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)

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Repairing Intimacy

“My husband and I are so close,” claimed Catherine during one of our sessions. Yet during my conversations with her husband, he said that the two of them have constant conflict.

He is ever uncomfortable regarding her always adjusting her self to “take care of” him, like providing a service. He resents her over-dependency on him for approval and self-acceptance.

She’s unable to be in a relationship with him in another way. She lives in his personal space.

Closeness and intimacy are not the same. Spouses, family members, or friends who have excessive, unhealthy closeness stop “seeing” each other. In the case of Catherine, she could not know and experience her husband’s disconnection from her.

How could she have missed that when she feels “so close” to him? In short, she claims “closeness” when upon examination, this “closeness” does not offer health to her or her husband.

Patrick Malone, author of “The Art Of Intimacy,” explains: “Closeness is what you feel and experience with another in the shared space. If the other is immensely more important, yours is not a healthy closeness, and you have a problem.”

This is to say that there needs to be a balance in how much each gives in a relationship. One who gives too much is out of balance. Unhealthy closeness causes one to be psychologically and emotionally neurotic when with the other.

In repairing intimacy, therefore, two people don’t merge as “one self.” Rather two separate selves choose to relate to and nourish each other. Intimacy enriches the relationship. It honors and cultivates individuality. Its accepting of differences, not enmeshed. It’s mutual rather than patronizing.

People learn about and grow themselves when intimate in ways that mere closeness cannot.
Intimacy is an essential aspect of true love. True love depends on the balanced interaction between “being close” and “being intimate” in our relationships.

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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Up Close To A "Love Mechanic"

One of my foreign patients, Kevin (not real name), is a "love mechanic." He had picked up over 50 women so far and had sex with almost all of them.

His expertise is wooing women, sweet-talking, and touching to "be close." He talks about his feelings too and makes an effort to listen. Mechanically, he can show he loves or cares about women.

After getting what he wants from a woman, he breaks up and moves readily to the next. Immediately, with the next woman, he appears to be just as "intimate" and "loving" there. He knows the moves, the "right" places to touch a woman sexually.

He works hard to make a woman feel good and loved in bed. He uses "love" language constantly. "I miss you a lot," "I'm feeling so close to you now," or "I want to share with you how I feel."

The "love mechanic" is a fake. He believes his "love" is coming from inside him. However, it is actually psychologically or intellectually monitored.  His "love" is mechanical, disconnected from his very core or his own feelings.

Yes, he knows and does all the appealing intimate, "loving" behaviors. But his way of connecting is profoundly shallow, distanced, automatic, and therefore manipulative. His way of "love" exists apart from himself -- a psychological disguise for disconnection.

Let this insight be a step towards making efforts to recognize, analyze, and heal a "love mechanic," especially if you're married or romantically linked to one. The ramifications of such type of "unconscious" psychological deception in relationships are enormously hurtful.

I hope this understanding somehow narrows the gap for you between what seems to be and what is actually going on underneath the "love mechanics." They do abound around us.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Who Are You Really When Alone?

Can being alone make you certain of who you really are?

It looks it can. Yet we must not forget that aloneness and solitude often spawns an inner struggle that may bring you to the edge of your mental health. In your inner wrangling amid quietness, you make choices that could be mind-boggling.

A young woman's mother came to me in tears. Her daughter, Kara, had been staying inside her room alone for many months. She was a pretty and intelligent girl that completed a degree with honors in a top-notch university. She was congenial in the presence of family members - an admirable quality also recognized in school. 

Then, out of the blue, she changed. She began to isolate. One item about her particularly troubled the family: every night, amid her stares and tears, she had been seeing snakes, cockroaches, and lizards crawling into her bed to attack her. 

By nature, this mystique of Kara's condition is erosion more than explosion. It is not a reality-based solitude and aloneness inside her room. The vacant stares, the manic tears, the unreality visions that will not stop. Such are the dry heaves and symptoms of unresolved, unprocessed pain. They've become a shadow to keep Kara from having to live in a real world. When you want to escape the world, solitude becomes destructive.

On the other hand, true leaders, geniuses, and creatives are accustomed to aloneness. From their times of social separateness, they acquire depths of character and produce great works. As psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Branden put it, "Innovators and creators are persons who can to a higher degree than average accept the condition of aloneness. They are more than willing to follow their own vision even when it takes them far from the mainland of human community."

I'm reminded of writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who once said, "Prison, I bless you!" This man blessed his solitude, for out of his "Gulag aloneness" came his masterpieces. Like Solzhenitsyn, John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and the apostle Paul's epistles in Scripture were also born out of the solitude of the jails. Even when alone in the heaviest of circumstances, who these men really were from their deepest core was celebration of their work that marked their greatness.

There, the paradox of being alone. You can like being alone only when you like who you really are. Great characters or accomplishments are often a product of constructive use of aloneness. If you are terrorized by your being alone, you'll be pained by negative thoughts, feelings, and lingering memories. It's destructive, unhealthy solitude.

Who are you really when you're alone?

