Friday, October 31, 2014

Growing Through Parenting Stress

I'm a parent of three young children. In one of my overseas trips, I felt a tug at my heart, wishing I had done more for them before I left. Or, there had been times in the past when I felt remorse at comments I made. I wished I could somehow take them back!  I'd think of ways to make up or remedy previous neglects. It's never too late, I believe.

Here are some things I've learned and gained from going through the stress of being a parent:

*  I learned patience, endurance, and sacrifice;
*  I learned to tap into my unsuspecting strength within myself when I had to nurture my kids when I myself was sick or internally distressed;
*  I learned I need to learn and practice empathy, for in trying to understand my child, I had to put my self in his or her place;
*  I learned how to listen not just to my child's voice but also to his/her hidden feelings and thoughts;
*  I learned to set aside what I prefer to see or hear from my child, so I can understand what he/she is expressing to me;
*  I learned what responsibility means as a parent;
*  I learned the joy of giving to my children without expecting any thing in return;
*  I learned what God's love can do to shape me to be a better parent.

Yes, children can put stress on us. But it can also be one of the most rewarding and fruit-bearing  experiences possible. Like you, I'm a parent. Both of us, we all, can grow through our children ... and the stress of parenting them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surviving Infidelity and Separation

Infidelity is like a super-typhoon. It rips your life, threatening to damage everything in its path. The whirlwinds of emotions bring fear, anger, and confusion, affecting your family, children, and friends. It hurts so much.

But then, your unfaithful spouse, instead of repenting or making up, continues on with the affair. You discover how he or she has been intentionally deceiving you with lies or hidden messages, and even manipulating elements of reality to blame you. You separate from your infidel spouse.

As the betrayed spouse, you need to survive to start and sustain a needed healing process. There's no way around or easy way out. You're likely wishing that you could get through the pain quicker! But healing is a process. You take it one day at a time. It's a moment-by-moment process.

Here are a few generally well-tested, effective healing actions to survive your spouse's infidelity and separation from him or her:

*  Examine your self and the level of intensity of your pain (is it intensity 5 or 10 etc.?).
*  Seek help or professional intervention (therapist, counselor etc.) to go to the "roots," shorten your process, avoid long-terms costs, and complete recovery.
*  Take deep breaths and exercise, eat healthy.
*  Learn to reframe your suffering - thoughts, feelings, behaviors etc.
*  Spare your children from adult trauma and help them cope, get your nurturance somewhere.
*  Take time to know the real you.
*  Abstain from making major decisions, especially during the early stages.
*  Train yourself on emotional techniques to better cope with your spouse's infidelity and separation.
*  Always be with a friend.
*  Expand your circle of support or community (don't withdraw or isolate).
*  Have a clear, definite plan and weighing of your options.
*  Pray. Know God's part in your healing process.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gas-Lighting

Gas-lighting is an interesting term used in clinical therapy. It owes its origin from the film adaptations of "Gaslight" starring Ingrid Bergman in the 1940s. In the film, the main character (the husband) systematically engaged in psychological manipulation to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating elements of the environment. This then disoriented the wife and made her doubt her memory, perception, and reality.

I'm reminded of Tina who came to me, traveling so many miles from the province. She found out that her husband is gay and has been paying for sex with men during the years of their marriage. Tina was so confused and about to have a nervous breakdown. The gas-lighting behaviors of her husband involved blaming her and undermining her perceptions of the evidences she found out. She ended up looking down on her self and seeing "things" she had done that made her husband a homosexual and unfaithful spouse.


Gas-lighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that can deeply wound a victim. It involves projection, denial, lying - a special kind of transfer of painful mental conflicts to another person. Adulterous spouses, for example, may gaslight their partners, even flatly denying that they have been unfaithful or deceptive. According to mental health statistics, gas-lighting is indeed commonly observed among cases of marital infidelity, parent-child alienation, and sociopathic/psychopathic behaviors.

I know of only one antidote against gas-lighting: the truth. A wounded victim's ability to heal and resist the manipulation depends on his or her strength and trust to stand for what really is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are You Working For The Wind?

A story reminds me of a statement made by super-rich Solomon. It goes: "What profit has he who has labored for the wind?"

Martha's story was a loss of millions of pesos from a military-controlled financial investment scam. Her millions came from "earnings" she accumulated buying and selling goods using funds from stolen credit cards provided by a syndicate. After a time of imprisonment, Martha got out and went bankrupt.

Wealth can perish through misfortune. Theft as in Martha's case or through natural disasters and accidents, your dearest belongings may disappear. Even if you are able to protect them, you certainly can't take them with you in the grave. There appears to be futility in working only to acquire possessions that will ultimately disappear. Yet isn't that so common an "addiction" of people nowadays -- maddeningly seeking treasures that have sure expiration on earth?

Martha's story (as well as those of countless others) exemplifies much of our material world -- the emptiness of riches and the transitory nature of things of this earth. After all the reflections and lessons he learned, super-rich Solomon's final conclusion is, "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." The treasures of heaven are what truly matter. They don't expire and you can "take them with you." They yield lasting rewards that can't be destroyed.

Are you working for the wind?  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stress Reduction Alternatives

This morning, I'm thinking of alternative ways to heal or reduce stress. Often, in times of brokenness or betrayal, people feel rage. There are other ways we can discharge high levels of stress instead of overwhelming anger.

Although anger somehow releases some stress, it's least effective and even harmful. It costs too much. For one, anger can put a huge toll on you physiologically. It's known to damage relationships. In the long run, it harms your over-all health and isolates you.

Let me see, here's my broad list of some alternative stress-reducing strategies instead of anger. Hope it gives you some starting points and ideas.

*  Exercising
*  Crying
*  Humor
*  Writing
*  Deep breathing and relaxation exercises
*  Verbalizing pain
*  Recreation and hobbies
*  Pillow and bed beating
*  Music
*  Resting
*  Problem-solving activities
*  Sports, running, fast walking
*  Focused, intense work activity
*  Problem-solving conversations
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Psychological Crisis of Middle Age

As people reach middle years, there appears to be a developmental or psychological crisis common to all men and women. Psychologist Dr. Eric Erikson defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65. These are the years when people are faced more closely with the inevitable aspect of the aging process.

Not too long ago, I once saw a woman in teenage high-heels with lots of cosmetics and techni-colors in her dress. However, it was not difficult to guess her real age. All can notice her facial wrinkles, sagging breasts, slowness in movements, and other coarsening features. The cosmetic industry which normally works so well in youth had not squared well with this woman's inexorable reality.

