Angel’s Poem

I sat with my 14-year-old daughter, Angel, a few days ago when she spoke of a poem she did in school. Her poem’s title lighted my face up — “Happiness and Sadness Are Twins.” Isn’t that title something deep and interesting to ponder on?

It is good that sometimes we experience sadness. Such experience protects us from the illusion that life is all bed of roses. Under trying circumstances, when we feel sad, we are compelled to see reality as it really is rather than sugarcoat it with a pretense of happiness.

I was amazed the first time I heard one of my patients, Nick, referred to himself as a loser. He felt so sad and dejected. But as I questioned him, I realized he had developed this self-opinion from very few isolated failures. He got locked in self pity.

As Nick progressed in his therapy, he became aware how much of the narcotic effect of constant happiness and comfort in him came largely from being “overspoiled” in the family. He was not exposed enough to what life is really like. So even infrequent loss or failure spelled damage to him already.

Happiness and sadness is the stuff of life. They are twins in the sense that they go together in all lives. Glory and pain always come bound together Therefore, to see life as it really is, we will have to resist the notion that we ought always to win. Sadness can be a powerful lesson that there is meaning inspite of loss.

At times, our lives are visited by darkness. Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Breakup. Remember then that all is not sadness. There could be an overwhelming happiness waiting on our patience. All temporary sadness or loss can be sustained with meaning in anticipation of a coming happiness or victory.

I agree with my daughter’s poem. Happiness and sadness are twins!

Distance is Dead!

Once, I had an emotionally-charged session with a foreign couple. Suddenly, the woman partner told me she’s moving back to her home country. She said she could not bear the infidelity of her man.

We were both disappointed. Sessions had been going well, but incomplete. No significant momentum yet.

Then, a few days after, she phoned me. She thought of a practical alternative – session via Skype. This provided her hope and continuity, which she needed a lot during that time. It’s like face to face too such as in traditional sessions.

The medium of video and voice conferencing through Skype then became instrumental for her eventual healing and stabilization – personally and relationally.

We do live in a different time now.

With the fast rise of Internet and technology, psychotherapy and other mental health services have been moving in with the times.

For the final sessions with this hurting couple, we did meet in person again, which felt like a more appropriate way to end the sessions.

Both the couple and myself felt “upbeat” and at ease. Such seemed to be a reflection of our Skype sessions at processing issues and maintaining therapist-patient relationship.

We commented that our face to face sessions did not feel that much different from our previous Skype sessions.

Overall, I think that being able to continue our sessions via Skype was incredibly useful for both the patient and me.

Distance was no longer an obstacle to heal. In both my and the couple patient’s opinion the therapy had been successful. Skype played a role in this.

The use Skype and other modern forms of distance communication technologies could improve access to psychotherapies for people living in remote areas or foreign countries.

It’s helpful to those who are busy traveling or working, those housebound, disabled, or bedridden.

In my observation and opinion, the role of online therapy delivery is going to expand and is likely to continue to do so due to people’s needs and our changing times.

Parenting Your Adult Child

Antonio is a 47-year old adult child of a rich family. His parents have been providing for him financially from childhood to adulthood, onwards.

He was kicked out of college twice, never held a job, and addicted to shabu and alcohol. Multiple times, his parents would bail him out of jail or debts incurred from his vices.

We parents all need to “see” our adult children as “adult” – not a little child or an adolescent. That means allowing our adult children to face responsibility and consequences in their lives.

As parents, we need to learn how to replace over-help with precise help – scary or painful it may be – to really help.

This tendency of parents to over-help is just a misperception. It is an old habit, but an important one to change. When you as a parent change your mind-picture of your adult children to their true age, it will be easier to avoid over-helping.

Because it’s a habit, it will take practice through time to change your “mental picture” of your adult child.

As you learn to cut strings and set realistic boundaries and consequences with your adult children, you help them grow and move forward in their lives.

The Germ of Blame

Blame. It’s people’s favorite pastime. Blame is, to point to someone or something to be responsible for something wrong or unfortunate that happened to you. As a result, you find your self feeling powerless or helpless.

Maria shared during our session that she spent a large portion of her life with a husband who has been long addicted to pornography and women. She chose to remain in the marriage because of the children and his financial support. Her focus for years was on blaming her husband for her unhappiness. As long as she could vilify him to friends and relatives, she did not see a need to take action. She spent nearly 20 years hurting and blaming her husband and circumstances.

Eventually, Maria and her husband separated. Her husband continued on with his addictions and extra-marital affairs. Do you want to guess what Maria did after the separation? She found a boyfriend who was a married man. After several months, her married boyfriend abandoned her for he could not completely commit to her and their relationship. This in turn wounded her again more severely, allowing her to blame this boyfriend for her predicament rather than be accountable for her choices and actions.