Monday, March 20, 2017

When You Envy

"Envy is the ulcer of the soul."
-- Socrates

Envy has the power to damage your self. If you're unable to  check or manage it, it may consume your whole being.

Author Rolf Dobelli, in his book "The Art of Thinking," tells of a Russian tale: "A farmer finds a magic lamp. He rubs it, and out of thin air, a genie appears, promising to grant him one wish. Finally, he says: 'My neighbor has a cow and I have none. I hope that his drops dead."

Sounds absurd? But, this tale of Dobelli still reeks of common reality among humankind. Yours may not be extreme. But whether you like it or not, there's a part of our self - whether conscious or unconscious - that tends to be envious of other people's success or blessings.

Tomas wished he wasn't that way. As he told me about his expanding wife's foreign business trips while he remained stuck in his job, he felt kind of sad. It would be wonderful for him to enjoy his wife's success without having to experience feelings of envy about it.

The trouble with such envy is, it can create a chain of  unhealthy, irrational thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You find your self distant from your wife. You try to sabotage her plans. And perhaps, puncture her clothes or steal her passport!

So, how do you manage and control your envy when you experience it?

In my own self growth, I've learned how "grateful for what I've got" helps check my human tendency to envy. Count your blessings is a familiar refrain. I start and end my day with thanksgiving prayer.

Then I think about how vast the ocean is, instead of looking only at a little corner. That enlarges my vision, helps me see the bigger picture. It energizes me to create one opportunity after another. Actively inventing my future stops the envy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quitting Any Addiction

Quitting any kind of addiction is a process, not a one-time event. It's comprised of different phases. When one fully understands these phases or stages, one can more effectively navigate rehabilitation.

I've treated all sorts of addictions in my practice, such as ones involving drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc.  And I observe that the process of change is often circular rather than linear. There is really a need for adequate time to pass with the right treatment and actions.

Psychologists Carlo DiClemente and James Prochaska have identified 5 stages in quitting an addiction. Here they are (for each stage,I've included illustrative self-statements):

Stage 1:  PRE-CONTEMPLATION (person hasn't identified behavior as addiction)
               "I'm well and ok, I don't see it as a problem."

Stage 2:  CONTEMPLATION (at least experiencing ambivalence) 
                "I wonder if I gamble too much or if I have the strength to stop it"

Stage 3:  COMMITMENT AND ACTION  (turning point at which person decides to change or quit 
                "I can't go on like this any more! I've to change."

Stage 4:  MAINTENANCE  (efforts to keep off "drug-of-choice")
               "I avoid the bars. I think of the consequences on my family and my health if I drink again."

Stage 5:  RELAPSE and RENEWAL  (failing or giving up on change efforts ...relapse is an aspect of 
                change and rehabilitation)
                "Here I go again. I've to get back on track, renew my commitment to change."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Chess and Mental Health

“Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.”
— Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch

Chess, for me, is a metaphor for life.

The chess board provides a distinct, structured framework. As in life, to win, you think and work to coordinate your pieces. You develop a pattern to your moves. And you view possibilities through which you can shape your world.

One time, I was speaking to a 31-year-old man who’s about to give up on life. Abandoned by his father since birth and raised in poverty, he rose from the ashes and became a self-made millionaire at a young age.

Then, for some unexplainable reason, he was having suicidal thoughts. Somehow he slipped from his usual determined self that produced a magical dance in his life. He was good in rising up. Yet he experienced almost losing his grip.

In chess, it’s essential to keep one’s motivation alive. And when darkness shadows the board, to recall one’s purpose. And when one gets lost or confused looking at those dead pieces of wood, to stay in touch with one’s original inspiration to play.

In life, an absolutely most important thing is affirming your higher Self and knowing your true purpose. Even when you experience hurts, failures, or traumas, you have to stay in touch with that very core of your being.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sad After Sex

I surmise that countless people experience sadness after sex. Psychologists call this psychological phenomenon “postcoital tristresse.”

It’s a feeling of unfulfillment in the sexual act, especially when something deeper or permanent is desired or hungered for in the physical expression of love.

Such is a familiar scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with the picture?

Ultimately, it’s intimacy that we long for in our relationships. Deeper waters, getting close emotionally to someone other than sex. To be able to experience genuine connection – a feeling of being unconditionally loved as you are, as a whole being.

As psychotherapist and writer Dr. Rollo May put it, “In remembering our sexual experiences, it’s the intimacy that is remembered, not the orgasm.”

But, even as best as it can be, human connection remains limited. No human intimacy can give you 100% satisfaction. We’re all created to need more than what is human in our lives.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

When Your Anxiety Attacks

You and I will experience anxiety all throughout life. It’s normal. Feelings of anxiety are natural  responses that support our very basic survival need to escape from harm.

For example, if you see a snake inside your house, the anxiety you experience will heighten your drive to remove it and quickly allow you to respond to protect your loved ones.

However, there is such a thing as an abnormal amount of anxiety. Psychiatrists have what they call “general anxiety disorder,” among other things. Severe anxiety symptoms happen on more days than they don’t. There are frequent signs of extreme nervousness or getting frantic even for no external reason. Such psychological condition can significantly impair one’s quality of life.

