The Soul of Adulthood

This is a key psychological truth: struggle is good.

When you don’t have to struggle, you don’t heal and grow up. It’s the “soul” of maturity and adulthood.

Many times in therapy, individuals demand quick fixes amid the high drama of their lives. They avoid the pain of struggle. Those who become successful in this only prolongs their misery.

Rowena is spoiled, smothered, and coddled as a child. Her Mom does every basic chore for her, removing all comfort roadblocks from her path.

Now at 30, Rowena refuses to leave home. Her Mom likes doing things for her. Since home is an only place where she “runs the show,” she failed to learn the value of struggle.

Rowena is unable to leave home. She wants to continue studying in a university and receive allowances from Mom. She doesn’t want a job. She can’t.

In my own sessions with Rowena, she said that life feels cruel and depressing to her. She felt trapped in a fantasy world and emotional prison she could not understand.

Joining Rowena in therapy is her Mom. Over time, she realized the part she played, allowing Rowena to bargain, manipulate her, and pretty much run the show.

Mom just kept playing the game of “no struggle” for her child all these years. But now, she’s healing her self. She begins to address her own childhood shortage rather than continue projecting it to Rowena.

I’m reminded of one psychologist who said, “Struggle is easier when you’re not unconsciously controlled by the ghosts of your own past.”

Struggle is good. Without optimal doses of it, there is no growth and life. No reason to exist. No sense of accomplishment.

Welcome struggle!

Instead of running away from it, you embrace it. Through struggle, you grow up to be healthy and balanced.

A Better Way to Heal Your Father Wound

Noted author Gail Sheehy once wrote, “The lack of loving, respectful relationships with their fathers is one of the greatest tragedies males suffer.”

How about you? Was your father emotionally close to you?

Let me share with you an emerging new power.

Fatherhood can heal. As men learn to be involved Dads, they exert important effects on the emotional well being of their children.

And, by extension, on their own emotional and mental health.

One spots this truth on Nick. He repeatedly expressed a sentiment during our sessions: “I want to be a good father to my two children. I don’t want to have a relationship with my kids that I had with my own father.”

Nick knows. He wants it so much between himself and his children. Rather than be seen by his kids as a remote, controlling disciplinarian, he desires them to see him as kind, trustworthy, and dependable.

“Fathering is one of men’s greatest opportunities for personal transformation,” says Dr. William Pollack, assistant clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

I think Daddies are changing nowadays. A new-model Dad is on display inside malls. One carries his baby girl around his neck, her little hands, grasping his fingers. Masculinity redefined via reinventing fatherhood.

I’ve met men and women in my sessions countless times suffering from “father wound.” Quite a number struggle to heal and break the cycle. Warming up to their own children doesn’t come naturally for they never had a “hugging relationship” with their own fathers.

But almost all of them sense a level of need to reconnect with their children. Bridge the awkwardness with them. It’s a longing to repossess their own emotional lives largely shut down for most of their adulthood.

An effective way for psychologically wounded men to feel loved and needed and healed is to be a different Dad – a work-invested father without losing the chance for closeness with one’s children.

Indeed, significant studies on fatherhood affirm that being a success as a nurturing Dad is actually good for a man’s mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Feel that. Don’t miss it!

Conquering Vice

Yesterday, TV host Amy Perez of ABS CBN’s daily morning show Sakto, asked me, “Paano ba matitigil ang bisyo ng tao (alak, babae, sigarilyo etc) ngayong bagong taon?”

I responded in part, “Yung mga bisyo na meron ang tao ay sintomas lang, di pa sya yung sakit.”

The underlying, hidden roots that fuel vices are essentially psychological and spiritual. That’s where lies the key to new life … true, lasting change.

Isn’t this one truth we often miss amid inevitable challenges we face in life?

In my own life, I’ve traveled through several deserts. Family and marital trauma. Financial challenges. Abandonment and betrayal.

Each time, I got broken. Torn apart. My heart was such a wilderness.

Needless to say, I could easily had become an alcoholic, a womanizer, or some sort of addict. Like what multitudes of wounded people have become or done.

Yet something left me sane and resilient those desert times. Unaddicted. Not grasping “false medicine.” Devoid of life-damaging vices.

So what prods me on? What sustains me, through weeks and months and years of searing pain, in my own deserts?

It’s what’s underneath my deepest part and being: the pearl of great price. It’s the Star of Bethlehem.

To develop our best selves, we have two guides: internal and external.

Internal, of course, refers to renewal of the mind. Cleansing of the soul. At times, a need for appropriate therapy. And Scripture is the best, ultimate guide that lays the task for us very well.

External refers to how we fashion our life outside ourselves. Family relationships. Work. Choice of friends. Recreational activity.

Are your internal and external flowing well interdependently to lead you to a healthy lifestyle?

And so, as you start this new year, be ready to travel even through the desert (or deserts) of life.

Choose to live free of vices or “bisyo” with your best self – your body, mind, and soul – following the Star.

Celebrate the Process, Not the Result

A new year slogan says, “The best is yet to come!”

I like that. In my experience, and in the experience of a great many people, it can be true or inspiring a lot of times.

In my case, I’ve learned to just need to wait a while, get single-minded, probe more, take action more, to receive my best.

