Friday, August 28, 2015

Healing in Routine

When recovering from illness or breakdown, it can be easy to feel bored by routine. Since one is developing new healthy habits to heal, one may feel trapped at a certain point. This is especially so when healing gets routine and a voice within protests against changing.

Professionally and personally, I've a special intolerance to sameness, endless repetitions, or daily confinement by a cubicle. I'd literally die of boredom or get crazy. It feels like a prison I'm in. And when I feel that, I'm prone to dislike myself and company, less effective in what I do. I'll cry for help.

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that boredom is the "root of all evil." For him, boredom in routine can create a mental and emotional void that is frequently filled with reckless consumerism and addictions. When an addicted dysfunctional person is bored, he or she becomes most vulnerable to slip and fall, lapse and relapse. From saying "I can't" regarding rehabilitation, he or she starts saying "I won't." As time goes by, so is his or her patience.

Routine becomes lethal when you can't see a larger purpose for it. As one writer puts it, boredom can be caused by a "collapse of meaning." That's when boredom gets deadly. When you don't have a clear vision or meaning behind your routine, you perish. Without this vision or meaning, you're unable to reach beyond any limiting circumstance to keep going until you cross the finish line of your race.

There is "healing in routine." Healing in routine is mostly effected by a person's conception of what he's doing. When you have a purpose-driven conception of the work you do (e.g. recovery/therapy work, rehabilitation from addiction), you wait and excel because you find greater benefit and meaning even amid its seemingly endless routines.

Like a world-class runner, you simulate a perfect state of boredom for optimal performance. Your foot routinely pounds the pavement mile after mile. You move in the same way hour after hour. You pay attention to your body in the act of running. But you also remind your self to relax, hang loose, not tie up. You refuse to retreat to boredom or fantasy but instead stay with the discomfort. You have a goal to win.

And so can you when you choose to heal and get well.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Have You Been Infected With The "Affluenza Virus?"

When I met Walter, he was thirty-five years old. He worked for one of the country's billionaire companies and had been receiving six to seven figures income. Believe me, despite his affluence, he was very angry, paranoid, pessimistic, and dissatisfied with his accomplishments. He did appear to be a most emotionally distressed man on the planet.

In his bestseller book, "Affluenza," author Oliver James describes an epidemic of "affluenza virus" sweeping through the whole globe, especially the English-speaking world. James reveals how issues like consumerism, property fever; the obsessive, envious, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, lead to life-damaging choices and situations. "Affluenza virus" entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of people, and wanting to be famous and admired.


As I write this, I'm reminded of a young single mother who sought me for counseling. She was wealthy by most people's standards. She held a very lucrative, fascinating job. Living in unimaginable affluence and tech sophistication, she never seemed to have enough money. She'd often compare what she owned with what others own. She wanted more luxury in her life. Shopping or thinking what to buy greatly preoccupied her. When she saw me, she was having a nervous breakdown, not knowing where it's coming from.

Reflecting on this fast spreading virulent virus stalking the globe, I see that its deadly effects can make people prone to mental health disorders. Just as having the AIDS or HIV virus places you at risk of developing physical illness, infection with the "affluenza virus" increases your susceptibility to mental and emotional diseases such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictions, sociopathy, and personality disorders.

This is a serious, deadly epidemic. And it leads me to an unavoidable and potentially therapeutic prescription: to protect our mental health, we need to learn to pursue our needs rather than our wants.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Are You Like Coffee, Carrot, or Egg?

Today, I came across an insightful story you and I can learn from when going through hurtful times. It's about what I'd like to describe as Lola's question: "Are you like coffee, carrot, or egg?"


A young woman went to her "lola" (grandmother). She told about how her husband cheated on her. The devastation caused her to lose energy and hope. She wondered whether or not it's still worth living. She wanted to give up.

Her lola took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water on high heat. Soon the pots boil. In the first pot, she placed carrots. In the second, eggs. And in the last pot, she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. Then, after boiling, lola put each of them out and placed them in separate containers.

Her lola explained that the egg, carrot, and coffee faced the same trial: boiling water. Each reacted differently. 

The carrot went in strong, hard, and fighting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak, losing strength. 

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became stiff and hardened. 

The ground coffee beans were unique, however, lola explained. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.

Turning to her granddaughter going through marital trauma, lola asked:  "Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond, dear?"

Think of it: Are you like coffee, carrot, or egg?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Quieter You Become, The More You Can Hear

Author Ram Dass once wrote, "The quieter you become, the more you can hear."

Those words teach me when I notice my self getting too busy. When I get caught in the treadmill of schedules, sessions, events. When I try to meet demands of deadlines ... just like you.

I need quietness. I cannot be a man that I need to be without moments of quietness. As Dr. Charles Swindoll put it, "Stillness is an essential part of our growing deeper as we grow older." Oh, how I long to enjoy it ... how I long to have more of it amid the world's noise. 

Each week, I am desperately concerned that I slow down and quiet down. Especially when there's agitation. Tiredness. Too much activities. Or, stresses in relationships. When I sit in silence and listen to God, much hurt and confusion fade away. Perspective and purpose, security and confidence, move right in to my heart and mind.

"... in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."  (Isaiah 30:15)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Can You Change The One You Love?

Do you have people you love who need to change their bad habits? Kick their addictions? Reform their character defects? Get their lives back?

I always have "crying" sessions. How many times I've worked with spouses, relatives, children, or friends who go downhill due to dysfunctional loved ones. They endure behavior that is toxic, abusive, and possibly deadly that threatens their relationships.

Do you know that you can change the one you love? Most experts will tell you that you can't change anyone. They say that you can't control other people's minds and hearts. Only they can. In one sense, it's true. But the problem is, if you're the suffering loved one, they ignore the "power" you have to change your spouse, child, relative, friend, in-law, etc!  You can do something.

It's a program that I've been trying to do in support of loved ones caring to change those they love who possess psychopathological behavior:  addictions, anger problem, sexual issues, anxiety, internet obsession, compulsive spending, noncompliance with needed rehabilitation, and more. Its an effort to remove and overcome the external dynamics and obstacles that stand in the way of motivating change.

Most importantly, you can change the one you love by discovering your number one source of power. Plug into it and you help your loved one heal and change for the good.

Yes, there is a way to change the one you love!  Find out about it ... before it's too late.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Leaving Home Psychologically

Dr. Paul Tournier was a loving and wise Swiss psychotherapist and writer of many bestselling books and articles. He was master of providing hope to patients in healing the self amidst a broken world. He taught much about "parental imprints" and how to become your own person.

No one has ever had perfect parents. I am no exception. One day I came home as a teenager with medals to show to my Dad but he just ignored me.  Since then, I had to discover and continue the process of examining my father's invalidation and hurt. I'd experienced the pain repeatedly over the years, which led me to commit unnecessary mistakes in my life. As I progressively realized it, I began healing the wound caused by "parental imprints."

