A Secret to Living Well

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s German. Like me, you may have a hard time saying or pronouncing it. The word means “community feeling.”

According to noted psychoanalyst Dr. Alfred Adler, that feeling is one of the marks of a well-lived life. It signifies the value of social interest in giving meaning and purpose to one’s life.

Such may be in the form of varied kinds. Such as: grandparenting, volunteering, philanthropy, ministering, health coaching, devoting one’s resources to some social or political cause.

Psychological studies showed that people who are engaged in some form of helping others are far more healthy and satisfied with their lives.

Yesterday, in the mall, a man greeted and tapped me on the back. He was a former patient, who’s with his smiling wife. For a year, they underwent personal and marital therapy with me.

It’s 5 years ago. Today, they’re living a healed, more balanced and happy life as a couple. Gone were their dark days of experiencing infidelity, bankruptcy, and abuses in their marriage.

The man said, “Doc, let’s have a selfie photo together!” I obliged, of course.

“We owe a lot to you. Count me and my wife in as one of those who went through a successful therapy and life change with you!”, he joyfully remarked.

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s the feeling I felt about what happened to this couple. And each and every time I’m able to have an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives. Simply priceless!

Most days, I begin with writing tasks, followed by seeing patients in my sessions.

I would then hold court in one of the many coffee shops or hotels around – sharing stories, jokes, Scriptures, deep talks about topics such as life’s meaning.

In all of those, my social interest is ever-present. A desire to contribute in whatever way I can to help others – psychologically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and even physically as well.

Life is beyond self. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and have lived well.”

Living Your Life Again

We live in a fast-paced age. The world is a smaller place because of technology, internet, and airplanes through our skies.

This advancement has lots of pluses. The speed, the technology, helps. Speaking for myself, I can conduct sessions anywhere I am to attend to those from varied places or nations.

Yet despite the advancement to make life easier, people still feel uneasy. You can see the tension: in their faces, voices, hands, bodies. The way they live.

Now, why is this happening? Well, you proceed to the source of the problem: your mind. Keep your mind alive now. Your imagination.

Do you see a frown of anxiety on the face of your mind? Are your teeth gritting? Your jaw stiffening? Now, in your mind, smile. Choose to shift to a face with joy.

Let me tell you about a man. He won out over his wounds and tensions.

He had undergone a severe family and marital trauma. Abandoned, deprived. He was no youngster. He was already in his 60s, a senior citizen.

What to do with his life and time in which he lived empty, depressed, and tense?

He decided it was moment for action. He had to bring life back into his life. He had to do it in simple, realistic ways.

Well, what could a man his age do?

First, he became a life coach to couples, families, and other adults. He was a wise, talented, and friendly guy. It suited his personality. Soon he had substantial clientele and been earning well.

Second, you see him volunteering as a toddler caregiver in a church’s Sunday kids’ school. Spending time with children brought him much joy. It makes him feel more alive.

And lastly but not the least, he found peace leading bible studies and joining periodic mission trips through his church. His life leads to more life.

In his 60s, abandoning the passive concepts of retirement, he found healing for his wounds. He used his mind and work to get active. Live life again.

Travel and Health

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Travel is good. Based on ample studies and evidences, its highly beneficial to your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Many years ago, I was in one of the lowest points of my life. Feeling over-stressed personally and professionally, I felt tired. I just wanted to stay in bed and not do anything.

Then a DHL courier knocked on my house gate with a package for me. In it includes a free two-way travel ticket to Seoul, Korea with all-expenses paid accommodation for 30 days from a known sponsor.

That’s huge therapy!

The development of a possible depression in me that time was stopped. My “foreign travel without money” brought in a fresh supply of fuel into my mind, heart, and spirit. After that vacation, I got back home and to family and work with overflowing zest!

According to a psychological study from Cornell University, there is a direct link between the experience of happiness and even just planning a trip. It also showed scientific proof that traveling reduces stress levels, relieves anxiety or depression, even rather dramatically.

Anthony was a very resistant patient. Even after months of sessions, he still felt stuck. He watched self help videos, read materials, did gym workouts etc. in addition to his therapy sessions. Still nothing seemed to work for him.

Since he wanted to experience change in his life, he tried travel. He went to Japan with his wife and two young kids. He moved from place to place, from snow to snow there. And in the process, he started noticing receiving bits and pieces about himself.

When Anthony went back to session after a couple of weeks, he seemed to have showed a different view of things. The newer, unique life perspective resulted not only from his self discoveries but also from the culture or peoples he connected with along the way.

Henry Miller described aptly this one healing benefit of travel, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Travel makes you healthier. Don’t miss its high benefits to heal or reinvent your life.

Conquering Vice

Yesterday, TV host Amy Perez of ABS CBN’s daily morning show Sakto, asked me, “Paano ba matitigil ang bisyo ng tao (alak, babae, sigarilyo etc) ngayong bagong taon?”

I responded in part, “Yung mga bisyo na meron ang tao ay sintomas lang, di pa sya yung sakit.”

The underlying, hidden roots that fuel vices are essentially psychological and spiritual. That’s where lies the key to new life … true, lasting change.

Isn’t this one truth we often miss amid inevitable challenges we face in life?

In my own life, I’ve traveled through several deserts. Family and marital trauma. Financial challenges. Abandonment and betrayal.

