Thursday, January 16, 2020

Why Psychotherapy?


Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.”

Some people think going through psychotherapy is expensive.

Just several days ago, I was in session with a middle-aged woman in deep marital trouble due to her overwhelming debts and sexual infidelities with various men.

When her husband was about to pay her therapy bill, she squirmed and said the price charged was too high.

She thought self healing and wisdom is expensive, she missed seeing that the broken, wasted, and stupid life she’s living is way more expensive.

In fact, a million times more expensive!

Sheesh. The thought sent chills down my spine.

Like her, a lot are 100% psychologically illiterate, even dysfunctional.

You could be a doctor with 3 PhDs behind your name.

You could be a lawyer defending celebrity clients in court.

You could be a CEO of your own multimillion company.

You could be 101 years old.

You could be a wealthy housewife with a bank account the size of a billionaire.

But yet ... you could also be psychologically and emotionally unhealthy.

Without psychotherapy or the healing of your mind, it’s definitely pretty much more expensive for you. You waste much more time, money, and opportunities in your life.

Learn from Jim Rohn who wrote,

“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The 5-Year-Old Entrepreneur

Are you ready for this?

I’d known of a 5-year-old entrepreneur. His father testified about it.

One day, this 5-year-old son asked his father to buy him a Power Rangers robot.

His “weird” father shook his head and replied, “You need to earn money to buy that.”


“Set up a business,” the father told him. “What can you sell?” The little boy beamed, “I can sell Bangus!” (Milkfish)

So the father told his 5 year old, “Go for it! I’ll ask Tito Pio to make you one of his dealers.”

When they got home, the little boy got a piece of paper and made a list of “prospects” to sell bangus: Lola Linda, Ninong Robee, Cousin Denise etc.

For the next few days, the 5 year old entrepreneur sold bangus and earned p3000!

That’s Bene, then a little 5-year-old boy raised by his phenomenal Dad, Bo Sanchez, one of my favorite authors.

For me, it’s not just an amazing story. It’s a story that inspires me as a parent. I hope you too, my fellow parents!

Author Dennis Waitley aptly describes what Daddy Bo did to his son,

“The greatest gift you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

Monday, January 13, 2020

Psychological Development in the Second Half of Life

It’s dangerous to get your self worth in the temporary. Things like physical powers, occupational status, or fame disappears over time.

In “Psychological Development in the Second Half of Life,” author Robert Peck writes:

“Some people cling to physical powers, both as their chief ‘tool’ for coping with life, and as the most important element in ... their self-definition. Since physical powers inevitably decline, such people tend to grow increasingly depressed, bitter, or otherwise unhappy as they grow older.”

In the course of my therapy work with him (and his wife), Victor received a fatal diagnosis of brain cancer.

As a result, he’s unable to continue on as CEO of a multimillion company which he founded, as well as competitor in his favorite motorcycle events. It’s the same thing as sex, he’s no longer able as he used to.

It’s too hard an adjustment for Victor at 55. He frequently expressed feelings of uselessness. It’s as if he and his life didn’t matter any more.

As one elderly retiree put it, “Old age for me has been the recognition of what was left when all that I was was taken away from me.”

Everything here on earth is fleeting. In continual flux or change. Life is not open-ended. When illusions are worked through such as in therapy, you get back to what truly matters.

And that is becoming one’s self. Your true, essential self - reduced to just what one is: a piece of common clay.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observes,

“In youth, a man fancies that there is a prodigious amount of happiness and pleasure to be had in the world, only that it is difficult to come by it; whereas, when he becomes old, he knows that there is nothing of the kind; he makes his mind completely at ease in the matter.”

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Focus on One Main Thing

Do you have focus?

One of the things I did before was play competitive chess. I was city champion and a varsity collegiate national player.

I beat masters. So I wanted then to be a chess master myself.

But after my university years onwards, I had a journey of finding my real self. Choices abounded. And I had to decide on the kind of life I wanted.

Life is brief. I learned that I’ve to focus on one main thing.

Being a chess master takes time. Lots of time.

I could spend 7 hours playing in chess tournaments, or 7 hours talking and helping people heal or write redemptive pieces of articles.

I decided to stop pursuing a “professional” chess career.

But here was how I decided: I was great in speaking and writing. Specifically, in the psychotherapy field.

This bears for me a lot of fruit as well as meaning and significance in my life and the lives of others.

In comparison to this, I was just “average” in chess.

I’m not saying though that I won’t play chess again. Ever. In fact, as I grow older, it’s becoming one of my enjoyable recreations across cultures. I also use chess as a therapy tool in my practice.

It’s a matter of choosing my one main focus. One that truly matters.

For me, that’s focusing on my gift, my game, my core competency, and using it to produce maximum impact on the lives of as many people as possible.

Believe me.

If you learn this and find your one focus in your life, you save your self from a lot of future unnecessary trouble, pain, or suffering.

It doesn’t mean you don’t expand. Grow interests. Reinvent your self in new ways. But do it within your one major focus ... within your game.

You’ll be a happy human being with that.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

My Choice, My Belief

“I will exercise!”

