Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Poverty and State of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dealing with “Unsafe People”

The world is full of “unsafe people.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Beliefs and Body Health

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it.

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

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

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

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

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Meaning of Words We Use

Words carry meanings. Meanings are important. Simply because that’s where we often get into tangles with each other.

Currently, in the headline news, there’s a legal battle on words and meanings I’m following between SEC and KAPA.

KAPA, which was registered with SEC as a religious group, uses the word “donation” for the money given to it by its members, which is in keeping with the nature of its organization.

After 3 years or more of its existence blessing millions with financial support through member “donation,” KAPA was charged by SEC of scam using the word “investment” to refer to KAPA’s “donation.”

That’s where the battle lies. In the words and meanings used.

One (KAPA) means it in a religious context (donation), while the other (SEC) means it in another way (investment).

In personal relationships, words are tools which people use to give and get information. It can turn complex.

Receiver and sender both need to be aware of their own respective interpretation systems. Otherwise, communication can easily break down.

Such communication breakdowns repeatedly show up in marital, family, or relationship therapy. Words and meanings get confused, leaving out whole connections in the messages.

“I want to leave, I don’t love you anymore,” said an alcoholic husband to his wife of 15 years. When the wife called me for a session, she’s saying that she’s too confused about what her husband means.

One reason was, his behavior mismatched the words and meanings he’d say to her. Her husband would still go home daily, have sex with, and communicate constantly with her.

Dysfunctional people usually send clouded, incomplete messages. They’re unclear about the words and meanings they use. They rely on the receiver to fill in.

For our mental health - individually and relationally - we’re all responsible to make the words and meanings we use reasonably and functionally clear.

Mutual clarification and qualification cuts down on unnecessary misunderstanding, dysfunction, and breakdown in our relationships.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Father’s Story

It’s Father’s Day yesterday. And countless fathers, like me, out there were in my thoughts.

Most fathers don’t share about estrangement from their children. 

It’s a relationship state caused by one or more factors, such as divorce poison, parental abuse, or separation brainwashing, among others. 

“There’s nothing more I can do about it,” says a therapy client David, father of a 30 year old son and 28 year old daughter who have not spoken to him in years. 

When David was younger, his own father was emotionally disconnected from him. So being a father who is around when his children were growing up was important to him.
He did all the things he thought was right. Hugged and chatted with them, graced school functions, worked to treat them, and spent time with them. He thought they had a good relationship. 

“Yet here we are, and I can’t understand it completely, it’s not a fair exchange!” he says. 

“I know my separation from their mother may be one factor. But I believe this isn’t largely because of me. I don’t have guilt, but I’m sad for us.”

Psychotherapist Sheri Mcgregor, author of the book “Done with Crying,” remarked:

“All anyone can do in the face of loss and change is to consciously adapt. You can alter your  perspective. You can come to see giving up more as giving in, and even giving honor to your adult child’s decision. Moving on doesn’t mean you turn a tit-for-tat cold shoulder that can never grow warm again. In giving in, you allow yourself to live. You’re not a quitter. You’re a starter—in a new phase of life.”

In the meantime, David hurts, so he takes care, prays and waits.

You Live With The Result

A lot of times, those seeking help are stuck. They’re sick of the way they’ve been handling situations.

We all share a common, fractured human nature. Like you, I too have the same frail, fallible humanity.

In that context, we need “alternative” to the status quo. In Latin, status quo is “the mess we’re in.”

Therapy is freedom work. A search for that “alternative.” If you fail finding and applying it, you live with the result.

I worked once with a gay client who was very religious. He’s living in with another man.

At the same time, he had a secret sexual addiction, doing sex with strangers in public and private places.

When he contracted HIV, that’s when he sought help to stop his self destructive lifestyle.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes homosexuality as "ego-dystonic sexual preference." 

It observes that a gay is not in doubt about his sexual preference, but "wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders."

The word in my client's sessions is “liberation” - gay liberation! Yet, he talked “liberation” but couldn’t get enough strength and will to choose to be truly liberated.

He continued in his ways until he became chronically ill and a dying patient in the hospital. 

He lived with the result. He made a choice and his choice made him.

Healing, incidentally, is not just “doing as you please.” Rather it’s doing what Truth designs you to be.

