Thursday, August 15, 2019


I met Donna, a woman in her 70s. She was Mom to one of my clients, Tess, who suffered from severe depression and alcoholism.

At the outset, in my first meeting with Donna, she talked more than listen and make demands rather than cooperate with her daughter’s recovery. She’s not exactly pleasant to chat with.

Tess spoke painfully about her Mom during our sessions. She lamented her Mom’s rudeness, bluntness and insensitivity. That made Tess and her three other siblings pull back from her.

Lately, due to social pressure from relatives and the pain of her children’s alienation, Donna finally agreed to see a psychotherapist.

Self-centeredness is a considerable source of unhappiness. Coupled with inability to listen, coercion, or inflexibility, self-centeredness creates unnecessary emotional pain in relationships.

Donna, as well as many others, was afflicted with this virus. She regularly ran over other people’s feelings or make a scene anywhere with the weight of her own psychological wounds, anger, and misery, even wickedness.

Writer and social worker, Wendy Lustbader, once wrote, “The parts of ourselves that we neglect lie in wait for us, like an accusation.”

Self-centeredness, like other unresolved internal issues, benefits from attention. Correcting the neglect such as in a therapeutic space brings a forward movement to healing and restoration of relationships.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

His Depression Became His Helper

No one lives without looking for meaning. 

Whether consciously or unconsciously, it’s something naturally given and built into our human nature.

Once, I was with a man in his early forties. He had spent years developing a highly successful business. 

But one day, he found himself severely depressed. In an emotional seesaw. He could not understand. 

The more his externals were going up, the more his internals were going down. He’s confused and lost about what’s going on with him.

That’s when he began to seek help in therapy. There, he discovered more closely and honestly what his depression was telling about his life.

His discoveries startled him. 

One of them, he realized how all these years he bought into an unquestioning cultural idea that the meaning of life is wealth and achievement.

He totally believed that life’s meaning was nothing more than earning a lot of money and other people’s praises and approval.

“It’s the illusion that drove my life, so now I’m experiencing its pain,” he remarked. Fueled by society, he saw it now as a sort of “con job” he did on himself.

He ended up leaving the affluence or glamour of his business behind, living a minimalist lifestyle, and attending a Christian missionary school. 

Eventually, he served as a missionary and bible teacher among the poor in a Third World country.

This man’s depression became his helper. 

Returning to his spiritual longings and passion, doing what matters to him, released him from his suffering. 

Through it, he found himself ... and the true meaning of his life. A meaning larger than life.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Impermanence: Lived or Unlived Life?

Author Violet Weingarten, in her book “Intimations of Mortality,” tells of a woman who kept a personal journal. After facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the 59-year-old woman reflects:

“You feel a loss of options. The Greek you were going to study someday, the lover you might take, the house you would have by the sea, the children whose children you looked forward to, the finally successful definitive book you were going to write - it was all fantasy maybe (or maybe not), and any or all might still happen; but everything seems less likely. Life is no longer open ended.”

When I was younger, I used to work for a city local newspaper. In one of the articles I wrote, “Impermanence,”  I expressed about my own struggles after “things end.”

Even when I was a healthy youth then, I still felt cheated when losses or mishaps interfere with my strivings. And now, when I’ve become old, I know there would again be that sort of feeling in my life experience.

To varying degrees, the struggle with “impermanence” is everyone’s plight. Our time is finite, limited.

And if the struggle gets unresolved within us, someday we die without ever once knowing what life (temporary though it may be) is really about.

Since over 10 years ago, I’ve been given the opportunity and freedom enough  to order my inner life for the rest of my days as I would wish it to be till I fly away.

It’s comprised of “authoring life” on the page and the life of others I help heal. It likewise allows me time for reading and writing - activities I most value and that make me most alive.

The occupation makes me feel immortal. Permanent. It brings me something like happiness in an earth where time is not open ended.

Writer Wendy Lustbader explains this in a genius way, “To fulfill our promises to ourselves is to prepare to die;  tragedy is to die with unlived life still inside us.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Strength - But From Where?

Last night, one of the things I did with a man in session was to identify with his problem.

I said to him after sharing my story, “I’ve been there too. But I’ve discovered a complete answer to my failure and weakness. And I’d like to share with you that strength that I found.”

Whatever we’re struggling with, we need strength. But from where do you get it?

The answer is, it has little to do with your own strength. Your own human power. Your own self-will.

The strength operates from a supernatural or nonhuman source, which is from Christ. Your personal relationship with and life in Him gives you all the strength you need.

As the Apostle Paul put it, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The field of psychology  can be helpful. It can give you practical recommendations to overcome your hurting heart. In some ways, it’s right on how to build your strength within.

Psychology has a point - up to a point. With its incompleteness, you remain stuck in your weakness. With it alone, you remain lost in the maze of your personal history.

Though we can learn or pick up some truths from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Irvin Yalom, or Jeffrey Kottler, see that God has an ultimate truth to offer that secular psychology or the whole mental health field leaves out: the application of redemptive, all-powerful strength.

