Do you really want to be free?

Therapy is freedom work. It affirms and protects everyone’s God-given right to be free.

Yet I found that a lot of individuals, couples, families, and even cultures still choose to remain oppressed. Even when they realize they need to be free.

Slavery and oppression has become their home.

“I’ve a right to do whatever I want to do with her, she’s my wife,” said Ric in a marital session with his wife, Donna, of 20 years.

All throughout their marriage, Donna endured her husband’s physical beatings and verbal abuses. Sexually, she’s often overpowered and forced.

For such a long time, she never knew how or had the courage to set her self free. She made her husband’s slavery and oppression of her her home.

Slavery and oppression are of various kinds. This case is domestic/marital.

Other kinds are: political, economic, psychological or emotional, addiction, racial, parental, religious, corporate, informational, injustice to the poor, among others.

I find it appalling to see how much an oppressor, dictator, or slavemaster is able to control and dominate a victim’s life. He abuses and suppresses the victim down.

And the victim just submits and thinks it’s the way it is to be. Until the he or she feels at home to remain an oppressed slave.

I’m reminded of this man enslaved by drugs and vices. “I can’t help it!,” he claimed. When he lost everything, hit bottom, he finally chose to find ways to rehabilitate.

No oppressor wants a slave to be free. The slave has to awaken and fight to be free.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

The Mind of a Jerk

Jerks are known fools. Contemptibly obnoxious persons. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines them as “a stupid person, a person not well liked or who treats others badly.”

How do jerks think?

Jonathan is a certified jerk. Even with the slightest provocation, he’ll turn a minute or incomplete info into a basis to attack you. Verbally. Emotionally. Physically.

For over a year now, Jonathan has been verbally and emotionally abusing his two teenage children and their mother.

He abandoned his children since their childhood. Only to reappear last year in the guise of offering material support onwards.

Jonathan’s true state of mind thereafter is evidenced by his constant control and manipulation. He interprets interpersonal signals consistent with how he sees himself.

For example, when his children missed or forgot calling him, he assumed outright that they’re disparaging him. His expectations of them are excessively negative and unrealistic.

He also bad-mouths and blames their mother to no end, reading unverified threatening meaning into remarks or events. His lack of remorse and amend over past sins is so obvious.

Jerks are often deeply shamed-based. Their perceptual focus is always on the negative. All information they receive have symbolic meanings about their personal identity.

Psychologists/authors Dr. James Harper and Dr. Margaret Hoopes said that shame-based individuals guard against others’ discovering their shame. Much of it shapes the way they think.

Several cognitive patterns Drs. Harper and Hoopes describe as characteristic of shame-based jerks include:

• belief that “something is wrong with me” (impostor syndrome)
• an inappropriate matching of intensity of emotion with events
• label others negatively as if they’re the real thing
• distort incoming information in the perceptual process so that it fits with their world
• intention of others as well as themselves become very distorted
• overgeneralize and magnify
• poor reality testing
• frequent blaming of others and denying of one’s personal responsibility
• attributing ill will or motive to others without proper reason
• mind reading to the detriment of others and themselves
• believe even the most benign acts of others are directed against them to highlight their defects

Needless to say, jerks need a lot of help. But mostly, they fight it a lot.

You can fly, but that cocoon has to go.

“You can fly, but that cocoon has to go,” says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I’ve worked with actually need to hear that message. It’s true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can’t be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he’d cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an “immobile cocoon.”

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a “war zone” and a “safety cocoon” all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you’ll be able to see the big picture. You’ll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you’re not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I’ve met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn’t work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you’re newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don’t want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings and fly into new adventures?

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!

“I Was Wrong”

“I was wrong.”

Those words are one of the most difficult things to say for most people. Whoever we are. Whatever our situations or circumstances.

Perhaps this is the tragedy of fraternity student members of Aegis Juris at the University of Santo Tomas. These frat officers and members were caught in a major hazing scandal that led to the death of a neophyte.

Based on latest news, these young men, along with their “big brothers” and lawyers, have become so vehement in their defense. Despite obvious evidences, they insisted that the hazing did not take place or they were not involved if there was one.