I'm reminded of a research I read that shows that women in their middle years manifest psychiatric disorders almost five times as frequently as men. I believe the reason behind this difference is more cultural and psychological rather than physiological. The stress for middle-aged women appears especially severe in our culture where youth and beauty are given greater emphasis in women than in men to be perceived useful and needed.

For the middle-aged man, on the other hand, we hear stories of many who unconsciously struggle on stresses placed upon them by society, ordinarily measured in terms of wealth, power, or sexual potency. To escape the loss of fantasy hopes of youth or romance, for instance, numerous men will engage in extra-marital affairs or pursue much younger women for sexual conquests. It can be hard for men heavily gender-conditioned by culture to see that fulfillment has become improbable at a certain point.

In both men and women, a common source of psychological crisis is that physical changes in middle age force an inescapable confrontation with the reality of one's mortality. The defenses or illusions that work well in younger years can no longer be maintained in middle age. There is increasing evidence of the approaching limits of existence and one's own ultimate nonexistence. When a middle-aged man or woman is not able to meet this reality head-on and deal with it successfully, such a person can become psychologically and emotionally maladjusted.

Middle age can be a happy time for renewed capacity for productivity, creativity, and appreciation of the true meaning of life. Life on earth is a temporary journey of bitterness-sweetness, of laughter and tears, that can still be uniquely enjoyed by each one of us. As poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it, "For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do Externals Equal Your Self-Worth?

I once met an extremely attractive and sexy young woman. She can qualify as a beauty queen with her externals. Yet she's on an emotional roller coaster. She feels better only when all people around her say she's pretty. When she hears people comparing or criticizing her looks, she feels depressed. For her, her worth equals people appreciating her external beauty.

We live in a culture where it can be hard not to be judged by appearances or externals. Media, such as television, film, advertising etc., conveys the message that you are not worthwhile if you're not young, slim-figured, bold, beautiful, or rich. In various places, your human worth equals your market worth. With this line of thinking, only Bill Gates or Henry Sy would have greater human worth than a Mother Teresa.

When externals equal your self-worth, you can feel down big time. Your feelings would go beyond the normal when worth is in doubt due to externals, such as events, circumstances, or performances.  Taken to unrestrained extreme, your failures or rejection from others can make you feel miserable, depressed, and develop psychopathology. When worth equals externals, self-esteem rises and falls along with events.

The key to healing from this source of mental instability is to separate "core worth" from "externals." Here, we make a distinction between feeling bad about an event, behavior, or performance from feeling bad about the essence of our self. The idea is to judge the unhealthy behavior, performance, event, or circumstance, but not the core or essence of one's being. "I'm not good enough as a person" is, therefore, a self-destructive choice of thought. So, judge present external behavior or event, never your core self.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The "Love Mechanic"

Kevin is a "love mechanic." He had picked up over 50 women so far and had sex with almost all of them. His expertise is wooing women, sweet-talking, and touching to "be close." He talks about his feelings too and makes an effort to listen. Mechanically, he can show he loves or cares about women.

After getting what he wants from a woman, he breaks up and moves readily to the next. Immediately, with the next woman, he appears to be just as "intimate" and "loving" there. He knows the moves, the "right" places to touch a woman sexually. He works hard to make a woman feel good and loved in bed. He uses "love" language constantly. "I miss you a lot," "I'm feeling so close to you now," or "I want to share with you how I feel."

The "love mechanic" is a fake. He believes his "love" is coming from inside him. However, it is actually psychologically or intellectually monitored. His "love" is mechanical, disconnected from his very core or his own feelings. Yes, he knows and does all the appealing intimate, "loving" behaviors. But his way of connecting is profoundly shallow, distanced, automatic, and therefore manipulative. His way of "love" exists apart from himself -- a psychological disguise for disconnection.

Let this insight be a step towards making efforts to recognize, analyze, and heal a "love mechanic," especially if you're married or romantically linked to one. The ramifications of such type of "unconscious" psychological deception in relationships are enormously hurtful. I hope this realization narrows the gap between what seems to be and what is actually going on underneath psychologically.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What Future?

Psychotherapist and author, Rollo May, once wrote, "The most effective way to ensure the value of the future is to confront the present courageously and constructively."

Things do happen that can put our plans into a detour. Or, they're put on hold outside our control. Some of our plans are forever abandoned. And, no new plans take their place. When that happens - "living without plans" - we live without hope and purpose. When life has no purpose, it loses its meaning.

I'm reminded of a deeply distraught man who was coming out of a long and hard battle of healing from the affair of his wife. I asked him what his plans are for the future. He sadly echoed the words I often hear from many during therapy sessions: "What future? My life is over. I just exist. I hope I just die now!" A part of deep inside me wanted to shout that life is still moving and new plans can replace old ones.

Are you hoping for another fellow human being to set plans or goals for you? Or, are you setting your own plans or goals with the Lord's wisdom and help? This may sound simple or religious for you, but it can be a healing food for thought for you:  Most people fail or lose hope for the future because they put themselves first and God second. As a result, they feel hopeless or their plans may not succeed.

No one, other than you and God, should be entrusted with making plans for your future.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How To Rebuild Trust

Trust is essential. When it's broken, it takes work to rebuild. Without trust, failure is sure to come.

This is true in any relationship. Friendship. Marriage. Romantic relationship. Boss-employee relationship. Seller-buyer transaction. Parent-child connection. Plus more ...

I'm thinking now of some simple, basic "rules" to rebuild trust. Ones that fit all of us, all the time. "Rules" that not only rebuild trust, they maintain it.

One is "keeping your word." You are where you say you will be. You do what you say you will do. You keep deadlines, no matter how simple.

Second in my list is, "informing prior to the fact." You keep the other person informed. Don't wait for the other person, say your spouse, to hear of last-minute or emergency changes.

Thirdly, "no secrets." In content and tone, you don't hide. There is no shade of guardedness.

And fourth, "no surprises!" This neutralizes or removes hyper-vigilance of the betrayed other. 

Of course, when there is a deepest cut of betrayed trust, there is initially a "stricter-than-normal" standard for the offending person, especially in the beginning stages of rebuilding. That's just the way it is. But consistent compliance with these basic "rules" I believe will rebuild broken trust more quickly than any other ways.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Love Yourself

"We cannot give what we do not have."  That's what author Walter Trobish asserts in his book "Love Yourself." It also echoes Jesus' words in Scripture about receiving and giving. We can only possess and give to others what is real inside of us.

