Tuesday, October 25, 2016

All The Wasted Time

A woman patient filed a police report and legal case against her long-time live-in partner. It's for physical injury and the RA law on violence against women. She was physically assaulted and seriously wounded by her alcoholic, sex-addicted, and violent partner.

The worst part of it is all the wasted time. She let it happen to her for many years. Finally, she has decided to give up on him if he won't choose rehabilitation. She left him and pursued legal remedy when the needed change becomes a matter of life and death.

I'm reminded of another patient whose heart began to beat erratically because of overwork. At risk of a fatal heart attack, he shared that he can't believe that he put his job before his family, friends, his health - everything. All he cared about was making money.

This patient was "lucky" that he's still breathing when he started thinking these thoughts! Now, everything he took for granted before becomes so precious. When his wife and daughters come to care for him, he'd cry profusely as soon as he sees them. 

All the wasted time! I can't imagine the regrets countless broken patients feel about their lives. No one can give them back all the days of their life spent boozing, abusing, or hurting themselves and their relationships. Why did they have to wait until everything gives out, collapses?

Indeed, nothing compares with emergencies, traumas, and pains in catalyzing rapid changes in life perspective. Realignment of life priorities often happens during times of exigency. For a lot of people, this is true. It compels them to finally assess their expended years for the "real" content of life they hope to live.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How Do You Bring Up Your Child When You're A Child Yourself?

Once, during a quiet evening, I saw and heard this over TV Channel 7 broadcast, "Paano ka mag-aalaga ng bata kung ikaw ay bata rin?"

It struck me a lot. A therapeutic question! How indeed do you bring up your child when you're a child yourself?

 That question gave me one of my most insightful points during a self parenting seminar that I did in a large, South Manila-based school. Around a hundred people or more came (fathers and mothers, teachers, principal, guidance counselors, including the wives of the municipality's mayor and congressman).

It's a different kind of parenting seminar. That's because my focus was on the parents themselves and not on the children. In the seminar, I shared about inner healing and character formation of the parents first before they can apply healthy parenting techniques to their children.

I also shared about my own parenting journey. My ups and downs. My mistakes and joys. More than a psychotherapist, I'm a human father with three children. I've known and experienced how essential it is to be an "adult father," not a "child father."

I hope to reach out to more parents in this area of "self-parenting." I'm not an expert on child rearing techniques (others can more effectively teach that!). But I believe I've been raised in a unique way to teach well on how to "parent one's self" and heal the "inner child" as a foundation for authentic, longterm, healthy parenting of children.

I know. I've been there. And I'm thankful for the opportunity to experience it first-hand myself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Controlling Your Bad Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of our life. But stress, if not properly coped with, turns bad or unhealthy to our health - physically, emotionally, and psychologically

When stress is bad, it leads to a host of ailments. High blood pressure, among medical conditions. Sleep deficits. Addictions. Relational breakdowns. Mental health disorders.

Let me share here below a few specific things or steps we can take to control "bad stress:"

1.   Find out information about what's exactly going on.

2.   Let your feelings out through healthy channels.

3.   Make time for play or recreation.

4.   Pay attention to your family and friends.

5.   Stay away from addictions when stressed - drugs, alcohol, smoking, food, sex, gambling, internet etc.

6.   Eat healthy.

7.   Focus on the positive.

8.   Be objective and realistic.

9.   Exercise regularly.

10. Find a hobby.

11. Pray.

12. Read and meditate on the Word.

13. Celebrate every success.

14. Develop your faith in the Higher Power.

15. Call on a friend.

16. Read.

17. Take a walk to nature.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Healing of Manny Pacquiao

A few days ago, I was in a meeting and dinner with Manny Pacquaio. It's in his Forbes Park home in Makati. There were some actors, from showbiz. Emerging from traffic, he arrived into the room where we were. Apologizing. He appeared hungering to come and see us.

A few seconds after, he sat quietly on the floor, smiling at his guests. With closed eyes moments later, he sang and listened to Scriptures and prayed. The rest of his guests and large entourage of assistants/handlers sensed the deep change in this man. A humble and gracious guy - this man Manny!

If you knew Manny before, he was an "addict." Women. Gambling. Alcohol. Drugs. Money. Fame. You name it, according to him, he tried all sorts of "addictive agent" to find satisfaction. In the doctors' DSM manual of mental disorders, addiction is a type of mental disorder or psychopathology. Unknowingly, that's what Manny suffered from.

With tons of money, he could get or buy anything. Yet, looking back as Manny shared, all of these "profits from the world" left him feeling stranded. He remained chronically dissatisfied despite everything he owned. His sadness and emptiness filled him with dread as his own surface deteriorated. Satiation, or running out of wants, is indeed a living death.

As a psychotherapist, I move within the limitations of human language. Crises and traumas are my allies. They hasten the process of discovery more than all the reasoning and analysis I can muster. My richest sessions occur when my patients are feeling empty and suffering a lot. This void always precedes significant change.

What happened to Manny Pacquaio? How did he heal from his broken, addicted past? What made him able to avoid the tragedy of "unlived life" still inside him?

