Tuesday, May 26, 2015


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


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?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Wound Of Attachment

A few years ago, I met 21-year-old Filipino chess grandmaster, Wesley So, during a Meralco tournament where I was a participant. I found him friendly and accomodating. Currently, Wesley is one of the world's youngest grandmasters, no. 2 in the U.S. where's he's based now, and potential contender to the World Chess Championship.

Recently, he was stopped continuing to play his game by an official arbiter during the U.S. championship. He lost the game by forfeit.

Wesley's breaking of official rules multiple times, primarily via scribbling personal notes while playing, and doing the same in odd places when he's home, is a psychological thing. So's "repetition compulsion" may be unintentional on his part - it's his "unconscious," default-mode way of coping with overwhelming internal distress. Something underneath is fueling or driving it. What could that be?

Yesterday, I received hints of what could that be from Wesley's FB open letter to his mother. Wesley said hurtful words to his Mom, such as:  "Leny So, I was NOT HAPPY that you suddenly showed up in my life, unannounced, at the biggest tournament of the year, and that you came with Susan Leonard whom I hardly know. In the last six years I’ve only see you once a year for about a week, I hardly know you either ... I am uncomfortable around you. You want me to respect you but you have never respected me. You left me when I was sixteen, telling me to become a man and find my life. Well I have found it, you just don’t like it."

I feel sad about this for it has already gone public. Those of us, like myself, who are behind Wesley in his world chess campaign, may miss all the truths or details of the mother-son attachment injury and disconnection. What I know is, a prodigal was not a prodigal before he becomes a prodigal. Something must have wounded Wesley's mind and heart over the years that so traumatize him. I also realize that most parents who have broken/insecure attachments with their children do love and care about their children. They're simply unaware of the effects of their parenting on the emotional states of their children.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Neuroscience and Psychotherapy

Last week, I was sharing with a group of men about a discovery from modern neuroscience. It pertains to not only "intellectualizing" where men are good at, but putting information into one's heart for application.  In that way, we can be whole (not split!) and become the persons we are meant to be.

Neuroscience describes two types of mental processing. One is the "left brain" mode of mental operation that sees the world in a logical, linear fashion. The other is "right brain" mental operation where emotional elements, values, and passions are contained. Both "left brain" and "right brain" must be integrated and balanced together for life to thrive.

We live in a world that merely values knowing or seeing things as objects. Of course, this manner of mental processing (left brain) is important and good. But it dominates so much our cultural way of thinking to the extent that the other equally important part of the brain (right brain) is underappreciated. Any time the brain is conditioned to be imbalanced or fragmented will exert a major influence on the mental health of individuals, families, and communities.

I look at psychotherapy or healing of the mind in a similar angle. The field of neuroscience can add to our understanding of how we have come to be who we are and why we do what we do over time. I propose that neuroscience has surprising connections with our emotional well being and spiritual practices that can transform our life and relationships. We need a fully integrated mind and that requires paying attention to the disparate aspects of our mind that we often ignore.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Beautiful Butterfly

Like so many, I'm inclined to always be flying away. This solemn week spurs me to something healthy: stopping. Simple. Refreshing. Just doing nothing for the purpose of becoming more conscious. More aware of what may lie underneath memories.

Remembering Anne. I'm talking college here many years back. This classmate of mine was magnetic on campus. Pretty, confident, a free spirit. Her leadership influenced many students far beyond the perimeter of our class batch. Fluttering and flying, a quiet specimen of beauty, butterfly like.

Well, I myself, on campus, was news too. In the varsity champion limelight ... clearly noted in the university papers. I was an influencer, a leader myself, like Anne. Does that imply I was like her spirit or I liked her? Am I leaving that impression? If so, I'm not fully communicating here. Anne was a butterfly, remember ... I was a raging hawk! Though classmates, seeing each day, I snubbed her for no clear reason, even when she's reaching out. Something must be wrong with my psyche.

But that's long ago! The lessons about me from there on for the next decades have matured, tested by triumph and tragedy alike. Clearly, I was at one point in my life, when I was not free ... limited, shy. A lonely, angry youth. My personality had rough edges. I was inside my cocoon, afraid of something. Anne, the secure, had no net around her, which was why she could do her own kind of flying. I missed that part for my self.

Have you been a fragile butterfly who needs room to become? Do you need space to spread your wings outside the cocoon of fear, anger, or timidity? Do you need to realize that you have color all your own, that you have beauty and grace beyond the fences surrounding your own garden? There is a way you know ... it's there waiting for you to see and discover. If you choose to emerge out of your cocoon eclipsed beneath the shadow of life ... still, silent, slowly you learn to flutter and flourish, like a beautiful butterfly in flight, finally free.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

New Beginnings

As I go through the stages of my own life, I've often asked myself what's truly essential. Again and again, I've come to feel that it is to always prepare for new beginnings. Like this Holy Week, I get to reflect on and claim its promise of resurrection to those who believe in the risen Lord. As best as I can, for the moment when He calls me, I stand ready to receive His much better new beginnings.

We'd do well to ask ourselves the same question. And it does not matter how old you are. Youth is one of our happiest or most enjoyable years of life. Still, they also have an ending and our joys will only truly continue when we begin to concern ourselves with preparing for new beginnings. The same goes for old age. It can be marked by depression, anxiety, or any type of emotional and mental disorder if we don't realize the importance of embracing new beginnings.

