Finding Your Right Work

Work is life. It consumes so much time from our limited supply of days. In just a few short decades, the time and energy we spent working adds up to be life itself.

Livelihood is a natural expression of our working life. A source of income. Using our talents and capacities. Doing what we do best.

“I’m looking for something more than money out of my work; I expect deep fulfillment and a little fun too,” said an executive of a major American corporation.

Right livelihood – whether via a job, profession, business, or any talent – is as important as mental health and wholeness. Just as the right foods are for our physical bodies.

Buddha described “right livelihood” as work “consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment.”

Surely, I’d not recommend orange robes and vows of poverty for us like Buddha. But I can see the practical psychology of his point.

You (and all of us) need to choose the right livelihood. Your right work. For the only one life you have.

But most people today are “aliens.” They’re alienated from both their natural talents and potentials. Their proper place and function. Their purpose for life.

Most people merely work for the money. Eight-to-five penance for daily bread! As a result, many get bored, frustrated, constrained or dulled in their days. Some get serious mentally illness.

I met a young woman who drifted into a boring, but high-paying accounting job. After much inner struggle, she left her secure niche to study psychology.

She’s getting straight A’s in her studies. But having a hard time paying bills. A life state she didn’t experience before.

Yet she was sure that she had found the right road for her life. Her right career. Her right livelihood. That allowed her to excel and gave her the power to be resourceful.

Nothing stopped her from becoming a psychologist. So after years of hardship, she completed her graduate studies. She used her former contacts to start practice.

Now a successful, highly paid psychotherapist, she said, “My choice and hardships were so challenging. But I feel at home in this work. For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing joy and fulfillment.”

Finding Your Truth

I don’t know what has happened. Or, where it has come from.

Last night’s group session, I had the truth in my mind. Yet I failed to express it. Something held me back.

It’s my personal blinder. A mistake. A negation of my personal sense of truth about my self.

As human as my struggling patients, it’s senseless to pretend perfection.

Therapy is self truth. It’s a process of seeking the truth about your self.

In the midst of the busyness of life and our world, we need to find a focus to make it happen.

It’s good, of course, to focus on healing our blinders or mistakes. You look into your self as you are with your faults – objectively.

But this is not enough.

You also need to focus on your assets. Your positives. Your gifts.

You must develop and cherish these assets. And work with them.

It’s also essential to look into your past. If you can do this deep enough, you see your mistakes again. And be in a position to learn from and avoid them.

I do not mean you obsess over your past mistakes and untruths, leading you to blame your self.

The real purpose of seeing your past is to live today with clear truths about your self.

Finally, plan for today’s possibilities. That will impact your future.

The primary excitement of knowing the truth about your self is becoming mature. Whole. Healthy.

Take stock of your self. Seek real truths about your self.

Look behind you, before you, and within you.

Remember that your self and life belongs to you. Especially, your truths.

Keep discovering.

Rx to Suicide

It’s sad to note that hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world committed suicide. Men typically die of violence, such as through gunshot or self-strangulation. Women hang or cut themselves or overdose on pills.

What drives people to kill themselves?

I’m not aware of any well-studied psychological theory that explains the nature of suicide fantasy and the final action. But more often than not, i surmise it can be a combination of factors. Neurochemical vulnerability. Identity and self esteem issues. Desperation. Circumstance.

In addition to these factors I mentioned as possible precipitatants of suicide, society and culture seem to also play a role.

Psychology Today writer Abby Ellin writes, ” … we live in a culture where disorders of the mind are kept quiet. People are honest about struggles with cancer or diabetes. They talk openly about injuries. But depression is a dark secret.”

When Albert, 54, saw me, he’d been wanting to kill himself. His identity and self esteem was very tied into his social, public profile – his CEO status, his business, his family – and these things started to dissolve when he was faced with economic bankruptcy and loss of work.

He felt so depressed and down. Talking about his feelings to his wife or friends would most likely help Albert. Except, of course, he was not a person who wanted to appear vulnerable to any one in any way. Even in therapy, he struggled with this.

People who have thoughts of suicide suffer from hopelessness that their business or finances will rebound, that their mate will love them, or that someone will want them after a broken marriage or relationship.

Ultimately, therefore, hope is the medicine to this deadly dark secret.

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!

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.

Working for Family Change

Martha’s story is a story of her family.

Martha paints a picture of her husband as a narcissistic, raging individual. His insecurity and emotional disconnectedness are disguised as playfulness. His work is ever-present both at home, office, and everywhere.

Martha sees her self as overprotective of her teenage son, and condescending towards her husband. She suffers in silence at the childish antics and outbursts of her husband. Time and again, friends around Martha see her “martyrdom.”

The stress in Martha’s household is palpable. Early mornings, both her husband and 18-year-old would have troubles for her. Her husband is used to throw tantrums over things, such as breakfast or pieces of clothing before he goes to work.

Martha’s teenage son, on the other hand, is equally crude and petty. At times, her son would warn, that unless mommy Martha gets his college uniform ready or increases his allowance, he won’t go to school any more.

Each time, Martha gives in to her husband’s and son’s tantrums, believing that if she isn’t successful, she faces personal rejection.

Martha grows weary and depressed each day. She knows she needs to do remedial, corrective action or she breaks down. If Martha is determined to help her self, her husband and son, she has to initiate deep-level self-examination to start healing.

Let me give a few tough questions for Martha. You may join reflecting with her. If Martha will have the courage to face these tough questions and personal limitations, she can be half way to personal recovery and family change.

It’s time for Martha to evaluate her overprotectiveness and patronizing attitudes towards her husband and son.

Do you engage in self-pity?

Are you afraid of your emotions?

Do you accurately know what you feel?

Do you pretend to feel what you don’t really feel, while hiding your real feelings?

Do you avoid confronting your husband about his selfishness, chauvinism, and childishness because you’re afraid to stand alone?

Do you mask your frustrations by feeling sorry for your son who acts like his father?

Do you lack courage and self confidence that cause you to back away from appropriate discipline and responsible boundaries?

Treatment and You

In my assessment, most problems or individual dysfunctions are a disease of “core pain,” “lost selfhood,” or “false self.” Recovery needs to be complete, addressing the whole person – cognitive (the “head”), the emotional and experiential (the “heart” and “spiritual”), the physical (organic health), and personality (with learned and constitutional factors).

To treat and heal the “psychological wounding,” a process can be started requiring several action steps. These actions are closely related and generally occur in a circular fashion, with work in one area a link to another area. The “Treatment Plan,” which includes tools, vehicles, methods or techniques that help in the healing and recovery, include taking action on the following:

1.) Complete physical examination (to rule out any medical causation)

* Unless there is some major brain or organic damage, I don’t recommend drug therapy or taking any kind of synthetic drugs for psychotherapy/counseling. Have a right diagnosis to rule out any physical/medical causes of your psychological/emotional distress.

2.) Abstinence, detachment, or detoxification

* … from whatever person, place, thing, activity, behavior, chemical, or experience that pollute, block, or distract the treatment/recovery plan

3.) Individual counseling and psychotherapy

* Regular and adequate attendance and workups, which may include psychological first aid, couple or extended family work, with a therapist/counselor.

* Process is usually composed of three pillars: diagnostics, treatment plan, relapse prevention.

* Psychotherapy is mostly internal work to finish “unfinished business” or unprocessed pain, which includes areas such as grieving, original pain work, working through the core issues, doing “personality” work, completing developmental tasks, setting healthy boundaries, among others.

4.) Group therapy or support group

* … that is specific for type of wounding being treated, such as depression, dysfunctional family, affairs, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. and depending on person’s needs

* Group therapy or support group provides emotional and social support. Here, you can hear others’ stories, increase your awareness about what happened, and begin working a 12-step or healing-is-a-choice program.

5.) Expanding circle of support

* Regular contact and sharing with one or more trusted and safe friends etc.

* Starting and cultivating new, healthy friendships, and choosing to connect to a safe community for volunteer opportunities or community involvement.

6.) Inpatient or other intensive recovery experiences, such as workshops/seminars, weekend retreats etc.

7.) Adequate self-care

* “Food therapy” or healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements.

* Taking up an exercise program, such as running or jogging, to boost brain power and the immune system.

8.) Self-education on area of psychological/emotional wounding, such as depression, infidelity/ divorce wound recovery, anger management, wounder inner child, toxic parents etc.

9.) Beginning and/or continuing, conscious contact in a relationship with a Higher Power.

As previously noted, these “treatment plan” steps or actions interact and merge with one another. They are not necessarily distinct or separate areas of the the healing and recovery process.