That’s a choice or decision made by one of my adult children a few years ago. She needed to lose weight.

One day, when we were strolling together in the mall, we passed by Slimmers World. I bought her a lifetime membership there! It’s my gift and support for her newfound wellness plan.

For several weeks, she did visit the Slimmers gym to do her workouts. Then, suddenly, she stopped going. She went back to her old food habits and sedentary lifestyle.

My loved one is not alone. She’s now making up. But most of us are like her in the humanity of our choice-making.

We have the best intentions about something we want. Yet there’s a strange part within us that fails to take action.

I’m reminded of Tomas. He wanted to give up his sex addiction and infidelity. He’d express it even emotionally to his wife during marital sessions.

He struggled a lot. He said he’s getting his self-worth and stress relief from the attention of different women, especially in sex.

Tomas broke promises. Mostly, in private hours when he’s alone or unaccounted for.  Some were repeatedly discovered by his wife.

Let me explain why this often happens.

Choice differs from belief.

Making choices is an activity of the conscious (surface) part of your mind. Taking action on your choices is a belief (underneath) fueled by your unconscious mind.

Choices are made in the conscious. Beliefs are found in the unconscious.

Author Robert Brault writes, “An old belief is like an old shoe. We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it.”

Beliefs, the wrong or distorted ones (especially about our selves), block choices or goals we set for our lives.

Unless reframed or rewired to develop healthier habits of thought, those beliefs produce automatic behaviors to keep you stuck. And, continually unhappy, unfulfilled, and dysfunctional.

Create new beliefs then to support your choices.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A Weak Foundation is Way More Expensive

Have you heard of the leaning tower of Pisa? More likely, you have. It’s a freestanding tilting bell tower of the Italian city of Pisa.

I also knew of a tower building in Manila which also looked like that tower in Pisa. Because it’s crooked, engineers had to retrofit its foundation with lots of deep repairs.

Both of these towers (leaning or crooked) have one thing in common: a weak foundation. They’re dangerous places if not repaired enough.

Here’s the problem: the repairs of the weak foundation are way more expensive than when the original towers were built.

Foundations matter. When they’re not strong or deep enough, what you build is surely bound to collapse.

So is with our life. The only one life we have. Without a strong foundation, we sabotage our selves and relationships. We waste our limited supply of time and resources.

In a world that loves quick fixes, this is a challenging task.

Broken lives, broken marriages, broken families, even broken societies are all signs of a weak foundation in personal development.

When you do psychotherapy, it’s like repairing a weak foundation of a building. Compared to the beginnings of early life, a later repairs do cost more in terms of time, effort, and money.

But do you have a choice other than making up for the missed developments of your life’s foundation?

It’s a basic question. A choice between life or death.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Time to Turn a New Page

It’s a fresh calendar year, 2020.

As in every new year, we’re called to reflect and turn a new page of our lives.

For the next 12 months, 52 weeks,  365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, or 31,536,000 seconds.

It’s a block of time. A “gift of God” for you and I to have another chance at the art of life.

To make the most of the limited time, we forget what lies in the past and press forward so we can advance and grow.

If you’d been in shock or grief, full of questions and pain, from the past year, you saw how it was. The way it affected your physical and mental health, confidence, and relationships are simply life damaging.

You can only get through this for the new year when you resolve to turn your new page.

That requires a lot of good steps and gains for you.

Such as, learning deeply about your self. Coming to better terms with reality. Forgiving others, even your self. Accepting what you cannot change. And doing what you can change.

Throughout turning your new page, you’ll find the inspiration to help you go from woundedness, disbelief, and bewilderment to a place of strength, faith, and victory.

A psychology student once went to West Point, USA for the research of her thesis. She wanted to find out what differentiates between those who survived and those who didn’t in military training.

A military general, one of the West Point officers she interviewed, said, “There are two major keys that differentiate them. You want to know them?”

“Yes of course, General!,” she exclaimed.

“Two major keys: perseverance and passion,” revealed the general.

Hopefully, you can too apply those two major keys. Turn your new page - and move perseveringly and passionately forward on a new and even your best life ever.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Does Intuition Heal?

In chess, as in other arts, intuition makes creativity and winning possible.

It’s invisible. Subtle. Abstract. And so, much deeper.

Dr. Nikolai Krogius, a Russian chess psychologist and grandmaster, refers to the element of “intuition” in chess as:

“the direct way of reaching the truth - the quick solution suddenly comes to mind”

Chess grandmaster David Bronstein, once a world championship candidate, emphasizes the role of intuition in chess creativity. But simultaneously, he equates it with the player’s imagination.

Encyclopedia Britannica gives a technical definition of intuition as follows: 

“Intuition: In philosophy, the power of obtaining knowledge that cannot be acquired either by inference or observation, by reason or experience. As such, intuition is thought of as an original, independent source of knowledge, since it is designed to account for just those kinds of knowledge that other sources do not provide. Knowledge of necessary truths and of moral principles is sometimes explained in this way.”
Intuition is a component of thinking. As opposed to logical analysis, an intuitive choice shows only the result, often unperceived at the moment of mental operation.

