Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Walk In Hua Hin

As I was walking the streets of Hua Hin in Thailand just a few days ago, I saw different places where "things can happen." Noisy bars. Tattooed, burly white men. Thai women scantily clad, inviting. Thug-looking men exchanging money. Then, stopping by a coffee shop, I'd read stories of murder of foreign tourists in the area.

I think about notorious criminals back home and they do inhabit the same kinds of places. Call it sociopaths, anti-social personalities, criminals, prostitutes, or whatever, they seem everywhere you go. Regardless of race, color, or status in life, the heart of humankind is the same. Psychological or emotional woundedness is basically from within rather than from without.

It always helps to have a basic understanding of the criminal, psychopathic, or anti-social personality as a mental state marked by a general pattern of violation of the rights and safety of others. Since I was in a foreign country, my own strange mind swirled around watching behavior signs to spot dangerous people. Before it's too late!

I made sure I cover all scenarios. Some people worry about serial killers, but serial killers are rare. I think, even in Thailand! So, I just considered in my thoughts the ordinary dangers or risks that people commonly embrace each day. Do I have enough information about people I talk to or places I visit? What can I do to avoid or minimize the risks of my being mugged or robbed or beaten by thugs in the streets? Have I done all I can to protect my self?

Dangerous people prey on people who are weak, lonely, sad, insecure, scared, alone. Awhile ago, I was speaking to a man who's taking care of a vulnerable young woman who has been a mental health patient for so many years. She fits the profile of a perfect target for unsavory characters. He told me that at her lowest and most wounded moments, several men would waltz into her and appear to be loving ... only to find out that they're with her to abuse, rob, and take advantage of her.

Be careful. Be prepared. Be safe.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Epidemic of Misdiagnoses

Here is a present-day reality: we live in an epidemic of misdiagnoses in the health care field.

Hilda went to a $ 2-billion hospital for treatment. She was suffering from daily dizziness and rotational spinning. It's an illness that she called a "curse" that had been disabling her personal and family life. After spending over a hundred thousand dollars for tests, medicines, and doctors in the said hospital, she remained unwell.

Then, she decided to go to a natural homeopathy doctor in a little clinic with no secretary and frills. There, Hilda found out that she had vertigo and Vitamin B12 deficiency. Can sound incredible to believe, but these diagnoses were never discovered or mentioned to her in the expensive hospital protocol she underwent. After being given shots of Vitamin B12, Hilda got well and back to normal functioning.

Danny was four years old when his father vanished into a mental hospital with a "nervous breakdown." After receiving a series of shock treatments and potent drugs in the psychiatric ward, his father returned home a broken man. His memory was gone, his personality had deteriorated, and he could scarcely hold a job.

Danny's father, a once-vibrant, personable man, never recovered. The family, with 4 children, plummeted into poverty and fell apart. All the children except for Danny ended up in children's homes. In his adulthood, Danny formed the groundwork for the Safe Harbor Project to help others avoid the tragedy of mental health misdiagnosis he witnessed growing up.

In my own practice, I've also heard and witnessed painful specifics from psychiatric patients. When they came to see me, their lives were already being engulfed by pain and confusion due to the treatment they received. Some of them had even become "vegetables." I don't know all the reasons. I don't even know most of the reasons. But I do know one of the reasons: misdiagnosis. The right mental health treatment is hard to come by these days ... one which is good at going into the "roots."

Indeed, we all need harbors to pull into when we feel blasted by the storms and tragedies of life. We all need a refuge and source for true healing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Your Tomorrow

Your tomorrow.

It may bring you wealth, the beginning of a sweet marriage, a fabulous opportunity towards travel, or it's just another 1,440 minutes (24 hours) for you. It may bring sickness, tragedy, or broken relationships. But, of course, it's also possible that your tomorrow may not even come!

Now, sit for a moment in your chair. Be still. Even just for one minute. Reflect - this tomorrow is often a source of people's anxiety or psychopathology. Just reflect on these 2 borrowed statements from Proverbs and James of Scripture:  ".... you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow ... " and "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." 

You got that? You may say them aloud several times. Your tomorrow, our tomorrow, is an X-factor. It's a mystery. It cannot be predicted with accuracy. No doctor, seer, or psychiatric system can explain your tomorrow. It defies all attempts to be unveiled. It lies hidden in the depths of the plan of our Creator. You can plan, you can predict, you can fear, you can dream -- but, the bottom line is, you do not know.

Think about the meaning of what I'm saying here about your tomorrow. It has implications to your own life, mental or emotional health, friendships, family, work. Are you prepared for "anything" tomorrow? Is your present faith or confidence on something or someone stable enough to nourish and support your "anything" tomorrow?

There it is ... the indisputable reality of our lives. You and I can live only one day at a time. Make sure you know the greatest Psychotherapist who ever lived. Only He can secure and bring peace into your tomorrow and beyond. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "The first wealth is health." How true!

Let me set the record straight. Though I do am a kind of doctor or sound like a doctor, I'm not an M.D. Do not be misled. What I share sometimes about physical health comes not from a medical degree but from common sense ... from extensive personal experience and searches for truth.

Take me and my younger years, for example. If only I knew earlier, I would not had become used to eating refined foods, devoid of nutrition and filled with preservatives. I may be accomplishing good things - but since I crammed junk food down my throat, there are accumulating effects on some aspects of my health that can slow me down. So today, I resolve to keep a balance in my food intake ... before it's too late.

Health must be a top priority for us. If we either ignore it (like a bad habit) or abuse it (like a good child), we suffer disease and weakness. Physical illness is also known to cause psychological and emotional disorders that can make one incapable of normal daily functioning. The humorist, Frank Burgess, nailed it right when he said, "Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies."

Indeed, the greatest mistake a man can make is to sacrifice health for money, fame, pleasure, or any other passing reward.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Cover Ups: "I Can Handle It By Myself," "Let's Not Talk About It"

"I can handle it by myself."

"Let's not talk about it."

I don't know about you, but I never miss untreated addicts - alcoholics, gamblers, sex/affair addicts, etc. - saying these two "cover-ups." These are common "walls" constructed by those who are unwilling to heal. When a spouse or family members realize that the problem has worsened, they've already lived in a delusional world of denial and lies with their addicted loved one.

Addicts lie. They rationalize a lot to cover up evidences of the intensity of their addiction. They avoid responsibility, claiming nothing can be done and yet trying everything possible to hide the problem. Denial and minimization are an addict's major weapons. Never believe an untreated addict. If you're a loved one, it's healthier for you to listen more to what they do than what they say ... unless you want your misery to continue on.