The need to “cover up” the crime and wrongdoing so offended the senators who were hearing the case. This led to the imprisonment of its frat leader as well as the victim family’s call to disbar the lawyers assisting the cover up.

What was the main crime?

I think it’s not so much the initial mistake or wrongdoing done as it was their insistence on their own innocence. I believe this case is a poignant illustration of the disastrous results of being unable to say, “I was wrong.”

I’m reminded of one of my patients, Charle. One of the clearest indicators of his psychological and emotional illness is inability to admit and deal with self-destructive behaviors. He specializes in self-justifying and self-excusing.

When I asked the father, who used to abuse Charle physically and verbally since childhood, to join in family session, the request was turned down. He said his son was to be completely blamed for his condition.

Medically speaking, if a person has a wound, he has to admit the wound. Then, allow a doctor to open it up and remove all foreign articles so he can heal. Once the infected area is cleansed and treated, tissues can be new again via healing elements.

Such concept is at work as well in psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing. Shameful acts, wrong attitudes, dysfunctional behaviors need to be admitted as they are. Taking responsibility for them starts a person’s healing of his mind, emotions, and spirit.

Self-justification and mental health. Do you want to be right or well?

Discovering the Best Psychotherapy

Recently, I read of this article by a psychiatrist who was critical and disappointed of his own profession. He found from his research that as much as 70% of depressed people who consulted psychiatrists were so minimally or not helped at all.

Interestingly, he noted from his study that over 80% who consulted a minister gained significant relief. Such particularly disturbed the psychiatrist for his profession was into helping people and yet it’s not making a desired difference.

One middle-aged single woman’s depression and addictions drove her to psychotherapy. Her previous years of psychiatric drug use and hospital confinement were so ineffective that it made things worst for her. Lately, she became promiscuous and had sex with different men within just a month.

When she came to me, she was overwhelmingly depressed. She’s attempting suicide. She’s not only depressed but staggering under an overburden of guilt. In addition, she was pregnant. For the years of psychiatric treatment, she should buy drugs and pay other services to house her?

There must be a better way!

While we may not hesitate to go to a cardiologist or surgeon for our physical ailments, a “doctor of the mind” is something else. The meaning of the word “psychotherapy” comes from the original Greek roots “psuche” and “therapepuo” which means “mind/soul healing.”

God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8,9). In the real healing of mind and soul, only God’s ways apply. Therefore, we should not be surprised when the theories of Freud, Skinner, Adler, Yalom, and others are diametrically opposed to God’s ways as stated in Scripture.

Humanistic psychologists or drug-based psychiatrists have no or little to offer by way of genuine psychotherapy. They’re committed to helping people with only the humanistic or physical tools/concepts available to them. Both humanism and science (man-centered) try to solve mankind’s problems independent of God.

What is the best psychotherapy? Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) If you’re healing in the areas of mind, emotions, and soul, particularly those that spill over into life values, you’ll have to know God and His healing principles.

Self Parenting

Once, during a quiet evening, I saw and heard this over TV Channel 7 broadcast, “Paano ka mag-aalaga ng bata kung ikaw ay bata rin?”

It struck me a lot. A therapeutic question!

How indeed do you bring up your child when you’re a child yourself?

That question gave me one of my most insightful points during a self parenting seminar that I did for  a large, South Manila-based school.

Around a hundred people or more came (fathers and mothers, teachers, principal, guidance counselors, including the wives of the municipality’s mayor and congressman).

It’s a different kind of parenting seminar. That’s because my focus was on the parents themselves and not on the children.

In the seminar, I shared about inner healing and character formation of the parents first before they can apply healthy parenting techniques to their children.

I also shared about my own parenting journey. My ups and downs. My mistakes and joys.

More than a psychotherapist, I’m a human father with three children. I’ve known and experienced how essential it is to be an “adult father,” not a “child father.”

I hope to reach out to more parents in this area of “self-parenting.” I’m not an expert on child rearing techniques (others can more effectively teach that!).

But I believe I’ve been raised in a unique way to teach well on how to “parent one’s self” and heal the “inner child” as a foundation for authentic, longterm, healthy parenting of children.

I know. I’ve been there.

And I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience it first-hand myself.