Believe in Yesterday

Psychologists have been re-discovering nostalgia. They claim it can have therapeutic mind-opening benefits.

As the Beatles sang long ago, “Yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away … Oh I believe in yesterday …”

I’d met a married couple years ago who were both threatening suicide. Due to the pains they’re experiencing in their marriage.

How could they be lifted out of that?

We used nostalgia, among others, during sessions. Visioning. Revisiting their past.

I asked them to think of their love theme song, the times they first met, the long-ago dates they had when they felt most loving and romantic towards each other.

Both also reminisced about the many wacky, fun times they had with their children when they were growing up.

Fortunately, their nostalgia trip remedied enough their joint suicidality!

We’re then able to work together on the deeper issues of their relationship.

Psychologist Tim Wildschut once observed that nostalgia can foster “feelings of connection” between people.

Even if they’re just confined to one person’s mind.

He told Psychology Today, “You revisit old relationships, bring people closer, and for a moment, it’s as if they’re there with you.”

I once emceed a high school reunion with my batch mates where all we talked about were our after-school hang outs, parties, favorite songs, and crushes.

How energized and vitalized the reunion was through nostalgia!

Everyone felt young again in the mind!

Memory can affect the mind to heal.

Those stuck in the negative effects of their present lives can focus on memories that cast the present in positive light.

“Nostalgia seems to stabilize people, to be a source of comfort and reassurance,” says University of North Dakota State psychologist Clay Routledge.

Manny’s lonely childhood

On the outside, Manny’s childhood was rich. He seemed to have everything. Wealthy parents. Status. Intelligence. Good looks. First-born. All he needs and wants, he gets.

But actually, most of his childhood was hell.

“Dad let Mom (a successful businesswoman) rule the house. She’s demanding and rock-hard authoritarian,” said Manny during session.

He added with a sigh, “My Dad, who’s a noted doctor, was aloof and unaffectionate. God, I was so lonely!”

Manny and his brother never had family times and fun with Mom and Dad. They almost wouldn’t talk during meals or travels all their years. They’re more like dorm mates.

“My parents just provided. I wish they had the humanity to hug me, touch me, talk to me, be loving. But no, they’re both cold, aristocratic, aloof and smart at anything,” he lamented.

When I asked further about his emotions, Manny felt he might as well have been a zombie.

After sharing about his feelings and thoughts on his childhood, Manny was left with no doubts how, where, and why he became a Zombie himself!

A zombie to his wife. A zombie to his children. A zombie among his acquaintances and work mates. A zombie towards all his relationships.

Manny’s healing started when he fully understood the nature and dynamic of how he was programmed to be a Zombie like his parents.

Something interesting happened in my sessions with Manny thereafter. At some point.

As he experienced emotionally (not merely informationally) how he adopted his parents’ ways, he smiled a lot.

He learned to understand himself better. He learned to understand his parents too without condemning them. He developed compassion for himself, his Mom and Dad.

Manny also learned there is no more emotional need to cling to his false Zombie exterior. It’s not really him any more than it is his parents’ as he saw where they came from.

Freeing at last.

New Mental Health Crisis of Teenagers

Just awhile ago, a distressed mother texted me.

It’s about her 17-year-old son whom she brought to see me for therapy.

She said that her son, a former honor student, has withdrawn from school.

He is now spending countless hours just watching YouTube videos daily at home.

CNN 2018 edition reported on “Smartphones: New Teen Mental Health Crisis.”

It’s based on a recent study published by the American Medical Association.

It investigated the link between digital addiction and the mental health of thousands of teenagers.

The study found a “statistically significant association.”

Teenagers who are heavily addicted to digital devices are more likely to become prone to psychiatric problems, according to the study.

The researchers examined mental consequences of digital diversions.

These include social media, streaming video, text messaging, music downloads, and online chat rooms.

Teens with digital addiction showed psychopathology symptoms.

Among symptoms identified are brain ADHD or patterns of severe inattention, hyperactive behavior, and impulsiveness that interferes with functioning or development.

Treatment options include:

• psychotherapy involving cognitions, emotions, and behaviors;
• parental boundaries and discipline
• home logistical tech arrangement
• medications or natural brain foods;
• play or arts;
• school accommodations;
• spirituality;
• peer groups

Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a mental dysfunction. In psychology, it’s referred to as a personality trait hyperfocused on flawlessness and perfect performances.

A young patient, Dina, was a scholar in the university. Her life has been an endless report card on grades, accomplishments, and looks.

One evening, Dina was rushed to the hospital by her father. Her sister found her slumped on the floor of her room with bloody cuts on the wrists.

She tried to end it all. That time, she could no longer keep up with her grades due to severe social anxiety.

What makes perfectionism toxic is its negativity. It’s overly anxious on avoiding failure, mistakes, and messes … an impossibility in reality.

Even if you express love to a perfectionist after some misses, it isn’t enough comfort. The perfectionist is way too dependent or conditional on performance to feel loved.

Psychology Today magazine explains,

“There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. The need for perfection is transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, remember that “you are good enough.” You are worthy as you are because you exist.

You don’t have to prove your value to anyone, even to yourself. God has already placed that value on you and your life.

“Perfection is an illusion. Yet perfectionists demand it from others while being far from flawless themselves. The margin of error of the human condition is often our greatest area of excellence and discovery,” reminds writer Stewart Stafford.

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.