Blaming others can be comfortable and familiar. See, it’s their fault! Each time and in every circumstance where you blame others, you are reinforcing your belief that you are not responsible. Feeling the victim always, you get centered on your being helpless and powerless. People who habitually blame others focus on what affects them and what they have no or little control over. By concentrating on these externals, they prove to themselves that there is absolutely nothing they can do.

Indeed, when you are living without personal responsibility and accountability, you move on stucked to the blame mode. The pathological result is draining energy from your self, others, and the world.


I think of this Chinese saying, “Out of the mud grow the lotus.”

It’s applicable to each one of us who rose above dysfunctional backgrounds or traumatic life experiences.

You might think that men and women are already damaged for life because they’ve experienced very hurtful, abusive childhoods, marriages, or relationships.

Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.

Brian is a single father with three grown children. His wife committed adultery and deserted their marriage. Instead of wallowing in depression, Brian sought out help for his problems. The brokenness became a creative place for him to heal and grow.

In the course of his recovery, Brian learned to be a better father and be intimate with his kids, not like his own father. He has become a successful entrepreneur and writer. Brian has also become recognized in the media and international circles for his work on life recovery.

Perfected saints are for heaven. But here on earth, we are all fallible human beings. We all have the free will to overcome adversities, make better choices if we determine to do so.

There is promise in the pain. It can be the best thing that ever happened in your life. Make sure you catch it.

Infidelity Trauma Wound

Infidelity is an interpersonal, psychological trauma wound. My clinical, professional, research, and personal processes demonstrate its devastating impact on a couple. Injured counselees often report overwhelming emotions that vacillate between rage and inward feelings of shame, depression, and abandonment. In many ways, infidelity’s impact parallel that of PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder.

Maribeth told her husband during one of our sessions, “I don’t know you. You’re not the person I thought you were. How could you do this? I thought I could trust you.” She was raging. Her husband’s affair was not merely a negative trauma event. Maribeth likewise experienced a deep shattering of her core beliefs about her marriage and her husband that are essential to emotional security.

I always observe in my practice that, given the ruptured trust and uncertainties after the discovery of the betrayal, the injured partners are not easily able to move forward even if the affair has already ended. They typically cannot trust their partners not to hurt them again, especially in the initial aftermath. Flashbacks, faces, voices, or places may serve as stimuli for the injured partner’s painful emotions such as anxiety, confusion, anger, depression, and shame.

Therefore, before couples can start processing the meaning of the affair and rebuild trust and intimacy, they first need assistance in containing the emotional turmoil and destructive exchanges that are typical during and after the discovery. Frequently, they need help in learning how to communicate their feelings to each other in a constructive, healthy manner. They need to learn how to interact and navigate the challenges of their relationship in their day to day life.

In sum, couples experiencing an infidelity trauma wound need some way to process the trauma that has occurred and some way to make sense of the past and move on from there.

Transient Riches

Sometime ago, my eldest 21-year-old daughter Christine received a “rich” gift of a Pajero. She was understandably happy about it. Considering the fact that she’s just on her first employment straight from college, a Pajero can be overwhelming.

Although I’ve doubts about whether it’s an appropriate or wise time for her personal development at this point for such kind of possession, I shared her joy. It’s simply given to her. To my mind, it tells more about the giver rather than about my daughter.

Then I noticed, after only a few days of elation driving her “rich” pajero, she began to leave it in our house garage area most days of the week when she goes to office. She may have a variety of reasons. Among these in my surmising, I wondered about my daughter’s instant “rich” driving experience. Is the newness or pleasure of acquiring a prized possession predictably wearing off that quickly?

In countless lives since time immemorial, the quest for fulfillment through material riches is common. In this quest, psychological, emotional, and spiritual wounds happen, especially when you get attached or addicted to material things. We know people who exchange their honor or dignity or souls for money. Prostitutes sell their bodies. Politicians corrupt themselves. Addicts steal or kill to acquire their drugs of choice. Men and women commit crimes, infidelity, or self-inflicted harm in the name of mammon.

As in all earthly things, riches are like fading flowers. They never last. They’re meant only to be enjoyed temporarily along with us. Experience evidences that they can’t really deliver what our hearts are truly longing for. The brilliant Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc. and one of the richest men who ever lived, died in his mid-50s. Shortly prior to his death, he addressed young graduates in a prestigious university. Steve said:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Do you know what is truly important in life? We all live with passing moments. We all age. We all die. In Steve Job’s case, his fading flower, the brevity of life, influenced the choices he made at the end of his journey.