Friday, July 21, 2017

Understanding Suicide

For years, I've seen many clients who were depressed and suicidal. Fortunately, all those who saw me got early enough to seek help and work through their life recovery. I'm thankful for that!

Suicide is a uniquely human problem. In the world as a whole, statistics indicate an increasing suicide rate. 

According to the handbook of psychiatry by authors Philip Solomon and Vernon Patch - a suicide death occurs about every 20 minutes.

Firstly, the one who did it could not see things realistically. He or she could not realize that the problems he or she is experiencing are just temporary and solvable. 

Second, the trauma inflicted on the family and loved ones is devastating. Aside from emotional damage, it sets a negative example to children who will later find themselves in painful life conditions.

And most importantly, just as murder is sin, suicide is sin. One of God's ten commandments plainly states, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). To kill one's self is murder and never God's will.

In the whole of Scriptures, only 7 suicides are recorded: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Samson (Judges 16:30), Saul (1 Samuel 31:14), Saul's armor bearer (1 Samuel 31: 5), Ahithopel II (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (the Gospels). 

Not even one among these who committed suicide was at the center of doing God's will.

Clinically, in therapy, psychiatrist J. Motto cites 10 warning signs of individuals most likely to commit suicide:

1. Those with severe depression accompanied by intense emotional pain (depression is known to be a leading cause of suicide).
2. Those with intense hopeless feelings.
3. Singles ... over 45.
4. Those with prior history of suicide attempt.
5. Those with severe health problems.
6. Those who experienced great losses - death of spouse, loss of job etc
7. Those who made a specific suicide plan, from fleeting thoughts of suicide to get 
actual attempt.
8. Those with chronic self-destructive behavior, such as alcoholism, drug 
addiction etc
9. Those with intense need to achieve.
10. Those with excess disturbing life events within the last 6 months.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Growing Through the Seasons of Life

"Our lives are a journey. As we move forward, we will not only figuratively experience the geography of life: the exhilaration of high mountains, the tranquility of calm meadows, the isolation of treacherous canyons, but we will also experience the seasons of life: the hope of spring, the abundance of summer, the harvest of autumn, and yes, the darkness and depression of winter.” 
--Seth Adam Smith

While dining in a restaurant recently, I noticed a cute, little 5-year-old girl looking at me a few feet away. She was smiling, playing cheerfully with her Mom who was stroking her cheeks and making funny faces. I smiled back at her and waved my hand.

I enjoyed the moment. With wide-eyed wonderment. But also with a soft touch of memory of my youngest daughter, Angel, at that age. And how I wished I could bring back the season that has passed me by!

I think it's natural to remember sweet times in our lives with longing. Like me thinking of my daughter when she was once a little girl. Yet, as King Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes, "There is a time for everything under the heavens."

A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time for war and a time for peace. A time to work and a time to rest. In all the seasons of our lives, the self is in a journey of development in the limited time and opportunity given to us.

A patient once told me, "Doc, my life is over. I lost my job. I lost my family. I want to die." He lost energy and purpose for waking up in the mornings any longer. His emotions were aggressively sabotaging and dictating on his thoughts and body reactions. 

Painful though it may be, imagine him without the "gift" of this season of his life? Only when he learns to see that this was just a phase and that life is a continuum will he be able to move beyond his present pain and rebuild to a better life. 

Without a season of pain, there would be no healing. Without the sorrow, there would be no joy. That's exactly where lasting, authentic beauty comes in. It comes in through the fruit of the seasons passing by.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Are you a cheating husband or wife?

If you are and you want to heal yourself and your marriage/relationship, here's a sneak preview of some therapy steps generally prescribed by clinicians and therapists:

* Abstinence 100% from all contacts and communications with the OP (other person) or adultery partner;

* Take responsibility for your behaviors and misbehaviors;

*  Show sincere evidences of remorse and repentance, relationally and spiritually;

*  Realize that there is never an excuse for adultery;

*  Be sensitive and patient when your spouse/partners suffers from triggers out of the infidelity 

*  Check your anger and resentment at the door;

*  Acknowledge the depth of the pain and wounding that your affair brought to the marriage and family;

*  Admit mistake committed and avoid all excuses and rationalizations to deflect attention to the 

*  Stop blaming your spouse/partner for your affair;

*  Repent of and stop recruiting the children to be "partners in crime" in the adultery;

*  Be truthful from here on - no secrets any more;

*  Get your personal healing of emotional wounds with a professional therapist;

*  Get marital healing with your spouse/partner only through increased structure of professional psychotherapy and counseling sessions, especially in the beginning stages;

*  Stop being defensive;

*  Be trustworthy;

*  Renew your mind and stop thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else;

*  Figure out the "roots" of your unfaithfulness to your spouse/partner;

*  Check what your spouse/partner needs on a regular basis;

*  Expand your circle of support - safe friends, therapist, community etc.;

*  Educate your self about affairs and infidelity treatment;

*  Listen - really listen;

*  Seek help from God as your best source of strength, healing, and life recovery.

Adultery is treason to marriage, family, and society. In the Philippines and in some places, adultery is a legal crime punishable by imprisonment. In the time of the Old Testament of the Jews, adulterers were stoned to death.

For those who persist in adultery or cheating, the costs are so high -- psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Marriage and children are casualties. Mental illness or addictions can develop. 

The Bible says that God may choose to discipline them or take them away from earthly life. Indeed, cheaters can choose what they want to do but they cannot choose their consequences.

Adultery or cheating is not an unforgivable crime or sin. It can be healed. With the right heart and actions, one can be whole again - and even the best person one can be in this life and beyond.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Emotions and Self-Sabotage

Depression and anxiety overwhelm Linda. Pounding heart. Sweaty palms. Shortness of breath. Crying spells. Stays in bed too long. Obsessed about her appearance and weight.

She feels blown off course, much like a small bird coming against big winds.

The normally difficult challenges of life, such as losses in relationships or finances, easily knock Linda flat. Her depressed and anxious feelings then make her feel inferior to and withdrawn from others. Such responses feed her cycle of feeling hopeless or helpless.