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ,” explains noted mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal.

Fill that vacuum from the True Source and you get unlimited supply of strength.

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, August 09, 2019

Resist the Hack, Love the Journey

Do you know Rich Roll?

He’s a celebrated ultra Ironman triathlon runner. He completed 5 Ironman events in the Hawaiian Islands in 2010. By the way, he did it in only 7 days. And, he only eats plants.

If you ask Rich how in the world was he able to do it, he’ll say it’s in the “grind.” He loves the grind, the training, the process, the journey.

He wrote about it in his book, a bestselling memoir, “Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself.”

One of the biggest self growth takeaways we can learn from Rich Roll is to “resist the shortcut, embrace the grind.”

To aspire for wholeness and greatness in our lives means a constant state of daily training. In a sense, it’s disbelieving the finish lines. Instead, we embrace the daily grind of meaningful, persevering work.

“I’m getting impatient, when will I get well,” asked a young man in therapy recovering from chronic depression and multiple suicidal attempts.

It’s typical. We live in a culture with demands for (illusory) instant gratification, hacks, easy work, and entitlements to a good life.

Rich confronts this:

“Failure or success ... is what gives the journey proper context, rich consistency, and towering emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual stakes that fertilize the soul for quantum growth irrespective of outcome. And growth is everything. But it can only result from earnest investment in experience.”

Out of the process, the grind, the journey, Rich argues, we derive a readiness for the arrival of a new, better self.

Resist the hack, love the journey.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Psychological Heath in BPO

In the Philippines, BPO workers are a major leg in the country’s economy. It’s an important sector (like the OFWs) that gives jobs/sustenance to quite a lot of Filipinos and their families.

Unfortunately, the work of call center agents has a built-in risk that can take a serious toll on their mental health and overall well-being.

A recent U.S.-based Washington Post investigation reports of one call center worker, Lester, who was haunted in his mind by what he sees during work.

Being a content moderator, Lester was exposed daily to reviewing suicides, massacres, and other forms of violence in his desk.

Having problems erasing those images in his mind would at times trigger flashbacks in Lester to the violence he reviewed in the office.

Entering a tall building, as an example, would cause him to entertain in his thoughts the possibility of jumping from it.

“I could not afford it, Doc, but I know I need it,” said a call center agent who once called me to seek mental health treatment.

He himself shared with me of fellow workers experiencing vicarious trauma who simply suffer mental breakdowns at their desks.

University of the Philippines Dean Sylvia Claudio told the Washington Post that she worries about a growing generation of young people suffering in silence in the BPO industry.

But according to the Post, the young workers reported to them that “the companies do not provide adequate support to address the psychological consequences of the work.”

Mental trauma or abuse of our call center agents is definitely as bad as physical abuse of their health.

I think the government and the private sector should look into the psychological health of our workers in BPO companies.

We have millions of our youth there ... the future and treasure of our land.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Days Filled With Space to Breathe

We know people who have become too tired. There are many things in their schedule. Others, due to boredom, losses, or emotional abuse.

People need down times. Terminals. A supply of days filled with spaces to breathe in order to repair, replenish, refresh.

I’ve some solutions to get those spaces to breathe. You can try any that works for you.

•  Travel to places of nature and do reflection walks.

•  Indulge in the pleasure of naps to store up extra energy.

•  Change your pace with a new hobby or activity.

•  Go to the gym and build health and resistance with exercise.

•  Have a medical check up to spot possible weak areas to improve physical health and energy.

•  Seek therapy and counseling to discover and resolve what “hangs heavy over your head.”

•  Review food habits, get rid of junk foods that harm or trigger negative moods.

•  Join a community, cause, or church to which can help you grow in faith, ideas, courage, friendships, self confidence, service to others.

•  Get “spiritual” with prayer, meditation, and study to increase your vitality and morale.

•  Have fun times with your loved ones or friends in new and adventurous ways.

•  Enroll in a course in the university that interests, fascinates or intrigues you.

•  Engage in art or sport to feel more alive and energetic.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Understanding Narcissism

In a certain sense, all of us are born "narcissists." We each carry remnants of our infancy or childhood narcissism. Nothing is as real to us as we feel like the center of the world.

Our natural narcissism can become abnormal and unhealthy. Psychopathological. Psychiatrists call it NPD or narcissistic personality disorder based on DSM.

And this NPD happens when we fail to outgrow earlier narcissism ... when we we fail to move past our earliest developmental fears, disappointments, and limitations.

Iza's Mom always puts her down. Whatever she does, her Mom would always find a way to judge or criticise her, and make her feel bad and inferior. She describes her as "arrogant, controlling, and selfish."

Iza, so emotionally traumatized, finally said “Enough!” When she decided to leave home and be on her own, her Mom called her "engrata.” The thought of seeing her daughter leave made her deeply hurt and vulnerable. And all the more, verbally reactive to the hilt.