Psychotherapy is full of intuition. Its process is basically intuitive rather than linear or concrete. To heal and be whole, a patient has to find his capacity for intuition and nourish it.

Most mental patients are weak in responding to logic. Wounded emotions often block or cloud their thought processes.

However, when one perseveres enough in the process of psychotherapy, sessions constitute a chain of psychological and emotional experiences - each linked to the next.

Then, intuition appears. Somewhere down the road. A sudden discovery of insight, truth, and application one is pursuing for one’s life state.

“Oh got it! After all this time, this is what’s all about for me,” as Manny, a CEO, once said in exclamation.

I simply drew an illustration in a napkin. All I did that evening session. And Manny got his intuition work for him marvelously in a therapeutic way.

“Intuition is the whisper of the soul,” as Jidu Krisnamurti put it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020


Money. Money. Money. 

There’s no way around it.

Money is what runs the life we know and live. Our world operates on money. We can hardly move around without it. 

It’s the way we get our food, clothes, shelter, water, and electricity. We need money to pay for our children’s education, our car or transportation, medical care, among others.

Money is amoral though. Neutral. It’s neither good nor bad. Despite its usefulness.

But ... why is it that money brings out the worst and bad in so many people?

Its common symptoms are myriad such as overspending, pathological gambling, compulsive buying, underspending, insurmountable debts, hoarding, to name some.

In the condo where I live, a photograph of a young woman was circulated around.

It’s captioned, “Beware of this woman. She can’t be trusted with money. She already stole a lot from us. We’re suing her so she’ll go to jail.”

Where people get into trouble, like in the case of this woman, is when they let money run and control them.

Money disorders ruin lives. It can destroy friendships. It’s a root that divides families, marriages, churches, and even nations.

I once heard someone saying something that rings a bell, “When it comes to money, I don’t trust anyone, including myself!”

Drs. Brad and Ted Klontz, financial psychologists, wrote an epic, bestselling book entitled “Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders that Threaten Our Financial Health.”

If you have a relationship with money that’s downright psychopathological or dysfunctional, may you be prompted to pick up this book ... or see a therapist before it gets too late!

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:10)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Goodbye 2019, Welcome 2020

It’s New Year’s Eve.

As I write this post, I’m reflecting on things anyone of us can start doing this coming New Year.

Goal is, be a more healthy person.

Psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually - not just physically or materially.

In my work as a psychotherapist, Change is a buzz word. People are simply that - year after year - wanting to change but not managing to pull it through.

I’ve noticed that when people say they want to change for the future, they appear to also want to define how it feels as well.

For example, instead of just resolving “I’m going to lose weight by exercising 3x a week,” you can say and visualize, “I’m going to love my self by taking care of my body through going to the gym and taking up running with my wife, athlete daughter, and a couple of close friends.”

That makes changing feels good.

Two things for 2020 that you and I can do and practice to start afresh - to change and feel good at the same time because you’re changing.

1.  Plant seeds.

Planting good seeds this new year will make you feel good. Remove bad seeds in your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships.

Replace them with good seeds that draw people, growth, and prosperity to your life.

2.  Trust God.

Trusting God for the seeds you’ve planted is ultimate joy. After you’ve done your best, don’t let unnecessary anxiety or worry steals your joy of feeling good.

Rest in God for the results or harvests - His own way, His own time. Let go and let God.

“The seed is the Word of God.”  (Luke 8:11)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Defense, Development, Deal

Chess, like life, can teach you how to make choices. Right choices are essential, especially in Life/Death or Winning/Losing situations.

In chess, we use the mnemonic “3Ds” to guide choices of moves on the chessboard:  Defense, Development, Deal.

(Photo Credit: ChessBase)

Let me explain how they roughly parallel what we do in life or the process of psychotherapy.

Say you suffered a major loss or trauma. Maybe you lost a loved one in betrayal or death, are in deep debts or financial bankruptcy, or have been diagnosed with cancer.

Deeply hurt, you feel lost. Not knowing what to do. And, how to proceed with life from where you are.

Through the lens of “3Ds,” this is what you do to sort out the choices you need to make at a time of crisis.

DEFENSE tells you to maintain integrity and minimize losses.

That could mean defensive healthy eating, defensive driving, defensive friendships, defensive minimal lifestyle, or defensive spending.

Basic needs have to be met first before you’re able to strive for higher lofty goals. Otherwise, how do you proceed when you’re always under constant attack?

In DEVELOPMENT,  you pursue a dynamic balance to correct a deprivation or deficit. It’s a quest to repair “havingness.”

That could lead you to developmental entrepreneurship, developmental lifestyle change, developmental community building, developmental psychotherapy or massive personal development efforts.

Psychotherapist Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “there is a spiritual solution to every problem” also comes to mind here.

DEAL is your “checkmate moment.” For you to reach that point of gain or winning, you need accurate reading of reality. A state of being fully in the present.

Two types of distorted thinking block the deal: “wishful thinking” and “fearful thinking.” Both are well recognized in psychotherapy to be major interferences with how patients read reality.

The deal requires letting go of hurts, dysfunctions, and illusions in order to be present in the current moment with full concentration.

