Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ability To Withstand Painful Feelings

Surviving any trauma or crisis involves the ability to "withstand painful feelings." I know it can be so difficult to do. That holds true especially when you're going through deep, wounding emotional experiences, such as betrayal, infidelity, rejection, or abandonment. Yet if you're to survive, you do need to be a person of this essential ability within you.

I'm reminded of lawyer Wendy, an excellent example of such a person. When she saw me, she was in much pain and humiliation because of her husband's infidelity and lack of remorse. Yet she endured these painful, uncomfortable  feelings. She sought help and counsel, took vacation breaks, enlarged her circle of support, and was able to resume her responsibilities as a working mother to her children.

The ability to "withstand painful feelings" means learning to live with such feelings without being overwhelmed ot immobilized by rage, depression, or anxiety. That involves objectively understanding what happened, facing issues raised, and integrating the event in your life. A survivor puts the trauma or crisis into perspective, think the issues through, and learn to charge neutral or be less emotionally reactive so he can get to the "other side."

Therapy is usually geared towards helping you through the process of integrating the trauma, crisis, or event in your life. Knowing and developing cognitive skills will lessen the toxicity of emotions produced by thinking distortions. Such is crucial so you can be detached enough to problem solve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When Beauty Fades

Pierce Brosnan, my favorite James Bond, was recently interviewed in the media about his wife, with whom he has six children. One entertainment outlet described her as the "ugly" wife of 007, primarily basing it on current external appearance. Pierce countered by saying that he loves her nonetheless as well as every part of her physical body. "That's the real man," a commentator commented.

We humans often look at the outward appearance. In our culture, it can be difficult not to, even in our relationships. I'm reminded of a middle-aged couple I counseled who were having problems in their marriage. The husband's complaint was that his wife avoids social gatherings and always seems too tired for sex. The longer I spoke to the wife, the clearer it became that she was not happy with the way she appears in the mirror.

When you're focused on your outward appearance, you believe that how you look is who you really are. Nothing can be farther from the truth. When time goes by and physical beauty fades, there is another kind of beauty that can emerge. In a marriage, when all externals disappear, what's left are two things: character and conversation.

There lies the secret of true beauty.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Unsafe Persons Block Your Healing

Countless times, I notice that the hurting hung around people — whether family, friends, or partners – who are “unsafe.” They need support during times of woundedness. Yet unknowingly, they are getting farther and farther away from being their real selves due to the influences of unsafe people around them.
Psychologist Dr. John Townsend wrote a book entitled “Safe People.” In it, he cited personal traits of unsafe people. Here are these traits below that can help you distinguish safe relationships from unsafe relationships, which are essential for your recovery process:
1. Unsafe people think they “have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses;
2. Unsafe people are religious instead of spiritual;
3. Unsafe people are defensive instead of open to feedback;
4. Unsafe people are self-righteous instead of humble;
5. Unsafe people only apologize instead of changing their behavior;
6. Unsafe people avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them;
7. Unsafe people demand trust, instead of earning it;
8. Unsafe people believe they are perfect instead of admitting their faults;
9. Unsafe people blame others instead of taking responsibility;
10. Unsafe people lie instead of telling the truth;
11. Unsafe people are stagnant instead of growing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trust Begins In The Womb

Yesterday, I was sharing with a couple that the first stage of trust begins inside the mother's womb. Not after birth, based upon current research in prenatal psychology. Inside the mother's womb, the fetus-child is already sensitive to the love of both mother and father even long before actual birth.

As I continued processing with the couple, I discovered how much their own individual histories of conception, infancy, and childhood have been hurt by inadequate parental love and trust. As a result, due to incomplete healing of ancient hurts, this couple find themselves continuously hurting themselves and each other in the present.

Psychotherapists R.D. Laing, David Cheek, Frank Lake, and D.S. Winnicott believe that most mental disorders begin in the womb. This includes psychosis, a most serious form of mental illness in which a person has completely withdrawn from reality, as well as the less serious one, neurosis, which characterizes a lot of many others. They did find a direct one-to-one link between severe stresses in the mother during pregnancy and later psychopathology and emotional problems in the child.

One of the most dramatic illustrations of this is the work of psychotherapist Dr. Andrew Feldmar. He had patients who each attempted suicide every year, which he discovered would be the anniversary of their 2nd or 3rd month in the womb. When Dr. Feldmar investigated their histories, he discovered that the dates of their suicide attempts were when their mothers attempted to abort them during conception.

Dr. Feldmar also discovered that, not only was the timing of each patient's suicide attempt a "Deja Vu" of an earlier maternal abortion attempt, but even the methods used were similar. One patient whose mother tried to kill him with a needle attempted suicide by razor blade. Another, whose mother had used chemicals, attempted suicide with drug overdose. When Dr. Feldmar helped his patients to realize that their suicidal attempts were really long-hidden memories of their mothers' attempts to kill them while in the womb, they begun to heal and be free of the compulsion to commit suicide.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Secret To Life Change

Every time we sleep, there is no absolute certainty that we shall wake up. It’s simply outside anyone’s human control. 
Life ebbs away ceaselessly. Days and nights reek with the smell of necessary endings. We all die after we live this fleeting life on earth.
Yet, despite this inevitable fact, lots of us remain in denial. We prefer to think of death as a farfetched possibility. It happens to others, not to us.
In contrast, something therapeutic happens when you accept and prepare for this sure reality. By accepting that life on earth is temporary, you begin to heal and grow. 
You do, for each day could be the last you have. 
By accepting death as a looming possibility, trivial pursuits and problems lose their importance. They are no longer killing. Addictions shed off their seductive power.
And finally … All things that have long been difficult to give up are suddenly easy to let go. You become who you truly are. Your authentic self.

Then, amid seeing what really is, you begin to search for the real meaning of life.

Friday, October 30, 2015

All Are Born To Die

As always, we’ve holiday, real life, and media reminders of the reality and inevitability of death. Regardless of what age you are in right now, death brings into our awareness our greatest psychological fear in this temporal, earthly life.
While all of us are so busy — trying to create wealth, raise families, enjoy pleasures, love, relationships etc — we all need to take time to reflect. We all need a pregnant pause. Common are the countless times when our busy preoccupations and relationships tend to cloud us of our real purpose in this life. 
In recent years, this lack of purpose brings death sooner than its time. By one's choice, one's own hands. In the United Nations, attention has been called to the escalating statistics of young people committing suicide. It's as if this life is all there is. It's ironic that in a world of exploding technology and comfort, young people in the prime of life are choosing self destruction as a way out.
While many of us feel bad witnessing deaths of those we care about, we’re reminded of our own mortality as well. All of life is a preparation for death to meet our Maker. Are you ready to die and meet your Maker? Where are you going after death? Find this out before it’s too late.
How do you know you’re ready to meet your Maker?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Are You To Blame Your Spouse Cheated?