"Leaving home psychologically" is one way I'd like to describe my process of examining and healing my original wound. It's a painful process when I went through it myself so I can get to the "other side." I even went through a stage where I became arrogant, defiant, and violent. But the interesting thing is, as I learn to put on my own imprint instead of just automatically being what my father has imprinted in me, I'd diagnose and treat, yet still tend to put the old imprint back on. It's not giving up without a fight!

Dr. Tournier speaks of taking off parental injunctions from your system much as you take off a clothing. You begin doing this, usually during teenage years, when you start to question your parents in many areas. Still, the questioning needs to be properly guided in the right paths - reevaluating "parental imprints" in the light of wholeness, health, and current level of maturity. Every one is free to discard all of those unhealthy or life-damaging "parental imprints" but one is also free to put any of them back into your own present clothing.

Try your own imprint on for size. Keep reminding your self that you are free to make your own choices, even when some of those choices feel uncomfortable. Seek help, if necessary, to heal your ancient wounds still influencing your present. Know the process of leaving home psychologically and do it. That's how all of us are called to do developmentally so we can make the passage from child state to adulthood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Love Affair

Today, I watched an affair-recovery movie "The Love Affair." I did, out of professional and real-life experiential interest. The film's plot and content always surfaces in much of what I do. Helping both the betrayed and the unfaithful. I'm happy about the movie, for it realistically portrays a host of psychological, emotional, and relational issues that a lot of people can relate to.

Film-making appears to be catching up. What is often a taboo for discussion is now more openly being embraced for public processing. Studies and statistics on affairs report considerable occurrence of infidelity in marriages worldwide. Some recent studies show that over 50% of men and 30% of women have affairs. And for women there is indication that rates are rising. Moreover, other reports claim that in couples' therapy, a high 60% of couples deal with infidelity wounds.

My own clinical counseling observations as well as that of other professionals confirm that the chance that a marriage will be damaged by infidelity nowadays is very high. Adultery and sexual addiction play a major role in separation, divorce, or the annulment of many marriages. Infidelity has a ripple effect that reaches far from the center - destroying the peace of mind, emotional well being, and self-esteem of family members.

The ending of the movie, "The Love Affair," is a therapeutic, healthy result. How I wish all endings of couples wounded by infidelity will be like this!

Incidentally, timed with this latest box-office hit movie, this month is a "The Psychology Behind Infidelity" month for me at GMA News and ABS CBN DZMM teleradio. Back to back, they featured me as resource speaker/guest where I was given opportunity to introduce spiritual connection to the "incomplete constructs" and inadequacy of psychology and psychiatry in healing persons with adultery wound. Heavy psychotherapeutic and spiritual battle where few dare to tread!



Saturday, August 08, 2015

Roots

It takes healthy roots to keep us standing. Deep, strong roots. Powerful, stubborn roots.

So often, we look at people's appearances or external behavior. Then, we draw conclusions. We judge motive or being that may not be the true state of their lives.

Why?  We're not seeing roots. Ordinarily, we fail to see deep inner needs and drives that compel a person to say, feel, and do certain things. Yet it's at the deep inner level of our lives that real healing, character, or understanding takes place.

Now before you get excited about seeing and building your own roots, remember this: it takes time. There's no magic, instant route to roots. And it's not comfortable or fun. Nor is it a high-profile process. The process is silent. The stronger, the deeper the roots, the less visible they are. No noise. Less noticed.

Nevertheless, in the long run, the final product of going into and planting the right roots, deeper enough, will be irreplaceable ... invaluable.

In real therapy or personal wholeness, you go for the root problem, not merely the symptoms. Change bad roots to good roots.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Angelita's Story

Angelita had one of the prettiest faces we can ever see. Her voice was weak and fearful as she spoke about her self. She kept leaning her head down saying, "I feel ugly." She kept apologizing ... she's so lonely, wrestled with inferiority, thoughts of suicide, and a loss of self-respect.

She never felt wanted in her life. Her mother and father placed her in the hands of a stranger when she was born and walked out of her life. They left no clues regarding their whereabouts and no promise of return. Years passed. Angelita's parents never appeared any more.

Angelita became a juvenile delinquent. Misery stalked her. She lashed out at the world, took alcohol and drugs, and became promiscuous. A number of times, she attempted to end her life. Her parents' absence was simply unbearable. Suddenly, she decided she'll look for them. She'd search and find them. And she did! She walked back into her father's and mother's lives one rainy day ... but sooner than she expected, she discovered she still wasn't wanted by them. Her parents waved her goodbye forever.

Since that darkest moment in her life, Angelita walked the streets and hunted unsuccessfully for employment. Here was a girl so confused, completely disillusioned about life ... and terribly in need of being accepted and wanted. She almost broke down and became totally "crazy." Because she's unwanted, she's convinced that her life was wasted, useless, and a bother. Strange though it sounds, she shouted to the skies and asked why this is happening to her.

Then, one day, Angelita passed by a hotel. She heard people singing and a voice on microphone speaking the Word on psychological and spiritual healing. Ushers invited her in, embraced and welcomed her lovingly. After sitting for a couple of hours, she learned of therapy and healing for the mind and heart through the unconditional love of the Father. She understood the salvation and healing message of the Father in heaven for her life through Scripture mentioned in the Healing Workshop.

When she recounted what happened, Angelita mentioned one psychotherapy verse cited in the workshop that left a lasting imprint on her: "And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). That moment, when she learned of that verse and understood the Word, Angelita gave her life to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Since that day, Angelita found great hope for the future. She embarked on a journey of mental and spiritual healing with the counsel, support, and unconditional love of her real Father and new-found friends.

Angelita's story ... a story of complete therapy, redemption, and wholeness. I hope someday you'd meet her. She's a totally changed, better person now.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sadness After Sex

I surmise that countless people experience sadness after sex. Psychologists call this psychological phenomenon "postcoital tristresse." It's a feeling of unfulfillment in the sexual act, especially when something deeper or permanent is desired or hungered for in the physical expression of love.

It's a familiar scene.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's wrong with the picture?

Ultimately, it's intimacy that we long for in our relationships. Deeper waters, getting close emotionally to someone other than sex. To be able to experience genuine connection - a feeling of being unconditionally loved as you are, as a whole being. As psychotherapist and writer, Dr. Rolls May put it, "In remembering our sexual experiences, it's the intimacy that is remembered, not the orgasm."

But, even as best as it can be, human connection remains limited. No human intimacy can give you 100% satisfaction. We're all created to need more than what is human - psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Moving Is Medicine

I like moving. In fact, one of my secrets as a therapist is the medicine of moving. As much as possible, I avoid getting chained to a couch, cubicle, or office when counseling. I like outdoors, the mall, coffee shop, gym, park, or any natural day-to-day surroundings. If you're depressed or breaking down, you may try joining me walking, running, or in a regular movement program while in session! I mean it, it's a best thing you can do for your mental health, not just your physical health.


Exercise is long well recognized as one of the most effective ways to heal your moods. It's even clinically proven to be more effective than any anti-depressant drug. So if you're depressed or going through much emotional distress of some kind, get out of the house and begin moving your feet. You may spend an hour or more running. And when I say running, I mean shuffling along at a slow jog. Not hard core. Just moving and light.