Out of his emptiness and dissatisfaction, Manny would recollect, he derived readiness for the arrival of his new self when the Word was shared to him. One biblical psychotherapy verse can describe what happened to him: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

Manny's heart and mind was changed. He got the "secret" of true, lasting psychotherapy.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Aging Well

It can sound rude to ask a person his or her age. In a world of youth-centric societies and media, a lot who are aging may take offense. Psychologically and emotionally, some people are simply not ready to accept or feel proud being a "senior citizen."

One time, I was crossing a street where I saw a "multi-colored" woman. Her face  was filled with lipstick and makeups. Dressing in a miniskirt with rainbow colors, topped by shining jewelry, she walked the street like a teenager. The thing is, her facial features and physique showed obvious signs of her age. She's possibly around age 60 or 65 - a senior citizen who appears like an adult teenager!

Gloria Diaz, the first-ever Filipina to be crowned Miss Universe, is proud to be 65. In her newspaper interview over at The Philippine Star I'd been reading this morning, she said, "When we were younger, our main focus is ourselves. Whatever we're doing, it's about us, our clothes, our shoes, where we're going. But as you get older, your focus shifts to your kids. And then it moves to your grandchildren. And then your partner. You become the last priority of yourself. All of a sudden, you realize your own mortality. You know that you have to eat well, sleep well, and you need fewer things."

Gloria also remarked on a few more things she learned as she takes her journey to aging. "When you get to my age, you're more relaxed. Before I would wear high heels, girdles, now I don't have to. These days, I enjoy wearing rubber shoes or 'step-in.'"  She then added having a personal relationship with the Lord is her most important secret to successful aging.

We can all learn to age well and be healthy. We make the most of the time that remains. There is this awareness that we are simply not immortal. We prepare for the best life to come! 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Smiles and Your Brain

One of my recent sessions was filled with joy. A couple, who used to experience bitterness, rage, and anger towards each other learned to smile a lot at each other. With that, they discovered how much they're capable to feeling kind and compassionate to each other, struggling though they may be. A cheerful smile became medicine to their marriage.

Smiles have a therapeutic effect on our brain chemistry, according to experts. Researchers have found out that "when we smile, it releases brain chemicals called 'endorphins' which have an actual physiological relaxing effect." They say that smiles not only diffuse crisis or tense situations in relationships. They also diffuse tension within our selves.

Have you ever witnessed people using foul language, with rising tempers or careless behaviors towards each other? They usually have stern, frowning faces. Some are used to brawling and slander. They threaten or damage relationships and themselves. Their emotions as well as the way they react to situations are out of control. And they seldom smile. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with unsmiling, joyless faces.

So, the next time you felt so angry with someone or because of an argument, remember how it affects your health and well being. Look instead at the bright side of things. Tap that part of you inside that feels lighter and cheery. Smile. It can do wonders.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Choosing Kindness

I'm reminded of Aldous Huxley, a noted writer-philosopher. He was dying. At his deathbed, he was asked what words and wisdom he would like to tell and leave to the world. He replied, "I wish people would be kinder to each other."

What does "kindness" mean? Here's what "kindness" means if we go by the American Heritage Dictionary: "of a friendly nature, generous or hospitable, warmhearted, good, charitable, helpful, showing understanding or sympathy, humane, considerate, tolerant."

Heeding Huxley's words, I feel how much it applies to our society in general. Reading recent local news, for example, we can witness a lot of unkindness. Government leaders fuming mad and assassinating each other's characters in public. They all speak of healing our country. But how does a country heal when leadership is ruled by poisonous emotions, tongue, behavior, and self-perception? Sadly, the practice of kindness in our country, and even in the rest of the world, resembles a drought.

When I think of the numerous men and women who see me in the psychotherapy session, I never fail to see their eyes glistening with held-back or free-flowing tears. In relating their stories, they react with poignant sadness. Often, they remember that kindness was nonexistent in the growing up period of their lives. And goodness! How much they hunger and yearn for their parents to show more kindness to them and each other.

I usually tell them it's ok not to be ok. To feel sad about the unkindness they've experienced in their lives. Even weep for the kindness they did not receive from their parents or others when they were children. But, they need to learn to let go, eventually. They need to learn to grieve completely their unprocessed pains. And then, use their present lives and relationships as a "second chance" to experience the kindness they did not have.

Kindness heals. Choose it for your self and others.

Monday, September 19, 2016

OFWs and Their Left-Behind Kids

"Parenting and providing are two different things," is one of the remarks I made during my recent television interview last week over at Ikonsulta Mo GMK UNTV. Congressman Erin, the TV program's senior host, was asking me on the impact on parenting of parents going overseas for work on their left-behind children. To that I painted a not-so-good picture of the psychological and social realities of the OFW phenomenon on the Filipino family.

I'm reminded of Maria who went to Dubai to work as an office employee. She left behind a 3-year old daughter and a 15-year-old son in the care of her husband. After 10 years as a migrant worker, Maria found herself husband-less with a drug-addicted, delinquent son who dropped out of school and a teenage daughter who became deeply depressed and suicidal that she had to be rushed for psychiatric treatment. Her husband had sexual affairs and impregnated one woman who happened to be a single mother.