In psychological terms, Trobish' "loving yourself" is equivalent to unconditional self-acceptance. Needless to say, it doesn't mean narcissism, arrogance, or conceit. To love yourself means to accept and celebrate yourself as you are. It involves coming to terms with those imperfect aspects of you that you cannot change.

I'm reminded of a young woman who literally sits around the house and waits for approval from her husband and five children. She frowns and gets moody whenever her husband and children show displeasure over the food she cooks or the words she says to them. For every act of service or sacrifice she does for them, she feels that they owe her a pat in the back or a nod each time.

Certainly, how tiring it is to sit around and waiting for approval from others. You work on approving and accepting "you," whether or not others do that to you. You are the only "you" that you have. It is in your best interest to be the best "you" can be regardless of what other people think or how they see you. Work on loving yourself.

In the words of literary giant Walt Whitman, we are all here "to contribute a verse." In order to love yourself, one way is to discover what makes you unique and further develop your strengths and talents. It demands responsibility to yourself to be a better "you." With self-improvement, you're then empowered to love yourself and give to others.

Until you love yourself and celebrate who you are, you will not be able to truly love anyone else. You can only love another to the degree that you're able to do to yourself.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nutrition and Mental Health

Non-drug psychiatrist, Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, is one of the very few doctors who doesn't prescribe psychiatric drugs to his patients.

Psychotropic medication is well-known to have horrendous side effects over time. Dr. Hoffer said that successful recovery with the use of medication is usually 10%.

But with nutrition, continues Dr. Hoffer, successful recovery is around 80%.

Nutrition does affect and improve your mental health in specific physical/chemical ways, while going into the very internal psychological "roots" of your condition through psychotherapy for permanent recovery.

Ruling out any major medical causes or some organic damage (consult a physician, of course, to find out!), like in any other ailments known to man, nutrition and natural medicine is still the best and safest course to take to support psychotherapy for long-term, deep-level healing.




Saturday, October 11, 2014

Heavyweight Wind

No problems, hindrances, or limitations can prevent you from pursuing your dream. That is, if you choose to take courage and get past them.

If you're overweight and you're suffering from psychological or emotional pains out of it, hear Freddie Combs, who once weighed almost 1,000 pounds.

There is wind beneath your wings! You can fly.

An American minister, Freddie reveals a healing secret in his life: "... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Are You Weary Waiting?

Waiting is part of healing. You'll never know when the breakthrough comes. The deep process of recovery is unique to each individual. If you are a loved one/caregiver of a distressed or sick person, you simply continue to love ... until your loved one "gets it" and receives the light.

Let me tell you the story of the LION and the TURTLE.

The LION holds a conference of all animals in the jungle. He calls the TURTLE and puts her beside him. He tells all animals, "I want each of you to tell the TURTLE a joke and make her laugh. If she doesn't laugh with your joke, I eat you!"


The monkey is the first to try. It tells a joke but the TURTLE just frowns. The LION eats the monkey. Next, a pretty parrot comes in and tells a joke. The TURTLE just moves her lips and won't laugh. Horror, horror, the LION instantly eats the parrot. Then, a pelican comes to give its best. Still the TURTLE isn't laughing, so the LION eats the pelican.

Next after, a beautiful deer bursts into the scene ready to tell its joke to the TURTLE.  But, even before the deer can tell its joke, the TURTLE is already laughing her heart out. The LION is puzzled and asks the TURTLE, "Why are you already laughing; the deer has not started telling its joke yet?" The merry, merry TURTLE responded, "It's so, so funny, that joke by the monkey!"

People can be like turtles, you know. In due time, they'll "get it" and respond to your love.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Infidelity Virus

Infidelity, like Ebola, is a deadly virus.

Infidelity is deeply embedded throughout the fabric of media and culture. From television programs to the pages of magazines and newspapers to online sites, infidelity is all too common. It's even being glamorized among youth.

Even in literature, we're conditioned not to be shocked when we hear infidelity. Consider this author who wrote a book, "How To Cheat On Your Wife and Not Get Caught," making the rounds of TV talk shows. He teaches "how to lie successfully," "how to avoid feeling guilty," "how to have edge over your suspicious wife."

What's more, statistics evidence this infidelity trauma virus in our midst. In the general population, some reports suggest an astounding 50-65% of husbands and an equally shocking 45-55% of wives have had extra marital affairs by the time they're 40. That's not to mention the under-reporting of cases due to the stigma attached to such behavior. Regardless of whether the numbers are high or low, the incidences of infidelity and its resultant destruction of lives are lethal and alarming.

The wound is so sensitive, complex, and stigmatized that most couples will need professional, outside intervention. As one couple testified, "We would never have made it without therapy and counseling! I'm sure we would have given up or not known the path to follow."

Unfortunately, trained therapists and counselors in this area are so few. According to one major study of psychologists and therapists, only 13% were classified as having some competence handling infidelity cases. Even among priests, pastors, and churches, there are evidences of widespread incompetence or inability to help that only make things worse for couples.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

There and Not There

I would love to see it otherwise. But I must be honest rather than wishful. We live in an age of psychological and emotional distraction. There and not there. Even with our babies (spouses, parents, friends etc. too!), we talk more to our gadgets than to them.

It's not the tech gadgets, cellphones, laptops, tabs or ipads that disturb me. No, all they are are tools that can be used and enjoyed on occasion. It's the abuse that's bothering me. Since technology and social media sit in almost all of us, the abuse is not decreasing.

Consider how this growing addiction can become paralyzing. They can have the power to cripple personal relationships. They can stifle creativity. Much less spontaneity may result due to the intense, irrational dependence on the gadgets, social media, or cyber-games. The focus is not hard to see.

Hey, I know this, for we both live in the same environment! I too can get excessive at times. It's a tough, uphill battle.  But, I believe it's not insurmountable. Two simple yet powerful words can help us create balance:  "no" and "close." Now don't go to a therapist or look around for support. You can say "No!"and close the on-off knob of your gadgets if you truly value someone or something in your life ... much, much more than your gadgets.

Monday, October 06, 2014

"Everybody Is An Addict!"

"Everybody is an addict of some kind or another."

It's not pretty to hear. Even offensive, isn't it? But that's how well-known psychotherapist and author of bestselling book "When Society Becomes An Addict," Dr. Anne Schaef, put it.

My experience tells me she seems accurate in a sense. We all appear to have our own respective "drugs-of-choice." Workaholics. Alcoholics. Nicotine addicts. Shopaholics. Prescription pill poppers. Sex addicts. Person-addicts. Caffeine addicts. Rageaholics. Sports addicts. Book addicts. Drug addicts. Gamblers. Foodaholics. Co-dependents. Cybergames addicts. And many more!