Unhealthy narcissists do respond in dysfunctional and extreme manner. When faced with hurts, losses, or disappointments, they feel threatened. They often take it too personally. They act larger than life, hiding their susceptibilities by dominating or controlling.

Such behaviors are all a sign that a person has experienced a lack of gratification of basic psychological needs, a loss of control, and difficulty coping with limitations. They’re too disturbing than what the person is able to be aware of.

Recognizing this, as well as “building one’s supplies within,” can help an unhealthy narcissist to step back, reevaluate behavior, and start healing.

“Children do not yet know that time heals. When children feel something, they believe it is forever.” — Rabbi David Wolpe

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, July 28, 2019

It’s Worth the Journey

American author, E.L. Doctorow, once wrote:  “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

It’s a powerful insight and metaphor. And we can apply it to life recovery or psychotherapy. It also resonates with other types of worthwhile work or creative activity.

If you’re anything like those overwhelmed by life’s crises, you hate being lost. You can’t stand the thought and reality that you’re on the wrong or difficult road.

That’s pretty human and normal.

Last night, I was in therapy work with a young couple. They’re on the verge of painful marital separation.

Both of them have been going through their issues for many years now. And any time, at least one of them was about to give up the journey. “I’m too tired,” as this one spouse said.

Regardless, a part of them was still able to make them push their fears aside. They sat up straight on their seats, and they kept driving.

Though the fuel gauge of their relationship was straying dangerously close to empty, they knew they just needed to keep going ... despite the slowness, the darkness.

When something is truly important to us, we naturally don’t want to waste time and effort. We long for road markings. Or, helpful directions from one who’s been there.

Even slowly, we persist. We keep driving even in the fog.

Because we know ... it’s worth the journey.

Secrets of Your Self:

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Do You Have to Get Cancer First?

Illness strips us. It persuades us that time is running out. It gives us the impulsion to face who we really are. It forces us to confront what is distorted or incomplete in our selves.

A 45-year-old man sought psychotherapy after his doctors found an advanced stage of cancer in his lung. He used to smoke 4 packs a day.

But after being told he had only a few months to live, he became overwhelmed with regret for his years of heavy smoking.

Yet prior to getting the cancer, he received lots of reminders from his wife. His father died of cancer due to smoking and he’d get pleadings from him for him to stop his own deadly habit.

Indeed, too many people seem to wait for illness ... before entertaining an illumination to a lived life.

A worst part is the wasted time. The unnecessary shortening of life. No one can give back all the days lost.

I know it sounds crazy, even bewildering. But how common!

You don’t have to get cancer first ... to start changing and living.

Choose to get smart sooner than a lot others. Out of this choice, you derive a readiness to nurture a life that not only matters but lasts.

We remember that life is short. It’s not open-ended. Our time supply is finite. So in everything we do, we apply it to the whole stretch of life that lay ahead of us.

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

In Psalms, we’re reminded that “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years. Or, if due to strength, eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow. For soon it is gone and we fly away” (90:10).

Secrets of Your Self:


Paul McCartney (born 1942) was asked in 2008 by a British radio presenter to name his favorite Beatles song.

McCartney answered  “YESTERDAY,” a song he composed from a dream. It became one of the greatest hits ever recorded and loved worldwide.

It goes:

All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Why she had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday”

One night, I was singing it to a couple during session! The song resonated a lot to the reality and state of their present marriage.

It seems that every one who goes through personal and relational crises has “yesterdays” to come to terms with.

Yes, yesterdays seem always present. Especially in unresolved trauma. 

But, as Peter Levine said, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Sleeping Without Sleeping?

Sleep is basic. It’s one of the most powerful healers of our being. Not just physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually.

Salvador Dali, a noted Spanish artist painter, once spoke of what sleep or slumber does.

“ . . . the slumber which I call ‘the slumber with a key,’…you must resolve the problem of ‘sleeping without sleeping,’ which is the essence of the dialectics of the dream, since it is a repose which walks in equilibrium on the taut and invisible wire which separates sleeping from waking.”

I’m thinking of mental health. And how Dali’s “sleeping without sleeping” can be applied or supportive of it.

In deep night sleep, wouldn’t the sleeping be how a depressed or emotionally disturbed person, for instance, could also be doing recovery work at the same time?

Slumber with a key. Sleeping without sleeping.

At times, when we give our troubles time, such as sleeping on it enough, it beats overthinking or constant weariness in our days.

Healing does not come overnight. There is no magic. And “slumber with a key,” as Dali put it, can make generous allowances to facilitate to make it happen.

Several months ago, I worked with a depressed counselee who kept sleeping away just enough her troubles with continuing dreams. 

“I got it!” she said in one of our sessions. She’s referring to one of her graphic dreams that led her to feel inspired to change her thoughts and behaviors.

It seems like there is such a thing as “sleeping without sleeping” in therapy.

Takeaway: Sleep deeply before you do the creative work of life recovery.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

You Feel What You Think

“My husband cheated on me. He betrayed me. I can’t get it out of my mind even when he’s already making up. The flashbacks, memories, and images still hurt me after over a year. It’s as if it only happened yesterday.”

