Thursday, April 18, 2019

Searching for Living Hope


It’s a dangerous state.
Oftentimes, it feels so empty and dry. A lonely desert. It just seeps through our pores and numb our spirit.

Something within fogs our minds, stripping our lives of joy and leaves us vulnerable and exposed.

Where does it come from?

I don’t know all the origins of the state of hopelessness. I don’t even know most of the specifics of these origins or sources.

But I do know the ultimate and most essential origin or source of hopelessness: we don’t have a harbor. A place of security and refuge.

I have a counselee who found “living hope” during our sessions.

Prior to his discovery and experience of it, he cursed loudly. Drank heavily, addicted to drugs, and chased women.

One day, his wife and children left him. He just wanted to die. Feeling so lonely and desperate. Hopeless. His bottom was dropping out of his life.

But God? He wasn’t in speaking terms with Him when he saw me.

Eventually, without preaching, I called his attention to the living hope where he finally found rest and repair.

This Holy Week, discover that Living Hope offered to all humankind this man discovered and made him well.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1: 3-5).

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, April 12, 2019

Bonding to Abuse

Psychotherapist Dr. Steven Farmer once spoke of a patient he called Frances. Frances talked about her  pattern in Dr. Farmer’s book, “Adult Children of Abusive Parents:”

“With every man I get involved with, I get out my microscope and look and look to find something wrong, some reason to reject him. Or I pick and pick until he gets angry, blows up, and ends in rejecting me. It’s like I can never leave it alone, I can never enjoy it or accept it.”

I can’t help but see some “similarity” of Frances to Rowena whom I saw for weeks in therapy. She too tended to re-enact negative scenes and mistreatments from childhood into adulthood.

Rowena admitted that she married her physically and emotionally abusive husband just to get away from her father, because he used to beat her up.

For both of these adult women, abuse appeared to be their only option for human contact as if abuse was a form of love.

They seemed to equate love and affection with abuse. It’s what’s familiar to them in close or intimate relationships.

There’s quite a lot of unconscious acting out here. Most of the times, because of the emotional abuse and deprivation in childhood, people have an insatiable need for intimacy.

And one way it’s chosen to be resolved is to “bond with abuse.” Being dangerously unaware of this repetitive cycle, some maintain their childhood victimization into adult relationships.

It’s psychological trauma. Webster defines trauma as “a painful emotional experience or shock, often producing a lasting psychic effect.”

Fortunately, trauma is treatable. Given a person’s commitment and right choices/actions to get better, trauma can be cured and transcended.

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Beauty of Falling Petals

A little long ago, I used to travel frequently to South Korea. It’s a beautiful country. I had moments of admiring and experiencing its beauty.

One of these moments was simply viewing flowers blooming in its cityscapes.

I got to live in the moments watching in wonder the scene of petals showering me before they fall to the ground.

They seem to be found in varied places in Korean landscape. They frame whole blocks and filling some park corners. Their appearance was truly special.

Yet the beauty of falling petals is only for a brief, fleeting moment. Nothing can stay looking good or blooming. Everything is transient, even our own lives.

As a common saying puts it, “This too shall pass.”

While this could suggest grief or sorrow, we can realize a beautiful truth. That in a single moment in time and in space, we can choose to enjoy something beautiful that passes us by.

So, instead of counting the seconds or minutes, we “drink” the moment. We take in the moment in time and in space as a whole and completely savor it.

Let me ask you, “How many days, weeks, months or years more will you have in your life?”

Of course, you may never know. No one can know. But someday, there is going to be a specific number attached to each life as a fact of the matter.

But ... how many moments can you count in your lifetime?  That, my friend, is immeasurable.

To quote Rabindranath Tagore, “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”

I’d like to think that if we measure our lives in moments and beautiful appreciations, we never run out of time.

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Are You a VIP?

Many individuals sell themselves short. So many say or think they’re worth little or nothing. They don’t feel they’re important.

“I’m useless. I can’t do anything right. I don’t possess anything,” said Mary, during a tearful therapy session. She thought and felt as a “poor me” or a second class for much of her life.

Mary had not been careful about how she thinks. Her thoughts shaped her life. Her greatest challenge was how she thinks about herself.

She thinks she’s not a VIP (very important person).

Not only is that not true. But such a way of thinking speaks very poorly of Mary’s grasp of the truth of her inherent value as a human being.

I submit to you that, regardless of any external performance, possession, or anything, you are a VIP. You’re very important to the One who matters the most.

You may ask, “A VIP to whom or in whose eyes?”  My spouse? My kids? My employees? My fans? What I do mean is more than them.

Important though these persons we mentioned may be, you’re a VIP in the eyes of the One Person who counts the most and ultimately - a VIP in God’s eyes.

“You are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you ... Nothing can separate us from God’s love ... “ (Romans 1:8, 8:39).

“God loves you with a love that is increasing and overflowing” (1 Thessalonians 3:12,13).

God loves you.

No matter what you lost or experienced or what anybody else will say about you in this life, God said the final word on your VIP status.

As author Dr. Bob Smith put it, “You are you, and you need to understand and enjoy that sense of importance, that dignity of human personality which is the privilege of everyone of us who is indwelt by the Lord Jesus. What a joy ...”