With your moving, you can breathe calmness and peace into your mind. You can focus on seeing things in different, helpful ways. You can get to think better about what needs to get done, such as work or relationship repair. Still fuming or pretty sensitive? There's the beauty of instant gratification of just moving around, whether in the mall or park etc. Because the first moment you choose to get moving, you'll feel better.

Moving is medicine. It also happens to be free. And its major side effects?  All positives. Aside from improved moods or mental health, moving can lead to decreased blood pressure, weight maintenance, improved strength, better sleep, and more. Science proves that.

If you struggle to get moving, it can be helpful to involve a therapist, coach, a family member or a health professional who can help you make a plan and set some goals. The important thing is to change your view so exercise is not something that you do when you have the energy or motivation. But it becomes something that you do in order to get  energy and motivation for your mental, emotional, and physical health.
 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Isolation and Psychopathology

Let me share with you a popular rat experiment in the 1980s. In the experiment, a lonesome rat is put in a cage with 2 bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time they run the experiment, the rat becomes obsessed with the drugged water and keeps coming back for more and more. Until it kills itself ...

A well known psychology professor, Bruce Alexander, observed something odd about this experiment. He noted that the rat was put in the cage all alone. It had nothing to do but drink the drugged water. So, professor Bruce tried something different. He built a Rat Park with plenty of friends, colored balls, and best-rat food. The results were startling. The rats with positive environment for companionship and activity didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it. None of them died.

Now, this I know, human beings are not rats! In my practice and in our life in general, no one is exempted from hidden psychological and spiritual roots that can keep us in bondage to unhealthy habits, addictions, or breakdowns even in a positive environment. Still, a significant factor is a healthy environment where there is community or social support such as loved ones and friends, in overcoming and avoiding addictions and mental disorders.

Therapeutic, purposive social recovery is part of psychotherapy. Isolation kills. When one simply reaches out and seek help, it breaks the cycle of isolation. When one tries to reach out to other people, it begins an important process of gaining freedom from a trap of something within one's self. Real human connection in our society is often minimal. For too long, we claim "I can figure this out by myself." We need now to talk about the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us. We need now to see the essence of social therapy if we are to survive life's ways and wounds.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reframing

Over the years, I've always been engaged in helping hurting men and women do a radically different way of seeing circumstances. This happens the most especially when there are high expectations and they get extremely upset about certain events in their lives. Of course, when there is trauma or a deep emotional wound, the need to re-view life becomes obvious in order to survive. In the psychotherapy field, this type of conscious and intentional change of perspective is called "reframing." 


Sheila greatly benefited from reframing her past. For many years, she struggled with severe depression that stemmed from a difficult childhood, parental abandonment, and marital divorce. Her parents physically and emotionally abused her. Sadly, she received the same type of treatment from her husband whom she eventually separated from. As the years go by, Sheila became more and more out of control in her rage and violent behavior.

Fortunately, Sheila sat down with a psychotherapist who helped her reframe events from her past. One way the therapist did this is to ask her to see the reality of the family of origin of both her parents and her husband. There, Sheila discovered that all of them - her father, mother, and husband - were abused themselves while they were young. Her therapist explained to her that when they hurt her, they were all doing it out of their unresolved, unmetabolized psychological woundedness.

It was a miraculous moment for Sheila as she reframed the horrors of her past. She learned that she cannot change the events of her past but she can change how she experiences them in her present. While she tended to see herself as a victim, she began to see herself as a victorious survivor. While she tended to demand vengeance or apology, she needed nothing anymore from those who hurt her. She reframed her tragedy, healed her toxic emotions that resulted, and then refocused her life.

Today, she's a psychotherapist her self!  Not wasting any of the pain and struggle she went through, she now speaks to victims and survivors of trauma, parental abuse, divorce, and acts of physical and emotional violence. She became an inspiration to many fortunate enough to engage with her. It all started with reframing her tragedy in a way that it could be used to make her stronger rather than further damage her.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Addict's Denial

Addiction often influences the way one thinks. Thoughts become compulsive and obsessive as an addict pursues his or her "drug of choice." An addict who is not willing to see his or her addiction as it really is defends the continued use of the chosen addictive substance, behavior, or person - both in his thoughts and in relationship with affected others.


A father and husband, for example, goes downstairs of the house after his wife and children are in bed to indulge in internet pornography. If you ask him why he's doing it, he may likely engage in denial claiming that it's just adult entertainment normal for men and not going to negatively affect family and work. Furthermore, there may also be companion, grandiose thinking assuring his wife or anyone that it's something he can control by himself.

Remember that denial is a hallmark symptom of addictions. Addicts, especially the unremorseful or resistant ones, will typically hide the truth, refuse to talk about the problem, rationalize around, or minimize his condition. Indeed, once a person becomes addicted, he is bound to "mask" the strong hold the addiction has on his life. Denial is used by the addict to provide himself a false sense of confidence as he tries to convince his self and others that everything is fine. So if you're a loved one or friend of an addict, be careful and discerning!

For an addict to rehabilitate or heal, an essential first step is acknowledgement of the addiction and the damaging effects the addiction has in his life. Compulsory psychotherapy/counseling or treatment program is ineffective if the addicted person refuses to get past his denial and recognize the reality of his problem. The unrepentant addict will typically comply with treatment or counseling to avoid unpleasant losses or consequences, such as losing his family, going to jail etc. But he will resume his addiction after buying some time or even after the program is completed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Counseling for Children of Divorce

I do not believe that separation and divorce (or annulment) necessarily cause psychopathological problems in children. However, the parents' split increases the risk for the development of emotional and psychological difficulties. More so, when children have been experiencing abuse or trauma (e.g. physical, emotional) prior to and/or during their parents' breakup.

It's so important then for separated/divorced parents to appreciate the value of counseling/therapy for their children. At times, one or both parents may be suffering from significant psychological disturbances. In such cases, the children can be very vulnerable and may develop disturbances as well. Since the parents are in deep need themselves, they are often not in a position to deal adequately with their children's needs. Or, they may be handling the children in a misguided fashion that only contribute to their developing psychological troubles.

In the course of my practice, I did encounter children of divorce or separated parents who are breaking down. Some of them, unfortunately, have become violent, addicted, overspenders, or promiscuous in reaction (consciously or unconsciously) towards their parents' abandonment or neglect. Of course, there are no simple answers. The problems dealt with by children of divorce are always complex and multi-factorial. Thus, I do what it takes to attempt to fill gaps and meet the children's needs that are certainly legitimate and age-appropriate.

It's my hope and prayer that the guidance and recovery contained in the sensitive sessions I hold with these children at risk may serve to lessen problems caused by parental psychological difficulties. I've been married myself and have children, my therapeutic assets notwithstanding, and can appreciate fully the problems and trauma of marriage and family. Still, I remain fully aware that the process of recovering and healing the hurts of children are filled with trials. It requires more intensive approaches than mere information and talks.

