Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Woman Criminal:" Hope in Broken Places

Such a warm, peaceful Tuesday afternoon. A cool, quiet drive with a TV reporter to one part of the city. As we entered the gate of the Women's Correctional, I sensed something up ahead. Before I realized what it was, it flashed before my eyes - I could see it now ... the color-dressed woman inmates, some staring at me, some smiling at me. I don't mean to be grandiose, but I felt they're not that different from those outside. And by seeing so, I saw a part of me as well.

My TV researcher guide, Georis, served as my cheery informative usher into a populous facility. My first ever visit here. The TV crew and staff were all over, already setting up. In a few moments, I was handed a "case study" transcript about one who they described as a "decent-looking, hi-society, pretty criminal." Along with lunch food, Georis made me digest the story of a wrecked life. So what appeared to be a curiosity visual tour of a place I'd never seen became a day of silent therapeutic reflections. Of course, it had been worth it.



Monica (not her real name). Over 6 years now, she's imprisoned in the Women's Correctional. Her case: robbery, estafa, and faking death. She stole millions worth of cash and jewelry. She hid and escaped legal prosecution and imprisonment by staging her "death" - violently, crazily, and fatally. Coached by her lawyers, she bought a corpse and burned it along with her car, and produced a fake death certificate. After 3 years of successful hiding, the police and NBI caught her that turned out to be a sensational media story. That's the Monica they're featuring in the upcoming episode of GMA 7's popular tele-drama "Magpakailanman."

Before my on-camera TV interview, I sat in a sofa near inmate Monica in real person. We chatted. I asked her questions, some too personal or "dangerous." Monica just smilingly responded. She was friendly, although she appeared to me to be kind of nervous. She honestly shared that her husband and three children practically abandoned her for years onwards while she's in prison. Her husband never visited her since he caught her having an affair during her incarceration. My mind swirled around images of how she has been healing. Naturally, I wondered about what else she thinks and feels living her life as a rehabilitating woman "criminal" in the Women's Correctional. I imagined my pulse shot up a bit that I had to take a grip of my fingers while speaking to and knowing more about Monica. 

Enter Mel Tiangco, TV host of "Magpakailanman." She asked too many difficult questions. One, among others, Mel asked referring to Monica, "Dr. Subida, how come a good-looking woman who comes from a decent, well-to-do family will choose to rob, do illegal and criminal activities, and even fake her death?" I responded by saying that crime is not dependent on appearance or gender; it's a non-physical, psychological "wound." Even prior to everything that happened, this ancient character "wound" was already existent. Monica never knew how to deal with her "wound," so she went to the wrong activities, the wrong people, the wrong places -- a life of crime - to medicate her "wound."

The world is full of wounded individuals who choose to pursue a life of crime. In psychological treatment, criminal minds are classified under ASPD or antisocial personality disorder, also referred to as sociopathy or psychopathy. It's characterized by strong toxic traits such as conning, deception, lying, reckless disregard of safety of self and others, violence, and an impoverished, numbed conscience. Due to the nature and severity of the disorder, it is often good in simulating remorse rather that truly desiring to change. ASPD is one of the most difficult dramatic/erratic mental disorders to treat based on the DSM diagnostic manual.

"Is there still hope for them to change?," the TV host asked.  Of course, there is always hope for any criminal while there is life. You can choose to heal, grow, and deepen as a truly transformed human being despite what was done in the past. The past does not have to define your present and future. There's no reason to stay in crime or wounding a minute longer. The escape route is clearly marked. It can't just be psychological/emotional relief or better circumstances. It must lead to the cross ... where you find the only One greatest Psychotherapist who ever lived that can bring you true wholeness, inner fulfillment, and lasting peace.

Fortunately, Monica met this Psychotherapist in the Women's Correctional. She is healing, changing ... hopefully, for real this time.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Authors Your Self?

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who once said that, after 40, you are responsible for your face! Whenever you're faced with external adversity in your life, no matter how painful or traumatic it may be, you remain responsible for the attitude you adopt towards it. Responsibility is authorship. ​

A patient of mine, Leila, shared her formidable adversity. She's 57, abandoned by her husband 10 years ago, and currently experiencing medical challenges. She tormented her self by "choosing" to believe that not having a man or getting married again is a life without value. Her life's meaning and energy is attached to that basic assumption. 

Since her present situation appears to jeopardize the likelihood of finding a desirable partner, Leila became severely depressed and withdrawn. She felt no responsibility anymore for anything, including her self-care. She closed off many other options for her self. This included things such as serving others, developing circles of support with women, or even a nonsexual friendship with a man.

The bulk of my therapeutic work with her involved challenging her basic assumptions in the authorship of her life. One, of course, has to do with the belief that life is about marriage or having a man. Life is certainly more than that. The other consists of her self-deprecation as a result of what happened to her. Though she's not responsible for her husband's abandonment and rejection, she's responsible for how to "experience" it. She bears complete responsibility over her attitudes towards it and moving on from there.

An important task of therapy for Leila is to recognize and accept the external "given" of her current life situation. Then, she learns to "choose" to be responsible in authoring a new chapter in her life. That requires an active stance rather than passivity towards one's external environment and circumstances. With full acceptance of personal responsibility, Leila authors a new self with even greater significance and direction.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Healing Your Love-Approval Addiction (Part 2)

We all need love. We all need approval. It's a basic reality of our human existence. Our self, in its deepest core, needs love and approval to survive, grow, and thrive amid life's challenges. However, the problem begins when we become overdependent on others that we miss giving our selves first the love and approval we need.

I'm reminded of Imelda. She was telling me that she has already read all sorts of psychology and self help books to boost her self. She'd practice Self-affirmations like "I am worthy," "I love my self," or "I have talents people need." Still, she finds her self criticizing her self,  dwelling on her negative feelings, and turning to addictions.