Although dubbed as "Bayani" by the government for their remittances boosting the country's economy, the psychological and social costs of labor migration among Filipinos remain so increasingly  high. Statistics and studies show that the separation of family members from one or both parents working abroad have been linked to problems such as marital breakdowns/infidelity, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, early marriage of young children, and parental alienation. Dependency on money received abroad have also been implicated as contributing to families of migrants becoming materialistic, losing desire to work, and suffering mental health or relationship disorders.

Indeed, the economic well being of OFW families cannot be divorced from the conditions of nurturing the mental health of left-behind children. To address the known care deficits that always happened, it's crucial therefore for OFWs to be able to communicate with their left-behind children in healthy ways while overseas as well as educate themselves on the value and dynamics of true parenting given the sub-ideal family situation they find themselves in. The issue of surrogates or alternative caregivers is a significant area of development to better nourish the mental health and physical care of left-behind children.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Do You Have "Conflict-Phobia?"

Are you "abnormally" afraid of conflict or taking a stand?

A patient, Kelly, is depressed. She lacks sexual desire towards her husband. She actually feels distant emotionally from him. For years, Kelly’s husband tries to control her and treat her like a child. He’d complain about her clothes, her friends, her spending. He’d belittle her in front of their children and others.

Yet even though this bothers her so much, Kelly says very little about it to her husband because she doesn’t want to fight. By giving in to the unreasonable demands of her husband even early on prior to marriage, Kelly taught her husband that it’s ok to control and abuse her.

Many people have “conflict phobia.” They’d do everything to avoid it so as not to experience turmoil or conflict. But, this “conflict phobia” and avoidance only sets up any relationship for further turmoil rather than less.

The lesson? Learn the psychological steps to deal with conflict. Standing up to an abusive person, for instance, after years of giving in is very hard. Yet it’s essential for healing and saving the other person, your self, and the relationship. I’ve witnessed many patients who even after many years of giving in learn to take a stand for themselves and change their relationship.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Psychotherapy Without Borders

It used to be a traditional way. I once worked all the time in the office, with armchair and tools. But with it, the problem of the high costs of wasted time enduring more than a couple of hours travel each day to office. The cost of fuel, not factoring in medical costs of my increasing weight, blood pressure, traffic-anxiety, and fatigue, significantly reduced my joy and effectiveness.

I'm glad times have changed. With the growth of the mobile and the internet, society has progressively moved work channels from the physical to the digital. The lines between work and life are being erased in the process. Time and money are saved. The threat of burnout and mental health challenges get to be addressed. Distance is no longer a problem between people engaged in a working process.

Whenever I do Skype or phone sessions with counsellees from the Philippines, Qatar/Dubai, Australia, USA, Japan, or anywhere else around the world, I've come to feel that I'm more productive and refreshed working remotely than when sedentarily confined in a clinic cubicle. I'm glad I can do running or recharging while helping anyone, anywhere!

Productivity appears more in the comfort of home or natural environs of individuals engaged in life session. The domino effect is the natural fruit of seeing that the main value exists not in the structure of a fixed physical space of an office - but in the value of output made. I think I'm not alone in believing this to be so in our times.

The working world in general is more and more showing a a rising trend of decreased need for a central physical hub to do work. I'm reading US National Library of Medicine, which suggests that remote, digitally-based workers have higher performance outputs. The less office means increased productivity by up to 70%, according to Time Doctor Stats.

With technology spurring growth and saving costs, don't be surprised if you see me championing a non-traditional office-less "psychotherapy without borders." Via Skype or phone. Or, in coffee shops, beaches, or malls. It's organic. Natural life flow. Time/cost-effective. In short, a more healthy option towards your search for healing and wholeness in your life.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Dr. Frank and His Addiction

The addiction problem that afflicts millions of men and women around the world is smoking. Due to its heavy commercialization and widespread use, cigarettes are commonly accessible. After they've engaged in it, people from all stages of life have a hard time giving it up.

According to the WHO or World Health Organization, smoking is a leading cause of cancer and health deterioration all around the world. Based on medical and scientific studies, the nicotine in smoking, when one gets addicted to it, can result in a person's premature death. Worldwide statistics show this to be so.

Dr. Franki Oski, a smoking medical doctor, once wrote an article in 1979 in the New York Times, rationalizing that smoking was good for his health. Five years later, after having a heart attack at age 51, he wrote another article linking smoking to heart disease. Since his last serious heart attack, Dr. Frank had chosen to totally stop his addiction to nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive poison, like other specifically-known substances. It kills. It destroys heart and brain health. Yet it's sad that many still choose to get addicted to it, consume large amounts of the substance, despite its life-damaging consequences. For many, it becomes too late to change.

In the case of Dr. Frank, his unlearning his dependency to smoking was closely linked to his desire to live longer. He wanted to avoid another heart attack or stroke, escape premature death. As smoking ceased to be rewarding to Dr. Frank, other types of rewards take its place in his life.