I'm reminded of Karen Carpenter's song "Bless the Beast and the Children," as I write this post. May much more be done to give the children shelter from the storm. Keep them warm. Keep them safe.



Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Messages From The Unconscious

If you go to Dr. Sigmund Freud, he'd say that there is an "unconscious" in your mind. He believed that there is a conscious as well as an unconscious content within the psyche. To him, the concept of the "unconscious" is a basic principle that makes it possible to understand and treat mental illness.  Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, and dysfunctional behaviors, are evidence of the "unconscious" at work.

When you are in the grip of the "unconscious," applying Dr. Freud's theory, you are not totally aware of why you do or say things. "Unconscious" thoughts, feelings, and behaviors usually contain unwanted negative information. They don't appear on the surface but buried underneath. They are experienced as absolute facts. They're automatic. 

Often a counselee and I can understand messages from the unconscious by discussing it together. One afternoon in a therapy session, a housewife recounted one of these "direct insight" messages from her unconscious. She is pretty and articulate, yet has been reclusive and afraid of social functions for decades now in her marriage. Her self-esteem is so low. She could not figure out how to proceed from here to change.

Then, at one point, she started to sob. She recalled how much she was physically and emotionally abused by her mother since she was a child. Much of her childhood was spent serving along with the yayas in their affluent home. Her mother would punish her in varied ways and prevent her to leave the house to play with others her age.

Seeing the obvious, I processed with her this traumatic childhood past that she has had. She then was able to look more clearly in the mirror to see where her current unwanted feelings and behaviors may be coming from. She begun understanding herself more deeply since then, struggling though she still is overcoming her current "unconscious" automatized emotions and beliefs about her self.

William James once wrote, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." Years of experience as a psychotherapist have taught me that the roots of psychopathology and addictions are attitudes and beliefs coming from the "unconscious" mind. It's necessary to get beyond the verbal, conscious level to make sure that what's being addressed in the recovery process is truly what really is.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Redeeming Places

Recently, I've found my self reflecting on "redeeming places." It occurred to me that there are places that are reminders of painful experiences. When I passed by or revisited them, I truly would still feel hurt from memories or flashbacks. But, I feel pretty different now. I create new memories in these same places, redeeming them which now gives me a wonderful sense of freedom.

Clearly, recovering from significant emotional and relational losses or trauma is not an easy engagement. It requires focus, a level of willingness, and courage. Recovery is a series of steps and actions that need to be accomplished by you. You can be helped or guided by another to shorten your agony, but he or she can't recover you. No one can recover you but you.

Recovery means "redeeming places." You recover your self as a place by finding new meaning to what happened to you. Recovery means remembering places without having them precipitate feelings of loss, pain, regret, or  shame. Recovery is being able to forgive people no matter what they'd done or said. Recovery is claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming your happiness. Recovery is redeeming places by talking about your wounds and helping others heal.

Getting the proper information and correct action to you is what therapy is all about. With that, you can redeem places and discover strength within your self to recover. You are in safe hands. You can feel better. You can move beyond loss. And I say "redeeming places" is a way to expedite your recovery.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Train Psych, Any One?

I've been thinking today of trains. Trains are weird places, don't you think? Especially crowded ones. 


In numerous occasions, I'd have speaking tours before Koreans and Filipinos in Seoul (also in other parts). Whenever I'd ride their trains, I'd be with fellow Filipinos. Like in the Philippines where MRT is always overcrowded with people, trains in Seoul can be so full during peak hours there isn't room to turn around. One time, my fellow Filipinos and I had a big laugh together. And the Koreans, with whom we occupy common space, would just stare and frown at us. Strange.

I've been reflecting that a passenger train is a microcosm of the world today. You're crammed in close with lots of people. Yet nobody talks. You try hard not to touch others. No smiling. No eye contact allowed without consent. Anonymity, isolation, and independence are the uniform of the day inside trains. It's a most amazing thing if you think deeply about it. Healthy social interaction, relating to people, gets diluted by the "train mentality."

I read of an article in Psychology Today entitled "The Age of Indifference" written by psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo. He pulls no punches as he writes:  "I know of no more potent killer than isolation. There is no more destructive influence on physical and mental health than the isolation of you from me and of us from them. It has shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder .... "

That hurts. Yet we must come to terms with this observation. We must come down hard on it. The need is so huge!

Stop the train. I'm getting off.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Life Is Brief

When I was much younger, I used to play chess a lot. My eventually becoming a youth champion chess player was due to the inspiration of one man and his games on the artistic side of my mind.

He was brilliant. Clearly a child prodigy ... the pride of Brooklyn ... considered the greatest world chess champion who ever lived. His official name was Robert James Fischer.


He was 64 when he passed on. He was then living in isolation in Iceland and in exile from his home country, the USA. He carried a lot of unresolved personal issues, unprocessed pains, that affected him deeply. He died with a psychotherapist by his bedside, holding his hand. 

By the time everyone in the world bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was already set in an obscure place. No grand flowers or candles to burn. No funeral service, no tourists to gather. 


Fischer has joined the ages of eternity - forever absent from our eyes. He is gone.

Life is brief. Incredibly brief. Okay, you and I are still alive. What are we to do with the limited supply of time we have - no matter how short or how long the years appear to be?  Should we spend and invest it in something good or in something bad? ... in something life-giving or in something life-damaging?  

As the Psalmist put it, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (90:12).

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reasoning With Your Self

"I'm stupid, no good." "My situation is hopeless." "It may be true for other people but not for me." "Nothing works, I give up."

The Greek philosopher, Epictetus, summed up his prescription for mental health long ago: "Men are disturbed not by things but by the view which they take of them." In Shakespeare's Hamlet, we catch the same point, "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck was founder of CT or Cognitive Therapy, possibly the most extensively clinically investigated of all psychotherapies. Dr. Beck believed that if you could reason persistently with anyone going through mental or emotional breakdown - or better yet, get one to reason with himself or herself - you could help free the person from the stranglehold of negative, distorted thinking.

Reasoning with your self, the cognitive therapeutic approach, therefore, is to change your point of view. It invites your self to be more critically aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that depress you. It directs you to systematically challenge the validity of your thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic alternatives. By persisting, you can gradually lift your self out of mental disorder or internal anguish.

Ready now to "talk back" to your automatic thoughts?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Healing Your Depression Naturally

Depression. 

It's often described as the "common cold" of mental illness. For most of us, the condition is not merely a theory. We know what it's like to struggle with it in varying degrees. And feel that nothing seems to help.


Brain or psychiatric drugs can be damaging to your mental health. Know your alternatives. There are safer, more natural approaches that can turn your depression off like a switch. 

Here below is my list of different treatments or tools you can use to heal your depression naturally. They have been studied and tested scientifically and psychologically and are found to be useful.