Helping yourself or an addicted loved one move into recovery can be a complicated endeavor. What has taken many years or months to develop cannot be undone overnight or in a day. Rehabilitation can be a long process. Yet compared to the progression and life damage of the addiction, it's an easy and long-term solution. But the spouse or family members need to move out of denial and enabling. They must be willing to do what it takes and expend as much energy as possible to rehabilitate their addicted loved one. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Should You Or Not Take Psychiatric Drugs?

I'm often asked about psychiatric drugs. Should you take drugs for mental health? Or, should you stay off them? If you have questions your self, read the complete answers below:

Green Mental Health Care (pdf book)
Safe Harbor 


Several months ago, a British man came to see me with his Filipina wife. There I felt the heaviest weights their hearts can endure. After being shown indisputable evidences of her affair with a younger man, the wife hurriedly walked out. Tears flowing from his eyes as a flooding river in the night, the British husband was left with me. Groans fell from his lips -- deep loneliness and trauma arrived and clinged to his chair.

There is simply no other anguish like the consuming feelings of loneliness. Ask a long-time inmate in prison this evening ... or an OFW or migrant worker thousands of miles at sea or in some bar tonight ... or a wife who is being physically and emotionally abused by her husband ... or a father and mother whose arms ache for a child who met sudden death ... or a bitter teenager who weeps over her parents' abandonment ... or even a single-person who goes to his or her apartment alone, haunted by painful memories of betrayal and shattered romance.  

Composer Peter Tchaikovsky knew. He wrote the following words in minor key:  "None but the lonely heart can feel my anguish ... " In my journey to help others heal, I've crossed paths with too many who could echo Tchaikovsky's lament. It knows neither border nor barrier ... no respecter of race, color, age, status. It refuses all bargains or logic in its deepest part. Crowds can make it worse. Even activity can drive the loneliness deeper.

When you are in deep loneliness, you need an understanding friend or helper. You need someone who can share in your wound in silent warfare. When you are lonely, you need strength to keep putting your one foot in front of the other. When you are lonely, you need to grieve well and refuse to succumb. In time, your healing needs to reach a point when you are able to lift your eyes off your self. Then, that becomes the beginning of your better relief.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I Feel Honored By Your Coming

I feel honored by your coming.

It's my privilege to share in your journey ... at your so spontaneous, playful, uninhibited, even self-destructive time. Whatever it is - self-esteem, solid defenses, trauma wounds, an addiction, afraid of being alone, anything you do for distraction - you offer me a glimpse into the most intimate, private moments of your life.

You teach me. I do learn as much from you as you learn from me. What I consider most important to know you teach me by my being with you. That choice is power. That denial or perfectionism is disease. That loss is a part of life. That relationships are terrifying. That just as you imprison your self and your world, so am I also capable of limiting my own choices and possibilities.

Thank you for the honor of your entrusting to me what you really think, feel, and do ... when your guard is down. Not only does your information I gain from you help me better understand what you're going through. Such knowledge also helps me better understand my self. What precious unsolicited, unintended gift! You do much to help me appreciate and accommodate to varied, rich lives I may never live.

Though it takes incredible energy to do good therapy, I feel honored and grateful for the incentive of being with you in your life's journey. Your healing is my passion.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Such a warm, peaceful Tuesday afternoon. A cool, quiet drive with a TV reporter to one part of the city. As we entered the gate of the Women's Correctional, I sensed something up ahead. Before I realized what it was, it flashed before my eyes - I could see it now ... the color-dressed woman inmates, some staring at me, some smiling at me. I don't mean to be grandiose, but I felt they're not that different from those outside. And by seeing so, I saw a part of me as well.

My TV researcher guide, Georis, served as my cheery informative usher into a populous facility. My first ever visit here. The TV crew and staff were all over, already setting up. In a few moments, I was handed a "case study" transcript about one who they described as a "decent-looking, hi-society, pretty criminal." Along with lunch food, Georis made me digest the story of a wrecked life. So what appeared to be a curiosity visual tour of a place I'd never seen became a day of silent therapeutic reflections. Of course, it had been worth it.

Monica (not her real name). Over 6 years now, she's imprisoned in the Women's Correctional. Her case: robbery, estafa, and faking death. She stole millions worth of cash and jewelry. She hid and escaped legal prosecution and imprisonment by staging her "death" - violently, crazily, and fatally. Coached by her lawyers, she bought a corpse and burned it along with her car, and produced a fake death certificate. After 3 years of successful hiding, the police and NBI caught her that turned out to be a sensational media story. That's the Monica they're featuring in the upcoming episode of GMA 7's popular tele-drama "Magpakailanman."

Before my on-camera TV interview, I sat in a sofa near inmate Monica in real person. We chatted. I asked her questions, some too personal or "dangerous." Monica just smilingly responded. She was friendly, although she appeared to me to be kind of nervous. She honestly shared that her husband and three children practically abandoned her for years onwards while she's in prison. Her husband never visited her since he caught her having an affair during her incarceration. My mind swirled around images of how she has been healing. Naturally, I wondered about what else she thinks and feels living her life as a rehabilitating woman "criminal" in the Women's Correctional. I imagined my pulse shot up a bit that I had to take a grip of my fingers while speaking to and knowing more about Monica. 

Enter Mel Tiangco, TV host of "Magpakailanman." She asked too many difficult questions. One, among others, Mel asked referring to Monica, "Dr. Subida, how come a good-looking woman who comes from a decent, well-to-do family will choose to rob, do illegal and criminal activities, and even fake her death?" I responded by saying that crime is not dependent on appearance or gender; it's a non-physical, psychological "wound." Even prior to everything that happened, this ancient character "wound" was already existent. Monica never knew how to deal with her "wound," so she went to the wrong activities, the wrong people, the wrong places -- a life of crime - to medicate her "wound."

The world is full of wounded individuals who choose to pursue a life of crime. In psychological treatment, criminal minds are classified under ASPD or antisocial personality disorder, also referred to as sociopathy or psychopathy. It's characterized by strong toxic traits such as conning, deception, lying, reckless disregard of safety of self and others, violence, and an impoverished, numbed conscience. Due to the nature and severity of the disorder, it is often good in simulating remorse rather that truly desiring to change. ASPD is one of the most difficult dramatic/erratic mental disorders to treat based on the DSM diagnostic manual.

"Is there still hope for them to change?," the TV host asked.  Of course, there is always hope for any criminal while there is life. You can choose to heal, grow, and deepen as a truly transformed human being despite what was done in the past. The past does not have to define your present and future. There's no reason to stay in crime or wounding a minute longer. The escape route is clearly marked. It can't just be psychological/emotional relief or better circumstances. It must lead to the cross ... where you find the only One greatest Psychotherapist who ever lived that can bring you true wholeness, inner fulfillment, and lasting peace.