Depressed and anxious feelings, in and of themselves, are generally not harmful. These emotions are a natural part of our humanity. It's what makes us unique as persons. It's actually better that we experience these temporary emotions than pushing them away.

But for some people, natural emotions such as these lead to self-sabotage. The emotions become a constant disabling presence in their lives rather than momentary. As a result, they sabotage their own selves and energies for success, love, and happiness.

Linda did go through a rough year in therapy. But, along the way, she has learned to come out of it. Her darkness begins to brighten. She recognizes her childhood and attachment roots. She becomes more deeply aware of the nature and dynamic of her thoughts, and acquired skills to reframe them.

She manages to understand her feelings and control them. She nurtures her passions at work. She goes to the gym and works out or takes brisk walks outdoors when she feels down. She reassures her self that her family is just waiting if she wants to talk about problems.

I'm reminded of Dr. Karen Horney, a psychoanalyst, who once wrote: "Concern should drive us to action and not into depression."

Fortunately for Linda, taking the appropriate action steps leads her to win over her emotional self-sabotage.

She remains an emotionally sensitive person though and that's good. It's now an asset, not a liability, since her emotions no longer rule over her.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Therapy of "Right Work"

Work where one gets lifeless, bored, and sick is work one is not suited for.

Once in college, I went door to door selling encyclopedias along with a superstar salesman and several youth OJTs. I needed money for personal and school expenses, so I applied and interned.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that job. In fact, a number of those with us excelled and earned a lot.

But my problem was, for me, knocking on doors in strange neighborhoods and offices is an unnatural act. The work does not fit my personality.

Yet I decided to do it anyway and somehow I made it look right because of the money. I lasted less than one month. My heart was not in it.

Looking back on that experience (and yes, I committed other mistakes like it!), I realized I am not cut for some occupations. I have a specific set of gifts/talents, dispositions, and attitudes that require a specific type of work.

As a psychotherapist and mental health caregiver, I have come to believe that this is true for every person.

Dr. Marsha Sinetar once wrote:

“Right livelihood is an idea about work which is linked to the natural order of things. It is doing our best at what we do best…Some of us are uniquely equipped for physical work, athletics, or dance; some of us have special intellectual gifts that make possible abstract or inventive thinking; some of us have aesthetic abilities and eye-hand coordination that enable us to paint, sculpt, or design.”

I want to call it the “therapy of right work.”

Right work is just as important to personal health and wholeness as the right foods and nutrients are for our physical bodies.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Healing From Unconditional Hugs

Terry is like many single-agains. He is unhappy about his recent place in life. Being lumped into the category of maritally "divorced," he feels uneasy, embarrassed, and unsettled.

He shares his feelings during session and they're all reflective of how his marital failure affected the way he thinks about himself. He has begun to think more that he's no-good, dirty, a rotten bum.

Because of what he thinks about himself, Terry notices that others begin treating him that same way he treats himself. Every signal he sends them asks for that kind of treatment and perception.

Yet Terry can't help but continue in the same unhelpful pattern, which only leads him to deeper loneliness, depression, and denial.

Does any of these sound familiar to you? I am imagining that you reading this post is right in the thick of it!  Like Terry, you've probably never been hurt more than you hurt right now. Things that once made sense in your life are spinning out of control. In the midst of the failure, loss, or stress you feel, your world comes crashing down.

I want you to understand that you are not alone in your feelings. All of us experience embarrassing or painful slices from life's journeys. No one is exempted. Life is real and can take different turns. And if we're not adequately prepared, we may find ourselves beating ourselves up instead of accepting and encouraging ourselves to move on!

So how do you find hope in the midst of hard times? How do you work on your wounded self that's badly beaten by circumstances? How do you stop allowing your self an unhealthy view from the other extreme?  I think these are essential questions each one of us must address. And I believe one answer is found in unconditional hugs.

One of the things I do with my three children is giving them hugs. It's a type of hug that conveys the message of unconditional acceptance. It doesn't matter if they earn good grades in school, score wins in the job market, or gain success earning money. I love them forever! It's another way of saying to my kids, "I love you. You don't have to earn that with performance. Nothing can take that love away."

A lot of us need hugs from our self. I mean, we all need unconditional love and acceptance from our self. Even when we suffer pain, loss, or failure in life. Even in the midst of our mistakes and imperfections. Only when you have this unconditional hug, acceptance and love from your self can you move forward and accomplish great things, turn ashes into gold, in your life.

Have you been hugging yourself? All of us need unconditional acceptance from our self.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Self and Body Image

When I was a boy onwards spiraling out of adolescence, I was painfully thin. I remember each time I dressed, I’ll put “extras” on my shoulder to look bulky, compact, or big.

In social events, I looked like a tall ectomorphic pole without the “extras!” It made me feel self conscious and had to repair my self image from this in years following.

It can be hard to stand against culture”s overemphasis on physical appearance. It tends to distort vision and image of our true selves.

A client, Celia, had acquired a sense of worthlessness from others who jeered her “ugliness” and twisted form. Finally, it darkened her judgment and mental health as she accepted their assessment of her self based on external appearances alone.

The self is so much more than our body weight, physical appearance, or organic definition. Our “true self” operates on another deeper level of awareness.

If we get that, we won’t overreact to the “illusions” of culture or unkind feedback we encounter. Low self esteem – a negative view of self – is arrested.

So naturally even as we take care of our physical appearance and health, we know a crucial difference. The authenticity or core of our selves is essentially separate from the physical state of our selves.

Monday, July 03, 2017

What Hippocrates Says

Last year, I bought my 23-year-old daughter a lifetime program with Slimmers' World. She needs the weight loss. For her health. Her work. Her love life. As I expected, she procrastinated for several months and can't seem to start exercising. She drives instead of walk or run ... her office desk has taken over her where muscles are supposed to be used.

My "millennial" daughter needs to have will power enough not only to moderate her food intake. But, also her iPhone and digital gadgets' use so prevalent in today's generation. Well, I suppose this is also true to a lot others older than her! Globally, the luxury, soft-living, and technological comfort days we have appear to hold us back to develop habits of fitness and wellbeing.