1.   Take a complete physical exam to rule out any medical causation;
2.   Avoid toxic substances from environment or outside to enter your body that contribute to mood poisoning;
3.   Eat healthy foods, such vegetables, fruits etc
4.   Get into the orthomolecular approach or megavitamin therapy;
5.   Balance your minerals (e.g. Potassium, magnesium, sodium etc) to balance emotions;
6.   Take herbs known for psychological healing and antidepressant effects (e.g. St Johns wort, ginkgo biloba, oats, ginseng);
7.   Select homeopathy for solution;
8.   Seek formal psychotherapy, especially when severe or out of control;
9.   Take light therapy and cure;
10.  Take the sleep and rest cure;
11.  Know how to shift your body clock back into sync;
12.  Exercise (e.g. Running, walking, gym workouts etc) to exorcise the blues;
13.  Get relief from bio energetic body massage;
14.  Practice deep breathing, meditation, and prayer exercises;
15.  Get more active in your daily schedule with productive activities;
16.  Reason with your self and applying self talk techniques;
17.  Expand your circles of social support for interpersonal healing;
18.  Take Word medicine (e.g. Words of encouragement, hope; read Bible);
19.  Go to church and listen to music and messages;
20.  Cultivate a new hobby or artistic activity (e.g. Painting, writing, music etc)


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Healthy Choices, Harmful Choices

Suppose you have very high blood pressure. Because of lots of stress as well as eating foods too high in cholesterol and fat content over time, you're now facing a risk for heart attack and stroke. The unhealthy condition in your physical body was produced by your unhealthy lifestyle and bad health habits.

What will solve this problem? Well, the solution will be for you to cut down on your cholesterol and fat as well as reduce and manage your levels of daily stress. In addition, doctors will prescribe active exercise, vegetables and fruits, and periodic physical checks on the condition for possible medication if needed.

What is the way out of an illness or problem created by unwise, harmful choices?  Wise, healthy choices. And who is primarily responsible for making wise, healthy choices?  The person who has made unwise, harmful choices.

Consider Tina who saw me a few times for personal therapy because her husband wanted to separate from her already. According to her account, her part was she had always been neglectful, angry, and verbally/physically abusing of her husband. What is the solution for Tina's need and problem? A big part, of course, is healing herself, managing her anger, and choosing to stop her destructive behaviors towards her husband. Who is responsible for making those wise, healthy choices? Tina, herself.

After learning more deeply about her self and resolving to change, her husband volunteered to come over to join his wife for marital therapy. Tina had opportunity to make wise, healthy choices. If she had always been angry, calmness and self-restraint need to prevail. If unkind, verbally abusive words had been a pattern, kind words need to be spoken. Unfortunately, in the session, Tina chose to revert back to her own old pattern where she began raging, kicking chairs, threatening and verbally abusing her husband again. As a result, her husband walked out and finally decided to separate from her.

Through unwise, harmful choices, we create problems or needs in our lives. In a certain sense, we are all capable of generating much of our own suffering and misery. And we learn what we all learn or experience in life: bad choices produce bad consequences.   

"We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with."   (C. S. Lewis)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Unconditional Love

We live in a world where love is mostly conditional - based on looks, performance, or possessions. A lot of people, particularly mental health patients, grow up believing that something is terribly defective at the center of their being. So they hide who they really are in the hope of receiving love. Feeling unlovable and lonely, they set up defenses against sharing their true selves, their innermost feelings, with anybody.


Fyodor Dostoyevksy, author of the classic "War and Peace," describes the feeling when he wrote, "I am convinced that the only hell which exists is the inability to love." Because people who have never experienced unconditional love always feel a profound emptiness, they perceive all relationships or activities as getting what they're deprived of to fill a vaguely understood void within. They give love only on the condition that they get something in return.

As a psychotherapist who have journeyed with countless individuals, I feel that all mental health disease is ultimately connected to a lack of love. Or, to a kind of love that is basically conditional or performance-based. This is very exhausting to the body's immune system. Such kind of psychological and emotional need is capable of producing physical symptoms or sickness. This is strikingly borne out of the stories too of numerous patients who go to the hospital for treatment of whatever medical condition.

Unconditional love is a healing key. In my sessions, when I'm able to get people to accept themselves as they are, lovable despite externals, they become able to heal fast and give to others from within an inner strength. This is true, especially when they realize that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18) and the source where they can get it. They understand that unconditional love multiplies itself whether or not it's returned. As Walt Whitman wrote:
           
                               "Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage
                                           for fear I effuse unreturned love,
                                 But now I think there is no unreturned love.
                                 The pay is certain, one way or another.
                                 I loved a certain person ardently and my love was
                                           not returned,
                                 Yet out of that I have written these songs."
 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

No Incurable Illness, Only Incurable People

"There is no incurable illness, only incurable people."

That's Dr. Bernie Siegel in his book "Love, Medicine, & Miracles," with a subtitle "lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon's experience with exceptional patients."

That statement strikes me. I want to understand what Dr. Siegel is pointing out and its applications. I do, for it concerns what I do a lot of the time. In a society such as ours, the response to life's stress and problems are pretty much left to the individual. The individual's mind must learn to disconnect psychologically from external pressures to cope better and not get sick.

Not everyone who suffers a trauma, loss, or deep stress develops a severe illness. Whether the illness is mental, emotional, or physical, the deciding factor is always how an individual thinks about or copes with the problem. Scientific evidence shows that mental factors are always present in cancer, depression, violence, addiction, and other types of breakdown. Those who can reframe their minds despite stressful circumstances and continue with their lives generally stay well or better.

I once talked to a separated married couple in great distress. The husband was a drug addict, overdosing on prescription pills, a gambler, and a womanizer. He was harming his wife, both physically and verbally. He had undergone long five years of psychotherapy sessions already and he'd still not able to control his anger and addictions. The simple truth is, he was being driven to his sickness. The requirements of recovery are obvious and yet he remained disabled in his will to bring himself to wellness.

If a person deals completely with anger, addiction, or abandonment when it first appears, illness or mental breakdown need not occur. Often, when we do not deal with our deepest emotional needs, we set ourselves up for physical illness or mental disorder. Yet what are we most comfortable with? Avoiding or denying there is a problem. Telling a loved one we're seeing a doctor to put up an appearance. We're actually more comfortable finding escapes and covering up instead of going directly into the roots of our pain ourselves.

No incurable illness, only incurable people. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Self Conquest

I can't speak for you. But from what I learn in my life's walk, self dilemmas are common among humans. Some people - at least from external appearances - seem to see life on a black and white basis. Things are either right or wrong. Not for me. At times, I wind up in a gray or undetermined area.


In Charles Schulz's popular Peanuts cartoons, Lucy is philosophizing and Charlie is listening. "Charlie Brown," Lucy begins, "life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they're going. Others place it to see where they've been. And some so they can see where they are at the present." Charlie sighs, "I can't even get mine unfolded!"

There are countless voices these days. Some are loud or soft. Many are enticing. Quite a lot can be downright convincing. If you don't know your self well, it can really be so confusing. If you listen long enough to the wrong voices inside your head or outside of you, you'll be tempted to just let your glands or hormones drive you. It can be easier to get a rush towards pleasure and satisfaction without restraint. No question. But ultimately, you end up damaging or hurting the very core of your self or well being.