Aside from personal dynamics, society plays a role in our "addictions." My theory is that even those rare individuals from loving, healthy families are not safe from the clutches of what Dr. Schaef calls an "addictive society." We begin the first seeds and learn our compulsive behaviors from television/radio/print/internet, neighborhood, school, office, friends and relatives, even church and various other places of our culture and society.

Come to think of it. My perception is that if "addiction" is the norm, we better start looking at it in the eye. See what it really is.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Agism

Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Butler once coined a term -"agism." It describes the psychological attitude or mentality that older people ("senior citizens") are inferior. Agism goes hand in hand with our "we think young" cultures and socio-economic systems.

The attitude of "agism" is not only a discrimination coming from the young. It also tends to be meekly approved or accepted by the old people themselves. Thus, this only reinforces the age-negativity in our cultures.

Yes, "agism" infects old people. It happens when they despise their powerlessness, wrinkles, and physical limitations. A symptom of this psychological sickness is when they feel happy and complimented when others tell them they do not look or act their age.

In a way, "agism" can be viewed as a social face of the denial of mortality. Instead of accepting and preparing for this plain inevitable reality, people would rather not want to think about aging and dying. It is as if we have forever or unlimited amount of time on earth! As a result of the denial or evasion, we can wind up becoming enormously unprepared, angry, or depressed when we realize that we too are aging.

The "inner child" is a clinical concept describing images, experiences, and influences of youth on our present life. We all need to heal our "inner child" if it's wounded and nourish it. "Agism" seems to suggest that we also need to heal and nourish our broken "elder within." This "elder within"carries our expectations for the second half of our lifetime. It can be wounded by irrational beliefs, unreality, or myths we have about getting older.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Do You Want To Marry A Rich Husband?

Here is reality therapy in real-life action. A pretty girl posted an ad with her note, looking for a rich husband. An investor CEO executive from JP Morgan sent a fabulous response with a "healing" message. Read and be aware!


Pretty Girl:

"What should I do to marry a rich guy? I'm going to be honest of what I'm going to say here. I'm 25 this year. I'm very pretty, have style and good taste. I wish to marry a guy with $500k annual salary or above. You might say that I'm greedy, but an annual salary of $1M is considered only as middle class in New York My requirement is not high. Is there anyone in this forum who has an income of $500k annual salary? Are you all married? I wanted to ask: what should I do to marry rich persons like you? Among those I've dated, the richest is $250k annual income, and it seems that this is my upper limit. If someone is going to move into high cost residential area on the west of New York City Garden(? ), $250k annual income is not enough."

Reply by CEO of JP Morgan:

"Dear Ms. Pretty,

I have read your post with great interest. Guess there are lots of girls out there who have similar questions like yours. Please allow me to analyze your situation as a professional investor. My annual income is more than $500k, which meets your requirement, so I hope everyone believes that I'm not wasting time here. From the standpoint of a business person, it is a bad decision to marry you. The answer is very simple, so let me explain. Put the details aside, what you're trying to do is an exchange of "beauty" and "money": Person A provides beauty, and Person B pays for it, fair and square. However, there's a deadly problem here, your beauty will fade, but my money will not be gone without any good reason. The fact is, my income might increase from year to year, but you can't be prettier year after year. Hence from the viewpoint of economics, I am an appreciation asset, and you are a depreciation asset. It's not just normal depreciation, but exponential depreciation. If that is your only asset, your value will be much worse 10 years later.

By the terms we use in Wall Street, every trading has a position, dating with you is also a "trading position". If the trade value dropped we will sell it and it is not a good idea to keep it for long term - same goes with the marriage that you wanted. It might be cruel to say this, but in order to make a wiser decision any assets with great depreciation value will be sold or "leased". Anyone with over $500k annual income is not a fool; we would only date you, but will not marry you. I would advice that you forget looking for any clues to marry a rich guy. And by the way, you could make yourself to become a rich person with $500k annual income.. This has better chance than finding a rich fool.

Hope this reply helps. If you are interested in "leasing" services, do contact me...

signed,

CEO J.P. Morgan"

Friday, October 03, 2014

Why Communication Can Make Things Worse

Communication can make things worse.

That's true to a lot of us, humans. Friends. Couples. Parents and children. Workmates. Team mates. Business associates. Politicians. Partners. Enemies.

I often hear this, "This is hopeless. We've talked about this a million times. I thought I was understood, only to find out I was not understood at all. All of our talking isn't making any difference."

Why does this happen? In many ways, talking actually makes problems worse due to fantasies of change or false expectations. There's not enough healthy individual preparation, so the discussions can be open, aware, and caring. Because the deeper "unconscious issues" between individuals in communication remain unprocessed or unhealed, they are repeatedly disillusioned and frustrated.

In polarized relationships, ultimately it's going to be futile (even damaging) to talk about problems and share feelings. Until the "invisible" overdefensive process of individuals involved is addressed first- the unknowing ways in which they are polarized - talking about any problem is hopeless or counterproductive.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Healing In Community

You cannot heal alone. You need community. But you have to find and choose the right community.

The right community to heal has safe people in it. People who are for your growth, not opposed to it. People who, when you open up to them, move towards you. People who are vulnerable. People who have an honest heart. People who are accepting, not judgmental.

Your group of friends, a special support group, or a spiritual life group should be a healing community for you. Unlike other groups, a treatment clinic, or rehab facility, you don't leave them when you receive healing. You stay to celebrate your healing and to help others heal their hurts.

Henri Nouwen, in his book "The Wounded Healer," says that you're in a healing community "not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for  a new vision. Mutual confession then becomes a mutual deepening of hope, and sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength."

I am often amazed at the kind of help that people in my "Healing Is A Choice" life groups can give to each other. They all come first focused on their own wounds. As enough time goes by, those who heal shift their focus of looking at their own wounds to looking at the wounds of others and how they can be instruments of healing to them. As they bring healing to others, they become whole.

Do you need to heal in community? Let me know. I can help you find or start one.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What Matters?

Last week, on a dimming sunset, I was strolling and walking the beaches of Hua Hin, Thailand. A little boat passed by. Got mesmerized. When I felt inadequate to describe what I was savoring, I just took a picture of it with me.

It's a beautiful, serene sight. Life, it's like a little boat you sail. For me, it can express many shades - deep emotions like joyful praise to anguished loss. How pleasant and beloved is my Companion all these years of my life.

Whether glad or sad, I know I'm just passing through this life. Everything is fleeting here. There is the real life, the real sail. It leads me to reflect further on, "What really matters to live a worthy human life?"