There it is - the “3Ds” - defense, development, deal.

Before you make any decision at any point of time in your life, you need to determine which “D” is a major consideration at that specific moment.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

When Couples Struggle to Heal from Sex Addiction

It’s so difficult for Ronnie. He struggled with recovering from porn addiction and infidelity. And, at the same time, he missed being intimate with his wife Lorna.

Lorna required him to go see a psychotherapist and join a group program. Determined not to lose his wife, Ronnie obliged and agreed to rehabilitate.

Though living in the same condo, they felt estranged from each other since the discovery. “She’s always angry at me,” Ronnie shared.

“Though I’m doing my best and making progress, I feel as if I’m being forever punished and nothing is improving between us,” he continued.

Lorna remembered that session clearly after hearing her remorseful husband. She listened. She understood in a new way.

Inspired by that session, Lorna realized that she had to start letting go of her anger and forgive her husband in the course of supporting him in his recovery.

Ronnie and Lorna’s experience is one evidence of how profoundly damaging the consequences of sexual addiction (here, in the form of porn and infidelity) on marriage or relationship.

There are 4 areas they’re addressing in their ongoing couple therapy to heal the pain sexual addiction has had on their relationship, namely:

•  Restore and rebuild the TRUST.
•  UNDERSTAND the individual and relational aspects of their experience.
•  LET GO of anger and FORGIVE.

Dr. Gloria Harris, an infidelity expert and author, writes:

“Things will never be quite the same between you. Your relationship is forever changed. Despite this, we know it is possible to meet the challenge ... and survive ... You can become stronger as individuals and your marriage will be strengthened as well.”

Friday, December 27, 2019

Walking for Mental Health

Walking boosts your mental health.

Dr. Adam Chekroud conducted a well known study of walkers from data of over 1 million people. It’s published in Lancet Psychiatry.

The study found out that people who did Walking exercise had 43% fewer bad mental health days compared to those who didn’t exercise at all.

The greatest mental health benefits were found among those who walked and exercised at least 45 minutes a time, 3 to 5 days a week.

This mental health boost occurred across a wide range of demographics, taking into account age, race, gender, and socioeconomic factors.

Walking has always been a part of my psychotherapy practice.

During earlier years onwards, I’d take opportunity to walk with my clients while having a session - either in the mall or in a hospital’s greenery park which I used to frequent.

I remember David, 22 then, who had a bad, violent relationship with his father. When he saw me, he was sinking into deep depression and could hardly function each day.

After a few visits and walks around the hospital’s golf area where I met David for talks, he began to loosen up. And, told me his long story, a base from which I was able to help him significantly over time.

It’s interesting for me to note that there appears to be a close link between my “therapy walks” with David and the progressive reduction of his bad mental health moods during our work together.

This coming new year, I’m envisioning to create a Walking for Mental Health community among my present and potential clients.

Hopefully, it can be of some contribution to a solution to what Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Nature walker himself, once wrote about:

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good, good silence, and nothing much.”

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Married But Lonely?

Loneliness is not limited to the isolated.. Or, those without the presence of another human being.

Unfortunately, quite many nowadays are lonely even when married or in the company of others. 

(Photo credit: Patheos)

Research indicates that a pervasive loneliness can still exist despite the presence of a spouse, friend, or room mate.

This type of loneliness is rooted in the absence of a wider circle of confidantes with whom one feels unconditionally accepted and known.

Adela’s story proves this point. She’s married to a quiet, self-contained, successful lawyer.

So involved in homemaking and caring for their two young children, Adela depends only on her husband to keep her loneliness at bay. 

Her husband grew tired over time, laced with irritating feelings of resentment and claustrophobia.

Adela has found no time or little inclination to develop other close friendships. So when her marriage hit a crisis and got overstressed, she felt so alone.

A surprisingly high number of psychiatric patients are “married but lonely.” They suffer from isolation and malaise of not feeling known enough or fully by anyone, including their spouse.

Lesson learned?

We all need a variety of relationships characterized by differing degrees of closeness. We can’t just depend on one. Otherwise, we get starved for the intimacies of our private lives.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Your Job is the Effort, Not the Outcome

In my life, I’ve learned the hard way that control is an illusion. Had I insisted to control what’s not within my control, I would not have grown as a human being.

Psychopathology is often the result of not embracing this basic truth in our lives.

Generally, we want to control and secure results. Even in relationships or situations where we don’t possess any power for that.

Hindsight was valuable for Rebecca. In sessions with her husband, she had to learn a “different language” in order to heal.

When she tried to make her unfaithful husband a “project” and control him through her tantrums and threats, the more he grew distant and unresponsive.

Only after she became more respectful towards him and focused on her self did she begin to receive kinder, more favorable overtures from him.

Rebecca’s efforts in their marital therapy process were rewarded. Just on the nick of time!

In psychotherapy, as in love, your job is not the outcome. Your job is the effort. 

Doing your part and letting go of the rest ensures your mental health and wholeness.

Author Karen Casey, in her book “Let Go Now,“ says, 

“Detaching from outcomes, those that apply to us and those that apply to the actions of others, is the surest way to a peaceful day. Trying is believing.”

