Friday, April 18, 2014

Are You In Pain?

Are you hurting? If you've suffered a major loss, abuse, or trauma, you are in pain.

Maybe you have yet to feel your pain. It's ok to hurt and acknowledge your pain. It's nature's way of telling you that something needs to be healed.

In order to heal, you need to go through the pain so you can get to the other side. If you go around it instead of going through it, the pain only deepens and makes you worst.

Do you need to find help and support? Absolutely. Healing takes place in relationship, not in isolation. You are not an island!

Don't believe the lie, "I can figure this out my self." No help leads to poor health or worse! You need to be connected to others in order to heal and be whole.

The truth is, all of us have wounds, scars, and problems in life. Everyone needs recovery. The sooner we get the right help, the faster we will be better and healthy.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Christotherapy

This Holy Week, I've been reflecting on a psychotherapy system called "Christotherapy." Yes, you read that one word right: Christotherapy.

Christotherapy is a way of bringing together psychological and spiritual methods of effecting inner healing and wholeness. It's a system developed by psychotherapist Bernard Tyrrell, SJ, which seeks to integrate psychotherapy with spiritual direction.

According to Tyrrell, Christ is directly and intrinsically related to the healing not only of sin, but also of psychopathology. He argues that Christ, not any psychotherapist, is the healer, and His healing is intended for the whole person.

Believer or not, when you heal through any  psychotherapy or personal growth process, Christ is the Presence and the Healer. "Whether or not he recognizes Christ's presence, Christ is in fact present in all healing and growth," explains Tyrrell. Christotherapy therefore asserts that all humanity is connected under one universal healing power (Christ).

I'm generally of the belief that healing should merge psychotherapy and spirituality. This integration approach addresses the "whole person," including other sources of psychological woundedness or emotional instability such as occult, divination, demon possession, exorcism, life after death, existential emptiness etc. -- issues that secular licensed professional therapists are incompetent to handle or don't want to touch.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Healing Of Pacman

As I write this post, Manny Pacquaio or the Pacman just won a spectacular comeback victory over Tim Bradley to regain the World Welterweight boxing championship. It's interesting to note that the fight took place during the Holy Week and Pacman returns to the Philippines on a Good Friday. This seems to carry a lot of symbolism for the "rising" Filipino people.

The Filipino pride, shortly after the victory, gathered all his friends and team members in his massive suite at the 61st floor of the Hotel at Mandalay Bay. For what? For a night of thanksgiving praise and worship unto His God, not a night of wine and women to celebrate the victory. Pacman was right there in the middle of his victory worship service, singing and playing the piano, ironically in front of a huge picture window overlooking the Sin City strip of the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

This most famous Filipino is one example of the integration of mental health and spirituality. Once a womanizing, gambling, party animal addict whose idea of happiness is cockfighting and singing rock songs after fights, Pacman now finds his wholeness and meaning in life in serving God and obeying His Word. Pacman has fame and wealth that don't get into his head (unlike many others) and which he now considers far less important treasure than his personal relationship with His Savior.

If you want the real deal, learn from the healing of Pacman.






Sunday, April 13, 2014

Till "Conscious Uncoupling" Do Us Part?

Recently, popular American actress Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines with her recent divorcing situation with husband Chris Martin. She calls it "conscious uncoupling."

"Marriage is a human condition that was founded when life expectacy was 33 years old. And now that we live up to 80, one marriage is no longer enough for many of us," says Paltrow.

Paltrow did not invent the term "conscious uncoupling." It's based on a course originated by psychotherapist Katherine Thomas. The term is not synonymous with "divorce" but a stand-in process through which divorcing couples can attempt to be peaceful and gentle with one another in preparation for a final breaking up.

 "Conscious uncoupling" sounds nice or soothing than "divorce". But, in essence, they're exactly the same thing. Spiritually, it's an assault against the sacredness and security of everything God created marriage to be. Such concept is becoming prevalent not only in our society at large but also in the church among married couples. It doesn't represent God's view of marriage and divorce. God hates divorce (Malachi 2: 13-16).

Psychologically, "conscious uncoupling" advances the idea that it is healing and contributing to personal wholeness. Are you unhappy in your marriage? Is your partner not meeting your needs? Then, "consciously uncouple!" And along the way "consciously uncouple" again on the road. Amazing happiness! "Conscious uncoupling" rends and tears an individual, marriage, and family apart. So how can it be psychologically healing and healthy? What is comforting and liberating about it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Loneliness and Healing

Loneliness is pain. The world is full of people experiencing the pain of loneliness. There are those who retreat to their "caves." Some pretend to be somebody else. There are some who are busy ones. Others over-depend, clinging as close as possible to whomever they can. 

Loneliness is a disease that can grow over time. Untold numbers suffer from this affliction. It's demanding. It can take everything from you. Including psychological, emotional, and spiritual emptiness. As I see others climbing this "mountain," I've witnessed many just moving around it in circles with varied sorts of addictions or diversions.

So, you may ask,  "How do I heal from this disease of loneliness?" Begin by facing it - not avoid, fear, or run from it. Face the reality of this demon of loneliness and realize it's a demon! Accept loneliness as part of being human. And then turn to this demon and shout, "Boo, go away!" As you do, this demon starts losing its power and control over you.

Accept also that loneliness and healing can be connected. Loneliness has healing qualities. A period of time alone can provide you with needed personal growth, reflection, and learning. Yes, loneliness is pain. But it's pain which tells you that you have important things that you need to learn. As you learn from the pain, in time, hollowness and emptiness are replaced by inner healing, fullness, and strength.

It's a giant step to learn from the pain of loneliness toward independence. When you are comfortable by your self, you no longer feel needy or dependent on the company of others. You find mental health, finding a balance between being with others and being alone.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Parent and Child: Partners in Crime?

Celebrity teen Justin Bieber is a troubled young man. His father who abandoned him in childhood showed up when Justin became a star. Instead of being an example, the father joined Bieber in strip clubs and bars, objectifying women's bodies and engaging in addictive booze and sexual behaviors. Today, at age 19 at a height of stardom, Justin constantly faces police arrests and jail for recurring counts of lawbreaking.

Speaking of children (young or adult), it's sad to see how toxic parents "recruit" their children to be "partners" in their crime. Clinically and in real-life, there are countless cases of individuals who break down or become mentally ill due to parents who earlier conditioned them to unhealthy behaviors. Such parent-triggering unconscious "crimes" include addictions like pornography, adultery, sex addiction, rage and violence, stealing, greed, drugs, depression, among others.