Self dilemmas or confusion have the potential of being life's most destructive happiness spoilers. They can be capable of producing misery, even psychopathology. Being stuck, not understanding your self or knowing what to do in the face of life's deepest challenges ... ah my friend, that's truly a tough call.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

When External Solutions Do Not Work

In many instances, a person thinks and feels that what he or she is doing externally will bring about solution to his or her deep needs internally.

Consider a single young woman who is a workaholic. She is driven to perform and spend over 60 hours a week in the office. All her energies are devoted to getting ahead in her corporate career. During her little free time, she goes to the bar to pick up men and have sex with them. Outwardly, this woman claims that she must work long hours and find release in sexual relationships for her survival and enjoyment.

If you are to ask this woman whether she's happy, she may likely say, "Of course, I'm happy. I get what I want." Or, she may admit, "I don't know what's happening. I don't get satisfaction anywhere." The truth of the matter is, such a woman does not fully understand herself. She does not know within her self the true nature of her needs. She has been deceived into thinking that she can increase her self value to or acceptance of others through hard work and casual sex with men. At the core of her very being is a deep need to be loved, recognized, and embraced for who she is as a person.

I've met countless people in my personal and professional life who fit the profile of a woman I've given here. In every case, they try to meet deep internal needs through external solutions. Then only to discover that they don't really satisfy. They could never reach out deep enough to meet real needs within. I've discovered that when I'm able to talk long enough to persons and they become willing to be honest with themselves and me, they come face to face with their deepest true needs.

Indeed, until those deepest true needs are directly faced and addressed, a person is likely to continue pursuing external solutions for their internal needs. External solutions don't work to fulfill internal needs because ultimately they are false solutions.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Benefits of Chess Therapy

Chess has numerous benefits regarding health. Chess is very momentous. That's specifically for health and therapy related issues for the fact that it is one of the forms of Recreational Therapy.

Chess keeps mind healthy.  And healthy minds leads to healthy physique because mind controls and monitors all the activities of body.

Here are the benefits of chess regarding health as cited in an article from chess.com:

1)  Chess helps patients who suffered from stroke and disabilities to recover. Chess develops the fine motor skills of these individuals as chess requires the motion of chess pieces in different directions (forward, backward, diagonally forward motion, diagonally backward motion).


2)  Chess optimizes the memory performance, because you will have to remember a lot of stuff to play chess (as the rules of chess are quite complex/ complicated) and in order to gain expertise in chess (tricks and techniques) you have to remember even more. You also need to learn from your previous games and mistakes, in order to be a good player of chess and this really optimizes the memory performance and recalling ability.

3)  Chess improves visualization. For example, before implementing a move a player imagines/ visualizes the effect on chess board or game. A player considers different moves or possibilities before playing a move in other words a player visualizes different moves in his mind and selects the best one that adds accuracy and benefit to his game and increases his chances of winning.

4)  Pattern recognition is a fundamental quality momentous in chess. You need to recall previous moves and compare it with the current scenario (position) before placing a move since; it is very difficult to recall each and every move as there are thousands of moves and its is almost impossible to recall them at one time therefore your mind search for pattern and similarity in each scenario (position), thus improving pattern recognition.

5)  According to recent studies, Chess assist the persons suffering from physical and emotional disability to recover completely.

6)  Experiments revealed that, chess leads to improvement in cognitive functioning (as chess improves attention, memory, organization skills and perception). It improves the ability of cognitive-impaired individual to work on issues related to orientation, sensory stimulation and environmental awareness.

7)  According to American Therapeutic Recreation Association (2005), the involvement of individual (suffering from spinal cord injury) in recreational activity specifically chess, improves his ability to enjoy life (life satisfaction), make social contacts or interaction and quality to overcome or suppress depression. This leads to decreased loneliness, increased social interaction, improved morale and ability to manage stress efficiently.

8) Chess (as recreational therapy) prevents or reduces non-adaptive or inappropriate behavior (American Therapeutic Recreation 2005).


9)  Chess prevents anxiety and depression by encouraging self improvement, improving self esteem and self confidence.

10) Chess improves visual memory and visual perception in addition to this; it improves caution/ attention and awareness.

Chess is extensively healthy activity or game. It should be encouraged to a great extent to ensure a happier and healthier life on planet as it degrades or eliminates disability, inflates growth in various aspects of routine functioning, improves independent functioning and quality of life.
 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Laughter

I'm thinking of laughter today.

Believe me when I tell you I've watched lots of people my age -- not that old -- who've lost joy in their faces. And I'm not even thinking about traumas and wounds that I normally see in my sessions. Just life's daily grind, the heavy responsibilities wearing you down, making you frown, robbing you of laughter and cheers.

In the work I do and in my personal life, I have a lot to laugh about. I've laughed my way through all my ups and downs in my choices. I made mistakes, even big time. I had moments when I felt bad. But I've developed a capacity to wash it away in rivers of laughter. I need to laugh at myself sometimes. Especially when I do something stupid or jerky. Often, that's an only way I can get a laugh during a day!

Of course, during sessions, I do as best as I can to laugh with whoever I'm with. Many times, I laugh away at my sessions! It's part of therapy. Primarily, for others. But my therapy too! I feel I had missed the fun I had experienced when I was in my teens and twenties. So I figure I need to make up with an attitude adjustment. Not dead serious. When I sit down, I ask in my thoughts what I did when I was much younger that made me happy. What made me laugh? And so there ... the laughter that comes out feeds my mind and soul.

I don't believe psychotherapy should stay dire and detached. Laughter is okay. It heals. Medicine to the troubled mind and heart. Try it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

School Is Not Forever, You Enter The Real World

Not long ago, I once counseled a celebrity on-campus college kid who was about to finish university. He was getting more and more depressed and experiencing anxiety attacks. As his graduation drew near, he found himself getting angry, easily irritated, and feeling a drain in his self-confidence. I supposed that at that point in his college seniority, it was with an uncomfortable feeling that he looked back and wondered, is this for real? Have I traveled this far, and now exiting and starting anew?

I myself experienced depression too right after my university years way back. I guess that's what happens when you're a "celebrity" on campus! Or so I thought, since I smelled and tasted moments of victory and recognition in a field among my peers and beyond. So when it's time to go, I knew exactly how it felt. At times, I felt relieved or happy about getting my diploma. Other times, I drew a blank. It was staggering to realize that some images, memories, or things will be taken away from you, and you know why.


Like other things in this life, school is not forever. You enter the real world after graduation. You begin to face the challenges of real life. I suppose most graduates are not coached, step by step, on how to transition from school to the real world of real life. Finishing school can be tedious and at once quite emotional. It awakens your senses to times ago. There can be countless career seminars, talks, and parties to prepare for graduation. But we can be hard put to find resources to directly address the hidden psychological, emotional issues of students way past school.