Secrets of Your Self:

Saturday, March 30, 2019


Almost every therapy session is filled with lies. It seems an ever-present “given” crying for repair.

Hurt or dysfunctional people usually have a hard time grasping what’s true.

They can lie to themselves. They can, to others. More so, to me as their therapist.

A distressed, separating couple - Kempee and Lisa - once saw me. Both were addicted to drugs, alcohol, and multiple-partner sex for many years.

After they got married, their life became a big mess of lies, violence, betrayal, and secret affairs. Individually, these co-addicts” were masters of deceit and playing games.

Exagerating. Bluffing. Falsifying. Hoodwinking. Minimizing. Blaming. Over-simplifying. Concealing. Disassembling.

Deeper probing yields two lives - personally and relationally - in desperate need for wholeness, truth, and happiness.

But how do they proceed when their foundations as well as their selves are continually sabotaged by lies they keep?

As author T. M. Logan asks in the title of one of his books, “What if your whole life was based on lies?”

There are “limitations” to navigate to disentangle lies that destroy whole lives.

Limitations, for instance, involving limits of language, lapses of memory, subjectivity of perceptions, and influences of culture.

Such is a constant battle in therapy. Things and persons are often not what they appear to be.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

One Moment in Psychotherapy Stands Out

One moment in psychotherapy stands out for me: when tears fall from the eyes of a wounded patient.

Picture this session. David's emergency appointment. Sublime silence between opening our session and the words that followed.

There he related his yearning for his wife whom he just brought into a drug rehab facility. Prior to that he caught her cheating and having sex with different men.

Surfaces: tattooed muscular body, over 6 footer, a successful millionaire engineer, very smart and intellectually objective middle-aged man.

That's what typically catches my attention so easily. Until the outer appearances begin to peel off.

David sobbed profusely. A deep grief and sadness penetrated. I'd learned to get past the surface.

He had a lot of energy. David gave it away in tears like vibrating waves passing from him to me.

David's tears gave me a headstart on knowing him well. And, the parts of his true self that were hidden.

Such few moments in psychotherapy often tell me much more about a patient than months of analysis.

Charles Dickens, once wrote in Great Expectations:

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Playing “Recovery Games”

Joe brought Jane to the sessions for her alcoholism and sexual infidelities.

He repeatedly told her the core of his game: once she had more therapy, she’d get why he’s become sober.

Instead of looking at how he’s being manipulative and one-upping Jane, Joe disguised his behavior as healthier than hers.

He was self righteous and trying to convince Jane to do what he wanted. When he played his game, Joe hid behind a cloak of spirituality and sobriety.

The “effect” made Jane more resistant and justified to stonewall. She wanted to discover her self and heal but Joe continued to place her in a difficult spot.

One of the most important facets of genuine recovery is self-honesty.

Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step Big Book states that even those “who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders ... recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

Playing the self help or self righteous recovery “game” is an antithesis of self-honesty. It’s a form of self deception.

With it, you run from the truth. You distort the truth. You twist reality over and over again.

Addiction expert and author Dr. Allen Berger explains,

“Typically, the games we play are designed to manipulate others for emotional support, indirectly extract approval from others, or inflate our self esteem at their expense.”

There it is!

Fight the temptation to run away by playing recovery games. Games keep you stuck. It keeps you emotionally immature and dependent on others.

Get more open minded and have an open heart. Remember, in self honesty and truth, there’s freedom and healing.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Empty Nest After Your Kids Have Grown Up?

It can be really lonely. Finding your self in an "empty nest" since your kids have grown up.

In the past, there's noise and bustling in the house with your kids. But now, it's deafening silence.

I knew this feeling well.

My three kids - two are now working young adults in their 20s and one in her teen - have their own separate schedules and lives now.

I missed my youngest daughter's playfulness and my taking her to Tom's World or anywhere. In the house, it can be overwhelming the memories of her childhood with her older sister and brother.

Even the sight of a kids' nook in the mall which we used to frequent was priceless after her departure and busyness for school and sport.

Generally, I feel glad how my children turned out to be "independent" and in pursuit of their passions, young though they may still be.

As parents, we have one healthy goal for our children: to give them wings to fly and foundations to empower and prepare them for life.

As the actress Gelli said about her "empty nest" experience, "You must choose your spouse well. Your children will grow up. They will have their own work and raise their own families. At the end of the day, it will just be the two of you. That's how you started in the first place." 

Yes, we who are parents of grown up children all need to learn to loosen the reins. 

And all we can do is to pray for them and to be available to them as they need support to make wise choices in their lives.

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions ... “ (Deut 32:11)

Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Psychology Today put it in another way for parents: "Empty nest, bring it on! Once the nest is empty, we are free to fly!"
Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Are You Intimacy-Phobic?

Mary experienced a string of five broken romantic and sexual relationships in the past.

Since her teenage years onwards, almost all of the men she'd been in a relationship with cheated on her.

Now at 30, she has become fearful and anxious.

Her panic attacks at times manifest during social occasions involving men. Because of this, she backs off from people around her.

She has become afraid of befriending or dating new men, for fear of being lied to, used, betrayed, or manipulated again.

