Friday, August 19, 2016

Out Of The Mud Grow The Lotus

Resilience.

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

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

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

Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dina and Tim

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Search for Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Healing From A Broken Home

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

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

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

I was inaccurate.

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

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

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


Friday, August 05, 2016

The Elephant, Mr. Scrooge: Healing Lessons

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Treating The Psychological Cancer of Drug Addiction

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

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

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

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

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







Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mental Illness or Demonic Possession?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Psychotherapy Through Skype

Distance is dead!

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

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


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


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

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



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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Coping With Your Self

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Values Heal Addiction

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



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

Friday, July 08, 2016

Surviving The Midlife Crisis

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


Monday, July 04, 2016

The Unfaithful Wife

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

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

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

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

We're Fellow Travelers

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Are You Enmeshed With Your Parents?

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


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

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

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Until When Is This Therapy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How To Spot Relapse Progression

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

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

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

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

Here below are some of them:

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


When Society Is Diseased

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

Would that be so difficult for you to grasp?


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Cover-Up: "I can handle it by my self."

“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.

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Emotional Secret of Rehabilitation

How can people change? I discovered one powerful secret.

When Mary related her problem about her husband, she was in much tears. Her husband, Alan, womanizes. Drinks a lot, gets drunk often. A chronic smoker. And gambles, wasting money in the casino almost each night. Mary tried her best she knew, yet her husband still wouldn't choose to reform. Alan would actually get violent when "carefronted."

Then, intervention came. Mary sought the help of her husband's other family members and friends, who in turn consulted me to organize a formal intervention process for Alan. All of them had been at a loss for so long on what to do with Alan. Mary, the closest to him, appeared helpless to find out how her husband can break his bad habits.

Initially, I struggled to get to Alan's underlying internal roots behind his addictions or vices. However, eventually the family intervention team and I struck gold! Alan, in the forefront of his emotions, loves his three children much. After much planning and prayers, we conducted the family intervention session, using the emotions of love and care that include specific references to the emotions present pertaining to his children. With that, Alan shed tears and finally agreed to go into intensive rehabilitation.

One of the things we learn in Alan's case is that people very rarely quit their bad habits or addictions because of the possibility of physical sickness, financial losses, and so on. A person rarely changes because of logic. He changes when he has an "emotionally compelling reason." He begins to choose to stop bad habits only when these issues directly affect him emotionally.

So, take note of this powerful secret of recovery and healing. The "emotionally compelling reason" is one of rehabilitation's most efficient avenues to fuel the personal desire to change.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Do You Do If Your Family Doesn't Support You?

I can see. It’s difficult not to notice how a talented young woman Tina is. Yet she feels so depressed and insecure to leave house to use her talents in employment. At home, she does not get any material or moral support from her husband. The same goes with her own parents who always criticize, insult, or put her down.


Can you get from the story below what you can do when your family or anyone closest to you does not support, encourage, or believe in you?
One day, two frogs fell into a pit.
Frantically, the two frogs cried for help. They kept jumping as high as they could, trying to get out of the hole. But it was just simply beyond their reach.
The other frogs circled at the mouth of the pit. Looking down, they saw the sorry condition of the two frogs, and began to yell, “It’s too high. Give up. You’re going to die anyway.” (They were disciples of Eyeore the Donkey, friend of Winnie the Pooh.) On and on, they chanted their depressing words.
After a few minutes, one frog finally stopped jumping. He sighed a deep sigh, fell on its back, and died.
But the other frog kept jumping. And with each leap, he became stronger and stronger. Finally, he flew past the opening of the pit—and escaped!
The other frogs were so astonished. They asked him, “Why didn’t you give up? It seemed hopeless. We were even discouraging you the entire time!”
The happy frog said, “I can’t hear you. I was born deaf. By the way, even if I couldn’t hear what you were all telling me, I knew you were cheering me on. Thank you!”
Got it?  No one can make you feel inferior, depressed, or hopeless without your permission. Give the right permission.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mirroring The Injury

When a wounded person is too powerless or too young to help heal himself or herself, something "unconscious" often happens. Psychologists call it "mirroring the injury." People who are abandoned abandon others. People who were lied to or verbally abused lie and verbally abuse others. The wounded, in other words, wound.