Denzel Washington, a famous actor in Hollywood, was commencement speaker at Dillard University in New Orleans. To the graduating class of 2015, he said, "Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to dream big. But dreams without goals ultimately fuel disappointment. You must have goals. Do what you feel passionate about. Don't just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference. Put God first in everything you do. It has kept me humble. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that -- it is a gift."

Speaking of life after school.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Doc, I just need to get married!"

"Doc, I just need to get married!"

That's right. Misty shouted these words out, with a tone of desperation in her voice. Sounds legitimate, some kind of relief to her problems. About the time her face cleared up, her mind with her words got fuzzy. And her eyes, a little misty, at least.

If I'm not your therapist, you'd know what I think of marriage. You who know me personally outside of my vocation already know what I'd be prompted to say more. No need to add to what you've heard from me, right? Or, is there I must explain further? Maybe so. Something along a point why too many marriages are in trouble today!

What can be underneath Misty's desperate "need to get married?" Her hidden, unexpressed root needs could be much more likely to be loneliness, financial security, emotional nurturing, or unfulfilled sexual desires. She believed that if she gets married, her husband will automatically accept her, love her, and meet all her needs. The truth is, it's never the case of any spouse - at least not in a lasting or adequate way.

Misty is typical of so many today - whether single, never married, solo parent, divorced, or even the already-married. In most cases, marriage is a "me-centered" piece of thought. It's perceived as a solution to one's personal needs in order to be happy and fulfilled. A person looks for a spouse to meet all his or her needs. In other words, be the source of emotional, financial, sexual, physical, material, psychological, and even spiritual provisions. 

The reality is that in marriage, some of your needs can be met and you're able to meet some of the needs of the other person. No fellow human being - no matter how wealthy, noble, or fantastic - is capable of fully meeting all the needs and expectations of another person. And no fellow human being should expect another fellow human being to meet all of his or her needs. And yet, many people who "needs to get married" are looking for precisely that - the opposite of reality.

Life is more than marriage. No one says you must be married to be whole. You don't need to be married to be joyful or experience a full life. Don't believe the movies! If you are under the impression that a spouse or another human being can meet all the needs of another person, I suggest you reexamine your position. 

Marriage is not the need or goal. Wholeness is.
 

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Is Your Need?

Every one of us has needs. We're all born with needs. No exception.

Whenever I sit down with hurting individuals, couples, or families, I often ask about their needs. Pressing for specifics, I discovered that many of them have not been clear or able to accurately pinpoint the real needs in their lives.

Yes, they do have a generic feeling of neediness. They have a nagging, gnawing feeling that something is not okay inside them. They feel overwhelmed by a problem they can't solve or a question they can't answer. Yet they simply can't name and define well what they say and feel are their needs.

In my work as a therapist and counselor, I've frequently and routinely encountered the following "top needs" expressed and described to me by those who visit me in session:

*  Security
*  Health
*  Relationship harmony
*  Sexual partner
*  The need to be loved
*  Success/achieving dreams
*  Financial stability
*  Marriage
*  Parenting children
*  Healing damaged emotions
*  Forgiveness
*  Control
*  Recovery from betrayal
*  The need to be needed
*  Inner peace
*  Connection with God
*  Making peace with one's parents

Allow me to invite you to take a look at this list above and review these areas in your life. Is something missing? Can something be better? In all likelihood, you will choose at least one area in which you have a sense that things are lacking, weak, or breaking down.

Understand though, as you go though the list above, that there is a difference between "need" and "desire." A "need" is something that is essential for the fulfillment of your life (e.g. water, food, shelter). It's different from "desire," which tends to be something that is not essential but feels enjoyable (e.g. control, dreams). All of us have at some point can be confused or unclear because we believed something was a "need" when it truly was only a "desire."

Saturday, May 09, 2015

When At The Door Of Sexual Addiction

One single middle aged man painfully detailed to me his decades-old piano, youth, and ministry work in the church. He expressed his desire to serve God. But his face turned to wrenching as he spoke of his bondage to pornography and gay sex with multiple partners on a weekly basis. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was so weak.

Is this man sex "addicted?" The compulsive sexual cravings and activities are certainly strong evidence. The Greek word for "addicted" means to be brought into bondage, much like a slave. Because he is a slave to his sexual passions, then he needs help for his addiction by talking to a therapist or counselor.

What about you? Let me give you a little diagnostic test. You don't need a pen to answer; you just need to be honest. Simply answer "yes" or "no."

*  Do you masturbate to images of other women?
*  Do you fantasize when a sexy or attractive woman comes near you?
*  Do you watch sexually arousing videos or photos in the internet for gratification?
*  Do you store nude images of women etc in your cell phone or computer?
*  Do you have behaviors that you can't share with your spouse?
*  Do you call a hotline for phone sex?
*  Do you practice voyeurism?
*  Do you have a secret place or closed compartment that you hide from your spouse?

If you have answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are lurking at the door of sexual addiction. Then you're inside the room! Like any addiction, sex addiction is progressive. It starts small. Then it won't go away. It's always asking to be scratched, the itch intensified, seeking relief. But rather than feeling fulfilled, it leaves you feeling more empty.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Invisible Handicap

Building self-esteem is an oft-stated goal in psychotherapy. It's a basic clinical concept that self-esteem is central to good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

When mental disorders or life traumas do strike, self-dislike degrades healing, performance, and overall health. Such mental state produces internal resistance, relapse, and blockages to therapy and recovery.

A damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is well recognized in psychological literature and clinical practice to be responsible for producing or contributing to:

*  Depression
*  Anxiety
*  Stress symptoms
*  Psychosomatic illness, like headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and digestive tract upset
*  Hostility, excessive or deep-seated anger, dislike and distrust of others, competitiveness
*  Spouse and child abuse
*  Infidelity
*  Promiscuity
*  Entering into abusive/unhappy relationships
*  Alcohol and drug abuse
*  Sex, porn addiction
*  Eating disorders and unhealthy dieting
*  Poor communication (e.g. non-assertive, aggressive, defensive, critical, sarcastic)
*  Dependency
*  Sensitivity to criticism
*  Tendency to put on a false front to impress others
*  Social difficulties - withdrawal, isolation, loneliness
*  Poor performance, laziness, inactivity
*  Preoccupation with problems
*  Status/appearance concerns

Plus ... a lot more!

No wonder, a damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is called a big "invisible handicap."

Sunday, May 03, 2015

De-selfing

In a group therapy session, a woman was asked what she enjoyed doing. Her name was Maria, who shared: "There is not anything I enjoyed doing. My whole life was taking care of my husband. I wanted to do what he desired. I was always there for him no matter how I felt. I listened for hours on end to his problems. I really lived for him. And now I have no life."


"De-selfing." It's a term coined by author Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger, which is eventually adopted as a clinical concept in mental health. It refers to a state of under-functioning or over-functioning because too much of one's self or basic integrity - thoughts, feelings, behaviors, ambitions etc - are compromised or harmed under pressure from a relationship. A common result of "de-selfing" is a host of mental and emotional disorders or symptoms, such as depression, addiction, personality disorder, obsessive compulsion, suicidal ideation, among others.