If this reality applies to your own life, I feel for you. If you work diligently to heal from earlier parental wounds and negative childhood deprivations, you can begin a new and better life. Seek help. Instead of waiting for the "crime" to continue or fix itself over time, you can take the opportunity to stop right now to look inward. Take the appropriate redemptive steps to experience as much personal healing and growth as possible.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Porn Addict


Very recently, a Hindu married couple from India saw me in Makati for marital therapy and counseling. Their problem: pornography addiction and infidelity. As I was speaking with them, their tears can fill several bottles. It's so sad to witness the deep psychological wounding and devastation this type of addiction does to a marriage.

The current Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders describes certain sexual disorders characterized by excessive and unusual sexual urges, thoughts, and behaviors. Since pornography addiction does fit into that description of the DSM, it can be medically considered as a type of mental disorder. 

The porn addict objectifies the female human body. It's a form of dehumanization of women. The porn addict, whether via the internet, photos, magazines etc., engages in it as a form of nonrelational relief and "medication" for some inner pain or hidden hunger. As a result, like other addictions, porn has life-damaging consequences to the addict's sense of self and well being as well as his or her various relationships in life.

In order to heal from this addiction, the porn addict must reach a point when he or she is able to "talk" to pornography images and videos and say, "I want you to heal me but I know you can't!" 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Is "Beer Googles Effect" True?

Last week, I was invited to be the expert in a location shooting of TV5's Demolition Job hosted by Paolo Bediones. The crew was experimenting on the "beer goggles effect" with a drunk man and a drunk woman. After showing multiple pictures and live men and women to the two "drunk" couple, they investigated whether the "beer goggles effect" is true. The results were extremely mixed and inconclusive.

The "beer goggles effect" is a slang phrase used in informal language to refer to those who found members of the opposite sex more attractive after drinking beers. According to some psychology research in 2002, results showed that alcohol harm a person's perception of facial symmetry. In 2012, other psychology researches as well as in media circles have dubunked the theory of "beer goggles effect." They found a reverse beer goggles effect - people who get drunk by beer feel they are the ones who are more handsome or sexy. Even people tricked into thinking they had drink when not, also judged themselves as more attractive.

Based on the mixed results of psychology research, the "beer goggles" then don't apply to all and can be considered untrue or a myth. What is true is the scientifically proven neurotoxic effects of alcohol on the brain. Like other drugs, alcohol has the ability to distort reality and increase risk-taking. Add to that, a person who has a "PRE" condition of psychological instability, sex addiction "goggles," or character illness is much more likely to have a distorted sense of reality and manifest other behavioral disorders after getting drunk.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Serotonin and Depression

Researchers say that there is a link between depression and serotonin level in our brains.

Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitters which are chemicals in the brain cells. They function as messengers between nerve endings. We need adequate supply of serotonin in our brains to function at our best. According to brain scientists, our serotonin levels in our brains affect our moods, our sleep, and our appetites.

When serotonin levels are low, our brain will not function up to par. This happens when we eat too much sugar or processed foods, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol and coffee. In a study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, doctors reported that not having enough supply of serotonin can lead to psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

Although there is a serotonin-releasing drug, there are foods that are good sources of tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that the body needs to produce enough supply of serotonin. Vegetarians include good nutrition that fight depression through serotonin replenishment with natural foods such as eggs, chicken, soybeans, milk products, turkey, among others

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Psychology Good Or Bad?

As a psychotherapist, I use psychology as one of my tools. It's not my primary framework for healing the "whole person," but it complements my Main tool. Let me share with you why and how.

Psychology, by itself, is good if taken as a discipline like medicine, engineering, law, business, sociology, anthropology, astronomy, or fine arts. For me, psychology is a "neutral" study of facts. It's defined as a science dealing with realities surrounding the mind of man and his emotional processes.

If you go by theological presuppositions, I consider psychology as part of "general revelation" in creation. It's complementary to the so-called "specific revelation" of Scripture. Both, therefore, can be taken to be not in competition with one another within a specific framework of establishing all truth.

However, here's the deal. I say that there are two very common "traps" or extreme views regarding psychology that people often go into. We need to avoid these extremes.  One is what I call "over-respect" or "unwarranted authority." And the other is, "under-respect" or "unwarranted dismissal."

When we endow psychological principles/statements with final authority or we accept everything that comes from it, that's "over-respect" or giving psychology "unwarranted authority." Like other sciences, psychology has limited scope. It cannot bring about world peace, abolish death, or lead us toward our Creator. Psychology therefore cannot be the center of authority.

For instance, secular psychology can view man as a material "what" purely guided by raw instincts coming up from an evolutionary monkey. Here, human persons are not "who." The "Me-first-ism" principle, implied in secular behavioral sciences, teaches us that only the fittest can survive, that we can transform ourselves based on our own efforts. These are not true. They are unhealthy, incomplete, or inaccurate humanistic presuppositions of mainstream psychology.

On the other side of the extreme, you dismiss everything and anything that smells of psychology without a deeper assessment of its facts and discoveries from honest research. This is the error of "under-respect" or "unwarranted dismissal." It's like throwing away good medicine for a specific disease. It happens when we don't take time to discover what objective realities are being presented by psychology as a science, perhaps out of personal pride or cultural bias.

Psychology has significant and widespread contributions in education, media, entertainment, politics, law enforcement, and other fields of society. It helps the world advance technologically and in its human resource development. An example is a set of psychological principles to understand our family systems and organizations better in order to heal individuals and function more effectively as a team.

Based on years of observing and experimenting, detailed descriptions of human behavior are published in books on mental disorders. They provide doctors and other people helpers with relevant information on treating psychological disorders that destroy families and societies. We do not deny these helpful statements of fact for people helping. We welcome such well-studied frameworks with thanksgiving to contribute to helping heal broken persons in holistic, substantial ways.

A balance, therefore, is called for. Hence, in using psychology to complement psychotherapy practice, it's a matter of being able to differentiate the good from the bad. In that way, along with the Main tool, the healing of "whole persons" becomes a distinct hope and well-informed possibility.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hidden Resentments?

Hurt feelings can get "stuffed" into our unconscious mind for years. As far as you can tell, you have already forgotten them. You claim that these inner wounds no longer influence your present. Yet you may actually be rarely aware of these past "unresolved emotional hurts" still affecting your day-to-day experience.

I'd like to call them "hidden resentments." How do you know you're suffering from them?  Let me cite some "symptoms" where you can assume that "hidden resentments" are festering inside you:

*  You feel left out, unappreciated, or taken for granted by people around you;
*  You lose your temper over small or trivial matters and say things you later regretted;
*  You suffer from headaches, neck aches, back aches, stomach aches, or other body aches;
*  You go into an eating binge, drinking spree, drug use, gambling, sexual acting out, or other addictive activity whenever you're emotionally upset;
*  You get bogged down by frequent fights, disagreements, struggles for control, feelings of distrust with your lover, spouse, or family member;
*  You poke fun or make insulting remarks about those you love;
*  You have serious health problems such as cancer, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease etc.;
*  You dread having to call, write, or visit your parents;
*  You frequently get bitter about work, church, family, God, life, other people;
*  You try to make others feel sorry for you;
*  You feel restricted in expressing your love to your spouse, children, and other family members.
*  You easily get angered or blow your top even with the slightest hint of rejection.