There is hope to quit addiction. Any type, as a matter of fact. Do not wait until it's too late. Or, a lot of damage is already done. Value your one life. Not every one is given another chance to redeem mistakes and become whole again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Taking Responsibility For Your Self

Mental health and the matter of "willing and choosing" has a close linkage.  It's apparent, viewed from the perspective of self creation, healing, wholeness, action. I also call or describe this psychological principle as "taking responsibility for your self." As Sartre put it, we are the authors of ourselves.

A patient, Benjamin, has a recurring dark side to his mind in viewing his present predicament. He constantly blames others for his debts and business bankruptcy, his physical illnesses, and his family disintegration. And with avoidance of personal responsibility comes Benjamin's string of psychological disorders, such as anxiety panic attacks, depression, obsessive compulsions, and substance addictions.

Each one of us is a "constituter" of the world we find ourselves in. We author the form and meaning that we give not only to our internal but to the external world as well. We each process events, circumstances, and relationships in our lives through our own neurological and psychological apparatus. Through the accretion of these individual choices, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and our failures to act in constructive ways, we ultimately manufacture our selves and our worlds.

We cannot avoid this personal responsibility, this freedom of "willing and choosing" for our selves. No matter what happened to us, done to us, from the outside, we remain our own primal world "constituters." We remain responsible for our own response and existence -- nobody else. Those who deny, ignore, or become unwilling to take responsibility for themselves end up remaining sick or stuck. Such principle is a highly essential visible denizen in all psychotherapy treatment.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Out Of The Mud Grow The Lotus


I think of this Chinese saying, "Out of the mud grow the lotus."

It's applicable to each one of us who rose above dysfunctional backgrounds or traumatic life experiences.

You might think that men and women are already damaged for life because they've experienced very hurtful, abusive childhoods, marriages, or relationships.

Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

Brian is a single father with three grown children. His wife committed adultery and deserted their marriage. Instead of wallowing in depression, Brian sought out help for his problems. The brokenness became a creative place for him to heal and grow.

In the course of his recovery, Brian learned to be a better father and be intimate with his kids, not like his own father. He has become a successful entrepreneur and writer. Brian has also become recognized in the media and international circles for his work on life recovery.

Perfected saints are for heaven. But here on earth, we are all fallible human beings. We all have the free will to overcome adversities, make better choices if we determine to do so.

There is promise in the pain. It can be the best thing that ever happened in your life. Make sure you catch it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dina and Tim

When Dina and her husband Tim consulted me for the first time, I tried to support them in becoming clear about what they're hearing and saying to each other. Unfortunately, Tim can't help but be verbally abusive of Dina during our session. He'd call her names, constantly accusing and blaming her. Needless to say, Tim remained feeling justified in escalating horrifically his verbal assaults of Dina and shifting his responsibility onto her.   

As Dina moved on in her personal recovery process, things got different. She realized that the issue was not her not being affectionate or understanding enough. It was not her not being able to listen or explain things to Tim. Nor was it because she was failing as a woman or as a person. The issue was verbal abuse.

For the first time in her marriage, Dina saw that she was not to blame for the abuse. She's not responsible for any part of it. Her husband Tim was the perpetrator. With this emergent awareness on her part, Dina felt empowered. She's able to re-frame her thoughts and feelings, and devise a behavioral plan, based on a more accurate reading of reality.

Surely, unless Tim chooses to look into himself, he will not perceive his abuse and lack. If he does decide to look into his own inner "beast," he will witness a life spent, not in living, but in hiding his self from himself. Unless Tim actively seeks personal rehabilitation through the hard work of therapy, he will live a "nonlife." This is his own personal tragedy.

In the meantime, Dina is healing and evolving. She's one of those Michael White referred to when he once wrote, "I experience inspiration from the steps that people take to dispossess the perpetrators of their authority, the steps that people take in reclaiming the territory of their lives, in the refashioning of their lives, in having the 'last say" about who they are."

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Search for Intimacy

In my practice, I always sense that concerns about intimacy and connection can masquerade in sexual garb. Infidelity. Sexual addiction. Pornography. Homosexuality, lesbianism. Something about sex makes one feel some type of connection, an anti-thesis to the wounding, lack, or loss of vital relationship.

While speaking to Noel, he shared how compulsively he'd go into sex with multiple women and even men in times of internal distress. He said he feels so dirty whenever he does so yet he finds himself out of control doing what he doesn't want to do. It's been his "fix" since youth when his father and mother separated and abandoned him.

It's not uncommon to those who have suffered psychological, emotional, or even physical abandonment or abuse to find sources of relief. Many individuals, deprived of proper amounts of intimacy or connection to "significant others" find themselves pervasively occupied with sexual thoughts. A study of men and women wounded by the trauma of abandonment documents increased sexual content in their thoughts and behaviors.

The French term for "orgasm" is "la petite niort." It means "little death." It signifies an orgasmic loss of self, which eliminates the pain of separateness. The high seems to be on the feeling or experience of the lonely "I" vanishing into the merged "we" of the sexual act.

