Get Natural

Substantual evidences from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the International Society of Sport Psychology, and other authorities have declared a best natural anti-depressant.

Exercise.

I remember one of my clients who took up boxing in the gym after taking brain drugs for a time. She reported that her exercise made her feel far better than all the psych drugs she took combined!

In dozens of clinical studies, exercise is proven to have superior supportive psychotherapeutic benefits. A repellant against depression and negativity, such as fear, worry, anger and tension.

Practiced regularly, exercise (aerobic or nonaerobic) helps bring better self esteem, enhanced mental and emotional performance, and resilience against stress.

Exercise “natural anti-depressant” may include: power walking, jogging, running, swimming, basketball, football, boxing, dancing, even gardening and housework.

Of course, a rule is do it safely and don’t overdo it to avoid unnecessary injury. Also, don’t try to expect to heal your emotional wounds overnight through exercise.

Major depressives in exercise programs spend their time too in psychotherapy. That goes to the internal roots to permanently keep the blues at bay.

Personally and professionally, I love daily power walks. At times, running. To exorcise my own demons! My own bodywork to free my mind so I can be of better help to others.

I like Henry David Thoreau, who writes:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend 4 hours a day at least … sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

Courage Heals

Courage was a big thing for Mother Teresa. She said, “To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.”

It’s essential to the meaningful attainments she made in her life –serving as a missionary against “injustice among the poor” in India.

Wounded souls. That’s how we may describe the inner state of individuals after suffering injustices in their personal lives and relationships.

Standing up to these personal injustices and wounds requires courage. Overcoming fear in order to heal. In order to be able to do what gives life.

For years, Maria, a 16-year-old high school girl, received abusive, name-calling text messages. She was pushed around at school. She avoided places in her school in fear for her safety.

Finally, she broke down. She could no longer bring herself to continue attending classes. Her grades dropped. She suffered from panic anxiety attacks, lack of sleep, and stress headaches.

Her mother brought her to me. She lamented, “My daughter has become emotionally crippled. It takes all my energy to get her out of the car and ‘go over there.’ ”

To get well, Maria needs a healthy dose of courage. Against injustices and its perpetrators.

It’s not for her own good that she allows her self to be humiliated and shamed in school. To do so only harms her psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“Be men of courage; be strong,” the Bible says (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Courage matters.

It helps us correct injustices and wrongs. It gives us power over risk and its associated fears. It leads us to be better persons, spouses, parents, children, friends and citizens.

Crying Without Shame

Dina seemed incapable of receiving compliments. In our “chit chat” during session, after I’d affirmed her accomplishments and good looks, she started avoiding eye contact by staring at the floor or holding her self tightly.

As the session progressed, Dina got more defensive. She’d suspect rather quickly that I thought negatively of her, even with a simple greeting or smile.

Perhaps she may had felt, if only I’d tell her the truth, it would confirm how bad she really feels about her self.

As I had time to think about our session, I surmised that I had come too close to Dina … too close to uncovering what’s shame-prone inside her.

Her emotional demeanor was that of unexpected, untimely exposure. And then, fear or expectations of more exposure.

According to psychologists Drs. James Harper and Margaret Hoopes, shame is related primarily to a feeling of inferiority in individuals, families, and groups.

In contrast to guilt (evaluation of behavior), shame is an emotion in response to negative evaluation of one’s self or being.

Drs. Harper and Hooper further commented,

“Everyone has experienced shame. Yet there is a vast difference between a person having a shameful experience and a person having a shame-prone identity. In fact, some degree of shameful experience is unavoidable and even helpful when people relate to each other, but shame-proneness is always devastating.”

Dina’s shame had a source from which she has to heal. She based her identity on an accumulation of the shame of rejection and abuse she had experienced from her Mom since early childhood.

She had internalized her Mom’s attitudes of her as “bad me.”

As an adult and mother herself, Dina projected her “bad me” on everyone that had contact with her. This includes her husband and four children.

In my work with her, even with seemingly benign questions, this “bad me” always got in the way of her seeing and healing her injured self.

Part of Dina’s healing from her shame is accepting the wounded child within her. As she takes steps to free this part of her, other pieces would surface.

Such new living with wholeness also involves knowing and embracing Someone much greater/better than her self … and her Mom.

If truth is told, under these conditions, you can experience a “healing cry without the shame.”

What happened to Vincent?

What happened to Vincent?

Somewhere in the 1890s, this extremely artistic nonconformist painter shared his interior canvass, “The sadness will last forever.”

Later, at age 37, he was believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died in the evening 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself.

Few know of Vincent’s spirituality despite his psychological state. Around age 30, he had a Christian conversion and was known to read the Bible and sing worship songs.

He found inspiration in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and Thomas a Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ.”

You read his biography and you discover that he has had life deforming disappointments of all sorts. He was alone. He was a victim, got wounded, and in need of special care.