Each time, I got broken. Torn apart. My heart was such a wilderness.

Needless to say, I could easily had become an alcoholic, a womanizer, or some sort of addict. Like what multitudes of wounded people have become or done.

Yet something left me sane and resilient those desert times. Unaddicted. Not grasping “false medicine.” Devoid of life-damaging vices.

So what prods me on? What sustains me, through weeks and months and years of searing pain, in my own deserts?

It’s what’s underneath my deepest part and being: the pearl of great price. It’s the Star of Bethlehem.

To develop our best selves, we have two guides: internal and external.

Internal, of course, refers to renewal of the mind. Cleansing of the soul. At times, a need for appropriate therapy. And Scripture is the best, ultimate guide that lays the task for us very well.

External refers to how we fashion our life outside ourselves. Family relationships. Work. Choice of friends. Recreational activity.

Are your internal and external flowing well interdependently to lead you to a healthy lifestyle?

And so, as you start this new year, be ready to travel even through the desert (or deserts) of life.

Choose to live free of vices or “bisyo” with your best self – your body, mind, and soul – following the Star.

When Another New Year Comes

We mark our calendars with New Year. 365 days of 1,440 minutes a day is about 525,000 minutes supply per year!

New Years are milestones. They represent significant points in the passing of time.

Stop and reflect about your self. Your life, every new year.

It looks like New Years are designed to enable us to make an annual life self assessment. Not only of length of years we’ve got, but our depth or quality of life as well.

Are you just growing older? Or, are you also growing whole and healthy?

The psalmist gives us a best wish to say each rolling new year along this line.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I’ve a caution for you and I.

These New Years are not like an insurance policy where there can be pledge of automatic renewal. Obviously, no one holds a guarantee of another forthcoming new year added into his or her life.

So, if our Creator gives you another new year, He must have some plans for you. He has some things in His mind that He wants you to pull off through your self and life.

Surely, that includes more than your coming 525,000 minutes for the new year!

You need wisdom.

Wisdom comes privately inside the self. It’s a by-product of right choices, habits, and principles applied to circumstances and relationships. It’s a fruit of a disciplined, deeper self.

Can you find marks of wisdom in your self, life, and future plans when another new year comes?

Make the most of the time given to you. One of these New Years will be God’s terminal point in your life!

Do You Know Your “Double?”

Once I met Pablo. He was a confessed married “sex addict.” According to him, not a day goes by that he wouldn’t masturbate, watch porn, or have casual sex with different women.

He had a strange ritual. A lot of times, he’d quarrel with his wife first before his planned sexual bingeing. After his anticipated rejection, he’d habitually walk out to look for sex partners.

In the sessions, Pablo admitted he felt so powerless and shamed. The addiction he didn’t want for himself he could not stop doing. Until he contracted HIV. Until his family deserted him.

Unknown to many, Pablo was an honor student and varsity athlete in the university. Prior to his life-damaging personal fallout, people looked up to him as a model student and adult citizen.

Till someone took over Pablo and his self.

Robert Louis Stevenson, in his classic “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” can provide us a psychological clue or piece of insight. He wrote of Dr. Jekyll’s “double” self:

” … whereas in the beginning the difficulty had been to throw off the body of Jekyll, it had of late gradually but decidedly transferred itself to the other side … I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse self.”

This is one way of understanding what happened to Pablo or why. Mostly, he retreated into himself as if in a trance-like state … and did things outside his awareness.

He had a “double,” a “shadow,” a dark side he never fully knew about.

As sex therapist/author Dr. Patrick Carnes put it, the description of the Dr. Jekyll-Mr.Hyde-like transfer portray “the loss of one personality as it is overcome by a second personality — the addictive personality.”

In intervention and therapy, the addict takes the journey of recovering the true, original, best self.

Never Growing Up

His name was Peter. Age 25. He talked a lot. In session, he liked to monologue. Joke away. But he’s not really saying much that matters. His feelings were often exaggerated, easily provoked, even silly.

When asked what he’d do now after having graduated from college, he paused a little. Then, he said he’d go back to college and take another bachelor’s degree.

Totally unrelated to the first one he took, he said in jest of his next college course, “I’d like to make a difference in the world by studying the oceans and underneath them!”

Then, he sipped his coffee and ate a lot of cake in front of him. At 5’8″ and almost 300 lbs., he professed his love for food.

My years of counseling teenagers, university students, young adults, middle-aged or senior men, and couples revealed to me a widespread psychological affliction in our society. It’s a syndrome in our society that’s causing a lot of problems in all walks of life.

Clinicians call it the “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

You remember the happy-go-lucky character of Disney’s Peter Pan, right? That’s where the psychological syndrome was named after.

Peter Pan symbolizes everlasting fun and youthfulness. He rejects all things Adult. He avoids growing up vehemently. He wants to remain a boy forever.

Unknown to many of my patients (including their parents, spouses, or friends who care for them) is a chilling reality. They are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Peter Pan.

We have a mental health problem of a man-child caught between the adult man he doesn’t want to become and the child or boy he could no longer be.

As Peter Pan himself said in the play, “No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

Forgive me for hyping a psychological claw to unearth this often hidden Disorder. Reversing the process of this syndrome is crucial to the stability of our families and society.

It’s never too late for an adult man to grow up and for his loved ones to offer aid to make that happen.