Fortunately, Monica met this Psychotherapist in the Women's Correctional. She is healing, changing ... hopefully, for real this time.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Are You Ready For Recovery?

What psychotherapy/counseling does is simple, cost-effective, and time-saving in the long term. It works. The principles of "whole person" recovery are based on sound principles of healing for mind, body, and soul.

I've witnessed marvelous instances of recovery of broken individuals, couples, and families over the years. Each of them is a testimony that change and healing is possible if and when one humbly and honestly embrace reality and commit to recovery work.

At the same time, I've also seen countless situations where people are not ready to recover. They insist on over-rationalizing, blame-shifting, excuse-making, projecting their faults, or simply denying their reality. These are often nothing more than subtle evasion tactics. 

How do you know you're ready for recovery?  Here are your "diagnostic" questions:

1.  How worse will it have to happen before you're ready to recover?
2.  At what point you'd admit that you've become out of control?
3.  How much are you prepared to lose in pursuit of your addiction or dysfunctional choices?
4.  How much pain are you willing to endure for the sake of your problem?
5.  Would your life be better with or without your addiction, thoughts, or behaviors?
6.  When will enough be enough? After 5 years of misery? After you lose your marriage, your family, your money?
7.  What would you be willing to do to get free?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Help for Addicts

All kinds of addicts have something in common. Whether the addictive agent or drug-of-choice is alcohol, sex, gambling, drugs, food, money, work, or a person, addicts live a life of seeking relief from pain.

Dr. Lawrence Haterrer, psychology professor of Cornell University Medical School, with over 30 years of experience in addiction therapy, once wrote of sex addiction process this way: "Addicts don't use sex for affection or recreation, but for the management of pain or anxiety."

Dr. Hatterer's statement is so common, clinically, among all addicts. They all seek comfort and healing, but impale themselves repeatedly on false solutions that only make matters worse. Physical illness, psychological disorders, and emotional stresses can all be a result of repressed, unaddressed pain. What could hurt more than trying to "medicate" your self with your drug-of-choice and in the process cause yourself even greater misery and pain?

All efforts of addicts by themselves are ultimately futile and doomed. Until addicts  make a decision to seek help and confront their pain head-on in therapy and recovery, this hidden or not-so-hidden pain will hound and damage them without mercy ... the rest of their lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Art Therapy Through Chess

Yesterday, during a break in my hospital group session, I was interviewed by TV reporter/producer, Serafin Gozon, of GMA 7 State of the Nation of Jessica Soho on the subject of "Art Therapy." I commented to the reporter that art (i.e. drawing, writing, sculpture, dance, music, singing etc.) is an expressive medium, a symbolic speech, that is effectively being used in psychotherapy to explore hidden, internal distresses and emotional pains.

In fact, even before its formalization as "art therapy" by the behavioral sciences, art is already being used by millions of people for thousands of years for their own personal growth and "survival." I'd like to describe art as some form of "defense against life's misfortunes." It's not the actual cure yet but it can serve as bridge to go to the roots of psychological/emotional disorders in mental health treatment.

I also mentioned art therapy through chess in that TV interview. I do chess therapy as one of my art forms in psychological practice. Chess, though an ancient game, is well written about as a form of art that is capable of comforting, extracting, or sublimating psychological wounds. Dr. Reuben Fine, a chess grandmaster, world champion contender, and clinical psychologist wrote "The Psychology of the Chess Player" (1958) that delves deeply on the interaction between chess and a player's psychological state or possible issues.

Here is some excerpt of Dr. Fine's writing on the psychology of the chess player:

Chess is a contest between two men in which there is considerable ego-involvement. In some way it certainly touches upon the conflicts surrounding aggression, homosexuality, masturbation and narcissism which become particularly prominent in the anal-phallic phases of development. From the standpoint of id psychology, Jones' observations can therefore be confirmed, even enlarged upon. Genetically, chess is more often than not taught to the boy by his father, or a father-substitute, and thus becomes a means of working out the son-father rivalry.

The symbolism of chess lends itself to this rivalry in a most unusual way. Central to it is the figure of the King. [In chess literature it is customary to capitalize the names of the pieces, and I shall adhere to this practice.] The King occupies a crucial role in the game in all respects. It is the piece which gives the game its name; for, chess is derived from the Persian shah meaning King, and is more or less the same in all languages. In fact, the three universal words in chess are chess, check, and King, all of which derive from shah. All other pieces have varying designations in different languages. Thus, Queen in Russian is Fyerz, which has nothing to do with woman; Bishop is Fou or jester in French, Laufer or runner in German.  (See continuation of article).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Oh yes ... I've been there. I'm possibly like you. There are times when I reminisce, resurrect memories from the gentle spots of my mind. Dusty back roads of my memory as past people and places pay a brief visit with me. Too clear to ignore, too personal to share, nostalgia sometimes sweeps over me. I wonder, am I growing older or just growing deeper?

A walk along a beach at sunset. Looking over my boyhood photos. Yearning back while looking at my "now-grown" youngest child. Angelus with my cousins, praying with "lola," early at night. A sentimental visit to the place where I was raised. Being with Dad and Mom, my sisters too, in the picnic park. The smell and sounds of my first chess games. Diplomas ... graduations. My first dates with one I married. Saying goodbye to the irrecoverables. In some, no need to say goodbye.

Sometime ago, I took drives and got alone for extended periods. I just enjoyed "pictures" hidden away from my heart, the nostalgia. In the stillness of surroundings, I let it run free ... and as I released my grip, there I saw where it took me. There was something much more to my nostalgic secrets -- lots of treasured learnings and how I realized I needed them to heal and grow.

Sort of crazy? By the way, if we meet together on the back tunnel of time and memory, I'll be happy and smiling at you. I promise not to tell any one. Confidentiality is one of my best strengths.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Midlife Crisis And Wholeness

Filipino megastar, Sharon Cuneta, has recently admitted in the media that she's going through a "midlife crisis." She said that she lost faith in her self. "I hated myself for the way I looked and the time I continued to waste by not focusing and working on bettering my own person," Sharon honestly confessed. She added that she became complacent about her weight battle and she apologized to her fans for "letting them down."

"Midlife crisis" is a term coined by Canadian psychologist/psychoanalyst  Eliot Jaques in 1965. It's referred to as a time of life (from age 40s to 50s and beyond) when a person realizes his or her own mortality and the limitedness of time left. Such transition is usually triggered by stressors related to career, marriage, physical appearance or changes associated with aging, romantic relationships, financial expenditures, work-life balance, among others.