One patient, Janet, whose husband committed infidelity, was a victim of a broken home. Her father physically abused and abandoned her mother for another woman when she was in grade school. When her equally wounded husband chose her and repented from his unfaithfulness, Janet both physically abused and verbally shamed him in front of relatives, friends, and in public. It's her pattern in the marriage even prior to her husband's affair.

I've witnessed and heard countless times in my sessions wounded individuals like Janet. The wounded person, with unhealed wounds, repeats his or her own injury. Only this time, he or she becomes the harmer. The more self destructive, the more punishing, the more "bad." In a sense, "mirroring the injury" is like war. It's ebb and flow leave everyone around injured. Injured and injurers become one.

When a wounded person wounds back by wounding others, it's better for him to have people around to "catch" him or her. People who can love and help him or her sort it out to heal. People who can support him or her to understand that there are more positive, healthy ways to retrieve personal power and self esteem. There are better ways.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Understanding "Dry Drunk"

One of my counselees, John (not his real name), is an American patient who is addicted to alcohol and sex with prostitutes. His wife found out through a cctv camera in his office that he’s again contacting prostitutes and drinking heavily after 1 1/2 years of self-imposed abstinence.
His traumatized, deeply hurting wife saw me with much confusion. She asked, “What happened, doc? I thought it’s over!” Her question is typical and common.

In alcoholism treatment, the term “DRY DRUNK” is used to describe a person who still thinks and behaves like an alcoholic even though he is not drinking. In the case of my American patient who relapsed into a binge after 1 1/2 years of abstinence, this proves to be true.
Similarly, other types of addiction such as sex addiction or money addiction, can switch to abstinence mode for a period of time. Every addict is capable of a time of break or moratorium. Yet the addict is still living, feeling, and thinking as an addict.
Dr. Patrick Carnes, a world renowned addiction specialist/author, explains that a still “addicted brain” carries a supply within itself despite abstinence. The key then is internal change rather than mere external restraint or “motions.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Do You Over-Help Your Adult Child?

Antonio is a 47-year old adult child of a rich family. His parents have been providing for him financially from childhood to adulthood, onwards. He was kicked out of college twice, never held a job, and addicted to shabu and alcohol. Multiple times, his parents would bail him out of jail or debts incurred from his vices.
We parents all need to “see” our adult children as “adult” – not a little child or an adolescent. That means allowing our adult children to face responsibility and consequences in their lives. As parents, we need to learn how to replace over-help with precise help – scary or painful it may be – to really help.
This tendency of parents to over-help is just a misperception. It is an old habit, but an important one to change. When you as a parent change your mind-picture of your adult children to their true age, it will be easier to avoid over-helping.
Because it’s a habit, it will take practice through time to change your “mental picture” of your adult child. As you learn to cut strings and set realistic boundaries and consequences with your adult children, you help them grow and move forward in their lives.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Addiction Is Not The Real Problem

I feel for Baron's parents. They see that their son's problem is his addiction to alcohol, drugs, women, and money. After years of having him confined to three addiction rehabilitation centers, nothing still changed. Baron is still addicted to drugs, alcohol, and spending money to pay for sex. His parents are frustrated already, losing hope. They're about to give up.


I say that there is always hope. Baron's parents may had sent him to three rehabilitation centers and their son never responded appropriately to heal. Here is my take: in all of those rehabilitation efforts for Baron, they've possibly not gone down to the roots of his "real problem." Their view was only external - counting the number of times he took his addictive "drugs of choice."

Addiction is not the problem. It is only an external symptom, a result or manifestation, of the "real problem." The addict's way to happiness or numbing of his sorrow is to take "drugs of choice." Yet he remains oblivious to the core of his problem and the varied options to address it.

