Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Need for OFW Mental Health Care

In my work as a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with distressed OFWs as well as their left-behind families.

In my travels, particularly in Korea, Singapore, and Thailand, I did minister to countless OFWs waiting for support.

Generally, before a Filipino leaves his/her country for an overseas job, he/she undergoes a PDOS (pre-departure orientation seminar) at the government’s POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) office.

This seminar is important since it aims to prepare the OFW to life working overseas. It’s not just an economic journey. It’s also very psychological, emotional, and spiritual.

As Jejomar Binay, former Philippine Vice-President, put it,

“It’s difficult to be away from our loved ones. OFWs and their families could develop depression and other mental health problems.”

Is the government PDOS meeting the objective of mental health care for our OFWs?

Here’s what GMA NEWS TV found out from Rhodora Abaño, an officer of the Center for Migrant Advocacy: “The seminar is not sufficient to prepare them for overseas work. The objective is not met.”

Abaño, during the tv interview, explained that the PDOS, which could have sufficiently prepared a Filipino worker mentally, falls short of educating first-time overseas workers.

My own experience in working with OFWs as well as varied documented research studies show that our OFWs are largely unprepared psychologically to separate from loved ones and work abroad.

Such is well evidenced by the rising official statistics on broken marriages and families among millions of OFWs.

The harm it is giving to the very basic building block of Philippine society and national well being is the reason why adequate and proper management of mental health care for OFWs is direly needed.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

5 Mental Health Lessons from the Eagle

“ ... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)


An impressive creature. Like no other bird, we humans can derive life and mental health lessons from it. As we do, we can live and fly like the eagle.

# 1.  The eagle has strong, intense, laser-focus vision, catching its prey.

Life lesson: You do the same intense concentration when reaching out to your goals and dreams. Focus. Set out to invest all your being, your time, energies, and resources to achieve what you want for your life.

# 2.   The eagle eats only live food.

Life lesson:  Like the eagle, don’t eat the “dead.” Don’t waste your time and energy beating a dead horse in your life, such as past mistakes or relationships that can’t be undone. Learn to let go, move on, keep your options open, and do what gives you life.

# 3.  The eagle loves storms and fly above them.

Life lesson:  Get excited when there is a storm coming into your life. Above the storm clouds, rest your wings and embrace the challenge to get stronger. Welcome the opportunity to build your  inner strength and life skills during the storm.

# 4.  The eagle is a strong parent/mother who doesn’t want its eaglets to die in the nest!

Life lesson: Like the eagle, you can be a master of change and tough love in motherhood. Out of fears, your growing kids may keep jumping back to the nest. But you don’t yield. You care enough that you avoid encouraging them into fears, insecurities, or laziness. You want them to grow and spread their wings!

# 5.  The eagle is willing to take pain and change in order to grow. 

Life lesson: At age 40, the eagle is faced with the pain of knocking out its own beak so it can grow and extend its life to 30 more years. “No pain, no gain” is a life lesson for all of us. A rebirth of a new self takes the death of the old self.

In order to protect and nurture your mental health - the whole of your life, in fact - study the ways of the eagle. Be open to apply its example and lessons to your own life.

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The Power of Your NOW

When I see clients, the battle is always on reading reality. Seeing what really is. Doing what gives life based on accurate reality check.

I’ve encountered two types of thinking that often interfere with how we read reality. One is “wishful thinking” and the other is “fearful thinking.”

Wishful thinking.

“I wish it never happened.” “I wish I had not made that mistake.” “I wish I married another person.” “I wish I had entered a different profession.” And so on and so on.

One of my clients, Rody, working on and repairing his marriage, exclaimed, “I wish I had not given that woman that expensive gift. I can’t forgive my self.” 

Fearful thinking.

Just last night, I met a young woman, Iza, from Lebanon who was full of fears. 

After two failed romantic relationships and over ten casual sexual relationships, she currently has a new boyfriend with whom she has become serious. He loves her. She loves him. The man seems an ideal potential husband for Iza. 

“I’m afraid to lose him. For him to abandon me although he does love me and he’s not doing anything!” Now, Iza finds her self experiencing panic anxiety attacks and unable to healthily continue with her present relationship.

Eckart Tolle, author of the “Power of Now,” explains the great value of being “fully present” in the current moment. To be more intentional doing this brings security and sufficiency in our being.

Unfortunately, as typically happens with stuck clients in therapy, many spent too much time overthinking about the PAST or the FUTURE. All these, at the expense of fully living and appreciating the PRESENT moment.

Hear Mark Twain once giving us a picture of it, “My life is full of tragedy and half of it actually happened.”

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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Should I Quit?

A man was distraught about his life. He’s experiencing failure after failure. He wants to quit on himself, his job, his family, even his spirituality.

One day, feeling so frustrated, he exiles himself to the woods. He goes to a lonely place by a pond. And has a conversation with God.

Specifically, he asks God, “Should I quit? Give me one big reason not to quit.”