Based on empirical studies in adult development psychology, this so-called "midlife crisis" is not a universal or even near-universal phenomenon.  One noted study, for example, is the normative aging study by Costa and Mcrae in the 80s. The middle-aged persons in their study were followed from their early 20s throughout their adulthood. And they found out that the only ones with a "midlife crisis" (i.e. depression, despair) were the ones who, in their 20s, were also depressed and anxious.

The way I see it, the so-called "midlife crisis" is two things that makes it a myth:  1. It's not related to "age;" and 2. It's proven to be not a general phenomenon applied to all. If you're so depressed or desperate in your 40s, 50s, and beyond, there could be many underlying causes for this. And the least of these causes is your "age!" You've likely experienced countless crises in your adult years where you missed growing or developing strong psychological boundaries. In cases like this, once a crisis-prone individual, always a crisis-prone individual, no matter what age you turn to.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I got disturbed not too long ago. It wasn't from something I did in a counseling session ... but from someone I met outside. This individual was a highly-educated, well-traveled, much experienced celebrity in his field of profession. For so many years, he held respected, prestigious positions in various organizations.

He emailed me his "credentials," emphasizing that I have lots of great things I don't know about him. I got the feeling that it's extremely important for him that everyone knows who he is, where he has been, how he has done, and what he thinks. I did meet him a couple of times in a coffee shop, and some of my disturbing impressions were verified.

Of course, I had no intention to diminish the significance of his impressive credentials or record of achievements. But here was my point - he knew better than anybody else. When the two of us were together - short though it may be - it was hard to miss the distinct impression that the VIP or more important one was not you. He chose to be, quite frankly, a pompous man. The attitude of self-praise during our conversations was conspicuous.

Indeed, there is no greater deception than self-deception. It's a tragic psychological trap. As Arnold Bennet says, "Falsehood often lurks upon the tongue of him, who, by self-praise, seeks to enhance his value in the eyes of others."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When The Religious Becomes A Mental Patient

Do you know that religiosity can be used as a "pill" for emotional pain? There is a difference between "religion" as a psychological defense mechanism and a true "relationship" with God.

A few years ago, at a plush residential village, a religious woman in terrible shape became a mental patient. Her son and husband invited me over to speak to her in their home. When I arrived, she was firmly holding a Bible, reciting Bible verses, while running amok, shouting and breaking glasses, and seeing invisible things around the house. Her husband and children could not understand the "gap" of reality they were witnessing in their loved one.

The religious woman, as well as countless unknown others, lives in the unreal world of religious fanaticism. Something breaks down inside a person and goes to the motions of religion for protection or comfort. A sort of "pill" to medicate some unexplainable pain within. The poor religious woman was stuck. It was fortunate that she was taken to doctors and a place where she could receive appropriate help. 

There are many others stuck in religious fanaticism, though to a lesser degree than this religious woman who became a mental patient. They will never end up in a mental hospital or go to a psychotherapist for treatment. Yet they will go through life rigidly repeating religious acts or ceremonies, not in an earnest desire to know God, but in an attempt to avoid dealing directly with pain.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life is fragile. We are all just passing by.

As human beings, we are all aware of the fragility of life. Time is limited. We are all just passing by.

In chess tournaments, players often play using a clock. The clock is set for the allotted time allowed for each player to make his moves. When it gets to the last 5 minutes of the game, the flag of the clock starts to rise until it falls to signal the end of the game.

70 years of age is equivalent to 25, 568 days or 613, 620 hours or 36, 817, 920 minutes! If you know that that's going to be the length of your time on planet earth, how then should you spend it?  Even if you live beyond 70, life is still short.

The thought challenges us to see the reality of our mortality. The challenge is to number our days, hours, or minutes well, that we may live with lasting purpose and wholeness. It also warns us of ignoring the eternal dimension of life because one day we shall die.

The Psalmist says, "The length of our days is 70 years or 80, if we have the strength; for they quickly pass and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  (Psalm 90: 10-12)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Preventing Suicide

A few days ago, I was saddened by the news of the death of Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams. According to enforcement officials, he apparently took his own life. Aside from a history of alcoholism, Robin was reported to be suffering from Parkinson's disease and a severe case of clinical depression at the time of the suicide.

Robin Williams' talent, wealth, love of his family, friends, prestige, and the world's admiration did not prevent him from taking his own life. How could it be? It doesn't seem to make sense. But it appears though that Robin had a deepest need for something which he and nobody around him probably never knew about. I surmise that this huge unmet need is extremely internal rather than external.

To prevent suicide, such as in the severe case of Robin Williams, a person will need professional therapy and counseling. A psychotherapist or counselor must be able to form a relationship with the patient that revolves around more than or beyond the "problem." I say this because when a counselor is purely problem-focused, the problematic behavior is going to be reinforced. Counseling accomplished properly over enough span of time with spirituality-psychotherapy integration can build up the "whole person" to prevent suicide.

Let me say that it's impossible to ignore the fact that most suicide attempters and doers are from unstable or broken families. A lot of them come too from life experiences of trauma. Yes, they all have "a story." But oftentimes, it is not "the story." Unpacking "the story" and healing from it holds the key to preventing suicide.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Projection: Not I, You!

A man attributes his punching another due to the other's "combativeness and inappropriateness" based on his account. A wife accuses her husband of infidelity when she herself is having an online affair with a foreigner. A father says his son is very volatile when he himself is prone to fits of rage like a monster.

When a person makes false accusations about another person that have no basis in reality, it's known as psychological "projection."  It happens a lot, especially when one attempts to conceal his or her own feelings, impulses, or behaviors. Very often, the accusations of one "projecting" is self-descriptive. It is uncanny how often one will be guilty of the very things he or she accuses another person of doing.

People are usually unaware that they are "projecting." Psychologists say that people resort to "projection" as their chosen "unconscious" way to defend themselves from facing their own unpleasant or destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. "Projection" is, therefore, not only self-descriptive; it is self-deceptive.

"Projection" is a form of corruption of reality. Because of its internal defensive mechanism, it can be difficult or futile to confront. Yet there is a price to pay in avoiding the disturbing truths that "projection" is corrupting inside a person. A "projecting" person needs to choose to heal.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Potter And The Clay

"I can do this by my self."

That's what some people say, when they get hurt. People can get stuck or unnecessarily linger in pain. That is, when they choose to heal alone ... to self-medicate or self-help.

It's like the Potter and the clay. Only the Potter can mould the clay, isn't it?  Not the clay moulding the clay. Healing takes place in relationship, not in isolation.

As Henry Drummond puts it, "Every man's character remains as it is, until it is compelled by impressed forces to change. Our failure has been the failure to put ourselves in the way of the impressed forces. There is a clay, and there is a Potter; we have tried to get the clay to mould the clay."