So, simply laying down external bottom lines and consequences (an important part of recovery though it may be), counting and suppressing the use of alcohol or any "drugs of choice," in an addict will lead nowhere. If treatment providers such as doctors, nurses etc in the rehabilitation centers focus on the inner life of the person addicted and treat the "real problem," there's a higher chance of true rehabilitation and new life for a recovering addict.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Psychological Violence of Verbal Abuse

Here below are some things I hear or witness from my sessions involving individuals, couples, or families. They are characteristic of verbal abuse, often escalating in intensity, frequency, and variety over time. It's a common source of emotional woundedness and breakdown in relationships.

"He says he loves me, but he's angry, irritable, and always putting me down."

"My Mom says he's accepting of my choices but she criticizes me and won't accept my views and feelings."

"She says she can say anything she wants to say to me in whatever way she wants."

"What are you complaining about? I talk to you."

"You idiot!"

"You take everything wrong. You feel too much."

Verbal abuse is psychological violence. It attacks or injures. Generally, it's a means to control, manipulate, or have power over another person. Verbal abuse can cause a person to believe the false or distorted perception about himself or herself. It may also cause one to speak falsely or react violently to the other one.

Obviously, verbal abuse prevents real intimacy or relationships. However, it occurs many times that the victim of a verbal abuser may think the illusion that he or she has a real relationship. In multiple cases, verbal abuse escalates to physical abuse. This transition is important to note because the clinical experience of therapists provide evidences that battered women have been verbally abused.

I remember one woman who endured years of criticizing, name calling, and blaming from her husband and still chose to stay. There may be a number of reasons. But for her, as she narrated during our session, an important reason being her need to function adequately in her role as a mother and provider to her kids. She may never know or acknowledge that she's a victim of psychological violence created by verbal abuse.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Can I Be Cured?

"There is no incurable illness, only incurable people.”
That’s Dr. Bernie Siegel in his book “Love, Medicine, & Miracles,” with a subtitle “lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon’s experience with exceptional patients.”
That statement strikes me. I want to understand what Dr. Siegel is pointing out and its applications. I do, for it concerns what I do a lot of the time. In a society such as ours, the response to life’s stress and problems are pretty much left to the individual. The individual’s mind must learn to disconnect psychologically from external pressures to cope better and not get sick.

Not everyone who suffers a trauma, loss, or deep stress develops a severe illness. Whether the illness is mental, emotional, or physical, the deciding factor is always how an individual thinks about or copes with the problem. Scientific evidence shows that mental factors are always present in cancer, depression, violence, addiction, and other types of breakdown. Those who can reframe their minds despite stressful circumstances and continue with their lives generally stay well or better.
I once talked to a separated married couple in great distress. The husband was a drug addict, overdosing on prescription pills, a gambler, and a womanizer. He was harming his wife, both physically and verbally. He had undergone long five years of psychotherapy sessions already and he’d still not able to control his anger and addictions. The simple truth is, he was being driven to his sickness. The requirements of recovery are obvious and yet he remained disabled in his will to bring himself to wellness.
If a person deals completely with anger, addiction, or abandonment when it first appears, illness or mental breakdown need not occur. Often, when we do not deal with our deepest emotional needs, we set ourselves up for physical illness or mental disorder. Yet what are we most comfortable with? Avoiding or denying there is a problem. Telling a loved one we’re seeing a doctor to put up an appearance. We’re actually more comfortable finding escapes and covering up instead of going directly into the roots of our pain ourselves.
No incurable illness, only incurable people.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

You Can Not Change Your Spouse

"If you don't change, I won't change!," says Martin to his wife during our session. Both of them were in a blame mode, defensively reacting to and attacking each other. It's a repetitive, endless cycle in their marriage that continues to hurt them.