Alexandra is blaming herself. She feels that she is at fault her husband cheated. According to her, she must be a bad wife with major problems in taking care of her husband. Each day, since she discovered his infidelity from his mobile phone, she has been breaking down emotionally.

I often hear this. It's a common thought and internal struggle among those betrayed by their spouses. Their emotions and heart are devastated. Every negative thought possible can run through the head as the hurt spouse realizes he or she is married to a cheater. In effect, the suffering spouse may carry the blame or feels it's her/his fault her/his spouse is unfaithful.

If you're the betrayed spouse, here's the truth:  you hold zero responsibility for the infidelity itself. No matter how serious your marital problems were prior to the cheating, the adultery trigger was pulled by your husband or wife, not you. It's a character pathology/deficit issue. Accept responsibility for your part of the breakdown within your marriage. But not for the affair itself. That choice rests 100% on your spouse. Any problems in marriage can be addressed in healthy ways, such as therapy/counseling, seeking support and help, etc. Yet your cheating spouse chooses otherwise, which makes the problem a hundred-fold greater than what you started out with.

Right now, your primary responsibility post-affair is to take care of your self. First and foremost, you need to save and rebuild your self before you can have the strength and capacity to heal your marriage if it's still possible ... or, move on as a better person. If you don't, it's going to be very harmful and disabling to you mentally and emotionally. It also affects your physical health. You need to work on psychological/spiritual issues such as self-esteem, self-doubts, lack of energy, love you have for your children, meaning of life.

During this sensitive time, one person matters the most - YOU.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Solutions to Boredom

Boredom is an emotional state. When one feels helpless or apathetic in what he is doing, it may lead to unhealthy or hurtful behaviors, habits, and even addictions. If unaddressed, boredom can stay as a permanent resident, thereby blocking directions for renewal.

When I catch myself feeling bored, it's usually linked to my mind functioning routinely. Work has become mechanical. I begin to watch the clock. I experience tedium in moments of tiredness or reduced mindfulness. It's in those moments when I make a deliberate shift in my perception. You see, boredom is a chosen cognitive activity.

Researcher Csikszentmihalyi says "flow" is antidote to boredom. He concludes that finding greater meaning in our work is the key:  "The psychic entropy peculiar to the human condition involves seeing more to do than one can actually accomplish and feeling able to accomplish more than what conditions allow."  He showed in his research on boredom that excitement and challenge result from shift of perception connected to purpose, especially when matched to one's abilities and gifts.

I consider my self deeply fortunate to be doing stimulating, interesting work. Each person I meet and attempt to help heal is unique and special. I can feel energy during sessions. How can that be boring!  Most importantly, something wonderful happens. The act of helping people heal their minds and souls, one person at a time, is a great purpose to live. This meaning fuels my vitality as a therapist. It immunizes myself against boredom.

Are you bored?  You can keep it at bay by working mindfully. Intentionally keep things fresh. And more significantly, look for the ultimate meaning in the things you do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Coping With Grief and Loss

Is your grief and loss feels like too much to bear?

If so, it's more essential than ever to take care of your self. The stress of a major trauma or loss can instantly deplete your energy and emotional supplies. If outside your capacity already, an experienced therapist can help you work through the severe emotions and overcome obstacles to your grief work.

Funny thing, when I write stuff like this, I feel a little dated ... somewhat soap boxish. I sense there's a whole gang of macho men out there possibly making fun of me and my feelings talk. If a little confession will help, I openly admit that I did try to suppress my grief over my life's share of losses. Yet surely I discovered that I can't really avoid facing my feelings forever.

It's true for all of those who come for therapy and counseling. In order to heal, a grieving person have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid the feelings of sadness and loss and processing them completely only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief, incomplete grieving, can lead to complications such as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, fears, anger, and a host of health/medical conditions.

Grief can be very lonely. Even when you have family members or loved ones and friends around, grief can still feel overwhelming. Sharing your sorrows with a therapist and with others who have experienced similar losses can help move you on faster and more safely. If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort that spirituality can offer you. Spiritual activities such as praying and going to church can offer solace.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

CNN on Infidelity Treatment

A few days ago, I was invited to CNN Philippines to give a talk on infidelity treatment during a live hour-long TV broadcast. I told Gani and Amelyn, the program hosts, that infidelity is a "deepest cut" and devastating to marriage. It's important to resolve the crisis and rebuild relationship whenever possible.

Much of what I shared with the hosts were drawn from my combined clinical practice and personal experience as a psychotherapist as well as pertinent research by experts on the subject. Myself as well as together with other colleagues have witnessed the impact of infidelity on the lives of hundreds of men and women whom we have counseled, both individually and in groups.

Because marital separation or divorce rates continue to be high, and because infidelity plays a role in the dissolution of many marriages, CNN Philippines found it so important to know more about it. For many couples, going to a therapist may not be an option due to finances or embarrassment. And often, the unfaithful spouse is not willing to come for counseling. The program's segment was geared to help those individuals and couples who may be trying to work out their problems without professional help, at least initially.

William Shakespeare, in his Hamlet, wrote:  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." When he wrote those words in the 17th century, Shakepeare could not had imagined a different world with internet communication, cell phones, or space travel.  Today, infidelity is carried on over social media, internet, or on a broadband. CNN hosts did touch on these things during our telecast. Without Shakepeare to add more or guide us, we will have to reason it by ourselves. 

Depression-Free Aging

If 70 is the normal life span (based on Scripture) and you're 60, time is slipping by quickly. If 70 is to be squeezed into a 24-hour-day, it would be around 9:00 p.m. in your life. Time on earth is limited even if you can extend it to some more years.

Depression is common among the aged. The clock is ticking. Once, I saw a woman in her 80s, full of vigor, with lots of makeup, teen-fit dress, and partying around since she can still walk reasonably well. When asked about how she feels, she said she's depressed!

At age 52, writer Robert Browning wrote that he accepted that he had already exceeded the life expectancy of his era. He never knew that His Creator would be gifting him with 27 more remaining years!  He painted his process of aging in this way:

"Grow old along with me!  The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made."

And then, Browning counseled that aging is a time to "take and use your work, amend what flaws may lurk, look not down but up!"

The ability to adapt. The ability to learn and accept one's limitations. Faith. Self care. These are determinants of what professional literature of geriatrics call "successful aging."

Friday, October 02, 2015

What Do We Mean By Life Recovery?

If you've been reading my site, it means you're open to search your mind and heart. It means you're open to look at the process of recovery that could enhance your life rather than limit it. If you're reading this blog, it's because of what's right for you, not what's wrong.