After some 2000 years and scientific studies, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, is seen so right. Regular exercise is man's best "medicine." For example, in one chapter of his book on digestive diseases, Hippocrates mentions walking 40 times. He prescribes brisk walks, short walks, early morning walks, after-dinner walks, night walks.

For psychological and emotional disturbances, early morning walks and exercises were prescribed. Brisk walks were for losing weight and keeping one's figure trim. It's clear that regular daily exercise, especially walking, over prolonged years is found to prevent and inhibit symptoms of denigrating diseases.

The poets also reflect upon the nature of these things. Dryden observed:  "The wise depend on exercise for cure." And the prolific Robert Frost once smilingly remarked: "I have walked many miles with my dog. It has done me a lot of good. I hope it has my dog." Is it true what these poets are saying in your case?

Let's all exercise! And when you exercise, exercise as if your life depends upon it ... for it does!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Invisible Death Anxiety

Working as a therapist, "hints" of death and its accompanying anxiety are never absent. I hardly get through my sessions without sensing a cry for help from individuals hurt by dire consequences and relationships.

It's not private bias or indulgence on my part. It's a universal concern we all have as human beings.

This "death anxiety" though is often invisible. A male patient in his early 40s told me about his much younger cousin who died recently of cancer. After learning it, he suddenly felt a rushing in his panic attacks.

Once while inside an airplane, everything was well when he took his seat. Then suddenly, he became so uneasy and felt, "This plane is where I am and it's about to crash!" No amount of care from his wife or plane assistants could calm his anxiety and fear.

We have two choices to deal with "invisible death anxiety." We either face the truth directly or we try to flee the anxious feelings and not attempt to come to terms with it. I think the latter response appears more common in modern times.

In the "Hour of Death," author Philippe Aries writes, "Except for the death of statesmen, society has banished death. In the towns, there is no way of knowing that something has happened ... Society no longer observes a pause; the disappearance of an individual no longer affects it's continuity."

Ernest Becker, in his "The Denial of Death," describes the reality of the human condition. He says, "Man is a worm and food for the worms. This is the paradox; he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual ... Literally split in two... He sticks out of nature with a towering majesty and yet goes back into the ground a few feet ... to rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and have to live with."

Thus to make invisible our inherent death anxiety makes little sense. Our society focuses us more on the "economic" or "making a living." Such conditions us to deny or be unprepared to dying. Yet we all need to face the reality of it to live well.

Free from the non-essentials of life or unnecessary personal disabilities. Free from "denying the problem," "immature defenses," "distortion of our reactions," or projecting fears to things or persons.

Death anxiety is not beyond human control. If it's made visible and faced head-on, it can bring much quality of life. Especially in light of our limited years. I believe the measure of a good life is how we view and transcend our own death.

Monday, June 26, 2017

War Of Therapy

Therapy is a journey of the Self. Often, when there's deep psychological wounding, the Self remains fragmented. Split. Two selves - one is the damaged self lived to the present and the other is the positive self of an unlived life within. It's a difficult situation that needs adequate healing and recovery.

In between the lived life and the unlived life is a big enemy - resistance. My work with countless individuals in therapy is full of this. Resistance - whether conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit - blocks well-being.

I'm reminded of Anton. He is a speaker guy. A gifted entrepreneur. At one time, he succeeded building a multi-million business. Then, he crashed. He overspent money on vices - booze, women, drugs. Now, even after over 5 years since he went bankrupt, he stopped using his gift.

Anton becomes disabled by his panic anxiety attacks, rage, and depression. When directly addressed by his therapist to deal with his core issues, he refuses to process them. He remains stuck, unwilling. Yet he knows many things are not ok about him.

But something inside Anton  is saying ok to what he knows very well is not ok. About his self, his life in general. There lies the location of his internal resistance. It's this underlying resistance that fuels and drives his self to think, feel, and do what he doesn't want for himself.

The "war of therapy" for a person's liberation is to break this resistance. Pound it into finer pieces, turn the ashes into something new and beautiful. Hope is basic. Faith and courage brings the resistance down.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When Children Misbehave

What I've known is, all children misbehave no matter what their family situation is. I surmise it's a natural built in to the predictable pattern of development of children their age. Yet it's still vital for parents to determine if the misbehavior is just normal for the child or related to parental deficits.

A therapist/counselor can be helpful in assisting and clarifying what parents cannot see. I recall spending hours of session with a single Mom whose 14-year-old daughter has dropped out of high school and often been running away from home. The question that arose was, "Is this daughter acting in that way because she never knew her father, or it's because she's a teenager?"

Some times, answers are not black or white. "This misbehavior is all about the parents' divorce" or "This behavior is all about teenage behavior." Some times, I'm saying, it can't be accurately distinguished. In this case of the Mom and her 14-year-old daughter, the misbehavior most likely reflects both typical teenage feelings and some stuff resulting from her father's abandonment and other relevant factors.

I know. It isn't comfortable to have answers like that. But it's the likely truth.

When children misbehave, a best answer is for parents to give their child loving "consistency." Is the child getting wild, crazy, or out of control? If you think you're being loving by letting your misbehaving child get away with anything, you've got it wrong. Your child may look thankful for allowing him or her to misbehave. But sooner deep inside, he or she'll find out that you don't care enough to take him or her to the right path.

My fellow parent, it's a tough tightrope to walk, isn't it?

If you're a Mom or Dad who have emotional wounds or dysfunction your self, you need to give attention to your healing while being actively involved in your children's lives as well. So, one best gift you can give to your misbehaving child is to be a healthy parent! That requires primary care if you're to realistically hope to influence your child for the better.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Best Life After Infidelity

Something new came into the life of Maria as a result of her husband's infidelity - tears. She was still obsessed over processing all the events circling around the wound of her marriage and life. It was overwhelming, a deepest cut. And all she could do was look out the window and cry for months.