Friday, August 08, 2014

Alienated Parents, Alienated Children

Professionally and personally, my heart goes out to parents and children who have become heartbroken and "alienated" in their relationship. I am grateful to families - both parents and children - who have shared with me their painful experiences in our sessions together. They are just too many to count. They have taught me much about the conflicts and distancing between parent and child and about how to protect the children from their parents' battles.

A married mother, who committed adultery and lived in with another man in another country, secretly went home to fetch the kids without the knowledge of the custodial father. She brought the kids away to overindulge them and attend their daughter's college graduation, excluding the father. This is one of the many examples of what psychologists label as "manipulation" in well-documented clinical cases of parental brainwashing and alienation. One noted author/psychotherapist, Dr. Richard Warshak, refers to this type of child abuse as parental kidnapping or "stealing the soul" of the children.

Millions of adults around the world did suffer some degree of estrangement from their father and/or mother when they were children. In most cases, the alienation was produced in the aftermath of their parents' separation or divorce. At such a vulnerable time in their lives, children especially need and deserve as much love as they can get. Blinded by anger, numerous parents "corrupt reality" and undermine their children's affection for the other parent through manipulation, false accusations, and brainwashing. This accounts for much deep "psychological wounding" for both parents and children unless healing steps are taken.

We hear a lot about brainwashing and manipulation of religious cult leaders in the media. Brainwashing, bad-mouthing mothers and/or fathers claim far more victims than these cult leaders, and more are added to the list each day. Yet, up to this day, very little professional attention and competent guidance are available for this type of psychological abuse, which violates children in a most cruel manner. Mental health professionals, lawyers, judges, and others who are involved with families will find it so important to pay special attention to this destructive phenomenon in our society.

I hope to be of help to you heal, if you are either an alienated parent or an alienated child. I know your pain and I do offer significant insights/program I've gained in my psychotherapy work as well as in my own personal journey to help you heal. I wish you a successful journey and recovery.

Monday, August 04, 2014

It's A Jungle Out There

We live in a world full of "jerks." In this life, everyone of us has to face and deal with "jerks" who abuse or wound us. There is a full jungle of this out there!

 In my work, I have dealt with literally countless examples of individuals, couples, and families victimized or traumatized by "jerks." A major source of many psychological and emotional breakdowns is the presence of at least one overwhelming "jerk" in a person's life.

How do you survive a world filled with narcissistic, harmful "jerks?" People who feel entitled to everything? Those who selfishly use human beings to grab what they want? The sickos of society who enjoy controlling, abusing, and dominating their fellow humans and not feeling any guilt about the pain or suffering they cause?

Here is a good beginning: admit first your own lack of perfection. Then, you must go on to admit that part of you has some "jerky" nature. That's true, just as part of everyone you love, deal with, or work with is going to be a "jerk." at least to some degree. None of us is perfect. Reality says all of us, definitely including my self, have some "jerky" reality inside us.

As you start accepting, learning from, and healing your own "jerkiness" degree, you are then ready to learn how to survive in a jungle full of "jerks." That's something that may not make you feel good. But it is pure reality. We are all going to have to live with "jerks" in this world. And a major weapon is managing our own narcissistic tendencies or degree of "jerkiness," making our self "whole" enough first.

That's a first step towards surviving this jungle and conquering them!

Friday, August 01, 2014

Two Colors Of Self

Chess depicts our self as having two colors.

We all have a kind of internal chessboard. It constructs self and life as having two sides. Two pictures.

In the chessboard, we use two colors. The subsequent two sides of the chessboard are the white and black pieces. They symbolize the "good" and "evil" sides of our self. That's true of the world too.

Usually, in our life, we may be more easily influenced by one side, giving more power to "good" or "evil." Often, one attacks and the other defends. With this, there can be two kinds of people in the world.

Self - two narratives. As a man thinks, so is he.

"For the good that I will to do, I do not do. But the evil I will not to do, that I practice."  (Romans 7:19)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Times Are Changing For Psychology and Spirituality

Several years ago working on my doctorate, I have had the good fortune of doing my dissertation with Dr. V. Bautista, a professor and chair of the Clinical Psychology department of the University of the Philippines (U.P.). In my "debating" and interaction with professor Dr. Bautista, I sensed myself "coming out" as a hybrid counselor taking seriously the integration of psychological and spiritual dimensions in psychotherapy and mental health.

Toward the very end of the 20th century, professional and scientific psychology have rediscovered psychotherapy-spirituality integration (e.g. Hartz, 2005; McMinn and Dominguez, 2005; Plante and Sherman, 2001; Richards and Bergin, 1997). The American Psychological Association (APA) now supports the connection between mental health and faith in its growing body of research and clinical practices. Even international magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report have all devoted cover stories on multiple occasions to this very topic.

Dr. John McDargh of Harvard University and Boston College is one of today's leading authorities on the intersection  of psychotherapy and spirituality. He explains that a great deal hinges on how you understand "spirituality" - encountering the sacred in psychotherapy. Dr. McDargh describes it as "staying focused on relationships between one's self, others, and a Higher Power or God." This, he says, implies a difference between spirituality and religion. According to him, it's a case of so many people self-identifying themselves as "spiritual but not religious."

Psychotherapy and spirituality integration is here to stay. Despite the challenging waters, it has countless benefits to both professionals and the public in the healing of the "whole person."

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Heart Work at the Voice Kids

My stint as resident therapist/counselor of the kid-artists and their parents during the just-concluded first season of ABS CBN 2's The Voice Kids this past several weeks is one of my most touching memories in my practice.

The tears. The tensions. The confusions. The heartbreaking moments. The hugs, smiles, and prayers. Grief and breakups before and after. The hurts/trauma of the kids' lives, parents, and their families.

Professionally and personally, all these together brought a deeper dimension of experience, fulfillment, and commitment inside me in helping parents and children heal and overcome life's struggles.

LYCA Gairanod, the first VOICE KIDS Grand Champion, exemplifies hope and victory amid pain and deprivations of life. The unschooled 9-year-old daughter of a scavenger ("magbobote, magbabakal") mother and a fisherman ("mangingisda") father, rose from the "ashes" and faces a bright, new morning and future.

Learn from the child. Never give up whatever your circumstances. Go through the pain so you can get to the other side. Winning is waiting for you.

"When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is for the most part a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirit."  -- Richard Foster

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pebble in the Pond

A pebble dropped into a pond.

Affair or adultery, for example, is like a "pebble." The concentric rings that emanate from the pebble in the water are after-effects of the affair.

The sense of betrayal. The break-up of the family. Your spouse's depression. Your children's shame, fears, and embarrassment. Financial costs of the adultery or divorce. Loss of friends.