Why the self-abandonment? Why is this repeatedly happening - psychologically and emotionally - to countless individuals?

You see, when you give your self love and approval in just the rational way, it doesn't work. This is especially true when your self affirmations are coming from that part of your brain where your unprocessed "wounded inner child" resides. If you've had a horrible childhood where you experienced abandonment, abuse, or deprivation and it's a past still in your present, that part of you will block your self affirmations. It feels that you're just "making it up" when you give your self love and approval.

Obviously, in order for your self love and approval to affect the core of you, it cannot come from your ego-impaired "wounded inner child." For healing to take place where your self can truly experience your self love and approval, you need to be connected to your "Higher Self." Your wise, loving "Higher Self" goes deeply inside of you where your "wounded inner child" can develop the capacity to believe when you give your self approval. This "Higher Self" then follows it up whereby you learn to take loving  actions toward your self.

This is how you heal your "love-approval addiction." You give your self love and approval first from your "Higher Self" rather than from your pre-programmed mind. In this way, your inner child can experience accepting and believing them.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Healing Your Love-Approval Addiction (Part 1)

Melissa can't make her self happy. Her happiness and well being are heavily dependent upon getting love and approval from her husband and children. Outside home, she constantly thinks of what others think of her and her appearance. She is always limited by other people's opinions. As a result, she doesn't take risks and experiences a host of psychological symptoms, which includes anxiety panic attacks, deep depression, and severe fears.


In my numerous years as a psychotherapist and counselor, I've discovered that "love and approval addiction" is a far more prevalent or common addiction than any other drug addiction.  I see it everywhere, not just during my sessions or personal and professional interactions, but much more so in the news, media, and in all walks of life. We live in a world of love-addicted, approval-addicted human beings.

Living as a "love/approval addict" is a very hard, unhealthy way to live your life. Your feelings are always up and down, like a roller coaster. You constantly worry about doing the right thing, looking right, pleasing people to get your needed love and approval. When you don't get your fix, you feel despair, anger, or you become judgmental.  You simply can't handle or cope with even the slightest pain of disapproval, rejection, abandonment, or being shut out.

If your addiction to love and approval of others is running your life, albeit unconsciously, you are hurting your self. You are hurting your personal sense of safety, worth, and loveability. No matter how much approval or love your receive from others, it never heals your inner insecurity that comes from abandoning your self. The more you become aware of this and take direct steps to address it, the better you'll feel about your self. And the less you'll become addicted seeking approval from others.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wisdom in Parenting in Childhood Onwards

A mother once spoke to me about her disrespectful children. During their childhood onwards, she handled the children by pushing them into a friendship with her. Instead of being a parent to them, she’d converse with them as if she’s just a friend or companion and not an authoritative figure. The side effect of  her parenting style is conditioning the children to take disrespectful liberties with her.

It's psychological abuse when a parent handles children inappropriately. In this instance, the mother denied the children the parenting they needed because she allowed her role to be compromised by her need for companionship and friendship. It’s a thin line of parenting behavior. Crossing it leaves a child with an undefined and empty view of himself.

Perhaps, the children would be accommodating to your unmet need as a parent. But only for a short while. In their hearts and minds, it stretches them. The role reversal does  strain what their parent-child relationship was meant to be. A parent forcing water from their children that should come from someone else or other adult sources is a relevant parenting lesson.

Wisdom is called for parents with growing children. Make sure we don’t make their tender, immature frame handle undue weight prematurely. Eventually, time will arrive when our children could handle adult weight or issues. But prematurely, the weight becomes a source of potential psychopathology. Even a curse.


Friday, January 06, 2017

It's Never Too Late To Change and Be Whole


As I write this, a new year has come. Tradition shows that people used to make new year's resolutions. They resolve to become better selves as they start a new year.

A best principle to bear in mind for this is the principle of "sowing and reaping." "As you sow, so shall you reap," as Scripture admonishes. A related guide is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

People who believe and apply this principle, which some call "karmic justice," are less likely to hurt themselves or their neighbor in the course of their life journey. Their choices or decisions will always be governed by their awareness of the long term or essential effects of their deeds.

A woman I'd been counseling said she has become out of control and violent in reacting to her husband's infidelity. Moving on to our talks, she confessed that she herself had secretly cheated on her husband multiple times during business trips.

Yes, the couple is experiencing high hopes. They confessed their unfaithfulness to each other and vowed to heal and change. Individually and maritally, they desire to recover through the deep process of therapy and counseling.

Yet both of them have to reckon with the reality of the reaping effects or consequences of their past sowing in their individual well being and marital state.  Surely there is hope and healing is always possible. Even in a fragmented state, one can get stronger and be renewed from day to day - leading to a fuller life.

Healing and growth does not stop with deep childhood trauma or ongoing consequences of past mistakes. Each new year presents new opportunities for loving and changing. The "missed development" can be made up and remedied in whatever stage of life. It's never too late to change and be whole.



Monday, January 02, 2017

Leaving The Past Behind

"I'm over it. I just need a few 'quick' sessions to get me back on the road," a woman explained to me. As it turned out, her therapy wasn't as "quick" or instant as she had hoped. She wanted to move on fast.


However, she was not interested enough in fully resolving her painful issues and memories. Her past continued then to be in her present. It took her years before she finally saw the importance of dealing with one's "unfinished business" in order to heal and be whole.

Many times, we want "instant solution" to our problems. In my effort to help people, they would like me to say something miraculous that will allow them to quickly recover. We want "magic," not hard work.

The truth is, when we have been wounded at our deepest levels, we are in need of an adequate process that requires our active, committed participation as well as follow through. This is not easy and instant. But in the long run, it is the most profound, lasting way to psychological, emotional, and spiritual health.