Perhaps this explains a root of this type of psychological disorder.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Healing From A Broken Home

In the current world Olympics in Rio, Brazil, my attention was caught by one now being touted as the "best athlete in the world" - 19-year-old Simone Biles. She has become the most decorated gold medalist in World Olympics gymnastics history.

Getty NBC Olympics describes her in varied ways: "Best ever." "The perfect 10." "The best gymnast in history." "Unbeatable." "Stunning." "Breathtaking." "A legend in the making."

It usually takes a lot of foundational support and resources since childhood to produce one like Simone. In my mind, this little girl may have come from a well-privileged and affluent family, which provides all that's needed to develop a champion athlete. A set of loving father and mother who love, guide, and encourage her. The best the world has to offer in terms of mentors, trainings, and logistics.

I was inaccurate.

Simone and her siblings were born into a fatherless, drug-abusing family. Her father abandoned her mother and was never present in Simone's life as well as that of her siblings. In her childhood, Simone and her 3 siblings were shuffled back and forth between their addict-mother's house and a foster home.

Until she was adopted by a loving Christian family in Texas USA. That made the difference. Simone was saved in time by positive role models and surrogate parents who raised her. It's encouraging to note that there is always new hope for children of broken homes. It's a myth that one becomes a "permanent loser" when originated from a broken family.

In my exploration of Simone's life from adoption onwards, I wondered about her starting point of becoming an achiever rather than a clone of her biological parents. I found out that she remains forgiving, humble, and forward-looking. She has learned to separate out her mother and father's problems from hers. She has become determined never to repeat what she saw her parents do to themselves.

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Elephant, Mr. Scrooge: Healing Lessons

After my session with a wounded couple two days ago, my mind seemed to have been visited by images of the “elephant.” The elephant is the largest land animal on earth. And one of the most powerful. Yet i’d been reflecting that it takes only one rope to restrain one big elephant.
Here is how it works, as I reflect further.
When the elephant was a “child” or young, he is tied to a large tree. For weeks, the young elephant will strain, protest, pull but the rope holds him fast to the tree. So eventually, the elephant gives up. Then, when the elephant reaches his full size and strength, he won’t struggle or choose to get free. Once he feels resistance, he stops.
Why is this so, I thought. 
The huge elephant still believes that he is held captive. He still thinks that he does not have the capacity or power to choose and break free.
That story is very much like our journey to heal our wounded inner child. When stuck, we are all called to leave childhood and our mother and father, so we can enter and live fully our adulthood.
A second image entered my mind after my recent session. It’s Mr. Scrooge! That unhealed, wretched man in the Christmas Carol story. Well, Mr Scrooge did not become a new, healed man because of Christmas cheer. Rather I was reflecting that his transformation occurs when the spirit of the future permits him to witness his own death and strangers squabbling over his possessions.
Well, the healing message behind Mr. Scrooge’s story is simple and profound: Though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us. 
In the sessions that I worked with terminally ill patients, I witness a great many, facing death or the years diminishing, underwent significant and positive personal change. They re-prioritized their values and started to trivialize the trivia in their lives. Internal wounds melt away, they found true meaning of life in their remaining years, which are not that many.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Treating The Psychological Cancer of Drug Addiction

In a recent TV interview with UNTV's host, Congressman E.Tanada, I was asked about why people become addicts. My answer is not one usual expected standard response, such as poverty or other external forces.

I spoke of internal things, such as "feeling" or experience that an addict is after when using drugs, not the substance itself. Drug addiction is often an internal experience: fear, passivity, irresponsibility, preoccupation with negative emotions, lack of self confidence, and avoidance of life's challenges.

Drugs then is not the real problem! Drugs do not make a person psychopathic, delinquent, or anti-social. Rather people choose to use drugs because drugs allow them to feel and experience something. The drugs allow them to act in ways they need or want to. Drug addiction is not the results of the drug taken, but of a breakdown in a person's values and capacities. An addicted person needs to learn to see that he or she, and not the drug, controls his or her consciousness and emotionality.

So, for a drug addict to truly heal, he or she must go into the very internal "roots" of his or her psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. The traditional rehabilitation protocol where the focus is commonly pasted to the surface of things, such as housing or funding them, is not enough. At best, it's temporary or stop gap, whose effects fade away along with the memories of the program, when a recovering addict leaves a facility.

Values heal addiction. Values, life coping abilities, and emotional wellness directly contradict the experience of drug addiction. The focus is on the totality of the natural life processes of a person, not on the addiction itself. The issue is not whether a drug addict will take drugs again. It is whether his or her life is felt and experienced as something more than drugs. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mental Illness or Demonic Possession?

One time, years ago, Bea, a young girl who was present in a group session I was conducting, suddenly fell down. She was beside me when her strange behavior happened. On the floor, she wiggled, groaned, and cried as if being supernaturally possessed or attacked. 

It took some time to pacify her until we’re able to bring her home. Inside their house, I noticed a woman lying on a stretcher bed looking at me and moving in strange ways. She’s Bea’s mother, long bedridden as a psychiatric patient.