It never fails to strike me whenever a couple – married or partners – see me about their hurting relationship. Each one expresses a need to change the other. Typical with this need is the presence of blame and defensiveness in their interactional pattern.
I’m reminded again of the insight or “wisdom” encapsulated in the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
In many ways, when couples shift away from blaming each other to take responsibility for each one’s part, things begin to change a lot. Done sincerely, the denial wears off, understanding grows, and the pain is accepted. This produces a strong foundation for the relationship to heal and get better.
Here is a bottom line: you can not change your partner. The only thing you can change is YOU and how you respond in your present and in your new truths.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Healing Is More Than Intellect

Maribeth knows a lot of things on psychological therapy. She reads books - both digital and non-digital, that makes her sound like a seasoned phD psychologist when she speaks. Almost each day, she smokes, drinks, and rages at her husband, kids, and house maids.

Maribeth has a well-kept secret: she's a sex addict who's into pornography and multiple encounters of casual sex with other men. Nobody knows. She's having a nervous breakdown lately and was about to jump from the 5th floor of a friend's condominium. Then, for whatever reason, she decided to seek help.

As I've always pointed out to myself and others, "healing is more than intellect." So I think it's safe to say there's a lot of information and resources out there, and people ask me all the time why they're still not healing and changing. Honestly, most of what I say to them boils down to this: knowing is never enough, you need to experience what you know. I wish it were more complicated or mystical than that, but it's not. 

That's been my repeated impasse with my patients in my psychotherapy practice for some time now. Recovery indeed can not be achieved by our intellect alone. This is why I focus so much on what motivates people to actually experience healing and change. I don't think it's mainly a matter of having the right tools or doing it the right way. I think it usually comes down to just doing itApplying knowledge, experiencing what the mind comprehends.  

Recovery is like learning to ride a bicycle. When you accept the chronic nature of your underlying condition, you begin to understand the metaphor of bicycle riding. You don't experience riding your bicycle just by knowing its parts or reading about how to ride it in the Wikipedia or the Kindle books. You step into an actual use of the bicycle, get the hang of pedaling and balancing, and experience first-hand the sense of freedom and balance that one feels riding it.



With therapy or counseling and healing groups, you experience love, acceptance, direction, or guidance you need from others in order to truly see how to apply and experience knowledge to your wounds or condition. While a bicycle is usually built for one person, the nature of therapy or recovery  and working the steps is relational. In that context, the wisdom and safety of the steps in healing continue to unfold and are experienced as one applies them to life's challenges -- one day at a time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Healing from Loneliness

A lot of times when I  work with people who seek therapy, I always try to sense which feelings are most painful. A number of themes come into my actual sessions. But a common thread reveals that majority of them feels an inner vacuum, an unsatisfied inner pain, a craving for fulfillment. In one word: loneliness.

I read psychological research and it does reveal too that loneliness is a most pervasive emotional disorder of our times. Of course, even without those clinical findings, we know that loneliness has always plagued humankind since time immemorial. Interestingly, more so in our modern times, even with the rise of technology and other special comforts at our disposal.
When there is deep emotional trauma, loneliness is most acute. Experiences most conducive to acute loneliness are: the loss or death of a loved one, a broken home, parental abuses, separation or divorce, infidelity, leaving one’s home for work overseas. All of these special experiences prevail in our times and contribute to the increase of incidences of harmful effects of loneliness on people.
In her article in Mental Hygiene titled “Loneliness in Old Age,” author Irene Burnside writes, “Loneliness is the state of mind in which the fact that there were people in one’s life in the past is more or less forgotten, and the hope that there may be interpersonal relations in the future is out of the realm of expectation.”
Indeed, loneliness is a connection issue. It can be remedied. But the first steps need to be taken by the sufferer himself or herself.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why Join Support Groups?

Life or support groups, such as 12 step groups, AA, or SAA, are essential to Recovery. Let me count the ways how they provide balance and healing in your journey.

