Thursday, September 19, 2019

What Is Your Anger Hiding?

Pamela said that she didn’t want to lose her husband and hurt their children. And so she found her self getting too angry.

She misdirected the anger by retaliation, telling their friends ugly stories about her husband and about his affair. Also, she figured in a road rage that required police action.

Pamela’s chronic anger sapped her energy. That even her young children as well as her work are being more and more affected.

Even as years went by, Pamela’s anger has taken a life of its own. It doesn’t need to be triggered. It’s just there - always and every where she goes.

She’s no longer angry at people like her husband or his affair partner or the bad circumstances of her life. She’s simply angry.

That’s what happens when anger becomes “not normal.”

Normal anger is clean and natural anger of grief. It cleanses your spirit and conserves your energy. Over a reasonable time frame, it fades.

“Not normal” or abnormal anger is hangover anger. It persists indefinitely. It often turns ugly, and self-destructive.

Such kind of severe or chronic anger is hiding something. How do you know what your anger is hiding?

Ask your self, “How far removed is my anger from its true source?”

It may not necessarily be just from present losses and changes. The farther removed the anger is from its true or original sources, the less healthy it is.

Letting go of abnormal, unhealthy anger is to let it go consciously. That takes knowing clearly where your hangover anger originates, how it works, what it is protecting, and what price are you paying for it.

The more clarity you get and action you take on it, the more quickly and easily the unwanted abnormal, hangover anger disappears.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Existential Therapy

People feel or think - whether consciously or subconsciously - about their “existence.” Animals or inanimate objects don’t. Only humans do.

Psychotherapy ministers to disturbances of “existence.” Mostly, human despair. Issues of meaning, freedom, isolation, relationships, death or transcendence.

For Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “existence” refers to freedom and choice. Heidegger focuses on temporality and authenticity. Nietzsche speaks of determinism. Camus thinks of absurdity.

Dr. Irvin Yalom, a noted grandfather of modern-day existential therapy, writes of its basic premise: “We humans are the only creatures for whom our own existence is the problem.”

So by existential therapy, we mean healing not only from parental wounds (internalized unloving adults), not only from our thought distortions (cognitive-behavioral), not only from our raw instincts or desires (Freudian), or not only from our biochemical imbalances (psychopharmacology).

But also - but also - from our confrontation with the problem of our “existence.”

Whether you’re an atheist, a religious, spiritual or neither, Dr. Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” has deep insights on this problem of our “existence.”

The book addresses the most basic questions everyone faces in existence and life: Why am I here? What is my purpose?

Self help or therapy usually tells us to look within - at our own past, at our own desires, gifts, or needs, at our own dreams.

But Dr. Warren says that the proper starting place for our problems with “existence” must be with God and His eternal purposes for each of our lives.

For him, “existential therapy” is a life based on eternal purposes, not cultural values.

As mathematician genius Blaise Pascal put it, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known to us through Jesus Christ.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, September 16, 2019

Accept People As They Are

Criticizing is pretty common. It’s part of a lot of people’s conditioning. They easily slip into it automatically.

“He is too slow and lazy! I don’t know why I married him,” says a wife to me in-session in front of her husband.

The husband, who seems meek by nature, remarks that his wife is used to nagging him in the house, even with the slightest shortcomings.

Criticism is obvious in verbal attacks. Or, laughing at the person. Other times, criticism takes the form of looking away or walking out too fast.

Chronic criticizing is a sign of insecurity. Just a smokescreen.

The ego wants to protect itself from threats and fears. So it resorts to a way in which it tries to build itself up by putting another person down.

Inevitably, we will all experience moments when we get irritated, hurt, or offended by somebody else’s words or behavior.

Be mindful of your feelings and thoughts exactly during those moments, subtly or not so subtly.

And here’s what you do: Don’t quickly judge or reject the other person. Recognize that it’s an opportunity to practice empathy and compassion.

This does not mean you should put up with bad, abusive words and behaviors. Just remember that putting a person down or shaming by severe criticizing never works for good.

People are more than their weaknesses, mistakes, or dysfunctional behaviors. There’s a story behind every moment, every mistake, every hurtful words, every failure, every abuse.

When a person says hurtful words or behaves badly, it’s usually because they’re in pain. Attacking him or her will just make the situation worse.

Focusing on what’s wrong with people reduces them to only their negative characteristic/s. Like they become nothing but their temper or laziness, for example.

Accept people as they are, warts and all. That’s where good things start - individually and relationally - in our lives and community.
Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Why Are You Tormenting Your Self?

We’ve heard this before: life is hard.

But I feel this fact bears repeating because at times we need to learn or re-learn what it takes to cope with the reality.

It’s normal and human to struggle. But that doesn’t mean you have to add to it, and torture your self over it.

It’s Connie’s second time in the hospital due to attempts of suicide.

The first time, she tried to poison her body by swallowing an insecticide. The latest, she almost took her life by drug overdose.