These intrusive thoughts came from a client with the life trauma.  Her mentally going over and over it pertaining to the infidelity had been prolonging her suffering.

Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Weiss calls it “obsessive review.” He defines it as “constant, absorbing, sometimes maddening preoccupation that refuses to accept any conclusion.”

Obsessing is a normal reaction to trauma. It’s part of the recovery process. It can help one to come to terms with the personal tragedy and accept it as part of one’s history.

There is, however, a pitfall or downside to it. It can make you get stuck or unnecessarily suffer ... thus derailing the progress of your healing.

For example, demanding to know all details of sexual scenes between your spouse and the OP (other person). Catching and staying with these data is not helpful and will keep you from resolving fundamental issues in the marriage.

At times, the real cause of the pain is not the external event, such as your spouse’s infidelity. But rather the way in which you view your self, your marriage, and your future.

You feel what you think.

The principle is:  How you interpret or evaluate your experience and situation determines your emotional reactions.

Yes you may have a legitimate reason to feel grief about what happened. Yet you may still be making your self and situation worsen by the way you think about it.

Cognitive psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis refers to it by varied labels - “awfulize,” “terriblize,” or “catastrophizing” about the effects of your spouse’s deed.

When the reality is, it’s only a possibility what you’re thinking, you assume that it’s already happening or true.

Just because your spouse made a mistake or has been unfaithful doesn’t necessarily mean that your marriage or future is doomed.

Changing how you think, seeing what really is, can make you feel better.

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, July 22, 2019

“Shared Life” Heals

Dr. Bruce Larson, a wellness author, once shared about a psychiatrist who wrote of the value of “shared life.”  The psychiatrist observed that this kind of emotional hunger is present in all, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Present-day medicine and psychology underscores this therapeutic factor. It means a life of community, belonging, and accountability.

Studies show that many of our mental and emotional dependency problems get to be resolved when with people whom we care about.

In much earlier times, there was virtually no hope for the hard-core alcoholic or addict. Then came the arrival of AA.

 For over 50 years to the present, the success of AA or Alcoholics Anonymous in helping people effectively overcome alcoholic dependency has become well known.

A major thrust of AA is finding healing and wholeness by using the love and power of a Higher Power in the setting of group “shared life” for accountability, community, and belonging.

Psychologists tell us about the psychological  “fear of abandonment.” Since infancy, this fear operates  and never leaves us. 

It’s a well understood aspect of human nature. Whether cold or warm, hungry or lonely, we all want to know that someone will respond.

You remove or damage that “shared life” nature of us, you cause bizarre behavior. Thoughts and feelings are distorted when one gets essentially disconnected from others.

“Shared life” heals. Everyone of us need others to help us be and remain whole in our lives.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Who Wants Temporary Friendships?

I enjoy watching the sun when it rises. It’s beautiful. But I get to savor it only for awhile because it sets.

One way or another, every thing or experience must end. There’s no such thing as a lifetime insurance or guarantee. That includes relationships.

Psychotherapist Dr. Irvin Yalom, in his book “Love’s Executioner,” had a patient who remarked when he traveled to places:

“I’m afraid that if I form friends here and start to like it, I might not want to leave. The other thing is that I start to feel ‘Why bother? I’m here for such a short time. Who wants temporary friendships?’ “

As Otto Rank once described this life stance, “Refusing the loan of life in order to avoid the debt of death.”

Translate:  “refusing to enjoy watching the sun rise because you hate to see it set.”

Dr. Yalom observed, “The problem with that attitude is you end up with an unpeopled life.”

I knew this was an important issue for Stephen, a 33-year-old client. He felt psychologically and emotionally “empty” inside.

After experiencing three heartbreaks, he found himself unable to be enlivened any more by closeness again with a woman and simply enjoy the moment.

It may sound weird. But Stephen, when he met new dates, seemed right away to imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to them!

By addressing his emptiness and isolatiion in therapy, Stephen began clearing away heart wounds or obstacles. His depression lifted. He started seeking intimacy again.

What is seen is temporal. But what is unseen is eternal. Scriptures says so.

It’s something we can all think about as we engage in relationships or any interactions we want to matter.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Choosing Who You Will Be and What You Will Be

People seem to have a basic need to blame others for their problems. Blame is assigning responsibility to another person for one’s fault, wrong, or contribution.

“You made me do it,” says Rob to his wife about his infidelity. “You’re always busy and tired when home. Don’t blame me. You’re to blame for what happened.”

I’m reminded of the original classic victims of “blaming” - Adam and Eve. When God held them accountable for their sin and disobedience, they resorted to blame.

Adam says, “It wasn’t my fault. It was that woman. She made me eat the fruit.”  For her part, Eve likewise deflected her own responsibility, “It wasn’t my fault. It’s the snake. He made me eat the fruit.”

At the end of his therapy, Nicolas, who used to blame his wife and parents for his addictions and bankruptcy, finally understood what it means to “own it up.”