After your best efforts, that’s doing the “art of letting life happen by itself,” as Jungian psychologists put it.

When Family Betrays You

It hurts the most. When a loved one or family member betrays you. The emotional or psychological cut is deepest.

Maria, a single Mom, has a son.  Now a working young adult.

She sent him to school working as a sandwich vendor, working day and night. When he finished engineering and got a job, he relocated to another city to be near the plant of the company where he worked. Maria felt proud of her son.

However, for some unexplained reason, Maria’s son stopped seeing her since he got a job a year ago. He used to come with her to church on Sundays but now no more. He would not communicate with her any more.

Understandably, Maria felt betrayed and hurt by her son whom she loved and sacrificed for. Despite her best efforts to reach out to him, he was silent.

What would you do in this situation?

Betrayal of a child, or any family member, is shocking. No one of course has “perfect parents.” Whatever the reason - plausible or not - there are often no clear explanations or immediate solutions.

Not surprisingly, powerful feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression may be involved here.

Forgiveness and understanding are major keys for healing - both for the child and parent. Worthwhile things like this need enough time, patience, and perseverance.

Between parent and child, who’s the grown-up here?

Many times, the call is for the parent to let go of his or her ego. And, prayerfully and hopefully, to continue waiting and reaching out.

Author and psychotherapist Winnifred Reilly writes:

“ ... those who distance themselves or choose to have zero contact haven't all done so because their parents failed them in some significant way. (Though, of course, some have.) Many fine parents have children who pull away -- sometimes for reasons the parents cannot figure out. If your grown child has pulled away, ask yourself this: Is there an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed? Is there something I might do to make that resolution possible? Is there something I need to apologize for or forgive? Difficult as it is, I've seen many parents remain openhearted to their estranged children, reaching out, inviting contact, expressing their love, with no expectation or insistence that it be reciprocated. Sometimes all we can do is leave the porch light on with a key under the mat.”

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Success or Significance?

When I was younger, I once worked for a Manila-based national newspaper. As a writer, I got to produce some articles there exploring life issues, such as “Impermanence” and so on.

It’s a unique developmental stage of my life when I felt lost. Directionless. With writing and struggles in the field - both personally and professionally, I finally searched more deeply for life’s meaning. 

I thought the meaning of life is about SUCCESS.

Financial success, in particular.

I was in one sense like David, a client, who regards his multimillion business and profits as his “be-all,” even a greater priority than his marriage and family.

“I’d rather have a lot of money than repair my marriage where I’m unhappy,” he’d boast.

Financial success is indeed the world’s most powerful motivator. And it possesses and controls the lives of millions (even billions!) of people.

It does can develop into an all-consuming passion. Proven to leave so many with psychological disorders as well as moral breakdowns in its wake.

Consider success’ limitations. It ebbs and flows. No matter the amount of success earned, it always leaves you wanting more.  It never satisfies the deepest longings of your heart and soul.

Don’t waste your life. Seek SIGNIFICANCE instead.

A significant life focuses on people, not dollars. It lives with less, so it can invest more in serving others. It only uses money to pay bills, but uses passion or purpose to pay the soul.

Even if financial success comes your way, your mind is in a better place when you’re choosing to live a significant life.

You use resources to create broader significance. To live a life of integrity, morality, and generosity.

I’m reminded of present-day billionaire, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. He donates 80% or so of his income to philanthropy and worthwhile causes in the service of humankind.

Or, if you go to biographies, we have names like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, or missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, even Filipino Bo Sanchez or pastor Dr. Chuck Swindoll as models of the significant life.

Leo Rosten writes:

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

Live a life worth copying. Choose to live a SIGNIFICANT LIFE as a good, passing human.

As popular vlogger Rob Dial put it, “When you die, they won’t remember your car or house. They will remember who you were. Be a good human, not a good materialist.”

Thursday, December 19, 2019

New Year, Should I Change?

A new year is fast approaching. Are you ready?

Traditionally, people just make New Year’s resolutions. But most or many, as studies show, don’t end up fulfilling them as promised.

With resolutions or not, a coming new year is always a call for a better self. A better set of habits. A better life.

A real key to this call to make your life wonderful this next new year is to embrace a different mindset.

It’s a mindset open to be filled by what’s “best.” What’s “best” are what makes you happy.

That “best” includes life-giving elements, such as hope, joy, love, thankfulness, truth, grace or forgiveness, among others.

I’m reflecting on some ways that these can be incorporated to make this the “best” new year of our entire life!

Let’s explore ...

• avoid dwelling on things you can’t change or control

• don’t take everything too personally or seriously

• choose your self, don’t wait for others to choose you

• finish a worthwhile project you started

• undertake personal development process to know yourself better

• join a church or community that contributes hope to the lives of others

• exercise, eat, and sleep better

• forgive those who have hurt you and move on

• let go and let God

“ ... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Happy With No Money On Christmas?

Money and Christmas.

For most people, they seem to go together to experience happiness during this yearly season.

Robert Paul aptly describes, “Even before Christmas has said ‘Hello,’ it’s saying ‘Buy, Buy!”