During our therapy sessions, she can’t seem to stop torturing her self. She did it by continually wallowing in self pity and depression.

I noticed that it’s especially true when she’s progressively uncovering some darker sides of her self. Such as painful emotions and experiences related to shame, loss, self hatred, or guilt.

Rather than working through these discovered spots of darkness and despair, she’d use or turn it into an excuse to wallow.

Here’s one takeaway: when you catch your self wallowing in complaining and self pity, it could mean  another ego tactic of avoidance and denial.

The wallowing increases your suffering and pain even more. It’s a reminder for us of our need to directly process or resolve our real problems.

Why are you tormenting your self by wallowing?

Often, it has to do with your feelings and thoughts about your self. Specifically, the negativities or false beliefs that remained embedded within.

It’s an exercise of true self-acceptance. Some call it “self-love.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, September 13, 2019

Perfectionism and Mental Health

What is perfectionism?

“Simply put, it’s an inability to tolerate faults,” writes clinical psychologists Dr. Townsend and Dr. Cloud in their book “Safe People.”

That means a sort of phobia or fear about people’s imperfections, shortcomings, or mistakes, including one’s own.

Perfectionists often have a lot of “shoulds” and impossible standards for people to meet. They tend to be critical and judgmental.

Daniel is 37. He’s pretty intelligent, good looking, and successful in his work. He does not have any vices like drugs, alcohol, smoking, or sexual addiction. He’s clean.

You may imagine that a clean and gifted guy like Daniel could have a happy marriage or love life and a network of friends or relatives around him.

But the reality is, Daniel is unmarried. Never had girlfriends. He has no close relatives or friends.

He is mostly isolated, prefers to be very, very alone. And he has only recently felt its depressive, unhealthy effects on him.

When you understand the basic nature and effects of perfectionism, you may infer how it could have played out in Daniel’s life. It makes logical sense.

Perfectionism isolates. It unnecessarily cuts us off from relationships.

Instead of connecting, perfectionists can’t stand to see others’ blemishes or mistakes, even the trivial ones.

They turn their desires into demands. They’re obsessed on fixing the other person or they impulsively leave the relationship.

Where did perfectionism come from? It could have originated from a conditional relationship, a set of perfectionistic parents or guardians, or a legalistic family/religious background.

You can heal from that. You can choose to give up your perfectionism, your sense of entitlement. You can learn to experience being both accepted and flawed at the same time.

As Drs. Townsend and Cloud put it, “Remember the antidote to perfectionism isn’t being good - it’s being loved.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Farmer and the Traveler

When processing issues of losses or failures in your life, a story of two friends can offer you a valuable psychological lesson.

Two good friends—one was a farmer and the other was a traveler. Every so often the traveler would come visit and enjoy the company of his friend. 

One time, as the traveler was departing, he thanked and praised the farmer. He said that he was so happy the farmer was so rich and successful.  

The farmer only smiled and said: “This too shall pass.”

A few years later the traveler visited again. But this time, the farmer experienced a tragedy. He lost everything—the floods took his crops and illness killed his animals. 

He was now among the poorest people there and worked for another successful farmer.  However, the farmer had not changed. He remained happy and hospitable as if nothing happened.

The traveler wondered about him and asked his friend how he could still remain happy and hospitable. 

The farmer just smiled and said: “This too shall pass.” 

In a couple of years, the traveler visited again. This time, the farmer became so rich and successful again. The traveler jumped for joy for his friend. 

The farmer gave his familiar smile and said, “This too shall pass.”

Several years went by before the traveler visited again. This time he did not find his friend because his friend, who later became a Christian, had died. 

The farmer’s wife showed him where his friend’s grave was and on the grave stone was written: “This too shall pass.” 

When the traveler turned into an old man, the king of his country wanted to inscribe something on a ring that would make him experience hope and peace. He offered a great reward for anyone who can come up with such a statement. 

Many people tried to get the reward of the king. But the king was not happy with their submissions. 

Then our traveler showed up and suggested to the king this statement: “This too shall pass.” 

And that is what was inscribed in the ring of the king.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Conversations to Prevent Suicide

According to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, mostly among young people.

For me, the report sounds extraordinary or incredible. The rise of suicides has become too alarming.

Something needs to be done given this sign or reality we’re all faced with in our times.

As a psychotherapist, I’ve been into numerous sessions with individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.

A number actually made multiple attempts to take their lives or have been hospitalized and taking medications.

It’s always a difficult challenge for me just as much as it is for anyone. To be an ivory-Tower academic or theoretical interventionist to the suicidal is damaging. Information alone doesn’t save or heal.

Whether in you or in someone you know, there are warning signs you can watch out for and be aware of in order to prevent unnecessary self destruction or taking of one’s life.

A quick info graphic below may be helpful.

Suicide is prevention. Be prepared for it.