It had taken John five years to get to this point. He found himself counting his blessings and feeling good after coming from work. Days afterward, it occurred to John that not once were the reminders of his wife's infidelity and abandonment a painful experience any longer. His recovery had given him a wonderful sense of acceptance, freedom, and new meaning in life helping others heal.

Definitely, recovering from a significant emotional trauma wound is not comfortable work. It requires commitment, consistency, a level of open-mindedness, much courage and willingness. And above all, a determination to take the needed series of small steps and actions that must be made by you. No one can do life recovery for you but you. Nobody else can recover you. With the right tools and support, you can discover and tap hidden strength within your self to recover.

When you've reached a certain breakthrough point in your life recovery, here are some positives that happen:

... you feel better
... you find new purpose for the pain without fears
... you start to be able to have memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of guilt, remorse, loss, or betrayal
... you become quick to forgive those who hurt you
... you realize that it's ok to feel bad at times no matter how those around you react
... you begin to locate your security within your self
... you become skilled in claiming circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming your happiness
... you become free and equipped in helping others get through their loss or trauma

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thinking Your Way Out Of Stress

Who said this? "People are disturbed not by things but by the views they take of them." It's Epictetus' famous pronouncement.

American psychologist, Dr. Albert Ellis, based his psychotherapy approach from that. In the 1960s, he did innovative work in the area of thoughts and perceptions calling his model REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy).

Rina (a pseudo-name), in many of our therapy sessions together, would always sigh and say, "I don't like my self." That is her default thinking. It leads her to automatically perceive events or people around her such as her husband and children seeing her as without value. When she became more deeply aware of this, she started learning that her stress can be reduced or eliminated by reframing or changing her default thinking.

One of the major ideas put forward by Dr. Ellis in his REBT is that it's not necessarily the events in our lives that cause stress. But rather, the following:  a.) the perceptions of those events ("this is catastrophe" versus "it's not really that bad");  b.) your default thinking style (is the glass half-empty or half-full?);  and c.) your attitudes ("He is angry at me" versus "He is possibly preoccupied and needing help").

Speaking of feelings when you're in deep stress, here's an insight that you may find helpful:  How you feel is more dependent on how you think about what happens than on what actually happens!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Let's Walk In The Woods

May I invite you to take a walk with me? A special session in the woods!

Whatever you're going through - listen to the trees! Sitting there licking your wounds will only leave a bitter aftertaste.

Of course, tears are welcome. As well as sighs and thoughts of giving up. They're understandable. But you'll discover it needs only for a time.

Heartaches, you see, are fleeting. They don't last. Unless you obsess over them or get stuck. It's inexcusable for the future.

I agree with Longfellow:

"Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."

Let's get on with it! While there is time ... life is short.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Was In Tears A Few Times Today

Today, I joined hundreds of parents in a Parents' Camp. It's conducted by San Beda College, where my 12-year-old daughter Angel is in Grade 7.

During our symposium on resilience, a video clip was shown of Derek Redmond's emotional Olympic story. Very inspirational as well as therapeutic, since quite many among my fellow parents in the camp were in tears after watching the video.

Just like me.

Allow me to share Derek's story below. Hope you find it helpful too in your healing journey.

When you don't give up, you cannot fail!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Self?

In the Dialogues of Plato, we read, "For self-knowledge would certainly be maintained by me to be the very essence of knowledge, and in this I agree with him who dedicated the inscription 'Know Thyself!' at Delphi."

What does it take to know your self? It is to see and realize your insecurities, fears, biases, hurts, wounds, addictions - and dreams or hopes too - as they really are. For these are the things about your self that have the potential to distort the clarity of your mind, feelings, or motive. Especially so, when life-changing choices and judgments are to be made.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote, "Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom involves the management of knowledge, which in turn involves comprehension of the significance of the knowledge possessed. Wisdom is knowledge put to use by judgment." As T.S. Eliot expressed in his pageant play, "The Rock:"  "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

Of all the knowledge upon which wisdom needs to be based, the most difficult to face is self-knowledge. We have trouble with self-knowledge because it's frequently bad news!  Yet bad news or not, each one of us have no choice but to deal with it if we are to avoid destroying our selves. In the lives of so many of us though, self-knowledge remains elusive because we try so hard to avoid it.

I'm reminded of a serial sex addict with multiple infidelities telling me and his girlfriend during our session, "I know my self. I know I can recover from this by myself." Like him, we are all capable of fooling ourselves at our own peril. The self-knowledge we claim to possess may actually be self-delusion behind which we hide. The slightest acknowledgment of truth, seeing what really is, can be the beginning of self-knowledge well worth pursuing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Aldub Rx

I don't normally watch noontime TV. But there one time I stood in the gym, glanced at a funny television show. The scene? (Immediately, you'll understand my mind.) A certain handsome, playful Alden. A wacky, fast "talking" Yaya Dub. It's noontime hour. You know, the whole bit, when people are glued to TV. To top it all off, there before my eyes a cute love story of a fictional young super-couple is being played out, now loved and enjoyed (tweeted!) by millions around the world.

Top down, cool breeze blowing me by, quiet moment, "God gave me you" song flowing out of the Aldub exchanges of endearment on live TV. Something inside me have appreciated and enjoyed it too! Suddenly, I came back to reality. "This thing is teenager stuff," I could hear my conscience say. "How undignified can you get, Subida!" feels like thumping on my chest.

Well, it's me. Correction, it's actually us. Something about Aldub resonates in each and everyone of us. There have been so many love teams on TV and the movies. But Aldub has surprisingly surpassed all of them in terms of legions of fans (record-breaking millions of tweets around the world!). What's the secret? Or, is there really one? All this thing they call "Aldub fever" is actually an expression of a known unmet need in the kind of world we live in.

Well-known psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger once wrote, "Love is a medicine for the sickness of the world, a prescription often given, too rarely taken." Aldub simply presents to us in an artful, values-based, laugh-filled way this basic or core need for relationship (the "medicine") which we all, humans, innately possess ... and long for to last forever.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Secret Alliance and Disclosure In Infidelity Treatment

In marital therapy and affair recovery, "no more secrets" (total honesty and communication) is the rule.  To this end, the integrity of the process lies in viewing the "patient" as the couple being one unit, not any individual. It's therefore counter-therapeutic to collude or have a secret alliance with one spouse to hide a truth from the other.