“My child,” God responds, “look!”  “Do you see my two creations - the fern and the bamboo?” “Yes,” the man answers, “what about them?”

“When I planted the seeds of the fern tree and bamboo tree, I took good care of both of them. I gave them water, light, and fertilizer,” God begins to explain.

“Only with a short period of few weeks, the fern quickly grew from the earth.”

“But the bamboo tree, despite the same watering and fertilizing, did not grow for years. But I did not give up on the bamboo seed and continued to nurture it. By the 5th year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. And within 6 months from there, the bamboo grew 100 feet tall. See that the bamboo tree was growing exponentially underground, developing a root system strong enough for outward growth in the 5th year and beyond. Had the tree not developed a strong foundation, it would not had sustained its life as it grew more.”

The man is baffled at first. But he’s beginning to pick up what God is trying to say to him. The man learns his lessons that day.

He realizes that all the time that he’s struggling, he’s growing and developing strong roots. The man learns the value of persistence and hard work. No comparison, he also learns. Everyone is special and God has a unique plan for each of us.

The man keeps looking at the fern and bamboo right in front of him, as he makes a turnaround to walk back towards his life and continue pursuing his dreams.

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

When You Read Books

Reading heals you. It helps you be whole in your life.

When you read books, especially on self help and personal development, you put healthy nutrients into your mind.

I met Riza, 35, at a most tragic time of her life.

She’s unemployed. Her long time boyfriend cheated on her. She tried to drown her sorrow in alcohol.

Eventually, she had few attempts to commit suicide by cutting her wrist. A mysterious, gentle spot in her heart somehow led her to seek help.

In my sessions with her, reading homeworks were part of her “targeted treatment.” I prescribed for her to actively read up on depression, recovery processes, and life purpose.

Riza’s “bibliotherapy” proved to be a key factor. It greatly aided her to get past the danger zone of her psychological and emotional trauma.

James Baldwin once wrote,

“ You think your pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was Books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Read every day, at least 30 minutes. It can spell a critical difference in your own healing and wholeness in life.

For more, you may want to watch this short clip I made on the topic:

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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Chess and Life: The King

The King symbolizes the “primary motivation” in the  game of chess.

The game ends when your own king or the opponent’s is cornered or checkmated.

The King in the game of chess is therefore the most valuable piece. Of absolute value. It cannot be bought or sold. 

In life, we also have a “king.” Priceless. Without it, we don’t find life possible. Ultimacy of our mental health belongs to it.

I’m reminded of Geronimo, a very rich food company CEO. He had means. But he lacked meaning in his life. 

He was “in check” during sessions. Something happened when life questioned him.

Despite his accomplishments, he realized he was not making “good moves” for many years with his wife and children. And now, he found himself in the brink of being abandoned by them.

Geronimo’s true values inform him of what really matters to him. Much like in chess, where the main value is the King.

His answer to his emotional pain led to responsible and noble actions. He reformed. He sacrificed pieces of his life to woo his family back.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said that “meaning is not isolated within the person but is in the relationship of the person with the world.”

In life, as in chess, you alone is responsible for making the “moves.” You move and the world responds. 

And your move lies in what truly matters to you, what is your “king.”

This “king” in your life holds your “being.” It holds your “doing” as well. Make sure you know your “king.”

Monday, November 04, 2019

Mind Over Money

I was financially broke before. Not just that, I also had big debts in the bank.

It was quite a tough waiting time in my life.

I watched myself learn to overcome certain unproductive money attitudes and habits.

Otherwise, I would not had survived ... and thrived after.

Three lessons I picked up. 

1.)  Self worth (internal) is separate from monetary worth (external).

I can ... choose to feel inwardly rich even when I’m outwardly broke. Have a peaceful, contented, full heart.

To be able to do that, I’d to protect my self from the cultural trap or false belief saying, “I am what I earn.” From wrongly placing my self worth on my monetary worth.

2.)  Managing money is managing the mind.

To make wise financial decisions, I needed to be willing to discipline my self and take responsibility.

Many individuals don’t want that discipline. Money problems are usually just a part of other problems related to discipline.

I read once of a psychologist saying that people who couldn’t manage their money couldn’t manage their minds.

3.)  There is a connection between mental control/focus and our ability to make money.

We do have a lot of control over our incomes, expenses, and work more than we admit or acknowledge.

Money is more likely to follow a person who does what he is born to do. One who has passion, determination and healthy self esteem. 

These mental qualities make a person a healthy chooser and risk taker. The very assets that get one to overcome money challenges in any life circumstance. 

Remember, the best financial formula: mind over money.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Do You Trust in Sweepstakes?

“A good mind possesses a kingdom; a great fortune is a great slavery.”
— Seneca

Can sweepstakes or lotto provide you with true, lasting self esteem and happiness?

Here’s a real story that hit world news sometime in 1998. Gerald won 10 million dollars in the lottery sweepstakes in Canada. 

