Monday, June 29, 2015

Life Is Brief

When I was much younger, I used to play chess a lot. My eventually becoming a youth champion chess player was due to the inspiration of one man and his games on the artistic side of my mind.

He was brilliant. Clearly a child prodigy ... the pride of Brooklyn ... considered the greatest world chess champion who ever lived. His official name was Robert James Fischer.


He was 64 when he passed on. He was then living in isolation in Iceland and in exile from his home country, the USA. He carried a lot of unresolved personal issues, unprocessed pains, that affected him deeply. He died with a psychotherapist by his bedside, holding his hand. 

By the time everyone in the world bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was already set in an obscure place. No grand flowers or candles to burn. No funeral service, no tourists to gather. 


Fischer has joined the ages of eternity - forever absent from our eyes. He is gone.

Life is brief. Incredibly brief. Okay, you and I are still alive. What are we to do with the limited supply of time we have - no matter how short or how long the years appear to be?  Should we spend and invest it in something good or in something bad? ... in something life-giving or in something life-damaging?  

As the Psalmist put it, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (90:12).

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reasoning With Your Self

"I'm stupid, no good." "My situation is hopeless." "It may be true for other people but not for me." "Nothing works, I give up."

The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, summed up his prescription for mental health long ago: "Men are disturbed not by things but by the view which they take of them." In Shakespeare's Hamlet, we catch the same point, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck was founder of CT or Cognitive Therapy, possibly the most extensively clinically investigated of all psychotherapies. Dr. Beck believed that if you could reason persistently with anyone going through mental or emotional breakdown - or better yet, get one to reason with himself or herself - you could help free the person from the stranglehold of negative, distorted thinking.

Reasoning with your self, the cognitive therapeutic approach, therefore, is to change your point of view. It invites your self to be more critically aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that depress you. It directs you to systematically challenge the validity of your thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic alternatives. By persisting, you can gradually lift your self out of mental disorder or internal anguish.

Ready now to "talk back" to your automatic thoughts?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Healing Your Depression Naturally

Depression. 

It's often described as the "common cold" of mental illness. For most of us, the condition is not merely a theory. We know what it's like to struggle with it in varying degrees. And feel that nothing seems to help.


Brain or psychiatric drugs can be damaging to your mental health. Know your alternatives. There are safer, more natural approaches that can turn your depression off like a switch. 

Here below is my list of different treatments or tools you can use to heal your depression naturally. They have been studied and tested scientifically and psychologically and are found to be useful.

1.   Take a complete physical exam to rule out any medical causation;
2.   Avoid toxic substances from environment or outside to enter your body that contribute to mood poisoning;
3.   Eat healthy foods, such vegetables, fruits etc
4.   Get into the orthomolecular approach or megavitamin therapy;
5.   Balance your minerals (e.g. Potassium, magnesium, sodium etc) to balance emotions;
6.   Take herbs known for psychological healing and antidepressant effects (e.g. St Johns wort, ginkgo biloba, oats, ginseng);
7.   Select homeopathy for solution;
8.   Seek formal psychotherapy, especially when severe or out of control;
9.   Take light therapy and cure;
10.  Take the sleep and rest cure;
11.  Know how to shift your body clock back into sync;
12.  Exercise (e.g. Running, walking, gym workouts etc) to exorcise the blues;
13.  Get relief from bio energetic body massage;
14.  Practice deep breathing, meditation, and prayer exercises;
15.  Get more active in your daily schedule with productive activities;
16.  Reason with your self and applying self talk techniques;
17.  Expand your circles of social support for interpersonal healing;
18.  Take Word medicine (e.g. Words of encouragement, hope; read Bible);
19.  Go to church and listen to music and messages;
20.  Cultivate a new hobby or artistic activity (e.g. Painting, writing, music etc)


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Healthy Choices, Harmful Choices

Suppose you have very high blood pressure. Because of lots of stress as well as eating foods too high in cholesterol and fat content over time, you're now facing a risk for heart attack and stroke. The unhealthy condition in your physical body was produced by your unhealthy lifestyle and bad health habits.

What will solve this problem? Well, the solution will be for you to cut down on your cholesterol and fat as well as reduce and manage your levels of daily stress. In addition, doctors will prescribe active exercise, vegetables and fruits, and periodic physical checks on the condition for possible medication if needed.

What is the way out of an illness or problem created by unwise, harmful choices?  Wise, healthy choices. And who is primarily responsible for making wise, healthy choices?  The person who has made unwise, harmful choices.

Consider Tina who saw me a few times for personal therapy because her husband wanted to separate from her already. According to her account, her part was she had always been neglectful, angry, and verbally/physically abusing of her husband. What is the solution for Tina's need and problem? A big part, of course, is healing herself, managing her anger, and choosing to stop her destructive behaviors towards her husband. Who is responsible for making those wise, healthy choices? Tina, herself.

After learning more deeply about her self and resolving to change, her husband volunteered to come over to join his wife for marital therapy. Tina had opportunity to make wise, healthy choices. If she had always been angry, calmness and self-restraint need to prevail. If unkind, verbally abusive words had been a pattern, kind words need to be spoken. Unfortunately, in the session, Tina chose to revert back to her own old pattern where she began raging, kicking chairs, threatening and verbally abusing her husband again. As a result, her husband walked out and finally decided to separate from her.

Through unwise, harmful choices, we create problems or needs in our lives. In a certain sense, we are all capable of generating much of our own suffering and misery. And we learn what we all learn or experience in life: bad choices produce bad consequences.   

"We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with."   (C. S. Lewis)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Unconditional Love

We live in a world where love is mostly conditional - based on looks, performance, or possessions. A lot of people, particularly mental health patients, grow up believing that something is terribly defective at the center of their being. So they hide who they really are in the hope of receiving love. Feeling unlovable and lonely, they set up defenses against sharing their true selves, their innermost feelings, with anybody.


Fyodor Dostoyevksy, author of the classic "War and Peace," describes the feeling when he wrote, "I am convinced that the only hell which exists is the inability to love." Because people who have never experienced unconditional love always feel a profound emptiness, they perceive all relationships or activities as getting what they're deprived of to fill a vaguely understood void within. They give love only on the condition that they get something in return.

As a psychotherapist who have journeyed with countless individuals, I feel that all mental health disease is ultimately connected to a lack of love. Or, to a kind of love that is basically conditional or performance-based. This is very exhausting to the body's immune system. Such kind of psychological and emotional need is capable of producing physical symptoms or sickness. This is strikingly borne out of the stories too of numerous patients who go to the hospital for treatment of whatever medical condition.

Unconditional love is a healing key. In my sessions, when I'm able to get people to accept themselves as they are, lovable despite externals, they become able to heal fast and give to others from within an inner strength. This is true, especially when they realize that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18) and the source where they can get it. They understand that unconditional love multiplies itself whether or not it's returned. As Walt Whitman wrote:
           
                               "Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage
                                           for fear I effuse unreturned love,
                                 But now I think there is no unreturned love.
                                 The pay is certain, one way or another.
                                 I loved a certain person ardently and my love was
                                           not returned,
                                 Yet out of that I have written these songs."
 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

No Incurable Illness, Only Incurable People

"There is no incurable illness, only incurable people."