Healing, individually and relationally, entails "righting the wrong." Some call it repentance. Others say it's restitution. At times, it's not enough just to say sorry. You've to own your "pebble" and take responsibility and action to change.

So it's true with other types of "pebble."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Healing From Church Wound

Just a few days ago, I was browsing inside a little bookshop when a book caught my attention. It's about healing and recovery from "church hurts." Some people suffer psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually due to spiritual abuse or neglect in the church.

I came to know the story of a man who got divorced due to his wife's affair. Bumped by his therapist/counselor one time in a mall, the man was asked how he was doing. His response: "Great everywhere but in church." He cited that his friends and brethren from the church did their best to avoid speaking to him. He felt neglected and alone.

What can you do when the very people who are supposed to demonstrate the love and healing of God don't care while your world is falling apart? Well, don't get angry at God;  He didn't do it! People in the church are fallibly human. So don't be attached to or focused on them to meet all your needs. If you're not being helped to heal in your present church, go find another church. Nourish your walk with God. You need Him in your ultimate therapy and life recovery.

If you're seeing a therapist who is trained in the integration of psychotherapy and spirituality, you may ask help or recommendations from him/her. It could spell a big difference in your journey.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Risk To Heal

Life is full of risks. Yet many people think that they can avoid taking risks to get whole and heal. That's not seeing reality as it is. It's fantasy thinking.

Helen Keller, who overcame the adversity of being blind, deaf, and mute, once said:  "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

If there is a person in the world who can be entitled to be withdrawn, isolated, or avoiding risks in life, it was Helen Keller. Yet, her life was a demonstration of taking risks every time she took steps. She became one of the world's famous educators and leading humanitarians. Keller traveled to 35 countries on five continents to do her work. At age 75, Keller embarked on the longest and most grueling trip of her life: a 40,000-mile, five-month trek across Asia. Through her many speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people.

If you're in an emotional trauma, breaking down, or suffering from some loss, you cannot protect your self from pain. You are subject to the human condition. By attempting to escape from or avoid taking risks, you harm your self. You get disconnected from family, friends, and support you need. You'll be obsessed with your safety and comfort. And so, your condition can get worse.

The simple truth is that, in order to heal, you need to take risks. If you are going to live, you will face risks. Life demands it. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Healing Your Loneliness

We all suffer from times of loneliness, in varying degrees. It's pain. But it's pain that tells you and I that we have something important to work on.

David never learned to get emotionally close to anyone. He was lonely even before he got married and later separated from his wife. That's largely because he was raised from a family where the interaction did not make him feel he belonged. His marital separation increased this traumatic feeling of not belonging or being lonely.

If you're severely lonely or feeling you "don't belong," as in the case of David, possibly the crisis itself can be used to help deal directly with the problem.  You need to work through your loneliness so you can get to the other side. You need to develop new resources within your self to spend time alone without needing to have another person around or choosing to establish healthy connections with others.

A mentally healthy person is balanced. He or she strives to establish a proper balance between being alone and being with others. That's how to heal your loneliness. Through your working on that balance.

Here are a several signposts to know that you're making progress in your balance in healing your loneliness:

*  You have stopped isolating, hiding, or withdrawing into your room or home.
*  You have learned not to allow your feelings of loneliness to control your thoughts and behaviors by engaging in addictive activities, such as drinking, gambling, pornography, overeating etc.
*  You're taking time being with people rather than working long hours trying to run from loneliness;
*  You're not hiding from your loneliness by being with people you don't enjoy being with.
*  You are filling up your time with activities alone and activities with others in good amounts to stay active and engaged with life.
*  You are comfortable being alone and have aloneness time.
*  You avoid or refuse having instant attachment or love relationship just to avoid being lonely. 
*  You educate your self on how to establish healthy relationships and apply them.
*  You choose to enter into romance or dating rather than needing it to overcome loneliness.
*  You've learned to take time for your self rather than keeping overly busy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Walk-and-Talk Therapy

If you are experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fear, I recommend walk-and-talk therapy as your best option.

Like Clay Cockrell, I find it so effective in my practice and helping people heal. You should try it!

Psychology and Chess Performance

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), one of modern psychology's most scientifically proven clinical therapies, is used to improve chess players' performance.

In a 2009 study done in the University of Almeria in Spain, a brief ACT protocol was applied to international-level adult chess players and it was proven effective.

Another study with an equivalent ACT protocol was also applied to a group of young players. Results showed that 5 out of 7 participants that underwent ACT had statistically improved chess performance.

Sports psychology is a growing trend nowadays. In the case of chess, the use of therapy approaches such as modern psychology's scientifically proven ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) are evidence of the value of psychological preparations in sports.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dance With My Father

Dance with my father. A father abandoned his child when she was too young. The child expresses her feelings towards her father. 

Lyca, 9-year-old daughter of a fisherman, approached me one time inside my psych debriefing room of Voice Kids at ABS CBN 2 studio and gave me a sweet hug and kiss.

Here below, she sings a winning Tagalog version of "Dance With My Father" on the way to the Grand Finals of the hugely popular singing reality show, The Voice Kids, over at ABS CBN 2 where I served as resident therapist/counselor of the kid-artists and their parents during the season.

I'm touched by the song, Lyca's performance, and her teary mother and father watching her. It's a "tune" by countless children all over the world.

Laura's True Story

As a member and advocate of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry, I have the privilege of knowing numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, etc. from around the world doing "wholistic" non-drug psychotherapy. One of the organization's board members is Laura Delano. Her true to life testimony struck me so well for I'd witnessed cases in my practice similar to her story.

I'm taking the liberty of "reprinting" her story below from the ISEPP file as an endorsement of her as well as a lesson that we can all benefit from. I am with Laura as well as others in this crusade of setting millions of people around the world free from the captivity of false medication for mental health.

Here's Laura's true story (from the ISEPP):  

"Laura Delano was first labeled 'mentally ill' at the age of fourteen, when she was told she had “Bipolar disorder” and was subsequently put on Depakote and Prozac.  After fighting back in high school, she eventually surrendered to the diagnosis as a freshman in college, when she embraced her psychiatric label and the belief that she needed 'meds'."  

"Laura spent the next ten years on nineteen psychiatric drugs, in and out of locked wards, outpatient programs, and intensive psychotherapy, and believed she had a life-long biochemical 'disease' requiring life-long 'treatment'— a belief that led her to hopelessness, isolation, and suicide."  