I asked her in one of our sessions if she'd ever run out of tears. I mean, a "dry cry." She finally said, "Yes!" Of course, I suspect she remained crying as she always did, but no liquid present! That is one woman who had truly cried a river for some time. That was several years ago. Time and distance passed.

Then one day, she made a call and reappeared to me. I noticed a different Maria. In our talks, she reported significant accomplishments in her life after her unremorseful husband's infidelity and separation from him. As the days, weeks, and months went by, things looked clearer to her that led to a successful writing and business career. By placing distance between her and her marital wound, she gained valuable progress in healing her self and building a new life.

Looking at Maria's massive crisis that engulfed her life, it's important to note one helpful action she did - she sought professional help. Since the situation was beyond her ability to handle and decipher, it made great sense to her to see a counselor from the beginning. According to her, that choice speeded up rather than prolonged her healing process. She honestly believed that something self destructive might had happened to her if she didn't make that choice.

If you're deeply hurt right now, I know your teary eyes may feel like heavy weights. But in time, as you take the right steps and commit your self to recovery over the long haul, you'll be back at the top of your game. You'll be brand new! And pretty much better rising out of the ashes. There is always the promise of hope beyond the pain.

So, if you're locked up inside, open the door. Open the window. Go outside. Take deep breaths. Pray. Look as far as you can see. Take responsibility. It's wonderful. It's worth the price to pay to live your best life ahead.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Moments Of Being

Noted therapist/author, Virginia Woolf, speaks of how much of our life is lived in the haze of "non-being." She describes what she means:

"A great part of every day is not lived consciously. One walks, eats, sees things, deals with what has to be done; the broken vacuum cleaner; ordering dinner; writing orders to Mabel; washing; cooking dinner; bookbinding. When it is a bad day, the proportion of non-being is much larger."

In my work as a psychotherapist, it's inescapable for me that I catch glimpses of people going about their lives. And I always notice that it's easy enough for most of us to live without really looking. We can get things done or interact with others and not bothering to pay attention. 

I once knew a 50 year old man stricken with colon cancer who was always out, day after day, walking in the mall despite his frailty. He liked to get out. According to him, it made him feel alive. Even just looking at people going by or conversing with them in the coffee shop gave him "moments of being." He rejoiced with them, sharing each other's stories.

Illness, accident, or death can teach us that all can be taken away in one swift moment. So, for the first time in our lives, we may find learning to reject "moments of non-being" that characterize much of our days. We search for what really matters given the shortness of time to enjoy "moments of being."

When Alexander Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned, he wrote:

"You have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like ... Do not pursue what is illusory -- property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night ..."

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Endless Cravings

Life is a temporary assignment. Many of us tend to crave things. We long for more and thirst for something better.

If only I have millions in the bank ... if only I'd married the right person ... if only I completed my degree ... if only I was born in a different family ... if only I have good connections. The list is endless.

Then sooner or later, with all our endless cravings, we find ourselves feeling empty. We catch existential angst. Confused, we don't experience lasting satisfaction in anything, anywhere. We wonder where the time has flown.

A young single woman I'd call Martha saw me once in deep distress. She's into daily prescription drugs due to her anxiety panic attacks. She described her self a "workaholic." According to her, she craves for a lot of things that she wants to possess, such as jewelry, cars, condos, and foreign travels. She hates not working. If idle, she feels panic.

Once Martha had casual sex with a man who picked her up in a coffee shop. She craved and loved the attention. She gave her self and body to the stranger with all gusto. She liked the excitement. In the session, she remarked, "But after, I never thought it would be so quick." Then she admitted it made her feel bad about her self and other areas of her life.

One of life's greatest deceptions is we need to crave to own something, crave to be with someone, or crave to do something, before we can feel happy. Our agenda is filled with temporal goals. Have you ever thought that life is more than these transient things we endlessly crave for?

Think about it. There is an ultimate answer to make us live life to the fullest. Know the secret of what lasts.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Are You Loving From An Empty Or Full Tank?

Once I received a heartbreaking message from a divorced, 32-year-old Middle Eastern woman I'd call Riza. She is currently remarried after a time of promiscuity from the first divorce and left everything to be with her second husband in a foreign country.

After just less than a year of being with her second husband, Riza texted me the other night to pour out and describe her latest update. A part reads,  "I have walked out and gone to international airport to leave the country as my self esteem is very broken with my husband." What strikes me about Riza' s declaration is that it's her self esteem which got very broken, not the relationship with her husband.

I feel for Riza. My heart goes out to her. She is in a very painful place. Despite her natural beauty and "wanting to love and be loved," Riza still finds her self empty and have not been making good progress learning to truly love and receiving love with the various men who passed by in her life. She has a "mountain" to climb but has to learn from the pain first about her self and her former love relationships before she can move on to climb the top.

Divorce or ending of a love relationship is especially traumatic and destructive for those who "love from an empty bucket."  If the center of your life and love is in your partner and the relationship dissolves, your center is suddenly removed. Since the bucket is empty, what else is left of you?

What could it be like if the loving is from a "full bucket" within a whole person?  If loss, divorce, or ending of a love relationship comes, you would still experience pain and trauma. Of course. But it would not be so devastating and destructive because you love from a "full bucket." You would still be a whole person.

Are you loving from an empty bucket or a full bucket?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Money Delusion

Recently, a man named Jessie was in headline news. He was a gambling addict who lost millions to casinos. A few days ago, he went inside Resorts World Manila with armalite rifles and bottles with gasoline. He burned the casino tables and slot machines in the area. And then robbed millions worth of gambling chips which he put inside his bag. Eventually, the police caught up with him and shot him. Wounded, he holed himself up inside a room and committed suicide.

Multiple times I've come across patients who've become addicted to winnings in casino gambling. At first, when they're allowed to "win," they felt high and proud like rock stars. They thought well of themselves and were cheerfully congratulated by smiling admirers. They giggled, kissed, and hopped up and down!

Then as time went by, the unbridled ecstasy turned progressively into increasing losses. Debts began to pile up. And one's urges got out of control. As one patient Daniel told me in one of our sessions, "So what? I want my money back! I live for the next chip, borrow again and again -- striking more to get my money back and cancel my losses."