Remember that suicide is complex in nature. It’s often multi-causal.

It’s never external (eg. circumstances, abuse, losses) alone.  More importantly and essentially, the root problem of suicide is internal.

What can you do to help someone who is suicidal?

Suicide prevention is accelerated by conversation. So, make sure you speak if you’re worried about the person!

Here are tips for suicide-prevention conversations (source: Dr. Jeanne Segal’s help-guide):

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”

“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”

“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”

Questions you can ask:

“When did you begin feeling like this?”

“Did something happen to make you start feeling this way?”

“How can I best support you right now?”

“Have you thought about getting help?”

What you can say that helps:

“You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”

“You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.” 

“I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”

“When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.”

Monday, September 09, 2019

Trauma, Grief, and Depression

Yesterday, I was at GMA7 for taping of a TV consulting feature with two of its upcoming hopeful young actresses, Shayne and Lexi.

Shayne and Lexi, the TV station’s top Starstruck finalists, asked me a number of questions related to mental health, mostly on depression, grief, trauma.

“How do you know if someone is socially happy or outwardly ok but secretly going through chronic depression and suicidal thoughts?” asked perceptively by one of them.

I responded, “It takes sensitivity- reading not only his literal words but also his ‘metacom.’” I explained that ‘metacom’ refers to message sent through nonverbal behaviors, such as isolation, addictive actions, or facial expressions.

Unlike medical/physical disease, depression, grief, or trauma because of a loss, abuse, and deprivation is very psychological and emotional.

Treatment often involves a series of urgent actions or steps to remedy the “HAVINGNESS” of the person in regard to quality of life.

This is both externally and internally - especially when the psychological condition has become severe or chronic.

Externally, by way of fundamental needs such as food, shelter, physical comfort, financial resources, social and family supports, medicines, among others.

And internally, through appropriate psychotherapy and counseling to work through the person’s psychological, emotional and even spiritual injuries/wounds as a result of traumatic life experiences and circumstances.

As Fred Rogers once wrote,

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

What Do You Do When You Know What to Do - But You Still Can’t Do It?

Many people think that our problems stem from lack of information or education.

That the solution lies in gathering more data, tips and strategies. This seems to work for some.

However, for the greater majority of us, lack of information is not the problem. Especially in this digital/google age we’re all in.

I’m reminded of a fellow psychologist who, despite his doctorate in the field, was still unable to make major personal changes over his sexual addiction and marital problems.

He studied about psychological treatment (even spiritual as well) for addiction and relationship breakdowns with lots of books, audio clips, courses, and other material in his personal library.

Yet he still feels powerless or helpless to do what he already knows.

He is not alone. In fact, most of us have a problem like his.

What do you do when you already know what to do - but you still can’t do it?

You go beyond information, data, or lectures. You do deep work.

You locate internal roots ... the underlying reasons for your recurring or automatic self-defeating behaviors. You focus on the roots, not the fruit.

To just take drugs or collect more data is like trying to treat cancer with paracetamol: it addresses a symptom while ignoring the real illness.

You get honest. No more self-lies. See deeper realities, such as a hidden paralysis of feelings of shame or guilt, as they really are.

You go from there to take control of and transform your life.

That’s what you do to start unlocking or freeing your ability to do what you already know.

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, September 02, 2019

Meaning and Patience

Psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankl, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” quotes Nietszche’s words, “He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW.”

This quote clearly illustrates to us the connection between MEANING and PATIENCE. It applies not only in the context of psychotherapy but in the whole of life in general.

Impatience seems “second nature” to Kathryn. She confesses that she couldn’t help it.

Her head is swirling in pain whenever we have session recalling and processing her husband’s gambling addiction and sexual infidelities.

She wants to heal her heart, and repair the marriage. She does know what she wants - her big Why. Yet, for many months now since discovery, she admits still feeling helpless controlling herself.

Her frequent physical and verbal outbursts have been constantly derailing the recovery process with her remorseful husband who has submitted to serious therapy.

The impatience only adds unnecessary suffering to her current sufferings.

A good dose of patience therefore is a necessary condition to a successful search for meaning and fulfillment of what we want.

Researchers Priochssca  and DiClemente observed that people often relapse before they successfully change a behavior for good.

Relapse is part of the process of recovery. With that, we bear in mind the crucial virtue of patience in going through the stages and starting over again.

Unless we match our life’s meaning or goal with patience, we risk acting and concluding prematurely. We risk settling for secondary consolations or self sabotage.

BrainyQuote posts,

 “Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Processing Failure Healthily

Much deterioration in therapy happens when failure is not processed effectively.

This is particularly significant in cases of deep grief, traumatic experiences, and personality dissociative disorders.

My therapy sessions are at times chaotic, confusing, and awkward due to “excuses.” Those in emotional pain do tend to ward off confrontation with failure and its lessons by denial or ignoring.

As a result, due to avoidance or going around the problem instead of going directly through it, many find themselves in the downward slide.