As the ancient Hebrew author of Ecclesiastes so beautifully puts it, there is ...

A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Indeed, my life as well as yours would be so small if it consists only of what we feel, what we think, what we touch and see today. New beginnings are always waiting. If we live before the new beginnings of eternity, we will see that it is much more real than anything else in this earthly, visible world.

The Lord Jesus of this Holy Week speaks of our ultimate new beginnings if we give our lives to Him:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25-26).

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Join the Revolution!

 Let me simply quote or reprint a letter here below for you to have a brief glimpse of one of the reasons why I call myself a "revolutionary psychotherapist." It's posted by a forum participant in Mad in America.

"Mainstream therapy, psychology or whatever name you want to give it, is by it’s very nature, cold, uncaring, and cruel and does little to actually change people, the way they feel about themselves or there circumstances.

I believe the core problem underneath so called “mental illness”, is the belief by the person suffering is that they are not loved, valued or excepted for who they truly are. The symptoms of this may be manifested in different ways. Some will create a reality of their own to escape into a imaginary world , some will become extremely depressed, in others they may be violent or have intense hatred for other people, Some will become narcissistic to make up for the core belief they are not good enough.

The reasons for developing this belief can vary but many in cases it stems from childhood abuse, physical or sexual, neglect, or all of the above. For others it maybe that some just can’t live up to societies standards of attractiveness, financial success, or relationships. The reasons can be complicated.

Therapists are taught never to reveal anything about themselves so there’s no relating with the client. They can never be friends with the client even if they want to. They can’t give or except gifts. In other words a therapist is supposed to have a wall between the person their suppose to be helping and themselves. True love and compassion is to never be shown. Some will attempt to show these things during the sessions but love without any action is dead and meaningless. Sometimes the client will come away from the session feeling a little better but ultimately they know deep down inside the therapist probably doesn’t really care about them or at least that’s the message communicated by following these ridiculous rules.

Maybe some therapists actually like it this way since it means they don’t actually have to do anything except prescribe meds and listen to the client. Some therapists are extremely fake and can’t stand the client and laughs at them behind their back even after the person has opened up to them about embarrassing personnel traumas. In the real world we would call this cruel but psychotherapy considers this ethical standard practice.

In many cases the client will come away feeling even more hurt, uncared for, and even traumatized after going to therapy. Sometimes the client may even commit suicide. But Psychology is never held accountable, it’s always the clients fault. In someways it’s almost similar to a abused victim being blamed for their own abuse."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are You Being Hoodwinked By Medicine?

Medicine in the form of pharmaceutical drugs plays a significant role in countless lives, such as among the elderly or seriously ill. But the truth is, it can be just as much a curse (causing disability or death) as a blessing (especially in severe cases and diagnostic purposes). We live in a world of "pharmageddon!" And statistics say that prescription drugs are killing far more people today than illegal drugs.

In treating mental health patients, I've witnessed a number of them drugged by psychiatrists, which produced more ill health than health. A case in point was a friend of mine who chose to agree to every drug her doctor gives her for her depression and anxiety. She never recovered from decades of brain medication. She actually got worse than before she took the drugs, getting in and out of a psychiatric or psychological facility, and finding new diseases inside her body.

If you're not careful, "problems" can do appear that were not problems at all after indiscriminate approval of every drug, test, diagnostics, or procedure by your doctor or in the hospital. I'm reminded of this actress who died just recently. Her slippery slope began, where each drug and test given to her led to another. Sooner, one of these chemical interventions inside her body may had proven fatal, possibly by way of drug interaction, infection, or surgical complication. How dehumanizing, this "over-medicalizing!"

I've been thinking, how come, hundreds or thousands of years ago, people lived for so long and died even without much medical attention at all. In some, even when their life span had been shorter, they lived meaningful and fruitful lives. Certainly, they had something else to account for their health apart from reliance on medicine or medical professionals.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What It Takes To Survive Infidelity

One of my greatest accomplishments in my practice as a psychotherapist is seeing individuals and/or couples survive marital infidelity. Using an insight-oriented approach, I've emphasized the importance of the power to choose how to think, feel, and act. I've taught concepts and skills in my sessions to help change thoughts that will determine how one reacts emotionally.

To give you a broad stroke of some ideas I bring up during sessions to help individuals heal from marital infidelity, let me share below a number of points, beliefs, and skills about what it takes to be a survivor. What I discover is that men and women who apply these ideas do survive, just as my clients have. Although infidelity can be very traumatic, there are indeed ways and means to transcend the wounding experience and come out strong. Here's a list of some of these ways and means:

*  You believe in your resourcefulness whatever comes your way.
*  You believe in Someone greater than your self.
*  You develop ability to increase your resilience to withstand painful feelings.
*  You formulate a master plan.
*  You recognize the power of your thoughts for personal and marital recovery.
*  You learn the ability to view events in a time frame.
*  You see the complexity of experiences and human beings.
*  You choose to let go of anger, bitterness, or resentment.
*  You ask for help and support.
*  You find meaning and purpose in your pain.