The whole problem with the money delusion is that it is deceptive. The lust or greed of the heart lies at the root of this lucky-sweepstakes syndrome. We crave instant gratification. Instant inheritance! The love of money and leisure can blind us to the importance of work we give to earn it. Specially in the materialistic world where we all are, we can become those who live only for the paycheck.

From this mindset, the money delusion falsely assumes that we are our happiest self when we think and feel no need to be productive to get the money we want. Or, if we're able to earn it, we don't experience lasting satisfaction and contentment. For years money and leisure promises us joy and leaves us disconsolate. Because its fleeting, the self never arrives at its true core and best meaning.

As writer W.E. Sangster once put it, "You seem to have more of everything than anybody else. You have more cars, more televisions, more refrigerators, more of everything. In fact, I've noticed that you also have more books on how to be happy than anybody else." The history of men and women shows that money itself will not produce lasting feelings of self esteem and happiness.

In the process of getting older or when death looms nearer, this money delusion may begin to show its weaknesses to us. With chances of cancer, a heart attack, or costly hospitalization before us, despair over fleeting satisfactions begins to set in. The foolishness of both the money delusion and the leisure delusion gets clearer.

Rather than speed up incoming cash and self indulgences, one asks one's self then, "Since my final years are short, how can I use my final years to produce what's lasting and meaningful?" Here, the doctrine stops being purely material. Such self exploration can pave the way for us to understand what life's purpose truly is.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dr. Jung and Higher Self

What is the Higher Self? Renowned psychologist, Dr. Carl Jung, offers an answer to this question: “The Self is the royal archetype of the whole person; the Self is the totality and purpose of the psyche; the Self is the imago Dei (image of God), the “God in us.’ “ In other words, the higher Self is transcendent, since it’s beyond the confines of our own limited, lower self.

The discovery of the Self, the highest authority of our personality, is fundamental to the wholeness and balance of our selfhood. It oversees our organic, biological, mental, emotional, and spiritual centers, in addition to controlling our concept of life and the world. It’s the totality of our conscious and unconscious psyche.

Most of our self’s psychopathology is rooted to an undeveloped higher Self. When the ego behaves excessively or destructively, the higher Self becomes the healing self responsible for re-establishing balance and inner harmony. It’s work is to remove hidden obstacles and harmonize all dimensions of the person.

A long time ago, I treated a couple in therapy who were on the brink of a nasty divorce. The husband Antonio was a bar owner. For decades, he made constant verbal promises to his wife that he’ll stop boozing, womanizing, and gambling. Yet despite his willingness, hidden unconscious blockages prevented him from meeting his objectives. This continually traumatized his wife.

Since his conscious and unconscious goals are out of balance, part of my role was to assist him to reconcile them by integrating “symbols” in our sessions. One time, Antonio chose the cross as a symbol to process that clashed most violently against the negative, damaging fragments of his self. For him, this manifested a sacred, luminous effect on his capacity to stop his damaging impulses and become his” true self” living a new life with his wife.

So here, the higher Self intervened in the patient. In Dr. Jung’s thought – it’s the human soul of the recovering person in which the divine resides that participated. I am astonished by the richness and result that emanated from this exercise over time in our sessions. Now, Antonio gives up his bar business. He reads a page a day of the Daily Bread from his cell app as part of his healing and goes to church with his wife and kids for the first time in his life!

Jesus said, “… and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives the One who sent Me.…” (Matthew

Monday, May 15, 2017

Facing Death Anxiety

"Death is the ultimate statistic. It affects one out of one."
-- George Bernard Shaw

"Death is no paper tiger," once wrote psychologist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. Beyond age 35, according to him, death is a common universal source of anxiety or preoccupation in our lives. It's also a revealer of one's actual state of Self, mental health, and overall wellbeing.

In the process of getting older, death anxiety usually looms progressively larger. The threats of cancer, heart attack, and costly hospitalization are terrifying. People show a variety of responses to this inevitable, heavy reality of eventual physical self-obliteration. Generally, one's response can either be helpful or harmful to one's self-integration and wellness.

In many respects, death makes people anxious. Witnessing the death of a loved one, friend, or stranger can make us more sensitive to mortality. Even while expressing hurts or seeking comfort from others, we tend to steel ourselves against death fears.

And we pass the years with our most vulnerable feelings on this reality numbed or shielded from the core of our selves. As author Ernest Becker put it, man "is out of nature and hopelessly in it - it's a terrifying dilemma to be in and have to live with."

Many years ago, my younger sister was in a hospital. She had a stroke and had to be confined indefinitely to the ICU. My wife, kids, and I passed by the hospital to visit her but I remembered going anxiously. I felt too uncomfortable. I didn't know what to say when I see her. And she didn't have much to say to me because she appeared dying.  It's awful. But how can I not visit her. She's my sister. So I went. Yet I felt terrible about it.

Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist, maintains that his view of medical practice was changed after he experienced a near-death body injury. He endured months of helplessness in a hospital and then in a nursing home.

He realizes that "there is an absolute and categorical difference between a doctor who knows and one who does not, and that this knowing can only be obtained by a personal experience of the organic, by descending to the very depths of disease and dissolution."

Before we can fully deal with our anxieties or fears about our own death, we often need to experience glimpses of it personally. In my therapy work, I've seen solitary, abusive individuals become soft and more receptive once they sensed that the end is near.

After such glimpses, real changes tend to emerge in the way they spend their time, conduct their relationships, and look at the future. Michael Norvak writes, such "lift his eyes from the sequence of daily routines to perceive the law of his own death, and to struggle for ways of life that assuage death's bitterness."

Death, our self-obliteration, is the final enemy of our human existence. The power of personal experience in facing the approach of death then becomes a grounding of our spiritual Self. It means that we can heal and control death anxiety, and its effects on our body, health, and self-integration, by our faith and beliefs.