Sometimes, a person’s true condition can be difficult to determine. That is because, for instance, there could be little difference between having an “anxiety or panic attack” and a “heart attack.”

Once, I saw a person with a long clinical history of anxiety, fear, and panic attacks. She tried many medications and counseling sessions. Yet, there’s no significant improvement. Only to find out that she had been suffering from abnormal heart rhythms caused by some type of heart disease.

Yes, anxiety disorder may imitate heart disease (or some other type of medical condition). So to rule out any medical or physical causation before you go into therapy and counseling, have a thorough physical examination first.

Then, the psychotherapist would have enough information to assess at least two possibilities: did anxiety and panic cause physical disease or did the physical disease make the body develop anxiety and panic?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Parenting Cyber-Addicted Kids

These recent years, many parents have come to me regarding their children's so-called "cyber-addiction." They speak about how addicted their children are to their electronic devices. Their children, while looking at their devices, hardly pay attention to them, look to them in the eye, or are able to read their emotions. There is little or no more active family interaction as a result of this device addiction or "digital dementia."

According to Digital 2016 report by a Singapore-based social media agency, the Philippines is #1 in the list of 30 countries on time spent on social media. It says Filipinos spend about 4 hours a day using social media, followed by Brazilians at 3.3 hours, and the UAE at 3 hours. The report says Filipinos surf the Internet on their computer or tablet for 5 hours and 21 minutes each day, and on the mobile phone for 3 hours and 14 minutes. That's a lot of hours fixed on the screen!

In other countries, the problem of cyber-addiction and digital dementia has become severe or serious enough that they have specific facilities to detox and rehabilitate young people who can't control their use of their devices. Indeed, the negative psychological effects of the overuse of technology can be likened to behavior patterns of drug addicts. I think many of us can experience it ourselves to a certain extent when engrossed with our devices.

If you're a parent of a cyber-addicted child, what can you do? Here are some possible "therapeutic" steps that may be undertaken:

*  exercise appropriate parental controls on the use of their devices, which may include taking away the devices to which they're addicted in certain situations

*  in some cases, rather than restrict or control the use of the devices, having healthy conversations and fun time with your child can be more effective

*  you provide the child information on how technology can affect the brain

* be an example yourself to your child of the type of behavior or moderation of use of technology you're enforcing on him or her

* be kind, empathetic, and patient when you have to confront our child about the problem

* try to help them to get into other activities, such as sports, social events or groups, arts, or other productive substitutes

* engage in activities you and your child both enjoy

* make time to connect with your child on a meaningful level, such as talking about what's going on inside them, talking about feelings rather than criticizing or lecturing to them

* develop traditions in your family life that's fun, memorable, and positive that will make devices less attractive

Friday, February 24, 2017

How To Handle Your Pain

Pain is inevitable in human life. Whether physical or emotional pain, no one escapes this reality. What do you do when it comes?

Many years ago, I was at the bedside of my younger sister, Cecille, who got confined at the ICU of the Philippine Heart Center. She wailed, gripped the bed rail tight, and experienced the pain rampage in her body. Her medicines seemed to no longer have any effect on her immune system. It was a difficult moment for me to behold. Resisting it, battling it, my sister had a ferocious struggle that won't make the pain go away.

Teddy, one of my long-term clients, suffered from the emotional pain of his wife's infidelity. In session, he suddenly became a yowling with moans, groans, and curses that reverberate from within his heart and mind. His days were filled with anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, and depressive episodes. He felt exhausted. His attitude was virtual surrender of his capacity to heal and be hopeful of his future.

English clergyman and writer Charles Kingsley writes, "Pain is no evil. Unless it conquers us." Pain has a strong psychological component. Passive resignation and fatalism only make this enemy linger. Anxiety is known to stimulate further pain. When one is conquered by pain with negativity, bitterness, and hopelessness, more often than not, the body or one's emotional being deteriorates faster. Death is not far behind.

How then do you handle pain? How do you overcome it?

"We do not choose our afflictions," Paul Tournier says, "but we can overcome them only by accepting  them." That's right. You overcome pain by accepting rather than resisting it. Welcome it!  "Thank God for the pain," so ended the lecture of Dr. Paul Brand. He continues, "With the acceptance of the discipline of pain, suffering for one another, we wil come also to the ecstasy of shared happiness of a new understanding as we glimpse the vision of God for His world."

Yes, even in pain, as you accept it, you can grow to bloom. An anonymous quote states, "Suffering is not a question that demands an answer; it is not a problem that demands a solution; it is a mystery which demands a Presence." The secret of acceptance of inevitable pain is sinking your roots in faith. You focus on living day by day, present in the Presence, to effectively handle and overcome your pain.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Making Peace With Your Self

Thomas Kempis once wrote, " ... make peace with yourself, so that you may then bring peace to others."

When victimized, its essential to acknowledge that one's self has been wounded or damaged by an offender. Some people deny or repress the hurt they experienced. They want to appear unaffected. They try to forget without working through. They make excuses.