Noted family therapist and author, Virginia Satir, once wrote in her book "PeopleMaking": 

"I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me and I am ok."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Riches Like Fading Flowers

A few months ago, my eldest 21-year-old daughter Christine received a "rich" gift of a Pajero. She was understandably happy about it. Considering the fact that she's just on her first employment straight from college, a Pajero can be overwhelming.

Although I've doubts about whether it's an appropriate or wise time for her personal development at this point for such kind of possession, I shared her joy. It's simply given to her. To my mind, it tells more about the giver rather than about my daughter.

Then I noticed, after only a few days of elation driving her "rich" pajero, she began to leave it in our house garage area most days of the week when she goes to office. She may have a variety of reasons. Among these in my surmising, I wondered about my daughter's instant "rich" driving experience. Is the newness or pleasure of acquiring a prized possession predictably wearing off that quickly? 

In countless lives since time immemorial, the quest for fulfillment through material riches is common. In this quest, psychological, emotional, and spiritual wounds happen, especially when you get attached or addicted to material things. We know people who exchange their honor or dignity or souls for money. Prostitutes sell their bodies. Politicians corrupt themselves. Addicts steal or kill to acquire their drugs of choice. Men and women commit crimes, infidelity, or self-inflicted harm in the name of mammon.

As in all earthly things, riches are like fading flowers. They never last. They're meant only to be enjoyed temporarily along with us. Experience evidences that they can't really deliver what our hearts are truly longing for. The brilliant Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. and one of the richest men who ever lived, died in his mid-50s. Shortly prior to his death, he addressed young graduates in a prestigious university. Steve said:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

Do you know what is truly important in life? We all live with passing moments. We all age. We all die. In Steve Job's case, his fading flower, the brevity of life, influenced the choices he made at the end of his journey.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Growing Old Without Getting So Anxious

On Sunday afternoons, in a Thai restaurant, I normally take time to sit down with and talk to this group of aging men about life. It's interesting that they listen a lot to me even when I'm not yet a "senior citizen!" Growing older fills their minds. Yet they seem to feel uncomfortable talking about it. What is it they may be trying to cover up?

I wonder if it's not the simple truths William Shakepeare once wrote about in "Macbeth:"

"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ...
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Growing old can be a prison of anxieties. Many worry that despite their successes or wealth, they'll just fade into oblivion and be forgotten. They fear loneliness. Many get afraid about losing their mind, their memory, or capacity to live independently. Many have full of regrets for not having lived as they should.

Our culture conspires to make it more difficult for us to grow older in rewarding ways. There is a whole commercial business devoted to helping us cover up the physical symptoms of growing old. Cosmetics, drugs, surgery, or other commodities tailored to the elderly gives the message as if being young is the only way to exist. Medical technology and advances aggravate the situation with false, unrealistic promises of immortality or "fountain of youth."

We don't have to be wounded as we grow older. We can have a realistic perspective about it. It can present us an opportunity to deepen life's true meaning and purpose. Aging can be a gift, but only if you surrender your self to God's plan for your life. You can find peace in old age rather than rage when you know that Christ has already conquered death (Romans 6:23).

As noted psychologist, Dr. Erik Erikson  put it, "The way you 'take history' is also a way of 'making history'. "

Monday, March 16, 2015

Deep Breathing Is Therapeutic

I learned to breathe. That's a moment decades ago. No, it was not a doctor who examined my lungs' intake of air. It was when I visited a celebrity singer in her meditation house where she taught stress management through deep breathing, among others.

In my breathing exercises with her, she spoke slowly, calmly, and clearly about the healing process of breathing. Being a young man, I was kind of distracted because she's pretty! Still I learned a lot from her, especially about how much I breathed shallowly.

Today, as a therapist and practitioner myself, I realize how conscious, deep breathing has profound therapeutic benefits. It deepens your awareness of a particular moment. It brings you directly in contact with the present. It internally "touches" your heart and other major internal organs, relaxing them. That exercise causes you to expand emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

During stress or moments of trauma, we tend to breathe shallowly so that we scarcely breathe at all. That's deadly!  Learn to practice deep, intentional breathing. Breathe in through your nose. Then, hold the breathe for a few seconds. And then exhale through your mouth. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it is to inhale. Some experts suggest a 4:7:8 pattern – 4 to inhale, 7 to hold, and 8 to exhale. Let go of other thoughts while you breathe.

If you learn to make this a habit, it will bring great benefits to your emotions, not just your physical state. Well, you can humor me a bit by trying it! Then you will know for your self.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Walking Is Best Natural Anti-Depressant

I see walking as our best natural anti-depressant. You can take it to cope with the challenge or burden of too much. It's normal. Healthy. It can have a positive impact on your brain hormones involved in mood regulation. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. And it can even enhance your self-esteem. It also improves your sleep.

Now you may think I'm merely postulating here. Far from it. Noted studies from Harvard and other research medical and mental health institutions evidence the big benefits from even modest walking steps. Their research shows that, aside from mental health benefits, walking can reduce the risk of physical illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

My mother is a walking miracle. She walks a lot each day even when I was much younger. She's now 80 and she still walks fast! Whenever I see her, she always exhibits an upbeat mood. Smiling. Enjoying things around her. She convinces me of this: as long as you're breathing, it's never too late to walk very far and get healthy! I inherited my walking from my mother. Many of my creative thoughts and best therapy solutions are conceived by my mother-like walking outside of my counseling cubicle!