"Since September 2010, she has been free from psychiatric labels and psychotropic drugs, and she firmly believes that the human experience should never be pathologized.  She lives in Boston, Massachusetts, is a blogger, editor, and consultant at, where she has been writing about her thirteen-year journey into and out of the mental health system, and works as a coach with people freeing themselves from psychiatry."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Transforming Connection During Illness

Chronic illness in general and terminal illness in particular is frightening. They can be isolating experiences for a patient and his or her family members and friends. What's sad is, at a time when a person needs support the most, he or she often gets it the least. Terminally ill patients can be so profoundly lonely.

My younger sister, many years ago, was dying of cancer. During one of my last hospital visits to her in the ICU room, her tears just erupted. She simply expressed her deep but hidden need to be profoundly touched, visited, and cared for even in the middle of her ordeal. An old adage says about the dying, "You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself." The nature of terminal illness and eventual death can be so difficult to grasp. Thus, any feeling of isolation from family and friends that such conditions produce may make people feel kind of dead already.

After the initial besieging of food, gifts, and calls from visitors, these may begin to disappear in a chronically ill patient's life as people want to go back to things as they were before. It's common that a patient reacts with feelings of self-doubt - "Perhaps, they don't love or like me anymore." "Perhaps, I was not able to give them attention during their visits." "Maybe, my husband has already changed since my illness."

If you're seriously ill or suffering from a terminal illness, you need transforming connection to help you cope or heal better. You need a safe haven and "space" where you can express your feelings that others may not be capable of handling or not want you to express. The pressures on the sick to keep their spirits up, force cheerfulness and superficiality, and think only positive thoughts can feel isolating. A wise, caring therapist or a support group can be a powerful therapeutic tool at this time. Seeking this help can be life-saving.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Do I Keep Choosing The "Wrong" People?

I feel for Alice. She isolates and disconnects. She has had five failed relationships with men - all of them physically and verbally abusive. Growing up as a child with an abusive, neglecting father, she currently continues to choose men who feel familiar, feel like home.

If she's treated with kindness, compassion, and respect, she feels anxious and guilty. Even in our therapy sessions, Alice expects to be "abused." She simply has no working model to encompass such benign, calm, or encouraging one-to-one relationship and interaction.

I'd like to call it "bonding to abuse." Some experts, such as Dr. Jon Allen of the famous Menninger Clinic, labels the phenomenon "trauma bonding." A classic example of "trauma bonding" or "bonding to abuse" is the concentration camp victim who learns to love or idolize her captor and tries to please him and gain his favor. According to Dr. Allen, "trauma bonding" requires two conditions:  there must be an imbalance of power and the victim must be isolated from other forms of support.

Children who grew up in homes with addiction, abuse, emotional deprivation, or psychological illness fulfill the conditions for "trauma bonding." There is this power imbalance between parent and child and the hurting child is often isolated and disconnected from other forms of support because of family secrecy and shame. This is how "trauma bonding" wounds are formed. Left unhealed, such as in the case of Alice, a victim can be bound to re-traumatize herself in the same way that she was previously traumatized.

Brain science and research also confirms the dynamic behind this "trauma bonding" phenomenon. It discovers that experiences or behaviors we had as a child become a "script" literally imprinted on the brain. We then operate from the contents of that "script" even into adulthood, choosing life circumstances that match up with the information stored in the "brain file." Thus in relationships, we are likely to choose, albeit unconsciously, what we know because that is what we have stored in our brain's filing system.

There it is. Knowing this, being aware of it, is the beginning of recovery. We can use the reenactments or repetitions in our lives to understand the location of where our "core wounds" lie, and where we need to heal.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Our Addicted Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 05, 2014

When Drugs Produce Abnormal Behavior

Numerous medications can produce abnormal behavior. An article in a medical magazine for physicians in March 1992 edition of American Family Physician listed 44 different medications capable of producing abnormal behavior.

This evening, I've read one report to the FDA's MedWatch team on the violent side effects of psychiatric drugs. Aggression tops with 7, 250 reported cases;  mania, 2, 795 cases;  homicidal ideation, 872 cases;  hostility, 607 cases;  physical assault, 504 cases;  homicide, 359 cases;  psychosis, 191 cases; violence-related symptoms, 177 cases. To know more, you may check it out at

In the case of mental or emotional disorders, it's important to notice that countless numbers of them are placed on medicines, admitted to hospitals, given shock therapy and so on. They are told that their problem is medical or physical or organic, so they're given brain drugs. This is despite the fact that there have been no objective laboratory tests that prove it. None of these psychiatric diagnoses and procedures are supported by objective evidence of physical disease, illness, or science.

In medicine, diagnosis is made on the basis of organic changes in the physical body and established clinical test results. By contrast, in drug-prescribing psychiatry, diagnoses are made on the basis of subjective reports and behaviors of a person based on a set of symptoms. Psychiatry starts with a theory and then prescribes a pharmaceutical drug for a non-organic problem.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Expecting Instant Result?

Therapy is like running a marathon. You take it slow and pace enough so you can have enough energy  towards the finish line. When you go faster than you're supposed to, your body may break down and not be able to complete the race.

Put it in medical terms when you just underwent a major open heart surgery, how long do you think it's going to take before you can walk, jog, or run again? How long before you can run the marathon again if you're a runner? Doctors say it may take 4 to 5 years of recovery.

Addiction, divorce, or any kind of trauma wound is open heart surgery - emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You need to give it enough time. When your expectations for healing are too fast and you force the recovery too quickly, you have to do it over again and you get a relapse. You wasted time, money, and energy. What would normally take 2 years is going to take 6 or 7 years because you've done more damage to your self in the process.

You will heal. The prognosis is good. But be prepared for therapeutic exercises, workups, time for rest, going back into work in stages, and to allow people to be of support to you. When you have a lot of healing left to do on your inside, you need patience, wisdom, and resources to take things slow enough to have healthy gains. We are all by nature designed in this way.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Disorder That Does Not Specialize

Feeling chronically empty, bored, and numb, Lito, whom I met in the set of one GMA 7 TV shoot of "Out of Control," desperately seeks "excitement." To feel something, not to kill himself, he slashes his wrists and other parts of his body. He overdoses in alcohol and cigarettes, instigates brawls, and sexually acts up with multiple partners. He says, "I feel so dead, cutting myself and doing these other things are the only ways I know I'm alive."

What I notice to be a "disorder that does not specialize," BPD or borderline personality disorder, according the DSM-IV/V, is characterized by at least five of the following:  1. Impulsivity;  2. Unstable and intense interpersonal relations;  3. Inappropriate or intense anger;  4. Identity confusion;  5. Affective instability;  6. Problems being alone;  7. Physically self-destructive acts;  8. Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom.