Because they do not want to risk shaming themselves or harming their dignity, they betray themselves by refusing to admit or face their damaged emotions head-on. If this is happening, any efforts towards healing of one's self from the offense and sin of others are going to be unattainable and merely illusory.

What exactly can you do to make peace with your self when a spouse has betrayed you ... a friend duped you with millions of money ... a group of men raped your daughter ... the police killed your loved ones ... And so forth?  How do you heal your self from these terrible offenses?

Let me cite here one major key psychological and spiritual step: forgiving your self. Before you can even think of forgiving your offender, you need to first re-establish your own internal harmony. To do this, you have to avoid being "contaminated" by the offensive acts of the other with forms of vengeance or self-harm. You attain internal harmony by forgiving your self.

Forgiving one's self, as psychologist John Monbourquette put it, means "reconciling within one's self the offender and the victim: stopping the offender in one's self and breaking free of victimization."

That involves refusing to identify your self with the offender. You need to call on your Higher Self with the Higher Power than that of your wounded ego self, naturally caught responding in the "twin role of offender and victim." It is this Higher Self that can break the impasse and recreate your internal harmony to make peace with your self, finally.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sedative, Not Solution

Cesar is CEO Founder of a billion-worth food company. He has wealth, fame, and admiration of the business community. His life is filled with rounds of busyness, pleasure, and amassing of money.

Yet, instead of his success bringing fulfillment, Cesar still experiences a persistent ache inside his heart and mind. He realizes that all his achievements were just his vain attempts to escape from his unhappiness. To his surprise, he feels that he had only grasped shadows.

Everyone has favorite escapes. Some overeat. Others watch or play video games, smoke, drink, do drugs, gamble, become sex addicts, workaholics or enter a flurry of activities. Still others go to entertainment, even occultism.

The possibilities for escape are endless. All in an effort to dull some unexplained or recognized pain and discomfort. However, the end result of these escapes is only loss of self respect and continuing delusion as well as disappointment.

Now I'm not saying that some of these escapes are unhelpful. In fact, many of them may meet legitimate needs. But the satisfaction or relief they give is temporal. Short-lived. They are mere sedatives, not solutions.

Brain drugs, for example, may afford temporary relief but address only the periphery of the real problem. A band aid is helpful to cover a cut but is not a long term treatment to a broken bone. They fall short of addressing the roots of the infection from which illness stems.

Self "Disidentification"

A couple of days ago, I was in a session speaking to a Chinese who regrets not owning a Porsche. Coming from one of the country's wealthiest "tsinoy" families, he feels insecure and unable to measure up when he and his siblings and other relatives get together. He shared how much he always appear to lag behind as he hears them telling stories of their latest luxury purchases and travels.

In far contrast, American-Canadian actor Keanu Reeves is a multimillion dollar action star who lives simply and rides the NYC subway train. Once, he donated 70% of his earnings from his Matrix movie to a worldwide health care cause. Life seems more than money for him. A minimalist, Keanu "disidentifies" his self from his wealth and fame.

Yes, that term "disidentification." It refers to a basic exercise in the school of psychosynthesis  created by Roberto Assagioli. It consists of discovering what the Self is not. It intuits your real essence and identity by disengaging all that does not belong to it. This psychological process allows you to loosen your grip on and let go of all false identities.

For example, if I have an aching foot, it's important that I don't identify my self with it, as if my whole being has become an aching foot. Therefore, in my mind I say, "I have an aching foot but I am not my aching foot." Seeing this basic distinction allows me a better mastery of my existential reality or circumstances.

The same principle of "disidentification" applies in other aspects of our life. Nowadays, our culture is filled with stuff using money, fame, possessions, power, emotions, romantic relationships, and other externals as reference points for one's value or being. These are "false identities;" they do not constitute the very essence of our being.

Thus, when I'm financially bankrupt and I say "I'm financially bankrupt but I am not my financial bankruptcy, because I am more than my financial bankruptcy," I disidentify my self with it. If I find my self alone or divorced and depressed, I avoid believing or letting others make me believe that my whole being is only being alone, divorce, or depression.

Practicing disidenfication regularly is healthy. It gives you the needed psychological detachment or distance from your problems, so you can better solve them. Disidentification, which is a form of mindfulness or meditation, allows for greater discovery, awareness, and nourishment of your true self.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Be Conscious Of Your Value As A Person

In my practice, it's so common my hearing individuals doubting the value of their persons. They feel inherently defective. They don't feel deserving of love and respect. They see themselves as worthless.  A lot others constantly compare themselves to others. Rather than being conscious of their own value or uniqueness as persons, they continue to experience bothersome thoughts and feelings about themselves.

The convictions that sustain and reinforce one's value and uniqueness are essential to counteract common internal negative messages held by persons. The beliefs that need to be cherished by the self are:

*  I am a person of worth.

*  I am important.

*  I am in the best position to experience what I'm  like in the inside.

*  I can love my self  despite whatever happened to my externals.

*  I respect my self and expect others to respect me.