That includes the after-life, eternal life, a life greater than physical life. As Christ said in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will never die."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Healing Your Parent Wounds

What do you do when your neglectful or abusive parent becomes ill and seeks your sympathy to get to the end of his or her life?

For a lot of people, the duty of honoring parents can be a perplexing dilemma. Such is especially so, when their parents  have given them no or few reasons to honor them. Parents who were toxic and distant when their children were young tend to incur resentment rather than kindness.

Several months ago, I experienced this common dilemma. My 80+ year old father became finally sick and called for me after many decades of absence, neglect, and physical abuse during my youth. I never had a real conversation with him, a time spent eating out or walking in the mall, or directly receiving funds from him all my life. It's fine that he asked for me now that he's sick. But where was he when I needed him then?

Abraham Lincoln, one of America's best-loved presidents, had an abusive, brutish father. His father, Thomas, hated his books and controlled his life by sending him out to work as a kind of slave to others. Even as an adult, Lincoln did provide finances to his father to bail him out of trouble despite disconnection and abuse in their relationship.

Eventually, Lincoln confessed that he was unable to stand his father any more. During his father’s terminal illness, Lincoln ignored messages from him. He wrote a note not to his father but his stepbrother to explain his absence: “Say to him that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant.” Lincoln didn’t attend his father’s funeral.

Warren Buffet, the world’s no. 2 richest man in the world, once shared his life with his mother. He remained distantly dutiful to his mother, who had subjected her children to endless verbal attacks. Buffet was 66 when his mother died at 92. His tears at her death were not because he was sad or because he missed her.  He said in his biography: “It was because of the waste.”

In my years of psychotherapy practice, the issue of "parent wounds" is an extremely recurring shadow evident in my sessions. Unbeknownst to these adult children, much of their psychological sufferings and dysfunctional behaviors are traceable to their lingering unprocessed pain from this kind of wounding. So, even to the end of their parents’  lives, they simply can't imagine how else to be with or see them.

We are all children of our parents. Still, the ability to see our parents as children too can easily elude us. In my own life as well as in others, I've witnessed and experienced firsthand the shortcomings in parents which became damaging to us as a child and when we’d become parents ourselves. Like nothing else, such glimpses across generations can aid us to comprehend those who parented us.

Ultimately, with this cross-generational insight, we can view more clearly  how we've been hurt and shaped. And finally, the hope of closure and healing from our “parent wounds” becomes a reality. Such facilitates making the prospect of our own personal change and fully seeing our parents’ humanness less frightening.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Meet Your Personal Shadow

The shadow.

Psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung, as early as 1912, speaks of the "shadow" side of personality. For Dr. Jung, the "shadow" is a world of chaos always ready to burst.

He'd use varied expressions to describe it:  "the other in us," "the unconscious in us," "repressed self," "the dark side of the personality," "the alienated self," "one's inferior personality."

I can think of a family where the father is an over- controlling, abusive King Kong. He is severely wounding - physically and verbally - to all his seven children, from childhood to present even when they're already grown-ups.

He insists that his rules in the house are absolute and he often would not explain them to his children. His wife is compliant and afraid to confront him --no matter how irrational and harming his behaviors have become to their children's mental health and well being.

In therapy session with one of his adult daughters, Marcia, she tells of her father's family history. Her father's own Dad was an extremely angry and addicted personality. In his own hands, Marcia's father suffered similar physical and verbal abuses since childhood that sent him to the hospital multiple times.

It's a well-guarded secret scandal, a "family shadow" that continues to haunt Marcia's father's unconscious "personal shadow," re-living the same drama in his own family and successive generation.

As Dr. John Monbourquette put it, "The unloved parts of ourselves which we try in vain to remove from our lives project themselves onto others, forcing us to recognize them."

Before you can know and meet your "personal shadow," you need to stop denying its existence. Too often, we're so good at ignoring, burying, or repressing our shadow. As a result, this component gets masked, hidden in the unconscious.

And we suffer the natural harm to our well-being and relationships out of it. It's essential, then, to acknowledge the shadow's presence in us, as a first step to heal.

Psychotherapist-writer Dr. R.D. Laing describes our real need to notice our shadow in this way:

"The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds."

Monday, May 08, 2017

Is It Love Or Addiction?

Love is a fact of human life. The need to love and be loved, get close to another person, is natural. It’s human.

As a psychotherapist, I’m constantly aware of how this need for love or connection exists in the shadow of people’s problems in their relationships.

But the root causes or reasons why love turns “good” or “bad” are anything but simple.

The story of Agnes illustrates how one’s mental state affects one’s love relationships. When there’s psychological illness, it hovers over one’s relationship like a powerful, unseen ghost.

While Agnes’ story seems an extreme case, it vividly demonstrates a significant truth: there is often more to love than sexual attraction, emotional need, or compatibility.

Agnes, 41, was extremely pretty and intelligent.  She was never married. Yet, she professed “love” to 34 different men in the past — all failed relationships. She had sex with almost all of them.

In one of her therapy sessions with me, Agnes admitted being overpowered with a sense of insecurity, jealousy, and need to control in all her relationships. Even with the slightest provocation, she’d go into a rage and inflict violence, either on her self or her partner.

Love can be “good” or “bad.” It depends upon how it serves it’s purpose on you.

It’s “good” love when there’s expression of nurture, care, respect, vulnerability, trust, responsibility, growth, and happiness to another based on one’s own capacity to truly love. It’s unconditional.

This kind of love is life-giving and expansive. It’s energy that gives wholeness to one’s state of being, emanating from within you and and extending outward to another.

Love turns to something bad when there’s unhealthy overdependency on the other to get unmet needs met, avoid fears or emotional pain, solve problems, or feel good about one’s self.

It’s essentially self serving and compulsive. Addictive lovers labor under the illusion that their dependent love relationships will ultimately “fix” their selves or their needs.

Dr. Brenda Schaefer, a noted psychotherapist on love addiction, writes:  “Love addiction creeps into the best of relationships, and the challenge we face is to acknowledge the addictive elements and build on the best aspects of a relationship.

If there is any reason to heal an unhealthy relationship, it is so that we can be more and give more to life.”