As he “own it up,” not blaming anybody or anything but owning the mess he was in, he found hope for his self and life. He realized that, as long he continued to blame others, he will be a victim for the rest of his life.

As psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers put it, “ ... only one kind of counselee is hopeless: the person who blames other people for his or her problems.”

Freud’s psychoanalysis tends to reinforce blaming and remaining stuck as a victim. It says you’re a victim of what your parents have done to you and all you can do is accept and adjust to it.

This led Fritz Perls, once one of Freud’s disciples, to remark: “Psychoanalysis is a disease masquerading as a cure.”

We can transcend our wounded childhood to a very large extent. We don’t have to blame it and our parents for our troubles. We can take responsibility for our lives despite it, by reframing our blame. 

All of us have a power to choose who we will be and what we will be.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

How Can I Forgive My Parents for Childhood Abuse?

People suffered from abuse. A most common kind is child abuse - physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or a combination. The abuse, usually by one or both parents.

In adulthood, the abused often carry lifelong psychological injuries and malfunctioning ... unless it gets effectively healed and resolved.

Forgiveness is a most powerful healing tool for those who suffered child abuse. It’s both biblically- based and clinically sound. Both Scripture and psychology affirm that.

The act of forgiveness therefore is very psychological and emotional. It’s also very spiritual as well.

But ... how can you forgive a parent for child abuse?

This is certainly one of the most frequent issues in psychotherapy and inner healing. In my work, this has been a part of the picture of almost every story I hear.

“How can I not strike back?” Orlando, 40, asked of me in one of our sessions.

He suffered many years of physical beatings and verbal/emotional abuse from his father since he was 7. At 15, his father abandoned him and his mother for another woman.

Recently, his father reappeared and made contact after decades of absence. He thought of murdering him. He felt miserable and confused, which led him to counseling.

I told him to forgive his father, and proceed with caution and healthy boundaries as he newly relates to him. He struggled with the forgiveness part.

Here are 3 things I suggested to Orlando on how to go about the forgiveness.

1.  Ponder and linger long and deep into God’s forgiveness of you.

      *  “An unforgiving heart is an unforgiven heart.” (Dr. John Piper)
      *  Read: Matthew 6:12; Matthew 18 (unforgiving servant);  Psalm 103:10-14;  Colossians 3:13

2.   Trust God to bring the rightful way of justice for you and your injuries.

      *  Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.
      *  Read:  Romans 12:19 (vengeance is Mine, says the Lord)

3.   Remember, unforgiveness harms you much more than the other - a prolonged unforgiveness
        is a prolonged destructive mindset.

       *  “Someone once said that unforgiveness was like a poison you drink while hoping
              for someone else to die.” (Jennifer Heng)

Psychologist Dr. Carl Jung speaks of a personality that ends up “split.” Or, more fittingly, “unwhole.”  This “split” or “unwhole” in your personality happens especially when you’ve unforgiveness.

Secrets of Your Self:


Hope is a powerful antidote to illness, whether physical or nonphysical.

As I’m writing this post, I’m reading an article by Dr. Sanford Cohen, chair of psychiatry at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

He’s writing on the subject of “hopelessness.”

Dr. Cohen explains that death occurs because a victim feels hopeless and trapped. The victim feels death is an only escape.

He likens it to being under a “spell” of an aborigine witch. As the witch doctor points a ritual bone or sticks pins in a wax image, the victim mysteriously dies.

As bizarre as it may seem, I see a striking similarity between some of my suicidal depressive clients and the victim who lost all hope due to an evil voodoo “spell.”

Scientists supplies no explanation how Hope works.

But they do know that a profound feeling of hopefulness to replace hopelessness causes positive changes in norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine is that essential brain chemical that transmits sympathetic nerve impulses for our health.

Hope is about wellness and wholeness.

When disaster hits, hope strengthens you to stay and make the best of it. It empowers you to avoid copping out and run.

Hope fuels you to think and feel that, even when the situation seems hopeless, it isn’t. Many people have been able to pull through under “impossible” circumstances.

Get doses of hope. Lots of it. It heals, and keeps you well.

“Hope does not disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Just “Do Nothing”

“Doing nothing” can be therapeutic. You read it right. Doing nothing can heal your heart.

Company CEO Robert, a client, does just that. To heal his heart from the brokenness of his marriage and family, he takes the time to “do nothing.”

For him, his “doing nothing” doesn’t mean he won’t go somewhere, sit across a seashore, or take walks in strange streets.

It simply means he clears his calendar, turns off his notifications, leaves his company or social obligations behind, and travels to a far away country alone.

“It works, doc! I feel refreshed,” says Robert upon his return.

“Doing nothing” is making space for your self to just be. No agenda. No rushing. No people to please or manage.

It’s a kind of therapeutic activity that could work to help you see better where your real priorities are. Am I doing what truly matters? How much of my time is spent on my loved ones?

You take an inventory to straighten up. Facing your real and unreal feelings, your relational drama, your regrets or mistakes, and what to do with them. You un-numb.