*  I take personal responsibility for all my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

*  I have a good relationship with each part of my self.

*  I am unique, no one in the world like me.

*  I am my own best friend.

*  I do nothing to harm my health and relationships.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The False Self

Psychology speaks of the existence of a "false self" in a person's psyche.  This part of the self hides secrets, necessitating erecting an accommodating exterior or mask.

All work on self discovery and recovery comprises this psychological concept of "false self." It lives a life of not following the truest and deepest inclinations of one's core being.

Dependent or non-autonomous, the "false self" is unable to disengage from social, cultural, and instinctual conditioning. It can not make choices that reflect one's true self, identity, and personal mission.

Nora is a 50 year old patient who sought therapy for her low self esteem. In our sessions, she continually anguished over her health, the approval of her husband and children, and what people say about her physical appearance.

She suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, and exaggerated concern of other people's opinions. Hypersensitive, she bordered a lot toward hypochondria and eating disorders. As a result, she caused her self unnecessary trouble and wounding in her relationships.

Upon deeper probing, I found out how much Nora was hurt and traumatized during the normal formation of her persona since childhood. Her mother treated her as if she's one of the house maids when she was a little girl onwards.

She received verbal, physical, and emotional abuse from her mother for so many years. Her mother definitely failed to respond to her basic needs. To survive, Nora's only choice was to hide who she is and use defensive, rigid adaptation defenses.

Nora is not alone. Countless individuals develop a pathological "false self" due to ancient false efforts for adaptation caused by parental mistakes or abuse.  So disturbed in a primary relationship by numerous frustrations and hurts, a child learns to build a protective defense wall. 

Instead of presenting a healthy persona, the wounded child tries to ward off the outside world which is experienced as hostile and rejecting. Far from being conscious, the unhealthy adaptation only leads to deeper alienation of the true self.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Solo But Not Lonely

Nowadays, there are commonplace circumstances that make it hard to marry or be "coupled." For others, the brokenness or dysfunction in their families has not made family companionship come their way. Of course, singles, solo parents, and divorced individuals have always been with us. Then there is also the prevalence of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle increasingly accepted in our society.

Either by choice or by force of circumstances, a fast growing number of people today are living alone around the world. 

In life situations like this, the oft-quoted saying stands true:  "In acceptance lies peace." So in what way exactly can that saying apply to the single state? 

Catherine, now age over 90s, lives alone. She was once married but divorced due to her former husband's infidelity and addiction. All her life, she worked hard to support her self and growing children. When her children became adults and started their own families, Catherine was left to live alone by her self. 

Now in precarious health and limited material resources, she's always asked if she ever felt lonely. To this, her response is: "Yes I live alone but I'm not lonely. How can I be lonely when God is with me?"

Solo but not lonely. 

The example of the life of Catherine demonstrates that singleness need not be equated to loneliness. When thinking of singleness, we should not also overlook the reality of numerous singles around the world who find fulfillment and satisfaction in the solo state. 

The magnificent accomplishments in all aspects of society, such as politics, the arts, or religion, would had been greatly undone if it were not for gifted single men and women. 

If the single state is where you are now, both men and women, even though you prefer marriage, take heart. It can be good for you! For example, there are lots of miserable married couples today. Your state of singleness can be better than the state of marital misery. 

More importantly, the secret of happiness and contentment in your single state is when it's activated for God. It will overcome the loneliness usually accompanying singleness which is never forever. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

When Our Parents Die Twice

Our fathers and mothers may die twice. First, during their actual dying. And the other is the experience of non-relationship with them.

I have sat with a couple, Charlie and Mary (not their real names in this composite story), who both needed to recount detailed memories of their parents' last days as well as their estrangement or abuse from them. Specific scenes and conversations kept coming back to them with extraordinary vividness. 

Charlie, triggered by his father's lack of attention to him while he was alive, died while he was so young. This left him fending for himself to support his studies and his mother. Mary, on the other hand, relived the period of her childhood during which her mother physically and verbally abused her. In her death bed, Mary's mother continued to berate her, swamping Mary with painful memories she could not handle.

In our marital therapy sessions together, Charlie and Mary both realized that their own respective parents died twice. As a result, they found themselves hurting and abusing themselves and each other without fully understanding why. Wasting the good present in their lives because their past remain present. Their marriage exposed the "unfinished business." Charlie and Mary lived to heal and revise their memories and self perceptions in accordance with the knowledge that they were gaining in therapy.

When our circumstances become humbling or we get wounded, things can become clear from the vantage point of helplessness. We can end up learning coming to terms with our parents' deaths. We may finally be able to forgive our parents for their mistakes or failings. We may finally learn to leave home and live our own separate identities. Recognition of this key element in self healing can supersede even a life time of heart wounds and disappointments. 

As psychologist Dr. Erik Erikson suggests, full spiritual health arises when one attains an "acceptance of one's own and only life cycle" and a "new different love of one's parents, free of the wish that they should have been different." Some people lived long enough to find this truth out.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Self and Entitlement Mindset

Do you have an entitled self? What I mean is, one suffering from a deadly mind-set psychologists call "entitlement mentality."