The following case from authors/therapists, Deborah Corley and Jennifer Schneider (2002), is illustrative:

Martin, a 40-year old radio announcer, had a history of affairs in his first marriage and was now in the midst of the second affair of his second marriage. His wife, Marla, knew about the problems in his previous marriage, but believed that this behavior was ancient history and that Martin was as committed to monogamy as she was. Martin’s increasing guilt over this latest affair led him to therapy with Dr. Jim. When Martin had trouble resolving his ambivalence over ending the affair, and with his desire to come clean with Marla about it, Dr. Jim suggested including Marla in a couple of therapy sessions. 

 In session, Dr. Jim explained to Marla that her presence might help Martin as well as their relationship, without specifying exactly how. Instead, he asked Marla how she would feel if she learned that Martin was having an affair. Marla replied (as do many partners asked about such a hypothetical situation), “I’d leave him.” Based on this, Dr. Jim counseled Martin not to disclose his affair to Marla. Shortly thereafter, Marla became suspicious and Martin ended the affair and told Marla about it.
Marla, the betrayed wife, recalls:
“In addition to feeling betrayed by Martin and angry with him, I felt betrayed by and angry at Dr. Jim. Dr. Jim got me into therapy under false pretenses, in order to dishonestly obtain information for Martin about the likely consequences of disclosing the affair to me, then colluded with Martin in keeping the affair secret from me. He acted like he was trying to help me, but instead he hurt both Martin and me.”

Based on the betrayed wife's sentiment in the case above, she was hurt because the therapist (Dr. Jim) acted ignorant of the ongoing affair and thus became an accomplice of her husband to deceiving and lying to her.

Therapists Glass and Wright (1992) put it this way: "it is inappropriate to conduct therapy when there is a secret alliance between one spouse and an extramarital partner that is being supported by another secret alliance between the involved spouse and the therapist."

Clinicians recommend strongly that on-going affairs need to be disclosed. Author and therapist Karpel (1980) writes, “a current secret extra-marital affair by one spouse is, in most cases, highly relevant to the other spouse, because it involves major issues of trust and trustworthiness, deception, and a violation of reciprocity."

Monday, September 14, 2015

All Talk, No Action?

"All talk, no action." Does that sound or look familiar to you?

In therapy and counseling, it's senseless to complain about the worsening of one's problems, feelings, or relationships that stem from inaction. When a client comes because of depression, marital or family breakdown, I rejoice in the opportunity to be of help. A lot of times, clients initially express positive words to do recovery work. Then, a few steps out of range, they get caught up with life's worries. Entangled again in their wounds, they stop taking the needed healing steps even before they begin.

The relationship between Roberto and Minda in one of my counseling sessions demonstrated urgency. It was already getting so verbally and physically abusive between them. And they realized they needed to change or they'll destroy each other. What could they do? They needed to seek help, both of them -- Roberto for his alcoholism, infidelity, and sex addiction, and Minda for her uncontrollable anger outbursts, depression, and violence. So I laid down an emergency daily action plan and temporary weekly therapy schedule for them. Their response was, "Thanks, we'll do that." Weeks passed, and I never heard from them. Then one day, Roberto dropped me a note reporting that his wife had held a knife and was about to kill herself. Roberto and Minda failed to back up their words with action.

I once read what Matthew Henry wrote:  "Buds and blossoms are not fruit." Words we say are mere "buds and blossoms." Our action is the fruit. Words are empty without the fruit of follow-through. A main application in therapy and counseling can be to clients or counselees who speak words of willingness to change and heal their lives and relationships. Yet they stop or refuse to follow through with appropriate, consistent actions so they can get to the "other side."

Words and actions, they need to go together. This piece of truth applies to life in general and to us all as well. Life becomes whole when we follow with actions and in truth -- not in making empty promises or words that we might say to try to appear good.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

When Real Needs Sleep Inside Us

In the late 1960s, Dr. Oliver Sacks began working in a New York mental hospital. He treated patients in a ward called the "Garden." It was given that name because the patients existed as "human vegetables" to be fed and watered. They were viewed to have no brains, unthinking. Some were paralyzed, others showed bizarre behavior.

In his decades of study, Dr. Sacks made an astounding discovery:  the "Garden" mental patients were actually aware and conscious! They were suffering from severe Parkinson's disease, which disabled their functioning. But, when given strong medicine to treat their Parkinson's, Dr. Sacks found that the patients could actually think, feel, and observe from within themselves. They were capable of being involved with those around them in profound ways. Their mind was actually alive!

In 1972, Dr. Sacks chronicled his findings about the "Garden" in the mental hospital in his bestselling book entitled "Awakenings." Then, about 20 years after its publication, the book became a major film, starring Robert de Niro. Dr. Sacks' work became a classic, influencing the thinking of many doctors, scholars, and philosophical minds in the mental health and medical field.

To me, Dr. Sacks' classic discovery paints a portrait of the mental and emotional state of countless individuals. Like the patients in the "Garden" where Dr. Sacks worked, our needs can be lost somewhere, buried inside us. We can be emotionally disconnected. We feel no "connections" to the real world. We lack a genuine, deep, nourishing attachment to others. Needs sleep inside us.

What do you really need? Be aware that it can be so far underground that you've been missing it. You may have been traumatized, hurt, or abused for so long that your real need has died inside you somehow. It leaves you with no sense of your real need. No experience of "wanting" what you really need. And yet you know you need to regain the experience of your real need.

You can redeem that which is lost within. Go for it.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

How Well Do You Know Your Spouse?

A few weeks ago, I watched a psychological thriller. It's the latest 2015 version of the movie, "The Gift."

One psychological question stood out in the air as I reflected on the film:  "How well do you know your spouse?" It struck me because of its familiar thread in marital therapy sessions I'd have with couples every so often.

In the movie, husband and wife Simon and Robyn, surprisingly encountered Gordo. He was an acquaintance from Simon's past. At first, Simon didn't remember Gordo. But after a troubling series of mysterious visits and gifts from Gordo, a terrifying secret emerged about Simon's character. As Robyn learned what really happened between Simon and Gordo, she began to question how well she knows her spouse.

I'm reminded of Ainje and his wife who were married for 13 years. One time, in the bedroom, Ainje said he noticed his wife watching a pornographic film on TV and she asked him to stay on with it. He never knew in all their years that his wife will choose to view porn. 

Eventually, Ainje caught his wife having a secret email address where she'd engage in adulterous communications with an affair partner from a foreign country. After months of further lies and deceptions, Ainje's wife fled the country and lived in with her affair partner in a far away place. Ainje's heart was naturally heartbroken by the infidelity and betrayal of his wife whom he never completely knew.

Frank Pittman once said, "Marriage, like a submarine, is only safe if you get all the way inside."

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Am I A Sex Addict?

I am convinced that sex addiction is real. Both men and women, rich or poor, from every race or society - anyone can suffer from sex addiction. Unfortunately, we have media and culture that is self-indulgent. This then prevents the sex addict to be aware of or recognize his sickness early on.