Do you really need money to be happy on Christmas?

Whether it’s Christmas or not, the reality is, many people feel and think that happiness requires money.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Money may help. Somehow. To make you feel good cheers. But it’s absolutely not a prerequisite for any of us to experience true happiness.

“The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much,” as Henry David Thoreau put it for us during Christmas.

This is something I’ve touched on more deeply, even personally, in my vlog post, “Paano Maging Masaya Ngayong Pasko Kahit Wala Kang Pera?,” at my new YouTube channel (Coffee Talks with Dr. Subida, A Filipino Channel).

You can catch it here:

As a father, I’d learned the hard way how to move out of men’s cultural conditioning in society. Though it’s different now between me and my children, I did miss some days with them.

More than money or my presents for them, I realized, is my presence which they need on Christmas and
the important times of their lives.

Indeed, the best things in life are not things. Not money.

There is Someone way beyond and beside the material and our selves every Christmas.

Follow Him, not the crowd.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Do You Need a “Toxic People Detox?”

The truth is, toxic people are a part of life.

They’re everywhere - our neighborhoods, offices, governments, hospitals, schools, and sadly, often right among our family members, relatives and friends.

A number of qualities characterize them and their typical toxic pattern of attacking or sabotaging your mental and emotional health:

• they spread negativity about you and life in general
• they badmouth and criticize you all the time
• they play the victim when called out regarding their toxic speech or behavior
• they’re too reactive when jealous
• they hurtfully don’t care about how you feel
• they’re extremely selfish
• they keep disappointing you with their psychological manipulation
• they lack remorse and responsibility, chronically self-justifying
• they make you feel bad by pushing your “guilt button”
• they waste your time, energy, and resources

In the case of Victor, it’s not difficult to see a close link between his worsening anxiety panic attacks and his years of being verbally and emotionally abused by his mother and sister.

The last time I heard from him was after a recent therapy session. He already left home.  He found a job and, finally, chose to live freely.

That move alone contributes significantly to the treatment of his anxiety panic. He is able to breathe better, be more focused. His heart is healing faster.

Do you need a “toxic people detox?”

Move on. Avoid or leave their presence. Remember not to take the toxic behavior personally. It’s about them, not you. Stop pretending their abusive behavior is ok. Speak up. Set and defend healthy boundaries. Take time to treat and take care of you.

“It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and continues to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.” —Daniell Koepke

Friday, December 13, 2019

Procrastination: A Professional Thief

Procrastination. The act of delaying or avoiding doing something.

Dr. Chuck Swindoll calls procrastination a “professional thief.”

Its specialty? Resistance.

It steals time. It steals reward, profit, or incentive. It steals personal development. A con artist in action.

It does the stealing with a host of cheap tricks: rationalization, excuses, void promises, embarrassment, laziness, guilt and shame.

In Filipino culture, an equivalent word is “manana.”

In “manana” habit, a person loses motivation and neglects what’s essential or necessary to act on.

I’d met a medical doctor who said he has a “double life.” After being caught of his womanizing and pornography, his wife asked him to seek help.

He stepped into the therapy session. And blinked in disbelief.

The test tells him the truth - but his internal professional thief whispers a different interpretation.

After the session, his con artist tells him to not do it any longer. He postponed succeeding appointments. He made excuses to his wife. He dodged it. He ignored it.

The professional thief offers the perfect alibi. And back on the shelf goes his promise to rehab ... relapsing back to his “double life.”

Therein the grim thief wins another victory in sabotaging a person’s life.

To master procrastination is to master the self. It requires all the discipline you can muster to eject the thief from your system.

What do you say? Is procrastination a sign of mental illness?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Porn Secret, Real Love

A writer from a TV station once saw me. He’s addicted to pornography. His habitual porn use caused him a variety of sexual difficulties with his wife.

He said, “I’ve been masturbating while watching porn for years that when I’m with my loving wife, I’m unable to naturally share sex with her.”

Eventually, his wife found out about his porn secret. She’s so devastated that she left the house. This led him to seek help.

Porn is a psychological problem that now affects millions of people around the world.

Clinical work with porn users shows varied evidences of sexual problems and mental dysfunction from using porn.

Author and sex therapist Dr. Ian Kerner artfully writes about and prescribes a book titled “The Porn Trap:”

“Porn is like junk food - it provides little in the way of real nutrition for your sexual health. If you or your partner are suffering as a result of consuming these empty calories, this important and timely book shows you how to push away from porn and start experiencing the genuine nourishment of real love.”

Real love, being nourished by it, is the clear path away from problematic porn use. It heals the essence of the negative impact of porn on one’s self, intimacy, and others.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Have You Loved The Wrong Person?

Have you experienced loving the wrong person?

By “wrong person,” I mean one who abuses and continues to abuse you. He or she has deceived you even from the beginning of your relationship.

Usually, the abuse and deception take the form of verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, or financial, among many others. Without remorse.

A London-based Filipino married couple, Tina and Joel, once saw me in multiple therapy sessions through Skype.

Tina was deeply wounded. She discovered that her husband had an affair with her friend for years, and bore a child by her.

