Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Truth About Smartphone Addiction


Nomophobia.

I wonder if you've heard of it. According to APA or American Psychological Association, it's a term that refers to "fear of not being with one's cellphone."

One popular pastor playfully calls it "cellphonitis" in a sermon. A type of digital dependency.

It's not hard to witness this phenomenon around. People have intimate relationships with their phones. They sleep with them, eat with them, and carry them in their pockets.

According to a New York Times report, both teens and adults check their smartphones 150 times per day. That's about every 6 minutes! And ... send an average of 110 texts per day.

It's a growing modern-day cyber-addiction. It strikes all ages - children, youth, adults, and even the aged.

The other day, a young artist told me in-session:

"Doc, I want to be productive and do more paintings. Also, talk to friends. But I find myself wasting time checking on my FB and my other social media for long hours. I can't understand my self."

In one case study, a user says, "I loved cell phone so much that my studies, work, and even personal relationships started to suffer and my phone became a way for me to avoid people in the real world." .

Is the smartphone to blame here? Do Facebook or other social media and internet resources injurious to our mental health?

The truth is, technology makes life better for us than before.

We can't blame Apple for inventing the useful iPhone. Nor can we point a finger to Google or Facebook etc for expanding our knowledge and social outreach.

So, it's not really the smartphone, tablet, or laptop in your hand or bag. The addiction comes from somewhere else.

It's found from within the person. The mind of the user has an excessive need for micro-feedback about himself or herself.

I notice this a lot when I'm in a coffee shop. People constantly looking at their smartphones, flipping through social media posts or messages. They get excited when they see likes or comments!

As writer John Brandon observes,

"It's not the gadget itself, it's the micro-reward we crave ... We're addicted to seeing digital rewards ... Micro-feedback taps into our desire to be noticed, to be credited, to experience recognition ... We're looking for more feedback on our phones because we're certainly not getting feedback in person."

We all need to strike a balance. Have discipline, periodic digital fasts. Get real in life.

Our devices are useful and helpful, especially in productivity or work settings. It's our mental addiction to digital micro-rewards that's causing the problems.

Monday, June 18, 2018

From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing

People-pleasing is a type of addiction. A person uses it in the same way other people use drugs, alcohol, smoking, gaming, work, or shopping.

You see, when you go through life as a people-pleaser, you're not living life in your own terms. You've chosen to hide your true self beneath the surface. By being nice and drama-free.

Rebecca is a severe people-pleaser. A real pushover. Even when people are already being rude to and manipulating her at work, she remains agreeable. Condoning. A sort of idolatry.

She thought it's "cool." To please and put other people's needs first. But instead of being appreciated, she finds herself being treated as a doormat. She's confused and depressed.

Where lies the reason behind one's addiction to people-pleasing?

Often, it lies behind a person's need to avoid being disliked, invalidated, or criticized. Any sign of discomfort of others' disapproval can prompt a person to please.

Psychologists discover "childhood traumas" as a common factor that developed people-pleasing addiction. It's linked to issues of parent-pleasing to avoid disapproval and abandonment.

Psychologist Dr. Leon Selzer, in his Psychology Today article, "From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing," writes:

"As children, people-pleasers felt loved only when they're conforming to the needs and desires of their parents ... when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support."

Thus, a child being dependent on the parents' acceptance, he or she may become fearful of its being withdrawn from him or her. This is where the choice of parent-pleasing comes in.

According to Dr. Selzer, not to do parent-pleasing can risk parental alienation and produce feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.

He observes that the child may feel "it less hazardous to abandon the self than to run the risk of being abandoned by their parents" and "over time, this choice between self-abandonment and parental abandonment came increasingly imperative."

From parent-pleasing to people-pleasing. Do you think the link makes sense?


Friday, June 15, 2018

After Successful Therapy

What happens to a person after he or she completes a successful therapy process? 


Change.

Among other things, a mindshift. From unreality to reality. From dysfunctional to functional. From unhealthy to healthy.

But here's a silent consequence of getting well. It can put every relationship in jeopardy of a major life and mind shift.

Terrence, for example, came out of years of alcoholism and sexual addiction. His two years of intensive sessions was part of the key to his sobriety of 10 consecutive years after he ended Therapy work. 

He did become a new man. Terrence was a completely different person than he was before he entered therapy.

But, as it turned out after his successful therapy, Terrence has noticed that things between him and his wife and former friends have become somewhat more distant.

He could no longer join his wife and friends in their drinking sprees. He found that he has become unable to adapt himself to their usual small talks, evasions, and shallow relationships they once had.

As noted author and psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kottler put it, one successfully "therapeutized" 
is presented with the challenge to "straddle both worlds, learning to become patient and accepting of relationships ..."

Terrence realizes this need for him to be more understanding. Even joining his wife and friends for fun - to a certain extent. He accepts and understands that they're products of culture and Family ways.

But at the same time, Terrence yearns to go deeper. Much deeper. To enjoy the kind of wholeness, awareness, and intimate experiences he received in therapy extended to those he loves the most.

This is fair guideline or warning for those getting better and whole in therapy. If you don't bring your family, spouse, and friends on board, you will likely leave them behind.

It's like what the Apostle Paul says of Christians, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor 5:17).

Think larger as you heal.

Thoughts on Self Esteem and Intimacy

I wondered how Martha managed to find a fiancée if she evidenced such low self esteem and recurring depressive episodes. She's even suicidal.

In-session, Martha's self esteem was manifested always to an extreme to be based on what she thinks others think of her.

Constantly, she felt uncertain, helpless, and frightened on the inside. She disguised her low self esteem by efforts to impress others.

Despite her fears, Martha risked a romantic relationship. Eventually, she became "in love" and entered a "survival pact" with her boyfriend.

The trouble was, when she chose a mate, that Martha did not communicate her fears to her partner. She feared that her partner would not love her if she knew about her feelings of worthlessness.


Martha's partner saw her as confident and strong. Yet she expressed misery about it. She privately expected and felt she must be what he thought about her.

In effect, Martha had actually put the other person in charge of her self esteem.

Therapist and author Virginia Satir writes,

"I have talked about choosing rather than acting from compulsion. When you feel that you have to live according to someone else's direction or live so that you never disappoint or hurt anybody, then your life is a continual assessment of whether or not you please other people."

In the context of intimate relationships, Satir further explains, if one has or both partners have low self esteem, each behaves as if he/she were saying ...

"I am nothing. I will live for you."

"I am nothing. So please live for me."

With this unprocessed, will a relationship survive? Is it realistic? Can it be functional?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Lifespan of a Fact

It's a curious phenomenon.

Our government requires cigarette companies to put health warnings around their packages.