Take time “doing nothing.” Pay attention. Listen to your heart.

Take that experiment.

Just. You. Period.

You matter. You are valuable. And, your life matters.

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, July 08, 2019

A Financially-Dependent Wife and Tough Love

”Straighten up or leave,” says Mary to her husband Don. He left. And things still worked out beautifully for her.

Prior to that, Mary didn’t have the confidence. Her husband was unfaithful and she was miserable. She feared confronting him because she’s dependent upon him for finances and security.

Being a Christian, she asked God to give her courage and strength to carry it out - what she said to Don. She took her self respect back and trusted God to provide for her and their children.

Sure it hurt, for he left. But she found emergency financial arrangements to tide her and the children over for the long haul, and a business that prospered her eventually.

Separation placed Mary in an arena in which she can develop a new and better understanding of her self and hidden gifts. It was not an end, but only the beginning!

Marriage therapist and author, Dr. James Dobson, calls Mary’s brave step “Love must be tough.” It made her at peace as she took a stand for truth and obeyed God.

Living with an unfaithful spouse or a broken home is never ideal. But then, much of life must be lived in less than ideal circumstances.

Be positive. Hopeful. Full of faith, like Mary. Make the most of your time, and what you do have.

As Dr. Gary Chapman put it, “Put your hand in the hand of God; reach out for available help. Let the love of God comfort you and the power of God enable you to be the best possible ... “

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

When Depression is Your Anger Turned Inward

Anger is a power-packed feeling. It’s a feeling with which many of us can have the most trouble.

It’s a feeling a lot of us believe we must stifle than any other feeling.

Hidden anger within, when repressed or suppressed, causes greater trouble and mental ill-health than any other.

A psychological term “nemesism” refers to it as  “anger, frustration, or aggression directed inward, toward one’s self and one’s way of living.”

There is a true story of a psychiatric nurse who worked in a hospital mental health unit for several years.

She observed that the majority of the patients broke down due to unexpressed feelings of anger.

Ironically, she herself experienced breakdown primarily because of a build-up of unexpressed anger.

In her case, instead of taking it out on others, she directed the anger inwardly.

That created chronic clinical depression within her self that necessitated hospitalization, medication, and even shock treatments for cure.

I’m reminded of a teen client who bore the brunt of the anger of his father since early in his life. He was constantly yelled at, slapped, and verbally abused by him.

He certainly could not react to his father in the same way. So he internalized it. Through the years, he repressed or suppressed his feelings.

Until one day ... the price of that internalized anger became clear - he broke down. Several times, he got hospitalized for attempted suicides.

His “nemesism” - all the bottled, unexpressed feelings of anger - had taken their toll.

Feelings, of unexpressed anger, may do go underground. They can make one feel unconsciously destructive towards one’s self (not only others).

When you’ve become aware of what has been taking place, you can come to insight and learn to act to rectify and heal it.

Secrets of Your Self:

Spending Time Without Thinking

Most of us spend time so easily without thinking. We’ve not learned to think about it.

Perhaps, unlike spending money, spending time is intangible. You can’t save time in the bank or bottle it for future consumption.

Also, because it’s not material, spending time seems less costly.

Yet experience evidences that time is actually more valuable or costly than money.

Consider Henry. He is a retiring multi-millionaire corporate CEO. Several days ago, he asked me about what to do after he retires this year from a company he founded.

Admittedly he spent much of his time making money but never spent enough time to nourish and enjoy his relationship with his wife and three growing children.

Expressing his regrets, Henry lamented of the “opportunity costs” resulting from his earlier personal time investment choices. He missed spending time on what he said is more important to him.

Is Henry with a biggest bank account at the end stage of his life one of the world’s wealthiest and happiest persons?

In my counseling sessions, so many hurting people looked  back in their lives with regret. They realized how much they got distracted from what truly matters to them.

Thinking about making the most of time is in fact a question about the meaning of life.

What do you truly want out of life?

How can you make your time count?

What is the right use of your time?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, June 30, 2019

You overthink, just let it flow ...


When people undertake therapy or resolving a problem, it’s often not with the agenda of “flow.”

By that, I mean “product-focus” rather than “process-focus.”

With a product-not-process orientation, is it any wonder that one gets blocked and seized by anxiety?

One of the simplest and smartest things we can learn about life is the importance of a sense of flow.

That involves a lot of “process-focus.”

Whenever a client, Paolo, strives to think of getting his first million pesos, he finds himself straining. It becomes something he stretches to achieve instantly.

Such focus brought him to casino gambling. And later, developing a life-damaging addiction to it.

In therapy, Paolo progressively understood and applied the concept of “process-focus” to overcome his addiction.

He developed a better sense of attention and enjoyment in the daily routine of his work ... instead of a sense of strain.

You see, when we “forget ourselves,” it’s easy to flow. Flow is involvement in the process of what you’re doing.

When we let go and settle into the process, we begin to experience the process processing through us to get what we want.