This is sad. Mary is afraid. So she hides. She hides her true self. Her fears do terrible things to her self and relationships.

How do you get the confidence and courage again to be close to others? To take the first step and connect with someone in intimacy?

In therapy and counseling, the fear of intimacy is a psychological wound that needs healing.

It takes one to a deep process of recovery and freedom from the fear of intimacy and relationship with others.

In one of her blog posts, counselor Samantha de Bono says,  "Overcoming a fear of intimacy isn’t easy, it means being brave enough to really look at one’s self  honestly, being able to explore painful pasts, probably as far back as childhood. It takes time and understanding of what put the fear in place to start with, but it can be done and has been done for many ..."

Paul's letter to Timothy contains a prescription to the intimacy-phobic, in general:

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7).

Get your copy of “Secrets of Your Self:”

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Who is the Real Psychiatrist?

Do you understand the exact meaning of the modern word “psychiatry?” It originated
from two Greek words “psyche” and “iatreia.”

The word “psyche” really means the person variously translated as follows: mind, soul, breath, and spirit. The word “iatreia” means treatment, healing, and recovery.

Combine the 2 words together and we have “healing of the mind.” Or, as king David might have pointed out, “the restoring of the soul.”

In view of that original meaning of the word “psychiatry,” it’s therefore not limited to the medical profession.

Oftentimes, a minister, pastor, or clergy is a psychiatrist. Such is so because he deals not only with the renewing of people’s minds but also with their spirits and souls.

Beyond our physical bodies, thoughts, and emotions are our souls. The minister is primarily concerned with man’s soul. 

The minister as a psychiatrist believes that if a man’s soul is ill, he is ill indeed. And only God can truly heal and redeem the soul.

As a psychotherapist and minister myself, it has been my privilege to counsel many individuals, couples, and families who needed help.

As a result of my books, blogs, and TV appearances as well as my work as a conjoint psychologist/pastor, my mail has brought me many emails from around the world seeking help for their problems.

Not one of them I’ve found had not violated the basic healing principles that God has ordained to govern the life of man. 

Believing as I do, that if man lives according to these principles, his life will be healed, whole, and healthy.

The minister is a psychiatrist. He practices God’s psychiatry. He takes the stand that most of all we need God’s psychiatry in our lives.

Secrets of Your Self

The Use of Failure

It appears way too common that so many who experience mental disorders were raised in dysfunctional families.

The children of alcoholics, abusive parents, or broken homes grew from the pain of their families of origin to become failures.

Mostly it seems. But not all, of course.

A number of individuals who came from dysfunctional families turn out to be successes with the right use and transformation of “failure” in their lives.

Carl’s Dad was alcoholic, abusive, and unable to stay employed. The poverty in the family fueled Carl’s ambition to earn money to become one of the nation’s richest men.

In addition, Carl became a loving husband and father as well. His example earned him public recognition as a model to families.

It is not that you’ve to have a failure-prone parent or dysfunctional family to succeed or be better. It’s not the point that I’m trying to imply.

The point is that brokenness or troubled environment does not preclude any one to flourish. Failure and struggles can serve as fuel to become more resourceful adults.

Therapy takes the stand that early conflict, family tension, and exposures to failure need not destroy a person’s character and life.

You’ll be amazed how powerful a fuel failure is to your best life ever!

Secrets of Your Self

Monday, March 04, 2019

One Essential Person

We all need to love and be loved. It’s basic to our humanity, our mental health. From there, we receive and develop the foundations of our sense of worth.

Dr. William Glasser, MD, a psychiatrist founder of Reality Therapy, spoke and wrote of the concept of “one Essential Person.”

He says, “At all times in our lives we must have at least one person who cares about us and for whom we care ourselves. If we do not have this essential person, we will not be able to fulfill our basic needs.”

With almost no effort, you can relate to what Dr. Glasser is pointing out. You can actually build your whole life around that truth.

Without that key one Essential Person in your life to draw strength and resources from, you’ll try desperately to fulfill your needs within the world with varied unrealistic even harmful means.

Years ago, I lost my wife. She died of cancer. Like most widowers, I had longed and grasped for ways essential to the fulfillment of my needs.

Who is my “one Essential Person” then in the midst of the loss, before and after? 

In my book, his name is Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord — the one Essential Person who is essential not only for me but for all of us.

Now see that Dr. Glasser is right - but only up to a point. He’s most likely referring to one Essential Person only in human terms, which lacks completeness and permanency.

No one fellow human being can meet all your needs. We’re all finite. So flawed and limited. We can only do so much.

To accept that reality will help us to move from that temporary dependence to a clear faithful, eternal one Essential Person of Christ.

Do you have this one Essential Person in your life?  Quite frankly, unless we have Him, we don’t have true lasting life. Know Him.

Secrets of Your Self 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Can You Discern the “Real” Problem?

In the deep corners of the internet, the “Momo” challenge has gone viral and claimed lives. Based on reports, there have been reported cases of children killing themselves or getting killed in Russia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Europe, and Philippines.