This coming New Year, if you are in that situation, will you finally choose to do your needed work and at last "leave the past in the past?" Will it really be new beginnings for you this New Year 2017?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Materialism and Mental Health All Around The World

This morning, as I was sipping my brewed coffee, I read a Christmas comment of Pope Francis (a psychologist himself) of the world's 1.2  billion Catholics. He remarked and decried that Christmas has always been "taken hostage" by dazzling materialism that puts God in the shadows. 

He observed that a great majority of people in the world celebrate Christmas with a different "celebrant," obsessed with gifts, feasting, and self centeredness. The Pope said, "Worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed."

I always witness one thing from our generation today. We are constantly exposed to "things" that convince us that we need more to be happy. This Christmas, I treated my children with new iPhone, clothes, watch, gym membership, sumptuous food, cash etc, in keeping with their wish to be up to date with fads. I know, in my mind for I'd been through it myself, having obtained what they think they need, they'll soon feel unhappy when new models come out!  It's never-ending.

I'm naturally concerned about materialism's psychological effects on my kids. "Things" may not be evil in themselves, but they have the capacity to be "idols of the heart." They can make one psychologically imbalanced, lose touch with reality!  They can lead one to forget Christ's simple admonition:  "One's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). In the constant presence of "things" and the spirit behind them, one may indeed lose touch with the divine as well. 



Have you ever experienced living in cold Antarctic all by yourself?  There is this guy, Admiral Richard Byrd, who did it for months. In his journal, he wrote: "I am learning ... that a man can live profoundly without masses of things." 


Alexander Solzhenitsyn had a similar insight. He was thrown into Soviet prison and all things he held dear were taken from him - books, loved ones, home, freedom.  It was then that he came to write about the secret of how to be truly happy and strong -- "that man is never stronger than when he has nothing but the treasures within his heart."

Is having money, possessions etc wrong or pathological? Of course not.  Christ, the reason for the season, is simply against anything that becomes a "god" in our hearts and leaves God out of our lives. Unfortunately, this is a very common "psychological illness" and "soul wound."  Many people nowadays are "possessed by possessions" as no other generation in history.      


Christmas and materialism always go together each year to millions around the world. We witness lots of gifts and parties but there is a different "celebrant." It's a different "lord" that continues to dominate the season. This can wound people - emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

As Pope Francis remarked, Christmas needs to be "freed." That involves a lot of renewing of the mind.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Healing Your Holidays

For those experiencing loss, emotional wound, or relationship breakdown, holidays such as Christmas and New Year can be excruciatingly painful times.  Death, divorce, separation, illness, financial lack, betrayal of friends or loved ones are great losses that can make holidays difficult.

Therefore, let me offer here some thoughts and tips ont how to survive the holidays:

1.    Prepare emotionally and physically, beforehand;
2.    Remind your self that it's a passing season and it will be over soon;
3.    Don't self-medicate or anesthetize with drugs, alcohol, overeating, partying, sexual acting out to numb the pain;
4.    Manage your expectations and realities;
5.    Force your self to socialize and not isolate or hibernate;
6.    Call, text, or meet your therapist or closest friend when painful feelings get severe;
7.    Keep up your physical exercises or workouts (e.g. gym, running, walking etc.), no excuses!;
8.    Try to eat less and move more!
9.    Eat healthy foods;
10.  Reach other people who may be hurting and serve or converse with them;
11.  Don't allow people to push your buttons;
12.  Pray and read God's Word, get close to and trust God in all circumstances;
13.  Remember the reason for the season;
14.  Have fun!
15.  Practice gratitude and contentment;
16.  Educate your self, read self improvement books etc;
17.  Focus on your unique purpose in life;
18.  Enjoy your hobbies or passions;
19.  Connect in new, healthy ways with your spouse or children, family member/s;
20.  Reflect on and learn from your past mistakes to create a better you.

21.  Always hope, for the best is yet to come.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Therapist and You


Therapist.

It's a generic term. A word that may refer to any of the following: psychologist, psychiatrist, pastoral counselor, social worker, clergy, life coach, or mental health consultant.

Therapist does a number of things to help heal. Interprets. Reflects. Confronts. Challenges. Comforts. Role plays. Whatever he or she does, including techniques etc., they're geared towards helping smeone to come out different or whole.

More than what he or she does, a foremost element of change and healing is the therapist’s “presence.” It’s who he or she is, regardless of his or her theoretical allegiances, that makes the main difference in a mind and soul in torment.

Psychotherapist/author Dr. Rolls May speaks of presence as a "complete experiencing of the patient's being - not of his symptoms or problems but of his essence. A therapist who is wise, loving, sincere, or inspirational comes fully prepared to enter a patient's world.

Therapist and patient or client are partners in the life journey. Fellow travelers. Equally human.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nourishing Your Self-Care

Self-Care is vital. You miss or neglect it, you break down. You get ill. You experience unhappiness.

There are known effective ways or strategies to maintain self-care. I'm thinking of some specifics below where we may need to actively work on to improve and maintain our self-care.

Assess and get ready to better self-care.

Physical Self-Care:

* Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner) 

* Eat healthy 

* Exercise 

* Get regular medical care for prevention 

* Get medical care when needed 

* Take time off when needed 

* Get massages 

* Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun 

* Take time to be sexual with your spouse.
* Get enough sleep 

* Wear clothes you like 

* Take vacations 

* Take day trips or mini-vacations 

* Make time away from telephones and gadgets 


Psychological Self-Care:

* Make time for self-reflection
* Have your own personal psychotherapy
* Write in a journal
* Read literature that is unrelated to work
* Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
* Decrease stress in your life
* Let others know different aspects of you
* Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
* Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibit, 
sports event, auction, theater performance
* Practice receiving from others
* Be curious
* Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Self-Care:

* Spend time with others whose company you enjoy 

* Stay in contact with important people in your life 

* Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself 

* Love yourself 

* Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies 

* Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out 

* Allow yourself to cry 

* Find things that make you laugh 

* Express your outrage in social action, letters and donations, marches, protests 

* Play with children 


Spiritual Self-Care:

* Make time for reflection 

* Spend time with nature 

* Find a spiritual connection or community 

* Be open to inspiration 

* Cherish your optimism and hope 

* Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life 

* Try at times not to be in charge or the expert 

* Be open to not knowing 

* Identify what in meaningful to you and notice its place in your life 

* Meditate 

* Pray 

*  Sing 

* Spend time with children 

* Have experiences of awe 

* Contribute to causes in which you believe 

* Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.) 