Not just in print form. But with graphic images or photos of cancer etc caused by smoking.

Once, I had a group session with men who were all smokers.

They acknowledged the medical effects of smoking on their health. Some had actually been hospitalized already.

But during breaks in our sessions, they'd still smoke together outside the hall where we were.

Carrying their cigarette packs with ominous warning pictures, they knew how smoking can shorten life, even lead to death.

But the fact didn't seem to inspire them enough. To be able to stop.

The fact has too short a life span in their brains to alter destructive patterns.

Likewise, the fact that regular exercise or healthy foods prevent disease and all kinds of aging don't seem to be enough as well.

People just know the fact but don't heed.

So it is in the mental health field. Nowadays, many die from untreated, severe mental illnesses.

Even with the best knowledge and interventions, many still drown in their despair.

What could be clearer?

Something is patently and privately irrational about the lifespan of facts in so many people's brains.

I, like them, must struggle too with this problem of being human.

Dr. Sugmund Freud calls it "repetition compulsion."

Its maladaptive behavior that repeats itself. It's origins can be traumatic or non-traumatic.

It's one of the primary reasons people seek Psychotherapy.

Being Mindful Rather Than Mindless

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in his book "FLOW," describes mindfulness as an "optimal experience" of a moment or connection.

According to him, during such experiences, "concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant or to worry about problems."

Now that sounds kind of like being in love, doesn't it? I remember when I first fell in love, my focus on her was really mindful! Full, undivided attention.

Accomplishing the same kind of mindful focus and connection is possible in marriage, parenting, friendship, and other relationships as well.

It's not hard to see a common underlying deficit when we experience breakdowns - individually and relationally. We've missed being sufficiently mindful rather than mindless about us or others.

A couple I had as a client in session, Bobby and Teresa, is an example.

All day long in his life as a top notch lawyer, Bobby is objective, intellectual, and emotionally distanced. His profession rewards him for these skills.

I once heard his wife Teresa asking how he thinks their marriage is doing. And he responded with a long-winded, factual, objective evaluation.

Trouble was, Bobby misread Teresa's question.

It was a bid on Teresa's part to connect with her husband on a deep, meaningful feeling level.

She wanted affection, care, and gentle support - not a legal case presentation or defense.

Consequently, Teresa burst into much tears. "I can't understand and please her," Bobby remarked.

Bobby's problem was not incompetence or inaccuracy. He appeared quite skillful in assessing facts or even reactions surrounding their marriage.

His problem was that he got so stuck in the role of professional, objective expert that he was mindless of his wife's bids for emotional intimacy.

What's the antidote to such personal and marital wounding? Simply put, it has to do with being mindful rather than mindless.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Suicide and Soul Pain

Recently, two well-loved celebrities committed suicide. The world is stunned and sad.

Kate Spade, Hollywood's 55-year-old fashion icon, hanged herself in her Park Avenue apartment. Just  a few days apart, 61-year-old traveling TV chef Anthony Bourdain took his life in a hotel in France.

The tragic news demonstrates to us that suicide can afflict any one, including the rich and famous.

In my practice, suicidal individuals abound. Most of the time they feel confused about how to make sense of or understand what they're going through.

One time, a popular company CEO was talking with me and his wife about his planned suicide. He said that what he's feeling had become too painful to endure. He's losing hope.

Why this?

Harold Kushner explained that "life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning."

King Solomon in Ecclesiastes wrote, "All the labors of a man's hand are for his mouth, but his soul goes unsatisfied."

Soul pain.

It's the master key to suicide prevention. You address this root cause, you save the person.

"People who are suicidal don't want to die; they just want the pain to stop," says writer Bria Barrows from a Psych Central article.

Focusing on worldly pursuits alone produces soul pain. It leaves us feeling empty. No meaning in our lives.

We can all experience this, at different thresholds. It's built into our human nature.

So when soul pain gets too unbearable over time, a person may snap. And he or she becomes a high risk for suicide and self-destruction.

Soul pain is real. Even more real than what is visible.

We all need to be aware of it in the whole of our lives. Do something about it. Seek help. Before it gets too late.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Family Therapy: The First Step to Heal

She doesn't know why she's been severely depressed and anxious much of the time. Lita rarely socialize or get out of the house.

Lita experiences constant social anxiety when with people. In her mind, she worries that other people are silently putting her down or making fun of her.

As a result, her family hurts. The father, mother, and siblings came to me with sobs of sadness and pain about Lita's isolation from them and others.

In the sessions, Lita recounted her family experience since childhood. She felt caught in the middle of her parents' constant quarrels.

All that time during fights, both her father and mother vied for her support. She felt guilty for everyone's feelings, including those of her siblings.

Virginia Satir, noted family therapist and writer, believes that a critical first step to the healing process is full or 100% awareness.

In her book, "Helping Families to Change," she asserts the following goal for hurting families:

" ... to see freely and comment openly on what you see, to be able to hear freely and comment what you hear, and to be able to touch freely and be able to comment openly on that experience - these comprise the restorative task."

So, to heal your self and your family, here's one master key: Stop pretending!

Based on Satir's formula, there are skills or habits that need to be developed for total or 100% focus and awareness to avoid pretending.

3 things.

• seeing, not just looking
• hearing, not just listening
• sensing your touch

That's what happens in my sessions in the initial phase. Progressively focus on these essential tasks.

Becoming aware - coming to your senses - is the first step to set you and your family free!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Is Slavery and Oppression Your Home?

Therapy is freedom work. It affirms and protects everyone's God-given right to be free.

Yet I found that a lot of individuals, couples, families, and even cultures still choose to remain oppressed. Even when they realize they need to be free.

Slavery and oppression has become their home.

"I've a right to do whatever I want to do with her, she's my wife," said Ric in a marital session with his wife, Donna, of 20 years.

All throughout their marriage, Donna endured her husband's physical beatings and verbal abuses. Sexually, she's often overpowered and forced.

For such a long time, she never knew how or had the courage to set her self free. She made her husband's slavery and oppression of her her home.

Slavery and oppression are of various kinds. This case is domestic/marital.

Other kinds are: political, economic, psychological or emotional, addiction, racial, parental, religious,   corporate, informational, injustice to the poor, among others.

I find it appalling to see how much an oppressor, dictator, or slavemaster is able to control and dominate a victim's life. He abuses and suppresses the victim down.

And the victim just submits and thinks it's the way it is to be. Until the he or she feels at home to remain an oppressed slave.

I'm reminded of this man enslaved by drugs and vices. "I can't help it!," he claimed. When he lost everything, hit bottom, he finally chose to find ways to rehabilitate.

No oppressor wants a slave to be free. The slave has to awaken and fight to be free.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."