The little boat was like a poem to me that moment. Amid pregnant silence, it whispers to my ears the secrets of happiness and meaning in this life.

I'll be more than glad to tell you about those whispers. Simply ask.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Anxiety Disorder Imitates Heart Disease

You and I will experience anxiety all throughout life. It's normal. Feelings of anxiety are natural body responses that support our very basic survival need to escape from harm. For example, if you see a snake inside your house, the anxiety you experience will heighten your drive to remove it and quickly allow you to respond to protect your loved ones.

However, there is such a thing as an abnormal amount of anxiety. Psychiatrists have what they call "general anxiety disorder," among other things. Severe anxiety symptoms happen on more days than they don't. There are frequent signs of extreme nervousness or getting frantic even for no external reason. Such psychological condition can significantly impair one's quality of life.

Sometimes, a person's true condition can be difficult to determine. That is because, for instance, there could be little difference between having an "anxiety or panic attack" and a "heart attack." Once, I saw a person with a long clinical history of anxiety, fear, and panic attacks. She tried many medications and counseling sessions. Yet, there's no significant improvement. Only to find out that she had been suffering from abnormal heart rhythms caused by some type of heart disease.

Yes, anxiety disorder may imitate heart disease (or some other type of medical condition). So to rule out any medical or physical causation before you go into therapy and counseling, have a thorough physical examination first. Then, the psychotherapist would have enough information to assess at least two possibilities: did anxiety and panic cause physical disease or did the physical disease make the body develop anxiety and panic?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

Psychotherapy is a light shedding process. It is submission to the discipline of self-examination. There is "legitimate suffering" involved - the pain of conscience, the pain of realizing one's imperfection - in order to heal and become whole.

Those who escape this "legitimate suffering" suffers a root of mental illness. Here I am talking about avoidance and evasion of pain needed to see things as they really are. They hide in the dark. People who do this exert the maximum effort to maintain an artificial or false image of high respectability.

I am like you, even if I'm a therapist. I am a fellow human being. You are not alone. This is the reason I don't mind sharing with you my own personal struggles and pains. An essential therapeutic tool I don't want you to miss is self-honesty. I cannot help you heal and stop hiding from yourself if I myself am engaged in my own personal cover-up or lack of transparency about reality.

Therapist Dr. Eric Fromm once used a clinical concept he called "malignant narcissism." The DSM manual of mental disorders terms it NPD or narcissistic personality disorder. To me, I'd rather use a simple word, "self-absorption." The narcissistic or patholologically self-absorbed hate the light that shows them up, the light of truth that penetrates deception. The disorder leads them to be extremely reluctant to be studied and to be healed of their own wounds and shortcomings. The disguise or facade is usually impenetrable.

The road less traveled is the road to recovery and wholeness. It courageously faces the light ... not evading truth, not avoiding legitimate pain, not hiding from itself.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Toward A Psychology of Evil

For several days, I've been watching U.S. president Barack Obama address the United Nations and the media about the strikes and bombings against ISIS in Syria. He calls the ISIS "evil" in our midst breaking the world apart. What does a "non-religious" head of state mean using a morality-laden word called "evil?"

Dr. M. Scott Peck, a bestselling author and well-known Christian psychotherapist once wrote a book entitled "People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil." I'm intrigued by Dr. Peck's book because in it, he had been making seriously critical value judgments outside the mainstream of psychology and psychiatry - a colossal act of courage.

Virtually almost no doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist would dare label certain human beings as "evil." That's because, historically and clinically, mental health is considered "morally neutral." Dr. Peck was quick to remark that we handle the issue with great care.  It is not an easy or pleasant journey.

Dr. Peck writes, "We cannot begin to hope to heal human evil until we are able to look at it directly ... The battle to heal human evil always begins at home. And self-purification will always be our greatest weapon." What is he saying? It is about our dark side. Dr. Peck pinpoints that value judgments about evil or wrongness cannot be made safely unless we start by judging and healing ourselves.

As I reflect on this issue Dr. Peck has always raised in his books, I'm concerned that some readers may unnecessarily feel an excessive amount of "bias" on the part of Dr. Peck. So I request you to handle this also with care. I myself disagree with some of Dr. Peck's standpoints and not every thing written by him is the last word. But his unique exposition is worth looking into if we are to have a balanced perspective of the recovery and healing of the "total person."

I think a best way of looking at this so-called "toward a psychology of evil" that Dr. Peck espouses is that it needs further learning and discovering. I am learning. I am discovering. Indeed, in the healing of wounded human emotions, minds, and bodies, our current state of ignorance on the role of "evil" in our brokenness and our world is simply pervasive. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

There Is No Definitive Medical Test for Mental Illness

I don't have a grudge against medical psychiatrists with their bible of mental disorders (DSM-V). I do believe that their intentions are noble and compassionate. Like most physicians, they simply want to be of help to those who are suffering, and they sincerely believe they're helping.

But I just wish psychiatrists could be more accurate. It's hardly a secret. There is no objective laboratory diagnostic test for mental illness, unlike other areas of medicine. A troubled, mentally confused person goes to the psychiatrist. The patient describes his or her picture of "reality" or symptoms for a few minutes, and then is instantly diagnosed and given brain drugs by the doctor.

Bias is part of psychiatry, whether we like it or not. Built into the fabric of its training and protocol is biochemical or drug therapy, for their so-called "mental illness." That's their embedded bias. Psychiatrists are not or poorly trained in psychotherapy and counseling in the medical school. So, even when there is no objective, clinical basis for their "label" of a mental health patient, they'll get their pad and write a pharmaceutical prescription. Psychiatrists are the only M.D.s who prescribe drugs without definitive medical or objective diagnostic basis.

All too many people are diagnosed with mental illnesses they don't have. Too many are given brain drugs they don't need. Psychiatry is part of the spectrum of mental health care available to the psychologically or emotionally disturbed. But I'd feel safe (as well as the rest of humanity!) if psychiatrists are more able to present their ideas as "fact" with a reasonable degree of objective accuracy, beyond any vague diagnostic category.

Related link:  http://www.cchr.org/


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Break Free from Your Past Wounds ... Think Of Them No More

My earlier younger years were laden with foreboding. I made too many mistakes and failures. So whenever I chose to trust to connect and share with others, I had fears that all my secrets and shameful deeds will be portrayed on a giant screen for everyone to see. Indeed, in therapy and counseling where hidden things need to be brought to light to heal, people who seek help may have the same struggles and feelings as I had.