Indeed, once you become aware that you're harboring "hidden resentments," the next step is to work them through. Until you begin to do so, every other therapeutic or health strategy you'll use to make you well will be severely undermined.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hard Hearts

James was not interested in therapy. That's until after his wife separated from him and lived in another place. No adultery or "other person" involved. His wife has been insisting that he seek out personal therapy for years. But he was not willing, until after his wife left that James actually did so.

When James started his first session with me, he gave disclaimers. He refused to take responsibility for his part of the marital crisis. It's all his wife's fault. Although he affirmed that he picked up major insights about himself during our time together, he still wasn't interested to understand himself more deeply to repair his marriage.

Indeed, it's very difficult to help individuals with "hard hearts" who do not believe they need help. James' stubborn resistance and attempts to "justify" himself is standing in the way of his personal healing as well as marital healing with his separated wife. He wanted to think he's doing better than average, so he tended to minimize his problems. But "minimizing" his problems is not the same as facing them. James is not going to change and heal himself and his marriage as long as he continues to do this.

It's hard to heal and change what you don't understand. In order for us to change life-damaging patterns, we have to understand ourselves better.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Short Term Relief Never Works

Short term relief does not last. It can in fact become a separate psychological issue unto itself.

When John saw me for help, he has been under psychiatric treatment for over 10 years. Despite the length of his treatment, he remained "stuck" within himself - psychologically, emotionally, behaviorally, relationally, spiritually. Looking for relief from his pain or agony, he has been doing it through brain drugs, marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, money, and raging all these years.

Everything that John tried to "medicate" the wound within himself for years has only been absolutely giving him short term relief. With regards to the psychiatric pills that John has been taking in for too long, drug addiction now becomes a part of the mix of his ongoing addictions. With these long years of treatment, John begins to feel hopeless. It's as if his agony and pain will never end. The short term relief never works.

I can tell you that John's condition is typical of those who wants "instant" or "easier now" in their personal healing. John continues to act on his unconscious patterns with his repertoire of short term relief, which makes it easier for him now, but never for him later and in the long haul. So no matter how fast he goes, nothing is happening. To get his true healing, it's important that John chooses to go to the "roots" of his problem and surrender himself to the process of real treatment.

Psychotherapy and counseling is a way through towards permanent recovery, but it's not easy. It's not designed to make it easier for you. It's designed to make it better for you. If there is an easy way to do what must be done, I can tell you. Overnight cure or "magic" simply doesn't exist. What I can tell you is that if you're willing to go through the "legitimate pain" temporarily, you'll get to the other side of long-lasting relief and recovery in your life.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Life Is An Art

Therapy is a specialized art of life balancing.

This makes me conceive of each therapy session as an individual masterpiece.

I experience it to contain elements in common with many other works of art.

As a clinician, I attempt to transfer my energy authentically in every session, to master the splits of the mind and being with therapeutic pieces and personalized touches.

The practice of therapy can indeed be an exercise in creativity -- like the conducting of symphony.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Change or Die

I've read this morning a truth about about people with high blood pressure. In a clinical study involving hundreds, it was found out that 70% of hypertensives who die prematurely from the disease were well informed about the need for lifestyle and diet changes. Yet, they don't follow what would save their lives.

As usual, the problem or blockage to our health is not in our knowing but in our doing. Healing and change are often difficult for lots of people. Individuals who have grown "comfortable" with their unhealthy or bad habits may have no or little motivation to change. Dr. Charles Whitfield, a noted therapist, uses the term "disabled will" to describe it.

The same challenge applies to mental and emotional health. Those encountering behavioral disorders and life-damaging consequences in their lives need to do what's necessary to heal. When they do and not just know about healthy changes, they can begin to realize, as a Dr. Berkus says, that "Disease is the soul screaming through the body, attempting to get the Truth out once and for all."

Health is really a choice:  change or die.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Healing Your Inner Parent

As a psychotherapist, I have heard countless times bitter conflicts between wounded persons and their parents. There is always resentment and anger present. During childhood, for whatever reasons, persons experienced a parent who belittled, ignored, abandoned, manipulated, or psychologically attacked them.

Unfortunately, anger or resentment towards parents is never safely left tucked away in the past. Most of the time, the mind and heart stores poisonous emotions that don't disappear or heal on their own. They remain stored in the subconscious with its accompanying toxic feelings when left untreated.

So along the way, the process of "repression" that Freud described breaks down. Your past, unprocessed parental wounds can subconsciously exert total command over your present feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This can be in the form of addictions, alcoholism, infidelity, rage, mental illness, materialism, criminal behavior, among others. The psychological truth then is, holding on to your past resentments toward your father and/or mother robs you of present-day peace of mind, happiness, and health.

Therapy from your parental wounds first involves healing your "inner parents" before you can heal with your real-life parents.  Making peace with your real life parents requires enough internal rehabilitation and stability. That involves learning to give up your resentments, your anger, your annoyance, your desire to punish, and your need to blame your father/mother. After that is done enough, you can become a more loving and nurturing person for the healing of your self and the process of healing your relationship with your parents.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Why Willpower Doesn't Work

Let me give you a secret in therapy: willpower is powerless.

Imagine riding a speedboat. Its autopilot is programmed to go east. Now you decide to reverse it and head west. One way to do it is to physically "force" the steering wheel in the opposite direction from where the autopilot is programmed.

By sheer willpower, you may grab the steering wheel and overcome the autopilot. However, much sooner than you believe, your arms would surely ache and tire of stress. Reaching a limit in your energy, you'd let go of the steering wheel and the boat instantly reverts back to its original internal programming.

This is what happens when you try to change your bad habits, emotional wounds, or behavioral disorders with willpower. You say, "I'll force my self to abstain from drugs and pornography ... control my rage more ... and quit using foul language." Of course, left on your own, you can produce short-term change through the exercise of your willpower.  But such produces tremendous internal distress because you''re missing dealing with the "root" cause. So eventually, you give up, and quickly revert to your old, dysfunctional patterns.

There is a better way for lasting personal healing and life change. You change your autopilot and deepest internal programming. You change the way you think. Healing and recovery always starts in the mind.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Acting Out and Time Bomb

Recently, I'd been counseling a man who has all sorts of behavioral disorders. He curses and shouts at people. He takes drugs, alcohol in an addictive level. Each week, he mood-alters via pornography and short-time paid sex. His marriage is breaking down and his children are severely alienated from him.