1. An accepting environment from which to get support;

2. An opportunity to identify with others' stories and experience relief at not being alone or unique;

3. Support and strategies to stop or diminish addictive behavior;

4. Healthy intimacy and friendship with others in the group;

5. A process and framework for recovering from addiction and building spirituality;

6. Promotes honesty and honesty leads to change;

7. Decreased isolation, increased make connections; increased self esteem; increased relationship skills; decreased self pity;

8. Practice real life with real people going through same issues;

9. Great for sharing feelings;

10. A centering tool- a place to lay down your burdens;

11. Minimize your self judgment.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Though Dead, Still Speaks!

He wrote 600 works in his brief life of 35 years - hymns, cantatas, operas, symphonies. He lived in poverty and died in obscurity. His grave was unmarked. No place for candles to burn or flowers to display. He's forever absent, gone.
His name: Johannes Theophilus Mozart.
But is Mozart really gone? Unlike Hitler, the good works he did live after him. If he had mistakes, they're not highlighted. What good lives on after he died? Mozart's unique contribution to the world - his style, his eminent innovations, the "Mozart touch." In his music, Mozart lives on.
If you're having difficulties choosing to heal, give up your addictions, or live the best life you can have, you can learn to motivate yourself. Try imagining your self in your death bed. Dying, you are with your loved ones - spouse, children, friends, relatives, etc. What will you say to each one of them? What will they remember about you?
Yes, your opportunity is now. Not later. Life is brief. You can choose life and do good and leave your timeless legacy and memories behind. Today.
If you do, like Mozart, you too though dead someday, can still speak.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Moves That Matter

As a psychotherapist, my special focus has always been healing of wounds to self. As a specialist in the field, I’ve a program I’ve developed myself devoted to management of pain, especially during initial stage of trauma.
Real life survivors have essential "moves" that eventually restored their sense of self and brought them to greater life and love than before.
Here are some "moves that matter" that I process in my sessions with counselees/patients during the course of our collaborative healing journey:
1) Self encouragement:  you can learn self validation even in the absence of others, who may feel worn out hearing from you;
2) 100 % responsibility: Take 100-percent responsibility for tending to your own wound and for your own recovery.
3) Time management: Build in daily activities that are life-sustaining, including time with supportive friends, therapists, and support groups. Create quality creature comforts. Work provides well-needed structure. Throw yourself into work to enjoy its ‘occupational therapy’ benefits.
4) Mindfulness: Get into the moment and stay there as long as you can. The only safe place is the split second of now. When your painful thoughts intrude, return to the practice of soaking in the moment.
5) Constructive Use:  Put your suffering to constructive use: Learn to transform pain into growth.
6) Heal unprocessed pain:  Cleanse old wounds.  Deal directly now with cumulative psychological wounds from the past lingering underneath for a long time.
7) Acknowledge your strength as a human being:  Believe that you can survive. There are tools. Challenge hopelessness and despair.
8.) Feelings are not facts: Feelings are temporary and fleeting. From the center of self, observe your feelings washing over you. Find serenity in the now.
9.) Find serenity in the now:  Remember, this too shall pass.
10.) Seek the Higher Power.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Money and Mental Health

Howard, a senior citizen, hoards. He stashes money in the bank, which he says is for his future. He does not want to let his adult children know about it. So when he flies away, his children will not be aware of any of their father’s huge savings. In the meantime, Howard makes his children feel obligated to give to him a monthly allowance. He always feel insecure and worried regarding his material needs.
Money often reveals your state of mental health. Money “drug” can be like sex, power, alcohol or marijuana. The more you lust, the more you become dissatisfied! It never stands still. It keeps grasping. It is addictive. To be fulfilled, you’ve to keep increasing the dosage of this drug-of-choice. That’s when it develops into a kind of mental health problem we can call "greed."
In Howard’s case, the problem is not the saving of money. There are indeed times in our lives that need economy. The problem is the greed that motivates the saving of money. This greed is both psychological and emotional as much as it’s also spiritual. The anxiety over money that underlies the hoarding has much deeper roots that need to be attended to.