Well-known writer, Amy Carmichael, once wrote, "A day or two ago, I was thinking rather sadly of the past - so many sins and failures and lapses of every kind. I was reading Isaiah 43, and in verse 24 I saw my self: 'You have wearied me with your iniquities.' And then for the first time, I noticed that there is no space between verse 24 and verse 25: 'I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.' " Amy found freedom and healing from her past wounds. She learned to get past her hurts and sins, think of them no more.

Are you still hurt, shamed, and wounded right now by your past? Your past does not have to define your present and future. All your sins, mistakes, and failures can be cast in the depths of the sea. If you turn away from your iniquities and come to the best Psychotherapist who ever lived, you can be free and cleansed. Choose to find your true, liberated self now.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Walk In Hua Hin

As I was walking the streets of Hua Hin in Thailand just a few days ago, I saw different places where "things can happen." Noisy bars. Tattooed, burly white men. Thai women scantily clad, inviting and kissing foreigners. Thug-looking men exchanging money. Then, stopping by a coffee shop, I'd read stories of murder of foreign tourists in the area.

I think about notorious criminals back home and they do inhabit the same kinds of places. Call it sociopaths, anti-social personalities, criminals, prostitutes, or whatever, they seem everywhere you go. Regardless of race, color, or status in life, the heart of humankind is the same. Psychological or emotional woundedness is basically from within rather than from without.

It always helps to have a basic understanding of the criminal, psychopathic, or anti-social personality as a mental state marked by a general pattern of violation of the rights and safety of others. Since I was in a foreign country, my own strange mind swirled around watching behavior signs to spot dangerous people. Before it's too late!

I made sure I cover all scenarios. Some people worry about serial killers, but serial killers are rare. I think, even in Thailand! So, I just considered in my thoughts the ordinary dangers or risks that people commonly embrace each day. Do I have enough information about people I talk to or places I visit? What can I do to avoid or minimize the risks of my being mugged or robbed or beaten by thugs in the streets? Have I done all I can to protect my self?

Be careful. Be prepared. Be safe.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Epidemic of Misdiagnoses

Here is a present-day reality: we live in an epidemic of misdiagnoses in the health care field.

Hilda went to a $ 2-billion hospital for treatment. She was suffering from daily dizziness and rotational spinning. It's an illness that she called a "curse" that had been disabling her personal and family life. After spending over a hundred thousand dollars for tests, medicines, and doctors in the said hospital, she remained unwell.

Then, she decided to go to a natural homeopathy doctor in a little clinic with no secretary and frills. There, Hilda found out that she had vertigo and Vitamin B12 deficiency. Can sound incredible to believe, but these diagnoses were never discovered or mentioned to her in the expensive hospital protocol she underwent. After being given shots of Vitamin B12, Hilda got well and back to normal functioning.

Danny was four years old when his father vanished into a mental hospital with a "nervous breakdown." After receiving a series of shock treatments and potent drugs in the psychiatric ward, his father returned home a broken man. His memory was gone, his personality had deteriorated, and he could scarcely hold a job.

Danny's father, a once-vibrant, personable man, never recovered. The family, with 4 children, plummeted into poverty and fell apart. All the children except for Danny ended up in children's homes. In his adulthood, Danny formed the groundwork for the Safe Harbor Project to help others avoid the tragedy of mental health misdiagnosis he witnessed growing up.

In my own practice, I've also heard and witnessed painful specifics from psychiatric patients. When they came to see me, their lives were already being engulfed by pain and confusion due to the treatment they received. Some of them had even become "vegetables." I don't know all the reasons. I don't even know most of the reasons. But I do know one of the reasons: misdiagnosis. The right mental health treatment is hard to come by these days ... one which is good at going into the "roots."

Indeed, we all need harbors to pull into when we feel blasted by the storms and tragedies of life. We all need a refuge and source for true healing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Your Tomorrow

Your tomorrow.

It may bring you wealth, the beginning of a sweet marriage, a fabulous opportunity towards travel, or it's just another 1,440 minutes (24 hours) for you. It may bring sickness, tragedy, or broken relationships. But, of course, it's also possible that your tomorrow may not even come!

Now, sit for a moment in your chair. Be still. Even just for one minute. Reflect - this tomorrow is often a source of people's anxiety or psychopathology. Just reflect on these 2 borrowed statements from Proverbs and James of Scripture:  ".... you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow ... " and "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." 

You got that? You may say them aloud several times. Your tomorrow, our tomorrow, is an X-factor. It's a mystery. It cannot be predicted with accuracy. No doctor, seer, or psychiatric system can explain your tomorrow. It defies all attempts to be unveiled. It lies hidden in the depths of the plan of our Creator. You can plan, you can predict, you can fear, you can dream -- but, the bottom line is, you do not know.

Think about the meaning of what I'm saying here about your tomorrow. It has implications to your own life, mental or emotional health, friendships, family, work. Are you prepared for "anything" tomorrow? Is your present faith or confidence on something or someone stable enough to nourish and support your "anything" tomorrow?

There it is ... the indisputable reality of our lives. You and I can live only one day at a time. Make sure you know the greatest Psychotherapist who ever lived. Only He can secure and bring peace into your tomorrow and beyond. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Health

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "The first wealth is health." How true!

Let me set the record straight. Though I do am a kind of doctor or sound like a doctor, I'm not an M.D. Do not be misled. What I share sometimes about physical health comes not from a medical degree but from common sense ... from extensive personal experience and searches for truth.

Take me and my younger years, for example. If only I knew earlier, I would not had become used to eating refined foods, devoid of nutrition and filled with preservatives. I may be accomplishing good things - but since I crammed junk food down my throat, there are accumulating effects on some aspects of my health that can slow me down. So today, I resolve to keep a balance in my food intake ... before it's too late.

Health must be a top priority for us. If we either ignore it (like a bad habit) or abuse it (like a good child), we suffer disease and weakness. Physical illness is also known to cause psychological and emotional disorders that can make one incapable of normal daily functioning. The humorist, Frank Burgess, nailed it right when he said, "Our bodies are apt to be our autobiographies."

Indeed, the greatest mistake a man can make is to sacrifice health for money, fame, pleasure, or any other passing reward.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Cover Ups: "I Can Handle It By Myself," "Let's Not Talk About It"

"I can handle it by myself."

"Let's not talk about it."

I don't know about you, but I never miss untreated addicts - alcoholics, gamblers, sex/affair addicts, etc. - saying these two "cover-ups." These are common "walls" constructed by those who are unwilling to heal. When a spouse or family members realize that the problem has worsened, they've already lived in a delusional world of denial and lies with their addicted loved one.