But according to news, he couldn’t handle the instant money and fame. Canada’s Globe and Mail reported:

“He bought several new vehicles for himself and friends, purchased a house that turned into a nightly party pad and often celebrated his new lifestyle with copious amounts of drugs and alcohol.”

Gerald eventually went bankrupt due to overspending and failed businesses. He was eventually forced into taking a job heavy lifting in the farm to make ends meet. 

According to media reports, Gerald hanged himself in his parents’ garage in 2005.

Philosopher Paul Tournier says, 

“The yield of our life does not depend so much on the number of things that we do, but more on the quality of the self-giving we put into each thing. In order to add this quality, we must depart from the atmosphere of the modern world which is completely obsessed ... do, do, do always more. Let us rather, once again, become inspired and tranquil men.”

Sweepstakes lottery is sudden wealth. It does not produce tranquil men and women. It carries a distortion. The view that goods are ultimate. That it can fill your emotional void, and make you happy.

It is, to use a phrase from psychiatrist Dr. M.Scott Peck, just a mere way of “coping with our impotence.”

That’s because sweepstakes doctrine is purely material. The love for things. Instant money does not produce true or lasting feelings of self esteem and happiness.

Understand the delusion of sweepstakes. Avoid its trap.

“For the love of money is a root for all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Friday, November 01, 2019

Getting Debt-Free

 Are you debt-free?

 If you’re not, especially when  you’ve huge debts, you may be
 specially vulnerable. Very susceptible to money anxiety and mental
 illness when faced with hard times.

I’m not a financial expert. But I know there are practical ways you may easily consult about, read up on, and do, to get debt-free.

However, getting free from a bad personal habit of out-of-control debts, is not merely financial. It’s very much more psychological.

Overcoming shame - mental, emotional, and relational - is an important psychological aspect of getting debt-free.

Make sure you’re able to distinguish between feelings of shame and feelings of guilt. They’re two different things.

Healthy guilt says, “I made a mistake.” But shame says, “I am the mistake.”

Learn to separate your self-worth from your mistakes. 

Accept responsibility. No excuses! Don’t blame others or circumstances for your mounting debts. 

You made choices and actions, it’s yours. Owning up to your choices and actions is part of your psychological healing.

Seek to understand the psychological or emotional roots of your bad debt habit. Heal the wounds that created your self sabotaging money pattern.

Then, with your repair plan, don’t do it again! Otherwise, you’ll be buried in your debts and life-damaging consequences.

If you find your self repeating the behavior and feel you can’t stop, seek necessary help.

Choose freedom. Be wise and debt free!

“The wicked borrow and do not repay” (Psalm 37:21)

Secrets of Your Self:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Have a Mind at Rest, Feelings at Peace

Life can be a joy. But it can also be a drag. It depends on the choice you’re making.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

For countless people, the mind is not at rest. Their emotions and spirits are not at peace.

I know a man for whom everything is going wrong. He is not enjoying life - he’s always miserable and troubled.

His wife and children are leaving him. His business is going down. He’s full of debts.

His life is in turmoil. Very emotionally messed up - drinking in bars and going home drunk quite often.

Oh there’s one thing I failed to mention - he is persisting in his continuing infidelity and sexual addiction. And, there is no rest and sleep for him.

After a few therapy sessions with his wife, he has been knowing more deeply about the true state of his mind and feelings as well as his self-sabotaging addictions.

But this man isn’t listening or learning; he is just plain stubborn about his vices and dysfunctions.

No wonder his self, his life, is in shambles. He has no rest in his mind. He has no peace in his emotions.

Do you see how your choices determine the degree of joy, rest, and peace you’ll enjoy in your life?

The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation - trying to fill their inner void with all sort of choices, with everything ... except the only thing.

Apart from Truth and reality, there is no real knowing. Apart from the Life and the Way, there is no real living.

Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).

Secrets of Your Self:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

All Souls Day: What ‘s Beautiful About the Afterlife?

Again, it’s our yearly All Souls’ Day.

We remember our dearly departed ones. We reflect. We pray. Many of us visit the grave or cemetery. It’s a solemn holiday.

Ordinarily, we think of death as something ugly.

It’s because we associate it with forever losing a loved one. And, we may think of it happening to ourselves too  ... sooner or later.

“Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes (7:2).

We’re not meant to live here permanently. We are all just passing through.

Yet ... can you see a beautiful side hidden behind that reality?

Death has a beautiful side. That is, if you’re a believer.

Author Dr. Calvin Miller writes:

“As God views death, it is not final. It is rather the great transcendence, and the whole issue of our worth to God.”

A believer is one with a saving personal relationship with Jesus. When he or she dies, he/she gains. A multitude of blessings, unimaginable.

Jesus promised this beautiful side of death when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25).

The death of a believer is just a beginning. It doesn’t mean going out of existence. Jesus gives the believer a perfect resurrected body to live with him forever in heaven.

Revelation 21:4 says, “And God will wipe away every tear in their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Is death beautiful to you? If you’re a believer, it is.