To receive the best that’s yet to come, here’s a well-proven tip: patience in the midst of process.

A broken-hearted, traumatized woman once asked me, “How long is therapy going to take to heal her pain of childhood abuse and rape?” She’s still receiving therapy for months for problems rooted in the terrible trauma of 20 years ago.

If you or someone is in the process of therapy, have patience. Healing from disease or injuries – whether physical or emotional – can take months, even years, especially when advanced. The best to come is one of deep-process healing and then strengthening for the future.

A major part of the process of psychological and spiritual healing is not only dealing with wounds from the past. It also involves acquiring skills, strategies, and new perspectives for facing the future in a healthy way. It calls for new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, behaving, and relating.

Don’t allow your self to be discouraged when your best life is not instantaneous. Individuals who are truly going to be healed from lingering emotional wounds are going to have to walk through a process that takes time.

Not only are you to be encouraged and steadfast in working through the process. But you are to be joyful that you’re on the way out! To freedom. To healing and wholeness. To your best life ever.

As Jeff Goins, one of my favorite writers, put it, “If you can celebrate the process, you can enjoy the outcome.” Measure the process, not the results.

This is critically important towards your way to “receive the best yet to come” in your life.

Keeping Hope Alive

Awhile ago, I read of Major F.J. Harold Kushner in New York Magazine. He was an American marine held by the Viet Cong for 5 1/2 years. Something happened to him:

“Among the prisoners in Kushner’s POW camp was a tough young marine, 24 years old, who had already survived two years of prison-camp life in relatively good health. Part of the reason for this was that the camp commander had promised to release the man if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with others, the marine turned into a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. As time passed, he gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold, he became a zombie. He refused to do all work, rejected all offers of food and encouragement, and simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks, he was dead.”

Famous author Philip Yancey says, “Kushner’s experience is a tragic, negative example of the need for some hope to live for.”

Can that happen to any one of us? Sure. I’ve seen this countless times in my therapy sessions. A loss of hope sickens the mind, heart, body, and soul.

As Dr. Carl Jung put it, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

But mind you, the loss of hope is gradual. Never overnight. It’s often imperceptible that you’re not conscious that it’s already happening to you. If you were, you’d stop the deadly disease.

The disease of hopelessness is like erosion. Silent. Never hurrying up. Slow but constant.

But the good news is, this disease is not terminal. It can be operated on, cured.

I have thought about this always. If you recall my previous sharings – both personally and professionally – a lot in this life would steal or take away our hope to move forward.

Hope and health are inseparably interconnected.

The medicine of hope is determination that refuses to quit when we encounter the pain that losses and sufferings bring into our lives. It must be worked though or else it remains a barrier to our health.

In the bestseller book, “The Road Less Traveled,” the author insightfully teaches us:

” … it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually … this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

Seeing This Life As It Really Is

“Nothing is yours forever.”

The money you have in the bank, your car or house, your business, even the family you have. You only “own” them while your heart still beats.

Think about it. The fact of life is, there is no real, lasting ownership.

Even your own life is not yours. You lose that someday too.

This is a hard truth for multitudes. For we live in a culture that constantly creates the illusion of ownership. We delude ourselves with the belief that we can’t be happy without owning or having.

I think of my life. Some future day, some quiet, heavily overcast morning, the sun rises again. But that day, I will be gone. Absent from my body.

Dust will settle on the books and study desk I love. Another will have the keys to my condominium I now carry … and withdraw money from my bank accounts … and fill my personal space with his or her own laughter and tears.

That’s reality for all of us. Painful and difficult as it may be to endure such thoughts – that’s basic fact, that’s sure and real!

Nothing is yours forever. There is no true ownership on this temporal earthly life.

I once worked on this reality with a Chinese multimillionaire. He was overly attached to his possessions, leading to unnecessary mental and physical health problems.

He was big on “owning.” When I laughed about it, he started healing!

This reality we’re talking about, I remind you, is a world from which most mentally and emotionally disturbed patients have escaped. They’ve become pathologically attached.

And its this reality to which they must return before health is redeemed.

Seeing reality, seeing this life as it really is, is unquestionably the healthiest place for you and I.

Your Extended “Gifts”

While the Christmas and New Year 2017 holidays are not over yet, it’s not too late to give extended “gifts.” To our selves. To others.

Possibly this may be your “gift” per day from here onwards.

Here are some suggestions for your extended “gifts:”

• Forgive one who hurt you, including an enemy.

• Smile a little. Then a little more. Till you laugh.

• Reduce your anxiety or demands on others.

• Converse warmly together without gadgets, phone, or TV.

• Do wash the clothes for Mommy or Daddy.

• Fix coffee or breakfast for someone you care about.

• Visit your grandparents with your cheers and gifts.

• Listen.

• Find the time to fulfill a promise.

• Express appreciation.

• Ask for forgiveness when you did wrong.

• Take a walk with your child.

• Learn the art of under-reacting.

• Enter into another’s grief.

• Speak kindly to someone you don’t know.

• Be gentle and patient with an angry or depressed person.

• Support to reconcile a broken relationship.

• Give hugs to people.

How about that?

Extended “gifts” to you and others! Sincerely. Lovingly. Without expecting anything in return.

That is mental health and wholeness, isn’t it?