That's Dr. Bernie Siegel in his book "Love, Medicine, & Miracles," with a subtitle "lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon's experience with exceptional patients."

That statement strikes me. I want to understand what Dr. Siegel is pointing out and its applications. I do, for it concerns what I do a lot of the time. In a society such as ours, the response to life's stress and problems are pretty much left to the individual. The individual's mind must learn to disconnect psychologically from external pressures to cope better and not get sick.

Not everyone who suffers a trauma, loss, or deep stress develops a severe illness. Whether the illness is mental, emotional, or physical, the deciding factor is always how an individual thinks about or copes with the problem. Scientific evidence shows that mental factors are always present in cancer, depression, violence, addiction, and other types of breakdown. Those who can reframe their minds despite stressful circumstances and continue with their lives generally stay well or better.

I once talked to a separated married couple in great distress. The husband was a drug addict, overdosing on prescription pills, a gambler, and a womanizer. He was harming his wife, both physically and verbally. He had undergone long five years of psychotherapy sessions already and he'd still not able to control his anger and addictions. The simple truth is, he was being driven to his sickness. The requirements of recovery are obvious and yet he remained disabled in his will to bring himself to wellness.

If a person deals completely with anger, addiction, or abandonment when it first appears, illness or mental breakdown need not occur. Often, when we do not deal with our deepest emotional needs, we set ourselves up for physical illness or mental disorder. Yet what are we most comfortable with? Avoiding or denying there is a problem. Telling a loved one we're seeing a doctor to put up an appearance. We're actually more comfortable finding escapes and covering up instead of going directly into the roots of our pain ourselves.

No incurable illness, only incurable people. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Self Conquest

I can't speak for you. But from what I learn in my life's walk, self dilemmas are common among humans. Some people - at least from external appearances - seem to see life on a black and white basis. Things are either right or wrong. Not for me. At times, I wind up in a gray or undetermined area.


In Charles Schulz's popular Peanuts cartoons, Lucy is philosophizing and Charlie is listening. "Charlie Brown," Lucy begins, "life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they're going. Others place it to see where they've been. And some so they can see where they are at the present." Charlie sighs, "I can't even get mine unfolded!"

There are countless voices these days. Some are loud or soft. Many are enticing. Quite a lot can be downright convincing. If you don't know your self well, it can really be so confusing. If you listen long enough to the wrong voices inside your head or outside of you, you'll be tempted to just let your glands or hormones drive you. It can be easier to get a rush towards pleasure and satisfaction without restraint. No question. But ultimately, you end up damaging or hurting the very core of your self or well being.

Self dilemmas or confusion have the potential of being life's most destructive happiness spoilers. They can be capable of producing misery, even psychopathology. Being stuck, not understanding your self or knowing what to do in the face of life's deepest challenges ... ah my friend, that's truly a tough call.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

When External Solutions Do Not Work

In many instances, a person thinks and feels that what he or she is doing externally will bring about solution to his or her deep needs internally.

Consider a single young woman who is a workaholic. She is driven to perform and spend over 60 hours a week in the office. All her energies are devoted to getting ahead in her corporate career. During her little free time, she goes to the bar to pick up men and have sex with them. Outwardly, this woman claims that she must work long hours and find release in sexual relationships for her survival and enjoyment.

If you are to ask this woman whether she's happy, she may likely say, "Of course, I'm happy. I get what I want." Or, she may admit, "I don't know what's happening. I don't get satisfaction anywhere." The truth of the matter is, such a woman does not fully understand herself. She does not know within her self the true nature of her needs. She has been deceived into thinking that she can increase her self value to or acceptance of others through hard work and casual sex with men. At the core of her very being is a deep need to be loved, recognized, and embraced for who she is as a person.

I've met countless people in my personal and professional life who fit the profile of a woman I've given here. In every case, they try to meet deep internal needs through external solutions. Then only to discover that they don't really satisfy. They could never reach out deep enough to meet real needs within. I've discovered that when I'm able to talk long enough to persons and they become willing to be honest with themselves and me, they come face to face with their deepest true needs.

Indeed, until those deepest true needs are directly faced and addressed, a person is likely to continue pursuing external solutions for their internal needs. External solutions don't work to fulfill internal needs because ultimately they are false solutions.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Benefits of Chess Therapy

Chess has numerous benefits regarding health. Chess is very momentous. That's specifically for health and therapy related issues for the fact that it is one of the forms of Recreational Therapy.

Chess keeps mind healthy.  And healthy minds leads to healthy physique because mind controls and monitors all the activities of body.

Here are the benefits of chess regarding health as cited in an article from chess.com:

1)  Chess helps patients who suffered from stroke and disabilities to recover. Chess develops the fine motor skills of these individuals as chess requires the motion of chess pieces in different directions (forward, backward, diagonally forward motion, diagonally backward motion).


2)  Chess optimizes the memory performance, because you will have to remember a lot of stuff to play chess (as the rules of chess are quite complex/ complicated) and in order to gain expertise in chess (tricks and techniques) you have to remember even more. You also need to learn from your previous games and mistakes, in order to be a good player of chess and this really optimizes the memory performance and recalling ability.

3)  Chess improves visualization. For example, before implementing a move a player imagines/ visualizes the effect on chess board or game. A player considers different moves or possibilities before playing a move in other words a player visualizes different moves in his mind and selects the best one that adds accuracy and benefit to his game and increases his chances of winning.

4)  Pattern recognition is a fundamental quality momentous in chess. You need to recall previous moves and compare it with the current scenario (position) before placing a move since; it is very difficult to recall each and every move as there are thousands of moves and its is almost impossible to recall them at one time therefore your mind search for pattern and similarity in each scenario (position), thus improving pattern recognition.

5)  According to recent studies, Chess assist the persons suffering from physical and emotional disability to recover completely.

6)  Experiments revealed that, chess leads to improvement in cognitive functioning (as chess improves attention, memory, organization skills and perception). It improves the ability of cognitive-impaired individual to work on issues related to orientation, sensory stimulation and environmental awareness.

7)  According to American Therapeutic Recreation Association (2005), the involvement of individual (suffering from spinal cord injury) in recreational activity specifically chess, improves his ability to enjoy life (life satisfaction), make social contacts or interaction and quality to overcome or suppress depression. This leads to decreased loneliness, increased social interaction, improved morale and ability to manage stress efficiently.

8) Chess (as recreational therapy) prevents or reduces non-adaptive or inappropriate behavior (American Therapeutic Recreation 2005).


9)  Chess prevents anxiety and depression by encouraging self improvement, improving self esteem and self confidence.

10) Chess improves visual memory and visual perception in addition to this; it improves caution/ attention and awareness.

Chess is extensively healthy activity or game. It should be encouraged to a great extent to ensure a happier and healthier life on planet as it degrades or eliminates disability, inflates growth in various aspects of routine functioning, improves independent functioning and quality of life.
 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Laughter

I'm thinking of laughter today.

Believe me when I tell you I've watched lots of people my age -- not that old -- who've lost joy in their faces. And I'm not even thinking about traumas and wounds that I normally see in my sessions. Just life's daily grind, the heavy responsibilities wearing you down, making you frown, robbing you of laughter and cheers.