“If you continue in My Word, you are truly my disciples, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Freeing Scrooge

You’ve most likely heard of Mr. Scrooge. He’s a familiar figure in Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Scrooge was significantly wealthy. Yet he’s extremely frugal, an under-spender. He lived in a dreary home he refused to heat, ate meager meals, and deprived himself of basic comforts.

Like the over-spender, the under-spender such as Scrooge, has a painful past. In Dicken’s story, Scrooge lived with an abusive father during childhood filled with poverty and want.

To escape the emotional pain of his past, Scrooge turned miser. He became a slave to consuming his emotional energies in accumulating money while contriving a life of poverty.

Scrooge’s Story shows an extreme in human nature. For him, spending or giving away money is like losing a relationship or love. No amount of money can heal his painful childhood past.

Scrooge was freed, healed eventually. Dramatically healed. In the story, it took an insightful visit to his past to free him.

Money is neutral. It’s just an idea, as Robert Kiyosaki put it. But it’s very psychological in the way it can influence our minds.

Many children of rich or poor families can gravitate to the extreme unhealed especially when they’ve experienced first-hand their parents’ irrational fears, behaviors, or money disorders.

Like other psychological disorders, money disorders are closely linked to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we picked up and observed in adults when we were children.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Psychology and Money Behavior

Money disorder is real.

Philippine Star Columnist Alex Magno wrote of a story of a woman with chronic money disorder. She’s the daughter out of wedlock of a late prominent founder of one of the biggest banks in the country.

This daughter faced a long string of cases for her financial fraud.

In one case, she issued two bouncing checks to a jewelry firm amounting to over six million pesos. In two other cases, she annulled contracts and failed to pay credit card charges amounting to P3 million.

At the justice courts of Manila and Quezon City, she stands accused of and indicted for issuing multiple unfunded checks by the millions.

At a latest count, she faces 7 criminal cases for estafa and other money fraud-related offenses. She faces 2 other civil cases involving money claims.

Her thoughts and behaviors towards money are obviously “broken.”

Does she ever have an understanding of how self destructive her financial behaviors are?

Chronic, self sabotaging financial behaviors are not driven by information or logic. They don’t originate from our rational, thinking minds.

Research and clinical findings show that they actually stem from hidden psychological forces that lie well outside conscious awareness.

The roots of money disorder even run deep, deep into one’s past.

What attitudes and lessons about money do you think that woman learned while growing up?

You might suspect that she’d come to associate not having enough or more money with emotional abandonment. Or, she grew up unable to trust anyone on money issues.

And you’re right. No matter how much money she’d hold in her hands, she never really felt secure. She was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

How about you?

What is your money history?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dealing with a Sociopath

It’s difficult to have relationship with a sociopath. I’d be less than candid if I tell you it’s going to be easy.

A sociopath (translate: psychopath, in some circles) is extremely self-absorbed, volatile, and typically abusive.

The one strong emotion he experiences is rage, especially when thwarted.

Whether as a spouse, child, or friend, dealing with one is bound to be filled with deceit, emotional abuse, and drama.

Most of the times, as in my client Marissa’s case, a sociopath often attaches himself to you like a pest. He won’t make it easier for you.

The sociopath is known to use every trick in his repertoire to maintain his victims.

Marissa determined to get out of the madness. The financial, physical, and emotional abuses of her live-in partner.

She told him, “After a long time of multiple chances, you still abuse me and remain unremorseful. I’ve decided to end this relationship. This is not negotiable, don’t call, write, or come over again here.”

When she said it’s over, he swore she won’t abandon him and be able to get another man like him.

In session, Marissa dealt with moments of wavering due to her feelings. Putting her objective knowledge about her sociopath ex was a powerful reality check for her.

Proceed with caution if you’re in a relationship with a sociopath, especially the hard-core one.

This man is not a nice, normal human - he’s much more dangerously disturbed.

It’s no time to bury your head in the sand.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Let the “There” Vanish

It’s a creative activity - Psychotherapy. An artist thing. You are the artist. And your life is your art.

Psychotherapy is reviewing, polishing, or re-creating the art in your mind.

We put a lot of fear, illusion, or misunderstanding around the notion of therapy and its process.

We thought it’s a torturous activity. We make a big deal of the pain in it instead of releasing it into the air.

Thinking that way, too many of us therefore don’t even try.

And if we do, we tend to stop, struggle or freeze up unnecessarily.

Then we tell our selves that whatever it is, it can’t be “real.” We fail or are unwilling to debunk the myths and fantasies we got used to.