Most recently, an 11-year-old Filipino boy, Jasper, from Quezon City committed suicide on the orders of his “Momo master.” Prior to that, Jasper’s mother heard her son blurting out, “I will follow my master and I will kill them.”

Can any one app make one harm himself without his consent? Is it really the app that triggers suicide or are there underlying causes or circumstances that led to it?

Here’s a deeper truth: the reported deadly “Momo” feeds on supernatural mental fears and anxieties, particularly among vulnerable children or youth at risk.

It can be easy to see how the application works at manipulating the mind and holding it hostage to its dictates. A kind of “hypnotism,” as some call it.

A government official, Eliseo Rio, makes an insightful observation related to Momo’s latest child victim:

“Because of virtual peer pressure, children would accept the challenges because minors are still unable to differentiate fact from fiction. A creepy face and threatenimg messages to a child may become reality, leading to tragedies.”

This is why it’s important for parents to be close and give age-appropriate guidance to their children, for not everything in the Internet is real.

Spiritual warfare is real, too. These present-day cyber viral hoaxes echo dark forces at work invisibly in our midst through our minds.

One such case was in the 1980s when teenagers were hearing Satanic messages in rock song lyrics, manufacturing deadly, false beliefs.

Can you discern the “real” problem?

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Secrets of Your Self

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Revolutionary in Therapy

In the world of mental health professionals (MHP) - particularly in the field of psychology and psychiatry - there’s a kind of revolution. 

A forerunner here is psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser, who pioneered Reality Therapy that questioned the premises of the field he’s in.

Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer, also a psychiatrist, writes a statement below in the Forward of Dr. Glasser’s book. Remember, this is a psychiatrist speaking who’s making quite a confession!

“For more than a decade now it has been evident that something is seriously amiss in contemporary psychiatry and clinical psychology. Under the sway of Freudian psychoanalysis, these disciplines have not validated themselves either diagnostically  or therapeutically. Their practitioners, as persons, have not manifested any exceptional grasp on the virtues and strengths they purportedly help others to acquire. And the impact of their philosophy of life and conception of man and society as a whole has been subtly subversive … laymen were the first to become vocal in their discontent, distrust, and cynicism … In the past, we psychiatrists have often spread the disease we were supposedly treating.”

From this base, we can notice some very fundamental human needs and truths being missed by traditional MHPs.

Yesterday, I was invited to a secularist conference of World Association for PsychoSocial Rehabilitation (WAPR) composed of top psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, and other MHPs. 

After 17 years of existing, WAPR still lack the “basic ingredient” to make it work! Not one representing the church sector in this untapped mission field! 

But I was there, posing a challenge for them to integrate faith and mental health into the new Philippine Mental Health Law. 

At the end, the president told me that it’s now going to organize a mental health forum exclusively for ministers and church workers. I said, “Great!”

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Living with Limitations

I’m approaching senior citizen status. That can be hard to admit for others. But I’m ok with that. As I’d playfully say to my wife, “I’m just 30, and you’re already 47!”

Generally, among my contemporaries, I seem fitter. No maintenance medicines nor any life-threatening illness at all. I can even outrun my teen daughter and young adult kids in a 5k run!

I’m thankful to God for that. But, like every human, I’m not fleshly immortal. Someday I’ll have limitations that age naturally produces.

And thus, the need to step up on qualities necessary for what philosopher-physician Dr. Thomas Browne calls “the long habit of living.”

By thinking loudly on these inevitable limitations of life as years go by, I’m explaining it to my self as well in preparation.

In living with limitations when they come (e.g. aching knees, high blood pressure, diet needs etc.), it’s necessary to confine our plans and works to the “realistic.”

Gerontologist and author Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote in his book “The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being:”

“ ... knowing one’s limitations and learning to function within them allows the avoidance of the unmanageable. By doing this, it becomes possible to work most effectively in order to achieve chosen aims, without dispersing energy on what can no longer be achieved and then being forced to deal with thwarting disappointment that necessarily follows.”

Approach living with your limitations of any kind, current or future, with the fine balance and maturity that we all seek for ourselves.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


This morning, I’ve my usual coffee brew. While reading my newspapers and editing a book manuscript, something caught my attention.

It’s a mental health poem. By Eric Hanson. Entitled “NOT.”

The piece speaks of things that do and don’t define you. Your Me.

Here it is:

“You are not your age,
Nor the size of the clothes you wear.
You are not a weight,
Or the color of your hair.
You are not your name,
Or the dimples in your cheeks.
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak.
You are your croaky morning voice,
And the smiles you try to hide.
You’re the sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried.
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you’re all alone.
You’re the places that you’ve been to,
And the one that you call home.
You’re the things that you believe in,
And the people that you love.
You’re the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of.
You’re made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined,
By all the things you’re not.”

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Why Freud is Wrong

Beware of psychoanalysis. It can worsen or compound your problem.
Sigmund Freud founded a flawed system called psychoanalysis.
His theory leads us to conclude that we can excuse any aberration or disorder by blaming others.
Parents. Early influences. School. Religion. And, all others!
This denies personal responsibility.
Freud's way is often looking back into the past and releasing the repression. It stops there.
The result is permissiveness, blaming, and compounding of the problem.
I remember clearly one situation in which a married man justified his adultery with another woman because of his wife's past infidelity. He blamed his wife for his guilt!
That's classic Freudian stance.
Freud's flaw - its a dead end street.
It leads to denial of personal responsibility, increase of the problem, and inability to move forward with a better conduct.                        

