When Kittens Become Cats

The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.”

In many ways, we could say the same thing about our children.

When my daughter Angel was 3 up, she was cute, cuddly, soft and small.

Now that she’s older and bigger, I still love her just as much.

But she’s become so independent. And … isn’t quite as small or cuddly anymore!

I could say somewhat the same thing about her brother Paul and sister Christine, who are now young adults.

They’re former kittens, now developing cats!

As a father, time does keep slipping, slipping, slipping on me. And I’ve to admit that I’m not as young as I used to be.

A few days ago, I was in session with a Mom (along with her husband) who’s still calling her son “babe.”

Her son is almost 25, still dependent on her in all basic things.

It’s obvious that as we parent our children, we’re called to develop as adults as well.

This means, we need to be aware of appropriate developmental paths as time slips by.

My fathering my 3-year-old Angel, for instance, has to be far different from my fathering her in her teenage years.

I admit it’s tough for me to be a father of a teenager. And it is not easier for my daughter Angel.

At this point, she may literally be “not all there.”

Yet she needs my love and support to grow in certain areas, such as impulse control, judgment, and ability to face consequences.

This is “age-appropriate” parenting. For our kids’ mental health and overall wellness.

To do that, we parents need to be relatively functioning adults, while we’ve the opportunity.

For time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping …

Freedom from Self-Lies

Engraved on the front of a building are these words: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

People who pass by that place look at those words many times. In fact, they originated from the Scriptures.

But we can’t be sure if people who read them really believed they’re true.

Therapy is truth work.

It’s a brave, disciplined effort to face one’s self-lies. And how truths can equip one to fight them.

Alan was over 300 pounds. He’s a food addict.

Doctors repeatedly tell him the truth that his overeating will ruin his health and make him unhappy.

Yet he kept eating too much even though it makes him miserable. He knew he had a problem he needed to change. But … did nothing to change it.

Eventually, Alan’s self-lies led to multiple surgeries. His pain worsened – physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually.

He’s unable to be free to be his best self because he did not apply truth in his situation.

He hanged on to ways of acting and thinking even though they’re self-destructive.

Dr. Chris Thurman of Minirth-Meier Clinics explained about “tapes we have in our heads.”

He wrote, “These tapes are ones that continually play either truth or lies that affect every action and thought. When your program is faulty because of the lies in it, the daily ‘data’ it analyzes will trigger the wrong responses.”

I’ve lots of truth-seeking patients.

I help them get rid of their self-lies in their “tapes.” And … replace them with the truth.

But I also remind them that they need to commit themselves to “practicing truth.”

There it is … the way to experience freedom to be your real self.

A Science-Backed Stress Reliever

There is robust scientific evidence establishing a scientific link between spirituality and mental health.

For example, a scientific and medical review of 148 published studies in 2002 with over 98,000 subjects sought to determine a connection between spirituality and mental health.

Here’s the authors’/researchers’ overwhelming conclusion: the more spiritual a person is, the greater the positive effects on his or her mental health.

Also, another study was published in the Journal of Aging and Health in 2009, with 800 enrolled subjects and 8 years follow up.

The researchers found that being spiritual and having church attendance gave people a stronger sense of purpose and lesser tendencies to depression.

The American Journal of Psychiatry backed this up with a 10-year landmark study in 2012, claiming that spirituality has a protective effect – 76% less risk to develop genetic or familial depression.

Noted Harvard psychologist, Dr. Gordon Allport, based on numerous scientific evidences and studies such as these, asserted that spirituality or faith is indeed a psychological necessity for mankind.

From the mental health perspective, spirituality gives a struggling or traumatized individual with supportive life-giving guidelines. To find meaning and direction for his or her existence.

The faith of a person is a science-backed stress reliever.

It allows one to weather all storms while exploring the healing of his or her deepest internal wounds that affect perspective and functioning.

Truly, spirituality is the most natural thing there is.

It’s simply your own conscious awareness of your self to be more than physical or material … that you’ve a soul where your real essence lies.

Who You Really Are When Alone

“Prison, I bless you!”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, noted author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” once wrote those lines while in jail, just before he won the Nobel Prize.

He was blessed in jail. In the agony, painful aloneness of imprisonment, he found God and his usableness to Him.

There is the paradox!

You can bless your problem. You can bless your wound. You can bless your loneliness.