As a psychotherapist, I diagnose psychological and emotional disorders. But unlike secular psychologists and psychiatrists, I also assess and spot supernatural, demonic possession. One of my specializations is distinguishing the difference between these two phenomena – mental illness and demonic possession.

This is the essence of holistic mental health work. You’re not merely pasted to the surface of things, but you’re also attuned to the non-natural sources of mental or behavioral breakdowns.

Bea’s is a case that calls for this type of differentiation as she is treated. Skeptical though some may be, there is a close link between mind, body, and spirit. Psychotherapy, to be holistic, must be a blend of psychology and spirituality for the healing of the total person.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Psychotherapy Through Skype

Distance is dead!

I was having an emotionally-charged psychotherapy session with a foreign couple when the woman partner told me she's moving back to her home country. She could not bear the infidelity of her man. We were both disappointed. Sessions had been going well, but incomplete. No significant momentum yet. 

Then, a few days after, she phoned me. She thought of a practical alternative - session via Skype. This provided her hope and continuity, which she needed a lot during that time. It's like face to face too such as in traditional sessions. The medium of video and voice conferencing through Skype then became instrumental for her eventual healing and stabilization - personally and relationally. 

We do live in a different time now. With the fast rise of Internet and technology, psychotherapy and other mental health services have been moving in with the times. For the final sessions with this hurting couple, we did meet in person again, which felt like a more appropriate way to end the sessions. 

Both the couple and myself felt "upbeat" and at ease. Such seemed to be a reflection of our Skype sessions at processing issues and maintaining therapist-patient relationship. We commented that our face to face sessions did not feel that much different from our previous Skype sessions.
Overall, I think that being able to continue our sessions via Skype was incredibly useful for both the patient and me. Distance was no longer an obstacle to heal. In both my and the couple patient’s opinion the therapy had been successful. Skype played a role in this. 

The use Skype and other modern forms of distance communication technologies could improve access to psychotherapies for people living in remote areas or foreign countries. It's helpful to those who are busy traveling or working, those housebound, disabled, or bedridden. In my observation and opinion, the role of online therapy delivery is going to expand and is likely to continue to do so due to people's needs and our changing times.

... learn more about Psychotherapy Through Skype by dropping a note at Skype I.d.= drangelosubida

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Coping With Your Self

You  have a huge problem. Someone blames or judges you. Your emotions run high. Suddenly, you experience heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. You find your self unable to continue the conversation any longer. You burst into out of control rage and hurting words. You stood up and walked away. You've broken down.

A personal healing resource is the need to properly "cope with your self" in times of life stress and problem solving. It begins with a calm, objective assessment of your situation. You approach a problem realistically. You maintain emotional balance. If each new stressful situation or crisis threatens your emotional equilibrium, then you are unlikely to approach it sensibly. 

Rather effective "coping with your self" requires that you put your problems in perspective. You break them down into life-sized dimensions, analyze them, and plan action steps. This is called "framing." You take whatever steps are necessary to improve the situation or turn it around. Doing this will improve your mind and body. It means less room for heated situations to get out of hand.

All by itself, "coping with your self" is a crucial life skill. From childhood on, our life is a series of engagements with self. You may achieve some success in relationships and other aspects of life even though you don't effectively "cope with your self" and maintain emotional balance. But such is a messy, damaging road to take. In other words, "coping with your self" in a healthy way will benefit you greatly. It opens doors, and spares you from many unnecessary heartaches. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Values Heal Addiction

Contrary to claims of traditional treatment centers, simply admitting addiction and abstaining do little in themselves. It’s crucial that you know your values, what’s really important to you, for significant life change to happen.
A 50-year-old married patient, Orlando, for example, was a sex addict over half of his life. He habitually escaped to watching pornography and spending millions paying for sex with different women. When his wife has had enough and threatened to divorce him, he entered therapy and rehabilitation.
During sessions, he boasted of his abstinence for several months and no longer considering himself “sick.” Yet it evidenced that simply quitting his “sex addiction drug” without addressing his values don’t address the root or basis of his addiction.
Orlando, who used pornography and extra marital sexual affairs as outlet for his macho image, found other ways to manifest or express his addicted pattern even during abstinence. In session, he uttered words quite reminiscent of his sex addiction state — for example, revealing things like “I watch porn to deal with my stress,” “Since my wife is not changing, I think of having a girlfriend,” flirting with women in the mall, and constant masturbating.

Personal values, such as health, faithfulness, truth, self esteem, integrity, spirituality etc, are a kind of unrealized strength in therapy. To the extent that a patient possesses them, he or she is less likely to become addicted in the first place. And if there are any heavy emotional struggles, one with firm values are able to better surmount challenges life presents.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Surviving The Midlife Crisis

John is a 55-year-old founder and CEO of a billion-worth food company. Recently, for some reason, the board asked him to step down. This provoked a deep crisis and depression in John, which led him and his wife to see me.
John suddenly becomes so anxious and confused – not knowing what to do next and for his future. He sees a hole, an empty space. With his impending loss of status in his work, he feels lost.
The story of John is an example of a life transition. Although many people may label it a “midlife crisis,” Gene Cohen, author of the book “Creative Age,” favors calling it the “reevaluation phase.” Cohen believes that men in this phase like John benefit from reflecting on their lives.
The midlife, usually life after 50, is an invitation to listen to your self. To become reacquainted with one’s small, inner voice. It’s that small voice inside, crowded out by years of  busyness, that now needs nurturing.
When this is done, you thrive and not only survive on your midlife transition. You take the time necessary, the psychological space required for you to locate and listen to your still, small voice. And when you are guided by its wisdom, that helps you then redefine your self worth.