Work Self-Care:

* Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch) 

* Take time to chat with co-workers 

* Make quiet time to complete tasks 

* Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding 

* Set limits with your clients and colleagues 

* Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much” 

* Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting 

* Get regular supervision or consultation 

* Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise) 

* Have a peer support group 

* Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest 

* Strive for balance within your work-life and workday 

* Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest 


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Why Your Prognosis Is Poor or Slow

As a psychotherapist, I've seen the most perverse, even the most evil parts of human nature. Constantly, I get exposed to deception, conflict, manipulation, mistrust, betrayal, and even cruelty. Privy to people's most secret, hidden selves, I see them at their worst or severe states. Depending on the severity of a patient's condition, there is somehow a hint on the level of progress a therapeutic process will go.


Among therapists around the world, there is some consensus concerning factors describing problem patients. Let me cite some of the following characteristics that are usually observed by clinicians in difficult patients, that make prognoses poor or if any, slow:

*  Patients with severe medical conditions, like head injury or stroke
*  Patients who are hostile, argumentative, hysterical, or skeptical
*  Patients with borderline personalities, sociopathic personalities, or other personality disorders
*  Patients who refuse responsibility ("you fix me")
*  Patients who ignore boundaries (session absences, chronic lateness)
*  Patients with hidden agendas (economic motive, legal requirement, compensation)
*  Patients who are avoidant, seductive, or afraid of intimacy
*  Patients who want something the therapist cannot give them
*  Patients who are impatient
*  Patients who feel hopeless or actively suicidal
*  Patients with poor impulse control (offenders, addicts)
*  Patients who are too superficial, concrete, and literal - unable to access or express deeper internal states

If you're in therapy yourself, do you wonder why your process is progressing so poorly or slowly? For the most part, certain types of patterns of behavior or thought are inherently difficult to deal with. Patience and perseverance are greatly needed to reach desired outcomes.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Your Responsibility When Abused

You may ask, "How can I be responsible when I'm the one abused, hurt, or 'sinned against'?"

One of my former patients, Eddie, was an abandoned and abused child. In his childhood years, he remembers constantly being beaten up by his father and verbally abused by his mother. When he reached high school, his parents separated and left him to the care of neighbors, totally unsupported.

In response, Eddie grew up feeling so angry, bitter, and resentful towards his parents. Sooner, he found himself in the company of criminal gangs. He became addicted to shabu and smoking and got drunk almost each day to numb the pain he's experiencing. One day, in a police buy-bust drug operation, he was arrested and put to jail.

If you've been abused, hurt, or criminally victimized by someone at any stage in your life, you have no responsibility for the event itself. It's outside your control. The issue is not about what has happened to you. However, you are personally responsible and accountable about how you choose to respond from there on. Someone overpowered and wounded you by subjecting you to abuse, whether physically, psychologically, emotionally, or financially. You regain power through your response.

In the aftermath of trauma or destructive events in your life, avoid confusing "blame" with "personal responsibility." You are personally responsible and accountable  for the following:

*  what you choose to believe or decide about your self after the experience

*  how the experience influences your relationships and your life today

*  what attitudes and impressions you develop about other people

*  how frequent that experience from the past gets replayed in your brain, distorts your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Your choice. Listen to your self conversation. Take opportunity to see how you choose to respond to your life experiences. Remember, a key is to do so without blame of self and others.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"iDisorder," Anyone?

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?

The Disease of Person-Addiction

Samantha, a married woman with three young children, met a man working in another country over the Internet. After chatting for some time, she developed a fondness towards him and would begin to miss him. Eventually, they developed an affair kept secret from her husband for several months.

When her husband found out, she "let go" of the other person. But she became deeply depressed and underwent severe withdrawal. Later, Samantha flew out of the country to be with a person she became addicted to.

Have you fallen for a married man or woman?

Or, if you're the married one, have you betrayed your spouse and family to get attached to another person?

Spiritually, socially, and legally, it's forbidden fruit. Noted psychotherapist and author Dr. Robert Herbern calls it "person addiction," a type of psychological disorder, that needs to be broken and where one must heal from.


You see, it's really like a kind of drug. The actual effects are physical, emotional, and psychological addiction and men and women who have this illness will go through the cravings ... just as any drug addict would. The only difference here is we are witnessing a "ruining of lives."

The thing is, with men and women suffering from this type of addiction, they'll feel the pain of "drug rehab." Sometimes, the pain is as much as a person coming off a hard drug like marijuana or heroin. The "person addict" may have shakes, vomiting, and depressive symptoms. He or she could also experience deep withdrawal and isolation.

There are 3 important things to do to deal with "person addiction":

1.) Get committed to "drug rehab" and withdrawal process so you can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit and whole again;

2.) Have a complete physical medical check up, eat healthy foods, and exercise;

3..) Then, you need to get into psychotherapy and counseling to work out your problems.

If you know someone who happens to be in this type of addiction, try to help him or her as much as possible. Yes, he or she may feel bad towards you for intervening. Never mind. Just be a true friend or loved one. Get help.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Does Blaming Others Help You?

Blame. It's people's favorite pastime. Blame is, to point to someone or something to be responsible for something wrong or unfortunate that happened to you. As a result, you find your self feeling powerless or helpless.