Maria, one of my long-term patients,  is a third-generation child born to a very wealthy family clan. From birth onwards, she grew up getting everything she wants. Her parents, sincerely driven by their love, desire to ensure that Maria "does not go through the hardships they went through." Every decision, including every sharp corner or struggle in life, is conveniently covered by Mommy and Daddy. 

As a result, Maria develops a belief that this is what life really is. Her self in luxury becomes a well entrenched expectation inside her brain. She is conditioned that she shouldn't have to work for things she wants. For her, the good life is her right and no longer a privilege. And there is anger or rage if she doesn't get her way or what she wants ...and get it easily. 

Once, Maria misspent millions from her family-funded business, going to bars, partying, drinking, taking drugs etc. When her business went bankrupt, she incurred multiple millions of debts from creditors who filed legal suits against her. Her family covered for her, paid all her debts. Now forced into personal psychotherapy and rehabilitation by her family, she continues in her "entitled self" and pass all the blame to her parents and family to what happened to her and her business.

Entitlement mentality is a deadly mental disease. It's a state of the mind in which a person believes that her "privileges" are instead her "rights." It believes that she deserves the "right" to be given special treatment, the comforts of life, without regard to consequences of her choices. She desires continuing supply of material things she believes she deserves. Refusing to accept or see what life is in reality, a person with entitlement mentality only experiences a vicious cycle.

What many parents fail to realize, my self included, is that by depriving our children of pain in facing the difficulties of life, we deprive them of Self development and growth. We spoil them, blinded by what we perceive as parental "love." With lack of proper perspective of what life really is, our children become immature and broken - psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It leaves them with entitlement mentality, which produces weakness instead of strength. It makes our children forever dependent individuals instead of independent ones. 

If your self is living life with an entitlement mindset, it's not too late to heal and change. You can choose to change the invisible "roots" of your character so you can change the visible "fruits" manifesting in your life. Work on what you want, earn what you believe you deserve.

Adversity is your self vaccination against the disease of entitlement mentality. When faced with adversity, embrace it and learn from it. Take responsibility for the consequences of your choices, whatever they may be. Quit blaming others or circumstances. Heal this disabling mindset and be whole in your self through the refining process of adversity. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

At Least One Person Who Cares About You

We all need an experience with at least one person who cares about us.

Before we can fully believe the good in our selves, we have to experience it personally. We need specific encounters with other individuals. This provides us with necessary roots, a basis for hope of a better life, even to the end.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I've seen lonely, angry, disordered personalities become gentle and receptive. They do in response to my taking an interest in their selves and lives. As I unconditionally accept them as they are and help them in their journey, many gave up their self destructive habits. It's a direct response to the love and caring and understanding they received in our work together.

Author Ben Weininger, in his book "Aging Is A Lifelong Affair," he observes:

"You need an experience with at least one person who cares about you. It doesn't matter what age this person appears. If you didn't have a close relationship when younger, and you now have one close person in your life, that makes up for the early deficiency. That person can appear at any time in the life cycle, even on the day of death. One does not need to make up for lost time."

I once knew a foreigner when I was much younger. At that time, I felt totally vulnerable. I felt hurt by my parents, and I could not get close to them. Then, this man from another country started talking to me. He kept visiting me, dropping by to take walks with me and have coffee talks. He'd crack jokes, treat me to nice meals, and bring me to feel part of his family. In my self development, such person was most meaningful and moving because he was not kin or within my immediate circle of relatives.

There may be no certain guaranteed formula for self-security. But the presence of at least one person in your life who cares about you almost always serves as a strength.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Healing in Silence and Inactivity

The sooner we start learning to live fully, avoiding the waste of "unlived life," the better for our self growth. Yet prior to experiencing a crisis or trauma, few people live in terms of fullness in self understanding and development.

After three years suffering from a multimillion financial bankruptcy from his business, Mark, one of my patients with childhood psycho-trauma, was compelled by his paternal relatives to seek therapy. He never improved in his self awareness, marital, and financial situation since his business failed. So, for the first time in his adult life, Mark allowed himself to sit still and processed things more completely this time.

For some people, illness, impending death, relationship breakdown, or other traumatic experiences become the impulsion for them to "face their self." Before, they never gave a thought where they were racing to for they're always in such a hurry. So now, in silence and inactivity, they're provided with a golden opportunity to bring illumination into the hidden aspects of themselves to radically change their lives.

Writer Lewis Mumford wrote in his book "The Conduct of Life:" "Too many of us wait for an illness entertain solitary moments ... We should not depend on such accidents to make a timely orientation possible. A half hour of solitude, detached and 'empty' - that is essential for a new beginning."  Indeed, Mumford seems to be saying here and encouraging each one of us to spend at least  half an hour a day in complete silence and inactivity and solitude, with no outside interruption.