Thus, despite therapy’s best offer, ultimately it is the client who succeeds or fails, not the therapist.

How then do you process failure effectively so you can heal and grow through it?

One psychological way is what experts call “healthy detachment.” You keep failure at a distance. You learn not to take it too personally.

“The loss or abuse happened to you, but it’s not you,” I would typically say to clients having a hard time progressively starting or getting over their deep mental pain.

It’s an important psychological distinction - the separation of our “self” and our “externals.” When that’s fully understood and applied, any failure in life can be processed effectively.

Failures are absolutely critical for our continuing self development — if, that is, you’re willing to acknowledge them.

Truth is, in most of our failures, losses, or mistakes, we’re forced to think about our ways and habits and the things we can change for the better.

Failures, if we’re “detached” enough from them, can help us develop greater flexibility, resilience, perseverance, humility, creativity, and faith.

With it, any failure becomes good success.

C.K. Chesterton writes, “How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Look at My Sessions Today: Creativity and Coffee Shop Sessions

Psychologist and author Dr. Jeffrey Kottler, in his bestselling book “On Being A Therapist,” speaks of his creative, outside-the-box “coffee shop sessions.”

He describes his “coffee shop session” as innovative and experimental that keeps things fresh and exciting. He refers to it as creating “novel interaction experiences, the kind that produce lasting changes.”

After holding office in Makati for years before, I once discovered how I’d missed out on some exciting things in life. I was sedentary and stuck in a cubicle while those I saw were having adventures out there!

I ended up asking myself, “Am I going to spend the rest of my life in this room?”

Since my relocation to a different urban area, I’ve decided to do therapy only through my “walks and talks.”  In the coffee shops, hotels, parks, and other natural daily places where I travel and where people actually live their lives.

At this point in my life, I am certainly one of those near-approaching aging or elderly status who now have time to put my knowledge and gifts to more creative use outside the traditional office.

I remember holding a family therapy session in front of a beautiful seashore and tourist beach. All 10 or more members of the family were there actively engaging as if energized by the cool winds and waves around us!

The aging patriarch, center of the family’s concern, perfectly recalled what we processed during what he referred to as his family’s “beach sessions.”

Later, the family invited me to extended sessions in coffee shops, and finally bringing me to their home and showing me around their lovely town.

Mostly, I’m now preferring to do my best work this way as my years advance. It’s natural therapy. Anti-ageing too!

Such creativity in the therapy process appears to work better going through an impasse, building deeper therapeutic trust and alliance, fostering greater openness and overall sense of natural healing and well being.

Coffee shop sessions, anyone?

Let it awaken that sense of yourself as an explorer to heal and enrich your life. It comes from stretching your self in new and different ways that help you grow naturally in wisdom and creativity.

It’s been my inspiration to make this a vital part of my personal life and professional mission.

I invite you to join me in this exciting journey onwards ...

(More info:  Psychotherapy in the Coffee Shop ...  Psychology of Coffee ... 9 Health Benefits of Coffee ... Harvard Study on Coffee)

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How To Have More Time

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Remember that time is money.”

For him, time equals money. Although I can affirm that Franklin is right on many things, I disagree with him on this one.

TIME, our scarciest resource, is actually more important than money. Time is our most valuable possession or commodity in life.

Imagine. Normal longevity span is around 70 or 80 years of time. Will you take a million dollars of money in exchange for shortening your own life span?

Yesterday, I saw an interesting infographic at Pinterest. It’s entitled “How To Have More Time.”

You and I can find it practically helpful to maximize use of our limited supply of time.

Here are its bullet points on “how to have more time:”

•  do fewer things

•  sell your brain, not your time

•  do one big thing a day

•  don’t be busy for the sake of busy

•  be with people who value time

•  assume things will take longer than planned

•  think ahead of your time

•  stop watching time when you rest

As a psychotherapist, I spend valuable time with people. I consider it meaningful work because I deal with a most important finite resource we all have.

For the hurting and lost, therapy time is a great time saver and increaser.

In therapy, one “spends time to buy more time.” No more wasted hours. No more wasted opportunities, resources, and relationships.

No more waste ... towards a better, healthy, productive future.

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, August 26, 2019

When Problems Are More In Your Mind Than in Reality

In the face of any trial or challenge in life, we all need a place of calm. Without it, we get lost or bring undue suffering into ourselves.

Yet people do overthink. They tend to over-worry. Especially so, when they feel overwhelmed by big problems, abuses, or losses they experience in their lives.

Going over and over her husband’s infidelity didn’t help Melissa both within herself and repair of the marriage with her remorseful spouse.

Continually dwelling on, brooding and complaining about it only made her feel worse. It also produced painful anger outbursts and unnecessary humiliations and separations from her husband who was very willing to reform.

Instead of facilitating a healing environment for their mutual recommitment to their marriage, Melissa had been bringing things to a greater painful point - suffering over her suffering.