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate your self to walk very far." Speaking of best exercise through walking, experts generally prescribe about 10,000 steps daily for healthy living. Man, that's far! I'm counting, possibly in one hour, I'm able to take 6,000-7,000 steps. So, about one and a half hours of walking each day is what I need to have healthy 10,000 steps. How about you?

Come, let's take a walk ... and talk. It's therapeutic. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Family Connection

Mary was an achieving A-student outside the home. But at home, she was very dependent on her mother after her father abandoned the family since her childhood. She felt she could never please her mother while growing up. Mary always longed for her mother's validation. But she certainly always came up short.

During our session, Mary would shed tears a lot. Her husband of almost ten years was about to leave her and their two young children. Probing deep into her self, Mary discovered during our sessions together that she transferred her dependence from her mother and her rage towards her father onto her husband. She would physically and verbally harm him when he would not allow her to dominate and tell him what to do to please her.

Countless research in the psychology field reveals that dysfunctional families produce emotionally disordered children. The most common types of families that produce them are of different varieties. They include families such as where there is chronic psychological, physical, emotional, or sexual abuses/abandonment; families where there is alcoholism, drug addiction, or other types of addiction (e.g. gambling, workaholism). Specifics may differ, but these types of dysfunctional families do have certain characteristics in common that harm children.

In a dysfunctional family, a child is not allowed to develop. The victim child lives by the rules dictating which feelings are okay and which feelings are not. As a result, the child behaves in ways he or she believes will please the parent or adult figure. He or she suppresses his or her individuality. He or she grows up suppressing his or her private self and perfecting his or her public self. Eventually there is no true self, just a reaction to others.

By the time the child reaches adulthood, he or she may develop an "approval addiction." He or she constantly worries about what others think. Their self-esteem comes from pleasing others, looking outward for their self-validation. In their original family, the child "walks on eggshells" so as not to make a mistake or incur disapproval. Untreated, this hyper-senistivity to signs of approval or disapproval from others then continues into adulthood. Just a slightest sign of disapproval from another person is enough to trigger a deep sadness or emotional reactivity.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

How Do You Know You Have An Addict In Your Life?

Do you have an addict in your life, family, or relationships?

Let me tell you how you can know you have one in your life. I call it Three C's of addiction diagnosis. One, "lack of CONTROL over use." Two, "COMPULSIVE use." And three, "CONTINUED use despite knowledge of adverse consequences."

An addict is unable to control use of his drug-of-choice (e.g. chemical, person, activity). There is repetitive use of the drug-of-choice to the exclusion of other essential life activities such as work, self care, or maintaining relationships. Anyone who continues to use an addictive agent that he or she knows to be harmful or life-damaging is an addict.

You may watch out for these signs or symptoms below to know if you have an addict in your life.

*  Physical Signs (general appearance compared to usual appearance)
    -- sudden weight loss
    -- decreased interest in personal hygiene
    -- soiled clothing
    -- sleeplessness
    -- unsteady gait

*  Mental Signs
     -- persistent sadness or depression
     -- mood instability
     -- hallucinations
     -- delusions

*  Behavioral Signs
    -- decreased or poor performance in school or work
    -- Ill-defined problems in relationships
    -- health problems
    -- tired much of the time
    -- irritability

Now, as a loved one, friend, or family member, it's important to be vigilant. Trust your instincts. If something seems to be "not right" or out of order, don't be afraid to seek help and ask everyone who can provide you understanding. Expressed in a loving manner, asking directly "your addict" may start him or her thinking seriously about his or her actions as well as about the need for treatment.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cosmetics ... Form Without Substance

As you and I pursue the journey of life, we sense a deep need within the core of our being. We desire happiness. We want fulfillment, satisfaction. We are all involved in a quest - whether we consciously realize it or not. Without this truth validated within ourselves, we find life oppressive and burdensome. Often, meaningless.

Given the nature of what I do as a therapist, I certainly get to sit down face to face with extremely hurting individuals. Mine is only a microcosm of a world filled with significant groups of people who break down psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some I try to help become a danger to themselves or others, they get locked in psychiatric wards or prisons.

A lot of us mask our wounds or flaws cleverly. I'm reminded of Peter. He is a celebrity in the world of business. A certified millionaire. The media, such as television, radio, print etc, love covering him. He functions very well in the world and is definitely respected as successful. Though outwardly appearing attractive and a model to be emulated, he feels isolated from himself and others. In fact, as a result, he has frequent thoughts of leaving this world, strong feelings of ending or forfeiting his life.

From the condition of humanity and the world in general, it is obvious that there is something within our makeup that prevents us from living a healthy life. There always appears an inherent flaw or contamination within our makeup, regardless of station in life, age, social status, cultural origin, religious or political beliefs. Add to this, we live in a society where healthy changes or healings are further prevented by adversely unhealthy conditions and values maintained and perpetuated by deeply entrenched structures. Illness and contamination in this world is "normal."

Sadly, I witness treatments and changes that are epidemically cosmetic in the face of man's greatest need. Even mental health clinicians, doctors, and counsellors have been part and contributor to this world of rapid cosmetic changes of "form without substance." Yes, we have impressive scientific and technological advances that rapidly convenience our lifestyles and social structures. Yet after the dust clears, nothing has changed. Or, changes or treatments of choice make conditions worse. At best, changes gained, if any, are essentially cosmetic.