This wounded man is like a time bomb. It's obvious how much feelings he's bottling up within himself. When you bottle up feelings, it's the same as starting the timer of a time bomb. In the beginning, the bomb ticks softly. The ticks represent problems and losses that were unsuccessfully processed and healed. Then, as time goes by, the ticks of the bomb progressively gets closer to an explosion.


How can you defuse the ticking time bomb?  The sufferer needs to choose to heal. He or she needs to choose to connect to a safe person and start talking about his feelings that he or she is bottling up. The practice of acting out and isolating must stop by unlearning them in the process of recovery. The greater the out of control, the greater the need for structure. There is no other way.

The longer the time bomb ticks, the closer it comes to an explosion. Act fast, before it's too late.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Therapy: How Long?


How long should my therapy take?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Men in Therapy

It's clear to me that Robert started therapy because of "external pressure." He was having a severe separation crisis with his wife, Anna, who demanded counseling intervention. Anna disappeared from their home because she couldn't endure her husband's verbal and emotional abuses anymore.

During my joint session with him and his wife, Robert's reactivity got intensified by his acute anxiety and anger responses. He brought shame and hostility during our exchange, obviously projected unto my person as a therapist. Compounding these, Robert's propensity for quick solutions accelerated his relational dysfunction with his wife.

Therapists and counselors often encounter difficulties working with men. Generally, men and women enter therapy for the same kinds of reasons. The frequent difference between the genders lies in the degree of willingness, the stage of the problem, and who initiates the therapeutic intervention. Women are developmentally socialized to talk about and seek help for their problems. Men, on the other hand, can be so culturally and rigidly conditioned by society, family, workplace, and media to think, feel, and act as "men."

I hope that this insight about men will increase our awareness of gender conditioning as it relates to effective psychotherapy and intervention. Men are victims of gender role steriotyping and the myths and character disorders such steriotyping perpetuates. It's essential to use this awareness to enhance rather than diminish the ability of loved ones or helpers to help men change and heal.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Grief Work: A Neglected Process

Every human being experiences loss in various times of the life span. It's an inevitable and universal experience. Yet, ironically, despite its frequent or common occurrence, we know very little about healing from it.

Grieving in the different times of my life, what I know is, I'd always wanted to recover. I sought help from all available sources. I attended support groups. I read books, pamphlets, articles. I exercised and applied techniques to my self. I talked with a doctor, clergy, counselor, friends.

Still, after I'd done all these, I remained facing the reality that our society in general is ill-equipped to heal grievers.  The available information and support are either lacking or not sufficient. I don't want to paint a bleak picture because there are doctors and helpers who do extraordinary work to help people heal. Yet there is no accurate or comprehensive educational techniques for practical grief work despite presence of some books and seminars.

In my own practice, grief counseling and therapy is a constant challenge. I've always witnessed how often unresolved grief can accumulate pain over time in people's lives. Whether the grief was caused by death, divorce, or some type of loss, "incomplete grieving" does have a lifelong effect on a person's capacity for happiness and well-being.

Now what can be done about it?  Society does not educate us to deal with loss but rather to acquire and get attached to things. But I say that there are ways to expedite healing and recovery from whatever type of grief.  It's revolutionary, and does not "begin in man and end in man."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Choosing To Connect

Psychologists tell us that the most primal fear in all humans is the fear of abandonment. Some even say its a common cause of ultimate psychological wounding. That's not difficult to see.

When we came into the world, we were helpless babies. We were totally dependent on adults to feed us physically, emotionally. mentally, and relationally. What baby has not spent hours crying and fearing that no one will be around to respond!

Growing into adulthood, this ancient fear never leaves us. At either extreme of the relational spectrum, it can cause psychopathology or abnormal behavior. An extrovert and an introvert, a sociable peddler and a hostile hermit, may both be motivated by the same ultimate fear of abandonment. Whether we're cold, wet, hungry, or simply lonely, we need to know that someone will respond to us.

Thus a major step in personal healing and wholeness is learning to "choose to connect," especially with safe and supportive people. This is so much a necessary therapeutic step for those who've suffered an abandonment trauma wound from their earlier developmental years. How much we all need to know and feel that there are people who love and accept us just as we are and are committed to be with us.

Recovery takes place in a relationship, not in isolation. Disconnecting and isolating (so common a reaction among trauma victims) doom one to deeper psychological wounding. One can hardly heal and be whole again without a healthy relationship with at least one to three people who care enough to understand, support, and stay.  

If you're hurt or wounded, take steps to connect so you can heal. Whether with a therapist, friends, loved ones, or a community, it's important that you choose to connect your life redemptively with others. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Looking At Your Self

So often, hurting people tell me that a solution to their problems is change in the OP ("other person"). The demand boils down to saying, "He/she needs to change" or "Make him/her change - not me."

I absolutely believe that no human being is free from defects. So, finding ourselves disappointed with a fellow human being is simply inevitable. I recommend that we accept and embrace that reality.

Now, demanding the other person to change as a solution to your own pain?  I'm afraid about how flawed or inadequate that strategy can be overall.  It could be more an unconscious motivation for self than for the other person. Instead of facing the possible need to be the one who makes changes, the demand may actually be one's resistance to honest self-assessment.

Indeed, you should not set out to demand change from another person without your looking first in the mirror. Be aware of this need. You are going to run headlong into it anyway in your healing journey before things get better - individually and relationally.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Are You Habitually Angry?

Many people have habitual and uncontrollable anger. Their anger is selfish. It's an automatic response to things not going their way. It could involve rage, explosion of temper, shouting, verbal abuse, and physical violence.

Lito is easily enraged and quick to explode at his wife and children. In various situations, even with slight irritation, he'd unleash the earthquake of his temper and rock them with aftershocks. He hurt them a lot yet he feels powerless to take control his anger problem.

Instead of admitting the flaw, Lito dismissed his "rageaholic" nature as "just the way I am." Of course, it's not true. He can choose to see his condition as it really is, seek help, control and manage his rage or anger. If Lito becomes open to be taught, his life-damaging angry outbursts can be fixed.

I notice that, in most anger management programs, only surface problems are dealt with, leaving the root causes of the anger untouched. The goal of therapy and recovery needs to be the elimination of the toxic anger itself.  This is usually accomplished by "resolving the past." When one is habitually angry, it's very likely that one can trace the root of that anger to someone else. The person or issue at hand may not even be what one is angry about.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Building Warm Memories

To be honest, I'm kind of a late bloomer when it comes to learning healthy parenting. Beginning as a parent myself many years back, I'd to overcome my own "parent wounds" so I can better parent my own children.

Still, along the way, I made mistakes that I need to learn from. And I'm glad I've been able to do some makeups these recent years despite my self and my past mistakes. I praise God for the gift of days I spend with my children together and the opportunity to learn to be a "healed" better father to them.