So, is it love or addiction for you?

That seems a valid diagnostic question to ask your self when you’re in a relationship. You need to adequately explore such question if you desire to build a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

The seeds of whether our love will turn to “good” or “bad” lie deep in our psychological beliefs, our childhood development, our social context, our biology, and even our spiritual values.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Love People, Not Things

Every human being is designed to love and be loved. Things are designed to be used.

A big reason why much in our relationships are in chaos is because we use people and things are ones loved by us.

I’ve once a married couple in therapy that lasted for about a year. Both of them came from very wealthy families.

Their lives together is laced with separate businesses, bank accounts, and managed properties. They “profit” from each other’s ventures.

In my working with them in our sessions, I could not be sure if marriage is truly the best word to describe their relationship. You see, since marriage, they never “dated.” Sex stopped for decades. They lived their lives as if they’re co-dorm mates.

Until one day. The wife discovered her husband having affairs with multiple women. One of them was housed in one of their condominium properties. Their world crashed. And both of them declared they still “love” each other.

It’s a deep mess. The unfaithful husband apologized for his betrayal. He assured his wife that he was letting go of the other women. And he agreed to his wife’s requirement for them to go through personal and marital therapy.

Both of their lives had not been easy despite their families’ affluence. They told me repeatedly of tales of abandonment, the drugs, the alcohol, and the lonely nights that define their past.

They speak of dysfunction  freely of their families of origin. It was as much a part of their story as what happened to them in their relationship.

In therapy, they developed emergent awareness and honesty. When they’d learned to be honest, they’d become aware that much of their relationship with each other is focused on “things.” They used each other to increase these “things.”

And in the course of doing so, they missed each other’s persons.

Indeed, our pockets may be full. But our hearts are empty. Love people, not things. It’s the path to better living, your best self and relationships ever.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Chess and Mental Health

Chess therapy is now used by numerous psychotherapists and doctors. It has become a popular creative psychotherapy technique in the past 20 years.

This therapy has been known to produce positive results with children who have bipolar disorders, depression, ADHD, and neuro-behavioral disorders.

Chess therapy is a form used to form bonds between the psychotherapist and his/her clients. It is an alternate diagnosis for neuro-behavioral and mental issues that a client may suffer from.

Chess therapy helps in cultivating an intentional rapport and connection between the psychotherapist and his patient to help him through any psychological or emotional problems that he may be facing.

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

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

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

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

Wikepedia reported:

 "One of the earliest reported cases of chess therapy involves the improvement in an isolated, schizoid, 16-year old youth that took place after he became interested in chess. Chess provided an outlet for his hostile impulses in a non-retaliatory manner. Good use was made of the patient's digressions from the game and his newly acquired ability to speak about his feelings, fantasies and dreams which the particular emotional situation of the game touched off."

"The report demonstrates how the fact that chess is a game, and not real, enabled the patient to exert some conscious control over his feelings and thus learn to master them to a limited extent."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Natural 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 with synthetic brain drugs. 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. The 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 a 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.

You  altogether can put your self permanently on a new, healthy plane of existence. It is within reach. If you believe it, and act on that belief.

Choose natural mental health.

Wellness ... In Spite of Pain

Pain is a place for the mind and soul. It's an inevitable part of life. We're often unable to fully understand the substance of our self. But our willingness to go deeper and experience the pains of life can make us find this true substance .... and wellness in spite of them.

Pain is not just physical. Mother Teresa was once quoted saying that the worst disease in the world is not leprosy or tuberculosis but the feeling of being unwanted, unloved, and abandoned by every one. Life's pain also includes the non-physical, the emotional, relational, and spiritual pain. It's so because the self is of many components, one but of many parts.

In psychotherapy, there is mostly this type of pain. A lot of psychopathology and socially unacceptable behavior is really a heart cry to be loved and accepted. Few people ever come out directly declaring this aspect of pain in their lives. But the behaviors and feelings manifested say it loud and clear. 

How then do you find wellness ... in spite of your pain?  

Christopher, a millionaire doctor and sought-after life coach only after he survived financial bankruptcy, his wife's infidelity, and family estrangement, shared his hints that we can all learn from: "I just accept and bear it and every moment choose to be present in the Presence." 

Anxiety is known to stimulate pain. Christopher learned to conquer that through solitude, Scripture, and prayers. He learned to experience wellness amidst his varied pains, even at times eliminate the pain, by changing his attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors. 

An anonymous writer once wrote about a secret formula:  "Suffering is not a question that demands an answer;  it's not a problem that demands a solution; it's a mystery which demands a Presence." 

Yes, you can experience wellness ... in spite of your pain or suffering. Apply the secret. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Affirmation Of The Self

When Bobby saw me, he would rather not look at me in the eye. His head was either bowed or hanged somehow. He slouched. He breathed shallowly. He appeared so unsteady on his feet while seated. When talked to, I could hardly hear the sound of his voice.

Bobby almost stayed silent during our session. He only had a few words. Upon patient prodding, he began to respond better. When I asked what he feels or why he is silent, he told me that he feels unimportant. If possible, he just wanted not to be talked to.

Such a self manifestation on the part of Bobby betrays a serious lack of self-affirmation. A person who affirms himself instead can breathe calmly, has a good posture, an expressive look, a firm audible voice, feet firmly planted on the ground, and an open countenance.

Self-affirmation is an external expression of our inner life. It consists of verbal and non-verbal behaviors: words, physical appearance, clothing, posture, tone of voice, attitudes, eye contact, gestures, and so on. We cannot isolate self-affirmation from our communication and relating with others.

Albert Camus once wrote, “To know our selves better, we must affirm our selves more.” Affirmation of the self, an expression of our mental health or inner life, requires us to be positive, honest, and spontaneous with our life experience in community with others.

I’m reminded of Marissa, one of my patients. In response to her “gains” in therapy, she started to take her place in her family and society. She taught herself self-affirmation: daring to share her ideas and needs to her husband and children, negotiating when there is conflict, being more accepting and giving of affection and attention.