As a writer Jeremiah put it, "They offer superficial treatments for my people's mortal wound" (6:14). This, then, is the crux of our problem in our dominant modern-day recovery establishment and institutions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grief Work Like Moving On Up The Mountain

Let me be honest with you. In this life, you'd have to be an expert on grieving. Why? There would always be varied sorts of losses along the way in the journey.

Now, if you're grieving for some type of loss at the moment, may I ask you to dry your eyes for awhile. Read through my little check list below and answer the questions. Honestly. It's work to complete first before you move on up the mountain.

*  No longer feel like crying most of the time?
*  My appetite is getting better?
*  No thoughts of attempting suicide?
*  No trouble concentrating?
*  No longer feeling mechanical in my daily living habits?
*  Beginning to feel emotionally close now to people?
*  More comfortable now to talk about my grief to others?
*  My body weight has stabilized?
*  My emotions and moods are back in my control?
*  Have stopped feeling depressed most of the time?
*  Now having physical and emotional energy from morning to night?
*  I've now identified what I need to grieve completely (person, relationship, past, abuses etc.)?
*  I've stopped talking continuously about my trauma/crisis?
*  No trouble now going to sleep and sleeping all night?

Grief for any loss needs to be completed before you can move on. Incomplete grief is a rebuilding roadblock. Don't worry, friend, the mountain will still be there and yours to climb when you're ready.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Therapy As My Creative Art

To me, my practice of therapy is a creative art. One life at a time. I use art or music or movement or anything that strikes me during sessions. I've humor. I do things that innovate or are indeed unusual.

Everything comes together with therapeutic insights. Freshness in perspective. Energizing growth, learning, and healing. I share my passion for discovery with a fellow human being during the session.

My creative urge is often ignited by a person's problem or wound. More so, with that person's beginnings to look on himself as fit to change and be an instrument for change. You see, I've countless experiences whereby I shared some particularly novel ideas to a hurting individual or couple that they so appreciated later on. They forget their grocer or their neighbor, but they never forget what they gained during our sessions together!

For this reason, I live as long as those healing insights are able to create a new life. That's how I think my therapy is creative. I trust that aspect of my self. Though I work in solo practice, I never feel lonely or isolated. I'm never alone.  Instead, I find meaning holding space for people's pain to break loose from their rigid, self-defeating patterns. And be set free to think, feel, and act differently. Isn't that a contribution to the survival of our species?

Now you know, my theatre. Why my urge to create. Isn't it true to you what's true to me? Much of our existence is defined by the ways we can leave this world different or a better place after we are gone.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Psychopathology in 50 Shades of Grey

Valentine's Day just passed. Awhile ago, I passed by a movie house where the film, "Fifty Shades of Grey," are being shown in almost all of its cinemas. I caught myself wondering, the seeds of the future addict or mentally ill are again sprouting in the soil of culture and film.

Incidentally, prior to this, I read psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman's letter to young people about that film. She said there's nothing gray about 50 shades of grey -- it's all black, toxic, and unhealthy. I agree. The film's images or imprints are viewed as harmful to youth and women, who are already often confused about love. It can poison the minds of men about sex. This psychiatrist is making a lot of mental health sense!

The characters in the film are Christian Grey and Anastassia Steele. Mr. Grey is a bachelor billionaire. Powerful, sexy, and handsome, he has a helicopter. He has a chaffeur and luxury cars. A company is named after him. The media loves him. He plays the piano. Anastassia, on the other hand, is an A-student college girl majoring in literature, who went to interview Mr. Grey in his office for a college paper. Ignoring the red flags, Anastassia eventually fell for an abusive, violent sexual relationship with Christian, complete with whips and chains.

Christian Grey does not need a woman to heal from his internal demons or wounds. Anastassia Steele does not need to accept abuse, pain, or violence just to prove her love for a man. Both Christian and Anastassia have dark places inside them that are not being attended to. Individually, they need to see a psychotherapist or pastor. They need healing in their deepest places.

Perverted sex, love, or relationship, as depicted in the film, is not concerned with the well being or happiness of another person. It seeks passion, drama, or ecstasy through violence, abuse, and manipulation. It is therefore very selfish. Very pathological - psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. As noted author, Stephen Arterburn, put it, the film can be a "gateway drug" to adultery, sexual perversion, and mental illness in real life.

Although it is tempting to cast all blame on contaminated culture or film like "Fifty Shades of Grey," the fact is, we all have freedom. Our choice of seeing the film and/or acting it out in real life is no accident. We all are responsible for our own decisions and actions. Our core beliefs or thoughts do not begin just because there is one unhealthy film. Our selection tends to emanate from a preexisting source or pattern already embedded inside us. 

If you're reading this post, may these "black and white" thoughts make you more aware and encourage you. I hope, no shades of gray.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Are You Addicted To Selfies?

I live in a selfie generation. You too. Like you, I take selfies. Adjust my smartphone camera to self with a simple touch, pose, smile, and post! Facebook, instagram, twitter, and other social media are waiting. Selfies have indeed become a worldwide phenomenon.

This week, I gave a lecture on selfie psychology at a university college of nursing in Manila. I found the students there warm and creative in their organizing ... and with their selfies. Well, those selfies during and after my talk were not necessarily harmful. I found some humorous. Mostly, they're taken for class posterity and project documentation.