Antonio, during our coffee talks, is sharing that he has attempted to stop his compulsive sexual behavior a number of times but without success. He obsessively thinks about sex and spends inordinate amounts of time masturbating, looking at internet pornography, paying prostitutes, and planning his next sexual encounters with multiple partners and strangers. He is so frustrated because even though he has intention to stop, he still continues to seek out sexual encounters in spite of negative or harmful consequences to his marriage and family.

Therapist and author Dr. Patrick Carnes, in a conference on sex addictions in 2010, says this:  "Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually related compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. Sexual addiction has been called sexual dependency and sexual compulsivity. By any name it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives."

An essential part of sanity is being grounded in reality. In the sense that a sex addict distorts reality (e.g. woman as "object, not a person," sex for its own sake, "mere sex" devoid of relationship), sex addiction then can be viewed as one form of insanity or mental illness. It is a type of high risk behavior and the risk taking is part of the sex addict's high.  A sex addict is essentially ashamed of his behavior and therefore becomes a skilled liar. This then leads to further self-obsession which leaves no room for giving to others.

Treatment for sex addiction generally includes focusing on two main issues. The first is logistical arrangements for abstinence. This involves separating the sex addict from harmful sexual behavior and environmental reinforcements in the same way drug addicts need to be separated from drugs. The second and hardest issue is healing the psychological and emotional shame, depression, and compulsivity associated with the illness. This requires sufficient recovery work and time with a competent therapist to work through the internal roots of the addiction.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Healing in Routine

When recovering from illness or breakdown, it can be easy to feel bored by routine. Since one is developing new healthy habits to heal, one may feel trapped at a certain point. This is especially so when healing gets routine and a voice within protests against changing.

Professionally and personally, I've a special intolerance to sameness, endless repetitions, or daily confinement by a cubicle. I'd literally die of boredom or get crazy. It feels like a prison I'm in. And when I feel that, I'm prone to dislike myself and company, less effective in what I do. I'll cry for help.

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that boredom is the "root of all evil." For him, boredom in routine can create a mental and emotional void that is frequently filled with reckless consumerism and addictions. When an addicted dysfunctional person is bored, he or she becomes most vulnerable to slip and fall, lapse and relapse. From saying "I can't" regarding rehabilitation, he or she starts saying "I won't." As time goes by, so is his or her patience.

Routine becomes lethal when you can't see a larger purpose for it. As one writer puts it, boredom can be caused by a "collapse of meaning." That's when boredom gets deadly. When you don't have a clear vision or meaning behind your routine, you perish. Without this vision or meaning, you're unable to reach beyond any limiting circumstance to keep going until you cross the finish line of your race.

There is "healing in routine." Healing in routine is mostly effected by a person's conception of what he's doing. When you have a purpose-driven conception of the work you do (e.g. recovery/therapy work, rehabilitation from addiction), you wait and excel because you find greater benefit and meaning even amid its seemingly endless routines.

Like a world-class runner, you simulate a perfect state of boredom for optimal performance. Your foot routinely pounds the pavement mile after mile. You move in the same way hour after hour. You pay attention to your body in the act of running. But you also remind your self to relax, hang loose, not tie up. You refuse to retreat to boredom or fantasy but instead stay with the discomfort. You have a goal to win.

And so can you when you choose to heal and get well.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Have You Been Infected With The "Affluenza Virus?"

When I met Walter, he was thirty-five years old. He worked for one of the country's billionaire companies and had been receiving six to seven figures income. Believe me, despite his affluence, he was very angry, paranoid, pessimistic, and dissatisfied with his accomplishments. He did appear to be a most emotionally distressed man on the planet.

In his bestseller book, "Affluenza," author Oliver James describes an epidemic of "affluenza virus" sweeping through the whole globe, especially the English-speaking world. James reveals how issues like consumerism, property fever; the obsessive, envious, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, lead to life-damaging choices and situations. "Affluenza virus" entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of people, and wanting to be famous and admired.

As I write this, I'm reminded of a young single mother who sought me for counseling. She was wealthy by most people's standards. She held a very lucrative, fascinating job. Living in unimaginable affluence and tech sophistication, she never seemed to have enough money. She'd often compare what she owned with what others own. She wanted more luxury in her life. Shopping or thinking what to buy greatly preoccupied her. When she saw me, she was having a nervous breakdown, not knowing where it's coming from.

Reflecting on this fast spreading virulent virus stalking the globe, I see that its deadly effects can make people prone to mental health disorders. Just as having the AIDS or HIV virus places you at risk of developing physical illness, infection with the "affluenza virus" increases your susceptibility to mental and emotional diseases such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictions, sociopathy, and personality disorders.

This is a serious, deadly epidemic. And it leads me to an unavoidable and potentially therapeutic prescription: to protect our mental health, we need to learn to pursue our needs rather than our wants.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Are You Like Coffee, Carrot, or Egg?

Today, I came across an insightful story you and I can learn from when going through hurtful times. It's about what I'd like to describe as Lola's question: "Are you like coffee, carrot, or egg?"

A young woman went to her "lola" (grandmother). She told about how her husband cheated on her. The devastation caused her to lose energy and hope. She wondered whether or not it's still worth living. She wanted to give up.

Her lola took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water on high heat. Soon the pots boil. In the first pot, she placed carrots. In the second, eggs. And in the last pot, she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. Then, after boiling, lola put each of them out and placed them in separate containers.

Her lola explained that the egg, carrot, and coffee faced the same trial: boiling water. Each reacted differently. 

The carrot went in strong, hard, and fighting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak, losing strength. 

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became stiff and hardened. 

The ground coffee beans were unique, however, lola explained. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.

Turning to her granddaughter going through marital trauma, lola asked:  "Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond, dear?"

Think of it: Are you like coffee, carrot, or egg?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Quieter You Become, The More You Can Hear

Author Ram Dass once wrote, "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."

Those words teach me when I notice my self getting too busy. When I get caught in the treadmill of schedules, sessions, events. When I try to meet demands of deadlines ... just like you.

I need quietness. I cannot be a man that I need to be without moments of quietness. As Dr. Charles Swindoll put it, "Stillness is an essential part of our growing deeper as we grow older." Oh, how I long to enjoy it ... how I long to have more of it amid the world's noise. 

Each week, I am desperately concerned that I slow down and quiet down. Especially when there's agitation. Tiredness. Too much activities. Or, stresses in relationships. When I sit in silence and listen to God, much hurt and confusion fade away. Perspective and purpose, security and confidence, move right in to my heart and mind.

"... in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."  (Isaiah 30:15)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Can You Change The One You Love?

Do you have people you love who need to change their bad habits? Kick their addictions? Reform their character defects? Get their lives back?