Secrets of Your Self:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Do You Know That You’re an Artist?

Do you know that you’re an artist? Let me explain a bit.

As a writer, I see my self as an artist. Even as a psychotherapist, I realize my self as one.

Harry Noden aptly writes ...

“The writer is an artist, painting images of life with specific and identifiable brush strokes, images as realistic as Wyeth, as abstract as Picasso.”

That painting of the “images of life” certainly applies to both canvasses of writing and psychotherapy work.

My friend, your life is art. You’re the artist of your life.

As writer Eric Booth, in his wonderful book called “The Everyday Work of Art,” espouses, our lives should be treated not as something to be endured, but as “purposeful, crafted artwork.”

Your thoughts. Your emotions. Your behaviors. Your beliefs. Your body. Your spirit, soul. Your works and relationships. All these make up what you put in to the canvass of your own life.

It’s impossible to separate our “being human” from our intrinsic hunger or need for “self expression.” We are all wired to express something, create anything, do art in whatever way we choose.

In my sessions with hurting individuals, there is the doing of art together. And realizing that the art of our lives can be bastardized. By our nature and conditioning.

When how you do art is corrupted, then you experience a cheapened version of life. It is corrosive and sabotaging to your self. To your creative soul. It’s no longer art you’re doing.

Determine now that you must be - you will be treating your life more like the work of art that it is.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Battling Your Own Damaged Nature

A woman during therapy made this account with much sorrow and tears:

 “We’ve taken an expensive couple workshop, joined communities, read traditional and digital books, have been seeing you as our therapist, and many others. My husband still abandoned me for the other woman.”

Her husband, a product of previous three failed marriages, I spoke with for many hours too. He did have intention to save his 4th marriage. But he can’t help his continuing infidelity.

Intellectually, we may know what wrong or damage we do to ourselves and others. We learn that from books, magazines, digital media resources, and ever-available Google.

We can try to change. But then, inappropriate or negative emotions still surface. Once sparked, they blaze. So we face again an uphill battle.

Reality is, information alone is never enough to win our battle over our own damaged nature. Data just by itself is disembodied.

For wholeness and healing to take place, what we know needs to be “embodied.” That requires genuine application - an actual living experience of internalizing what we learn and know deep inside us.

I remember an incident many years ago when I was in my Psychology graduate school class. In a group therapy subject, I found myself lashing out at my professor and classmates.

They were “shocked.” I, too.

Despite all psychology books and learning I absorbed, I still got out of control. Yet the impact of that experience was significant.

It paved the way for me to really know and change my wounded self.

The incident enabled me to finally have a real “embodied experience” of what I’ve been reading, learning, and sharing to others.

Secrets of Your Self:                                              

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bullies Are Made, Not Born

A lot of research has been made on bullying and its effects on the victim. However, I notice that almost none or very few investigations are made on the psychological state of the bully.

What makes a bully?

It starts early.

Science shows no evidence that bullying behavior is genetically inherited or came from some chemical or chromosome that predisposes a child to be a bully.

Developmental psychology tells us that bullying character is nurtured. It begins emerging between toddler and pre-school years. Then,  progressively developed in the child over years and years of difficult home environment or circumstances.

I was speaking to Stallone, a young man in his 30s, who expressed enjoyment in threatening, belittling, and ridiculing of gays in the office and in public. Even online, especially in social media, gays are his frequent special target.

He said his Dad would often lash out at him and his two other brothers when they were much younger. There were times when he’d kick and spit at them. He and his brothers grew up fearing and resenting their Dad.

Stallone, a victim of bullying himself by his bully Dad, has turned into an active bully himself. He found a convenient “weaker victim” - the gays - to bolster his own perceived sense of superiority.

Bullies are made, not born.

Bullying in our world cannot be removed without understanding the psychological state or characteristics of bullies that would push them to bully in the first place.

It’s a basic, strategic step in the prevention and intervention of the issue.

Secrets of Your Self:

Monday, October 21, 2019

Weed as Treasure

Shuntryn Suzuki once said that, for Zen students, “a weed is a treasure.”

That’s not a normal way we think about weeds. Weeds are unwanted, useless. We often throw them away. 

So, how then can weed be treasure?

I once met a woman who got used to cursing every time she’d feel frustrated. Her anger outbursts came up as a result of her reaction to her problems. She expected people around her to conform to the labels in her head.

And that never worked and ended well for her.

In therapy, she had to learn how much she was the author of her own suffering. All her medical, emotional, and relational breakdowns came from her self-sabotaging habitual reaction to problems.

After much struggle, reframing, and practicing, she began to know and do better on how to look at her problems the right way. Since she could not run away from her problems, she learned to turn inwards and transform them.

She has now become a new creature. She practices to live and let live, accepting things as they are. Her problems have now become gifts, transformed into wisdom and compassion.

Her “weeds became treasure.” Translate: her problems turned into gifts.

How do you look at your problems?