Maria, based on her story, had a long-standing habit of "de-selfing." She lived through her husband and failed to care for her self. She ignored, neglected, or minimized her own needs in order to be what she misperceived a good wife is. She missed essential self-nurturing that's vital to her own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When she suffered a loss from her husband, she found her self empty, having "no life."

If you are like that group therapy member Maria, who had completely replaced her own well-being with that of her husband, taking care of your self must now become a priority for you. It's your way of rebuilding your self-esteem ... your whole life as a matter of fact. You may feel discomfort at first while you're changing this life-damaging "de-selfing" habit, but it should gradually lessen over time.

Treating your self well is not selfish, as you may have been taught or conditioned to believe. Rather it is basic self-respect - a nurturance of life that is so foundational to your total health, well being, and relationships.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Mystery of Unfair Wounds

The puzzle is familiar and relevant. People may get wounded by unfair consequences. Like many among you, I pick up the paper or watch TV news and I see this reality of life assaulting my eyes. Rabbi Harold Kushner describes it his way through his bestselling book - "When Bad Things Happen To Good People." Yes, misfortunes do happen to good or innocent people.

Think of that loving young girl who was abandoned by both father and mother, and sold to another family. Why is it that courageous, godly Christians are killed and martyred rather than their ISIS brutal murderers? Why is it that the corrupt politicians or drug lords get rich on porn, drug abuse, prostitution, illegal gambling, mind-twisting, etc while you can barely make ends meet even though you walk uprightly?

In my own practice, I've seen kind, noble people crack under the strain of unbearable trauma. I've witnessed and tried to help people whose marriages break up or facing cancers or functionally suicidal, who appear unable to be normal again.  They got hurt by unfair circumstances and events in their lives. They were victimized by injustice. Isn't it amazing how some individuals can get away with cheating, infidelity, deception, abandonment, and dishonor, virtually untouched by justice (on this temporal earth only, I mean!)?

I'm reminded of this woman who loved her husband a lot and took care of him well in their 40 years of marriage. One day, she discovered that her husband has been secretly unfaithful to her and having multiple affairs during half of the number of years they're married. In one final instant, her husband left her for a younger woman, ousted her in their home, and left no support for her in old age. To be honest, a lot of us can be riddled by where that's coming from. It's a psychological enigma, wrapped in mystery.

Now I say that it's a mystery that defies explanation - the mystery of unfair wounds. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Power of Surrender

To transcend our brokenness, we need to learn the power of surrender. The path of letting go. We step into a quiet place. Soften our heart. Listen with innocent ears. Until we surrender, we are glued or attached to the pain of our loss and breakup.

Surrendering is specially hard if you've been betrayed, abandoned, or deceived. Because of hurt, you may choose to shut down. You may communicate your anger and upset covertly and overtly. In a passive-aggressive way, you may find yourself resisting hearing the other. As a result, you get stuck - glued to the very thing you want to get away from.

As I watched my 12-year-old daughter, Angel, learn Taekwondo this summer, I noticed an interesting technique her coach was teaching her - the self-defense of "let go." If an attacker grabs your arm, tightening up and pulling away will trigger the attacker to hold on tighter. But when you step toward your opponent and relax, your attacker's grip eventually loosens, giving you a chance to break free from his hold. To get away from an attacker, as the moves of taekwondo show, you must first surrender to his grip.

In the sacred state of surrender, you become capable to detach from the outcome. You accept that everything is happening for a divine purpose. You breathe deeply, relax.  You relinquish judgment for the moment. You loosen the grip of your expectations. And, as you do, you're able to get the Big Picture from One who is in control.  

Only by being willing to surrender to your deepest wounds and fears can you discover that the worst outcome wouldn't ruin your heart, mind, and life. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Abusing Kids By Giving Them Too Much

I woke up this morning thinking about a mother and son in my session not too long ago. Well, it's like watching a story in a movie. Expert clinicians in the psych field have dealt with their condition, which they call "affluenza" or "rich kid syndrome."

Entitlement. Addiction. These two words pretty much describe the current condition of the now middle-aged son. A college drop-out and never held a job in his life, he has become addicted to drugs, alcohol, car racing, women, and casino gambling. Heir of family wealth, he feels entitled to too much money without having to work for it.

The mother brought her son to me because she's confused about what's happening to him. For over a decade now, her son has been under psychiatric medication, in and out of psych facilities. She doesn't see her son recovering but worsening day by day with depressive and nervous breakdowns. Since he was a little child onwards to adulthood, it's his mother who'd be by his side, protecting and insulating him with access to lots of money, bailing him out when he does something wrong, and seeing to it that everything is done for him.

As it turns out, the mother never realizes the "abuse" she's been doing to her son for so many years. When I started inviting them to explore the "roots" of their situation, they got nervous. The mother stopped me. The son did not want to let go of his usual "comforts" so he can begin healing. Truth hurts. Both mother and son, in this case, are in dire need of appropriate help and support. Unfortunately, they rejected it and would rather prefer to remain in bondage and misery outside of truth.

Let's stop for a moment and think about our own family situation. Our parenting. Our children. Do we abuse our kids by giving them too much? By the way, this disease is not only common among the wealthy or middle-class families. It can be as common too even in poor families. It is no respecter of persons or status. It's a hot battle in the mind.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Rise of iDisorder

The smartphone is wonderful. With it, we can check our email, monitor our social network, write in blogs, keep in touch with loved ones and the rest of the world. It's an immensely used digital machine nowadays. In fact, anywhere we go, this tech piece appears to answer the "needs" of countless people around the world.

Yet I notice among us, most people I observe, that the smartphone is always immediately checked, used, or looked at. In the streets. Inside the movie house. While eating in restaurants. In the car, even while driving. Excusing one's self to go to the restroom to check the iPhone. Isolating, withdrawing from social interaction or party, to engage in the virtual place of games or fantasy. Don't you think something is going on here underneath the surface we see?

Dr. Larry Rosen, a well-recognized international expert on the psychology of technology, says there is a rising trend of a type of mental disorder he calls "iDisorder." According to him, iDisorder refers to "changes to your brain´s ability to process information and your ability to relate to the world due to your daily use of media and technology resulting in signs and symptoms of psychological disorders – such as stress, sleeplessness, and a compulsive need to check in with all of your technology."

Well, talking about iDisorder, it's not just smartphone overuse or "addiction." There is, of course, Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. YouTube. Plus ... a lot of other social networks and posting sites. They all look good and can enhance our social or mental life. But with iDisorder, digital technologies and social networks can be places where we may unwittingly harm our minds. Truly, there can be deeper roots of psychological problems related to overuse of technology.

iDisorder is a futurist psychopathology. It's possible, like in other good things, to let too much of a good thing become a bad thing in our lives. In a technology-centric world, we all need to regain control and keep our minds safe and sane.

How about a "tech break" to find out whether we're still normal or already disordered?