Monday, July 04, 2016

The Unfaithful Wife

A sobbing man recounted his story to me: "After over 20 years of marriage, I was truly surprised to discover that my wife was having an affair for years. Several times, I caught her communicating with the other man after promising to change. She lied, deceived, and falsified papers. To discredit me, she would also tell our son and daughter terrible lies to cover up her affair, greed, and fraud. Several days ago, she abandoned our house with all our money to live with the other man."

From this story, the wife has indeed gone to great lengths to create an adulterous and double life. This may had been her true character even prior to their marriage. The spiritual and psychological/emotional sins that cause a wife to behave this way couldn't have been corrected by more flowers, kind words, or income from the husband. She needs professional help, spiritual rehabilitation, and psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists and psychologists invariably call this a type of "character disorder." Next to psychoses, "character disorders" are one of the most difficult to deal with in psychotherapy. In divorce court proceedings, the adultery and deception reflected in the character of the wife can be used to provide evidences to prove "psychological incapacity" in marriage.

Is there therapy and hope for the unfaithful wife? Yes - spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Besides psychotherapy, her therapy lies in her recognizing and repenting of her offenses and disrespect of marriage and family. If she won't, she'll continue to deceive and damage herself, her family, as well as others. 

We're Fellow Travelers

I am your fellow traveler. Yes, I may be your therapist. But we belong to the same road. We choose to trek the same destination. We share a common world and basic experiences along the way.

This realistic view of life influences my work and relationship to those who seek my help. The "therapist" and "patient" relationship is a human journey. So I prefer to think of my self  and of my "patients" as "fellow travelers."

As I have progressed through my own life, I realize how imperfect I am. I commit mistakes. I have my share of wounds and pains. I too find my self struggling in certain areas of my thinking, feeling, and behaving. I experience circumstances where I don't have control, except my self. Truly, we are all in this together. And there is no therapist and no person immune to the inherent tragedies of existence.

Dr. Eric Fromm, the noted psychotherapist, often cited Terence's statement from thousands of years ago when teaching students, "I am human and let nothing human be alien to me." That urges me to be a "fellow traveler" to my "patients." It opens me to that part of my self that corresponds to a wound, struggle, or fantasy offered by patients. No matter how violent, lustful, or horrific.

With that, my being a "fellow traveler" vastly enhances my ability to look out the patient's world. And hopefully, the patient out into mine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Where I Differ From The "Disease Model" of Mental Health

When I reviewed the studies on psychiatric drugs and treatments most commonly used for mental health patients, I found very little or no evidence of effectiveness. The "disease model" of psychiatry and mainstream medicine does not work. In fact, numerous patients even got worse and a number of human rights legal cases have even been filed against brain drugs over the decades.

Why are people so readily satisfied with the short cuts and simplifications of the medical disease model of mental health?  It seduces us to our wish for a quick fix and instant gratification that does not require us to struggle with life issues -- as if changing our lives are as simple as popping a pill or abstaining from an addicting substance or activity. It gives the appearance of magic.

In addition, although insights from psychotherapy can be useful tools, I see a need to go beyond them too. You will surely need to work on your addiction or psychological disorder specifically. But what I believe the most crucial work is lies in what you need to think, feel, and do in regard to the direction of your overall life, of which addiction or a mental health problem is just one expression.

To heal beyond the drug-based or disease model concentrates on strengthening the "life skills" a person needs to replace an addiction or emotional dysfunction with deeper satisfactions and better ways of coping. These include personal, marital, and family therapy;  emotional and social skills training;  job skills; spiritual life savers;  and stress management. Then, there is what I call a "community reinforcement approach" or involvement in therapeutic groups where people's lives are addressed as a whole as well as their addictions.

The ultimate goal is "whole life" natural recovery and transformation -- which disease-oriented treatment says is impossible. There is no reason why you are unable to shed the "addict identity," for instance, and altogether put your self permanently on a new, healthy plane of existence. It is within reach. If you believe it, and act on that belief.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Are You Enmeshed With Your Parents?

Adult children of "poisonous parents" can have so much need for parental approval. As a result, it prevents them from being grown-ups and living their fullest potential. They may appear adult already, but they don't feel like one. They remain enmeshed with their parents way past the time of normal human development.

Glenn learned early in life that he has a mother who takes charge of things for him. From personal allowances to schooling and relationships, his mother would interfere and dictate to him what to do. Despite his mother's verbal negativity and control, Glenn felt comfort as she showered him with gifts and cash. He spent his entire childhood searching for the holy grail of always pleasing his mother. This type of relationship then that Glenn has with his mother kept him bonded to her long after he reached adulthood.