Translate: some problems may be more in our mind than in reality.

When you find your self overcome by too much negativity, get inside your mind and ask:

Why am I making things even more problematic and painful?

Am I trying to control what is outside my control?

Is there a hidden part of me that I need to see which gives an excuse to avoid changing my self or moving towards a solution?

I’m reminded of an old but essential slogan, “Think positive.”

We all have struggles or wounds at times. But it doesn’t always help to focus on what is wrong. We can learn to accept our self and life as it is, and remember to practice faith and positivity.

Of course, I don’t mean that we avoid thinking of our problems or pretending that everything is fine. Just simply refrain from making things more painful than they need to be.

As writer Jessica Davidson aptly put it, “From that still center in your heart, you can approach every problem with compassion by emphasizing the positive without denying the negative.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Homosexuality and Mental Health

“So, should I have ‘conversion therapy’ then?” asked an in-session client who openly professed to be a practicing  gay.

In the course of his process of deeper self awareness, he had reached a point of entertaining that question or possibility in his life.

According to editions of DSM (official psychiatric/psychological manual for mental disorders), gay, lesbian, and bisexual sexual orientations have been variedly described as “paraphilia,” ”sexual mental disorder,” “sexual orientation disturbance,” “ego-dystonic homosexuality,” among others.

According to the Bible, it says, among various passages:

 “ ... do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10) (Also: Romans 1:18-32; 1 Tim 1:8-10)

Lately, in the Philippines, reports in the news showed a rising movement for LGBT. A proposed law SOGIE bill was even given to the Senate and Congress in defense of social equality for homosexuals.

It’s a search for what’s right and wrong. A search for identity and happiness on the part of the LGBT group. But, what is it really?

A local female overseas foreign worker who recently broke up with her European girlfriend have had several broken same-sex relationships in the past.

“I’d get some pleasure in these relationships doc, but I realized they’d never made me happy,” she reminisced and self-reflected.

Whether psychiatric, psychological, or spiritual, homosexuality is not inescapable. There is a solution.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, August 22, 2019



For most of us, it’s doesn’t seem natural to start out willing to wait. A common response to waiting is impatience or anger.

In life, we experience trials or losses. It’s part of the territory - the cycle of living and dying of our temporal existence.

In psychotherapy, as in life, a lot of waiting periods takes place.

The ability to wait determines whether a person is truly accomplishing something, and expanding the hours in front of him.

Dr. Irvin Yalom, a renowned psychotherapist, once wrote in his book “The Gift of Therapy” about this virtue in Abraham Lincoln who ...  “is reputed to have said that if he had 8 hours to cut down a tree, he’d spent several of these hours sharpening his ax.”

Every passing day as we wait to get what we want, we can choose where our emotions take us.

We have two options.

We have the option to let the waiting shape something good into our inner being. Good things, such as faith, hope, love, resilience, perseverance, or resourcefulness.

Or, we can take the option of taking matters in our hands impulsively — log on the fires of self-indulgence, resentment, impatience, and unthankfulness.

Surely only one of these two options will bring us true joy and fulfillment.

The psalmist describes this kind of waiting, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).


Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Who is Somebody and Who is Nobody?

In the larger culture we’re in, there’s a “somebody” and there’s a “nobody.” Such social differentiation influences in certain ways how people view themselves.

The “somebody” are those with power, money, fame, or talents. On the other hand, the “nobody” constitutes the poor, powerless, sick, or disabled.

When Fin married Fely several years ago, Fely’s wealthy parents never hid their feelings of displeasure on their daughter’s choice. They looked down on Fin, then unemployed and struggling to be in business.

Fin became depressed. He had a difficult time getting along with his in-laws while being forced to live with them due to lack of means in the beginnings of his marriage. At varied times, he called himself a “useless nobody” and “cancer to society.”

Fast forward, with the loyal support of his wife, Fin found a code of success in business and became rich. Very rich, which includes ownership of expensive cars and multiple prime real estate properties.

At that specific point, Fin’s in-laws suddenly had a change of heart. They started to treat Fin in special ways, such as praising him, giving him surprise gifts, and preferential mention during family gatherings. Fin had become a “somebody” to them, if we may surmise that point.

Who is “somebody” and who is “nobody?”

If we go by Fin’s Story, which is similar to that of countless others, his being a “somebody” rests not in his own inherent value as a person, but on “things” he has accumulated. Without those “things,” he’s a “nobody.”

Think about that. Deeply. How it “objectifies” people and in the process putting a damage on to their psychological, emotional, spiritual and even physical well being.

Truth is, there’s no such thing as “somebody” or a “nobody.” We’re all essentially the same in the living and dying. We’re all the same breathing the same air. We’re all the same in our ultimate reality - “from dust to dust.”

And, that realization heals.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Quasimodo and Esmeralda

Quasimodo is the hunchback portrayed in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” written by famous French writer, Victor Hugo.