Individuals with BPD often experience unprocessed emotional wounds. That's why BPD is also called and known as "emotionally unstable personality disorder." Underneath the madness lies a deep emotional abandonment trauma. I'm reminded of a book on borderlines by Dr. Jerold Kreisman. His book's title aptly describes a lurking overwhelming emotion inside a BPD:  "Don't Leave Me, I Hate You."  Because of the depth of abandonment wounds, clinicians working with BPD must walk a narrow path between giving support without rescuing and encouraging independence without signaling abandonment.

BPDs are known in mental health care to be one of the most difficult of patients to care for. There is usually a lot of work ahead to explore unconscious wounds that fuel breakdown on the surface. A lot of structure, consistency, and trust-building over time are needed to reach significant progress that leads to a point of stability and wholeness. There is no other way.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chess Therapy For Mental Health

Chess therapy is now used by numerous psychotherapists and doctors. It has become a popular creative psychotherapy technique in the past 20 years. This therapy has been known to produce positive results with children who have bipolar disorders, depression, ADHD, and neuro-behavioral disorders.

Chess therapy is a form used to form bonds between the psychotherapist and his/her clients. It is an alternate diagnosis for neuro-behavioral and mental issues that a client may suffer from. Chess therapy helps in cultivating an intentional rapport and connection between the psychotherapist and his patient to help him through any psychological or emotional problems that he may be facing.

Unlike other forms of therapy, chess therapy does not require the patient to lie down on a couch and pour his heart out to his therapist. Chess therapy involves active participation from both parties―the client as well as the therapist―to engage in a game of chess.

One time, Mark, a university-educated young man from Italy, visited me in the hospital. He's hungry for chess and wanting to inquire about chess therapy. When he arrived, I asked him to join my group session and share a bit about himself. After a short conversation, he's truly a "philosopher" guy immersed in heady ideas and abstract concepts.

But, most of all, Mark was going through some emotional difficulties and seeing me for psychotherapy to unpack his unexplainable psychological blocks. His preferred way: chess therapy. Chess did fit him despite his seemingly normal exterior or mindworks. It can be good emotional therapy too for "philosophers" to play chess.

Chess therapy was founded as early as AD 852-932 by a certain Dr. Rhazes who was chief physician at Baghdad Hospital. Dr. Rhazes uses chess strategies and tactics as metaphors in real life to help patients think clearer.

Wikepedia reported, "One of the earliest reported cases of chess therapy involves the improvement in an isolated, schizoid, 16-year old youth that took place after he became interested in chess. Chess provided an outlet for his hostile impulses in a non-retaliatory manner. Good use was made of the patient's digressions from the game and his newly acquired ability to speak about his feelings, fantasies and dreams which the particular emotional situation of the game touched off. The report demonstrates how the fact that chess is a game, and not real, enabled the patient to exert some conscious control over his feelings and thus learn to master them to a limited extent."

 World Boxing champion Manny Pacquaio's Therapy
before and after fights.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The "Idol" Factor

Whenever I meet people suffering from some type of addiction or brokenness, I keep running into a conspicuous common factor:  the "idol" factor.  It's such a widespread personal factor in the lives of millions of people all over the world. Despite life-damaging circumstances and warnings, people with entrenched "idols" in their hearts still allow themselves to be taken captive.

Virtually every kind of stronghold, addiction, or adultery involves the worship of an "idol." For example, the stronghold of arrogance or pride is associated with the worship of the "idol" of self. The stronghold of addiction (e.g. sex, money, power, gambling, relationship, drugs etc.) is associated with the worship of an "idol" of object, habit, or substance. In one way or another, something has become "god" or object of chief focus of one's life, which then contributes to disease of self and life in general.

As long as our minds welcome and rehearse the lures of our "idols" in life more than the strength of God or the values of emotional health, we will be sick and impotent. Healing is a choice.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Betrayal Blindness

One time, Mary saw me for counseling. She just checked her husband's emails and social media accounts. To her shock, she discovered that her husband has been having secret multiple sexual relationships with various men in all their 20 years of marriage. Her husband is a gay sex addict.

Processing her grief and pain, she reached a point when she realized that she had to require something from her husband in order to heal. It's "get help or get out." She became so anxious and frightened about the possibility of her husband leaving her and cutting his support if she requires him to get help and rehabilitate. In the end, she chooses not to confront her husband. She chooses to look away.

"Betrayal blindness" is a state of mind in which you choose to keep a secret from your self. You have it when the reality that's happening in your world and the consequences of that reality are actually more frightening than you walking in through it to heal. So, in essence, you lie to your self. You turn a blind eye. You don't look at what's actually happening because it would cost you too much.

Indeed, we can be too afraid to look at and embrace truth. As a result, we choose to stay sick instead of heal. We tolerate the intolerable because we don't want to deal with the ramifications. It's "betrayal blindness," one of the most horrible bites one may suffer from away from recovery and wholeness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


He didn't see it coming. Around the last rounds of a singing reality contest on TV, I watched Lito so focused and reality was treating him well. The coaches were picking and advancing him. Then, reality slap came in. He was removed from advancing to the semi-final round.

Lito saw me right after the loss. In the psych debriefing room, he was sobbing and crumbling a lot. Clearly "spaced out," he can hardly speak and on the brink of harming himself with his behavior. There felt a huge amount of sadness, sorrow, regret, fear, anxiety, and anger beneath Lito's surface.

When we are hurting or have suffered a loss, we all need to learn to be kind to ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done for many. For most of us, the default setting of our mind is to be harsh, critical, uncaring, and judgmental of ourselves. In every case, what's involved is learning to accept and embrace the gap between the reality that we've got and the reality that we want.    

So, we need to learn the therapy of "Self-Compassion." It's extending compassion to one's self in situations of perceived loss, failure, inadequacy or pain. Psychotherapist Dr. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Basically, this therapeutic tool, self-compassion, is the act of "holding your self with care." With it, we can find calm amid the chaos, heal the wounds, and come through stronger than before. 

Monday, June 16, 2014


"I'm tired all the time."

"I feel run down."

I'm all worn out."

Fatigue is a very common complaint people consult physicians about. It's a normal expected part of life. We all experience it. According to a medical source, fatigue is defined as "nonspecific cerebral perception of neuro-mascular sensations, chemoreceptor input and neural reactions to external stimuli."

Fatigue is subjective. It cannot be measured by clinical, objective diagnostic tools. It's hard to assess. In fact, the physical body can be weakened or susceptible to having symptoms when there is nothing wrong medically.

Ruling out medical causation or physical roots for the fatigue, that's where counseling and therapy can be of great help. Some questions can give significant insight in dealing with the problem of fatigue.

What problems or stresses are currently present in your life? How are you responding to those pressures? How much sleep do you get every night? What chemicals do you put into your body? How much time do you spend with your family or friends?

Many times, a change in focus will bring benefit of actually reducing or eliminating the effects or damage of fatigue.