    

Maria shared during our session that she spent a large portion of her life with a husband who has been long addicted to pornography and women. She chose to remain in the marriage because of the children and  his financial support. Her focus for years was on blaming her husband for her unhappiness. As long as she could vilify him to friends and relatives, she did not see a need to take action. She spent nearly 20 years hurting and blaming her husband and circumstances.

Eventually, Maria and her husband separated. Her husband continued on with his addictions and extra-marital affairs. Do you want to guess what Maria did after the separation? She found a boyfriend who was a married man. After several months, her married boyfriend abandoned her for he could not completely commit to her and their relationship. This in turn wounded her again more severely, allowing her to blame this boyfriend for her predicament rather than be accountable for her choices and actions.

 

Blaming others can be comfortable and familiar. See, it's their fault! Each time and in every circumstance where you blame others, you are reinforcing your belief that you are not responsible. Feeling the victim always, you get centered on your being helpless and powerless. People who habitually blame others focus on what affects them and what they have no or little control over. By concentrating on these externals, they prove to themselves that there is absolutely nothing they can do. 

Indeed, when you are living without personal responsibility and accountability, you move on stucked to the blame mode. The pathological result is draining energy from your self, others, and the world.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Important Question

Why is it that in most people, “victim experiences” seem to happen repeatedly? Over and over, it becomes a significant issue (sticking point!) in their lives.

Each of us experienced a heart broken. Feelings, spirit wounded. Rejected by people who matter. A victim of another person’s abuse or wrongdoing.

You are not alone.


But, in the course of coping with hurt and victim experiences, we differ in our ways. Look at some of these differences in coping:

— Disappearing (flying under the radar)
— Creating drama
— Becoming righteous and arrogant
— Clinging to someone to rescue us
— Medicating
— Addiction to things or behaviors
— Seeking sympathy
— Confronting obstacles
— Feigning indifference
— Recreating similar experiences to maintain the uncomfortable comfort zone
— Rescuing others
— Fighting

The “learned” coping mechanisms are unlimited. Yet the recurring experiences of victimization via these coping ways can be one of your best clues to your healing and recovery. Repeated dysfunctional patterns of coping provide feedback that you are resisting something.

The important question is, What?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Prostitute Within

"Inner prostitute." Has it ever crossed your mind that such a thing exists inside you?

Understanding first what a "prostitute is, helps. A "prostitute," in its typical meaning, is one who sells sex and physical body in order to get money or some type of favor. It's a very first thing most people think when they hear the word "prostitute." The word "whore" also comes to mind.


Well, forget the sex in the definition. Think internal, non-physical. So, when I mention "inner prostitute," I therefore mean psychological. Even more so, spiritual. The "inner prostitute" inside each of us to some degree, is metaphorically one that "sells" a part of our selves in order to get something. This type of selling is actually "whoring" one's integrity and self-respect, pushed by the winds of self-interest, vice or indulgence.

Maria, married to a millionaire businessman, was sure that she's doing something against her values. Her husband has been used to bringing women in their bedroom whenever he comes home. Despite her protests, she continues to allow him to do so. According to her, she gives her consent and stays in the toxic marriage for financial security rather than courageously face the unknown. Sacrificing her self-respect for comfort, she "sells out" to her husband's abuse rather than being true to her self.

The "inner prostitute," as you can see, is primarily attached to issues of survival and security. It thrives on deep fears. Often, those who persistently struggle with their "inner prostitute" experienced extreme physical, psychological, and emotional abuse, deprivation, and battering during childhood or earlier years of development. In order to fill the gaps, a person giving in to his/her "inner prostitute" becomes willing to whore away his/her integrity, self-respect, and values to feel provided for, guarded, and protected.

The result? Psychopathology. Personal and relationship breakdowns. A lack of purpose and happiness. Instability in various areas of life. Identity prostituted to others, which may include things such as time, affection, heart, soul, creativity, friendship, or intellect. Telling untruths or lies to one's self and others to have power, a sense of "security."

Indeed, the heart is deceitful above all things. In it dwells the "inner prostitute." Have you come to know it yourself?




Friday, November 04, 2016

Listening With The Third Ear

Love and hate. Dependence and independence. Joy and sadness. Individuality and intimacy. To be left alone and to be assisted. Trust and mistrust. Denial and acknowledgment. To tell and not to tell. To stay and leave.

Opposite tendencies or wishes can do co-exist within us. Especially in moments of stress, we may experience feelings contradicting each other living inside us. What is false and what is true can be confused.

Bridget, a single mother of three, often gets caught in perplexing contradictions. She does not want to be treated as though she is incomplete or needy. However, she admits in her therapy that she'd like men to notice and love her, and making allowances for her hunger to feel "complete" with a man who'd take care of her. She asked, "Am I crazy? I'm confused."

Dividedness. The self pulled apart by contradictions. What do you do in such a distressing psychological state? There seems to be no easy solution. What helps can be the ability to "listen with the third ear." It's like my saying you using your "extra sense," which is something that needs deliberate cultivation. It's not easily accessible by natural means.

"Listening with the third ear" may mean dealing with our dividedness or contradictions as not a problem to be solved, right away. Before healing or wholeness sets in, this dilemma we always find ourselves in is an aspect of the human condition that must be accepted first. Once this prerequisite is done, you then free yourself from the domain of helplessness to resolution or coming to terms with it.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Coffee and Mental Health

It's Harvard. For many years that span multiple decades, its scientists and medical doctors have studied the effects of coffee among thousands of individuals. Health benefits are a recurring theme in all of these Harvard researches. As they say, coffee loves us back!

Among coffee's health benefits, besides physical, based on Harvard research is on mental health. There is, for instance, a 2011 study they made which showed that drinking coffee lowered the rates of depression and suicide. They also found that coffee improves thinking skills, memory, and overall cognitive functioning.