While writing my book, “Secrets of Your Self,” there were times I strained unnecessarily. I got somewhat tired of the long, arduous journey ... forgetting to apply what I preach!

The moment I started to get “casual” and be present in my writing process was the time I wrote very well — and certainly progress more easily.

As E. Paluszak put it, “You’re thinking too much, just let it flow.”

Flow as life flows.

Secrets of Your Self:

Facing the Bully

Psychopathy is a known clinical personality disorder. It’s characterized by severe egotism, anti-social behavior, impaired empathy, proneness to lie often, and other abusive language/actions.

Since the early 1800s, doctors who worked with mental patients suffering from psychopathy noticed also what they termed “moral depravity” or moral insanity” about them.

By that terminology, the doctors mean possessing no sense of ethics or of the rights of other people. Psychopaths lack guilt, moral sense, or remorse.

In a recent column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, U.P. Professor and sociologist Randy David wrote of the country’s president:

“Mr. Duterte sees the world only in the naked terms of coercive power. He allows no room for dignified conversation and mutually respectful negotiation ...”

I can’t help but understand Randy David’s opinion of the president as descriptive of one who is psychopathic. It fits the picture of a bully all too well.

Whether with a leader, family member, friend, or co-worker, dealing with a toxic person such as a psychopath can take a toll on your psychological well being.

If you must deal with a psychopath, Amy Morin, author of the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” recommends 5 strategies, namely:

1.  Keep your emotions in check.

2.  Don’t show that you’re intimidated.

3.  Don’t buy into their stories.

4.  Turn the conversation back on them.

5.  Opt for an online communication and not face-to-face whenever you can.

Tiffany is 50. She can’t escape daily interaction with her “psychopath boss.” It’s so hard for her to focus and work alongside a toxic person. She almost broke down.

After several sessions in therapy, she saw the importance of building her “emotional muscles.” Her being proactive about taking care of her self and managing her stress saved her on time.

Learn to be and stay mentally strong in the face of a psychopath or bully.

Secrets of Your Self:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Talking to a Person Who is Suicidal

How do you talk to a person who is suicidal?

A few years ago, a young man brought to me almost succeeded in taking his own life.

Prior to that, he had talked with his friends about it. His mental and emotional mood just worsened with the talks.

There were hurting words he heard: “You shouldn’t feel and think that way,” “Are you crazy?,” and “How selfish of you!”

Surely, people, especially youth or children, respond negatively to those kinds of words. Especially when they come from a loved one, friend, or relative.

Here are basic “keys” to remember when helping or you’re talking to any person who is suicidal:

• Be calm.
• Show empathy - tend to your feelings later somewhere else.
• Help the person self-soothe. Let him or her feel your care and love.
• Talk openly and ask him directly about his/her thoughts/feelings.
• Be non-accusatory or non-judgmental, don’t talk down with your words.
• Listen - even when the suicidal person is not talking.
• Let him or her know he or she is important to you.
• Prod him or her to open up and tell you how you can be of help.
• Prioritize what’s positive and hopeful.
• Encourage him or her not to isolate and be with family and friends.
• Remind him/her not to expect instant results.
• Help him/her find ways and activities to rebuild his/her confidence and self esteem.
• Without minimizing his/her anguish and pain, tell him/her that he/she is not alone and that bad times don’t last forever.
• Recommend a mental health professional he/she can connect with.
• Follow through regularly.

Suicidal individuals don’t mean to die. They are just looking for ways to stop their emotional pain. They’re tired of hurting and feeling no one understands them.

Be careful how you talk to them.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

When Is It Time to Leave a Relationship?

How do you know that it’s time to end a relationship?

Just last night, a young woman was asking me repeatedly, “Should I stay or leave my marriage?”

Her husband has been continuing his infidelity and emotional verbal abuse of her.

She waited for many months since her discovery of the affair. Yet he goes on committing the same mistake.

On top of that, he keeps blaming, unappreciative of her efforts, and demanding of her to change.

Each marriage experiences rough roads. It’s a natural given between any two imperfect human beings.

Yet there are instances when it’s more than a rough road and one has to self-protect.

There are red flags to consider to have an informed decision.

For example, you can know it’s time to leave when your partner keeps abusing, cheating, lying or refusing to reasonably communicate with you.

Such kind of relationship, especially when it’s persistent, stops or blocks your personal growth as a human being. You see your self stagnant and losing your identity.

Sadly, all these can actually lead you to suffer illness - both physical and non-physical.

I’m not saying to immediately end your relationship if this is the case. Each person or situation is unique.

You need help to think well. And make appropriate, healing choices.

Get that help ... before it gets too late for you - personally and relationally.

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Is “Chemical Imbalance” a Theory or a Fact?

In the book, “Psychotherapist’s Guide to Psychopharmacology,” written by UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. Michael Gitlin, the author stated:

“Despite a remarkable amount of research over the last 25 years, however, there is still no definitive biological explanation for any psychiatric disorder” (p.8).

In another book, “The Medical Basis of Psychiatry,” no reference can be found in it on “chemical imbalance.” In discussing the dopamine/serotonin hypothesis, it stated that the “data are ambiguous.”