In the work I do and in my personal life, I have a lot to laugh about. I've laughed my way through all my ups and downs in my choices. I made mistakes, even big time. I had moments when I felt bad. But I've developed a capacity to wash it away in rivers of laughter. I need to laugh at myself sometimes. Especially when I do something stupid or jerky. Often, that's an only way I can get a laugh during a day!

Of course, during sessions, I do as best as I can to laugh with whoever I'm with. Many times, I laugh away at my sessions! It's part of therapy. Primarily, for others. But my therapy too! I feel I had missed the fun I had experienced when I was in my teens and twenties. So I figure I need to make up with an attitude adjustment. Not dead serious. When I sit down, I ask in my thoughts what I did when I was much younger that made me happy. What made me laugh? And so there ... the laughter that comes out feeds my mind and soul.

I don't believe psychotherapy should stay dire and detached. Laughter is okay. It heals. Medicine to the troubled mind and heart. Try it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

School Is Not Forever, You Enter The Real World

Not long ago, I once counseled a celebrity on-campus college kid who was about to finish university. He was getting more and more depressed and experiencing anxiety attacks. As his graduation drew near, he found himself getting angry, easily irritated, and feeling a drain in his self-confidence. I supposed that at that point in his college seniority, it was with an uncomfortable feeling that he looked back and wondered, is this for real? Have I traveled this far, and now exiting and starting anew?

I myself experienced depression too right after my university years way back. I guess that's what happens when you're a "celebrity" on campus! Or so I thought, since I smelled and tasted moments of victory and recognition in a field among my peers and beyond. So when it's time to go, I knew exactly how it felt. At times, I felt relieved or happy about getting my diploma. Other times, I drew a blank. It was staggering to realize that some images, memories, or things will be taken away from you, and you know why.


Like other things in this life, school is not forever. You enter the real world after graduation. You begin to face the challenges of real life. I suppose most graduates are not coached, step by step, on how to transition from school to the real world of real life. Finishing school can be tedious and at once quite emotional. It awakens your senses to times ago. There can be countless career seminars, talks, and parties to prepare for graduation. But we can be hard put to find resources to directly address the hidden psychological, emotional issues of students way past school.

Denzel Washington, a famous actor in Hollywood, was commencement speaker at Dillard University in New Orleans. To the graduating class of 2015, he said, "Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to dream big. But dreams without goals ultimately fuel disappointment. You must have goals. Do what you feel passionate about. Don't just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference. Put God first in everything you do. It has kept me humble. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that -- it is a gift."

Speaking of life after school.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Doc, I just need to get married!"

"Doc, I just need to get married!"

That's right. Misty shouted these words out, with a tone of desperation in her voice. Sounds legitimate, some kind of relief to her problems. About the time her face cleared up, her mind with her words got fuzzy. And her eyes, a little misty, at least.

If I'm not your therapist, you'd know what I think of marriage. You who know me personally outside of my vocation already know what I'd be prompted to say more. No need to add to what you've heard from me, right? Or, is there I must explain further? Maybe so. Something along a point why too many marriages are in trouble today!

What can be underneath Misty's desperate "need to get married?" Her hidden, unexpressed root needs could be much more likely to be loneliness, financial security, emotional nurturing, or unfulfilled sexual desires. She believed that if she gets married, her husband will automatically accept her, love her, and meet all her needs. The truth is, it's never the case of any spouse - at least not in a lasting or adequate way.

Misty is typical of so many today - whether single, never married, solo parent, divorced, or even the already-married. In most cases, marriage is a "me-centered" piece of thought. It's perceived as a solution to one's personal needs in order to be happy and fulfilled. A person looks for a spouse to meet all his or her needs. In other words, be the source of emotional, financial, sexual, physical, material, psychological, and even spiritual provisions. 

The reality is that in marriage, some of your needs can be met and you're able to meet some of the needs of the other person. No fellow human being - no matter how wealthy, noble, or fantastic - is capable of fully meeting all the needs and expectations of another person. And no fellow human being should expect another fellow human being to meet all of his or her needs. And yet, many people who "needs to get married" are looking for precisely that - the opposite of reality.

Life is more than marriage. No one says you must be married to be whole. You don't need to be married to be joyful or experience a full life. Don't believe the movies! If you are under the impression that a spouse or another human being can meet all the needs of another person, I suggest you reexamine your position. 

Marriage is not the need or goal. Wholeness is.
 

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Is Your Need?

Every one of us has needs. We're all born with needs. No exception.

Whenever I sit down with hurting individuals, couples, or families, I often ask about their needs. Pressing for specifics, I discovered that many of them have not been clear or able to accurately pinpoint the real needs in their lives.

Yes, they do have a generic feeling of neediness. They have a nagging, gnawing feeling that something is not okay inside them. They feel overwhelmed by a problem they can't solve or a question they can't answer. Yet they simply can't name and define well what they say and feel are their needs.

In my work as a therapist and counselor, I've frequently and routinely encountered the following "top needs" expressed and described to me by those who visit me in session:

*  Security
*  Health
*  Relationship harmony
*  Sexual partner
*  The need to be loved
*  Success/achieving dreams
*  Financial stability
*  Marriage
*  Parenting children
*  Healing damaged emotions
*  Forgiveness
*  Control
*  Recovery from betrayal
*  The need to be needed
*  Inner peace
*  Connection with God
*  Making peace with one's parents

Allow me to invite you to take a look at this list above and review these areas in your life. Is something missing? Can something be better? In all likelihood, you will choose at least one area in which you have a sense that things are lacking, weak, or breaking down.

Understand though, as you go though the list above, that there is a difference between "need" and "desire." A "need" is something that is essential for the fulfillment of your life (e.g. water, food, shelter). It's different from "desire," which tends to be something that is not essential but feels enjoyable (e.g. control, dreams). All of us have at some point can be confused or unclear because we believed something was a "need" when it truly was only a "desire."

Saturday, May 09, 2015

When At The Door Of Sexual Addiction

One single middle aged man painfully detailed to me his decades-old piano, youth, and ministry work in the church. He expressed his desire to serve God. But his face turned to wrenching as he spoke of his bondage to pornography and gay sex with multiple partners on a weekly basis. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was so weak.

Is this man sex "addicted?" The compulsive sexual cravings and activities are certainly strong evidence. The Greek word for "addicted" means to be brought into bondage, much like a slave. Because he is a slave to his sexual passions, then he needs help for his addiction by talking to a therapist or counselor.

What about you? Let me give you a little diagnostic test. You don't need a pen to answer; you just need to be honest. Simply answer "yes" or "no."

*  Do you masturbate to images of other women?
*  Do you fantasize when a sexy or attractive woman comes near you?
*  Do you watch sexually arousing videos or photos in the internet for gratification?
*  Do you store nude images of women etc in your cell phone or computer?
*  Do you have behaviors that you can't share with your spouse?
*  Do you call a hotline for phone sex?
*  Do you practice voyeurism?
*  Do you have a secret place or closed compartment that you hide from your spouse?