Don’t be fooled. This is fake therapy. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Life

Mental health is like a change of name. A path to new life from the old that destroys one’s true identity.

Lately, there has been a call for a change of name of the Philippines to “Maharlika.” According to its proponents, there is something wrong with the name “Philippines.”

Former Filipino senator Eddie Ilarde explained:

“King Philip 2nd of Spain, the person we have been named after, was a symbol of ignominy — son of first cousins, burned alive thousands of Muslims, beheaded thousands of Protestants in Europe, married his first cousin and nieces, was excommunicated by Pope Paul 4th in 1552 for looting Rome, died of a sexually transmitted disease (syphillis), and when he died his body was covered with pus from foul-smelling wounds festered by hundreds of insects.”

The country was named after a mentally and spiritually disordered Spanish man!

The proposed new name to replace “Philippines” is the name “Maharlika,” which means a variety of things: noble and great, love, God, highest heaven, a great soul.

The contrast of these two terms - “Maharlika” and “Philippines” - is indeed very significant. And it makes life new and well.

Psychotherapy is a conversation towards a new life. After carrying a “bad name” that afflicts one’s well being, one is called to a time of healing and redemption.

As poet Alexander Pope would admonish,

“Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Not yet the last to lay the old aside.”

In Scriptures, the new life is pictured in this way:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Monday, February 11, 2019

“Psychosomatic:” Could You Be Imagining Your Sickness?

A psychologist reveals a striking fact in modern medicine. He tells us that modern medicine estimates  a very high 70 to 90% of all the sicknesses doctors treat are psychosomatic rather than physiological in origin.

The English word “psychosomatic” is a combination of two Greek words - “psuche” and “soma.” It describes a body (soma) and mind (psuche) link.

A body sickness is “psychosomatic” when it’s caused by maladjustment in the mental, emotional, and spiritual life of a person.

Psychosomatic sickness is real. It’s not merely imagined sickness. It stems from a soul malfunction - originating in the soul, not a bodily malfunction.

I remember one girl who came to see me with excruciating pains in her neck and chest. It’s intolerable pain that she couldn’t sleep and breathe.

In our sessions as she moved along, it became apparent that her problem was not physical, but mental. Especially so, after a medical check up that found no physiological cause for her pains.

She was blaming both her parents and God for her depressed state. Her loss of employment. Her self reproach. Her lack of confidence in living her life.

I processed with her to see that in her despair she’s blaming the very ones who were most concerned about her welfare. And, that this was making herself sicker in the process.

One time, after several meetings, I noticed a change about her before my eyes. She’s beginning to smile more often and see more clearly the reality she’s in.

The girl’s mental, emotional, and spiritual orientation gave her hope and energy. Her bodily malfunction started to subside faster as she became better in her soul.

As WHO’s Dr. Brock Chisholm famously put it, “Without mental health, there could be no physical health.”  Mental health and physical health are intimately linked.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Beautiful Days While Aging

Donna is an aging woman. She lives alone. Since her husband died 10 years ago, she remains in their house.

Her daughter lives in another country with her husband and kids. They constantly visit her, especially during her birthday and holidays.

I think Donna can be a sensitive and insightful voice for many older women - men too - living alone.

She says, “I love my home. I wake up here each morning and I’m happy that I have just one more day. I don’t know what to do first. What I pray for is to remain in this house as long as I can taking care of myself. I’m just so pleased to be here in this place of mine - writing, reading, quilting, braiding rugs, cooking. I love to cook.”

Of course, a most visible difference in aging women, like Donna, is physical. But those who thrive in this season of life are those who found beauty in their days.

I’m reminded of Alice Walker’s poem “Grace”:

Gives me a day
Too beautiful
I had thought
To stay indoors
and yet
Washing my dishes
My shelves
Throwing out
The wilted
Shrunken garlic
I discover
I am happy
To be inside looking out.
This, I think,
Is wealth.
Just this choosing
Of how
A beautiful day
Is spent.”

Every day in every way. Can be beautiful. It holds unique significance for the later years of life.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Being Well ... In Spite of Pain

English author, Charles Kingsley, writes:  “Pain is no evil. Unless it conquers us.”

In physical or psychological pain, it often comes unbidden. Unwanted. Unexpected. And even unnecessary.

Medicines don’t seem to work in Lisa’s body anymore. She’s getting more and more depressed and angry. Resisting it. Warring against it. Cursing it.

I asked her, “If you continue resisting and cursing the pain (even God), will that make it go away?” She pondered in silence.

In my own experience of pain, whether in the aftermath of betrayal or in the cuts of a scissor on my skin, the more I tried to push it away and get angry, the more the pain sharpens and intensifies.

Also, with my defiance and bitter feelings against the pain, the longer the healing takes place. There must be an alternative way to deal with the pain.

Accumulated clinical research shows that pain has a strong psychological component. Anxiety and panic, for example, are known to stimulate and worsen pain.