I always have "crying" sessions. How many times I've worked with spouses, relatives, children, or friends who go downhill due to dysfunctional loved ones. They endure behavior that is toxic, abusive, and possibly deadly that threatens their relationships.

Do you know that you can change the one you love? Most experts will tell you that you can't change anyone. They say that you can't control other people's minds and hearts. Only they can. In one sense, it's true. But the problem is, if you're the suffering loved one, they ignore the "power" you have to change your spouse, child, relative, friend, in-law, etc!  You can do something.

It's a program that I've been trying to do in support of loved ones caring to change those they love who possess psychopathological behavior:  addictions, anger problem, sexual issues, anxiety, internet obsession, compulsive spending, noncompliance with needed rehabilitation, and more. Its an effort to remove and overcome the external dynamics and obstacles that stand in the way of motivating change.

Most importantly, you can change the one you love by discovering your number one source of power. Plug into it and you help your loved one heal and change for the good.

Yes, there is a way to change the one you love!  Find out about it ... before it's too late.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Leaving Home Psychologically

Dr. Paul Tournier was a loving and wise Swiss psychotherapist and writer of many bestselling books and articles. He was master of providing hope to patients in healing the self amidst a broken world. He taught much about "parental imprints" and how to become your own person.

No one has ever had perfect parents. I am no exception. One day I came home as a teenager with medals to show to my Dad but he just ignored me.  Since then, I had to discover and continue the process of examining my father's invalidation and hurt. I'd experienced the pain repeatedly over the years, which led me to commit unnecessary mistakes in my life. As I progressively realized it, I began healing the wound caused by "parental imprints."

"Leaving home psychologically" is one way I'd like to describe my process of examining and healing my original wound. It's a painful process when I went through it myself so I can get to the "other side." I even went through a stage where I became arrogant, defiant, and violent. But the interesting thing is, as I learn to put on my own imprint instead of just automatically being what my father has imprinted in me, I'd diagnose and treat, yet still tend to put the old imprint back on. It's not giving up without a fight!

Dr. Tournier speaks of taking off parental injunctions from your system much as you take off a clothing. You begin doing this, usually during teenage years, when you start to question your parents in many areas. Still, the questioning needs to be properly guided in the right paths - reevaluating "parental imprints" in the light of wholeness, health, and current level of maturity. Every one is free to discard all of those unhealthy or life-damaging "parental imprints" but one is also free to put any of them back into your own present clothing.

Try your own imprint on for size. Keep reminding your self that you are free to make your own choices, even when some of those choices feel uncomfortable. Seek help, if necessary, to heal your ancient wounds still influencing your present. Know the process of leaving home psychologically and do it. That's how all of us are called to do developmentally so we can make the passage from child state to adulthood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Love Affair

Today, I watched an affair-recovery movie "The Love Affair." I did, out of professional and real-life experiential interest. The film's plot and content always surfaces in much of what I do. Helping both the betrayed and the unfaithful. I'm happy about the movie, for it realistically portrays a host of psychological, emotional, and relational issues that a lot of people can relate to.

Film-making appears to be catching up. What is often a taboo for discussion is now more openly being embraced for public processing. Studies and statistics on affairs report considerable occurrence of infidelity in marriages worldwide. Some recent studies show that over 50% of men and 30% of women have affairs. And for women there is indication that rates are rising. Moreover, other reports claim that in couples' therapy, a high 60% of couples deal with infidelity wounds.

My own clinical counseling observations as well as that of other professionals confirm that the chance that a marriage will be damaged by infidelity nowadays is very high. Adultery and sexual addiction play a major role in separation, divorce, or the annulment of many marriages. Infidelity has a ripple effect that reaches far from the center - destroying the peace of mind, emotional well being, and self-esteem of family members.

The ending of the movie, "The Love Affair," is a therapeutic, healthy result. How I wish all endings of couples wounded by infidelity will be like this!

Incidentally, timed with this latest box-office hit movie, this month is a "The Psychology Behind Infidelity" month for me at GMA News and ABS CBN DZMM teleradio. Back to back, they featured me as resource speaker/guest where I was given opportunity to introduce spiritual connection to the "incomplete constructs" and inadequacy of psychology and psychiatry in healing persons with adultery wound. Heavy psychotherapeutic and spiritual battle where few dare to tread!

Saturday, August 08, 2015


It takes healthy roots to keep us standing. Deep, strong roots. Powerful, stubborn roots.

So often, we look at people's appearances or external behavior. Then, we draw conclusions. We judge motive or being that may not be the true state of their lives.

Why?  We're not seeing roots. Ordinarily, we fail to see deep inner needs and drives that compel a person to say, feel, and do certain things. Yet it's at the deep inner level of our lives that real healing, character, or understanding takes place.

Now before you get excited about seeing and building your own roots, remember this: it takes time. There's no magic, instant route to roots. And it's not comfortable or fun. Nor is it a high-profile process. The process is silent. The stronger, the deeper the roots, the less visible they are. No noise. Less noticed.

Nevertheless, in the long run, the final product of going into and planting the right roots, deeper enough, will be irreplaceable ... invaluable.

In real therapy or personal wholeness, you go for the root problem, not merely the symptoms. Change bad roots to good roots.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Angelita's Story

Angelita had one of the prettiest faces we can ever see. Her voice was weak and fearful as she spoke about her self. She kept leaning her head down saying, "I feel ugly." She kept apologizing ... she's so lonely, wrestled with inferiority, thoughts of suicide, and a loss of self-respect.

She never felt wanted in her life. Her mother and father placed her in the hands of a stranger when she was born and walked out of her life. They left no clues regarding their whereabouts and no promise of return. Years passed. Angelita's parents never appeared any more.

Angelita became a juvenile delinquent. Misery stalked her. She lashed out at the world, took alcohol and drugs, and became promiscuous. A number of times, she attempted to end her life. Her parents' absence was simply unbearable. Suddenly, she decided she'll look for them. She'd search and find them. And she did! She walked back into her father's and mother's lives one rainy day ... but sooner than she expected, she discovered she still wasn't wanted by them. Her parents waved her goodbye forever.

Since that darkest moment in her life, Angelita walked the streets and hunted unsuccessfully for employment. Here was a girl so confused, completely disillusioned about life ... and terribly in need of being accepted and wanted. She almost broke down and became totally "crazy." Because she's unwanted, she's convinced that her life was wasted, useless, and a bother. Strange though it sounds, she shouted to the skies and asked why this is happening to her.