If you have answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are lurking at the door of sexual addiction. Then you're inside the room! Like any addiction, sex addiction is progressive. It starts small. Then it won't go away. It's always asking to be scratched, the itch intensified, seeking relief. But rather than feeling fulfilled, it leaves you feeling more empty.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Invisible Handicap

Building self-esteem is an oft-stated goal in psychotherapy. It's a basic clinical concept that self-esteem is central to good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

When mental disorders or life traumas do strike, self-dislike degrades healing, performance, and overall health. Such mental state produces internal resistance, relapse, and blockages to therapy and recovery.

A damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is well recognized in psychological literature and clinical practice to be responsible for producing or contributing to:

*  Depression
*  Anxiety
*  Stress symptoms
*  Psychosomatic illness, like headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and digestive tract upset
*  Hostility, excessive or deep-seated anger, dislike and distrust of others, competitiveness
*  Spouse and child abuse
*  Infidelity
*  Promiscuity
*  Entering into abusive/unhappy relationships
*  Alcohol and drug abuse
*  Sex, porn addiction
*  Eating disorders and unhealthy dieting
*  Poor communication (e.g. non-assertive, aggressive, defensive, critical, sarcastic)
*  Dependency
*  Sensitivity to criticism
*  Tendency to put on a false front to impress others
*  Social difficulties - withdrawal, isolation, loneliness
*  Poor performance, laziness, inactivity
*  Preoccupation with problems
*  Status/appearance concerns

Plus ... a lot more!

No wonder, a damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is called a big "invisible handicap."

Sunday, May 03, 2015

De-selfing

In a group therapy session, a woman was asked what she enjoyed doing. Her name was Maria, who shared: "There is not anything I enjoyed doing. My whole life was taking care of my husband. I wanted to do what he desired. I was always there for him no matter how I felt. I listened for hours on end to his problems. I really lived for him. And now I have no life."


"De-selfing." It's a term coined by author Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger, which is eventually adopted as a clinical concept in mental health. It refers to a state of under-functioning or over-functioning because too much of one's self or basic integrity - thoughts, feelings, behaviors, ambitions etc - are compromised or harmed under pressure from a relationship. A common result of "de-selfing" is a host of mental and emotional disorders or symptoms, such as depression, addiction, personality disorder, obsessive compulsion, suicidal ideation, among others.

Maria, based on her story, had a long-standing habit of "de-selfing." She lived through her husband and failed to care for her self. She ignored, neglected, or minimized her own needs in order to be what she misperceived a good wife is. She missed essential self-nurturing that's vital to her own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When she suffered a loss from her husband, she found her self empty, having "no life."

If you are like that group therapy member Maria, who had completely replaced her own well-being with that of her husband, taking care of your self must now become a priority for you. It's your way of rebuilding your self-esteem ... your whole life as a matter of fact. You may feel discomfort at first while you're changing this life-damaging "de-selfing" habit, but it should gradually lessen over time.

Treating your self well is not selfish, as you may have been taught or conditioned to believe. Rather it is basic self-respect - a nurturance of life that is so foundational to your total health, well being, and relationships.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Mystery of Unfair Wounds

The puzzle is familiar and relevant. People may get wounded by unfair consequences. Like many among you, I pick up the paper or watch TV news and I see this reality of life assaulting my eyes. Rabbi Harold Kushner describes it his way through his bestselling book - "When Bad Things Happen To Good People." Yes, misfortunes do happen to good or innocent people.

Think of that loving young girl who was abandoned by both father and mother, and sold to another family. Why is it that courageous, godly Christians are killed and martyred rather than their ISIS brutal murderers? Why is it that the corrupt politicians or drug lords get rich on porn, drug abuse, prostitution, illegal gambling, mind-twisting, etc while you can barely make ends meet even though you walk uprightly?

In my own practice, I've seen kind, noble people crack under the strain of unbearable trauma. I've witnessed and tried to help people whose marriages break up or facing cancers or functionally suicidal, who appear unable to be normal again.  They got hurt by unfair circumstances and events in their lives. They were victimized by injustice. Isn't it amazing how some individuals can get away with cheating, infidelity, deception, abandonment, and dishonor, virtually untouched by justice (on this temporal earth only, I mean!)?

I'm reminded of this woman who loved her husband a lot and took care of him well in their 40 years of marriage. One day, she discovered that her husband has been secretly unfaithful to her and having multiple affairs during half of the number of years they're married. In one final instant, her husband left her for a younger woman, ousted her in their home, and left no support for her in old age. To be honest, a lot of us can be riddled by where that's coming from. It's a psychological enigma, wrapped in mystery.

Now I say that it's a mystery that defies explanation - the mystery of unfair wounds. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Power of Surrender

To transcend our brokenness, we need to learn the power of surrender. The path of letting go. We step into a quiet place. Soften our heart. Listen with innocent ears. Until we surrender, we are glued or attached to the pain of our loss and breakup.

Surrendering is specially hard if you've been betrayed, abandoned, or deceived. Because of hurt, you may choose to shut down. You may communicate your anger and upset covertly and overtly. In a passive-aggressive way, you may find yourself resisting hearing the other. As a result, you get stuck - glued to the very thing you want to get away from.

As I watched my 12-year-old daughter, Angel, learn Taekwondo this summer, I noticed an interesting technique her coach was teaching her - the self-defense of "let go." If an attacker grabs your arm, tightening up and pulling away will trigger the attacker to hold on tighter. But when you step toward your opponent and relax, your attacker's grip eventually loosens, giving you a chance to break free from his hold. To get away from an attacker, as the moves of taekwondo show, you must first surrender to his grip.

In the sacred state of surrender, you become capable to detach from the outcome. You accept that everything is happening for a divine purpose. You breathe deeply, relax.  You relinquish judgment for the moment. You loosen the grip of your expectations. And, as you do, you're able to get the Big Picture from One who is in control.  

Only by being willing to surrender to your deepest wounds and fears can you discover that the worst outcome wouldn't ruin your heart, mind, and life. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Abusing Kids By Giving Them Too Much

I woke up this morning thinking about a mother and son in my session not too long ago. Well, it's like watching a story in a movie. Expert clinicians in the psych field have dealt with their condition, which they call "affluenza" or "rich kid syndrome."

Entitlement. Addiction. These two words pretty much describe the current condition of the now middle-aged son. A college drop-out and never held a job in his life, he has become addicted to drugs, alcohol, car racing, women, and casino gambling. Heir of family wealth, he feels entitled to too much money without having to work for it.

The mother brought her son to me because she's confused about what's happening to him. For over a decade now, her son has been under psychiatric medication, in and out of psych facilities. She doesn't see her son recovering but worsening day by day with depressive and nervous breakdowns. Since he was a little child onwards to adulthood, it's his mother who'd be by his side, protecting and insulating him with access to lots of money, bailing him out when he does something wrong, and seeing to it that everything is done for him.

As it turns out, the mother never realizes the "abuse" she's been doing to her son for so many years. When I started inviting them to explore the "roots" of their situation, they got nervous. The mother stopped me. The son did not want to let go of his usual "comforts" so he can begin healing. Truth hurts. Both mother and son, in this case, are in dire need of appropriate help and support. Unfortunately, they rejected it and would rather prefer to remain in bondage and misery outside of truth.

