's not real, it's just a movie."

Adrian's new life is a beneficial therapeutic mental movie.

It directed him to real-life insights and experiences, which transformed his fantasy and unrealities.

Indeed, the key to healing is to recognize when your mental movie is costly (unhealthy) rather than beneficial (healthy).

The good movie heals you. You walk out of a bad movie.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Feelings Are Not Facts

Feeling something does not necessarily make it a fact.

Objective reality. Real situation or person. As things truly are.

When you treat feelings as facts (specially automatically), that's called "emotional reasoning." It's a phenomenon dubbed by researcher/author David Burns.

"My husband is frowning and silent, so he must be angry at me," remarked Inez in our session. "He's always like that, I feel he doesn't love me anymore."

Ramon was depressed in the office as his guilt of missing a project deadline suggested. He felt weak and helpless about his fear of being fired.

Or, in the case of Marie, she'd always feel sad but can find no logical reason. So she dismissed it. Until she cut herself up and attempted to take her life.

Feelings can imprison the mind. Fears and other negative feelings live in a jail in which they must be true. They're seen as facts.

Thoughts can't question them. The harmful feelings tend to omit details and nuances.

Indeed, in a lot of psychologically wounded persons, feelings are mostly confused or mistaken as facts.

This is the reason why tackling one's "emotional reasoning" is one of psychotherapy's tools for trauma-busting and healing.

A variety of things produces feelings. Some are from the present moment. Some come from the past. Still many of these originate from fantasies. Or, lies we tell our selves.

The work of therapy is to differentiate between feelings that come from the imagination and those that are real and verifiable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Right Wi Fi Mind

Like multitudes among us, I've a smartphone. It's my convenient mobile pocket office and work center.

Daily, I do significant amounts of work through my smartphone with Wi Fi, such as writing, reading, and communicating to patients.

So it's a blessing. The Wi Fi. The smartphone.

But we can realize another side of it. It can also be used as a distraction, vice, or addictive drug.

Eduardo quit his grade 10 to remain at home. Each day, he spends a lot of hours watching porn and playing games from his smartphone with Wi Fi. He gave up school for that.

His parents felt helpless. Their son would turn violent if separated from his "drug of choice." You can imagine Eduardo's groans and wails when it's taken away.

Take note, the Wi Fi and smartphone are not to be blamed. They're mere tools. It depends on what we do with it.

Discover your self by asking these questions:

•  Do you check social media networks, play games, watch porn or movies, etc compulsively for hours throughout the day?

•  What does that indicate about your self and the things you thirst or hunger for?

•  Do the things you view or read online make you a healthy, balanced self?

•  Or, are the things you do with your smartphone and Wi Fi leading you to feed on trash - gossip, abusive negative talks, sexual disorders, material greed etc?

The writer of Proverbs says, "A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash" (Proverbs 15:14).

Have the right Wi Fi mind that builds your self and life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Self Forced by Addiction

My conversations with Imee, 35, as well as her parents kept coming back to one idea:  Imee was addicted and driven by a force she could not control.

Her parents couldn't understand. Their daughter knew too well that her addictions to alcohol, nicotine, casual sex, and excessive gambling are destroying her life,

"Why couldn't she stop? Nobody willingly does what he or she knows is irrational and self-destructive," they insisted.

How I wish it could be that simple.

Plato would say that there are kinds of desires that couldn't be "reasoned away."

He said it's like looking at the ocean. You're severely thirsty and you want to drink its water.

You know damn well that if you drink ocean water, you could get sick or die. But the craving or desire won't go away.

You still do it ... untamed by reason.

I've worked with lots of chronically depressive individuals. That inner "coercive force" seems to explain too how depression takes hold. It's also how suicide thoughts take hold.

It's not enough to say, "I'm going to stop now." You've to work at it. Until you get strong enough to master your irrational, self destructive thoughts.

In psychotherapy, the mind is retrained to overcome that "coercive force." Often, it's an act of the will.

But addictions usually involve a "disabled will," among other hidden factors.

So it's essential that the "roots" (not just the symptoms) of the disability are accurately located first.

After that is done, only then can one start pulling himself or herself together.

Most of the steps leading up to addiction recovery deal with your mind.

"The answer lies in the brain," as Science writer Knvul Sheikh put it. Then, "it's up to the legs."

Monday, September 10, 2018

"In Love with Love"

Zeny is in love. She's in love with love since she's 12. She watches one romantic movie or telenovela after another.

She dates. Different men. But her images and expectations about love and men sound like a film script. It's full of fantasy.

At 27, Zeny took a job as administrative assistant for a married CEO. Months later, her boss invited her to dinner with champagne and romantic music.

It was like one of Zeny's favorite movies and telenovelas. She fell in love and made love with her CEO boss.

In-session, Zeny was telling me that she felt love towards her boss. A state of bliss "till death do us part."

So it was a shock to her when her boss finally told her he's ending the affair. That he no longer loved her. She felt so hurt, devastated, and betrayed.

Zeny's desperation and outrage propelled her to try Psychotherapy. She felt her life was ruined from thereon. She became too restless and out of control.

The sessions helped Zeny unpacked the romantic fantasies that were so deeply ingrained inside her mind. She's a victim of romantic myths she still clung to from her childhood.

That one big thing left her totally unprepared to handle rejection and reality.

Over time, Zeny started to become more whole. She began to experience a growing self-love and well being that's not based on unrealistic, toxic myths about romance and love.

"In love with love." Beware of the romantic myth!

It can move you to live your life with a restricted, narrow, or even false view of one's self and the other.

Psychologists would use the term "love addiction" to refer to it.

"Many who believe their love is normal is actually acting out an addiction," as William Berry in Psychology Today put it.

Each of us is a human being. Life has many dimensions. They're not interchangeable one for the other.

And most importantly, it's based on reality. What really is. Especially love and romance.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Freeing Your Self from Aging

Sometime ago, I co-emceed my high school reunion in a military camp venue. It's a ride I'd say.

Some classmates whom I'd not seen for decades looked the same as I remember them during our school days.

On the other hand, my other classmates looked much older or different from my recollection of them.

Aging is a natural, inevitable part of our human life. It begins the moment we are born. And it continues until we die. It's part of scenery.

This physical body we have is like a machine. Like vehicles, we can "tune up" through exercise, food, and attitudes.

But in the end, it wears out as we get older.

I'm reminded of a near-senior patient Rita who frequents Belo to remove or erase the symptoms of age. She wants to look younger.

She suffered depression when she noticed that her face and body still showed signs of aging as days go by. Her self esteem had gone low.

Surely, we may have anti-aging regimen and lifestyle. However, we cannot stop the process of aging.

We avoid mental health issues as we age when we come to terms with this reality.

Embrace it. Enjoy life. Learn to age joyfully, meaningfully, and happily.

"You can free yourself from aging by reinterpreting your body and by grasping the link between belief and biology," as Dr. Deepak Chopra put it.