Among other things, here is one big practical parenting lesson I realized along the way: a child's thinking is more emotional than cognitive. I learned the hard way that a child's memory is much more strongly affected by feelings than by facts. Being more cognitive than emotional myself, I somehow felt that I "lectured" and disciplined too much during my earlier parenting years.

So now, I do what I can to make time to build warm memories and be a friend to my children. It's a struggle at times for there are other variables outside of me influencing the mind and heart of my kids. But this time, I make intentional efforts to care for and nurture them emotionally by having "fun" taking walks, eating out, doing things together, watching movies, hanging around, going to church and places, buying stuffs etc.

Yes, our children do experience emotions about us parents each day. Feelings of love, joy, security. Or, feelings of pain, sadness, anger. And they will carry those feelings in their inner being for a lifetime. If you are a parent like me, what can you do to develop memories with your kids where emotions are warm and pleasant, when there is a sense of excitement, discovery, and fun?

We parents need those golden memories and moments to plant life lessons, warm feelings, a rich sense of God's presence and love into the hearts and lives of our children. Isn't that the best preventive mental health care ever?

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Queting Your Mind

After experiencing a loss or trauma, you can feel that your life is spinning out of control. You find your self complaining about the chaos. The pain drives you deep into negative internal dialogue, dredging up all your past hurts and wounds. You struggle to survive your day to day.

It's during these times that you need to begin learning and practicing to quiet your mind. Peace can exist in a quiet mind despite your outer circumstances. Meditation and prayer are tools for reclaiming your inner peace as you work through your psychological or emotional wounding.

Here is how you can do it. Just sit quietly and comfortably. Close your eyes. Begin by taking long, slow, deep breaths. Breathe consciously. Put all your focus and attention on the sound of your breath. Put your awareness on the inflow and outflow of your breathing. Imagine you fall into a still, quiet place, and let all your thoughts, all your fears, and all your worries fall completely away. Allow them to melt into the sea and into the hands of God. Prayer will raise your consciousness and heal your heart.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Delusion of Denial

Denial is self-made delusion. It causes one to focus only on what it wants to see as "protection" from the whole truth. Its a defense mechanism that puts blinders over the eyes by looking the other way, pointing a finger, or blaming others for one's problems. It shows up so often as rationalization and justification.

Awhile ago, I was counseling a woman whose husband is gay. Despite overwhelming objective evidences, her husband still denied his addiction to sex with men. When confronted by his wife, the gay husband simply burst into anger, recited the defects of his wife, and put all the blame on her.

Indeed, denial only deepens one's psychological and emotional woundedness. In the midst of addiction or turbulence, one is not looking through clear eyes. With its narrow vision, denial kills off all other realities because it's stuck in seeing the situation through distorted lens. As one writer put it, "Denial of the truth does not change the truth. It just changes your perception of it."

As long as you are in denial of the truth or "what really is," you'll remain incapacitated to see the entire or big picture. Denial cuts you off from the live beauty of the forest and leaves you in the presence of withering trees. It leaves you angry, resentful, and powerless over the circumstances of your life. To regain the big picture, you need to breathe and reflect deeply, and take the time to separate facts of your present situation from your fears.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gestalt Therapy, Anyone?

Gestalt Therapy, one of today's popular psychotherapy approaches, is founded by psychotherapist Dr. Fritz Perls. The following well-known Gestalt prayer written by Dr. Perls in the 1960s captures the spirit of this therapeutic approach:

"I do my thing and you do your thing,
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine,
You are you and I am I. If by chance, we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped."

I see a number of strengths in Gestalt Therapy that's helpful in personal healing. Some of these are its emphases on being real and authentic, confronting self-deception and layers of neuroses, taking responsibility for one's self and choices, intense emotional processing, and the need to experience truth in order to be set free. Its focus on the "here and now" can also be a good corrective to being stuck in the past.

However, from my own perspective, I also noted weaknesses in Dr. Perl's Gestalt Therapy.  For instance, Gestalt Therapy holds too positive a view of human nature with its assumption that humans are only inclined towards growth and self-actualization. It misses to consider the inherent darker, "shadow" side of human nature, which is fallen and capable of evil and dysfunction. Also, like other humanistic therapies, Gestalt Therapy does not deal with larger existential questions about death and the meaning to life - the "why" dilemma. It's largely situational, subjective or self-centered focus as foundation for one's life negates absolutes of right and wrong.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Steadfast

This morning, I've been reflecting on the word "steadfast." What does it mean?  Especially when you're faced by a darkened sky above your personal life ... when a storm is brewing and there's nothing you can do to flee from its threat?

Here's what I discovered. "Steadfast" is "camak" in original Hebrew. It means "to lean upon" or to take hold of something. It's resting your self upon or sustaining your self. Being steadfast is indeed such strong medicine during times of wounding or dark circumstances.

"Steadfast" describes you when you don't focus on the darkness or gloom of your life's difficulties. You remain firm even when you're being discouraged by your feelings. You tell your "catastrophizing" thoughts and feelings to "STOP!"  You can have confidence that no matter how traumatic your circumstances may be, you stand secure, knowing that God is greater than all your wounds and problems.

So, if you find your self wavering, discouraged, or falling down, back away from the chaos. Find a quiet place, be still, and refocus. Your peace comes from steadfastly trusting and focusing on God.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What's My Treatment Plan?

In my assessment, most problems or individual dysfunctions are a disease of "core pain," "lost selfhood," or "false self." Recovery needs to be complete, addressing the whole person - cognitive (the "head"), the emotional and experiential (the "heart" and "spiritual"), the physical (organic health), and personality (with learned and constitutional factors). 

To treat and heal the "psychological wounding," a process can be started requiring several action steps. These actions are closely related and generally occur in a circular fashion, with work in one area a link to another area.  The "Treatment Plan," which includes tools, vehicles, methods or techniques that help in the healing and recovery, include taking action on the following:

1.)   Complete physical examination (to rule out any medical causation)

*  Unless there is some major brain or organic damage, I don't recommend drug therapy or 
         taking any kind of synthetic drugs for psychotherapy/counseling. Have a right diagnosis
         to rule out any physical/medical causes of your psychological/emotional distress.

2.)   Abstinence, detachment, or detoxification

* ... from whatever person, place, thing, activity, behavior, chemical, or experience that 
            pollute, block, or distract the treatment/recovery plan

3.)   Individual counseling and psychotherapy

*  Regular and adequate attendance and workups, which may include psychological first aid, couple or extended family work, with a therapist/counselor.

*  Process is usually composed of three pillars:  diagnostics, treatment plan, relapse prevention. 

*  Psychotherapy is mostly internal work to finish "unfinished business" or unprocessed pain, which includes areas such as grieving, original pain work, working through the core issues,  doing "personality" work, completing developmental tasks, setting healthy boundaries,  among others. 