Let's stop for a moment and think about our own family situation. Our parenting. Our children. Do we abuse our kids by giving them too much? By the way, this disease is not only common among the wealthy or middle-class families. It can be as common too even in poor families. It is no respecter of persons or status. It's a hot battle in the mind.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Rise of iDisorder

The smartphone is wonderful. With it, we can check our email, monitor our social network, write in blogs, keep in touch with loved ones and the rest of the world. It's an immensely used digital machine nowadays. In fact, anywhere we go, this tech piece appears to answer the "needs" of countless people around the world.

Yet I notice among us, most people I observe, that the smartphone is always immediately checked, used, or looked at. In the streets. Inside the movie house. While eating in restaurants. In the car, even while driving. Excusing one's self to go to the restroom to check the iPhone. Isolating, withdrawing from social interaction or party, to engage in the virtual place of games or fantasy. Don't you think something is going on here underneath the surface we see?

Dr. Larry Rosen, a well-recognized international expert on the psychology of technology, says there is a rising trend of a type of mental disorder he calls "iDisorder." According to him, iDisorder refers to "changes to your brain´s ability to process information and your ability to relate to the world due to your daily use of media and technology resulting in signs and symptoms of psychological disorders – such as stress, sleeplessness, and a compulsive need to check in with all of your technology."

Well, talking about iDisorder, it's not just smartphone overuse or "addiction." There is, of course, Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. YouTube. Plus ... a lot of other social networks and posting sites. They all look good and can enhance our social or mental life. But with iDisorder, digital technologies and social networks can be places where we may unwittingly harm our minds. Truly, there can be deeper roots of psychological problems related to overuse of technology.

iDisorder is a futurist psychopathology. It's possible, like in other good things, to let too much of a good thing become a bad thing in our lives. In a technology-centric world, we all need to regain control and keep our minds safe and sane.

How about a "tech break" to find out whether we're still normal or already disordered?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Wound Of Attachment

A few years ago, I met 21-year-old Filipino chess grandmaster, Wesley So, during a Meralco tournament where I was a participant. I found him friendly and accomodating. Currently, Wesley is one of the world's youngest grandmasters, no. 2 in the U.S. where's he's based now, and potential contender to the World Chess Championship.

Recently, he was stopped continuing to play his game by an official arbiter during the U.S. championship. He lost the game by forfeit.

Wesley's breaking of official rules multiple times, primarily via scribbling personal notes while playing, and doing the same in odd places when he's home, is a psychological thing. So's "repetition compulsion" may be unintentional on his part - it's his "unconscious," default-mode way of coping with overwhelming internal distress. Something underneath is fueling or driving it. What could that be?

Yesterday, I received hints of what could that be from Wesley's FB open letter to his mother. Wesley said hurtful words to his Mom, such as:  "Leny So, I was NOT HAPPY that you suddenly showed up in my life, unannounced, at the biggest tournament of the year, and that you came with Susan Leonard whom I hardly know. In the last six years I’ve only see you once a year for about a week, I hardly know you either ... I am uncomfortable around you. You want me to respect you but you have never respected me. You left me when I was sixteen, telling me to become a man and find my life. Well I have found it, you just don’t like it."

I feel sad about this for it has already gone public. Those of us, like myself, who are behind Wesley in his world chess campaign, may miss all the truths or details of the mother-son attachment injury and disconnection. What I know is, a prodigal was not a prodigal before he becomes a prodigal. Something must have wounded Wesley's mind and heart over the years that so traumatize him. I also realize that most parents who have broken/insecure attachments with their children do love and care about their children. They're simply unaware of the effects of their parenting on the emotional states of their children.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Neuroscience and Psychotherapy

Last week, I was sharing with a group of men about a discovery from modern neuroscience. It pertains to not only "intellectualizing" where men are good at, but putting information into one's heart for application.  In that way, we can be whole (not split!) and become the persons we are meant to be.

Neuroscience describes two types of mental processing. One is the "left brain" mode of mental operation that sees the world in a logical, linear fashion. The other is "right brain" mental operation where emotional elements, values, and passions are contained. Both "left brain" and "right brain" must be integrated and balanced together for life to thrive.

We live in a world that merely values knowing or seeing things as objects. Of course, this manner of mental processing (left brain) is important and good. But it dominates so much our cultural way of thinking to the extent that the other equally important part of the brain (right brain) is underappreciated. Any time the brain is conditioned to be imbalanced or fragmented will exert a major influence on the mental health of individuals, families, and communities.

I look at psychotherapy or healing of the mind in a similar angle. The field of neuroscience can add to our understanding of how we have come to be who we are and why we do what we do over time. I propose that neuroscience has surprising connections with our emotional well being and spiritual practices that can transform our life and relationships. We need a fully integrated mind and that requires paying attention to the disparate aspects of our mind that we often ignore.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Beautiful Butterfly

Like so many, I'm inclined to always be flying away. This solemn week spurs me to something healthy: stopping. Simple. Refreshing. Just doing nothing for the purpose of becoming more conscious. More aware of what may lie underneath memories.

Remembering Anne. I'm talking college here many years back. This classmate of mine was magnetic on campus. Pretty, confident, a free spirit. Her leadership influenced many students far beyond the perimeter of our class batch. Fluttering and flying, a quiet specimen of beauty, butterfly like.

Well, I myself, on campus, was news too. In the varsity champion limelight ... clearly noted in the university papers. I was an influencer, a leader myself, like Anne. Does that imply I was like her spirit or I liked her? Am I leaving that impression? If so, I'm not fully communicating here. Anne was a butterfly, remember ... I was a raging hawk! Though classmates, seeing each day, I snubbed her for no clear reason, even when she's reaching out. Something must be wrong with my psyche.

But that's long ago! The lessons about me from there on for the next decades have matured, tested by triumph and tragedy alike. Clearly, I was at one point in my life, when I was not free ... limited, shy. A lonely, angry youth. My personality had rough edges. I was inside my cocoon, afraid of something. Anne, the secure, had no net around her, which was why she could do her own kind of flying. I missed that part for my self.

Have you been a fragile butterfly who needs room to become? Do you need space to spread your wings outside the cocoon of fear, anger, or timidity? Do you need to realize that you have color all your own, that you have beauty and grace beyond the fences surrounding your own garden? There is a way you know ... it's there waiting for you to see and discover. If you choose to emerge out of your cocoon eclipsed beneath the shadow of life ... still, silent, slowly you learn to flutter and flourish, like a beautiful butterfly in flight, finally free.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

New Beginnings

As I go through the stages of my own life, I've often asked myself what's truly essential. Again and again, I've come to feel that it is to always prepare for new beginnings. Like this Holy Week, I get to reflect on and claim its promise of resurrection to those who believe in the risen Lord. As best as I can, for the moment when He calls me, I stand ready to receive His much better new beginnings.

We'd do well to ask ourselves the same question. And it does not matter how old you are. Youth is one of our happiest or most enjoyable years of life. Still, they also have an ending and our joys will only truly continue when we begin to concern ourselves with preparing for new beginnings. The same goes for old age. It can be marked by depression, anxiety, or any type of emotional and mental disorder if we don't realize the importance of embracing new beginnings.

As the ancient Hebrew author of Ecclesiastes so beautifully puts it, there is ...

A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Indeed, my life as well as yours would be so small if it consists only of what we feel, what we think, what we touch and see today. New beginnings are always waiting. If we live before the new beginnings of eternity, we will see that it is much more real than anything else in this earthly, visible world.

