Healing Negative Love

A patient once cried during session, “My God, why am I doing this? My mother used to do that. I hate it, but I see myself doing it again!”

Of course, she’s not her mother. The compulsion to repeat is unconscious-driven. It exists underground.

This is clearly demonstrated in extreme abusive relationships.

I discover that people with abusive parents often find themselves in abusive relationships. It just appears to be such a very common psychological wound.

I once saw a couple – a Filipina and an American – who continually abused each other verbally. Both felt so well that they never wanted what they’re doing.

Yes, both came from emotionally impoverished families. Both of their own parents verbally abused each other and their children.

Unconsciously, their relationship has the pull of something familiar. A vicious cycle acting out an adopted parental pattern.

And there’s also this inner script, “This time it’s going to be different. This time I’ll change the situation and I’ll claim the love i didn’t receive as a child.”

It’s obviously an effort to heal an old wound looking for love.

But the reality created is actually more misery living through further abuse in the present.

As Spanish philosopher George Santayana reminds us, those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

How do you stop doing what you don’t want to do?

“Heal the ‘negative love programming,'” as psychotherapist/author Dr. Bob Hoffman put it.

That’s “forgotten” unprocessed pain from the past.

The way out is the same as the way in – programming.

Our positive real self is just there.

“Negative love” that keeps us doing what we don’t want to do can be transcended and healed.

Martha’s Intimacy

I wondered how Martha managed to find a fiancée if she evidenced such low self esteem and recurring depressive episodes. She’s even suicidal.

In-session, Martha’s self esteem was manifested always to an extreme to be based on what she thinks others think of her.

Constantly, she felt uncertain, helpless, and frightened on the inside. She disguised her low self esteem by efforts to impress others.

Despite her fears, Martha risked a romantic relationship. Eventually, she became “in love” and entered a “survival pact” with her boyfriend.

The trouble was, when she chose a mate, that Martha did not communicate her fears to her partner. She feared that her partner would not love her if she knew about her feelings of worthlessness.

Martha’s partner saw her as confident and strong. Yet she expressed misery about it. She privately expected and felt she must be what he thought about her.

In effect, Martha had actually put the other person in charge of her self esteem.

Therapist and author Virginia Satir writes,

“I have talked about choosing rather than acting from compulsion. When you feel that you have to live according to someone else’s direction or live so that you never disappoint or hurt anybody, then your life is a continual assessment of whether or not you please other people.”

In the context of intimate relationships, Satir further explains, if one has or both partners have low self esteem, each behaves as if he/she were saying …

“I am nothing. I will live for you.”

“I am nothing. So please live for me.”

With this unprocessed, will a relationship survive? Is it realistic? Can it be functional?

Focus on your Goal

Many years ago, Harvard psychologist Dr. Gordon Allport pointed out a secret power. It seems applicable to whatever stage of life we’re in.

Dr. Allport said that the striving for a goal beyond one’s reach is thought by numerous psychologists to be the greatest power to unify the diverse elements in a personality.

As an adolesent, the overriding goal of playing world championship chess against the Russians affected every part of Bobby Fischer’s life.

It established his priorities. What he did each day. Where he went. How much he slept. How he viewed the world and life in general.

Bobby came from a broken family. Abandoned by his father. Raised by a single mom. As it turned out, the goal of being a great American chess champion was his “beyond reach.”

His whole life was ordered by His desire to be a world chess champion. This single dominant goal unified his life during a period which could had been very fragmented.

I’m reminded of Brandon, who’s a serial womanizer and bar owner. In our therapy work, he’d push to save his family and want to indulge in his addictions. He felt split and torn.

Then, one day, he came to know Christ. He made a total commitment of his life to Him. That changed everything about him and how he lived his life from thereon.

Imperfect though he was, Brandon’s energies and abilities gradually became more focused and working together.

He now have a point of reference to unify everything about his life. His self. His family. His relationships. His business. Old values and experiences are seen by Brandon as Christ sees them.

“The staking of an overall goal compels the unity of the personality in that it draws the stream of all spiritual activity into its definite direction,” as psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler put it.

In the Midst of Life, We Are in Death

Life is temporary. It has expiry. Each breath, each heartbeat, brings us closer to inevitable end. The naked truth is, we’re all dying from the moment we were born.

Philosopher Betrand Russell, when he was in his 90s, lamented the ways in which most people waste their lives, as if they’ll live forever.

In my work as a psychotherapist, death is a constant enemy. Whether young or old, I deal with death issues every session.

Like life, my sessions are timed to the limit. There is expiration hour. So often, I listen to people utterly “dying” – depressing, denying, making excuses, wasting precious time, hiding.

As I watch the minutes tick by, I wonder about life-and-death issues. Will they do or get or not what they want most in life?

Whatever the age, becoming aware of impending death as soon as possible is very helpful. It avoids wasting time on things that don’t really matter.

Of course, this is especially true among older people. With the limited time left on earth. The proximity of death. How randomly any of them could vanish into earth!