I’m reminded of an old car I used to drive. There seems a wavery magical spot about it. When it speeded up to get to locations, I felt specially relieved.

The “there” vanished. And I arrived where I wanted to go, with a sense of wellness.

I suppose we might call it satisfaction or accomplishment. But I think it could be more than that. Translate: something better.

The art of life, highlighted in psychotherapy, is simply a thrill. A pure process.

The hidden things you catch out of the corner of your eye - that’s worth pursuing.

What if there’s no such thing as satisfaction or accomplishment?

What if there’s no “there” or “arrival” to drive to?

What if everyone simply lives?

What if life is simply the act and discipline of being ... where all else flows?

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Why Do You Break Down?

Breaking down is simply not able "to hold your self together" enough.

Such results in a condition that doesn't allow you to make it through the ordinary requirements of daily life.

That in itself may be manageable, But at times, a breakdown, insignificant though it may seem, can be the beginning of something much more severe.

After she started her high paying job as a nurse in London, Leonora broke down.

Even with the slightest provocation and stresses from a "strict" manager and fellow workers in the hospital, Leonora would get instantly depressed and immobilized.

Just recently, she shared in our session how her "strict" manager has changed and began to be more caring and embracing of her.

That improved Leonora's moods. She admitted experiencing less breakdowns and becoming more productive in the workplace.

I told Leonora of a famous prescription of a noted psychiatrist who said, "Love is the medicine for the ills of humankind."  Her face lit up.

I can say, in general, people break down because there has been some substantial malfunctioning in their experience of love.

This "love malfunction" then makes them inadequately prepared to withstand the stressful situations of life.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Trauma and Mental Disorder

The late Dr. Richard Strauss was a well-known medical doctor. He suffered from untreated sexual addiction mental disorder.

He was found guilty of sexually abusing at least 177 male students from the 1970s through the 1990s at the Ohio State University.

According News reports, Dr. Strauss groped or ogled young men while treating athletes from at least 16 sports, and while working at his private clinic.

He committed suicide at age 67 in 2005. That’s nearly ten years after he retired with honors at the university where he worked.

For most, this is not merely a sad true story. It’s shocking, horrifying, and heart-breaking.

What could turn a brilliant doctor like Dr. Strauss into a mentally disordered sex addict?

Sexual addiction, like most mental disorders, is often traceable to unresolved or "buried" childhood trauma.

There are people who experienced abuse or neglect of a dysfunctional parent, a chaotic family life, or witnessed violence.

Due to the severity of its psychological impact, many may have difficulty reaching resolution from the traumatic experiences.

These victims may not even recognize they have a trauma wound, such as more likely in the case of Dr. Strauss.

This inability to recognize and resolve the trauma then leads to automatic "triggers" in the brain that tapped into one's one's own deep, hidden emotional wounds.

As you can see, like in the case of Dr. Strauss, intellectual ability never sufficed to reach the necessary emotional healing and resolution.

Psychotherapist Linda Sanford, author of "Strong at the Broken Places: Building Resiliency in Survivors of Trauma," explains:

"... this trauma/experience is something that happened to you - it is not who you are."

Sanford clearly echoes that having a history of trauma should not necessarily define your person or identity.

By allowing yourself an opportunity to heal more deeply (beyond the surface or merely intellectual), you can be a different and healthy person.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What is Your Definition of Success?

Individuals who go through therapy experience emotional or mental dissatisfactions in their inner being.

I notice one thing that often surfaced:  their not being clear about the definition of success or accomplishment in their lives.

Speaking to Roberta, an American client, success to her is about making money, getting famous, and traveling.

She’s a lot like many people in our culture. Success is a goal that has dollar signs and creature comforts attached to it.

What is success for you?

I invite you to go beyond your initial answer or cultural expectation. It’s important to do this so you can measure your journey ... and the point of your own life.

For example, I know a countryman who rose from abject poverty whose life goal for years now is to help people financially and spiritually to get out of poverty.

He builds billionaire businesses, but lives a very simple life, so he can share to the poor and contribute to the government’s anti-poverty program.

The focus of success for him is not himself. It’s not primarily about making money or getting famous. Or, accumulating worldly accolades.

In the core of his heart, success is about enriching the lives of others. To help redeem people from the curse of material and spiritual poverty.

That’s his definition of success, which is a totally brilliant reason to live!