The Lord Jesus of this Holy Week speaks of our ultimate new beginnings if we give our lives to Him:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26).

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Join the Revolution!

 Let me simply quote or reprint a letter here below for you to have a brief glimpse of one of the reasons why I call myself a "revolutionary psychotherapist." It's posted by a forum participant in Mad in America.

"Mainstream therapy, psychology or whatever name you want to give it, is by it’s very nature, cold, uncaring, and cruel and does little to actually change people, the way they feel about themselves or there circumstances.

I believe the core problem underneath so called “mental illness”, is the belief by the person suffering is that they are not loved, valued or excepted for who they truly are. The symptoms of this may be manifested in different ways. Some will create a reality of their own to escape into a imaginary world , some will become extremely depressed, in others they may be violent or have intense hatred for other people, Some will become narcissistic to make up for the core belief they are not good enough.

The reasons for developing this belief can vary but many in cases it stems from childhood abuse, physical or sexual, neglect, or all of the above. For others it maybe that some just can’t live up to societies standards of attractiveness, financial success, or relationships. The reasons can be complicated.

Therapists are taught never to reveal anything about themselves so there’s no relating with the client. They can never be friends with the client even if they want to. They can’t give or except gifts. In other words a therapist is supposed to have a wall between the person their suppose to be helping and themselves. True love and compassion is to never be shown. Some will attempt to show these things during the sessions but love without any action is dead and meaningless. Sometimes the client will come away from the session feeling a little better but ultimately they know deep down inside the therapist probably doesn’t really care about them or at least that’s the message communicated by following these ridiculous rules.

Maybe some therapists actually like it this way since it means they don’t actually have to do anything except prescribe meds and listen to the client. Some therapists are extremely fake and can’t stand the client and laughs at them behind their back even after the person has opened up to them about embarrassing personnel traumas. In the real world we would call this cruel but psychotherapy considers this ethical standard practice.

In many cases the client will come away feeling even more hurt, uncared for, and even traumatized after going to therapy. Sometimes the client may even commit suicide. But Psychology is never held accountable, it’s always the clients fault. In someways it’s almost similar to a abused victim being blamed for their own abuse."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are You Being Hoodwinked By Medicine?

Medicine in the form of pharmaceutical drugs plays a significant role in countless lives, such as among the elderly or seriously ill. But the truth is, it can be just as much a curse (causing disability or death) as a blessing (especially in severe cases and diagnostic purposes). We live in a world of "pharmageddon!" And statistics say that prescription drugs are killing far more people today than illegal drugs.


In treating mental health patients, I've witnessed a number of them drugged by psychiatrists, which produced more ill health than health. A case in point was a friend of mine who chose to agree to every drug her doctor gives her for her depression and anxiety. She never recovered from decades of brain medication. She actually got worse than before she took the drugs, getting in and out of a psychiatric or psychological facility, and finding new diseases inside her body.

If you're not careful, "problems" can do appear that were not problems at all after indiscriminate approval of every drug, test, diagnostics, or procedure by your doctor or in the hospital. I'm reminded of this actress who died just recently. Her slippery slope began, where each drug and test given to her led to another. Sooner, one of these chemical interventions inside her body may had proven fatal, possibly by way of drug interaction, infection, or surgical complication. How dehumanizing, this "over-medicalizing!"

I've been thinking, how come, hundreds or thousands of years ago, people lived for so long and died even without much medical attention at all. In some, even when their life span had been shorter, they lived meaningful and fruitful lives. Certainly, they had something else to account for their health apart from reliance on medicine or medical professionals.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What It Takes To Survive Infidelity

One of my greatest accomplishments in my practice as a psychotherapist is seeing individuals and/or couples survive marital infidelity. Using an insight-oriented approach, I've emphasized the importance of the power to choose how to think, feel, and act. I've taught concepts and skills in my sessions to help change thoughts that will determine how one reacts emotionally.

To give you a broad stroke of some ideas I bring up during sessions to help individuals heal from marital infidelity, let me share below a number of points, beliefs, and skills about what it takes to be a survivor. What I discover is that men and women who apply these ideas do survive, just as my clients have. Although infidelity can be very traumatic, there are indeed ways and means to transcend the wounding experience and come out strong. Here's a list of some of these ways and means:

*  You believe in your resourcefulness whatever comes your way.
*  You believe in Someone greater than your self.
*  You develop ability to increase your resilience to withstand painful feelings.
*  You formulate a master plan.
*  You recognize the power of your thoughts for personal and marital recovery.
*  You learn the ability to view events in a time frame.
*  You see the complexity of experiences and human beings.
*  You choose to let go of anger, bitterness, or resentment.
*  You ask for help and support.
*  You find meaning and purpose in your pain.

Noted family therapist and author, Virginia Satir, once wrote in her book "PeopleMaking": 

"I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me and I am ok."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Riches Like Fading Flowers

A few months ago, my eldest 21-year-old daughter Christine received a "rich" gift of a Pajero. She was understandably happy about it. Considering the fact that she's just on her first employment straight from college, a Pajero can be overwhelming.

Although I've doubts about whether it's an appropriate or wise time for her personal development at this point for such kind of possession, I shared her joy. It's simply given to her. To my mind, it tells more about the giver rather than about my daughter.

Then I noticed, after only a few days of elation driving her "rich" pajero, she began to leave it in our house garage area most days of the week when she goes to office. She may have a variety of reasons. Among these in my surmising, I wondered about my daughter's instant "rich" driving experience. Is the newness or pleasure of acquiring a prized possession predictably wearing off that quickly? 

In countless lives since time immemorial, the quest for fulfillment through material riches is common. In this quest, psychological, emotional, and spiritual wounds happen, especially when you get attached or addicted to material things. We know people who exchange their honor or dignity or souls for money. Prostitutes sell their bodies. Politicians corrupt themselves. Addicts steal or kill to acquire their drugs of choice. Men and women commit crimes, infidelity, or self-inflicted harm in the name of mammon.

As in all earthly things, riches are like fading flowers. They never last. They're meant only to be enjoyed temporarily along with us. Experience evidences that they can't really deliver what our hearts are truly longing for. The brilliant Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. and one of the richest men who ever lived, died in his mid-50s. Shortly prior to his death, he addressed young graduates in a prestigious university. Steve said:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

Do you know what is truly important in life? We all live with passing moments. We all age. We all die. In Steve Job's case, his fading flower, the brevity of life, influenced the choices he made at the end of his journey.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Growing Old Without Getting So Anxious

On Sunday afternoons, in a Thai restaurant, I normally take time to sit down with and talk to this group of aging men about life. It's interesting that they listen a lot to me even when I'm not yet a "senior citizen!" Growing older fills their minds. Yet they seem to feel uncomfortable talking about it. What is it they may be trying to cover up?

I wonder if it's not the simple truths William Shakepeare once wrote about in "Macbeth:"


"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ...
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Growing old can be a prison of anxieties. Many worry that despite their successes or wealth, they'll just fade into oblivion and be forgotten. They fear loneliness. Many get afraid about losing their mind, their memory, or capacity to live independently. Many have full of regrets for not having lived as they should.