Look at them as “treasure,” as gifts. When you do with wisdom and patience, problems implode in on themselves and disappear.

The problems become seeds of virtue or goodness, which is simply seeing reality as it is.

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Be Aware of Your Awareness

Do you know your mind?

It has what is called the capacity for awareness. When you master it, you can know your mind.

Here’s what happens. 

Your mind can get confused. Overloaded. Environment conspires against you by overflowing your mind with endless distractions.

When your mind is over filled with too many thoughts, it’s surely hard to concentrate.

When that happens, your mind gets muddled. Easily agitated and thrown into imbalance.

You can’t master your awareness in such a scattered mind state.

Dilgo Rinpoche, in his “Enlightened Courage,” writes:

 “What we call the mind is not really there at all. If it is truly something, it must have characteristics, such as color ... Or it must have shape like a pillar or a vase. It must be big or small, old or young, and so on. You can find out whether the mind exists or not, by just turning inwards and reflecting carefully. You will see that the mind does not begin or end or stay anywhere; that it has no color or form or is to be found neither inside nor outside the body. And when you see that, it does not exist as anything, you should stay in that experience without an attempt to label or define it.”

Focusing on your awareness helps you cut through your overflowing distractions, noise, and “mental cramps.”

When you’re stuck and in a state of not knowing what to do, practice turning your attention inwards.

Notice your awareness “behind the scenes.”

No matter how negative, depressing, or dispiriting, just notice how you’re aware of every thought and feeling you’re experiencing. There you may find your fears and ego causing trouble. 

And it’s a relief, as you learn to deeply focus on your awareness, to discover that your mind can have more space, potential, and life than you know. 

Be more aware of your awareness. Meditate. Visualize. It gives you the essential open spaces you need that helps you think more clearly. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Curing Insomnia

As people face problems or trauma, it’s common for them to have difficulty sleeping, in varying degrees. When chronic, that’s when health complications and illnesses arise.

Insomnia (inability to sleep well, inadequate sleep) is caused by either physical (eg. having cancer) or psychological (eg. depression, loneliness, major loss) factors, or both.

As a psychotherapist, a “keeper” of other people’s secrets and problems, sleep can also be a real challenge. I find my self with moments of staying late, thinking or praying for people I try to help heal.

Author Dr. Andrew Saul, a natural therapeutics consultant, prescribes natural means to cure the problem of insomnia or sleeplessness.

•  Have daily exercise, 30 to 60 minutes.

•  Eliminate stimulants like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine.

• Take doses of Niacin (Vitamin B3) and/or Lecithin before sleep (avoid sleeping pills that have known side effects). Melatonin is also recommended.

•  Eat bananas and drink milk, have a warm shower before sleep.

•  Read for awhile to improve relaxation before bed.

•  Make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillows to help you have a restful sleep.

•  Remove anxious thoughts and feelings while lying in bed. 

•  Get fresh air. Open the window if you need to.

•  Prayer and meditation calm the mind.

“For He gives His beloved, sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

Of course, medical problems like arthritis, restless leg syndrome, snoring, cancer, among others, can cause insomnia. Consult a doctor to properly manage them.

As medical or physical causes are ruled out, you then move to addressing psychological, emotional, and spiritual causes. See a therapist or counselor, especially when your sleeplessness has become severe.

Harvard Medical School, in its mental health newsletter, says:  

“Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health.”

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Switch Off The Autopilot and Fly Free

Humans are creatures of habit. Habits are either good or bad. They can be constructive or destructive, nurturing or not, of your personal growth.

Once your habits have been developed, they naturally turn autopilot. You just think, feel, or do them even without noticing or being aware of them.

Bad, unhelpful habits that have become autopilot are the ones that cause you and others to have problems. Do take note, for instance, that you may have the same automatic responses in specific situations.

I’m reminded of a fellow psychology student in the university who was annoyed with a new classmate, without realizing exactly why. He’d avoid her, snub her, or put her down in class discussions. 

People can be addicted. Addiction is by nature habit-based. 

When a certain bad habit, such as drinking, drug use, pornography, gambling, overspending, feeling insecure or rage, is entrenched psychologically, one has become caged. A slave or prisoner of his own making.

These kinds of reactions and habits are usually driven by unconscious emotional conditioning. The conditioning is often negative. It’s based on fear, a need to protect the ego from perceived or imagined threats.

When taken to extremes, these autopilot habit reactions can turn to psychopathology. Serious problems in mental health, like obsessive compulsive disorders, panic anxiety, depressive states, and even personality disorders. 

To fly free, one with these life-damaging habits needs to learn to switch off the autopilot. You do that by first noticing the bad habits and patterns. Pay attention to the way you react and catch your self in the act of reacting.

When you notice the autopilot, mentally take a step back, and start asking your self, “What am I doing?” That could be a good beginning.

Switch off the autopilot and fly free!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Defining What is Boring

Steven Pressfield, one of my most favorite authors, once defined what is “boring.”