Not only that. Tina also found out that her husband had been hiding simultaneous affairs with different women before and all throughout their marriage.

Tina had mistakenly loved  a “predator.” Outside of his  evidenced infidelities, she continued being hurt verbally and physically by him, even after the discovery.

Joel did participate in our sessions. He appeared extremely charming and nice. He denied any affair or evidences of infidelity, which Tina unearthed. 

Tina broke down. About to lose her mind. Too fast. After a few individual sessions with me, she finally decided to separate from her husband.

When you realize you’ve loved the wrong person, it doesn’t mean you’re stupid. You were not just groomed or trained enough to protect yourself from a predator.

A predator (“wrong person” to love or marry) is often charismatic and manipulative. He’s been doing and practicing it for a long time.

As a victim, you’re ill-equipped to know and handle early enough a deceptive person like that. You couldn’t possibly see quickly what you’re up against.

So, forgive your self and move on. Charge it to experience. Learn from your mistake of loving the wrong person. 

Be free. If you do, you’re  a better, stronger person now. A “right person,” ready for the right relationship coming your way next.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Cicero’s Take

The Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Man is liable to error, and it is a fool who continues in error.”

Undoubtedly, Cicero’s words were a sound psychotherapeutic life principle. 

We all make mistakes. It’s human. We’re all imperfect and not infallible. 

The absolute ability not to commit errors or mistakes is not within the capacity of human beings. 

Often, we make errors or mistakes in life “outside awareness.”  It’s unconscious. They then lead to unnecessary emotional pain or suffering. 

I like what Rumi said in his “Masnawi:”

“You will certainly make mistakes unconsciously. At least don’t make them consciously.”

Only when we become conscious of our errors and mistakes can we start to change into what’s better and healthy.

In my session with Mark last night, with his wife, he spoke of his so-called “old normalcy” and “new normalcy.”

Insightfully, he said that his past “old normalcy” was full of errors and mistakes, which he had not been able to fully see as they were.

With psychotherapy, he evolved into becoming a better and healthier person - replacing the old with a “new normalcy.”

That “new normalcy,” according to him, has come to terms with the true realities of his life, devoid of or less susceptible to recurring bad and wrongful choices.

Fortunately, Mark chose to get wise. Unlike the fool, as Cicero put it, “who continues in error.”

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30: 15,16)

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Friday, December 06, 2019

Chess and Life with Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the USA, was a well known philosopher and thinker in history. 

He avidly played chess and wrote a popular essay on chess, which I’m taking the liberty to re-“copy” below. Franklin eventually was inducted to the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. 

Get a glimpse of how chess can be used as a powerful metaphor and tool for mental health and wholeness in life.

The Morals Of Chess
by Benjamin Franklin

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions, for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess, then, we may learn:

1st: Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action, for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”

2nd: Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action, the relation of the several Pieces, their situations, and the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other, the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece, and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

3rd: Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game, such as, if you touch a piece you must move it somewhere, and if you set it down, you must let it stand.

Therefore, it would be the better way to observe these rules, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war, in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops and place them more securely, but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

And, lastly, we learn Chess by the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favourable chance, and that of preserving in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our skill, or, at least, from the negligence of our adversary, and whoever considers, what in Chess he often sees instances of, that success is apt to produce presumption and its consequent inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage, while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by any present successes of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may, therefore, be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement in preference of others, which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded, and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the parties, which is to pass the time agreeably.

1st: Therefore, if it is agreed to play according to the strict rules, then those rules are to be strictly observed by both parties, and should not be insisted upon for one side while deviated from by the other, for this is not equitable.

2nd: If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other.

3rd: No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain an advantage, for there can be no pleasure in playing with a man once detected in such unfair practice.

4th: If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay, not even by looking at your watch, or taking up a book to read; you should not sing, nor whistle, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may distract his attention, for all these things displease, and they do not prove your skill in playing, but your craftiness and your rudeness.

5th: You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending to have made bad moves and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes, for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game of Chess.

6th: You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expressions, nor show too much of the pleasure you feel, but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth, such as, you understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive, or, you play too fast, or, you had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts and that turned it in my favour.

7th: If you are a spectator while others play, observe the most perfect silence, for if you give advice you offend both the parties: him against whom you give it, because it may cause him to lose the game, and him in whose favour you give it, because, though it be good and he follow it, he loses the pleasure he might have had if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves you must not, by replacing the Pieces, show how they might have been placed better, for that displeases, and might occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation.

All talking to the players lessens or diverts their attention and is, therefore, unpleasing, nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion; if you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.

If you desire to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game, when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing, or meddling with, or counseling the play of others.

Lastly, if the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules before mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself.

Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskillfulness or inattention, but point out to him kindly that by such a move he places or leaves a Piece en prise unsupported, that by another he will put his King into a dangerous situation, etc.

By this general civility (so opposite to the unfairness before forbidden) you may happen indeed to lose the game, but you will win what is better:  his esteem, his respect, and his affection, together with the silent approbation and good will of the spectators.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Embracing the Unknown

The unknown terrifies most of us. What’s uncertain can bring dreaded scenarios in our brain.