Then, one day, Angelita passed by a hotel. She heard people singing and a voice on microphone speaking the Word on psychological and spiritual healing. Ushers invited her in, embraced and welcomed her lovingly. After sitting for a couple of hours, she learned of therapy and healing for the mind and heart through the unconditional love of the Father. She understood the salvation and healing message of the Father in heaven for her life through Scripture mentioned in the Healing Workshop.

When she recounted what happened, Angelita mentioned one psychotherapy verse cited in the workshop that left a lasting imprint on her: "And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). That moment, when she learned of that verse and understood the Word, Angelita gave her life to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Since that day, Angelita found great hope for the future. She embarked on a journey of mental and spiritual healing with the counsel, support, and unconditional love of her real Father and new-found friends.

Angelita's story ... a story of complete therapy, redemption, and wholeness. I hope someday you'd meet her. She's a totally changed, better person now.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sadness After Sex

I surmise that countless people experience sadness after sex. Psychologists call this psychological phenomenon "postcoital tristresse." It's a feeling of unfulfillment in the sexual act, especially when something deeper or permanent is desired or hungered for in the physical expression of love.

It's a familiar scene.

A woman in her 40s, Georgina tries to experience love by giving herself away sexually to men. She goes to one sexual relationship after another, yet never feeling satisfied.

Lito is a gay law student. He lives in with a boyfriend, with whom he has frequent sex. Most of the time, he admits feelings of emptiness in his life despite the relationship. One day, his boyfriend abandoned him, leaving him suicidally depressed.

A married family man, Pedro, goes to the condo of his girlfriend with lots of passionate kissing. Compared to his bad mouthed wife, his girlfriend takes care of him, cooks for him, and laughs with him. Still, something constantly disturbs him within.

Tito goes from one massage parlor and spa to another, paying women for extra service. These women, with fake names to declog him of stress, seem to give him a temporary feeling of being loved or embraced as he is. He keeps coming back for he's never full.

Here is one horny senior citizen, Cesar, at age 68. He looks for girls who are 18 to feed his lust. The more he gets what he wants, the more he feels lonely and unconnected. He eventually sees a psychotherapist who helps him sort out his long time unresolved pains.

Such is the loneliness and emptiness of a sexual seeker who continues to search for satisfaction in a series of static encounters. Here is what's common: in the addicted, fixed sexual pattern of behavior, what always comes out is the feeling of "futility of going nowhere." At times, it's conscience that bothers.

What's wrong with the picture?

Ultimately, it's intimacy that we long for in our relationships. Deeper waters, getting close emotionally to someone other than sex. To be able to experience genuine connection - a feeling of being unconditionally loved as you are, as a whole being. As psychotherapist and writer, Dr. Rolls May put it, "In remembering our sexual experiences, it's the intimacy that is remembered, not the orgasm."

But, even as best as it can be, human connection remains limited. No human intimacy can give you 100% satisfaction. We're all created to need more than what is human - psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Moving Is Medicine

I like moving. In fact, one of my secrets as a therapist is the medicine of moving. As much as possible, I avoid getting chained to a couch, cubicle, or office when counseling. I like outdoors, the mall, coffee shop, gym, park, or any natural day-to-day surroundings. If you're depressed or breaking down, you may try joining me walking, running, or in a regular movement program while in session! I mean it, it's a best thing you can do for your mental health, not just your physical health.

Exercise is long well recognized as one of the most effective ways to heal your moods. It's even clinically proven to be more effective than any anti-depressant drug. So if you're depressed or going through much emotional distress of some kind, get out of the house and begin moving your feet. You may spend an hour or more running. And when I say running, I mean shuffling along at a slow jog. Not hard core. Just moving and light.

With your moving, you can breathe calmness and peace into your mind. You can focus on seeing things in different, helpful ways. You can get to think better about what needs to get done, such as work or relationship repair. Still fuming or pretty sensitive? There's the beauty of instant gratification of just moving around, whether in the mall or park etc. Because the first moment you choose to get moving, you'll feel better.

Moving is medicine. It also happens to be free. And its major side effects?  All positives. Aside from improved moods or mental health, moving can lead to decreased blood pressure, weight maintenance, improved strength, better sleep, and more. Science proves that.

If you struggle to get moving, it can be helpful to involve a therapist, coach, a family member or a health professional who can help you make a plan and set some goals. The important thing is to change your view so exercise is not something that you do when you have the energy or motivation. But it becomes something that you do in order to get  energy and motivation for your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Isolation and Psychopathology

Let me share with you a popular rat experiment in the 1980s. In the experiment, a lonesome rat is put in a cage with 2 bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time they run the experiment, the rat becomes obsessed with the drugged water and keeps coming back for more and more. Until it kills itself ...

A well known psychology professor, Bruce Alexander, observed something odd about this experiment. He noted that the rat was put in the cage all alone. It had nothing to do but drink the drugged water. So, professor Bruce tried something different. He built a Rat Park with plenty of friends, colored balls, and best-rat food. The results were startling. The rats with positive environment for companionship and activity didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it. None of them died.

Now, this I know, human beings are not rats! In my practice and in our life in general, no one is exempted from hidden psychological and spiritual roots that can keep us in bondage to unhealthy habits, addictions, or breakdowns even in a positive environment. Still, a significant factor is a healthy environment where there is community or social support such as loved ones and friends, in overcoming and avoiding addictions and mental disorders.

Therapeutic, purposive social recovery is part of psychotherapy. Isolation kills. When one simply reaches out and seek help, it breaks the cycle of isolation. When one tries to reach out to other people, it begins an important process of gaining freedom from a trap of something within one's self. Real human connection in our society is often minimal. For too long, we claim "I can figure this out by myself." We need now to talk about the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us. We need now to see the essence of social therapy if we are to survive life's ways and wounds.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Over the years, I've always been engaged in helping hurting men and women do a radically different way of seeing circumstances. This happens the most especially when there are high expectations and they get extremely upset about certain events in their lives. Of course, when there is trauma or a deep emotional wound, the need to re-view life becomes obvious in order to survive. In the psychotherapy field, this type of conscious and intentional change of perspective is called "reframing." 

Sheila greatly benefited from reframing her past. For many years, she struggled with severe depression that stemmed from a difficult childhood, parental abandonment, and marital divorce. Her parents physically and emotionally abused her. Sadly, she received the same type of treatment from her husband whom she eventually separated from. As the years go by, Sheila became more and more out of control in her rage and violent behavior.

Fortunately, Sheila sat down with a psychotherapist who helped her reframe events from her past. One way the therapist did this is to ask her to see the reality of the family of origin of both her parents and her husband. There, Sheila discovered that all of them - her father, mother, and husband - were abused themselves while they were young. Her therapist explained to her that when they hurt her, they were all doing it out of their unresolved, unmetabolized psychological woundedness.

