When Kittens Become Cats

The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.”

In many ways, we could say the same thing about our children.

When my daughter Angel was 3 up, she was cute, cuddly, soft and small.

Now that she’s older and bigger, I still love her just as much.

But she’s become so independent. And … isn’t quite as small or cuddly anymore!

I could say somewhat the same thing about her brother Paul and sister Christine, who are now young adults.

They’re former kittens, now developing cats!

As a father, time does keep slipping, slipping, slipping on me. And I’ve to admit that I’m not as young as I used to be.

A few days ago, I was in session with a Mom (along with her husband) who’s still calling her son “babe.”

Her son is almost 25, still dependent on her in all basic things.

It’s obvious that as we parent our children, we’re called to develop as adults as well.

This means, we need to be aware of appropriate developmental paths as time slips by.

My fathering my 3-year-old Angel, for instance, has to be far different from my fathering her in her teenage years.

I admit it’s tough for me to be a father of a teenager. And it is not easier for my daughter Angel.

At this point, she may literally be “not all there.”

Yet she needs my love and support to grow in certain areas, such as impulse control, judgment, and ability to face consequences.

This is “age-appropriate” parenting. For our kids’ mental health and overall wellness.

To do that, we parents need to be relatively functioning adults, while we’ve the opportunity.

For time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping …

Freedom from Self-Lies

Engraved on the front of a building are these words: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

People who pass by that place look at those words many times. In fact, they originated from the Scriptures.

But we can’t be sure if people who read them really believed they’re true.

Therapy is truth work.

It’s a brave, disciplined effort to face one’s self-lies. And how truths can equip one to fight them.

Alan was over 300 pounds. He’s a food addict.

Doctors repeatedly tell him the truth that his overeating will ruin his health and make him unhappy.

Yet he kept eating too much even though it makes him miserable. He knew he had a problem he needed to change. But … did nothing to change it.

Eventually, Alan’s self-lies led to multiple surgeries. His pain worsened – physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually.

He’s unable to be free to be his best self because he did not apply truth in his situation.

He hanged on to ways of acting and thinking even though they’re self-destructive.

Dr. Chris Thurman of Minirth-Meier Clinics explained about “tapes we have in our heads.”

He wrote, “These tapes are ones that continually play either truth or lies that affect every action and thought. When your program is faulty because of the lies in it, the daily ‘data’ it analyzes will trigger the wrong responses.”

I’ve lots of truth-seeking patients.

I help them get rid of their self-lies in their “tapes.” And … replace them with the truth.

But I also remind them that they need to commit themselves to “practicing truth.”

There it is … the way to experience freedom to be your real self.

Tim’s Advice

This guy, Tim Ferris, is a four-hour-work-week multimillionaire New York Times best selling author. He is one of the world’s famous experts on “new rich” and personal development.

Listen to one of his productivity mental health advices: “Poisonous people don’t deserve your time.”

I knew it was too hard for Mike, an addictive patient. When he entered therapy to care for his fragile wounded life, his mother was critical. She’d blame and judge him for his addictions.

She said that therapy was a waste of money and he could do it on his own.

Accept if the reality is, your family and friends happen to be not the best people to support your healing journey. They may misunderstand your needs through disinterest and uncaring.

Even all the way to shaming or verbal abuse. Such characterizes what happens too when you spend time with “poisonous people” in general.

Remember, if you’re just starting to heal your emotional wounds, you just have a tiny seedling with tiny leaves above the earth.

It’s extra vulnerable to being crushed when wind and rain come. So you would have to care for it as you would any fragile thing in your life.

Examine your present circle of support. Family, friends, mates. And ask these questions:

Are they supporting your fragile tiny seedling to flourish? Or, are they stomping on your growth?

Sometimes, you’ve to clear space for someone or something new to emerge. It’s hard but you’ve to do that in order to heal and grow.

Know the people who deserve your time. Find them, wherever they are. You need them. They’ll protect and nurture you till you become stronger.

Are you in love or an addict?

When a woman is routinely abused and coerced but nonetheless refuses to protect herself or leave the relationship, is it something you can call love?

Clinical psychological research and media news are full of documented cases of wife or woman batterings in intimate alliances.

Extreme are cases in which men have killed women. These women chose to stay on despite atrocities or severe hardships.

Nida was an executive and single Mom of two daughters. She seemed deeply depressed even before she met Norberto.

She was unhappy with her failed relationship with her husband whom she’s separated as well as her own parents. She hardly had friends.

After a series of sexual encounters and live-in with Norberto, Nida was forced by him to leave her job.

Along with it, Norberto dictated on her to sell her properties and use her money to support him and his five children from two other women he had in the past.

One time, Nida cut herself. Attempted suicide. Fortunately, she had relatives near their house. It happened after the usual verbal and physical beatings of Norberto.