Addicts lie. They rationalize a lot to cover up evidences of the intensity of their addiction. They avoid responsibility, claiming nothing can be done and yet trying everything possible to hide the problem. Denial and minimization are an addict's major weapons. Never believe an untreated addict. If you're a loved one, it's healthier for you to listen more to what they do than what they say ... unless you want your misery to continue on.

Helping yourself or an addicted loved one move into recovery can be a complicated endeavor. What has taken many years or months to develop cannot be undone overnight or in a day. Rehabilitation can be a long process. Yet compared to the progression and life damage of the addiction, it's an easy and long-term solution. But the spouse or family members need to move out of denial and enabling. They must be willing to do what it takes and expend as much energy as possible to rehabilitate their addicted loved one. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Should You Or Not Take Psychiatric Drugs?

I'm often asked about psychiatric drugs. Should you take drugs for mental health? Or, should you stay off them? If you have questions your self, read the complete answers below:

ISEPP
CCHR
Green Mental Health Care (pdf book)
Safe Harbor 
PsychCentral 

Loneliness

Several months ago, a British man came to see me with his Filipina wife. There I felt the heaviest weights their hearts can endure. After being shown indisputable evidences of her affair with a younger man, the wife hurriedly walked out. Tears flowing from his eyes as a flooding river in the night, the British husband was left with me. Groans fell from his lips -- deep loneliness and trauma arrived and clinged to his chair.

There is simply no other anguish like the consuming feelings of loneliness. Ask a long-time inmate in prison this evening ... or an OFW or migrant worker thousands of miles at sea or in some bar tonight ... or a wife who is being physically and emotionally abused by her husband ... or a father and mother whose arms ache for a child who met sudden death ... or a bitter teenager who weeps over her parents' abandonment ... or even a single-person who goes to his or her apartment alone, haunted by painful memories of betrayal and shattered romance.  

Composer Peter Tchaikovsky knew. He wrote the following words in minor key:  "None but the lonely heart can feel my anguish ... " In my journey to help others heal, I've crossed paths with too many who could echo Tchaikovsky's lament. It knows neither border nor barrier ... no respecter of race, color, age, status. It refuses all bargains or logic in its deepest part. Crowds can make it worse. Even activity can drive the loneliness deeper.

When you are in deep loneliness, you need an understanding friend or helper. You need someone who can share in your wound in silent warfare. When you are lonely, you need strength to keep putting your one foot in front of the other. When you are lonely, you need to grieve well and refuse to succumb. In time, your healing needs to reach a point when you are able to lift your eyes off your self. Then, that becomes the beginning of your better relief.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I Feel Honored By Your Coming

I feel honored by your coming.

It's my privilege to share in your journey ... at your so spontaneous, playful, uninhibited, even self-destructive time. Whatever it is - self-esteem, solid defenses, trauma wounds, an addiction, afraid of being alone, anything you do for distraction - you offer me a glimpse into the most intimate, private moments of your life.

You teach me. I do learn as much from you as you learn from me. What I consider most important to know you teach me by my being with you. That choice is power. That denial or perfectionism is disease. That loss is a part of life. That relationships are terrifying. That just as you imprison your self and your world, so am I also capable of limiting my own choices and possibilities.

Thank you for the honor of your entrusting to me what you really think, feel, and do ... when your guard is down. Not only does your information I gain from you help me better understand what you're going through. Such knowledge also helps me better understand my self. What precious unsolicited, unintended gift! You do much to help me appreciate and accommodate to varied, rich lives I may never live.

Though it takes incredible energy to do good therapy, I feel honored and grateful for the incentive of being with you in your life's journey. Your healing is my passion.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Monica

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.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Are You Ready For Recovery?

What psychotherapy/counseling does is simple, cost-effective, and time-saving in the long term. It works. The principles of "whole person" recovery are based on sound principles of healing for mind, body, and soul.

I've witnessed marvelous instances of recovery of broken individuals, couples, and families over the years. Each of them is a testimony that change and healing is possible if and when one humbly and honestly embrace reality and commit to recovery work.

At the same time, I've also seen countless situations where people are not ready to recover. They insist on over-rationalizing, blame-shifting, excuse-making, projecting their faults, or simply denying their reality. These are often nothing more than subtle evasion tactics. 

How do you know you're ready for recovery?  Here are your "diagnostic" questions:

1.  How worse will it have to happen before you're ready to recover?
2.  At what point you'd admit that you've become out of control?
3.  How much are you prepared to lose in pursuit of your addiction or dysfunctional choices?
4.  How much pain are you willing to endure for the sake of your problem?
5.  Would your life be better with or without your addiction, thoughts, or behaviors?
6.  When will enough be enough? After 5 years of misery? After you lose your marriage, your family, your money?
7.  What would you be willing to do to get free?
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Help for Addicts

All kinds of addicts have something in common. Whether the addictive agent or drug-of-choice is alcohol, sex, gambling, drugs, food, money, work, or a person, addicts live a life of seeking relief from pain.

Dr. Lawrence Haterrer, psychology professor of Cornell University Medical School, with over 30 years of experience in addiction therapy, once wrote of sex addiction process this way: "Addicts don't use sex for affection or recreation, but for the management of pain or anxiety."

Dr. Hatterer's statement is so common, clinically, among all addicts. They all seek comfort and healing, but impale themselves repeatedly on false solutions that only make matters worse. Physical illness, psychological disorders, and emotional stresses can all be a result of repressed, unaddressed pain. What could hurt more than trying to "medicate" your self with your drug-of-choice and in the process cause yourself even greater misery and pain?

All efforts of addicts by themselves are ultimately futile and doomed. Until addicts  make a decision to seek help and confront their pain head-on in therapy and recovery, this hidden or not-so-hidden pain will hound and damage them without mercy ... the rest of their lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Art Therapy Through Chess

Yesterday, during a break in my hospital group session, I was interviewed by TV reporter/producer, Serafin Gozon, of GMA 7 State of the Nation of Jessica Soho on the subject of "Art Therapy." I commented to the reporter that art (i.e. drawing, writing, sculpture, dance, music, singing etc.) is an expressive medium, a symbolic speech, that is effectively being used in psychotherapy to explore hidden, internal distresses and emotional pains.

In fact, even before its formalization as "art therapy" by the behavioral sciences, art is already being used by millions of people for thousands of years for their own personal growth and "survival." I'd like to describe art as some form of "defense against life's misfortunes." It's not the actual cure yet but it can serve as bridge to go to the roots of psychological/emotional disorders in mental health treatment.