Our culture conspires to make it more difficult for us to grow older in rewarding ways. There is a whole commercial business devoted to helping us cover up the physical symptoms of growing old. Cosmetics, drugs, surgery, or other commodities tailored to the elderly gives the message as if being young is the only way to exist. Medical technology and advances aggravate the situation with false, unrealistic promises of immortality or "fountain of youth."

We don't have to be wounded as we grow older. We can have a realistic perspective about it. It can present us an opportunity to deepen life's true meaning and purpose. Aging can be a gift, but only if you surrender your self to God's plan for your life. You can find peace in old age rather than rage when you know that Christ has already conquered death (Romans 6:23).

As noted psychologist, Dr. Erik Erikson  put it, "The way you 'take history' is also a way of 'making history'. "

Monday, March 16, 2015

Deep Breathing Is Therapeutic

I learned to breathe. That's a moment decades ago. No, it was not a doctor who examined my lungs' intake of air. It was when I visited a celebrity singer in her meditation house where she taught stress management through deep breathing, among others.

In my breathing exercises with her, she spoke slowly, calmly, and clearly about the healing process of breathing. Being a young man, I was kind of distracted because she's pretty! Still I learned a lot from her, especially about how much I breathed shallowly.

Today, as a therapist and practitioner myself, I realize how conscious, deep breathing has profound therapeutic benefits. It deepens your awareness of a particular moment. It brings you directly in contact with the present. It internally "touches" your heart and other major internal organs, relaxing them. That exercise causes you to expand emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

During stress or moments of trauma, we tend to breathe shallowly so that we scarcely breathe at all. That's deadly!  Learn to practice deep, intentional breathing. Breathe in through your nose. Then, hold the breathe for a few seconds. And then exhale through your mouth. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it is to inhale. Some experts suggest a 4:7:8 pattern – 4 to inhale, 7 to hold, and 8 to exhale. Let go of other thoughts while you breathe.

If you learn to make this a habit, it will bring great benefits to your emotions, not just your physical state. Well, you can humor me a bit by trying it! Then you will know for your self.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Walking Is Best Natural Anti-Depressant

I see walking as our best natural anti-depressant. You can take it to cope with the challenge or burden of too much. It's normal. Healthy. It can have a positive impact on your brain hormones involved in mood regulation. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. And it can even enhance your self-esteem. It also improves your sleep.

Now you may think I'm merely postulating here. Far from it. Noted studies from Harvard and other research medical and mental health institutions evidence the big benefits from even modest walking steps. Their research shows that, aside from mental health benefits, walking can reduce the risk of physical illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

My mother is a walking miracle. She walks a lot each day even when I was much younger. She's now 80 and she still walks fast! Whenever I see her, she always exhibits an upbeat mood. Smiling. Enjoying things around her. She convinces me of this: as long as you're breathing, it's never too late to walk very far and get healthy! I inherited my walking from my mother. Many of my creative thoughts and best therapy solutions are conceived by my mother-like walking outside of my counseling cubicle!

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate your self to walk very far." Speaking of best exercise through walking, experts generally prescribe about 10,000 steps daily for healthy living. Man, that's far! I'm counting, possibly in one hour, I'm able to take 6,000-7,000 steps. So, about one and a half hours of walking each day is what I need to have healthy 10,000 steps. How about you?

Come, let's take a walk ... and talk. It's therapeutic. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Family Connection

Mary was an achieving A-student outside the home. But at home, she was very dependent on her mother after her father abandoned the family since her childhood. She felt she could never please her mother while growing up. Mary always longed for her mother's validation. But she certainly always came up short.

During our session, Mary would shed tears a lot. Her husband of almost ten years was about to leave her and their two young children. Probing deep into her self, Mary discovered during our sessions together that she transferred her dependence from her mother and her rage towards her father onto her husband. She would physically and verbally harm him when he would not allow her to dominate and tell him what to do to please her.

Countless research in the psychology field reveals that dysfunctional families produce emotionally disordered children. The most common types of families that produce them are of different varieties. They include families such as where there is chronic psychological, physical, emotional, or sexual abuses/abandonment; families where there is alcoholism, drug addiction, or other types of addiction (e.g. gambling, workaholism). Specifics may differ, but these types of dysfunctional families do have certain characteristics in common that harm children.

In a dysfunctional family, a child is not allowed to develop. The victim child lives by the rules dictating which feelings are okay and which feelings are not. As a result, the child behaves in ways he or she believes will please the parent or adult figure. He or she suppresses his or her individuality. He or she grows up suppressing his or her private self and perfecting his or her public self. Eventually there is no true self, just a reaction to others.

By the time the child reaches adulthood, he or she may develop an "approval addiction." He or she constantly worries about what others think. Their self-esteem comes from pleasing others, looking outward for their self-validation. In their original family, the child "walks on eggshells" so as not to make a mistake or incur disapproval. Untreated, this hyper-senistivity to signs of approval or disapproval from others then continues into adulthood. Just a slightest sign of disapproval from another person is enough to trigger a deep sadness or emotional reactivity.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

How Do You Know You Have An Addict In Your Life?

Do you have an addict in your life, family, or relationships?

Let me tell you how you can know you have one in your life. I call it Three C's of addiction diagnosis. One, "lack of CONTROL over use." Two, "COMPULSIVE use." And three, "CONTINUED use despite knowledge of adverse consequences."

An addict is unable to control use of his drug-of-choice (e.g. chemical, person, activity). There is repetitive use of the drug-of-choice to the exclusion of other essential life activities such as work, self care, or maintaining relationships. Anyone who continues to use an addictive agent that he or she knows to be harmful or life-damaging is an addict.

You may watch out for these signs or symptoms below to know if you have an addict in your life.

*  Physical Signs (general appearance compared to usual appearance)
    Examples:
    -- sudden weight loss
    -- decreased interest in personal hygiene
    -- soiled clothing
    -- sleeplessness
    -- unsteady gait

*  Mental Signs
    Examples:
     -- persistent sadness or depression
     -- mood instability
     -- hallucinations
     -- delusions

*  Behavioral Signs
    Examples:
    -- decreased or poor performance in school or work
    -- Ill-defined problems in relationships
    -- health problems
    -- tired much of the time
    -- irritability

Now, as a loved one, friend, or family member, it's important to be vigilant. Trust your instincts. If something seems to be "not right" or out of order, don't be afraid to seek help and ask everyone who can provide you understanding. Expressed in a loving manner, asking directly "your addict" may start him or her thinking seriously about his or her actions as well as about the need for treatment.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cosmetics ... Form Without Substance

As you and I pursue the journey of life, we sense a deep need within the core of our being. We desire happiness. We want fulfillment, satisfaction. We are all involved in a quest - whether we consciously realize it or not. Without this truth validated within ourselves, we find life oppressive and burdensome. Often, meaningless.

Given the nature of what I do as a therapist, I certainly get to sit down face to face with extremely hurting individuals. Mine is only a microcosm of a world filled with significant groups of people who break down psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some I try to help become a danger to themselves or others, they get locked in psychiatric wards or prisons.

A lot of us mask our wounds or flaws cleverly. I'm reminded of Peter. He is a celebrity in the world of business. A certified millionaire. The media, such as television, radio, print etc, love covering him. He functions very well in the world and is definitely respected as successful. Though outwardly appearing attractive and a model to be emulated, he feels isolated from himself and others. In fact, as a result, he has frequent thoughts of leaving this world, strong feelings of ending or forfeiting his life.