4.)   Group therapy or support group

* ... that is specific for type of wounding being treated, such as depression, dysfunctional family, affairs, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. and depending on person's needs

Group therapy or support group provides emotional and social support. Here, you can hear  others' stories, increase your awareness about what happened, and begin working a 12-step or healing-is-a-choice program.

5.)   Expanding circle of support

*  Regular contact and sharing with one or more trusted and safe friends etc.

*  Starting and cultivating new, healthy friendships, and choosing to connect to a safe community for volunteer opportunities or community involvement.

6.)   Inpatient or other intensive recovery experiences, such as workshops/seminars, weekend retreats etc.

7.)   Adequate self-care

*  "Food therapy" or healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements.

*  Taking up an exercise program, such as running or jogging, to boost brain power and the immune system.

8.)   Self-education on area of psychological/emotional wounding, such as depression, infidelity/ divorce wound recovery, anger management, wounder inner child, toxic parents etc.

9.)   Beginning and/or continuing, conscious contact in a relationship with a Higher Power.

As previously noted, these "treatment plan" steps or actions interact and merge with one another. They are not necessarily distinct or separate areas of the the healing and recovery process.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Character and Broken Vows

Nowadays, broken marriage vows have become epidemic with over half of marriages experiencing adultery or divorce. This accounts for increasing numbers of dyfunctional families and traumatized children in our midst in need of help. Broken vows never lead anything good for society.

 In a counseling session, a cheating wife rationalized around her affair by saying that she has a "right to be happy." She chose to cover up her sin by making excuses and blaming her husband instead of taking responsibility. Her selfishness and self-obsession resulted in a broken marriage with all the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family fallout that followed.

Breaking your marriage vow reveals the truth about your character. It exposes what stuff you're made of. It shows that you're not a person of integrity. Your word cannot be trusted.  While you don't see or realize it, your unhappiness is not coming from your spouse. It's coming from inside your self. It's a character issue. Without a strong commitment to personal integrity and character, you cannot be happy with your self or with anyone else.

The absence of character exposed by a broken marital vow explains why it's likely to be broken again. According to the Institute for American Values, second marriages end in a rate of 60-67% and third marriages at a whopping 70-73%. What can you expect from a person who does not honor a vow?  Marry a person who cheats on his or her spouse and you can expect or suspect to be cheated on.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Parent-Teen Battle

When Dino came with his Mom to see me, I wasn't sure if he was going to get sick, tremble, or shout. He was frozen, unmovable. He refused to speak and looked like Rambo while glaring at his Mom. His eyes flashed a lot of anger while his Mom was telling me their story..

The tears of his Mom laid bare her severely fractured relationship with her 17-year-old son. She recited a sad litany as if she's a victim of a plane crash. In her own words, her suicidal and raging son couldn't get his act together.

I know, it's the familiar "generation gap" between parents and teens raising their fists at each other from opposite sides. But, compared to older generations, the parent-teen gap seems different now. These days, it's no longer about differences in hairstyles, clothing, or musical tastes. I'm hearing today's teens wishing a variety of expectations and having more extended arguments with their folks. The wounds look unique. more colorful.

Here's a danger. Nowadays, most parents don't know their teens. One reason is, because they don't spend time together. There is no connection. So, to compensate for their empty home lives, teenagers look outside for validation, esteem, identity, support. That makes them easy targets for gangs, cults, drug dealers, addicts, and sexual predators. Just look at the headlines.

The good news is there is hope and help available.  Yes, the wounds can be healed when both teens and their parents choose to work through the issues that divide them. Parents and teens can break down walls, unlock the doors, and welcome each other back into one another's lives again.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Child Mental Health

Like adults, children can have mental health disorders. Studies show that at least 1 in 5 children has a psychological disorder while 1 in 10 has a severe emotional disturbance. Left untreated, this can lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide. Child mental health disorder is costly to the child, the family, and the rest of society.

Seven-year-old Chikki is troubled inside. Her mother is adulterous and has recently left home. The parental separation and broken family takes its toll on her. She begins to cry a lot, get angry, or over-react to things or people around her. She refuses to eat a lot of times. Daydreaming and unable to complete tasks, she quits school and begins to avoid class mates, playmates, and family. She loses interest in things previously enjoyed and there now appears unexplained changes in her sleeping and eating patterns.

All of these happening to Chikki are a signal of her need for help. They are warning signs. Though there may be physiological or environmental causes, Nikki's condition is mostly traceable to how she reacts emotionally inside her to the trauma of her mother's infidelity, abandonment, and eventual separation from her father. Like physical health, caring for the mental health of Nikki at this crucial stage is important because this will seriously affect development later on in her life.

If your child or someone you know have any of the warning signs exhibited by Chikki, it's highly advisable to seek professional help.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Man's Quest

Henry David Thoreau once declared, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

People look for what can fill their inner vacuum with everything. You name it, it's tried, except the Only Thing.

Materialism says ... possess things, please your self,
Education says ... acquire degrees, expand your self.
Pride says ... Be superior, promote your self.
Psychology says ... Be confident, fulfill your self.
Humanism says ... Be capable, trust your self.
Hedonism says ... Be sensuous, enjoy your self.
Communism says ... Be collective, secure your self.
Philanthropy says ... Be helpful, give your self.

And on and on goes the insatiable thirst and quest of man. All these above smell good. Yet they still leave us hungry, frustrated, and searching for what will truly satisfy us.

Psychotherapist/author Rollo May pondered the plight of lost, searching men and women:  "It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way."

Indeed, apart from the real Way, there is no going ... there is no living.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sexual Addiction As An Illness

Sexual addiction is an illness. It's solitary, dehumanizing, and satisfies only itself. Contrary to love, it's fleeting. It causes people to abuse their bodies. It distances us from our emotions, destroys good feelings about ourselves. It therefore causes people to be broken and alone.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, sex therapist and author of "Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction," provides an operational definition of sexual addiction:  "a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience." Contrary to real love, the sex addict obsesses over and depends on sex for comfort from inner pain. He or she uses it for nurturing, relief from stress etc.

Once, I heard a married man saying that he has sex with multiple women because "God is love." Indeed, the notion of sexual addiction can be confused like that!  It's also confused with what is positive and legitimately pleasurable in married love enjoyed by the "normal" population. As life unravels, the sex addict despairs, helplessly stucked in the cycle of shame, degradation, and danger. Like a broken car, the sex addict needs a mechanic! 

Nowadays, people need education and a clearer perspective about sexual addiction as an illness. Often this is obscured by media and by our reluctance to face sexual issues - personally, professionally, and publicly.  The illness is further masked by secrecy and shame that inherently characterizes it.

The world is full of helpless sexual addicts in need of help.