He writes, “Something that’s boring goes nowhere. It travels in a circle. It never arrives at its destination.”

“My impression is, you keep recycling the same things that never work in your relationship,” I told a married couple in a session a few weeks ago.

The wife asked, “Can you give an example doc of what is recycled that never work for us?” “Your husband just mentioned it awhile ago:  negativity,” I responded.

Daily, “negativity” dominates their talks and behaviors to each other. Outside their awareness, more likely, they do that. 

And it’s keeping their healing and marriage stuck. The same endlessly-repeating loop.

Addictions are like that too. Substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs. Rage. Sexual escapes. Financial overspending, materialism. Cyber-addiction. And a host of many others.

Repeated act, but no forward movement. No destination gets reached. It’s simply tedious, futile.

That’s what makes addiction, like boredom, a life of hell.

In both boredom and addiction, two primary qualities then apply, as Steven Pressfield put it:

1. They embody repetition without progress;
2. They produce incapacity as a payoff.

Boredom. Remember what it can do to your mental health.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Therapy and Motherhood

Therapy is like motherhood.

Odd, irregular metaphor? Let’s take a look.

On the day my youngest daughter, Angel, came out into the world, I was with her mother laboring for her birth.

My role as the father was merely supportive. I can’t help my wife give birth to Angel who’s inside her. No one can. 

Nature’s wisdom knows it’s a mother’s space alone. If I force it myself, it harms and pisses her off.

The act of psychotherapy is by definition like motherhood. 

As the mother bears in pain her child within her, so the patient in therapy groans to bring out something new from her pain.

The therapist and the mother are channels, not originators. They don’t create new life, they only bear and deliver it.

The new mother weeps in wonderment at the tiny miracle she holds in her breast. The new born came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her.

“Thank you doc, we got much better now!” says a wife after months of therapy with her husband, recovering from the devastation of infidelity.

I’d say, “It’s you and the invisible!”

When a couple in emotional pain finds healing and “new birth” in their relationship in therapy, it came out of the therapist but not from him, through the therapist but not of him.

When we see it this way, we revere heaven. The mother and the therapist and your healing life are watched over by a Higher Power, the actual originator.

If your life is a mess, has suffered loss or trauma, ask your self like a birthing mother: 

What good do I feel breathing inside me amid the pain?  

How do I nurture my self to bear this potential new life  awaiting release?

In what ways do I set and align my self at the service of the Higher Power, to successfully bring forth this new life into the world?

Monday, October 07, 2019


Van Gogh, a Dutch famous artist, produced one masterpiece after another. Yet no one bought or noticed his art during his lifetime. No one validated him and his work.

He had a magic: he still kept going even without other people’s validation and recognition. 

Struggling though he may be with his mental health, he was able to bring himself to self-validate when it comes to his talent and do his art for its own sake.

An individual who defines himself through people’s attention or approval finds himself moving solely to please others. 

He acts to please, dresses to please, talks to please, feels and thinks to please those outside of him.

A psychologically healthy person does not allow the words or actions of others to define his reality. 

Tomorrow morning, his critics or rejecters will be gone, and he’ll still be there facing his life, choices, and relationships alone.

Have you experienced rejection and invalidation? From your parents? ... Siblings? ... Friends? ... Spouse? ... Children? ...  Boss? ... Strangers? 

From whoever, nothing matters but your self-validation.

Building your “supplies from within,” as you endeavor to survive and thrive whenever, wherever you are. 

Validate your self. At the end of the day, you are your longest companion and commitment. 

Saturday, October 05, 2019

The Mind of Joker

“Psychologic, intense, dark,” says a reviewer of the out-of- the-box psychological thriller movie, “JOKER.”

The film depicts the interplay of mental illness, self delusion, violent behavior/abuse, and social injustice in a person’s psychological/emotional/behavioral/moral state.

Throughout watching the movie, I found my self at the edge of the seat a number of times. My response was empathy - trying to put myself in the shoes of “Arthur” in the movie.

He was raised by a psychopathological, mentally insane mother. Abandoned by his father since childhood, Arthur grew up in poverty, loneliness, and self-abuse. 

One can gasp in shock how the world had treated Arthur. The society or environment where he was rejected, hurt, and bullied him. Hit him, trashed him.

No wonder, a lot of lies, “fake news,” about life and his sense of self got injected into his brain - from home early on in his life and from outside, those around him.

This sad back story really shows us the birth of the Joker. He laughed, smiled, cried, and even gave intense glares full of wounded emotion and meaning.

It portrays to us the psychological making of a deadly psycho. Arthur has turned into a deceitful criminal. The victim is now the victimizer. 

Arthur, the “Joker,” deserves to be locked away in jail or a mental hospital for life. He deserves to be punished for the murders he committed against humanity.

Yet also, nothing can stop us from thinking and remembering about Arthur the Joker’s detrimental childhood, the abuses inflicted on him by society, and the deep pain he suffered as a human being. 

These twin realities in the film shake us to the core.