In one scene, Quasimodo met a beautiful woman named Esmeralda. A conversation between them unpacks for us a psychological lesson on the concept of self worth or self esteem.

“Yes ... this is how I’m made. It’s horrible, isn’t it? And you’re so beautiful!” said Quasimodo to Esmeralda.

Obviously, Quasimodo is getting his self worth from his twisted physical appearance. From the way people see him in their jeerings and condemning laughs.

Yet, in the eyes of the author Victor Hugo, why and how did Quasimodo become a hero in his story?

It’s real - Quasimodo’s physical ugliness. But his total compassion - his inner character - made him a hero for Hugo ... and Esmeralda in the story.

We live in a world that bases a person’s value so much on physical appearance. Such cultural factor has been responsible for strangling the self esteem of women and men through the centuries.

So, the need for us to overcome this cultural “mental lie” is this: to learn that our “true self” goes on another deeper level of self awareness.

See that your true self is so much more than your physical state or body size. More than anything material actually, such as your money in the bank, possessions, accomplishments, or relationships.

Inwardly, in the territory of the heart, mind, and soul, there can be no disability despite what’s seen.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, August 15, 2019


I met Donna, a woman in her 70s. She was Mom to one of my clients, Tess, who suffered from severe depression and alcoholism.

At the outset, in my first meeting with Donna, she talked more than listen and make demands rather than cooperate with her daughter’s recovery. She’s not exactly pleasant to chat with.

Tess spoke painfully about her Mom during our sessions. She lamented her Mom’s rudeness, bluntness and insensitivity. That made Tess and her three other siblings pull back from her.

Lately, due to social pressure from relatives and the pain of her children’s alienation, Donna finally agreed to see a psychotherapist.

Self-centeredness is a considerable source of unhappiness. Coupled with inability to listen, coercion, or inflexibility, self-centeredness creates unnecessary emotional pain in relationships.

Donna, as well as many others, was afflicted with this virus. She regularly ran over other people’s feelings or make a scene anywhere with the weight of her own psychological wounds, anger, and misery, even wickedness.

Writer and social worker, Wendy Lustbader, once wrote, “The parts of ourselves that we neglect lie in wait for us, like an accusation.”

Self-centeredness, like other unresolved internal issues, benefits from attention. Correcting the neglect such as in a therapeutic space brings a forward movement to healing and restoration of relationships.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

His Depression Became His Helper

No one lives without looking for meaning. 

Whether consciously or unconsciously, it’s something naturally given and built into our human nature.

Once, I was with a man in his early forties. He had spent years developing a highly successful business. 

But one day, he found himself severely depressed. In an emotional seesaw. He could not understand. 

The more his externals were going up, the more his internals were going down. He’s confused and lost about what’s going on with him.

That’s when he began to seek help in therapy. There, he discovered more closely and honestly what his depression was telling about his life.

His discoveries startled him. 

One of them, he realized how all these years he bought into an unquestioning cultural idea that the meaning of life is wealth and achievement.

He totally believed that life’s meaning was nothing more than earning a lot of money and other people’s praises and approval.

“It’s the illusion that drove my life, so now I’m experiencing its pain,” he remarked. Fueled by society, he saw it now as a sort of “con job” he did on himself.

He ended up leaving the affluence or glamour of his business behind, living a minimalist lifestyle, and attending a Christian missionary school. 

Eventually, he served as a missionary and bible teacher among the poor in a Third World country.

This man’s depression became his helper. 

Returning to his spiritual longings and passion, doing what matters to him, released him from his suffering. 

Through it, he found himself ... and the true meaning of his life. A meaning larger than life.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Impermanence: Lived or Unlived Life?

Author Violet Weingarten, in her book “Intimations of Mortality,” tells of a woman who kept a personal journal. After facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the 59-year-old woman reflects:

“You feel a loss of options. The Greek you were going to study someday, the lover you might take, the house you would have by the sea, the children whose children you looked forward to, the finally successful definitive book you were going to write - it was all fantasy maybe (or maybe not), and any or all might still happen; but everything seems less likely. Life is no longer open ended.”

When I was younger, I used to work for a city local newspaper. In one of the articles I wrote, “Impermanence,”  I expressed about my own struggles after “things end.”

Even when I was a healthy youth then, I still felt cheated when losses or mishaps interfere with my strivings. And now, when I’ve become old, I know there would again be that sort of feeling in my life experience.

To varying degrees, the struggle with “impermanence” is everyone’s plight. Our time is finite, limited.

And if the struggle gets unresolved within us, someday we die without ever once knowing what life (temporary though it may be) is really about.

Since over 10 years ago, I’ve been given the opportunity and freedom enough  to order my inner life for the rest of my days as I would wish it to be till I fly away.

It’s comprised of “authoring life” on the page and the life of others I help heal. It likewise allows me time for reading and writing - activities I most value and that make me most alive.