Friday, June 01, 2018

Voices in Our Head

I've worked with people who said they hear voices in their head.

Once, I counseled a young woman who insisted that there were snakes and coakroaches beneath her bed at nights.

She claimed that voices in her head would constantly tell her that. She felt fearful and miserable every time she goes to sleep.

What was the underlying cause of these voices this young woman would say she hears?

"Voices in the head" is a description of a symptom, among others. It is not a cause.

Virginia-based psychologist Kirk Brown witnessed the processes of attention and emotion in the brain using EEG.

He observed that thought and feeling unfold millisecond by millisecond. At that speed, the brain appraises the stimulus, rendering a quick judgment, and setting off an emotional response.

Viewing "voices in the head" through this lens can help explain why one experiences the sudden mental shift. And he or she could not understand where it comes from.

The experience is unconscious. Outside awareness. And one surrenders to it instantly before he or she perceives it ... partly as a result of brain processing speed.

The cause why this happens is a known common mechanism underlying many mental illnesses - a "stimulus," such as person, place, sensation, memory, thought etc - often from the past.

When that "stimulus" dominates the mind, it thrusts all else. It uncontrollably occupies the center of consciousness. It shifts or designs perception of reality, whether detrimental or beneficial.

What fascinates me is how a strong "stimulus" can override both reason and will. Even altering reality. Controlling our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors ... without our permission.

I think we are all biologically vulnerable to "stimulus" in our minds. Just at different thresholds.

We all need to find meaning and wholeness through the flux of "stimulus" that lodged into our heads.

The way we attend to the "stimulus," which can change everything else, holds the key to significant recovery in times of distress.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Self-Doubt and Impostor Syndrome

"I'm a fraud! After being a CEO of this food company and earning millions, I don't think it's my talent. I'm just lucky. I didn't do it," said Paul during one of our teary-eyed sessions.

Like most of us, Paul suffered from some painful aspects of self-doubt. He feared being found out. Psychologists call it the "Impostor Syndrome."

The "impostor syndrome" is a psychological state that reflects a belief that one is an inadequate and incompetent failure. Such is despite obvious evidences of success or competency.

I'm comforted by this. For I too, like everyone else, feel waves of self-doubt on a regular basis. It comes through if I'm about to write a new book or blog post, meet a new client, or make a TV appearance.

It gets particularly bad when I procrastinate. It gets especially bad when I start thinking of comparing myself with other doctors and writers.


It seems inevitable that at certain points of our life's journey, self-doubt will come along uninvited. For a ride. To our discomfort.

A solution? Welcome it! Understand it.

Writer Joanna Penn once observed, "In fact, if you don't feel any doubt, there's probably something wrong!"

When you feel that creeping "impostor syndrome," acknowledge it. Don't resist. Embrace the self-doubt as part of your growth process. Feel your feelings ... then continue moving forward.

If you're suffering badly from this and unable to improve, you possibly need to see a psychotherapist. Although friends can listen, there is usually a short shelf life for this kind of confession.

So, take deep breaths. And make sure you're getting back to real life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mental Health Is An Inside Job

Mental health is the absence of mental illness. It's more than "normal" or "natural."

Mental health comes from purpose, discipline, habits.

If you have the following qualities, you're most likely a mentally healthy person:

• stable personality with no awkward unexplained moods

• self controlled, good nerves

• relaxes easily, sleeps well

• good self esteem: self assured, modest, guards self respect

• independent, personally responsible

• admits mistakes and imperfections

• moderate in all things

• communicates easily and respectfully

• lives in present moment

• takes good care of physical body

• able to have fun and laughter

• offers encouragement and appreciation

• unselfish, giving, sharing

• courteous, respectful language

• lives with faith and a definite purpose in life

• high tolerance for chaos, confusion, disorder when unavoidable

Take note: mental health is an inside job. You don't get it from anything external!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Secret Power

Many years ago, Harvard psychologist Dr. Gordon Allport pointed out a secret power. It seems applicable to whatever stage of life we're in.

Dr. Allport said that the striving for a goal beyond one's reach is thought by numerous psychologists to be the greatest power to unify the diverse elements in a personality.


As an adolesent, the overriding goal of playing world championship chess against the Russians affected every part of Bobby Fischer's life. 

It established his priorities. What he did each day. Where he went. How much he slept. How he viewed the world and life in general.

Bobby came from a broken family. Abandoned by his father. Raised by a single mom. As it turned out, the goal of being a great American chess champion was his "beyond reach."

His whole life was ordered by His desire to be a world chess champion. This single dominant goal unified his life during a period which could had been very fragmented.

I'm reminded of Brandon, who's a serial womanizer and bar owner. In our therapy work, he'd push to save his family and want to indulge in his addictions. He felt split and torn.

Then, one day, he came to know Christ. He made a total commitment of his life to Him. That changed everything about him and how he lived his life from thereon.

Imperfect though he was, Brandon's energies and abilities gradually became more focused and working together. 

He now have a point of reference to unify everything about his life. His self. His family. His relationships. His business. Old values and experiences are seen by Brandon as Christ sees them.

"The staking of an overall goal compels the unity of the personality in that it draws the stream of all spiritual activity into its definite direction," as psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler put it.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Really Choosing What You Say You Choose

Lots of people say they choose what they want in life. Yet in reality, they're not choosing what they say they're choosing for their lives.

Why? What's the matter?

Mary and William became restless after hearing an infidelity treatment assessment and prescription from their therapist.

The life recovery plan entailed focused work and taking responsibility for their individual and relationship recovery.

Both of them knew what they wanted: to save their wounded, dying marriage. But at a point of really choosing what they choose, a problem arose.

For some reason, they were trying to avoid getting well - the very thing they say they're choosing for their marriage and family.

Both felt uneasy with strong urges to "escape" what's difficult.

At this point, I saw what the problem is. Most avoid things they really want to have (not choosing what they choose), unconsciously avoiding painful and uncomfortable situations.

Dr. Rollo May, one of the world's noted psychotherapists, once wrote:

"People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of availability of energy to transform their characters. Suffering is nature's way of indicating a mistaken attitude or way of behavior, and ... to the non-egocentric person every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth."

Heraclitus said, "Where there is no strife, there is decay: the mixture which is not shaken decomposes."

Scripture affirms what they say.  "... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which had been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

Sufferings and difficulties are doorways. To wholeness. Character. First-hand knowledge about life. Healing then is to quit trying to avoid the challenge of hard tasks.

There lies what's profoundly positive, meaningful, and joyful in our lives ... and truly choosing what we say we choose.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Second Wind After 50

Age moves. It cannot stop. Each age, we're called to adapt. Otherwise, we fall or get stuck.