Before my work as a psychotherapist, I felt I had wasted years. I was a troubled individual since youth. I credit my turnaround in life to my years of loneliness and self-healing.

As Dr. Calvin Miller put it, “Character itself is often the gift of aloneness.”

In the heaviness of a crisis, you can choose to like being alone. You cannot like yourself and know your gift unless you do spend time alone.

Possibly, like Solzhenitzyn, you’ll someday look back on a productive life and say, “Prison, I bless you!”

Great men and women all knew how to be alone. They knew how to celebrate who they are.

It’s small wonder that from aloneness came the Einsteins, the Gandhis, the Jobs, the Bezos, the Mandelas, the apostle Pauls of human history.

The quiet life is amazing. It’s full of treasures. It’s where you can find your depths, your confidence, direction, and self-worth.

Enduring trauma and healing from it is always lonely work. You can feel so alone. Yet paradoxically, it can profit you.

When you’re alone, that’s when you discover who you really are. And how you can be greater than ever before.

Impostor Syndrome

“I’m a fraud! After being a CEO of this food company and earning millions, I don’t think it’s my talent. I’m just lucky. I didn’t do it,” said Paul during one of our teary-eyed sessions.

Like most of us, Paul suffered from some painful aspects of self-doubt. He feared being found out. Psychologists call it the “Impostor Syndrome.”

The “impostor syndrome” is a psychological state that reflects a belief that one is an inadequate and incompetent failure. Such is despite obvious evidences of success or competency.

I’m comforted by this. For I too, like everyone else, feel waves of self-doubt on a regular basis. It comes through if I’m about to write a new book or blog post, meet a new client, or make a TV appearance.

It gets particularly bad when I procrastinate. It gets especially bad when I start thinking of comparing myself with other doctors and writers.

It seems inevitable that at certain points of our life’s journey, self-doubt will come along uninvited. For a ride. To our discomfort.

A solution? Welcome it! Understand it.

Writer Joanna Penn once observed, “In fact, if you don’t feel any doubt, there’s probably something wrong!”

When you feel that creeping “impostor syndrome,” acknowledge it. Don’t resist. Embrace the self-doubt as part of your growth process. Feel your feelings … then continue moving forward.

If you’re suffering badly from this and unable to improve, you possibly need to see a psychotherapist. Although friends can listen, there is usually a short shelf life for this kind of confession.

So, take deep breaths. And make sure you’re getting back to real life.

Are you mentally healthy?

Mental health is the absence of mental illness. It’s more than “normal” or “natural.”

Mental health comes from purpose, discipline, habits.

If you have the following qualities, you’re most likely a mentally healthy person:

• stable personality with no awkward unexplained moods

• self controlled, good nerves

• relaxes easily, sleeps well

• good self esteem: self assured, modest, guards self respect

• independent, personally responsible

• admits mistakes and imperfections

• moderate in all things

• communicates easily and respectfully

• lives in present moment

• takes good care of physical body

• able to have fun and laughter

• offers encouragement and appreciation

• unselfish, giving, sharing

• courteous, respectful language

• lives with faith and a definite purpose in life

• high tolerance for chaos, confusion, disorder when unavoidable

Take note: mental health is an inside job. You don’t get it from anything external!

My Art of Psychotherapy

Time passes swiftly. And I started late.

A desert of time to heal from trauma. The ending of a particular career. Entrance to a new calling. The maturation of children. Widowhood.

Then, freshly gained channels that permit expression of my “real” self. Bursting in recent years with previously unknown capacities.

It took me twenty or more years to realize that my prior years were not wasted or lost. It’s part of a grand plan to acquire special wisdom. To spur to grow. To be of greater use for others.

I feel good about being me. A personality in my “late blooming.” Somewhat arriving at fuller identity.

Nowadays, I’m a daily artist. My art is psychotherapy. I practice my art making sense of life experiences. I write about it, driven to understand the human condition.

My art of psychotherapy blends. The fusion of personal and professional dimensions affects me extraordinarily. My values. My lifestyle. My emotional stability.

Thus this work is not merely a way to earn a living. It has become the essence of my life. There are very, very few careers with this fruit of permeability.

It’s a best therapy ever. Possibly its most exciting facet is some heady sense of contribution to humankind. To a purpose greater than my own.

Every person I meet brings a prospect of a bright, beautiful painting. For revival. For redemption.

I do not do my art to get rich. I do it in order to live.

One masterpiece at a time. One life at a time.