Before, she preferred to disappear into the background and not to ask for what she needs. She was always quiet and unnoticed. She confided that when she was a little girl, her mother treated her like one of their maids and forbidden her to speak in front of adults. Her repressed feelings resulted in damaged self and interferences in her relationships.

Yes, once you checked your “roots” and summon the courage to affirm your self, you’ll feel proud of your self. This can be done!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wesley's Rise

A few years ago, I met 23-year-old Filipino chess grandmaster, Wesley So, during a Meralco tournament where I was a participant. I found him friendly and accomodating. I didn’t imagine his meteoric rise where he is now.

Recently, he won the 2017 US Chess Championship, accompanied by his foster mother, Lotis Key. Wesley is one of the world’s youngest grandmasters, no. 2 now in the world. He is now dubbed as the strongest contender to the World Chess Championship.

Once, I received hints of Wesley’s Story from his FB open letter to his mother. Wesley said hurtful words to his Mom, such as:

“Leny So, I was NOT HAPPY that you suddenly showed up in my life, unannounced, at the biggest tournament of the year, and that you came with Susan Leonard whom I hardly know. In the last six years I’ve only see you once a year for about a week, I hardly know you either … I am uncomfortable around you. You want me to respect you but you have never respected me. You left me when I was sixteen, telling me to become a man and find my life. Well I have found it, you just don’t like it.”

I felt sad about this for it has already gone public. Those of us, like myself, who are behind Wesley in his world chess campaign, may miss all the truths or details of the mother-son attachment injury and disconnection.

What I know is, a prodigal was not a prodigal before he becomes a prodigal. Something must have wounded Wesley’s mind and heart over the years that so traumatize him.

I also realize that most parents who have broken/insecure attachments with their children do love and care about their children. They’re simply unaware of the effects of their absence on the emotional states of their children.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Visiting Vincent Van Gogh

It's Holy Week. A time of spiritual reflections.

Consider what happened to Vincent Van Gogh.

Somewhere in the 1890s, this extremely artistic nonconformist painter shared his interior canvass, "The sadness will last forever." Later, at age 37, he was believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died in the evening 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself.

Few know of Vincent's spirituality despite his psychological state. Around age 30, he had a Christian conversion and was known to read the Bible and sing worship songs. He found inspiration in John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and Thomas a Kempis' "The Imitation of Christ."

What happened to Vincent? you may ask.

You read his biography and you discover that he has had life deforming disappointments of all sorts. He was alone. He was a victim, got wounded, and in need of special care.

Yet he got injured, rejected, and betrayed by a lack of response in the church. Instead of being taken cared of, he was shot by the very people who were supposed to be instruments for his healing.

It's a pattern I have often seen. Like others, Vincent sought to be whole and serve God and then got hurt. Right after, he stopped trying. He stopped growing and focusing his spiritual and psychological lens.

Vincent's story also confirms that life is meant to be lived and healed in a community taking the high road of support, encouragement, and unconditional love.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Life Is Brief

In my practice, hurt people seeking therapy and recovery - no matter how young or old - always seem to express unending pain and regret. There is damage in the way they spent their time in the past. They don't feel happy or fulfilled in their today. And they can't move on into a brighter future.

British writer William Maugham, at age 64, wrote his autobiography entitled "Summing Up." When asked why sum up his life at 64 when he was still in the best of health, Maugham quips, "An occasional glance at the obituary columns suggests that the 60s can be very unhealthy." That's a clear reality of life. But Maugham survived for another 27 years and died at age 91.

In contrast, in the news headlines once, I was somewhat shocked by what happened to 25-year-old Kristell.  She was snatched from her home and brutally murdered by five young men.  No one in her circle - from her family members to friends and office mates in the corporation where she had a thriving career - can expect or anticipate that Kristell's young and promising life would end like this.  

Whether age 16 or age 96, it's therapeutic to always review our earthly journey. Because life is as fleeting as vapor, it is healthy that we make the most of our limited days. Have we been developing into the kind of persons that can honor God and men with our words, deeds, thoughts, feelings?  Are we making the most of opportunities presented before us?

How much time do you have left? You are never sure. Life's end comes at any age. You can't change the way you spent your time in the past or avoid losses and mistakes that are already done.  But from this moment on, you can resolutely choose to be better the remaining time of your life. You have the present moment - make the best of it!

 "Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor." (Psalm 39:5)

Sunday, April 02, 2017


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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017


When psychopathy (some interchange it with sociopathy) and blood mix together in one person, the result is horrific. A marital and family nightmare. Very traumatic, wounding to the deepest core. The psychopath is a shadowy black figure that seems larger than life.

Countless psychopaths are like Ching's husband, who deliberately abuses her and their three children. He habitually attacks her verbally, emotionally, and physically. He disempowers her by limiting and withholding financial support. For over 3 decades of her marriage to him, he maintains mistresses and engages their company women employees to sex for hire.

Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking to one of their children, 22-year-old Mary. In much tears, she recounted during our session how his father kicked her several times out of uncontrollable rage. From there on, she chose to ran away and never talked to her father anymore. During her wedding shortly after, she decided not to invite her father for fear that he'll make a scene during the ceremony.

Ching, when she saw me during therapy, has finally decided to divorce her "psychopath" husband. After enduring unimaginable abuses from him over the years, she already got so sick and had multiple medical surgeries. She realized the mistakes she made, how she allowed and enabled her remorseless husband to continue abusing her and their children.

In the course of therapeutic intervention for her self, Ching needs to work through issues left over from her deeply traumatizing marriage. Especially her self blame, feelings of dependency, and identity issues connected to her husband. She's able to gain better understanding of her husband's psychopathy and lack of conscience. This new perspective is certainly helpful to her.

The long-overdue "geographic cure" and divorce of Ching from her husband is healing. One of her greatest remaining concerns, as in the case of many other psychopath-victimized families, is the emotional vulnerability of her children. She knows that the longer journey of her own self forgiveness, healing, and stability would be complicated but the key to the rebuilding of her life as well as the lives of her children.