As difficult as it may be to accept, Glenn's kind of relationship with his mother is self-defeating. He never grows up and acts like a grown-up. The enmeshment Glenn has with his mother prevents him from being a separate and independent adult person. It increases his dependency and robs him of his adult power. Majority of his life decisions have become based on how his mother would feel. So, since it's his mother's approval and feelings that always come first, she remains in the driver's seat of Glenn's adult life.

Are you still enmeshed with your parent?  If so, understanding this enmeshment and your feelings is an essential step to putting a stop to self defeating, immature behaviors!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Until When Is This Therapy?

A patient, Rowena, once asked, "Until when is this therapy?" It's a common query. But in the case of Rowena, it's a premature question reflecting her current state or progress.

Psychotherapy requires enough momentum and continuity to reach goals and breakthroughs. It's therapeutic to have patience for the entire healing process to come full circle.

While the outcome of any intervention cannot be guaranteed, there are indicators to determine your needed length of time for therapy and counseling.

Let me give you some general rules of thumb for these indicators:

* If you are severely distressed with multiple issues, you will need longer length of time for internal work.

* If you're suffering from an addiction for years (e.g. drugs, sex, gambling, food) and your life-damaging effects/consequences are increasing, you can expect therapy to take longer.

* When there is deep emotional/physical trauma (e.g. divorce, affair, rape, crime, disaster losses), unprocessed pains need more time to sort out and heal.

*  Therapy is shorter if you're able to have a good enough function in your daily life despite the stresses or problems you're facing. You feel safe with enough support around you.

In regard to frequency of the sessions, again it depends on the level of severity of your psychological state or "wounding" condition. If the need is strong as in the case of major trauma events where distress is extremely high, at least once a week of counseling/therapy is recommended. If your concern is not severe or you're just doing "top-up" or maintenance to consolidate gains, then a monthly or fortnightly session can be a healthy dose.

A common block in therapy is the unrealistic addiction to "quick hit," "fix," or "rush." In this age of instant gratification, people look for "magic" or "fast food" even in healing deep emotional and psychological wounds. Quite a number leave therapy prematurely or go for surface, short-term relief of drugs or external diversions. As a result, no matter how fast they go, they make no progress. The key to permanent recovery is embracing the process of recovery rather than expecting a one-time event.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How To Spot Relapse Progression

Many recovering people as well as their family or circle of support tend to believe that if one is in abstinence or stopping a bad habit, his recovery is fine. This is a mistake. The relapse syndrome and process start even long before the addicted person begins using! Remember that addiction or any bad habit operates silently within you. The symptoms of an addictive disease do not stop with abstinence.  So, for a certain period of time, a recovering person may not be aware of the progression of relapse because it's taking place subconsciously.

One patient, David, nearly lost his family because of his shabu and alcohol use. He went into treatment, doing personal psychotherapy and 12 step groups, when his wife and children moved out of the house. They only agreed to return when David agreed to get treatment. For months, he was restless and irritable. He began smoking and drinking coffee heavily, and has since engaged in gambling regularly via the Internet. His wife discovered that David is seldom around and has left again.

David's is a case of "cross addiction," one of the warning signs of relapse. Cross addiction to "acceptable legal drugs" such as nicotine, caffeine, or e-gambling, allows the process of relapse - dysfunction in sobriety and abstinence - to take its course. When this progresses, it may be a matter of time before an acute relapse episode occurs. This is the not-so-obvious side of the disease. The abstinence-based side of the disease can be as destructive as the drug-use-based side. And you are even more helpless when the relapse occurs because it's a generally misunderstood and unrecognized aspect of recovery.

Now if you know how to spot the relapse progression even during sobriety, you can take steps to interrupt it. Constructive rather than destructive options are available. And when you get into this direction, you'll recognize that you do have choices. According to clinical rehabilitation and addictionology research, there are common abstinence-based relapse warning signs to watch out for.

Here below are some of them:

*  increased stress
*  change in thinking and feelings and behaviors
*  worrying about my self
*  denying that I'm stressed and worried
*  avoidance and defensiveness
*  not putting enough energy into my recovery
*  more concerned about the sobriety of others than about my personal recovery
*  cross addictions like smoking, eating, gambling, money spending etc
*  controlling conversations by talking too much
*  "playing therapist" but reluctant to talk about own personal struggles and problems
*  making excuses and blaming others for problems
*  compulsive about being alone or making excuses to stay away from other people
*  loss of constructive planning
*  daydreaming and wishful thinking
*  exaggerating small problems and blowing them out of proportion
*  immature perceptions about being happy
* difficulty in managing emotions
*  irregular attendance at therapy and group sessions
*  strained relationships with family and friends
*  irregular eating habits, difficulty sleeping restfully
*  loss of daily structure
*  periods of depression
*  "I don't care" attitude
*  open rejection of help
*  conscious lying
*  loss of self confidence
*  short term binge or attempted use of chosen "drugs"

When Society Is Diseased

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

Would that be so difficult for you to grasp?

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

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

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

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

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

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