We can ask ourselves directly a few questions to help us process this reality more deeply.

• Although I may struggle, what will make my days worth living to the fullest?

• How could the quality of my life be improved?

• What do I consider the most important to achieve given the limited time I have left?

• What may be my greatest regrets if I die before I get the chance to complete what’s truly important to me?

A little carving along the road says, “In the midst of life, we are in death.”

That puts things in perspective about what really matters in this life … while we still have the time and can ask ourselves questions.

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

It’s a common cliche. An old adage.

Is it really true?

One couple came to see me for marital therapy. It’s a case of the husband serially cheating on his wife.

The husband admitted having affairs several times in the few years of their marriage. He claimed he had the affairs just for sex and that he loved his wife and had a great sex life with her.

For a time during therapy, the relationship somewhat improved. The husband observed abstinence from his affairs. They learned better skills communicating and loving.

Then, the husband was caught contacting and seeing his affair partner again. Evidently the wife noticed no prior signs of the repeated cheating for he remained privately loving to her.

The wife felt something was wrong which she called an “invisible barrier” between them. But she couldn’t put her finger on it.

According to findings presented at an American Psychological Association annual convention, they found that people who cheat on their partners once are approximately 3 1/2 times more likely to cheat again.

I find it interesting that this finding did not apply only on those doing the cheating. They saw that those who were cheated on in one relationship were also more likely to be cheated on again.

Judging from the number of cases I’ve seen, cheaters do tend to cheat again. But I’d say not everyone. Some do change completely.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

That gets to be true I must agree … unless the root psychological wounds or unmet needs of the cheater are sufficiently dealt with.

Here are some possible underlying themes within cheaters I suspect exists:

• a never-ending quest of the cheater to make up for what he or she did not get as a child

• the more shame and guilt the cheater experiences, the more it tends to be projected onto the partner

• the cheating may be used to punish himself/herself or humiliate the partner

• a “bad me” core belief that leads to addictions for temporary relief

Bad habits are known to be hard to break. That includes the habit of cheating.

In reality, cheaters need clinical intervention to prevent repeated disasters.

Are you brain-fit?

Mental health has a physiological aspect. Not just psychological, emotional, or spiritual. Its a matter of physical brain fitness as well.

According to scientific and medical evidences, our brain needs certain nutrients to maintain optimum functioning.

Vitamin C, for example, protects the brain from toxins, free radical damage, and aging. It also acts as a natural anti-depressant.

Experts also recommend taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, which includes Vitamin D, magnesium, folic acid, Omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin B-complex.

Brain foods should be added to our diet. This includes avocado, eggs, coconut oil, extra virgin coconut oil, green leafy vegetables, salmon, turmeric, among others.

Exercise also plays a major part in getting brain-fit. Moving our body and taking breathers are one of the best things we can do for our brain.

I experience myself another brain-fitness key: getting enough sleep. Several times, I only needed longer sleeps or “power naps” to recover from brain-exhausting days. And I’ll be back kicking!

Some of the most productive persons in history made sleep nap a priority. People like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Winston Churchill, among many others.

So, the next time you feel foggy, depressed, or anxious, skip the pharma drugs and take these natural ways to recharge and refuel your brain.

Labels Don’t Define You

Diagnostic labels are typical. You enter a hospital, consult a doctor, and take lab tests. Then, you’re given a Label of your condition.

In psychological care or mental health, labels abound. They emanate mostly from DSM. It’s a doctor’s guide on mental health disorders used by MHP (mental health practitioners) around the world.

Yesterday, I was reading a psychological report on Marino, a teenage client. It’s issued by a registered drug-based professional mental health agency based in Manila.

In the report I found lots of familiar DSM labels. Depression. Agoraphobia. Social anxiety. Depersonalization Disorder. Schizophrenia.

As usual, aside from the labels, the agency required the client to take brain drugs. When the drugs manifested serious side effects on the teen client, his mother chose to stop it.

When the mother reported about it to the agency, she was simply told to comply. Without drugs, they said, no psychotherapy will be allowed for his son.

Labels and the pharmaceutical industry usually go together in psychiatry. Describing who you are as “depressive” or “BPD” or “schizoid” is an attitude often encouraged by the big pharma.

In my initial session with Marino, I’d noticed how much the “labels” given him have already affected his sense of himself. Mostly in our talks, he spoke of who he is as the “labels,” the sickness.

Sadly, in my observation, Marino has come to see himself as inherently dysfunctional. A major part of it was the result of the way he was labeled and boxed in.

Framing one’s identity around some drug-based label is dangerous. It harms one’s overall health. Worse, it can destroy even the core of one’s self identity.

You are more than any diagnostic “label.” You are a person, not an object. The label is just a temporary state or external behavior. It does not exclusively define you.

Transcending “labels” means looking at life beyond them. Labels can be useful in a way. But they can also shape your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Be careful then. Discern differences. Labels stick, but they can also be unwrapped. You and any label are two different things.

Most importantly, you can be stronger than the “label.”