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.

Common Cold of the Mind

Hear this young man as depicted by Oscar Wilde in one of his poetical works:

“And when He had passed out of the city
He saw seated by the roadside a young
man who was weeping,
And He went forward and touched the long
locks of his hair and said to him,
‘Why are you weeping?’
And the young man looked up and recognized
Him and made answer, ‘But I was dead once
and you raised me from the dead.
What else should I do but weep?’ ”

Depression is a “common cold of the mind.” Depression-producing situations can assail us and leave us confused. Perhaps you sympathize with this young man above where death seems like peace and life is not. All he wants to do is weep.

No one is exempt from moments of depression. Each of us can identify sources of disappointment that can knot up our lives in ways that block peace of mind. Events such as family problems, a financial setback, retirement, loss or separation from a loved one, terminal illness etc. can all provoke normal, expected reactions of sadness and grief. And that’s fine for a time.

However, when there are uncontrollable and lingering feelings of sadness, helplessness, and despair, depression becomes unhealthy. It turns from “normal” into incapacitating illness. Some obvious symptoms or manifestations of depression as a disease “beyond normal” period of time are:

* Physically: overwhelming lethargy, tiredness, energy-sapping; insomnia, loss of appetite, headaches, bodily comforts
* Mentally/Emotionally: lack of interest in usual activities and relationships, negative thoughts, self-blame; paralyzing
inability even to make simple everyday decisions
* Spiritually: burdened by feelings of guilt and sinfulness, cut off from God and experiencing His goodness.

“I am wearied with groaning; all night long my pillow is wet with tears, I soak my bed with weeping. Grief dims my eyes; they are worn out with all my woes” (Psalm 6)

Are You “De-Selfing?”

In a group therapy session, a woman was asked what she enjoyed doing. Her name was Maria, who shared: “There is not anything I enjoyed doing. My whole life was taking care of my husband. I wanted to do what he desired. I was always there for him no matter how I felt. I listened for hours on end to his problems. I really lived for him. And now I have no life.”

“De-selfing.” It’s a term coined by author Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger, which is eventually adopted as a clinical concept in mental health. It refers to a state of under-functioning or over-functioning because too much of one’s self or basic integrity – thoughts, feelings, behaviors, ambitions etc – are compromised or harmed under pressure from a relationship. A common result of “de-selfing” is a host of mental and emotional disorders or symptoms, such as depression, addiction, personality disorder, obsessive compulsion, suicidal ideation, among others.

Maria, based on her story, had a long-standing habit of “de-selfing.” She lived through her husband and failed to care for her self. She ignored, neglected, or minimized her own needs in order to be what she misperceived a good wife is. She missed essential self-nurturing that’s vital to her own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When she suffered a loss from her husband, she found her self empty, having “no life.”

If you are like that group therapy member Maria, who had completely replaced her own well-being with that of her husband, taking care of your self must now become a priority for you. It’s your way of rebuilding your self-esteem … your whole life as a matter of fact. You may feel discomfort at first while you’re changing this life-damaging “de-selfing” habit, but it should gradually lessen over time.

Treating your self well is not selfish, as you may have been taught or conditioned to believe. Rather it is basic self-respect – a nurturance of life that is so foundational to your total health, well being, and relationships.

Manny’s Psychotherapy

A few monthsĀ ago, I was in a meeting and dinner with Manny Pacquaio. It’s in his Forbes Park home in Makati. There were some actors, from showbiz. Emerging from traffic, he arrived into the room where we were. Apologizing. He appeared hungering to come and see us.

A few seconds after, he sat quietly on the floor, smiling at his guests. With closed eyes moments later, he sang and listened to Scriptures and prayed. The rest of his guests and large entourage of assistants/handlers sensed the deep change in this man. A humble and gracious guy – this man Manny!

If you knew Manny before, he was an “addict.” Women. Gambling. Alcohol. Drugs. Money. Fame. You name it, according to him, he tried all sorts of “addictive agent” to find satisfaction. In the doctors’ DSM manual of mental disorders, addiction is a type of mental disorder or psychopathology. Unknowingly, that’s what Manny suffered from.

With tons of money, he could get or buy anything. Yet, looking back as Manny shared, all of these “profits from the world” left him feeling stranded. He remained chronically dissatisfied despite everything he owned. His sadness and emptiness filled him with dread as his own surface deteriorated. Satiation, or running out of wants, is indeed a living death.

As a psychotherapist, I move within the limitations of human language. Crises and traumas are my allies. They hasten the process of discovery more than all the reasoning and analysis I can muster. My richest sessions occur when my patients are feeling empty and suffering a lot. This void always precedes significant change.