Yet in so many places of the world, we may not know exactly what to think. That is, because people who are at-risk or have a "preexisting condition" can get addicted to selfies as a drug-of-choice. British 19-year-old teen, Danny Bowman, for instance, tried to commit suicide after he failed to take his perfect selfie. He became so obsessed with it that he spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies. He lost 30 pounds, dropped out of school, and eventually rushed to the hospital for treatment and psychotherapy.

The internet is an incredible resource. It's kind of magic! But it's also a venue for madness for some people. Selfies and the social media are places where it can be all too easy to fall prey to obsession or narcissistic activity. It's not uncommon, for countless youth for example, to let reality slip away while staring at a 2-inch screen, savoring on the thrill of selfies and the social media.

Be careful with your taking selfies and your motivation behind it. Psychologists are now discovering that taking selfies can turn into an addiction for people already affected by certain psychological disorders.

What do your selfies feed inside you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reese's Wild

A few days ago, while watching the film "Wild," I felt I'm in a therapy session. Reese Witherspoon portrayed the true story of a woman whose adulthood was deeply wounded by childhood trauma. Her wholeness, compromised by a chaotic, child-beating thug for a father, warped her so badly.

She became an addict - a nymphomaniac or sex addict - that led to a divorce from her loving husband. Her mother tried to compensate for her father's abuse and drunken violence. But, to no avail. Only after her mother died did Reese's character realize how broken and wretched she was needing redemption. And the way she tried to save her self was to force her self to trek a dangerous thousand-mile length hike of the Pacific Coast Highway.

In the film, Reese's character met a psychotherapist. Here was a woman with a tragic mix of psychological, sexual, and addictive horrors. She was so warped that she'd deny reality and project blame to circumstances or other people. After a few short exchanges, the therapist unleashed a biggie, clinical diagnostic question, "Who detached from you?" Indeed, her life story in the film serves as a solemn, cautionary message to all fathers and mothers among us who are entrusted to parent children in loving and connecting ways.

As I reflected on the film's theme and progression, I realized that it carries a powerful healing insight or message. Witherspoon's character is not alone. She is not the only one in the world who has a "wounded inner child" who's gone on the arduous journey of recovery. A lot of individuals, men and women, have been with every step of Reese's character in the film. They've experienced a dialogue in it, which includes "I didn't know where I was headed - until I got there."

Talk about closure and real, on-target therapy!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Earlier, The Better

Psychopathology is like cancer. The sooner it's diagnosed or detected, the sooner it can be treated and its damaging growth arrested.

Sadly, however, very few psychologists, psychiatrists, or psychotherapists see the psychological abnormality when it's in the beginning stage. By the time a disturbed person is brought in for help, the emotional/mental/behavior disorder is already well-developed.

In contrast, when a family member or friend knows what signs or symptoms to look for, he or she can be in a unique position to spot problems in the early, treatable stage. The emotional or behavioral disorders can be dealt with sooner and more effectively.

Here are some signs or symptoms of abnormality that could be a signal for spotting problems:

Physical complaints
    -- frequent headaches
    -- digestive upsets
    -- sleeplessness
    -- addictions

Psychological indications
    -- extreme anger and outbursts
    -- frequent compromise
    -- over reliance on defense mechanisms
    -- perceptual difficulties (e.g. hallucinations)
    -- distorted thoughts (e.g. nonsensical content)
    -- faulty emotional expression (e.g. flat affect, depression, elation, intense fear and anxiety)
    -- odd behavior, disorientation
    -- depression, inactivity

Social signs
    -- frequent withdrawal
    -- social isolation
    -- violence, antisocial behavior   

Spiritual indicators
    -- fanaticism
    -- incapacitating doubts
    -- prolonged guilt feelings
    -- lack of hope and faith

Friday, January 30, 2015

Two Roadblocks to Infidelity Treatment

The other week, I was on television over at TV 5's new noontime program, "Solved na Solved," with hosts Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, Gelli De Belen, and Arnel Ignacio. In front of live audiences in the studio, we discussed the topic "Kabit." It's a lively program because it was very interactive, animated, and the hosts were very connecting to the audience.

Infidelity, as the Tagalog word "kabit" indicates, literally means unfaithfulness. It's the breaking of a vow. Adultery is another term used, which can be either legal or religious in implications pointing to "sexual relations with someone other than one's spouse." An extra marital affair is usually reflected in expressions like messing around, fooling around, wandering, and straying.

In a live married couple "case" presented during the TV program, two specific roadblocks were demonstrated that prevent the healing of a "kabit" in the marriage of a couple. One is "denial" on the part of the husband, even in the face of overwhelming objective evidences of cheating. The other is "enabling" behaviors on the part of the wife that encourage and sustain marital cheating. In marriages wounded by adultery, these two common roadblocks must be directly addressed and removed to heal - individually and maritally.

According to a common worldwide statistical trend in countries around the world, infidelity or adultery has wounded over 50% of our marriages today. Because infidelity and divorce rates continue to be high, it's important to know more about it. My hope is that the media like the television, the radio, the internet/social media, and the newspapers/magazines/books, will help in healthy ways to prevent and heal the wounds of adultery, save families and our society as a whole.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Doing vs. Being

My hospital life recovery group session had its resumption last week. We touched on the concept of new year's resolution or new goals for 2015. The question is asked, "What do I want to do for the new year?"