Yet he got injured, rejected, and betrayed by a lack of response in the church. Instead of being taken cared of, he was shot by the very people who were supposed to be instruments for his healing.

It’s a pattern I have often seen.

Like others, Vincent sought to be whole and serve God and then got hurt. Right after, he stopped trying. He stopped growing and focusing his spiritual and psychological lens.

Vincent’s story also confirms that life is meant to be lived and healed in a community taking the high road of support, encouragement, and unconditional love.

Vital Self Care

Self-Care is vital. You miss or neglect it, you break down. You get ill. You experience unhappiness.

There are known effective ways or strategies to maintain self-care. I’m thinking of some specifics below where we may need to actively work on to improve and maintain our self-care.

Assess and get ready to better self-care.

Physical Self-Care:

* Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner)
* Eat healthy
* Exercise
* Get regular medical care for prevention
* Get medical care when needed
* Take time off when needed
* Get massages
* Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
* Take time to be sexual with your spouse.
* Get enough sleep
* Wear clothes you like
* Take vacations
* Take day trips or mini-vacations
* Make time away from telephones and gadgets

Psychological Self-Care:

* Make time for self-reflection
* Have your own personal psychotherapy
* Write in a journal
* Read literature that is unrelated to work
* Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
* Decrease stress in your life
* Let others know different aspects of you
* Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
* Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibit, 
sports event, auction, theater performance
* Practice receiving from others
* Be curious
* Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Self-Care:

* Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
* Stay in contact with important people in your life
* Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself
* Love yourself
* Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies
* Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
* Allow yourself to cry
* Find things that make you laugh
* Express your outrage in social action, letters and donations, marches, protests
* Play with children

Spiritual Self-Care:

* Make time for reflection
* Spend time with nature
* Find a spiritual connection or community
* Be open to inspiration
* Cherish your optimism and hope
* Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
* Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
* Be open to not knowing
* Identify what in meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
* Meditate
* Pray
* Sing
* Spend time with children
* Have experiences of awe
* Contribute to causes in which you believe
* Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

Work Self-Care:

* Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch)
* Take time to chat with co-workers
* Make quiet time to complete tasks
* Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
* Set limits with your clients and colleagues
* Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
* Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
* Get regular supervision or consultation
* Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise)
* Have a peer support group
* Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest
* Strive for balance within your work-life and workday
* Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest

Love People, Not Things

Every human being is designed to love and be loved. Things are designed to be used. A big reason why much in our relationships are in chaos is because we use people and things are ones loved by us.

I’ve once a married couple in therapy that lasted for about a year. Both of them came from very wealthy families. Their lives together is laced with separate businesses, bank accounts, and managed properties. They “profit” from each other’s ventures.

In my working with them in our sessions, I could not be sure if marriage is truly the best word to describe their relationship. You see, since marriage, they never “dated.” Sex stopped for decades. They lived their lives as if they’re co-dorm mates.

Until one day. The wife discovered her husband having affairs with multiple women. One of them was housed in one of their condominium properties. Their world crashed. And both of them declared they still “love” each other.

It’s a deep mess. The unfaithful husband apologized for his betrayal. He assured his wife that he was letting go of the other women. And he agreed to his wife’s requirement for them to go through personal and marital therapy.

Both of their lives had not been easy despite their families’ affluence. They told me repeatedly of tales of abandonment, the drugs, the alcohol, and the lonely nights that define their past. They speak of dysfunction  freely of their families of origin. It was as much a part of their story as what happened to them in their relationship.

In therapy, they developed emergent awareness and honesty. When they’d learned to be honest, they’d become aware that much of their relationship with each other is focused on “things.” They used each other to increase these “things.” And in the course of doing so, they missed each other’s persons.

Indeed, our pockets may be full. But our hearts are empty. Love people, not things. It’s the path to better living, your best self and relationships ever.

Visiting Vincent Van Gogh

Consider what happened to Vincent Van Gogh.

Somewhere in the 1890s, this extremely artistic nonconformist painter shared his interior canvass, “The sadness will last forever.”

Later, at age 37, he was believed to have shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died in the evening 29 hours after he supposedly shot himself.

Few know of Vincent’s spirituality despite his psychological state. Around age 30, he had a Christian conversion and was known to read the Bible and sing worship songs. He found inspiration in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and Thomas a Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ.”

What happened to Vincent? you may ask.

You read his biography and you discover that he has had life deforming disappointments of all sorts. He was alone. He was a victim, got wounded, and in need of special care.

Yet he got injured, rejected, and betrayed by a lack of response in the church. Instead of being taken cared of, he was shot by the very people who were supposed to be instruments for his healing.

It’s a pattern I have often seen. Like others, Vincent sought to be whole and serve God and then got hurt. Right after, he stopped trying. He stopped growing and focusing his spiritual and psychological lens.

Vincent’s story also confirms that life is meant to be lived and healed in a community taking the high road of support, encouragement, and unconditional love.