I’m reminded of several depressed clients who were rich in possessions but could not find meaning in their lives.

I often say to them, “Go out of your house each day and find at least one person to give to or serve.” It never fails to work to help save them back to mental health.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy,” Ralph Waldo Emerson writes. “It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Such is the point of success and there is no final end game.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mt. Arayat with Love

This early morning, I just arrived from Pampanga. It’s home of Mt. Arayat, a popular old mountain filled with traditional folklore, beliefs, and stories since the 1600s, located in central Luzon, Philippines.

I joined my wife Nhorie on her family’s reunion at the home of her younger brother Aki (and wife Weng) for her older sister (Lolet with husband Gerry and kids) vacationing from Florida, USA.

For me, Mt. Arayat kindles a feeling of “longing.” It’s a feeling akin to the “longing” that Moses must had felt when he was in Mt. Nebo speaking to God.

In Mt. Nebo, God spoke to Moses about His people’s entering the promised land (Canaan). I can imagine the “longing” Moses and God’s people may had felt for the fulfillment of the promise.

Life often finds us experiencing “longings.”

Like in my past travels when I departed from places I loved, my wife’s sister Lolet and husband Gerry have always expressed “longings” to return.

When they come on board the plane this week to bring them back to the US, Lolet and Gerry will depart but their original home is left behind.

The home represents emotions we feel as an airplane, ship, or vessel slowly moves us away from it.

The home is a place of “longings” - with nostalgic partings, yearnings, and hopes that defy definition.

We simply ache for what’s left, and long for what we can’t quite reach in reality.

Noted psychologist, Dr. Carl Jung, once wrote: “Everything that happens to us, properly understood, leads us back to our selves; it is as though there were some unconscious guidance whose aim is to deliver us ...”

Amid the “longings” that are natural to our human state, I sense echoes and hints of our true deliverance.

Our “longings” all point us to God and His everlasting Home in heaven. He is the only complete deliverance and fulfillment of all the “longings” we yearn.

Writer C.S. Lewis shares, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing - to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all beauty came from.”

Secrets of Your Self:                                            

Friday, May 10, 2019

Moving to Heal and Create

I love writing. And, walking.

Whether writing my books or blogs, my feet are always itching. They seem designed to keep moving. Or else, I’ll soon run out of mental fuel!

I got “itchy feet” syndrome. I feel dry and grumpy when I don’t move my feet enough. I need the movement to fill my mind with ideas to write about.

That’s how I recharge.

Life balance, establishing or restoring it, is what you need to recharge your creative soul. To keep going and inspired when storms hit.

Such good state often demands continuous movement. It’s crucial for cognition and the spirit.

I remember one client, Marissa, who came for severe depression therapy. Right after our initial session, she revived her gym membership.

It’s amazing how that one step expedited her healing process.

She may not had come to her moment of insights in her psychotherapy work without that “movement” that worked for her.

If you’re so hurt or overwhelmed, try walking your feet longer. Take a deep breath and move your body in long strides.

Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, was right.  He once wrote, “Walking is the best medicine.”

The moving is medicine.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The Passing of the Night

Guilt and anxiety attacked him onboard. Inside him, Toto had to wrestle with a past that’s fractured and wounded by mental and emotional breakdowns.

He lived with painful memories, covered by the sands of time. An illicit extra marital relationship. Financial scandals. A terrible habit of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Each passing night, he found himself feeling “sick” or nervous. He felt any of these details of his broken past will sink him or block him in anything he does.

What is the secret of psychological, emotional, and spiritual recovery and stability ... in spite of one’s past?

I’ve found it remarkable what you can find in Scripture of individuals who had “broken wings” because of their past ... and yet God still blessed and used them.

• Abraham was a worshipper of idols, before God made him father of nations.
• Joseph was an ex-prisoner and yet became prime minister of Egypt.
• Moses murdered a man, but he later became one who successfully delivered his nation from the slavery of Pharaoh.
• Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho, later listed as among members of hall of faith in Hebrews.
• Eli and Samuel were inadequate, poor fathers to their sons, yet proved to be strong men of faith.
• Peter openly denied and cursed Christ, only to return as a primary pillar of the early church.
• Paul was a murderer of Christians, yet became Christ’s best defender and writer of majority of the New Testament.

Common among these biblical characters and countless examples in human history is aptly described by psychologist Dr. William James, who wrote:

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

From this point onward, even if your past is full of shame, cracked or chipped, you can be whole again, clean and fitted to your best life.