Self development requires appreciating silence and inactivity. Quiet time. Even prayers to heal. We don't always have to be doing something. I remember my frequent sittings in the parks or malls, just bringing my self to a point of "emptiness." Even amidst crowds, I've learned to feel my soul open and strengthen like a muscle. It's during these times that I experience the healing goodness of silence, inactivity. Then, I'm able to see through the surface to the depths.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Recollection and Relinquishment

I once heard the reminiscences of a 70+ year old man who lost his wife to cancer. He certainly did not take his wife's disappearance lightly. It hurt a lot for him. He loved her so much.

In the number of times we met, he'd always reminisce on his past memories and moments with his loved one. It's as if he was still walking along with her like it was yesterday. He wanted to move forward through the remaining precious fragment of his life on earth. Yet he remained never without her.

We need both recollection and relinquishment. Hoarding loving memories is no better than shunning them. When a loved one departs, a need for disengagement is inevitable. Yet such does not have to be without heart. We may still do the proper leave-taking while not detaching our self off from beautiful sentiments.

As writer Rainer Rilke put it, "We live our lives, for ever taking leave." It seems that we thrive with some fuel coming from a flexible relationship with our past.

Sooner, this man shared that he had to relinquish at some level to live a different sort of life after his wife's death. He chose to have adventures!

He opened an international business with his adult children, put up a new foundation, and went to gym to do boxing (he's as strong as one in his 40's!).  He joined groups and met regularly with other men for bible studies. So now, after his loss, every day, he has such a full life that he won't run out of things to recollect in his memory!

Somehow, as we age, we tend to be more predisposed to do increasing doses of recollecting amidst relinquishing. Recollecting in our memory seems to seek continuity, no matter how long we live.

As Sharon Kaufman observes, we seek continuity in our recollections "so that a familiar and unified sense of self emerges in old age."

We all need a theme in our lives, in our recollecting and relinquishing, to account for what is happening to us.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Problem That Has No Name

  • "I'm married for 20 years now and finding my self more and more energy-less. My wife didn't do anything. But I just walked out and found a young woman."
  • "I can't understand what's happening. I've a beautiful wife and three children, a well paying job, and a string of high end properties. I've got my health, yet I still feel empty."
  • "Each day, I do same thing at work. My office is comfortable. My fellow employees are friendly. And I wonder about what's wrong with me."
  • "My husband is loving and a good provider. My kids are cute and loveable. With all the comforts of home, I've free time to do other things. I ask myself why I remain dissatisfied."
  • "I'm tired from the minute I get up in the morning to the time I go to bed at night."
Isn't this a tremendous puzzle? To borrow writer Betty Friedman's phrase, it's a "problem that has no name." This is a universal, common plight of millions of men and women around the world. They are tired, joyless, and thoroughly dissatisfied with life for seemingly no apparent reason.

Boredom is a malady typically described as "the problem that has no name." The problem knows no rank, status, or gender. It afflicts both rich and poor, educated and illiterate, famous and commonplace. Every one has the potential to experience boredom.

Unfortunately, boredom can produce deadly effects or consequences in one's self and life. It has the capacity break marriages and families apart. It can lead to fatigue, depression, and addictions. Left untreated, boredom could develop a host of psychological, emotional, behavioral, physical, and spiritual disorders.

I'm reminded of my Spanish subjects during college. I felt totally bored with it! I struggled to see the point of studying the language. As a result, my study efforts and grades suffered. This then led to dislike of my Spanish teachers, fatigue, and anger. The negative feelings emanating from my boredom impaired my academic performance and discipline.

So, what can you do about boredom?

Obviously, to accomplish your goals or what you want, you need to find a way to get through boredom. What can you do to make your life or work more interesting? How can you inject enthusiasm into your self during dull moments? In what ways may what you do make a contribution to benefit the needy or less fortunate? These questions could be good starting-points to overcome boredom.

St. Augustine once wrote, "Thou has made us for Thyself O God, and our hearts are restless until they find themselves in Thee." Or, as Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ..." (Colossians 3:23). 

There it is - an ultimate anti-boredom prescription. When you find your life's meaning and energy in Him, boredom is never a problem.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

RAD: "Responsibility-Avoidance Disease"

Cassandra, one of my clients in joint session with her husband, was fuming. She protested my encouraging her to put in the effort and thoughtfulness needed on how she feels and thinks towards her husband and children. In the light of her choices and behavior, she found her self hurting everyone in her family. Yet she continued to blame, displacing all responsibility into them. Unfortunately, she chose to studiously avoid a deep examination of her self and owning her part in family relationships.

RAD or "responsibility-avoidance disease." It's essentially a choice to evade responsibility for what you are and how you think and feel on you. You deny your self-creation. You reject that you are the cause of your own "experience" and responsible for everything that happens in that "experience." It's the inability to choose personal responsibility that keeps people stuck in their lives. Only when they make this choice can their life move forward. 

A core of personal healing and wholeness is responsibility assumption. You are the sole creator of your "experience" of whatever happens to you. You are responsible for creating the "experience" of your loved ones' manifesting behavior, your being wounded by abusive parents, your being betrayed by your spouse, your financial bankruptcy, and so on. Do things happen to you and you're a just mere passive, innocent bystander?