We’d rather be in control of things about our future.

My client William is a successful millionaire entrepreneur. He owns his own company and employs hundreds.

In his business, he can empirically track every little figure or data or employee. He knows his self and world that he built better than ever.

But when his marriage was breaking down, he hated experiencing things that he cannot control. He’s afraid. Unable to endure uncertainty.

Such made him develop crippling forms of anxiety. Since he could not immediately see the result or his destination, he found himself unable to live and move on as fully as he could.

Author Estell Frankel, a psychotherapist and spiritual counselor, in her book “The Wisdom of Not Knowing” explores the art of embracing the unknown.

She explains that the ability to endure uncertainty rather than fear it is a vital skill in managing our lives. Without it, we languish in mental and emotional breakdowns.

Frankel explores the power of treating the unknown as friend, not foe. According to her, it’s a major key to personal growth and living a better life.

How do you make the uncertain or unknown your friend?

To embrace uncertainty, you must first realize one need: to “let go of the illusion of control.”  As Socrates puts it, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Frankel writes,

“What we know can limit our imagination if it is not countered with an equally powerful don’t know. Absolute certainty shuts down curiosity, and curiosity is what drives us to continually improve — in this state, we no longer have a reason to develop courage, to expand our minds, or to be creative.”

Tell your self that uncertainty or unknown is welcome. You can embrace it. You can accept imperfection.

See it for what it is, so you can grow and thrive. To be more free, present, and empowered.

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Restoring the Years Lost

As a psychotherapist, I’m acquainted with human suffering. Regularly. Week by week, it’s staple in my psychological diet that waits to be processed into good nutrition or digestion.

Typically, due to unresolved emotional trauma (detected or undetected), people experience unnecessary loss or waste of years in their life span.

According to a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) research, 75% of people will experience a traumatic life event. And these events eventually cause overwhelming pain, even mental disorders.

It’s not all bad news though. Something good may also come out of the bad.

As author Jim Rendon put it, “Trauma can also be a powerful force for positive change.”

I’m reminded of a former OFW patient, Mike, who went into deep depression and alcoholism after his wife left him for another man and took all their two young children with her out of the country.

So traumatic was Mike’s response to the event that he had to be hospitalized a few times while working overseas. He almost drowned in his sorrow.

But it was not an endpoint for Mike. After a psychologist shared with him about God in his hospital bed, he grew eventually in his mental health and spirituality.

He developed much greater inner strength than he ever thought possible. Life had more meaning. And he found a godly woman, remarried, and had two kids later.

Today, Mike is a Christian Mental Health counselor and life coach practicing in one of the states in the U.S. He lives with his new wife and two growing kids near the office where he works.

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence,” Peter Levine rightly observes.

Scripture tells us that God can restore your lost years (Joel 2:25). And in Romans 8:28, it says “ ... all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

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Friday, November 29, 2019

Gratitude Therapy

There is always something to be thankful for.

When you’re angry, lonely, or depressed, gratitude will make you feel stronger and lighten your mood. It’s free effective therapy.

Mona recognizes in time that she developed roaring rage. It began to escalate when their adult daughter left home and cut communication with her and her husband for years.

It’s deep pain for a parent. It can produce hurtful feelings of betrayal expressed in other varied ways.

Mona soon realizes that her anger expressed to her husband isn’t really about his forgetting to text or getting late waking in the morning.

Those little things about her husband only trigger the rage she has bottled up over her daughter’s estrangement that she’s powerless to change.

While waiting for her daughter to return, she works through her emotional trauma wounds. She tries to be a better person and learn from her mistakes.

Mona then chooses to get positive. View her daughter’s alienation from a different perspective. And get on living well, even while she and her husband wait.

Gratitude is one of those things that helps Mona be empowered to move on from her emotional hurts.

Mona is thankful that her husband loves her and is patient. She feels gratitude to God for His financial blessings and the sweetness of her stepdaughter and stepson who care for her as well as the presence of her many friends.

Be thankful. There is always something to be thankful for in our lives.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Know What’s Real ... and What’s Fake

What is real ... and what is fake?

I heard that there is a technology called “deep fake.” It gives power even to amateurs or non-techies to catch images and voices of famous people to produce real fake video clips.

I think we can witness its frequent use in social media, such as in FB, to spread fake news about celebrities, politicians, and others.

Interestingly, the real and the fake look similar. Like in Facebook, information and disinformation can do look the same.

The only difference is, it’s the fake or disinformation that gets more profits and attention!

Nowadays, millions of people buy and even enjoy what’s fake. Fake iPhones. Fake Nike. Fake Rolex. There are even fake brain pharmaceutical drugs!

What things can we believe now with our eyes and ears? The world abounds with fake.

In psychotherapy or life recovery, we need to know how to differentiate between what’s real ... and what’s fake.

Psychopathology and mental health breakdowns are essentially the result of “fake news” lodged deeply into the brain of a person.

The fake creates chaos and damage to the overall well being of a person when left uncorrected.

Accurate verification of what’s real and what’s fake inside our minds then spells a big difference between life or death.

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