It takes a renewal of the mind. That involves redemptive faith and action as well.

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, May 03, 2019

Two Roads

When I was in college, I’d loved reading classical literature. A favorite poem of mine that made an impression on me was “The Road Not Taken,” written by Robert Frost.

I remember holding a copy of his poem in a book while hiking or walking. It’s still vivid a photograph of an old man with two diverging roads before him.

The poem goes:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
 I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I—I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The poem gives us an essential truth about life.

We’re all given the freedom of choice. And in the exercise of that freedom, we’re reminded to take the right road even when pushed or tempted to take the wrong road.

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Can You Hear the Echoes?


It’s one of human nature’s immutable laws. It says, “You get in return exactly what you give.”

Things simply just come back.

The “law of echoes” applies a lot in life.

The next day when he was about to leave for office, Dan heard his teenage son shouting at his mother.

Dan got angry, slapped his son on the face. The son is used to being slapped frequently by his father through the years.

The result was an “echo.” Pretty embarrassing. Even tragic.

His son, in turn, slapped his mother on the face. Dan wanted his son to be respectful, gentle, patient, and forgiving.

But the son simply can’t! Start with the father!

Alfred Tennyson once said, “Our echoes roll from soul to soul and grow forever and forever.”

That’s a remarkably consistent phenomenon. Children echo their parents. Teachers are usually echoed by their students. Employees are often a reflection of their employer.

If you’re a spouse or loved one who is always negative, severe, blunt, and demanding ... can you guess what usually happens next?

The echo reflects similar manifestations or characteristics. Almost, without exception.

“Treat men exactly as you like them to treat you ... Don’t judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don’t condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. Give and men will give to you ... For whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you” (Luke 6:31, 37-38 Philipps).

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, April 26, 2019

What is Your “One Word?”

Tony Robbins, a world-renowned author and self development expert, once posed an exploratory question to better know our selves and our life’s mission.

“What is the one word that sums up what you want in life, the core value that will drive your decisions?”

This can be a complicated question. Not an easy one to answer. But after pondering about it, I’ve decided that my one word is “ASCENT.”

That one word also happens to be the Spanish meaning of my surname “SUBIDA.”  It means climbing, rising, ascending the heights.

What an apt one word that guides the direction of my life - both human and divine.

The “ascent” or “Subida” value is manifest not only in my own life, but in my psychotherapy practice and books as well.

Essentially, that one word value directs everything I do to help people heal and rise above their adversities and wounds.

It’s my why I choose experiences over owning things. It’s why I focus on the whole of life in location -independent natural settings.

That’s where I believe people can truly rise up.

What about you?

If you can identify your “one word,” it can help you see what you really want in life.

Life is brief. Make  the most of it with your “one word.”

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

From Old Wounds You Are Not Healing

At 3 a.m., in a city bar, Lorena was drunk and starving for attention. It's hot, drippy, delicious, and she couldn't get enough of it from her flirting.

Her husband, himself a self-confessed drug addict, kept calling her. But she's already hooked with a stranger inside a steamy sidewalk motel. They cursed and yelled at each other over the phone.

When Lorena came home later in the day, her husband was waiting. After throwing things at him, she flirted with him and had hard sex. Even with stomach aches, Lorena's husband drugged himself to have sex with her.

That's one "sticky" relationship. Simply put, toxic. Unhealthy. Even deadly. It's the dysfunction. Two incomplete, wounded individuals fused by mutual codependency and enmeshment.

They think they're in love. Their sex produced a cocaine high and they mistake it for true love. But in reality, it's not. They're both just strongly addicted. So needy. Mentally and emotionally dysfunctional to the extreme.

Where does it come from?

It comes from all things we didn’t receive as a child. From the deprivation we feel inside ourselves. From the old wounds we are not healing. From what smells similar or familiar from ancient relationship patterns (often with parents).

From our addictions, fears, and insecurities. From a broken family system. From a giant cultural landscape we tend to embrace. From not doing the necessary work on ourselves.

I can go on and on here. But I’ve to stop here or this post will turn into a book!

Chances are, you can relate to one or a few of the things I’m saying here. It means you’re most likely experiencing what’s “sticky.” The high drama that hijacks your logic and emotions.

Time to get better. The rest of your life depends on it.

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: http://www.kobo.com/ph/en/ebook/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).

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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