Psychotherapy and responsibility are closely connected. RAD is bad for mental health. Responsibility acceptance and assumption leads to therapeutic recovery. Dynamically, a certain amount of ego strength is necessary if one is to successfully assume personal responsibility. It involves the belief that you have the power to act on your behalf. You recognize that you can create and influence your own experiential worlds. You're able to see the causal relationship between your own behavior and your outcomes.

Indeed, this shift of mindset is a major key to life change. As noted psychologist William James put it, "If you can change your mind, you can change your life."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Woman Criminal:" Hope in Broken Places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Authors Your Self?

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who once said that, after 40, you are responsible for your face! Whenever you're faced with external adversity in your life, no matter how painful or traumatic it may be, you remain responsible for the attitude you adopt towards it. Responsibility is authorship. 

A patient of mine, Leila, shared her formidable adversity. She's 57, abandoned by her husband 10 years ago, and currently experiencing medical challenges. She tormented her self by "choosing" to believe that not having a man or getting married again is a life without value. Her life's meaning and energy is attached to that basic assumption. 

Since her present situation appears to jeopardize the likelihood of finding a desirable partner, Leila became severely depressed and withdrawn. She felt no responsibility anymore for anything, including her self-care. She closed off many other options for her self. This included things such as serving others, developing circles of support with women, or even a nonsexual friendship with a man.

The bulk of my therapeutic work with her involved challenging her basic assumptions in the authorship of her life. One, of course, has to do with the belief that life is about marriage or having a man. Life is certainly more than that. The other consists of her self-deprecation as a result of what happened to her. Though she's not responsible for her husband's abandonment and rejection, she's responsible for how to "experience" it. She bears complete responsibility over her attitudes towards it and moving on from there.

An important task of therapy for Leila is to recognize and accept the external "given" of her current life situation. Then, she learns to "choose" to be responsible in authoring a new chapter in her life. That requires an active stance rather than passivity towards one's external environment and circumstances. With full acceptance of personal responsibility, Leila authors a new self with even greater significance and direction.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Healing Your Love-Approval Addiction (Part 2)

We all need love. We all need approval. It's a basic reality of our human existence. Our self, in its deepest core, needs love and approval to survive, grow, and thrive amid life's challenges. However, the problem begins when we become overdependent on others that we miss giving our selves first the love and approval we need.

I'm reminded of Imelda. She was telling me that she has already read all sorts of psychology and self help books to boost her self. She'd practice Self-affirmations like "I am worthy," "I love my self," or "I have talents people need." Still, she finds her self criticizing her self,  dwelling on her negative feelings, and turning to addictions.

Why the self-abandonment? Why is this repeatedly happening - psychologically and emotionally - to countless individuals?

You see, when you give your self love and approval in just the rational way, it doesn't work. This is especially true when your self affirmations are coming from that part of your brain where your unprocessed "wounded inner child" resides. If you've had a horrible childhood where you experienced abandonment, abuse, or deprivation and it's a past still in your present, that part of you will block your self affirmations. It feels that you're just "making it up" when you give your self love and approval.

Obviously, in order for your self love and approval to affect the core of you, it cannot come from your ego-impaired "wounded inner child." For healing to take place where your self can truly experience your self love and approval, you need to be connected to your "Higher Self." Your wise, loving "Higher Self" goes deeply inside of you where your "wounded inner child" can develop the capacity to believe when you give your self approval. This "Higher Self" then follows it up whereby you learn to take loving  actions toward your self.

This is how you heal your "love-approval addiction." You give your self love and approval first from your "Higher Self" rather than from your pre-programmed mind. In this way, your inner child can experience accepting and believing them.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Healing Your Love-Approval Addiction (Part 1)

Melissa can't make her self happy. Her happiness and well being are heavily dependent upon getting love and approval from her husband and children. Outside home, she constantly thinks of what others think of her and her appearance. She is always limited by other people's opinions. As a result, she doesn't take risks and experiences a host of psychological symptoms, which includes anxiety panic attacks, deep depression, and severe fears.

In my numerous years as a psychotherapist and counselor, I've discovered that "love and approval addiction" is a far more prevalent or common addiction than any other drug addiction.  I see it everywhere, not just during my sessions or personal and professional interactions, but much more so in the news, media, and in all walks of life. We live in a world of love-addicted, approval-addicted human beings.

Living as a "love/approval addict" is a very hard, unhealthy way to live your life. Your feelings are always up and down, like a roller coaster. You constantly worry about doing the right thing, looking right, pleasing people to get your needed love and approval. When you don't get your fix, you feel despair, anger, or you become judgmental.  You simply can't handle or cope with even the slightest pain of disapproval, rejection, abandonment, or being shut out.

If your addiction to love and approval of others is running your life, albeit unconsciously, you are hurting your self. You are hurting your personal sense of safety, worth, and loveability. No matter how much approval or love your receive from others, it never heals your inner insecurity that comes from abandoning your self. The more you become aware of this and take direct steps to address it, the better you'll feel about your self. And the less you'll become addicted seeking approval from others.