Archeology says, during Stone Age days, 25 was a ripe age. That's too soon, isn't it? Interesting, just a little over a century ago, 50 is already considered elderly. It's a different number nowadays.

I'm in my "second wind" these days being in my 50s. I just feel different. A radical departure to an old script in which it's assumed everything goes downward for those advancing in age.

Traditional model of retirement does not apply to me. I seem to be hitting my greatest strides only this later portion of life. For I continue to do visible, productive, and relevant work.

I constantly ask my self as a psychotherapist, "Am I effectively capitalizing my life experiences, knowledge and wisdom, in helping others?"

This perhaps may sound arrogant to you. But the clients - individuals, couples, and families - I've so far helped appreciated the wisdom and lived experiences I shared with them.

They expressed how much they value that they know their therapist is real.

Now, this is not to brag or I love talking about myself. I just want to share with you my own journey of finding a special discovery that could be helpful to you as age advances.

Longevity scholar Laura Carlstensen believes that humans catch the "second wind" once they hit 50 in which ...

"the first 50 years could be spent learning and shaping ourselves into the kind of people who can spend our next 50 years giving back to our community"

The "second wind" is reinventing one's self. A time to decide how to make a difference with your limited time, given your strengths, resources, and natural limits.

It's never too late or you're never too old to live your best, meaningful life ever.

As C.S. Lewis put it, "You're never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream."

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Can Medical Care Save a Drug Addict?

David Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy, died of drug addiction. He died of cocaine in his system as well as medically prescribed antidepressants and tranquilizers.

In David's case, the best medical care (besides his family's wealth) available couldn't save him from his addiction. Despite having been under many treatment programs, he failed to stay in one place and reform enough.

This is horrible. Tragic. Is medical treatment and brain drugs the cure for drug addiction? We all may ask.

In the Philippines nowadays, we see a "futile" drug war. My opinion is, both the government and the medical establishment make the same basic error.

Both have a wrong focus -- they focus on the drug rather than the addict's life fabric.

Drugs scare, yes. But one gets addicted to it not because of the drugs' chemical components. The addiction is a product of the addict's life circumstances and expectations.

In a front page of an international newspaper, drug rehab experts asserted that crack addiction can be treated successfully.

But, "the addict must be given a place in family and social structures where they may never have been before."

In my therapy sessions treating persons addicted to drugs, there are also the factors of values and goals. Addicts are often characterized by impulsivity, alienation, and mental disorder.

And many of the roots I found were mostly from ancient family and social system patterns. They predate the addict's adolescence and initiation to drug use.

This is where life-process psychotherapy diverges dramatically from mainstream medical model and drug rehab programs.

Instead of only focusing on surface issues, such as drug detox, life-process Psychotherapy gets to the deep-level inner roots and wounds of the addict. That's where permanent healing lies.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Anxiety and Verbal Abuse

I feel for Troy, 42. In the midst of traffic or cramped places, he'd suddenly get too anxious. Often, his anxiety leads to uncontrollable panic attacks.

Heart palpitation. Severe perspiring. Overthinking. Confusion. A lot of disorientation. Troy has never understood or traced the roots of his recurring anxiety panic attacks.

In the course of therapy, he told his story. Since childhood, he has been exposed to verbal abuse that resulted in a lot of problems.

Daily at home, while he was still a little boy onwards, Troy was constantly yelled at. Name-called. Insulted. Disrespected. Unappreciated. Cursed and bullied.

Now a husband and father, he found the effects of his childhood wound influencing his adult life. They took the form of personal anxiety panic attacks, extending to his relationships and work.

The worst form of abuse is verbal. Verbal abuse is the same as emotional abuse. When someone goes through it over time, he may develop a mental illness. And anxiety disorder is the most common.

According to studies and evidences from neuroscience, verbal abuse has an impact on both hemispheres of the brain. It harms a person's self esteem, moods, and ability to make decisions.

Friend, be mindful of verbal abuse. If you're a victim yourself or you have a loved one manifesting strange behavior, go seek help before things go worse.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

How Jerks Think

Jerks are known fools. Contemptibly obnoxious persons. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines them as "a stupid person, a person not well liked or who treats others badly."

How do jerks think?

Jonathan is a certified jerk. Even with the slightest provocation, he'll turn a minute or incomplete info into a basis to attack you. Verbally. Emotionally. Physically.

For over a year now, Jonathan has been verbally and emotionally abusing his two teenage children and their mother.

He abandoned his children since their childhood. Only to reappear last year in the guise of offering material support onwards.

Jonathan's true state of mind thereafter is evidenced by his constant control and manipulation. He interprets interpersonal signals consistent with how he sees himself.

For example, when his children missed or forgot calling him, he assumed outright that they're disparaging him. His expectations of them are excessively negative and unrealistic.

He also bad-mouths and blames their mother to no end, reading unverified threatening meaning into remarks or events. His lack of remorse and amend over past sins is so obvious.

Jerks are often deeply shamed-based. Their perceptual focus is always on the negative. All information they receive have symbolic meanings about their personal identity.

Psychologists/authors Dr. James Harper and Dr. Margaret Hoopes said that shame-based individuals guard against others' discovering their shame. Much of it shapes the way they think.

Several cognitive patterns Drs. Harper and Hoopes describe as characteristic of shame-based jerks include:

• belief that "something is wrong with me" (impostor syndrome)
• an inappropriate matching of intensity of emotion with events
• label others negatively as if they're the real thing
• distort incoming information in the perceptual process so that it fits with their world
• intention of others as well as themselves become very distorted
• overgeneralize and magnify
• poor reality testing
• frequent blaming of others and denying of one's personal responsibility
• attributing ill will or motive to others without proper reason
• mind reading to the detriment of others and themselves
• believe even the most benign acts of others are directed against them to highlight their defects

Needless to say, jerks need a lot of help. But mostly, they fight it a lot.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Gemeinschaftsgefuh

"Gemeinschaftsgefuh."

That's German. Like me, you may have a hard time saying or pronouncing it. The word means "community feeling."

According to noted psychoanalyst Dr. Alfred Adler, that feeling is one of the marks of a well-lived life. It signifies the value of social interest in giving meaning and purpose to one's life.

Such may be in the form of varied kinds. Such as: grandparenting, volunteering, philanthropy, ministering, health coaching, devoting one's resources to some social or political cause.

Psychological studies showed that people who are engaged in some form of helping others are far more healthy and satisfied with their lives.

Yesterday, in the mall, a man greeted and tapped me on the back. He was a former patient, who's with his smiling wife. For a year, they underwent personal and marital therapy with me.

It's 5 years ago. Today, they're living a healed, more balanced and happy life as a couple. Gone were their dark days of experiencing infidelity, bankruptcy, and abuses in their marriage.