Related post:  "My Radio Interview on Sex"

The Abandoned Baby

Yesterday, an 8-year-old child, Gabrielle, was brought to me. When she was born, her biological father gave her away to a relative. From birth, her biological mother completely abandoned her and never appeared to her up to this day.

A number of weeks ago, when Gabrielle found out that her caretakers are not her real father and mother, she began to cry, give blank stares, and exhibit wild or violent behavior. Several days ago, Gabrielle lost interest to continue school. She's unable to talk anymore and her hands would stiffen or not move.

My heart is broken for Gabrielle.  At such a young age, she's going through a severe psychological and emotional trauma.  One of the deepest cuts to our human condition.  Abandoned babies learn to feel, "I must not be worthy to love, so my mother and father left me. I don't really matter."  They may mourn for long periods of time. Such "abandonment wound," if not properly and sufficiently treated, could result in a life-long sense of unworthiness, failure, and sadness.

At this initial stage of Gabrielle's trauma recovery through her caretakers and the therapy process, things may actually get worse first before they get better. I understand that in spite of best efforts of those around her, the beginnings can be beyond anyone to help her significantly. Her trauma recovery is really going to be one day, one moment, at a time over the long haul.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Psychotherapy For The Poor

Traditional, mainstream psychotherapy is largely "middle class" in nature and practice. It's basic worldview involves conceptions of mental health that promote middle class themes and values. Rationality. Scientific analysis. Work ethic. Control of emotions.  Strategic planning. Go-getting. Language expression. Success philosophy. Competition. Foresight. High social status.

A striking failure in modern-day psychotherapy is the absence of adequate treatment approaches and academic/professional trainings that are apparently useful to lower- and working-class patients. I believe a big part of the cause lies in that contemporary mental health prototype and the middle-class prototype have become operationally equivalent.

The other week, I was again the featured expert of GMA 7's newest TV mental health weekly program entitled "Out of Control." The TV crew brought me to a squatter community to shoot a brief therapy segment with a 60-year-old woman suffering from onychophagia (chronic nail biting). This was one of those times when I needed to adjust from my "middle classness" to fit a "lower-class" ethic.

Necessary therapeutic adjustments are important in "psychotherapy for the poor."  For example, my language as a "middle class" therapist may have considerable personally disorganizing effect upon the "lower-class" patient.  If careless, the "message" I'd set forth could be most unrealistic or prejudicial to the "lower-class" patient when conducted in a manner consistent with "middle-class" culture. I felt happy about the successful result of my recent "psychotherapy for the poor" episode at GMA 7 because it showed the appropriateness and adaptiveness that context-sensitive therapy can apply for the realities found in a lower-class environment.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Infidelity Treatment: First Step

When I saw Tonton, a British doing business in the Philippines, he was severely hurt and depressed. He was in much tears. He had caught his wife cheating again over the internet and seeing the OP (other person). Along the way, he had somehow able to acknowledge to himself that his wife remained unrepentant of her adultery and would not give up her "lover" to heal their marriage.

We do all have much in common, regardless of nationality, skin color, or status in life.  Our humanity. Same need, same longings, same wounds. In our session, Tonton wondered, "What now?  Should I stay or leave the marriage?" Predictable, expected  concerns. Tonton was confused. He was in a state of shock. It's not a surprise that he'd have intense feelings. They are normal. When he thought of a future without the one he loved so much, it didn't seem worth living to him.

The first step in Tonton's PERSONAL HEALING is SELF-CARE. He needs to stay alive! And at an early stage of the trauma, he would have to take emergency or immediate steps. He faces the challenge of starting and completing his personal grieving and therapy process. The process includes steps or stages as follows: shock, denial, bargaining, depression, anger, forgiveness, acceptance, hope, and joy. Of course, Tonton doesn't have to worry about the concluding steps of the whole process. He just needs to concentrate on where he is today.

The first step in Tonton's MARITAL HEALING is REPENTANCE on the part of his infidel wife. As he does his own part to get his healing, Tonton can only do so much and hope for the best response from his wife to choose to heal their marriage. Marital healing is two-way. It takes two to dance. In cases of infidelity, a foundational step is total abstinence from the OP, the "addictive agent," before the unresolved issues and pains of the marriage can be properly processed. Otherwise, the chances of marital healing is virtually non-existent or so slim to say the least with the ongoing influence of "poison" (OP) striking at the very core of the marriage.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Very Thin Wire

I remember an insightful little phrase from the pen of Alexander Whyte. It came to my attention this afternoon. The old writer wrote of our human tendency " ... to hang very heavy weights on very thin wires."

I imagine, for example, hanging the heavy weight of a large television set on a very thin wire. The wire definitely can't hold it. No chance. Unless there's some super-natural power to envelope the very thin wire!

In life, we do have some pretty heavy weights.  Heavy weights like our need for security, peace,  happiness, love.  Here's a common one:  hanging the very heavy weight of our happiness or security on the very thin wire of possessions. Materialistic to the core, society teaches us that life consists of the abundance of things we possess.  So we delude ourselves to believe that our internal distress will disappear if only we acquire the latest car model, that dream house by the lake, or expensive condo in the city.

Now, don't quote me out of context here. There is nothing wrong with owning stuff or having riches. You know that very well, don't you? But, when stuff or riches are pursued in hopes of acquiring deep peace, happiness or security as part of the package, no way man! All earthly stuff have "holes;" they disappear or can be lost, anytime, anywhere.  It's enjoyment is fleeting at best. Earthly possession is a very thin wire, unable to completely support our happiness, security, or inner peace.

Alexander Whyte is correct. We humans have a tendency to hang the very heavy weights of our life on very thin wires. We really do. Physical health, material possessions, health, human relationships, accomplishments etc are very thin wires when we assign ultimacy or absolute value to them. You can have it all - everything - in this world and it will still snap! Snap went the very thin wires, compared to the eternal heavy weights of deep peace, personal security, and lasting happiness.

Here's a test question. Look around your home, your workplace, or any part of your life. Ask your self, "Is there any thing I can't live without?" If it possesses you, it's a very thin wire!  Get rid of it and go to the One that will never snap. Not for your whole life time. Not for eternity.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Healing Is About Flying

Healing is about flying.

In order to to fly, you need to be light enough. That very much involves stripping off every weight that easily entangles your life. Life-damaging weights, such as bad habits, addiction, obsessions, compulsions, unprocessed internal pain, and so forth.

Everyone struggles, of course. No one is exempted. Life is full of challenges and pain. However, in the course of going through them, we may discover our selves adding in unnecessary weights to the mix as a way of coping. Or, finding relief. Why?

Last night, I was in a local Starbucks when a sexy young woman passed by me. Men around me were looking at her because of her seductive physical beauty. I had my first look, but a temptation was for me to have next looks that stare or entertain lust. Isn't that every man's battle since time immemorial?