According to psychologist/author Dr. Gary Collins, chronic sufferers can often learn to control and some times eliminate their pain by “changing their attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.”

One time, in a therapy session with a trauma victim, I started working on this with her family in emotional and relational pain.

They had to start learning the “acceptance of the pain” as it is and grow to bloom together as a family from that point onwards.

Being God-fearing, the family was reminded of one truth in Nahum 1. That “suffering and joy go together” because God is in the midst of the whirlwind and storm.

Even in pain, you can smile. You can be well ... in spite of the pain.

Check out Dr. Subida’s book, “SECRETS OF YOUR SELF.”

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Defeating Negative Emotions

Ordinarily, people get upset when faced with unpleasant or disturbing situations. It’s a common source for bad choices and moods in the game of life.

I remember playing as a varsity chess player representing my university in national competitions. There were times when I’d sink into negative thoughts, such as “My opponent is a master, I can’t win.”

In my mind, I played out a situation in which I miss good moves. But I was able to back up and imagine “I can do it. All it takes is calmness and focus. I’ll win.”

I noticed that when I practice and develop this habit in my mind, the idea becomes something I begin to accept as possible.

Such is a strategy of the so-called “rational-emotive imagery,” a mental game developed by Dr. Maxie Maultsky, a leading proponent of cognitive restructuring therapy.

My client, Ricardo, used this to prevent marital misery. One time, he asked his wife to have his car taken to the car wash for an important appointment the following day.

When he arrived home from office, the car was still not car washed. His wife didn’t do what he asked. It almost wrecked his evening!

But he thought rationally. He imagined himself feeling calm. Instead of wasting time placing blame, he told himself, “It’s not the end of the world. I’ll keep my wits about me and do what I can.”

In bed with his wife, he told her he’s upset in a respectful and “hearable” way. To which his wife responded with an apology and willingness to change.

The “rational-emotive imagery” is self talk that allows you to defeat negative emotions associated with disturbing or explosive situations.

It enables you to handle your self, relationships, and circumstances in rational, constructive, and healthy ways.

(Get Dr. Subida’s book, “Secrets of Your Self”)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Couple in Counseling

I told Mila and Bert what sounds obvious. For them to remember that “nobody changes overnight.” That there’s no magic.

Bert repeatedly fell back on old patterns of flirting with women. When they saw me, Mila caught her husband having a sexual affair with an office mate.

Naturally, she’s devastated. She’s asking, during counseling session, whether there’s a quick fix or pill to get relief from the pain.

Of course, both Mila and Bert eventually realized that such expectation is not life. Simply, it’s not reality.

But Bert had taken a big step this time. Whereas before he’d dodge and resist therapy, now he looked serious moving towards the very human, and at times so slow, process of learning to change.

Usually, in couples counseling, both need tons of patience. To avoid beating up on each other or themselves if one or both of them are not doing everything perfectly.

It’s a process, not a one-time event.

Reality is, both has contributions and patterns that need replacing to make it work. There’s no such thing as 100% one side to blame because it’s a relationship.

I’ve found that couples who heal best and faster are ones who progressively improve in communication.

It looks like these:

* loving, kind, and respectful
* avoids judgment
* immediate, honest, supportive

When couples start with this, they’d put into practice one of the most profound ways for moving away from “punishing,” especially in times of severe crisis ... and into some real dialogue.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Understanding Depression

Depression has always been a major problem to humanity. It continues to darken countless lives around the world since time immemorial.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a leading cause of disability among hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

In the Philippines, WHO records show 2,558 suicide cases attributed to depression and varied mental health disorders.

Suicides caused by severe depression are particularly on the rise among the youth.

Philippine Star cites that in 2013, a U.P. student in Manila killed herself for failing to pay tuition. Also, just months later, 2 students from Batangas took their lives over failing grades.

Just a few days ago, a known musician junped to his death from a condominium building. It had been strangely live-streamed and gone viral.

Understand depression. It’s a must before emergency comes.

And remember, there is a drugless, natural treatment for depression that goes to the “roots” for true, lasting recovery and wholeness.

If you’re depressed and in need of help, there is a 24/7 Hotline +63 9090833374 or online therapy/counseling at Skype: drangelosubida or FB messenger: drsubidapsychotherapy.

Help is available. There are people who care for you.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thick Skin, High Road

Thin skin.

Melissa, a middle-aged wife, broods a lot about her celebrity CEO husband.

When he’s not able to pay attention to her, she overthinks. She feels she’s no longer his center. Thin-skinned.

She keeps asking,”Is he finding me unattractive? Mad at me? Did I say something wrong?”  Her gloomy thoughts made her unable to engage in normal daily activities.

Low road.

The way Orlando’s son blamed him about his divorce from his Mom hurt him. In response, he lashed out at him with angry curses.

Orlando missed understanding his son’s emotional wounds. The son was expressing his feelings longing for his father’s attention and help.

But the father’s low road reaction alienated them from each other. It only added to the pain they already have - individually and relationally.

Opposite: Thick skin, high road.

The “thick skin, high road” principle can be psychologically life-saving.

By “thick skin,” I mean you don’t take all things personally. You’re not the center of the universe. Life is not all about you.