In a visit by two of Norberto’s older children after the incident, Nida told them of her satisfaction and love for their father.

Is that true love?

From the vantage point of addictionology experts, Nida’s relationship with Norberto fulfills the criteria for addiction, not true love.

Nida had given up all outside relationships, her work, and any sense of personal dignity, normality or decency in order to continue her addiction to Norberto.

Nida accepted and identified with Norberto. His domination. His narcissistic claims about himself.

And she felt her relationship with him gives her own life value.

Yes, there is a difference between love and addiction. Between true love and fake love.

Who You Really Are When Alone

“Prison, I bless you!”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, noted author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” once wrote those lines while in jail, just before he won the Nobel Prize.

He was blessed in jail. In the agony, painful aloneness of imprisonment, he found God and his usableness to Him.

There is the paradox!

You can bless your problem. You can bless your wound. You can bless your loneliness.

Before my work as a psychotherapist, I felt I had wasted years. I was a troubled individual since youth. I credit my turnaround in life to my years of loneliness and self-healing.

As Dr. Calvin Miller put it, “Character itself is often the gift of aloneness.”

In the heaviness of a crisis, you can choose to like being alone. You cannot like yourself and know your gift unless you do spend time alone.

Possibly, like Solzhenitzyn, you’ll someday look back on a productive life and say, “Prison, I bless you!”

Great men and women all knew how to be alone. They knew how to celebrate who they are.

It’s small wonder that from aloneness came the Einsteins, the Gandhis, the Jobs, the Bezos, the Mandelas, the apostle Pauls of human history.

The quiet life is amazing. It’s full of treasures. It’s where you can find your depths, your confidence, direction, and self-worth.

Enduring trauma and healing from it is always lonely work. You can feel so alone. Yet paradoxically, it can profit you.

When you’re alone, that’s when you discover who you really are. And how you can be greater than ever before.

Is the treatment part of the problem?

In a community group session that I was conducting in QC many years ago, one of the teenage girls attending suddenly dropped to the floor. Trembling. Convulsing. Crying.

I observed she’s very conversational prior to this. I had not known then how she got to a strange point in front of others in the group.

Members of the group pulled her away and brought her home. I was with them. Talking to the teenager. Pacifying and listening to her.

In her home was her mother lying half-naked on the sofa. She just stared at us when we arrived. The father was nowhere to be found. And the other children in the house just appeared unfazed.

Here’s a sad story of a family afflicted with untreated mental disorders. The way it looked, the teenage girl and her family members have been suffering severely for so long.

Recently, the Bill of Mental Health or RA 11036 (National Mental Health Act) was passed into law by the Philippine government.

The new law is traditional, a medicalized bill. With such bill, the poor are now given access to mental health care, which is comprised of psychiatric consultation, drug treatment or even perhaps lobotomy.

In days when I was doing practicum and doing visits in the mental hospital, I witnessed horror. Patients slipped into catatonia or Jekyll-and-Hyde monsters after prolonged drug treatments.

I’m reminded of the popular movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson. That’s the picture of psychiatric and mental health hospital care.

In the US, Dr. Peter Breggin, called the “Conscience of Psychiatry” and other mental health advocates warned of the dangers of psychiatric drug medication and treatment globally (https://breggin.com) (www.psychintegrity.org).

I wonder about that teenage girl and her family as well as multitudes of others in need of mental health treatment in the country.

Does RA 11036 carry the proper and right treatment for them? Or, the unamended law and its treatment will become part of the problem?

Healing the Family

She doesn’t know why she’s been severely depressed and anxious much of the time. Lita rarely socialize or get out of the house.

Lita experiences constant social anxiety when with people. In her mind, she worries that other people are silently putting her down or making fun of her.

As a result, her family hurts. The father, mother, and siblings came to me with sobs of sadness and pain about Lita’s isolation from them and others.

In the sessions, Lita recounted her family experience since childhood. She felt caught in the middle of her parents’ constant quarrels.

All that time during fights, both her father and mother vied for her support. She felt guilty for everyone’s feelings, including those of her siblings.

Virginia Satir, noted family therapist and writer, believes that a critical first step to the healing process is full or 100% awareness.

In her book, “Helping Families to Change,” she asserts the following goal for hurting families:

” … to see freely and comment openly on what you see, to be able to hear freely and comment what you hear, and to be able to touch freely and be able to comment openly on that experience – these comprise the restorative task.”

So, to heal your self and your family, here’s one master key: Stop pretending!

Based on Satir’s formula, there are skills or habits that need to be developed for total or 100% focus and awareness to avoid pretending.

3 things.

• seeing, not just looking
• hearing, not just listening
• sensing your touch

That’s what happens in my sessions in the initial phase. Progressively focus on these essential tasks.

Becoming aware – coming to your senses – is the first step to set you and your family free!