The occupation makes me feel immortal. Permanent. It brings me something like happiness in an earth where time is not open ended.

Writer Wendy Lustbader explains this in a genius way, “To fulfill our promises to ourselves is to prepare to die;  tragedy is to die with unlived life still inside us.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Strength - But From Where?

Last night, one of the things I did with a man in session was to identify with his problem.

I said to him after sharing my story, “I’ve been there too. But I’ve discovered a complete answer to my failure and weakness. And I’d like to share with you that strength that I found.”

Whatever we’re struggling with, we need strength. But from where do you get it?

The answer is, it has little to do with your own strength. Your own human power. Your own self-will.

The strength operates from a supernatural or nonhuman source, which is from Christ. Your personal relationship with and life in Him gives you all the strength you need.

As the Apostle Paul put it, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The field of psychology  can be helpful. It can give you practical recommendations to overcome your hurting heart. In some ways, it’s right on how to build your strength within.

Psychology has a point - up to a point. With its incompleteness, you remain stuck in your weakness. With it alone, you remain lost in the maze of your personal history.

Though we can learn or pick up some truths from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Irvin Yalom, or Jeffrey Kottler, see that God has an ultimate truth to offer that secular psychology or the whole mental health field leaves out: the application of redemptive, all-powerful strength.

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ,” explains noted mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal.

Fill that vacuum from the True Source and you get unlimited supply of strength.

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, August 09, 2019

Resist the Hack, Love the Journey

Do you know Rich Roll?

He’s a celebrated ultra Ironman triathlon runner. He completed 5 Ironman events in the Hawaiian Islands in 2010. By the way, he did it in only 7 days. And, he only eats plants.

If you ask Rich how in the world was he able to do it, he’ll say it’s in the “grind.” He loves the grind, the training, the process, the journey.

He wrote about it in his book, a bestselling memoir, “Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself.”

One of the biggest self growth takeaways we can learn from Rich Roll is to “resist the shortcut, embrace the grind.”

To aspire for wholeness and greatness in our lives means a constant state of daily training. In a sense, it’s disbelieving the finish lines. Instead, we embrace the daily grind of meaningful, persevering work.

“I’m getting impatient, when will I get well,” asked a young man in therapy recovering from chronic depression and multiple suicidal attempts.

It’s typical. We live in a culture with demands for (illusory) instant gratification, hacks, easy work, and entitlements to a good life.

Rich confronts this:

“Failure or success ... is what gives the journey proper context, rich consistency, and towering emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual stakes that fertilize the soul for quantum growth irrespective of outcome. And growth is everything. But it can only result from earnest investment in experience.”

Out of the process, the grind, the journey, Rich argues, we derive a readiness for the arrival of a new, better self.

Resist the hack, love the journey.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Psychological Heath in BPO

In the Philippines, BPO workers are a major leg in the country’s economy. It’s an important sector (like the OFWs) that gives jobs/sustenance to quite a lot of Filipinos and their families.

Unfortunately, the work of call center agents has a built-in risk that can take a serious toll on their mental health and overall well-being.

A recent U.S.-based Washington Post investigation reports of one call center worker, Lester, who was haunted in his mind by what he sees during work.

Being a content moderator, Lester was exposed daily to reviewing suicides, massacres, and other forms of violence in his desk.

Having problems erasing those images in his mind would at times trigger flashbacks in Lester to the violence he reviewed in the office.

Entering a tall building, as an example, would cause him to entertain in his thoughts the possibility of jumping from it.

“I could not afford it, Doc, but I know I need it,” said a call center agent who once called me to seek mental health treatment.

He himself shared with me of fellow workers experiencing vicarious trauma who simply suffer mental breakdowns at their desks.

University of the Philippines Dean Sylvia Claudio told the Washington Post that she worries about a growing generation of young people suffering in silence in the BPO industry.

But according to the Post, the young workers reported to them that “the companies do not provide adequate support to address the psychological consequences of the work.”

Mental trauma or abuse of our call center agents is definitely as bad as physical abuse of their health.

I think the government and the private sector should look into the psychological health of our workers in BPO companies.

We have millions of our youth there ... the future and treasure of our land.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Days Filled With Space to Breathe

We know people who have become too tired. There are many things in their schedule. Others, due to boredom, losses, or emotional abuse.

People need down times. Terminals. A supply of days filled with spaces to breathe in order to repair, replenish, refresh.

I’ve some solutions to get those spaces to breathe. You can try any that works for you.

•  Travel to places of nature and do reflection walks.

•  Indulge in the pleasure of naps to store up extra energy.

•  Change your pace with a new hobby or activity.

•  Go to the gym and build health and resistance with exercise.

•  Have a medical check up to spot possible weak areas to improve physical health and energy.

•  Seek therapy and counseling to discover and resolve what “hangs heavy over your head.”