Very common to a lot of people: Get fit, lose weight, workout in the gym. Others: * Make a million savings in the bank. * Become a successful businessman. * Travel around the world. * Reach the star as an actress. All sorts of doings. Some admirable, some questionable, some crazy.

I've been presented the same question in varied ways for decades each new year. But I think it's the wrong question. I say so because what I DO is not nearly as important as what I want to BE. You know, the longer the years I have, the more significant that issue is.

Doing is usually tied to tangible things, accomplishment, vocation, or how you make a living. Being is much deeper. It relates to intangible things such as character, who you are, and how you make a life. It may take a lifetime to make this distinction in your brain! Yet it's proven over and over again that of the two, BEING always shows itself needing to outdistance DOING.

Think about it. How it relates to your health and wellness.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Humor As Healing Resource

Humor has survival value. Life's hurts are more endurable when you have a sense of humor.

As a therapist, I could always sense when a hurting counselee is getting well. He or she begins to quit taking himself or herself so seriously. It comes with a sense of humor, laughing about one's self.

Let me suggest how to experience it. Look into the eyes of a child who is quite loved and caressed. Watch the child playing with you. Savor the child's natural joyfulness. And you'll experience the sheer delight of a child's laughter.

Learn humor from the children. Anthropologist Ashley Montagu writes, "It is natural for children to laugh and to see the humor in all sorts of things, whether they be real, imagined or their own creation. They revel in the comic."

As the popular Proverbs says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." (17:22)

Monday, January 19, 2015


If there is one thing I've learned in my counseling practice, it is that I must not steriotype or generalize people into "labels." Each person is unique. He or she is an individual in his or her own right. To generalize is to steriotype. That dehumanizes, because it denies people of their individuality and free will.

Any one can overcome challenges or pain in life. Yes, every one, provided he or she chooses to. Every human being possesses free will. He or she is endowed with personal power to prevail over life's wounds rather than drown in them. With healthy choices and support, a person can move in new and positive roads.

For example, on the basis of parents who abused or mistreated you during your childhood, does that reality automatically lead to a miserable life for you growing up into adulthood?  Not necessarily, my friend! Why? Because you can choose to refuse to become a victim of your past. You have within your deepest well the innate ability to see promise in the pain: the promise to overcome the pain of your difficult childhood. You have free will to make healthy choices if you truly desire to do so.

Healing is a choice. When you adopt this philosophy to your own unprocessed pains or unfinished business in life, you build yourself up. You reinforce your capacity to become a victor or achiever in life rather than a victim.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Healer of Wounds

The streets of Manila and beyond are laced with gigantic images, photos, and streamers of him for the state visit. He asks the government to take them down. He says he prefers to have the image of Christ venerated. "Focus on Jesus, not on me," he says.

That's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit-ordained former professor of psychology and literature in the university. Today, he is more popularly known all over the world as Pope Francis, the head of the Vatican.

When once asked the question, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?," by the editor of an Italian Jesuit journal La Civolta Cattolica, he answered:  "I don't know what might be the most fitting description. I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner ... The best summary, the one that comes from the inside, and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."

Pope Francis is a revolutionary healer and leader.  He reaches deep into the very core of the minds and hearts of people. He preaches against personal and institutional corruption and worldliness. He describes it as "self-centeredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God." Among the clergy, he denounces the power hungry and the hypocrites in the Vatican Curia. He urges us to live our lives focused on the "things that really matter."

He likens the church to a hospital. He says that the church's foremost mission is to "heal the wounds, heal the wounds." Speaking of ministers of the Gospel, he says "people need pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials ... those who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people's night, into the darkness, but without getting lost."

It's not hard to see why he's called the People's Pope.  He's a simple, humble man on a redemptive mission. People simply love him for being the genuine one.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When Hurt Self Is Masked

As a therapist, I see people at their absolute worst. I do what it takes to enter their pain and hold space for them. I've become privy to their most secret, hidden selves. I've been delegated to pick up the confidential pieces of their disappointment, trauma, or relationship wounds.

A consistent portrait in therapy is the presence of the "hidden self" on client situations and behaviors. These include the following signs that often mask the real, wounded self:

*  Client who refuses responsibility ("you fix me")
*  Client who fears intimacy (avoidant or seductive behavior)
*  Client who ignores boundaries (chronic lateness, missed appointments, nonpayments)
*  Client with hidden agendas
*  Client who is argumentative (hostility, skepticism)
*  Client who is impatient ("fix me quick")
*  Client who is literal and concrete (unable to access or express internal states)
*  Client who feels hopeless (actively suicidal)
*  Client with poor impulse control (offenders, abusers)
*  Client who demonstrates severe anger or hostility
*  Client who prematurely terminates therapy
*  Client who manipulates
*  Client who is sociopathic or criminal in ways
*  Client who is sexually seducing

Therapy is a doorway of healing for the hurt, hidden self. All these masking behaviors above can be stopped when the real self is finally liberated from underneath in the process of recovery.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Compulsion To Repeat

As I write this, I'm in a fitness first gym taking drinks in the lounge area. The place is so pleasant with lots of wonderful facilities and staff. Yet when I'm on the treadmill or walking around thinking of seeking assistance, I'd sort of catastrophize: "What if the treadmill I'm on gets derailed?" "What if the staff just looks at me or refuses to help or leaves me alone?"