What happened to Manny Pacquaio? How did he heal from his broken, addicted past? What made him able to avoid the tragedy of “unlived life” still inside him?

Out of his emptiness and dissatisfaction, Manny would recollect, he derived readiness for the arrival of his new self when the Word was shared to him. One biblical psychotherapy verse can describe what happened to him: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Manny’s heart and mind was changed. He got the “secret” of true, lasting psychotherapy.

Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

If you suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety almost all psychiatrists will diagnose you with mental illness (DSM IV). Then they’ll prescribe brain drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil etc.) for what they claim is your mental illness.

This is dangerous to your well-being. Evidence shows that drugs can damage mental health and even the brain itself.

Psychiatrists are the only doctors who diagnose illness when there is no pathology to support their diagnoses. There is no scientific or medical test to prove the existence of brain pathology in any of the 465 mental illnesses they claim exist.

Dr. William Glasser, author of the book “Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,” writes: “Psychiatrists, aided and abetted by huge drug companies with their advertising clout, will convince you that your unhappiness is a mental illness…and treat you with possibly harmful brain drugs for this non-existent illness and tell you there is nothing you can do to help your self. These are more the hazards of psychiatry.”

What a majority of psychiatrists won’t or can’t give you is what you need the most: counseling and psychotherapy. Part of the reason is that the largest part of training of psychiatrists in medical schools is “bio-chemical.” Another has to do with health-care pressures and exaggerations coming from billion-dollar drug companies (as noted by Dr. Glasser). A great number of psychiatrists treat patients with unproven neuro-chemical medication to have a quick fix (or profit) or cover up a lack of competence in the psychotherapy process.

Stay off “brain drugs.” They do harm. Instead, be free and healed by getting into shape – psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Choosing To Stay Sick Than Heal?

One time, Mary saw me for counseling. She just checked her husband’s emails and social media accounts. To her shock, she discovered that her husband has been having secret multiple sexual relationships with various men in all their 20 years of marriage. Her husband is a gay sex addict.

Processing her grief and pain, she reached a point when she realized that she had to require something from her husband in order to heal. It’s “get help or get out.” She became so anxious and frightened about the possibility of her husband leaving her and cutting his support if she requires him to get help and rehabilitate. In the end, she chooses not to confront her husband. She chooses to look away.

“Betrayal blindness” is a state of mind in which you choose to keep a secret from your self. You have it when the reality that’s happening in your world and the consequences of that reality are actually more frightening than you walking in through it to heal. So, in essence, you lie to your self. You turn a blind eye. You don’t look at what’s actually happening because it would cost you too much.

Indeed, we can be too afraid to look at and embrace truth. As a result, we choose to stay sick instead of heal. We tolerate the intolerable because we don’t want to deal with the ramifications. It’s “betrayal blindness,” one of the most horrible bites one may suffer from away from recovery and wholeness.

Kindness Heals

I’m reminded of Aldous Huxley, a noted writer-philosopher. He was dying. At his deathbed, he was asked what words and wisdom he would like to tell and leave to the world. He replied, “I wish people would be kinder to each other.”

What does “kindness” mean? Here’s what “kindness” means if we go by the American Heritage Dictionary: “of a friendly nature, generous or hospitable, warmhearted, good, charitable, helpful, showing understanding or sympathy, humane, considerate, tolerant.”

Heeding Huxley’s words, I feel how much it applies to our society in general. Reading recent local news, for example, we can witness a lot of unkindness. Government leaders fuming mad and assassinating each other’s characters in public. They all speak of healing our country. But how does a country heal when leadership is ruled by poisonous emotions, tongue, behavior, and self-perception? Sadly, the practice of kindness in our country, and even in the rest of the world, resembles a drought.

When I think of the numerous men and women who see me in the psychotherapy session, I never fail to see their eyes glistening with held-back or free-flowing tears. In relating their stories, they react with poignant sadness. Often, they remember that kindness was nonexistent in the growing up period of their lives. And goodness! How much they hunger and yearn for their parents to show more kindness to them and each other.

I usually tell them it’s ok not to be ok. To feel sad about the unkindness they’ve experienced in their lives. Even weep for the kindness they did not receive from their parents or others when they were children. But, they need to learn to let go, eventually. They need to learn to grieve completely their unprocessed pains. And then, use their present lives and relationships as a “second chance” to experience the kindness they did not have.

Kindness heals. Choose it for your self and others.