It was a miraculous moment for Sheila as she reframed the horrors of her past. She learned that she cannot change the events of her past but she can change how she experiences them in her present. While she tended to see herself as a victim, she began to see herself as a victorious survivor. While she tended to demand vengeance or apology, she needed nothing anymore from those who hurt her. She reframed her tragedy, healed her toxic emotions that resulted, and then refocused her life.

Today, she's a psychotherapist her self!  Not wasting any of the pain and struggle she went through, she now speaks to victims and survivors of trauma, parental abuse, divorce, and acts of physical and emotional violence. She became an inspiration to many fortunate enough to engage with her. It all started with reframing her tragedy in a way that it could be used to make her stronger rather than further damage her.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Addict's Denial

Addiction often influences the way one thinks. Thoughts become compulsive and obsessive as an addict pursues his or her "drug of choice." An addict who is not willing to see his or her addiction as it really is defends the continued use of the chosen addictive substance, behavior, or person - both in his thoughts and in relationship with affected others.

A father and husband, for example, goes downstairs of the house after his wife and children are in bed to indulge in internet pornography. If you ask him why he's doing it, he may likely engage in denial claiming that it's just adult entertainment normal for men and not going to negatively affect family and work. Furthermore, there may also be companion, grandiose thinking assuring his wife or anyone that it's something he can control by himself.

Remember that denial is a hallmark symptom of addictions. Addicts, especially the unremorseful or resistant ones, will typically hide the truth, refuse to talk about the problem, rationalize around, or minimize his condition. Indeed, once a person becomes addicted, he is bound to "mask" the strong hold the addiction has on his life. Denial is used by the addict to provide himself a false sense of confidence as he tries to convince his self and others that everything is fine. So if you're a loved one or friend of an addict, be careful and discerning!

For an addict to rehabilitate or heal, an essential first step is acknowledgement of the addiction and the damaging effects the addiction has in his life. Compulsory psychotherapy/counseling or treatment program is ineffective if the addicted person refuses to get past his denial and recognize the reality of his problem. The unrepentant addict will typically comply with treatment or counseling to avoid unpleasant losses or consequences, such as losing his family, going to jail etc. But he will resume his addiction after buying some time or even after the program is completed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Counseling for Children of Divorce

I do not believe that separation and divorce (or annulment) necessarily cause psychopathological problems in children. However, the parents' split increases the risk for the development of emotional and psychological difficulties. More so, when children have been experiencing abuse or trauma (e.g. physical, emotional) prior to and/or during their parents' breakup.

It's so important then for separated/divorced parents to appreciate the value of counseling/therapy for their children. At times, one or both parents may be suffering from significant psychological disturbances. In such cases, the children can be very vulnerable and may develop disturbances as well. Since the parents are in deep need themselves, they are often not in a position to deal adequately with their children's needs. Or, they may be handling the children in a misguided fashion that only contribute to their developing psychological troubles.

In the course of my practice, I did encounter children of divorce or separated parents who are breaking down. Some of them, unfortunately, have become violent, addicted, overspenders, or promiscuous in reaction (consciously or unconsciously) towards their parents' abandonment or neglect. Of course, there are no simple answers. The problems dealt with by children of divorce are always complex and multi-factorial. Thus, I do what it takes to attempt to fill gaps and meet the children's needs that are certainly legitimate and age-appropriate.

It's my hope and prayer that the guidance and recovery contained in the sensitive sessions I hold with these children at risk may serve to lessen problems caused by parental psychological difficulties. I've been married myself and have children, my therapeutic assets notwithstanding, and can appreciate fully the problems and trauma of marriage and family. Still, I remain fully aware that the process of recovering and healing the hurts of children are filled with trials. It requires more intensive approaches than mere information and talks.

I'm reminded of Karen Carpenter's song "Bless the Beast and the Children," as I write this post. May much more be done to give the children shelter from the storm. Keep them warm. Keep them safe.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Messages From The Unconscious

If you go to Dr. Sigmund Freud, he'd say that there is an "unconscious" in your mind. He believed that there is a conscious as well as an unconscious content within the psyche. To him, the concept of the "unconscious" is a basic principle that makes it possible to understand and treat mental illness.  Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, and dysfunctional behaviors, are evidence of the "unconscious" at work.

When you are in the grip of the "unconscious," applying Dr. Freud's theory, you are not totally aware of why you do or say things. "Unconscious" thoughts, feelings, and behaviors usually contain unwanted negative information. They don't appear on the surface but buried underneath. They are experienced as absolute facts. They're automatic. 

Often a counselee and I can understand messages from the unconscious by discussing it together. One afternoon in a therapy session, a housewife recounted one of these "direct insight" messages from her unconscious. She is pretty and articulate, yet has been reclusive and afraid of social functions for decades now in her marriage. Her self-esteem is so low. She could not figure out how to proceed from here to change.

Then, at one point, she started to sob. She recalled how much she was physically and emotionally abused by her mother since she was a child. Much of her childhood was spent serving along with the yayas in their affluent home. Her mother would punish her in varied ways and prevent her to leave the house to play with others her age.

Seeing the obvious, I processed with her this traumatic childhood past that she has had. She then was able to look more clearly in the mirror to see where her current unwanted feelings and behaviors may be coming from. She begun understanding herself more deeply since then, struggling though she still is overcoming her current "unconscious" automatized emotions and beliefs about her self.

William James once wrote, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." Years of experience as a psychotherapist have taught me that the roots of psychopathology and addictions are attitudes and beliefs coming from the "unconscious" mind. It's necessary to get beyond the verbal, conscious level to make sure that what's being addressed in the recovery process is truly what really is.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Redeeming Places

Recently, I've found my self reflecting on "redeeming places." It occurred to me that there are places that are reminders of painful experiences. When I passed by or revisited them, I truly would still feel hurt from memories or flashbacks. But, I feel pretty different now. I create new memories in these same places, redeeming them which now gives me a wonderful sense of freedom.

Clearly, recovering from significant emotional and relational losses or trauma is not an easy engagement. It requires focus, a level of willingness, and courage. Recovery is a series of steps and actions that need to be accomplished by you. You can be helped or guided by another to shorten your agony, but he or she can't recover you. No one can recover you but you.

Recovery means "redeeming places." You recover your self as a place by finding new meaning to what happened to you. Recovery means remembering places without having them precipitate feelings of loss, pain, regret, or  shame. Recovery is being able to forgive people no matter what they'd done or said. Recovery is claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming your happiness. Recovery is redeeming places by talking about your wounds and helping others heal.

Getting the proper information and correct action to you is what therapy is all about. With that, you can redeem places and discover strength within your self to recover. You are in safe hands. You can feel better. You can move beyond loss. And I say "redeeming places" is a way to expedite your recovery.