All of us will experience being ignored, criticized, blamed, or rejected. Even by family, friends, or people who don’t like us.

To be “thick-skinned” requires at times reframing a person’s bad words or behavior. Remembering, not all is about you. So quit overly reacting to other people’s negativity and provocations.

By “high road,” on the other hand, you recognize when it’s time to step back instead of fighting for your side or argument. Fighting at times is not necessarily the right approach to win.

As The Muse in a Forbes article writes:

In business and in life, you won’t always get the last word in. But, sometimes it’s best to take the high road and be professional, show that you’re a team player, or avoid a tense situation. In the end, knowing when to let go is just as important as knowing when to stand your ground.”

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Addictions Never Fully Satisfy

Addicts never have enough.

A 30-year-old man is addicted to pornography and alcohol. For over 10 years of his young life, he has become progressively addicted to his chosen “drugs.”

In session, he heard himself saying to his wife, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I was doing it. I don’t seem to get enough.” He abstained for awhile but relapsed again.

His wife caught him installing a CCTV in the ladies’ room of their office and downloading its images of women into his laptop and smartphone.

A person who is genuinely addicted to a substance, activity, or person does not feel immediate relief if addiction stops for some time.

I’ve known of a chain smoker who quit smoking 15 years ago but still has a desire for smoking. After a long abstinence, he lately resumes heavy smoking more frequently than before.

Addictions in whatever form never fully satisfy. They tend to continue endlessly, even uncontrollably.

 Because the addiction itself is not the root need. It’s merely a symptom.

The root or real need in addictions is not for a drink or drug or activity. Or to be freed from a repetitive compulsion for a fix.

The root or real need is fundamental to the human heart. In most cases, it’s a deep hunger for love and acceptance.

Yesterday, I was counseling a chronic alcoholic young woman of only 22. All throughout our session, she’s sobbing.

It turned out that she’s addicted to alcohol because she’s still seeking, at a very deep inner level, attachment to and love of her parents that she never experienced in life.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Therapy for Victims of Sexual Abuse

Posting on social media this month, Hollywood’s superstar singer Lady Gaga wrote:

“I think it’s  clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time. If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self, I’d tell her to go through that therapy I have since then so that I could understand the confused post traumatic state that I was in.”

She was referencing to her experience during a past “dark time” in her life as a victim of sexual assault and abuse.

She said she should’ve sought therapy rather than deflect or avoid it at the time.

Many survivors of sexual assault or abuse suffer from a variety of mental health conditions.

Common are PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, panic anxiety attacks, addictions, and even personality disorders.

If you’ve been a victim, you don’t have to be alone. You can get help from a mental health professional.

It’s a safe, private therapeutic space to get help without judgment.

It does not make you sick, weak, or broken. It actually makes you stronger, and more prepared to move forward to a better life.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Wellness expands when you have this.

We have a fast-growing revolution.

In recent decades, tens of medical schools in the U.S. offer a spirituality course “Faith and Medicine” as part of the regular curriculum. Prestigious schools such as John Hopkins, Brown, Loyola, University of Chicago, among others.

The objective is to introduce medical students early in their education to the interconnections among spirituality, healing, and prevention.

In the field of clinical psychology, a major research university, Columbia University, blends psychotherapy and spirituality in its academic program.

This is pretty revolutionary for me. The word S was never mentioned when I was in premed and psychology graduate school myself.

In my years as a psychotherapist, I’ve witnessed that, for the faithless, healing is extraordinarily difficult and slow.

Atheists or the nominally religious don’t actually believe in anything beyond the visible. Even in themselves, despite evidences.

For those with intuition and spirituality, not just clinical therapy, they’re the ones who have clarity to draw on. They progress significantly, their wellness easily expands.

About this enduring mystery of our humanity, Albert Einstein said it well: “Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust - we all dance to the mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”

I encourage you to investigate this relationship. Seek this before a health crisis hits ... somewhere down the road. It can spell a big difference in saving, healing, your getting truly well.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

New Has Come, Old is Gone

We all have another new year. And every time, an oppprtunity for new beginnings.

Words, thoughts, sounds, smells, places, times of day, relationships, work, anything, can become an index tab to create the new in our lives.

In creating new beginnings, my thoughts revolve around basing it on “stable, meaningful facts” as basic reference point. 

That is, we’re primarily guided by truth, especially inside our being. Without truth or “stable, meaningful facts,” we derail our self growth and success.

Yesterday, I was counseling a wealthy businessman who’s confused about what to do with his marriage and existence. At a point of breakdown, he longed for a fresh start.

Problem is, he had too many facts. He got smothered in data. Even strangier is, most true facts he knows were virtually useless!

He needed “meaning,” relevance in the facts he uses in his quest for new beginnings. 

I’m reminded of a colleague in a college where I once taught. He’s overeducated, with two Ph.Ds. Degrees he had - but not in data which concern practical and effective daily living and work.

Buying a computer book with 500 pages full of true data may be of little help in repairing your laptop. 20 pages may actually be enough to fully meet your needs.

New has come, old is gone. 

For a healthy new beginning to come, we see to it that we don’t permit insecure, meaningless, or overload of data to become established.