•  Review food habits, get rid of junk foods that harm or trigger negative moods.

•  Join a community, cause, or church to which can help you grow in faith, ideas, courage, friendships, self confidence, service to others.

•  Get “spiritual” with prayer, meditation, and study to increase your vitality and morale.

•  Have fun times with your loved ones or friends in new and adventurous ways.

•  Enroll in a course in the university that interests, fascinates or intrigues you.

•  Engage in art or sport to feel more alive and energetic.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Understanding Narcissism

In a certain sense, all of us are born "narcissists." We each carry remnants of our infancy or childhood narcissism. Nothing is as real to us as we feel like the center of the world.

Our natural narcissism can become abnormal and unhealthy. Psychopathological. Psychiatrists call it NPD or narcissistic personality disorder based on DSM.

And this NPD happens when we fail to outgrow earlier narcissism ... when we we fail to move past our earliest developmental fears, disappointments, and limitations.

Iza's Mom always puts her down. Whatever she does, her Mom would always find a way to judge or criticise her, and make her feel bad and inferior. She describes her as "arrogant, controlling, and selfish."

Iza, so emotionally traumatized, finally said “Enough!” When she decided to leave home and be on her own, her Mom called her "engrata.” The thought of seeing her daughter leave made her deeply hurt and vulnerable. And all the more, verbally reactive to the hilt.

Unhealthy narcissists do respond in dysfunctional and extreme manner. When faced with hurts, losses, or disappointments, they feel threatened. They often take it too personally. They act larger than life, hiding their susceptibilities by dominating or controlling.

Such behaviors are all a sign that a person has experienced a lack of gratification of basic psychological needs, a loss of control, and difficulty coping with limitations. They’re too disturbing than what the person is able to be aware of.

Recognizing this, as well as “building one’s supplies within,” can help an unhealthy narcissist to step back, reevaluate behavior, and start healing.

“Children do not yet know that time heals. When children feel something, they believe it is forever.” — Rabbi David Wolpe

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, July 28, 2019

It’s Worth the Journey

American author, E.L. Doctorow, once wrote:  “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

It’s a powerful insight and metaphor. And we can apply it to life recovery or psychotherapy. It also resonates with other types of worthwhile work or creative activity.

If you’re anything like those overwhelmed by life’s crises, you hate being lost. You can’t stand the thought and reality that you’re on the wrong or difficult road.

That’s pretty human and normal.

Last night, I was in therapy work with a young couple. They’re on the verge of painful marital separation.

Both of them have been going through their issues for many years now. And any time, at least one of them was about to give up the journey. “I’m too tired,” as this one spouse said.

Regardless, a part of them was still able to make them push their fears aside. They sat up straight on their seats, and they kept driving.

Though the fuel gauge of their relationship was straying dangerously close to empty, they knew they just needed to keep going ... despite the slowness, the darkness.

When something is truly important to us, we naturally don’t want to waste time and effort. We long for road markings. Or, helpful directions from one who’s been there.

Even slowly, we persist. We keep driving even in the fog.

Because we know ... it’s worth the journey.

Secrets of Your Self:

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Do You Have to Get Cancer First?

Illness strips us. It persuades us that time is running out. It gives us the impulsion to face who we really are. It forces us to confront what is distorted or incomplete in our selves.

A 45-year-old man sought psychotherapy after his doctors found an advanced stage of cancer in his lung. He used to smoke 4 packs a day.

But after being told he had only a few months to live, he became overwhelmed with regret for his years of heavy smoking.

Yet prior to getting the cancer, he received lots of reminders from his wife. His father died of cancer due to smoking and he’d get pleadings from him for him to stop his own deadly habit.

Indeed, too many people seem to wait for illness ... before entertaining an illumination to a lived life.

A worst part is the wasted time. The unnecessary shortening of life. No one can give back all the days lost.

I know it sounds crazy, even bewildering. But how common!

You don’t have to get cancer first ... to start changing and living.

Choose to get smart sooner than a lot others. Out of this choice, you derive a readiness to nurture a life that not only matters but lasts.

We remember that life is short. It’s not open-ended. Our time supply is finite. So in everything we do, we apply it to the whole stretch of life that lay ahead of us.

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

In Psalms, we’re reminded that “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years. Or, if due to strength, eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow. For soon it is gone and we fly away” (90:10).

Secrets of Your Self:


Paul McCartney (born 1942) was asked in 2008 by a British radio presenter to name his favorite Beatles song.

McCartney answered  “YESTERDAY,” a song he composed from a dream. It became one of the greatest hits ever recorded and loved worldwide.

It goes:

All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Why she had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday”

One night, I was singing it to a couple during session! The song resonated a lot to the reality and state of their present marriage.

It seems that every one who goes through personal and relational crises has “yesterdays” to come to terms with.

Yes, yesterdays seem always present. Especially in unresolved trauma. 

But, as Peter Levine said, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”