JOKER” is the story of a broken man. A personal tragedy. Somewhat Shakespearean.

It’s about what happens to a broken man in a broken environment where he’s not supported, loved or accepted, and helped to heal and be whole.

Secrets of Your Self:

Friday, October 04, 2019

Do Nothing!

Society is obsessed with work. It treats work as virtue itself. Or, even a “highest good.”

We’re culturally conditioned, mostly, to treat work as the whole of life rather than just one part of it.

Spoken or unspoken, we’ve been trained more to live to work instead of work to live.

That training gets us to feel guilty of or suppress leisure, relaxation, or just doing nothing.

Bertrand Russell, explaining in his essay “In Praise of Idleness,” writes:

“The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he suddenly becomes idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure, a man is cut off from many of the best things ... “

The philosopher offers a takeaway here. He is implying that leisure, doing nothing, can lead to the best things in life.

A CEO media entrepreneur, William, takes a long break and vacation from daily business, doing nothing. 

In a recent session, he shared specifically that his “idleness” has helped him heal from his personal problems and grow better. It makes him a more productive CEO!

In a psychological research on “Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing,” Andrew Smart makes a strong case for spending more time idle.

He writes, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness ... Being idle may be the only real path to self-knowledge.”

So, it’s ok, take that walk, take that trip, take that nap, doing nothing.

You’ll be better after.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” offered Jesus to all. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Secrets of Your Self:

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Get a Thick Skin!

People have often worried about what people do or say about them,  since time immemorial. It’s a common type of worry.

Such worry weakens people in the face of rejection or outside opinion. It predisposes them to unnecessary fears and low levels of performance.

Even gifted, talented people struggle with this. 

My teenage patient, Don, for instance, is a child prodigy in piano and music composition. One time, he posted a piece in Facebook where he got some criticism or disapproval.

In reaction to that, Don withdrew. He got depressed and enraged during our sessions. He became too demoralized to be able to continue on with his creative process. 

One cure for him: Get a thick skin!

Merriam-Webster defines “thick skin” as the “ability to keep from getting upset or offended by the things other people say or do.”

A thick skin gets you to put your best self out there and worry less about what people think or say.

It gives you serenity to thrive. As Marcus Aurelius put it, “The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.”

That is not to say you should avoid feedback. You should welcome it. It’s about growth. But differentiate it from malicious criticism, which is aimed to break you down.

In any case, use feedback or criticism to fuel your own momentum to create more in your life. Redirect the energy to get you going and be more positively productive.

You can only do that when you develop a thick skin. If you want to have your best life or perform publicly, you need to grow a thicker skin.

Get one now!

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Little Foxes

Once, I watched on TV the Filipino president PRRD being “rescued” while making an important public speech.

A lady presidential guard had to step in while in the middle of his speech to kill an enemy that attacked his shoulder: a large cockroach.

Yes, it’s cockroach! Cockroaches are everywhere. They propagate fast.

They hide in tiny gaps or spaces to incubate and pay humans a visit even during unexpected moments, to wreak havoc on their health or property.

I’m reminded of Song of Songs 2:15 where king Solomon named another troublesome creature. He writes of “little foxes” that destroy or ruin the vineyards.

Metaphorically, in psychotherapy and life recovery, we’re hunting “little foxes” that damage a person’s life and relationships. 

Keeping these “little foxes” out of our vineyard can be pretty much like dealing with bad habits, dysfunctions, self-sabotage or addictions in our lives.

Therapy aids in catching those “little foxes.”

Steven Pressfield, a noted writer, puts it in another way and speaks of inner “resistance.” It’s produced in us when we don’t pay attention or miss necessary catching.

“Resistance is a universal enemy fighting against all of us. Resistance appears when we try to realize our dreams, just like shadows appear with the sun,” writes Pressman.

What “little foxes” you may be having now that makes you resistant? Are you catching those  “little foxes” to save or defend your life?

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Vitamin Cure for Depression

As a psychotherapist, I’d worked with a considerable number of people who were chronically depressed. A number of them were suicidal. 

Almost always, before they saw me, many of them had consulted a psychiatrist who prescribed them with pharmaceutical or synthetic drugs.

Quite a number of them realized eventually that the drug given to them were addicting and had unwanted side effects on their physical as well as mental health.

As Dr. Abraham Hofer, MD, PhD, put it:  “Drugs make a well person sick. Why would they make a sick person well?”

Based on his 55 years of psychiatric practice and research, Dr. Hofer found out that drug-only cure rates for depression are only a measly, insignificant 10%.

Now, do you know that you can cure depression naturally without these harmful drugs?

Dr. Andrew Saul, author of the widely acclaimed book “Doctor Yourself:  Natural Healing That Works,” remarks that Vitamin C Mega dosage nutrition can save your life (

“Physicians giving large doses of Vitamin C have had striking success in reversing depression. It is remarkably safe and inexpensive approach to try.”