To put it bluntly, we can so realize that a chemical imbalance is a theory, not a fact. It’s well evidenced from too many studies and sources with “inconclusive research.”

Yet many doctors and patients with psychological issues accept the chemical imbalance theory as a fact.

Cultural pressure or drug marketing is part of the picture leaving counselees believing that drugs are necessary to treat their depression or some other psychiatric condition.

Here are questions we may ask those who claim that a chemical imbalance produces depression or emotional/behavioral problems:

•  What laboratory tests are run to prove that a chemical imbalance is present in the brain?

•  How do you know that chemical imbalance is the cause of the emotional or behavioral actions?

•  Is the connection a proven demonstrable fact?

•  What evidences you have that the medicine or pills you’re prescribing are able to correct the alleged chemical imbalance?

Be informed. “Treatment failure” is avoidable. Know how to really deal with and handle the problems of life.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Poverty and State of Mind

According to the Association for Psychological Science, people who are in poverty prove to be more prone to mental disorders. 

A long time ago, I spent three years doing urban poor work in a large squatter community. 

I held group sessions there almost weekly. One time, a teenage girl suddenly broke down while in our meeting.

She convulsed uncontrollably, as if possessed by an evil spirit. A few minutes after, we brought her to her home.

Upon entering their house, there before me was the sight of her mother, almost naked, lying on a long seat, staring at us.

They are so poor, and could only afford to eat once a day. Her three other younger siblings just hid behind a broken door during our home visit.

Studies appear correct in showing the link between state of mind and poverty. 

There have been evidences that those living in poverty, especially persistent poverty, are more likely suffer from psychological breakdowns, depression, panic, and attention deficits.

The psychology of poverty is complex. And complex problems rarely have simple solutions.

Is the state of poverty the one factor producing mental disorders? Or, is it the mental disorders that lead to the condition of poverty?

Poverty is an economic issue. Yet, unavoidably, understanding the role of psychological processes associated with poverty is bound to enhance economic reform.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dealing with “Unsafe People”

The world is full of “unsafe people.”

They’re everywhere. At home, school, work offices, government, neighborhoods, among others.

Even those closest to you like loved ones in the family or relatives can be “unsafe.”

When Christina discovered her husband’s sexual infidelity with their teenage maid, she tried calmly to confront him.

Instead of admitting, her husband raged and got defensive. He did everything to put her at fault, mentioning her absences or lack of responsiveness.

Incurring further insults upon Christina, her husband saw to it that he makes her the problem.

“Gaslighting” is a psychological term we can use to describe it.

This is one example of an “unsafe person,” who happens to inhabit an intimate bond called marriage.

Christian psychologists, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, in their book “Safe People” further  gives us a list of traits to spot an “unsafe person.”

Some of them include: lying and deceiving; self-righteous; demanding trust instead of earning it; overreactive and defensive; blaming and avoiding real issues; apologizing without changing their behavior; dishonest about their weaknesses.

How then do you make decisions on “unsafe people” in your life?

Change starts with you. You equip and empower your self to stop enabling the “unsafe person” to continue in his sabotaging ways.

You can’t expect the “unsafe person” to change the way he treats you if there’s no tangible “consequences” and fruit for it to happen.

Do the IFTTT to set “consequences.” An acronym that stands for “If This, Then That.”

It defines the behavior of the other person and explains what you’re going to do about it if it continues.

When you embrace your capacity to change and be firm, employ boundaries and consequences, and build your support systems, does the “unsafe person” have a choice?

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Beliefs and Body Health

At a recent session I was giving, a woman told me of her deteriorating medical condition. A few months ago, she’s diagnosed with cancer of the colon and skin disorders.

In her own life, she’s been deeply emotionally traumatized. For too long a time, mostly in her intimate relationships.

She’s separated from her husband who abused her physically and psychologically for many years. Since age 5, her parents abandoned and left her to the care of strangers.

Author/psychotherapist Dr. Judith Orloff, in her book “Guide to Intuitive Healing,” speaks of the principle of “be in your body.”

She writes, “You don’t have to act out life’s traumas in your body. It is not necessary to resolve an emotional trauma by getting sick. What happens is this: a trauma - a heartbreak, death, or loss - occurs, then your body intuitively encodes it as energy. If you do your best to deal with this difficulty, you can get a jump on resolving it. If not, the conflict will fester, may translate into physical symptoms or emotional distress.”

Think about it.

Must we develop colon cancer and skin disorders to heal emotional wounds in our lives? That woman did not say, “Ok, to get well I must get this sick!”

The significance of the link of my woman client’s medical illnesses to her emotional traumas poignantly conveys to us the impact of beliefs to our body health.

Belief and body are interrelated. Your body takes in your beliefs, conscious or unconscious. Seriously. Deeply. And essentially.

If you cultivate a belief in something greater than your self when you face crises or traumas, you’ll have a better chance to get healed and whole.

Secrets of Your Self: