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.

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.

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.