I also mentioned art therapy through chess in that TV interview. I do chess therapy as one of my art forms in psychological practice. Chess, though an ancient game, is well written about as a form of art that is capable of comforting, extracting, or sublimating psychological wounds. Dr. Reuben Fine, a chess grandmaster, world champion contender, and clinical psychologist wrote "The Psychology of the Chess Player" (1958) that delves deeply on the interaction between chess and a player's psychological state or possible issues.

Here is some excerpt of Dr. Fine's writing on the psychology of the chess player:

Chess is a contest between two men in which there is considerable ego-involvement. In some way it certainly touches upon the conflicts surrounding aggression, homosexuality, masturbation and narcissism which become particularly prominent in the anal-phallic phases of development. From the standpoint of id psychology, Jones' observations can therefore be confirmed, even enlarged upon. Genetically, chess is more often than not taught to the boy by his father, or a father-substitute, and thus becomes a means of working out the son-father rivalry.

The symbolism of chess lends itself to this rivalry in a most unusual way. Central to it is the figure of the King. [In chess literature it is customary to capitalize the names of the pieces, and I shall adhere to this practice.] The King occupies a crucial role in the game in all respects. It is the piece which gives the game its name; for, chess is derived from the Persian shah meaning King, and is more or less the same in all languages. In fact, the three universal words in chess are chess, check, and King, all of which derive from shah. All other pieces have varying designations in different languages. Thus, Queen in Russian is Fyerz, which has nothing to do with woman; Bishop is Fou or jester in French, Laufer or runner in German.  (See continuation of article).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nostalgia

Oh yes ... I've been there. I'm possibly like you. There are times when I reminisce, resurrect memories from the gentle spots of my mind. Dusty back roads of my memory as past people and places pay a brief visit with me. Too clear to ignore, too personal to share, nostalgia sometimes sweeps over me. I wonder, am I growing older or just growing deeper?

A walk along a beach at sunset. Looking over my boyhood photos. Yearning back while looking at my "now-grown" youngest child. Angelus with my cousins, praying with "lola," early at night. A sentimental visit to the place where I was raised. Being with Dad and Mom, my sisters too, in the picnic park. The smell and sounds of my first chess games. Diplomas ... graduations. My first dates with one I married. Saying goodbye to the irrecoverables. In some, no need to say goodbye.

Sometime ago, I took drives and got alone for extended periods. I just enjoyed "pictures" hidden away from my heart, the nostalgia. In the stillness of surroundings, I let it run free ... and as I released my grip, there I saw where it took me. There was something much more to my nostalgic secrets -- lots of treasured learnings and how I realized I needed them to heal and grow.

Sort of crazy? By the way, if we meet together on the back tunnel of time and memory, I'll be happy and smiling at you. I promise not to tell any one. Confidentiality is one of my best strengths.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Midlife Crisis And Wholeness

Filipino megastar, Sharon Cuneta, has recently admitted in the media that she's going through a "midlife crisis." She said that she lost faith in her self. "I hated myself for the way I looked and the time I continued to waste by not focusing and working on bettering my own person," Sharon honestly confessed. She added that she became complacent about her weight battle and she apologized to her fans for "letting them down."

"Midlife crisis" is a term coined by Canadian psychologist/psychoanalyst  Eliot Jaques in 1965. It's referred to as a time of life (from age 40s to 50s and beyond) when a person realizes his or her own mortality and the limitedness of time left. Such transition is usually triggered by stressors related to career, marriage, physical appearance or changes associated with aging, romantic relationships, financial expenditures, work-life balance, among others.

Based on empirical studies in adult development psychology, this so-called "midlife crisis" is not a universal or even near-universal phenomenon.  One noted study, for example, is the normative aging study by Costa and Mcrae in the 80s. The middle-aged persons in their study were followed from their early 20s throughout their adulthood. And they found out that the only ones with a "midlife crisis" (i.e. depression, despair) were the ones who, in their 20s, were also depressed and anxious.

The way I see it, the so-called "midlife crisis" is two things that makes it a myth:  1. It's not related to "age;" and 2. It's proven to be not a general phenomenon applied to all. If you're so depressed or desperate in your 40s, 50s, and beyond, there could be many underlying causes for this. And the least of these causes is your "age!" You've likely experienced countless crises in your adult years where you missed growing or developing strong psychological boundaries. In cases like this, once a crisis-prone individual, always a crisis-prone individual, no matter what age you turn to.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Self-Praise

I got disturbed not too long ago. It wasn't from something I did in a counseling session ... but from someone I met outside. This individual was a highly-educated, well-traveled, much experienced celebrity in his field of profession. For so many years, he held respected, prestigious positions in various organizations.

He emailed me his "credentials," emphasizing that I have lots of great things I don't know about him. I got the feeling that it's extremely important for him that everyone knows who he is, where he has been, how he has done, and what he thinks. I did meet him a couple of times in a coffee shop, and some of my disturbing impressions were verified.

Of course, I had no intention to diminish the significance of his impressive credentials or record of achievements. But here was my point - he knew better than anybody else. When the two of us were together - short though it may be - it was hard to miss the distinct impression that the VIP or more important one was not you. He chose to be, quite frankly, a pompous man. The attitude of self-praise during our conversations was conspicuous.

Indeed, there is no greater deception than self-deception. It's a tragic psychological trap. As Arnold Bennet says, "Falsehood often lurks upon the tongue of him, who, by self-praise, seeks to enhance his value in the eyes of others."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When The Religious Becomes A Mental Patient

Do you know that religiosity can be used as a "pill" for emotional pain? There is a difference between "religion" as a psychological defense mechanism and a true "relationship" with God.

A few years ago, at a plush residential village, a religious woman in terrible shape became a mental patient. Her son and husband invited me over to speak to her in their home. When I arrived, she was firmly holding a Bible, reciting Bible verses, while running amok, shouting and breaking glasses, and seeing invisible things around the house. Her husband and children could not understand the "gap" of reality they were witnessing in their loved one.

The religious woman, as well as countless unknown others, lives in the unreal world of religious fanaticism. Something breaks down inside a person and goes to the motions of religion for protection or comfort. A sort of "pill" to medicate some unexplainable pain within. The poor religious woman was stuck. It was fortunate that she was taken to doctors and a place where she could receive appropriate help. 

There are many others stuck in religious fanaticism, though to a lesser degree than this religious woman who became a mental patient. They will never end up in a mental hospital or go to a psychotherapist for treatment. Yet they will go through life rigidly repeating religious acts or ceremonies, not in an earnest desire to know God, but in an attempt to avoid dealing directly with pain.