I've done a lot of psychotherapy sessions in the coffee shop. I know it's not traditional. But I'm just that - un-traditional, unconventional, out of the box  - because I desire healing to take place in a normal life context. Besides, it's the coffee.

I've realized that the personal therapy of countless individuals and couples in my sessions is facilitated by the coffee and the community hub feel of the coffee shop. Of course, a lot of times, it's the processing that makes the difference. And this processing is hugely impacted somehow by the conversations and experiences shared in the coffee shop.

Famous writer Gertrude Stein once wrote, "Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it's something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within your self. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup."

Voltaire claimed drinking tens of cups a day as a secret of his creative productivity. The philosopher James Mackintosh had said that the powers of a man's mind were proportionate to the quantity of coffee he drank.

Coffee and mental health?  There must be something to see in it.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

All The Wasted Time

A woman patient filed a police report and legal case against her long-time live-in partner. It's for physical injury and the RA law on violence against women. She was physically assaulted and seriously wounded by her alcoholic, sex-addicted, and violent partner.

The worst part of it is all the wasted time. She let it happen to her for many years. Finally, she has decided to give up on him if he won't choose rehabilitation. She left him and pursued legal remedy when the needed change becomes a matter of life and death.

I'm reminded of another patient whose heart began to beat erratically because of overwork. At risk of a fatal heart attack, he shared that he can't believe that he put his job before his family, friends, his health - everything. All he cared about was making money.

This patient was "lucky" that he's still breathing when he started thinking these thoughts! Now, everything he took for granted before becomes so precious. When his wife and daughters come to care for him, he'd cry profusely as soon as he sees them. 

All the wasted time! I can't imagine the regrets countless broken patients feel about their lives. No one can give them back all the days of their life spent boozing, abusing, or hurting themselves and their relationships. Why did they have to wait until everything gives out, collapses?

Indeed, nothing compares with emergencies, traumas, and pains in catalyzing rapid changes in life perspective. Realignment of life priorities often happens during times of exigency. For a lot of people, this is true. It compels them to finally assess their expended years for the "real" content of life they hope to live.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

How Do You Bring Up Your Child When You're A Child Yourself?

Once, during a quiet evening, I saw and heard this over TV Channel 7 broadcast, "Paano ka mag-aalaga ng bata kung ikaw ay bata rin?"

It struck me a lot. A therapeutic question! How indeed do you bring up your child when you're a child yourself?

 That question gave me one of my most insightful points during a self parenting seminar that I did in a large, South Manila-based school. Around a hundred people or more came (fathers and mothers, teachers, principal, guidance counselors, including the wives of the municipality's mayor and congressman).

It's a different kind of parenting seminar. That's because my focus was on the parents themselves and not on the children. In the seminar, I shared about inner healing and character formation of the parents first before they can apply healthy parenting techniques to their children.

I also shared about my own parenting journey. My ups and downs. My mistakes and joys. More than a psychotherapist, I'm a human father with three children. I've known and experienced how essential it is to be an "adult father," not a "child father."

I hope to reach out to more parents in this area of "self-parenting." I'm not an expert on child rearing techniques (others can more effectively teach that!). But I believe I've been raised in a unique way to teach well on how to "parent one's self" and heal the "inner child" as a foundation for authentic, longterm, healthy parenting of children.


I know. I've been there. And I'm thankful for the opportunity to experience it first-hand myself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Controlling Your Bad Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of our life. But stress, if not properly coped with, turns bad or unhealthy to our health - physically, emotionally, and psychologically

When stress is bad, it leads to a host of ailments. High blood pressure, among medical conditions. Sleep deficits. Addictions. Relational breakdowns. Mental health disorders.

Let me share here below a few specific things or steps we can take to control "bad stress:"

1.   Find out information about what's exactly going on.

2.   Let your feelings out through healthy channels.

3.   Make time for play or recreation.

4.   Pay attention to your family and friends.

5.   Stay away from addictions when stressed - drugs, alcohol, smoking, food, sex, gambling, internet etc.

6.   Eat healthy.

7.   Focus on the positive.

8.   Be objective and realistic.

9.   Exercise regularly.

10. Find a hobby.

11. Pray.

12. Read and meditate on the Word.

13. Celebrate every success.

14. Develop your faith in the Higher Power.

15. Call on a friend.

16. Read.

17. Take a walk to nature.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Healing of Manny Pacquiao

A few days ago, I was in a meeting and dinner with Manny Pacquaio. It's in his Forbes Park home in Makati. There were some actors, from showbiz. Emerging from traffic, he arrived into the room where we were. Apologizing. He appeared hungering to come and see us.

A few seconds after, he sat quietly on the floor, smiling at his guests. With closed eyes moments later, he sang and listened to Scriptures and prayed. The rest of his guests and large entourage of assistants/handlers sensed the deep change in this man. A humble and gracious guy - this man Manny!

If you knew Manny before, he was an "addict." Women. Gambling. Alcohol. Drugs. Money. Fame. You name it, according to him, he tried all sorts of "addictive agent" to find satisfaction. In the doctors' DSM manual of mental disorders, addiction is a type of mental disorder or psychopathology. Unknowingly, that's what Manny suffered from.


With tons of money, he could get or buy anything. Yet, looking back as Manny shared, all of these "profits from the world" left him feeling stranded. He remained chronically dissatisfied despite everything he owned. His sadness and emptiness filled him with dread as his own surface deteriorated. Satiation, or running out of wants, is indeed a living death.

As a psychotherapist, I move within the limitations of human language. Crises and traumas are my allies. They hasten the process of discovery more than all the reasoning and analysis I can muster. My richest sessions occur when my patients are feeling empty and suffering a lot. This void always precedes significant change.

What happened to Manny Pacquaio? How did he heal from his broken, addicted past? What made him able to avoid the tragedy of "unlived life" still inside him?

Out of his emptiness and dissatisfaction, Manny would recollect, he derived readiness for the arrival of his new self when the Word was shared to him. One biblical psychotherapy verse can describe what happened to him: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

Manny's heart and mind was changed. He got the "secret" of true, lasting psychotherapy.




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Aging Well

It can sound rude to ask a person his or her age. In a world of youth-centric societies and media, a lot who are aging may take offense. Psychologically and emotionally, some people are simply not ready to accept or feel proud being a "senior citizen."

One time, I was crossing a street where I saw a "multi-colored" woman. Her face  was filled with lipstick and makeups. Dressing in a miniskirt with rainbow colors, topped by shining jewelry, she walked the street like a teenager. The thing is, her facial features and physique showed obvious signs of her age. She's possibly around age 60 or 65 - a senior citizen who appears like an adult teenager!

Gloria Diaz, the first-ever Filipina to be crowned Miss Universe, is proud to be 65. In her newspaper interview over at The Philippine Star I'd been reading this morning, she said, "When we were younger, our main focus is ourselves. Whatever we're doing, it's about us, our clothes, our shoes, where we're going. But as you get older, your focus shifts to your kids. And then it moves to your grandchildren. And then your partner. You become the last priority of yourself. All of a sudden, you realize your own mortality. You know that you have to eat well, sleep well, and you need fewer things."
 


Gloria also remarked on a few more things she learned as she takes her journey to aging. "When you get to my age, you're more relaxed. Before I would wear high heels, girdles, now I don't have to. These days, I enjoy wearing rubber shoes or 'step-in.'"  She then added having a personal relationship with the Lord is her most important secret to successful aging.

We can all learn to age well and be healthy. We make the most of the time that remains. There is this awareness that we are simply not immortal. We prepare for the best life to come! 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Smiles and Your Brain

One of my recent sessions was filled with joy. A couple, who used to experience bitterness, rage, and anger towards each other learned to smile a lot at each other. With that, they discovered how much they're capable to feeling kind and compassionate to each other, struggling though they may be. A cheerful smile became medicine to their marriage.

Smiles have a therapeutic effect on our brain chemistry, according to experts. Researchers have found out that "when we smile, it releases brain chemicals called 'endorphins' which have an actual physiological relaxing effect." They say that smiles not only diffuse crisis or tense situations in relationships. They also diffuse tension within our selves.

Have you ever witnessed people using foul language, with rising tempers or careless behaviors towards each other? They usually have stern, frowning faces. Some are used to brawling and slander. They threaten or damage relationships and themselves. Their emotions as well as the way they react to situations are out of control. And they seldom smile. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with unsmiling, joyless faces.

So, the next time you felt so angry with someone or because of an argument, remember how it affects your health and well being. Look instead at the bright side of things. Tap that part of you inside that feels lighter and cheery. Smile. It can do wonders.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Choosing Kindness

I'm reminded of Aldous Huxley, a noted writer-philosopher. He was dying. At his deathbed, he was asked what words and wisdom he would like to tell and leave to the world. He replied, "I wish people would be kinder to each other."

What does "kindness" mean? Here's what "kindness" means if we go by the American Heritage Dictionary: "of a friendly nature, generous or hospitable, warmhearted, good, charitable, helpful, showing understanding or sympathy, humane, considerate, tolerant."

Heeding Huxley's words, I feel how much it applies to our society in general. Reading recent local news, for example, we can witness a lot of unkindness. Government leaders fuming mad and assassinating each other's characters in public. They all speak of healing our country. But how does a country heal when leadership is ruled by poisonous emotions, tongue, behavior, and self-perception? Sadly, the practice of kindness in our country, and even in the rest of the world, resembles a drought.

When I think of the numerous men and women who see me in the psychotherapy session, I never fail to see their eyes glistening with held-back or free-flowing tears. In relating their stories, they react with poignant sadness. Often, they remember that kindness was nonexistent in the growing up period of their lives. And goodness! How much they hunger and yearn for their parents to show more kindness to them and each other.

I usually tell them it's ok not to be ok. To feel sad about the unkindness they've experienced in their lives. Even weep for the kindness they did not receive from their parents or others when they were children. But, they need to learn to let go, eventually. They need to learn to grieve completely their unprocessed pains. And then, use their present lives and relationships as a "second chance" to experience the kindness they did not have.

Kindness heals. Choose it for your self and others.

Monday, September 19, 2016

OFWs and Their Left-Behind Kids

"Parenting and providing are two different things," is one of the remarks I made during my recent television interview last week over at Ikonsulta Mo GMK UNTV. Congressman Erin, the TV program's senior host, was asking me on the impact on parenting of parents going overseas for work on their left-behind children. To that I painted a not-so-good picture of the psychological and social realities of the OFW phenomenon on the Filipino family.

I'm reminded of Maria who went to Dubai to work as an office employee. She left behind a 3-year old daughter and a 15-year-old son in the care of her husband. After 10 years as a migrant worker, Maria found herself husband-less with a drug-addicted, delinquent son who dropped out of school and a teenage daughter who became deeply depressed and suicidal that she had to be rushed for psychiatric treatment. Her husband had sexual affairs and impregnated one woman who happened to be a single mother.

Although dubbed as "Bayani" by the government for their remittances boosting the country's economy, the psychological and social costs of labor migration among Filipinos remain so increasingly  high. Statistics and studies show that the separation of family members from one or both parents working abroad have been linked to problems such as marital breakdowns/infidelity, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, early marriage of young children, and parental alienation. Dependency on money received abroad have also been implicated as contributing to families of migrants becoming materialistic, losing desire to work, and suffering mental health or relationship disorders.


Indeed, the economic well being of OFW families cannot be divorced from the conditions of nurturing the mental health of left-behind children. To address the known care deficits that always happened, it's crucial therefore for OFWs to be able to communicate with their left-behind children in healthy ways while overseas as well as educate themselves on the value and dynamics of true parenting given the sub-ideal family situation they find themselves in. The issue of surrogates or alternative caregivers is a significant area of development to better nourish the mental health and physical care of left-behind children.




Monday, September 12, 2016

Do You Have "Conflict-Phobia?"

Are you "abnormally" afraid of conflict or taking a stand?

A patient, Kelly, is depressed. She lacks sexual desire towards her husband. She actually feels distant emotionally from him. For years, Kelly’s husband tries to control her and treat her like a child. He’d complain about her clothes, her friends, her spending. He’d belittle her in front of their children and others.

Yet even though this bothers her so much, Kelly says very little about it to her husband because she doesn’t want to fight. By giving in to the unreasonable demands of her husband even early on prior to marriage, Kelly taught her husband that it’s ok to control and abuse her.

Many people have “conflict phobia.” They’d do everything to avoid it so as not to experience turmoil or conflict. But, this “conflict phobia” and avoidance only sets up any relationship for further turmoil rather than less.

The lesson? Learn the psychological steps to deal with conflict. Standing up to an abusive person, for instance, after years of giving in is very hard. Yet it’s essential for healing and saving the other person, your self, and the relationship. I’ve witnessed many patients who even after many years of giving in learn to take a stand for themselves and change their relationship.


Monday, September 05, 2016

Psychotherapy Without Borders

It used to be a traditional way. I once worked all the time in the office, with armchair and tools. But with it, the problem of the high costs of wasted time enduring more than a couple of hours travel each day to office. The cost of fuel, not factoring in medical costs of my increasing weight, blood pressure, traffic-anxiety, and fatigue, significantly reduced my joy and effectiveness.

I'm glad times have changed. With the growth of the mobile and the internet, society has progressively moved work channels from the physical to the digital. The lines between work and life are being erased in the process. Time and money are saved. The threat of burnout and mental health challenges get to be addressed. Distance is no longer a problem between people engaged in a working process.

Whenever I do Skype or phone sessions with counsellees from the Philippines, Qatar/Dubai, Australia, USA, Japan, or anywhere else around the world, I've come to feel that I'm more productive and refreshed working remotely than when sedentarily confined in a clinic cubicle. I'm glad I can do running or recharging while helping anyone, anywhere!

Productivity appears more in the comfort of home or natural environs of individuals engaged in life session. The domino effect is the natural fruit of seeing that the main value exists not in the structure of a fixed physical space of an office - but in the value of output made. I think I'm not alone in believing this to be so in our times.

The working world in general is more and more showing a a rising trend of decreased need for a central physical hub to do work. I'm reading US National Library of Medicine, which suggests that remote, digitally-based workers have higher performance outputs. The less office means increased productivity by up to 70%, according to Time Doctor Stats.

With technology spurring growth and saving costs, don't be surprised if you see me championing a non-traditional office-less "psychotherapy without borders." Via Skype or phone. Or, in coffee shops, beaches, or malls. It's organic. Natural life flow. Time/cost-effective. In short, a more healthy option towards your search for healing and wholeness in your life.


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Dr. Frank and His Addiction

The addiction problem that afflicts millions of men and women around the world is smoking. Due to its heavy commercialization and widespread use, cigarettes are commonly accessible. After they've engaged in it, people from all stages of life have a hard time giving it up.

According to the WHO or World Health Organization, smoking is a leading cause of cancer and health deterioration all around the world. Based on medical and scientific studies, the nicotine in smoking, when one gets addicted to it, can result in a person's premature death. Worldwide statistics show this to be so.


Dr. Franki Oski, a smoking medical doctor, once wrote an article in 1979 in the New York Times, rationalizing that smoking was good for his health. Five years later, after having a heart attack at age 51, he wrote another article linking smoking to heart disease. Since his last serious heart attack, Dr. Frank had chosen to totally stop his addiction to nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive poison, like other specifically-known substances. It kills. It destroys heart and brain health. Yet it's sad that many still choose to get addicted to it, consume large amounts of the substance, despite its life-damaging consequences. For many, it becomes too late to change.

In the case of Dr. Frank, his unlearning his dependency to smoking was closely linked to his desire to live longer. He wanted to avoid another heart attack or stroke, escape premature death. As smoking ceased to be rewarding to Dr. Frank, other types of rewards take its place in his life.

There is hope to quit addiction. Any type, as a matter of fact. Do not wait until it's too late. Or, a lot of damage is already done. Value your one life. Not every one is given another chance to redeem mistakes and become whole again.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Taking Responsibility For Your Self

Mental health and the matter of "willing and choosing" has a close linkage.  It's apparent, viewed from the perspective of self creation, healing, wholeness, action. I also call or describe this psychological principle as "taking responsibility for your self." As Sartre put it, we are the authors of ourselves.

A patient, Benjamin, has a recurring dark side to his mind in viewing his present predicament. He constantly blames others for his debts and business bankruptcy, his physical illnesses, and his family disintegration. And with avoidance of personal responsibility comes Benjamin's string of psychological disorders, such as anxiety panic attacks, depression, obsessive compulsions, and substance addictions.

Each one of us is a "constituter" of the world we find ourselves in. We author the form and meaning that we give not only to our internal but to the external world as well. We each process events, circumstances, and relationships in our lives through our own neurological and psychological apparatus. Through the accretion of these individual choices, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and our failures to act in constructive ways, we ultimately manufacture our selves and our worlds.

We cannot avoid this personal responsibility, this freedom of "willing and choosing" for our selves. No matter what happened to us, done to us, from the outside, we remain our own primal world "constituters." We remain responsible for our own response and existence -- nobody else. Those who deny, ignore, or become unwilling to take responsibility for themselves end up remaining sick or stuck. Such principle is a highly essential visible denizen in all psychotherapy treatment.