From the condition of humanity and the world in general, it is obvious that there is something within our makeup that prevents us from living a healthy life. There always appears an inherent flaw or contamination within our makeup, regardless of station in life, age, social status, cultural origin, religious or political beliefs. Add to this, we live in a society where healthy changes or healings are further prevented by adversely unhealthy conditions and values maintained and perpetuated by deeply entrenched structures. Illness and contamination in this world is "normal."

Sadly, I witness treatments and changes that are epidemically cosmetic in the face of man's greatest need. Even mental health clinicians, doctors, and counsellors have been part and contributor to this world of rapid cosmetic changes of "form without substance." Yes, we have impressive scientific and technological advances that rapidly convenience our lifestyles and social structures. Yet after the dust clears, nothing has changed. Or, changes or treatments of choice make conditions worse. At best, changes gained, if any, are essentially cosmetic.

As a writer Jeremiah put it, "They offer superficial treatments for my people's mortal wound" (6:14). This, then, is the crux of our problem in our dominant modern-day recovery establishment and institutions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grief Work Like Moving On Up The Mountain

Let me be honest with you. In this life, you'd have to be an expert on grieving. Why? There would always be varied sorts of losses along the way in the journey.

Now, if you're grieving for some type of loss at the moment, may I ask you to dry your eyes for awhile. Read through my little check list below and answer the questions. Honestly. It's work to complete first before you move on up the mountain.

*  No longer feel like crying most of the time?
*  My appetite is getting better?
*  No thoughts of attempting suicide?
*  No trouble concentrating?
*  No longer feeling mechanical in my daily living habits?
*  Beginning to feel emotionally close now to people?
*  More comfortable now to talk about my grief to others?
*  My body weight has stabilized?
*  My emotions and moods are back in my control?
*  Have stopped feeling depressed most of the time?
*  Now having physical and emotional energy from morning to night?
*  I've now identified what I need to grieve completely (person, relationship, past, abuses etc.)?
*  I've stopped talking continuously about my trauma/crisis?
*  No trouble now going to sleep and sleeping all night?

Grief for any loss needs to be completed before you can move on. Incomplete grief is a rebuilding roadblock. Don't worry, friend, the mountain will still be there and yours to climb when you're ready.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Therapy As My Creative Art

To me, my practice of therapy is a creative art. One life at a time. I use art or music or movement or anything that strikes me during sessions. I've humor. I do things that innovate or are indeed unusual.

Everything comes together with therapeutic insights. Freshness in perspective. Energizing growth, learning, and healing. I share my passion for discovery with a fellow human being during the session.

My creative urge is often ignited by a person's problem or wound. More so, with that person's beginnings to look on himself as fit to change and be an instrument for change. You see, I've countless experiences whereby I shared some particularly novel ideas to a hurting individual or couple that they so appreciated later on. They forget their grocer or their neighbor, but they never forget what they gained during our sessions together!

For this reason, I live as long as those healing insights are able to create a new life. That's how I think my therapy is creative. I trust that aspect of my self. Though I work in solo practice, I never feel lonely or isolated. I'm never alone.  Instead, I find meaning holding space for people's pain to break loose from their rigid, self-defeating patterns. And be set free to think, feel, and act differently. Isn't that a contribution to the survival of our species?

Now you know, my theatre. Why my urge to create. Isn't it true to you what's true to me? Much of our existence is defined by the ways we can leave this world different or a better place after we are gone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Psychopathology in 50 Shades of Grey

Valentine's Day just passed. Awhile ago, I passed by a movie house where the film, "Fifty Shades of Grey," are being shown in almost all of its cinemas. I caught myself wondering, the seeds of the future addict or mentally ill are again sprouting in the soil of culture and film.

Incidentally, prior to this, I read psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman's letter to young people about that film. She said there's nothing gray about 50 shades of grey -- it's all black, toxic, and unhealthy. I agree. The film's images or imprints are viewed as harmful to youth and women, who are already often confused about love. It can poison the minds of men about sex. This psychiatrist is making a lot of mental health sense!

The characters in the film are Christian Grey and Anastassia Steele. Mr. Grey is a bachelor billionaire. Powerful, sexy, and handsome, he has a helicopter. He has a chaffeur and luxury cars. A company is named after him. The media loves him. He plays the piano. Anastassia, on the other hand, is an A-student college girl majoring in literature, who went to interview Mr. Grey in his office for a college paper. Ignoring the red flags, Anastassia eventually fell for an abusive, violent sexual relationship with Christian, complete with whips and chains.

Christian Grey does not need a woman to heal from his internal demons or wounds. Anastassia Steele does not need to accept abuse, pain, or violence just to prove her love for a man. Both Christian and Anastassia have dark places inside them that are not being attended to. Individually, they need to see a psychotherapist or pastor. They need healing in their deepest places.

Perverted sex, love, or relationship, as depicted in the film, is not concerned with the well being or happiness of another person. It seeks passion, drama, or ecstasy through violence, abuse, and manipulation. It is therefore very selfish. Very pathological - psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. As noted author, Stephen Arterburn, put it, the film can be a "gateway drug" to adultery, sexual perversion, and mental illness in real life.

Although it is tempting to cast all blame on contaminated culture or film like "Fifty Shades of Grey," the fact is, we all have freedom. Our choice of seeing the film and/or acting it out in real life is no accident. We all are responsible for our own decisions and actions. Our core beliefs or thoughts do not begin just because there is one unhealthy film. Our selection tends to emanate from a preexisting source or pattern already embedded inside us. 

If you're reading this post, may these "black and white" thoughts make you more aware and encourage you. I hope, no shades of gray.
 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are You Addicted To Selfies?

I live in a selfie generation. You too. Like you, I take selfies. Adjust my smartphone camera to self with a simple touch, pose, smile, and post! Facebook, instagram, twitter, and other social media are waiting. Selfies have indeed become a worldwide phenomenon.

This week, I gave a lecture on selfie psychology at a university college of nursing in Manila. I found the students there warm and creative in their organizing ... and with their selfies. Well, those selfies during and after my talk were not necessarily harmful. I found some humorous. Mostly, they're taken for class posterity and project documentation.

Yet in so many places of the world, we may not know exactly what to think. That is, because people who are at-risk or have a "preexisting condition" can get addicted to selfies as a drug-of-choice. British 19-year-old teen, Danny Bowman, for instance, tried to commit suicide after he failed to take his perfect selfie. He became so obsessed with it that he spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies. He lost 30 pounds, dropped out of school, and eventually rushed to the hospital for treatment and psychotherapy.

The internet is an incredible resource. It's kind of magic! But it's also a venue for madness for some people. Selfies and the social media are places where it can be all too easy to fall prey to obsession or narcissistic activity. It's not uncommon, for countless youth for example, to let reality slip away while staring at a 2-inch screen, savoring on the thrill of selfies and the social media.

Be careful with your taking selfies and your motivation behind it. Psychologists are now discovering that taking selfies can turn into an addiction for people already affected by certain psychological disorders.

What do your selfies feed inside you?