My overreaction in me was out of proportion to the reality of my external situation. During my childhood onwards to adulthood, I was traumatically abandoned emotionally by my own father and mother who eventually separated and lived different lives. They were not there even physically during my most distressing times growing up. Now my obsessive thoughts in the gym centered on not being supported or given needed attention -- being left alone or behind.

Much of neurological research supports what every psychotherapist from Sigmund Freud until this modern day knows firsthand: the compulsion to repeat. Brain researchers explain that severe overreactive responses stem from enlarged "neuronal imprints" in the brain from previous stressful or traumatic experiences. Such distort how a person experiences aspects of subsequent painful stimuli that other people may not be capable of noticing.

This supports the concept then of "the more difficult childhood was, the more difficult adulthood is."  When contamination in the foundations or core materials are embedded in childhood, it serves as an overly sensitive "filter" shaping one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards subsequent life events. It's kind of like a tape recorder whose button is still on and therefore stuck. The brain responds to what's not existing on the outside because a contamination is still existing on the inside.

Psychotherapy rests on the principle that ancient wounds, deprivations, or pains have been numbed out or buried alive, and need to be worked out. Until they are worked out and sufficiently healed, they'll continue to be acted out, acted in, or projected onto others. It's unfinished business that needs expression to heal compulsivity which continues to unconsciously relive old wounds and life-damaging patterns.

Friday, January 02, 2015


Although a New Year's Resolution is always observed to get broken, it's never too late to lead you to finally do something. For your over-all health. Psychological. Physical. Emotional. Social. Spiritual.

Here are some suggestions. Take your choice what to include in your own new year's resolution. Every new year is a gift of 365 opportunities for your life.

*  Forgive an enemy or one who hurt you deeply.
*  Smile. Laugh and make good jokes.
*  Spend less time on Facebook or on-line.
*  Spend more time with your spouse and children.
*  Listen.
*  Lower your expectations or lessen your demands on others.
*  Take up running.
*  Seek help for your severe unprocessed pains or unresolved issues.
*  Express appreciation.
*  Speak kindly to a stranger.
*  Join a small life support group.
*  Eat fruits and vegetables each day.
*  Pray, read the Bible.
*  Give a soft answer even though you're fuming inside.
*  Enter into another's sorrow or wound.
*  Find the time to keep a promise.
*  Make new friends.
*  Apologize if you were wrong.
*  Save money.
*  Give a gift to someone. Anonymously.
*  Pray for your extended family members, neighbors, city, and country.
*  Encourage an older person.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year-End Thoughts

Time to visit your thoughts. That would be my prescription for you this year-end. It's a most essential thing you can do as the holidays wind up.

Oh yes, your Christmas and New Year's parties and gifts and foods may have been special. The songs ... the smiles ... the smells ... the family fun. Every memory of your holidays weaves its way into the fabric of your mind that you can still feel the warmth.

But the best those warm holiday memories can offer you, in my opinion, is time to reflect. Quietly. Alone. At length. Even stroll a hill pathway or empty green park. Taking time to stop and listen. Maybe, a nice mellow music played at enough volume can submerge all your worries so you can think.

Years passed by. Have you ever been taken by the shoulders and made awake? Are there things in your life where you still need to look into the mirror and face realities as they really are? As Jeremiah, a prophet, once pictured: "Harvest is past, summer is ended. And we are not saved."

Is that a truth about you right now? If not, I suggest that this year-end, you come to terms with this need of being saved. You life, my life, follows a cycle of seasons. Multiple seasons, in various times of the year - summer, winter, spring, autumn ... varieties of peaks and valleys, colors, and changes. Each year, we go through the same life cycle.

How tragic to move through the seasons of each year without realizing your life's ultimate purpose! What can give meaning to the cycle of your life's seasons? What on earth are you here for? Time to reflect. Time to see.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Running Is Good To Your Mental Health

Let me give you one "secret:" Running is good to your mental health.

"Running the marathon gave me an inner strength that changed my life," says Henley Gibble, head of a running club in the U.S. "Whether it's fast or slow. whether you walk some of it or not, just finishing can have a profound effect on your confidence and self-esteem," adds Henley.    

Scientists, doctors, and runners describe specific reasons why running is good to your mental health. 

Here are some of them:

*  Running gives a euphoric feeling, a "runner's high," that benefits runners psychologically and emotionally;

*  Running releases endorphins that act as stimulant to emotional parts of the brain while running, boosting stronger feelings of euphoria;

*  Runners report experiencing being totally relaxed, happy, energetic, and satisfied with themselves;

*  Running releases a chemical called serotonin, which is a natural mood lifter that addresses negative energies associated with depression, lethargy, or stress;

*  Running improves your overall appearance and fitness level, which builds confidence;

*  Running faciltates ability to make new circles of friends and support;

*  Runners who network and increase their social contacts receive greater mental health benefits than those who run independently;

Indeed, while experiencing the runner's high is one of the best ways to feel happy and relaxed, running provides a number of general mental health benefits that can seep into your everyday life.

Run and get well!