The man said, "Doc, let's have a selfie photo together!" I obliged, of course.

"We owe a lot to you. Count me and my wife in as one of those who went through a successful therapy and life change with you!", he joyfully remarked.


"Gemeinschaftsgefuh."

That's the feeling I felt about what happened to this couple. And each and every time I'm able to have an opportunity to make a difference in other people's lives. Simply priceless!

Most days, I begin with writing tasks, followed by seeing patients in my sessions.

I would then hold court in one of the many coffee shops or hotels around - sharing stories, jokes, Scriptures, deep talks about topics such as life's meaning.

In all of those, my social interest is ever-present. A desire to contribute in whatever way I can to help others - psychologically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and even physically as well.

Life is beyond self. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and have lived well."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Need for Psychological First Aid

Do you know Red Cross? Most likely. It's known globally to come by first administering physical First Aid to the wounded and traumatized on the spot.

Psychological First Aid resembles Red Cross Physical First Aid. Both is for emergency and prevention. Both teach on-the-spot procedures to avoid much suffering, even death.


When a person got bitten by a snake, for instance, instant Aid must be provided. It's impossible to contact a doctor right away.

To prevent unnecessary emotional trauma leading to suicide, loved ones or friends need to know how to do basic psychological First Aid on the spot.

Then, you bring the person to a doctor or hospital for proper treatment.

The need for widespread training in on-the-scene Psychological (or emotional) First Aid is plainly evident all around us.

We see children being sexually, physically, or verbally abused by toxic parents.

We see marriages and families breaking up.

We see old people lonely, unwanted, sick, homeless.

We see the unemployed suffering severe anxiety and insecurity.

We see people in shock in disaster or war-torn areas.

We see the mentally ill in and out of institutions.

We see students or teenagers becoming disillusioned, self critical, contemplating suicide.

We see people or media "fooling our minds" every day, by misguiding, deceiving, tormenting, scaring, pampering, teasing.

The need is simply overwhelming.

Yet something can be done. During every emotional crisis or traumatic event. On the spot.

Know and learn about it ... before things get too late.

Monday, May 14, 2018

We're All Dying From the Moment We Were Born

Life is temporary. It has expiry. Each breath, each heartbeat, brings us closer to inevitable end. The naked truth is, we're all dying from the moment we were born.

Philosopher Betrand Russell, when he was in his 90s, lamented the ways in which most people waste their lives, as if they'll live forever.

In my work as a psychotherapist, death is a constant enemy. Whether young or old, I deal with death issues every session.

Like life, my sessions are timed to the limit. There is expiration hour. So often, I listen to people utterly "dying" - depressing, denying, making excuses, wasting precious time, hiding.

As I watch the minutes tick by, I wonder about life-and-death issues. Will they do or get or not what they want most in life?


Whatever the age, becoming aware of impending death as soon as possible is very helpful. It avoids wasting time on things that don't really matter.

Of course, this is especially true among older people. With the limited time left on earth. The proximity of death. How randomly any of them could vanish into earth!

We can ask ourselves directly a few questions to help us process this reality more deeply.

•  Although I may struggle, what will make my days worth living to the fullest?

•  How could the quality of my life be improved?

•  What do I consider the most important to achieve given the limited time I have left?

•  What may be my greatest regrets if I die before I get the chance to complete what's truly important to me?

A little carving along the road says, "In the midst of life, we are in death."

That puts things in perspective about what really matters in this life ... while we still have the time and can ask ourselves questions.

Everything changes. Everything ages. Everything dies. We all are given one life to make the most of it ... while there is time.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

If you don't like the situation, you're free to change it.

We all have a choice.

You never have to think of your self as a victim, for instance. As one abused. As one without the power to make things happen or change.

Author Harry Brown writes in his book "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World:"

"I've often been bored by someone telling me over and over again how his spouse mistreats him, how his friends take advantage of him, how his boss abuses him, how his lover 'uses' him. Why does he permit it? Why doesn't he terminate the relationship rather than allow the same person to 'exploit' him over and over again? ..."

Having small children was Mildred's excuse to stay in an abusive marriage. And this involved suffering her husband's physical and emotional abuse, including serial sexual infidelities.

In the session, Mildred continually complained of physical hurts, loneliness, and isolation. Crying spells. Anxiety panic attacks. Addiction to food and alcohol.

Indeed, why was she in such dire life state? It's because she'd chosen to permit it.

We teach people how they'll treat us. If you rarely talk to protect your dignity, take care of your needs and wants, you train others to abuse or victimize you.

You don't have to be involved with physical abusers, liars, cheaters, frauds, criminals, controlling or demanding people, or psychopaths who harm you.

It's up to you to choose the people you get involved with. The life situation you're in.

We all have a free choice. Always.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Wounded Inner Child

Christina, one of my patients, recalls how her mother would leave her working and sleeping with the maids. Away from the rest of her siblings in the house.

"The more I tried to please my mother, the more she'd put me down. All throughout my childhood, I wondered about this: I felt like an 'insect' rather than my mother's child," laments Christina.

Christina is a 50-year-old adult now. A wife and mother of 3 grown up boys. But she still feels like an "insect."

Although she looks naturally pretty, she rarely appreciates what people say about her. Mostly she hardly looks people in the eyes.

Somehow, Christina figures that she is that way always. Her life today is safe and comfortable, but it's barren and emotional destitute.

The "inner child" contains memories, images, and feelings of your childhood. Both conscious and unconscious. What is consciously remembered and what's repressed or forgotten.

When a child is abused, traumatized, or deprived, the "inner child" splits from consciousness when being abused. But it carries repressed anger, rage, hurt and fear.

As you grew into adulthood, the repression from childhood and "splits" from consciousness remain. Even now, as an adult, you still have inside you the child you once were - your wounded inner child.

Healing the wounded inner child involves telling the story in therapy. Why is telling the story important?

Dr. Charles Whitfield eloquently explains,

 "We begin to see the connections between what we are doing and what happened to us when we were little. As we share our story, we begin to break free of being a victim or a martyr, of the repetition compulsion."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Are You the Same Person You Used to Be?

Self.

Psychology refers to the human self in varied ways. Personality. Identity. Psyche or soul. Deep core.

Since we all age, does the passing of time affect who or what you are? Will you be the same self/person 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years?

Depends.

Several days ago, I was in a "graduation." A patient, Anthony, finished our long-term therapy program. And all his family members gathered together for a joyous celebration.

One of Anthony's close cousins remarked publicly, "He changed. He is not the same person I know. Something happened to him."

Anthony's body still has some similarity and continuity with what it was before. But he developed a new, different set of beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral manifestations.

He was seen not to be the same self/person he used to be. For Anthony, therapy facilitated a life change.

When I took my old car before to the mechanic for repairs, he made some replacements. Some parts of my car were changed that made it look new and run better.

Whether via therapy, some other kind of healing experiences, or a negative traumatic event (e.g. stress, depression, abuse), you may not be the same person you used to be.

Either for good or bad. For better or worst.

It's a matter of what parts of the self are chosen to change. It's nature, degree, and dynamics. Depending on how much the parts, connections, and interactions produce the different changes.

You alone can make that choice. The self/person you want to be.

As Stephen Richards writes, "You are essentially who you create your self to be, and all that occurs in your life is a result of your own making."

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Right Livelihood in the One Life You Have

Work is life. It consumes so much time from our limited supply of days. In just a few short decades, the time and energy we spent working adds up to be life itself.

Livelihood is a natural expression of our working life. A source of income. Using our talents and capacities. Doing what we do best.

"I'm looking for something more than money out of my work; I expect deep fulfillment and a little fun too," said an executive of a major American corporation.

Right livelihood - whether via a job, profession, business, or any talent - is as important as mental health and wholeness. Just as the right foods are for our physical bodies.

Buddha described "right livelihood" as work "consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment."

Surely, I'd not recommend orange robes and vows of poverty for us like Buddha. But I can see the practical psychology of his point.

You (and all of us) need to choose the right livelihood. Your right work. For the only one life you have.

But most people today are "aliens." They're alienated from both their natural talents and potentials. Their proper place and function. Their purpose for life.

Most people merely work for the money. Eight-to-five penance for daily bread! As a result, many get bored, frustrated, constrained or dulled in their days. Some get serious mentally illness.

I met a young woman who drifted into a boring, but high-paying accounting job. After much inner struggle, she left her secure niche to study psychology.

She's getting straight A's in her studies. But having a hard time paying bills. A life state she didn't experience before.

Yet she was sure that she had found the right road for her life. Her right career. Her right livelihood. That allowed her to excel and gave her the power to be resourceful.

Nothing stopped her from becoming a psychologist. So after years of hardship, she completed her graduate studies. She used her former contacts to start practice.

Now a successful, highly paid psychotherapist, she said, "My choice and hardships were so challenging. But I feel at home in this work. For the first time in my life, I'm experiencing joy and fulfillment."

Get Brain-Healthy

Mental health has a physiological aspect. Not just psychological, emotional, or spiritual. Its a matter of physical brain fitness as well.


According to scientific and medical evidences, our brain needs certain nutrients to maintain optimum functioning. 

Vitamin C, for example, protects the brain from toxins, free radical damage, and aging. It also acts as a natural anti-depressant.

Experts also recommend taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, which includes Vitamin D, magnesium, folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin B-complex.

Brain foods should be added to our diet. This includes avocado, eggs, coconut oil, extra virgin coconut oil, green leafy vegetables, salmon, turmeric, among others.

Exercise also plays a major part in getting brain-fit. Moving our body and taking breathers are one of the best things we can do for our brain.

I experience myself another brain-fitness key: getting enough sleep. Several times, I only needed longer sleeps or "power naps" to recover from brain-exhausting days. And I'll be back kicking!

Some of the most productive persons in history made sleep nap a priority. People like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill, among many others.

So, the next time you feel foggy, depressed, or anxious, skip the pharma drugs and take these natural ways to recharge and refuel your brain.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The #1 Struggle People Have

A few nights ago, I was watching one of Dr. Chuck Swindoll's public speeches on YouTube.

I liked the the question and theme of his talk: "What is the #1 struggle of people today?"

In my brain, I had several guesses before Dr. Swindoll announced it. Money? Sex? Power? Marriage? Family?

None of those.

Dr. Swindoll pointed to this: WORRY - our #1 struggle.

Agree. Whatever the life issue or breakdown, too much worrying is so common. A frequent resultant pattern in most people's reactions.

The overworry then produces large doses of anxiety. Paralyzes productivity and problem solving. Causes unnecessary pain in relationships.

Psychologist Dr. Chad LeJeune explains how it works:

When you're hiking along a cliff, for instance, she says your brain may tell you "I might fall" and you picture yourself falling. She says it's a helpful thought because you realize you need to be careful in your walks.

However, "when your anxiety is high," Dr. LeJeune continues, "you'll experience that image not as 'I might fall' but as 'I will fall' "

This shows that, with heightened anxiety, you're less able to discriminate between the thought of "might happen" and reality.

I'm reminded of a patient, Edward, whom I once invited to the MRT city train station. It's part of his anxiety panic "exposure therapy."

Edward retreated. Ran away from the exercise. He had experience being mugged and held up in the MRT many years ago. In his mind, he said it will happen again.

Psychologically, it's called "cognitive fusion." A thought becomes fused with what it refers to. The fused thought is experienced as reality ... outright an inevitability.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Flying to New Adventures

"You can fly, but that cocoon has to go," says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I've worked with actually need to hear that message. It's true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can't be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he'd cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an "immobile cocoon."

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a "war zone" and a "safety cocoon" all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you'll be able to see the big picture. You'll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you're not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I've met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn't work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you're newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don't want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings  and fly into new adventures?

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Superior Natural Anti-Depressant

Substantual evidences from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the International Society of Sport Psychology, and other authorities have declared a best natural anti-depressant.

Exercise.

I remember one of my clients who took up boxing in the gym after taking brain drugs for a time. She reported that her exercise made her feel far better than all the psych drugs she took combined!

In dozens of clinical studies, exercise is proven to have superior supportive psychotherapeutic benefits. A repellant against depression and negativity, such as fear, worry, anger and tension.

Practiced regularly, exercise (aerobic or nonaerobic) helps bring better self esteem, enhanced mental and emotional performance, and resilience against stress.

Exercise "natural anti-depressant" may include: power walking, jogging, running, swimming, basketball, football, boxing, dancing, even gardening and housework.


Of course, a rule is do it safely and don't overdo it to avoid unnecessary injury. Also, don't try to expect to heal your emotional wounds overnight through exercise.

Major depressives in exercise programs spend their time too in psychotherapy. That goes to the internal roots to permanently keep the blues at bay.

Personally and professionally, I love daily power walks. At times, running. To exorcise my own demons! My own bodywork to free my mind so I can be of better help to others. 

I like Henry David Thoreau, who writes:

"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend 4 hours a day at least ... sauntering  through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

"Once a cheater, always a cheater."

It's a common cliche. An old adage.

Is it really true?

One couple came to see me for marital therapy. It's a case of the husband serially cheating on his wife.

The husband admitted having affairs several times in the few years of their marriage. He claimed he had the affairs just for sex and that he loved his wife and had a great sex life with her.

For a time during therapy, the relationship somewhat improved. The husband observed abstinence from his affairs. They learned better skills communicating and loving.

Then, the husband was caught contacting and seeing his affair partner again. Evidently the wife noticed no prior signs of the repeated cheating for he remained privately loving to her.

The wife felt something was wrong which she called an "invisible barrier" between them. But she couldn't put her finger on it.

According to findings presented at an American Psychological Association annual convention, they found that people who cheat on their partners once are approximately 3 1/2 times more likely to cheat again.

I find it interesting that this finding did not apply only on those doing the cheating. They saw that those who were cheated on in one relationship were also more likely to be cheated on again.

Judging from the number of cases I've seen, cheaters do tend to cheat again. But I'd say not everyone. Some do change completely.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

That gets to be true I must agree ... unless the root psychological wounds or unmet needs of the cheater are sufficiently dealt with.

Here are some possible underlying themes within cheaters I suspect exists:

•  a never-ending quest of the cheater to make up for what he or she did not get as a child

•  the more shame and guilt the cheater experiences, the more it tends to be projected onto the partner

•  the cheating may be used to punish himself/herself or humiliate the partner

•  a "bad me" core belief that leads to addictions for temporary relief

Bad habits are known to be hard to break. That includes the habit of cheating.

In reality, cheaters need clinical intervention to prevent repeated disasters.

(Watch TV Video, ABS CBN SAKTO:  Dr. Subida's talks on cheating/infidelity with Amy Perez and Mark Logan)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Courage Matters

Courage was a big thing for Mother Teresa. She said, "To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that."

It's essential to the meaningful attainments she made in her life --serving as a missionary against "injustice among the poor" in India.

Wounded souls. That's how we may describe the inner state of individuals after suffering injustices in their personal lives and relationships.

Standing up to these personal injustices and wounds requires courage. Overcoming fear in order to heal. In order to be able to do what gives life.


For years, Maria, a 16-year-old high school girl, received abusive, name-calling text messages. She was pushed around at school. She avoided places in her school in fear for her safety. 

Finally, she broke down. She could no longer bring herself to continue attending classes. Her grades dropped. She suffered from panic anxiety attacks, lack of sleep, and stress headaches.

Her mother brought her to me. She lamented, "My daughter has become emotionally crippled. It takes all my energy to get her out of the car and 'go over there.' "

To get well, Maria needs a healthy dose of courage. Against injustices and its perpetrators.

It's not for her own good that she allows her self to be humiliated and shamed in school. To do so only harms her psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

"Be men of courage; be strong," the Bible says (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Courage matters. 

It helps us correct injustices and wrongs. It gives us power over risk and its associated fears. It leads us to be better persons, spouses, parents, children, friends and citizens.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Escape from Motherhood

Motherhood. You don't have to be a psychologist to know that quality of mothering is crucial to every human. It can make or break children.

The mother-relationship is a most important relationship in every human being's life. Her character, personality, and method of child rearing have more influence on a child than all other forces combined.


As writer Rita Kramer of the New York Times magazine put it:

"It's in this relationship that the child begins to develop security and trust - a good feeling about himself and a sense that the world is worth moving out into and exploring."

Yet despite its basic, top-level importance, lots of mothers escape from mothering. The symptoms are all around us. It's a most disturbing deterioration of our time.

We see it reflected today in growing numbers.

Women not wanting children. Inability of mothers to communicate with their children. Unhappiness of the children.

Growing teenage drug problem. Increase in youth suicides and runaways. Vandalism. Teen promiscuity and crime.

I'm reminded of a 33-year-old mother who fled to another country to pursue an affair and a career. She left behind a 4-year old daughter and two teenage son and daughter.

Prior to her retreat, she became an agent of an entertainment company. In her business, she worked with a director and actors and actresses with loosened restraints on sexual impulses.

And so that's where her retreat from motherhood took root in fertile ground. Her degeneration of sexual morals and a new career philosophy made mothering a drag for her.

Obviously, popular culture, media, and society play a role here. They exert great influence on women's attitudes toward the value of motherhood.

Fidelity, maternity, and family values are curbed in favor of materialism, romanticism, and sexual "free love" alternate lifestyle.

But these polluted cultural values and repressions - beside personal factors - have little to do with what is real. They're lies we tell ourselves. They damage mothers. They ruin lives.

Good mothering then needs adequate psychological, emotional, and spiritual support to make it thrive. From God. From men. From family. From media. From culture and society.

Psychologist Dr. Eric Fromm writes,

"The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother's side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent."

Our next generations depend on healthy mothering. The survival of humankind and civilization hangs on it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Facing Bullies

Hollywood actor, Tom Cruise, battled the effects of childhood bullying. For many years he struggled with anxiety panic at home and at school.

Cruise says of his father, Thomas  C. Mapother III:

"He was a bully and a coward ... the kind of a person who, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life - how he'd lull you in, make you feel safe, and then, bang! ... Big bully comes up, pushes you. Your heart's pounding, you sweat, and you feel like you're going to vomit ..."

Bullies have a strong urge to dominate. They lack empathy. Untroubled by anxiety or guilt over the suffering they inflict on others. They blame others for their offenses.

Males are more prone to physically bully. Females bully by picking on appearances, social status, and relationships.

Generally, bullies attack - through damaging, manipulating, or controlling relationships and situations.

How about the victim?

Some victims of bullies are "blind." They refuse to defend themselves. Offer healthy boundaries. They allow themselves to be bound by the bully to isolation, humiliation, and despair.

A case in point is Martha, one of my clients who is repeatedly abused verbally and physically by her husband. For years, she displays pain, which fueled further attacks from her bullying spouse.

It impresses me how much Martha readily acquiesce too quickly to her husband's demands. She'd just cry and cower. She's so submissive before she's picked on and bullied.

Dealing with bullies is not avoiding conflict. Running away, pretending bullying or abuse is not happening, hiding it, or being afraid to talk about it is actually destructive.

Facing bullies is taking responsibility to speak up to them. You walk tall so they don't perceive you as weak or easily manipulated.

You set and state limits on bullies. Healthy boundaries so they know your thresholds. You don't volunteer to be a victim.

You remove yourself from a relationship in which a bully tries to control or own you. You don't allow bullies to undermine your sanity ... or that of your children, loved ones.

Face bullies. Protect yourself. Seek support. Be brave. Have faith.

Are You Possessive?

A lot of persons are hindered by possessiveness. Not able to hold things loosely. Let go. Release the squeeze.

Smothering rather than loving is typical. Parting cannot happen without internal bleeding.

If you ask Nora, she gets blown away with the thought of relaxing her grip on her young adult daughter. Who is leaving and getting married.

Deep inside, she admits fearing surrendering her prized "possession." Even though she must say goodbye eventually.

Because releasing introduces the panic of losing control. The terror of risk. Uncertainty. Concern for safety.

It applies to friendship too. Friendship needs letting your friend have the freedom to be and to do. A space for the other person to grow.

Also, in releasing a dream. At times, we need to come to grips with reality. What really is. So we can let go. And move forward to a new story.

What maturity all this requires!

Dr. Chuck Swindoll once wrote, "The greater the possessiveness, the greater the pain."

What is it that can bring peace to a possessive heart? To turn loose. To let go. Because, in fact, there's nothing or no one that we can truly own.

Everything goes. Sooner or later. Child. Job. Wealth. Romance. Friend. Future. Dream. Health. Even this life.

Things get really safe only when we learn the art of holding things loosely. Everything is safe which is so dedicated to God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Search for Meaning


"I don't see any reason to live. I better disappear," said Charles in one of our sessions. In front of his sobbing wife, he was expressing what he felt.

This may look absurd to you. Charles is CEO of a world class company. He is well known and respected in the business community. He is loved by his wife and children.

Still, he could not find meaning in his life.

Often, psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankl, Nazi camp survivor and author of the worldwide bestseller book "Man's Search for Meaning," got asked this question by media:

"Dr. Frankl, your book has become a true best seller, how do you feel about such a success?"

To that, Dr. Frankl would always respond:

"I do not at all see in the best seller status of my book an achievement on my part, but rather an expression of the misery of our time."

He went on to add:

"If hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails."

I found the same thing in my psychotherapy practice. Misery does abound around us. Suicides, depression, addiction, and corruptions are at an all-time high.

We have a global "meaning crisis." No doubt about it.

Shallowness runs rampant in our culture. In a world of technology/material advancements, education, and connectivity, countless people still lack depth. Lack of depth leads to lack of meaning in life.

If I could only share then one thing with you or anyone who see me in my sessions, it's this: depth leads to meaning. Meaning needs depth.

That's a recurring mission point of my therapy hour.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It's Time to Pick Your Self

It's time to pick your self.

A lot of people don't pick themselves. They endlessly wait for others - parents, relatives, teachers, friends, employers, etc. - to pick them.

Noel waits for his family to call him. His parents won't pick him to receive or manage inheritance. Much less, pick him to occupy a position in their company.

For years now, he is immobilized. By his waiting for others to pick him. Especially his family. Instead of moving on, he allows himself to get stuck at home.

As a beginning therapist many years ago, I felt insecure in my practice. I was in the company of top psychologists and psychiatrists in the land.

I got intimidated by titles. I wondered, who'd pick me in the midst of my more experienced/ educated, "celebrity" MHPs (mental health pros).  I was diseased with "comparisonitis."

Seeing this, I resolved a mindshift. Focusing and competing only with my self. Realizing who I am. Expressing my own unique identity.

That's when I started to pick my self. Stopped waiting for others to pick me. It's amazing what great blessings and impact "picking my self" give to my life and practice!

When I chose to pick my self, I produced my best work. The gatekeepers kept pouring in to my door. It's as if the choice I made was a golden act that drew the universe to me!

Often, those with lingering mental/emotional disorders have one thing in common: They don't pick themselves. They wait for others to pick them. It shows. In their reactions, words, feelings, relationships.

All of this - the process of picking your self - starts not with your hands or heart. Mostly it's a mind  game.

As Steven Pressfield put it in his book War of Art, you have to "turn pro" in your head before you can become one.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Therapy: The Cost of Doing Nothing

People need therapy. Especially in severe, destructive, or unmanageable situations.

In fact, each one of us needs it for lifetime personal wholeness. No one is exempted from growing.

We all want to be happy. We strive to reach our goals. Our desire is to worry or stress less. We want peace of mind.

It's one reality about the human condition that doesn't change. Yet, for some reasons, many tend to resist therapy.

We can be fine spending thousands on gadgets, clothes, dinners, or travels. But still, many find themselves hesitant to spend on therapy ... on "self-investment."

Joseph and Carol were fighting in big ways. And have been ever since. He was smart and outspoken. As for Carol, she's no longer caring to Joseph, but materialistic and know-it-all.

"You mean, we just talk. How long?" Carol kept asking during their marital session. She simply wanted to know how quick the process will be.

They never returned to do their therapy. About a year after, I received a text message from Carol. Her husband had become an alcoholic and been having sex with his secretary.

There is no quick fix in mental and emotional healing. The cost of doing nothing is heavy and long-lasting.

"Men are disturbed not by things but by the view they take of them," said the ancient philosopher Epictetus. His implication is that our feelings are caused by our thoughts.

When you think of Therapy as "quick fix," frivolous, or a waste of time and money, you're not seeing life as it really is. You're not fully aware of your thoughts and how it harms your reality.

Life, as in therapy, requires us to show up. We "do work" developmentally over a period of time - over months or years. There is no magic, miracle, or overnight cure.

Consider the "costs" of doing nothing.

Where will you be a year, 2 years or 5 years from now, with the same old wounds and patterns stealing your happiness now? What's the cost of inaction or remaining stuck?

Clinical and anecdotal evidences show that the "costs" are really high. Much higher - financially, relationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - than temporary therapy processes.

What is your health "worth" to you? Can you put a price on your life?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Do You Avoid Problems?

In life and relationships, we have a lot of "avoiders." Most likely, more than "facers."

Matthew struggles with this impulse with his wife Dana. He's used to ignore problems Dana would bring up for them to handle: their time together, mother-in-law conflict, finances etc.

So Dana's frustrations accumulate each day. The problems avoided just don't go away. Because they need to be handled.

As a result, Dana chose to separate from him. And Matthew felt hurt and depressed.

With the situation turning worse, the problems would now have to be faced in marital and individual therapy.


Indeed, life has a way of becoming more painful if problems are avoided and allowed to pile up day after day. We ask for emotional wounds if we believe problems go away when we avoid them.

Dr. Scott Peck, noted therapist-writer, wrote in his book, "The Road Less Traveled:"

"Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist ... We attempt to get out of them rather than suffer through them. This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness."

I myself struggled with this impulse of "rescuing" my youngest daughter, Angel, from problems. I wished she'd go through life without a need to cry, frown, or get sad.

I realized that's an impossible wish. Barring certain severe situations beyond her ability, Angel needs to learn to be responsible for facing her own problems.

So I stucked it out. Got out of the way. I faced my impulse, confronted my pain, and allowed Angel to face hers as she grows up through her teenage years to adulthood.

Those who avoid problems and pains end up with more problems and pains in the long run. Those who face problems and pains save themselves a great deal of unnecessary suffering.

The principle is as simple as that.