Here's what I learned to do so as not to be entangled or develop a seed of addiction. I look at her and ask in my thoughts, "I want you to heal my wound, but you can't!"  Think about it. Instead of trying to medicate a possible inner "wound" by dehumanizing and looking at a woman as a "thing," I choose to look away and search into my self. Could I still have a "core wound" inside me that remains vulnerable to false medication or sources of relief?  What else may I do to gain true, complete, deep-level recovery?

I'm glad I can fly. But life is so daily. Healing and wholeness happens one day, one moment, at a time for victory over life-damaging "weights." Flying is consistently choosing to let go to reach the heavens.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Time Is In Your Hand

Another year 2013 is going to be over. And a new one 2014 to be started after a day's time.  I hope this beginning year will be a great one for all of us without any devastating fear or wounding.

To me, time continues to be an intriguing reality. Slippery, can be so elusive. I don't pause and notice, there goes a day ... a week ... a month ... a year!  Some segments of time they seem to drag on or pass so quickly. Time is stubborn. It doesn't cooperate!

 Another thing:  Time can be a great healer. But, only if you experience "redemptive time," not simply the passing of time. Don't you catch how slowly deep emotional wounds or bad habits are healed, even though you desire to heal and be free instantly? You really can't expect to have "redemptive time" that heals unless you take the right actions to go with it. Makes good sense, right?  So,  don't just wish well, take right steps! Desperation becomes restoration one day at a time when you are in purposeful movement.

Want a timeless suggestion?  Cement these 12 words from a psalmist into your brain:  "I say 'Thou art my God.' My times are in Thy hand" (Psalm 37).  Truly, God alone is the Master of time ... not us.  He is the only One who changes the times and the seasons. If you're downright healthy about it, deep inside, you can even add on a prayer like: "Lord, my time is not mine. It's yours. Whatever happens to me in the coming new year and beyond, I trust You completely."

Your time is in His hand. Trust Him with it today, tomorrow, and however long or short number of new years it takes for you.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Natures

The other day, I had another television location shooting with GMA 7 for the beginning episode of Out of Control this coming new year 2014. The crew brought me to another "out of control" in the city - a 60-year-old woman who suffers from chronic nail biting (onychophagia).

Lola Telia (not her real name) has been biting the nails of her hands and feet for around 50 years already. When I met her on camera, she smiled and showed me the severely distorting marks left by her nail biting on her hands and feet. When asked about it, Lola Telia responded, "I know it's not something I should do, but I can't control my self."

Here, an awareness of the reality of our "two natures" could help us understand Lola Telia's predicament as well as ours and others. It's important to understand that both "good" and "bad" are co-existing and inherent within each of us. It's human nature in its fleshly essence. As long as we live, these "two natures" inside of us will always be in conflict with each other. 

So, in therapy and personal recovery, the real battle is not in people or life's circumstances but in how we respond to them from within ourselves. That's exactly where our "two natures," our "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as author Robert Stevenson put it, come into the picture.  In order to heal and be whole, one must take sides with the "good" nature against the principle of dysfunction or "evil" which belongs to the unhealthy "bad" nature. 

Now each one of us is called to make this real in personal life and experience. Psychologist and therapist Dr. Carl Jung calls it "shadow" work. If we totally depend on our self-will (often "disabled" by trauma or unresolved issues) to defeat this "bad" shadow when it asserts itself and puts us in bondage, we won't survive. This is a proven limitation of purely medical, secular, or humanistic psychiatry or psychology which "begins in man and ends in man" in treating psychological and emotional disorders. The key to real, complete psychological and emotional healing is simply beyond these fields or "establishments." 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Healing Christmas with Dad and Mom

This 2013, I've a healing, happy Christmas.

After years of distance and misunderstanding, 3 kids, 3 countries, 14 years in the pastorate, books written and TV appearances, a doctorate degree, miles of missionary journey, multiple changed lives in my psych clinical work, countless mistakes, and learning a thousand smiles, I'm reunited again with my 79-year-old Dad and 78-year-old Mom in the Ortigas family condo this Christmas time.

My Dad and I have hours of sharing. Mostly, with tears and reminisces from him! Before, hurt as I was for years, I can't see him. I was focused on me. Now, by God's grace, I'm able to "defocus," see him better and more completely - his wounds, his dreams, his longings, his hopes. I could go on and on, but a point is that I feel the miracle of God's love and forgiveness in my life that now I can embrace my Dad, accept and love him as he is.  Chasing down the shadow, I found my Dad -- and my self.

I say the same with my Mom. One place where I frequently ran across hidden issues in my much younger years was my desperate tries to avoid being under her control. She came from a poor home and deprived background, which clues me to some of her powerful drives. So, when I'm already older, as soon as I realized I still get stuck, it's not about her but about me. This makes room for me to have a better relationship with my Mom. And have all sweet smiles with her!
Healing and freedom is being able to choose whoever and whatever you want to be at any moment of your life.  I had hidden wounds from my own parents for so many years. And suddenly, here they were inside me, just as clear as day. The shock of discovering this leaves me in tears. Yet, they're healing tears, because I choose to love, forgive, and be my own hero -- healed, whole, free.

Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Ways A Therapist Is Worst For You!

Choosing a psychotherapist or counselor is a first step in seeking help. Not all psychotherapists are good therapists. To heal from your emotional or psychological wounds, you need to find and work with the right one for you if your situation calls for structured intervention.

Here's my take. Let me jot down some random notes here as I take my cup of coffee with my laptop -- 7 ways to know that a therapist is worst for you!

*  Only has a diploma or license, but does not actually fully understand the intricacies of and/or incompetent to conduct whole-person, balanced therapy and counseling;

*  Talks to you in 15 minutes and then prescribes a brain drug for your non-organic emotional wounds;

*  A "yes" person who agrees with everything you say ... will not stretch, challenge, or make you think well about your reality ... tries to make you "happy" by avoiding touchy, unpleasant, or divisive issues that could make you grow;

*  Someone who admires or idolizes you and feels intimidated by you ... would get afraid to hold you sufficiently accountable;

*  Has a hidden agenda not in line with your needs and goals;

*  Interested only in convenience or money, and fears your own growth/recovery will make your relationship change;

*  A mere armchair theoretician or academic (dependent on textbooks) without meaningful real-life experience and maturity ... not enough balance and integrity in personality that walks the talk. 

There it is. But there are more, of course. I'd like to safely assure you that the above are 100% true!  They stand on their own merit. Should you choose to deny any of them, you compromise your personal healing journey. You are the only one who can decide what is of worth or valuable to you.

P.S.  There's another WORST one:  "Knows and conducts therapy that only 'begins in man and ends in man.' " This one, you need time to ponder on.