(See also: Niacin-

Actress Margot Kidder said it so well too, “You can fix your brain with nutrition.”

With deep work in psychotherapy and physical brain nutrition using Vitamin C and Niacin, it’s hard to go wrong.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Men in Therapy

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov,” the grand inquisitor made a remark about men.

He says that men have always wanted “magic, mystery, authority.”

Throughout human history, men have been culturally conditioned to be tough, unemotional, and performance-oriented.

“This is me. How in the world can I change my self to being more emotional as my wife demands?,” said Ramon, who likes guns and motorcycles, during one of our sessions. 

His wife, mostly, kept on sobbing. 

After multiple sessions and self disclosures, Ramon broke down. Filled with tears, that just kept flowing.

His wife said it’s a first time he saw her husband showed any soft emotions with her. After 30 years of marriage! 

Ramon later shared it was very liberating to him. 

Men hide. Their real selves. They do it by creating a placebo effect to inspire awe: tough exteriors, money or cars, power plays, or sexual conquests.

Therapy is understandably alien and frightening to men. They’re burdened with primary anxiety when brought to Therapy.

It’s highly unlikely that they’ve been in relationships with lots of feelings and examining their nuances, no holds barred, need for full disclosures.

I know the male bias, unintentionally though it may be. And I’ve found very helpful to focus on the one thing to help heal a man in therapy during sessions - the relationship between him and me.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

12 Steps of Life Recovery

Stephen Arterburn, a well known author, counselor, and founder of the widely acclaimed New Life Live radio broadcast, has a very helpful “The Twelve Steps of Life Recovery.”

Before my pre-professional days, I underwent almost 2 years of a group program using these therapeutic 12 steps. 

Take a deep look at each step of these 12 steps. They’re an important “map” for you in your quest for life recovery and wholeness.

Here they are:

1.  We admitted we were powerless over our problems and that our lives had become unmanageable. 

2.  We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

3.  We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God. 

4.  We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 

5.  We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 

6.  We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

7.  We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

8.  We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 

9.  We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. 

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out. 

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Dream, Dream, Dream!

  Dream. I have one.
  Just last night.

  It’s about me and my 
  friend. I was a little 
  boy. So glad I had a 
  friend who’d always 
  walk by me.

  Through thick and 
  thin. Through the 
  sunshine. Or, the 

  One time, my friend 
  was nowhere. And I 
  became anxious. I’d 
  get a lot of support from him when he’s around. But now he’s absent.

That’s when I saw a bright light before me. Should I stare at the sun? 

I knew then it was time to learn to grow better when alone.

Life is a dream.

Sometimes you have good days. Sometimes, bad days. 

It does help when you have a friend by your side as you go through those days.

But essentially, you are alone. You are born into this world alone and you die alone, like everybody else.

That reminds you of the importance of seeing life as like a dream. 

It’s easy to take everyday life too seriously. To become weighed down by the necessities of life and paying the bills.

To see things like a dream encourages you to lighten up. Not to take everything too personally.

Everything keeps moving and changing, like in a dream. You can’t get hold of reality and keep it still. You can’t control it. It never stops moving. 

The impermanent nature of life and reality can make you feel afraid. Insecure. Resistant.

But there’s no need to react in this way towards the endless churning of impermanence in our existence. 

You can use your mind and soul to get creative. Through your imagination. By looking at everything as a dream.

Writer John Loori says, “The creative act expresses our inherent perfection, and enlarges the universe by making visible the invisible.”

If everything can be like a creative dream, then you can follow the dreams of your soul, not remain stuck, and create something new.

Dream, dream, dream.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
— Dr. Wayne Dyer

Karma is a Hindu or Buddhist concept. It’s also very Christian, “what you sow so shall you reap.”

It’s thousands of years old principle in human life. And simply put, it’s what you do and put out into the world that comes back to you. Everything you do comes back to you - whether it’s good or bad. 

Karma has tremendous application in therapy and life for the “healing of the mind.” It’s simply the cause and effect that drives the cycle of change. 

One’s present predicaments or persisting problems are often closely linked to the experience of private karma. 

And ... its undetected effects on one’s well being and relationships over a significant course of time.

Notice your feelings about karma in all your moments of life. These feelings are the ones that drive the way you think, feel, and behave.

Take for instance, Bobby, 35. His karma is finally catching up on him, reaching a threshold.

His years of drug addiction have now caused unnecessary deep pain and sufferings - linked to both his worsening medical condition and broken family situation.

His doctors diagnosed him with a certain type of cancer related to his drug use. 

And his wife and children have abandoned him for physically, emotionally, and financially abusing them.

Every action you take is meaningful. Every choice you make has a consequence. You can’t escape the consequences of your choices and actions.

The thoughts and feelings that produce those choices and actions create an interconnected web that inevitably shapes your life. 

Life is a boomerang. What you give, you get. So says one inspirational poster.

So the earlier you realize how karma plays out inescapable consequences in you, the better you’d be in making every choice or action to build your life and relationships on.