Doing this corrects false data and prevent unnecessary emotional pain and suffering.

One definition of sanity, as writer Charles Sturge put it:  “the ability to tolerate confusion and to recognize a stable datum.”

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Doing Your Self-Care

Therapists speak a lot about “self-care.” It’s being aware of your overall health condition and taking responsibility to take care of it.

It’s a serious matter.

Because if you don’t, you’ll surely break down. Sooner or later. And, you hurt the people you love or trying to serve.

Self-care is not merely physical or material. Such as the food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, or the exercise your body needs.

It equally means addressing and meeting your own psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs. So, they don’t get in the way of your relationships and quality’s of life.

It’s honoring your pace physically so you can be fully present in the daily activities you do. It’s managing the use of your energy, so you’ll have room for what feeds your soul as well.

Your healing and wholeness requires that you pause long enough to feel your own life, assess your relationships, and work through necessary changes.

Ask some questions to begin thinking about your self-care:

• How often do you sleep well?

• What vegetables and fruits do you eat each week on a regular basis?

• How do you feel physically in general?

• What do you do when alone to get still and quiet your self?

• Who are the ones in your support system and how do you receive nurture from them?

• What do you do for fun and recreation?

• What activities do you have to feed your soul?

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Psychological Trauma and Religion

Religion is a powerful source for emotional healing. At the same time, it can also be a cause or trigger of psychological symptoms.

Sheila hated going to church. Since a child, she’s been forced by her overcritical father to embrace church attendance and their ideas about God.

She recalled receiving frequent spankings from him whenever she refused coming with them to church. And, her mother trying to shield her from her father.

She eventually developed anxiety attacks whenever her parents fought about this as well as about other matters at home.

When Shiela grew up and attended university, she joined the Communists working underground among students. She became an overzealous atheist and crusader.

In Psychology Today, Dr. Josh Gressel writes in his article “When Religious Beliefs Are Psychological Symptoms”:

“ ... when are religious beliefs a problem, from a psychological perspective? ... I think there are two instances when my help is needed. The first is when someone has suffered some kind of psychological trauma that has created  severe distortion in how they view the world and God. The second is when someone is capable of a deeper and broader understanding of life and the world but doesn’t yet know it and so grips tightly to a more narrow religious worldview than is healthy for him or her.”

One goal of psychotherapy or emotional healing is to strike a balance between extremes. One is bigoted ignorance, and the other is extreme intellectual skepticism.

And there’s also the matter of healing one’s pain from childhood experiences so his or her experiences of God shifts realistically and perceptively.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Sometimes When We Touch

Christian psychiatrist and author Dr. Scott Peck defines mental health as the “unswerving commitment to reality at all costs.”

That applies to love and romance, among others. Without reality, relationship is an illusion.

Before day one of 2019, I came across a “reality song” while sipping coffee at Old Manila. In the background, I suddenly heard a familiar old sound being played out.

It’s Dan Hill’s old 1977 hit song, “Sometimes When We Touch.”

Incidentally, the “reality” song was also sang by Filipino world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao with the singer/writer Dan Hill himself in a visit to the Philippines.

You ask me if I love you
And I choke on my reply
I'd rather hurt you honestly
Than mislead you with a lie
And who am I to judge you
On what you say or do?
I'm only just beginning to see the real you

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

Romance and all its strategy
Leaves me battling with my pride
But through the insecurity
Some tenderness survives
I'm just another writer
Still trapped within my truth
A hesitant prize fighter
Still trapped within my youth

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

At times I'd like to break you
And drive you to your knees
At times I'd like to break through
And hold you endlessly

At times I understand you
And I know how hard you've tried
I've watched while love commands you
And I've watched love pass you by
At times I think we're drifters
Still searching for a friend
A brother or a sister
But then the passion flares again

And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides

On New Year 2019 celebration with my “love” Nhorie, I sang it to her as our new theme song. Both of us felt that we cannot escape our togetherness with what’s in the song!

We found out that we cannot celebrate what we have in our relationship without celebrating our reality together.

“You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Shallow or Deep?

We live in a world full of “shallow relationships.”

People hide. A lot of it, high-speed modern day life as well as internal forces can drive us to live in isolation and loneliness.

You need not be geographically or physically alone to experience the shallowness. Even in the midst of people, you can feel so lonely.

If you ask Rick, his being part of a church men’s group for over 4 years confronts us with one indictment: the lack of depth in the “community” he joined in.

The group leader focused on intellectual talks each week. During holidays, they took breaks and never celebrated together. Much less, visited and known each other’s homes and families.

In session, Rick lamented about the shallowness in his “community.” The larger world of deep personal relationships took second place there for years.

They had the appearance of fellowship, but were actually missing each other’s “person.”

Is it any wonder that suicide is epidemic? Suicides are those whose “shallow relationships” become a place for fondling depression and low self worth.

That smoldering loneliness of “shallow relationships” cries out,

“Do I matter? Why do I have life? Am I producing anything that has real value and meaning?”

Indeed, having “shallow relationships” is emotionally expensive.

Creating and nourishing close personal relationships provide us overall health, wholeness, and meaning in life.