Self Acceptance

Sometimes, walking in the street, I passed by armored vans delivering/transporting money to or from the bank.

They have a treasure inside that they’re guarding with great vigilance.

The vigilance is of course a necessity.

It’s interesting that Maria guards her feelings so well. Even those that continue to damage her core being.

As a result, she lost the ability to experience joy in her life. Her personality is unnecessarily locked up by her emotions.

Expectedly, during sessions, Maria gets tight.

Must she lock up her injured emotions and avoid seeing what they really are? Must she imprison her personality?

Of course not.

As in the case of almost all with psychological wounding, Maria must learn to free her self. From a type of prison outside brick-and-mortar penitentiary.

It’s a call towards liberation from emotional imprisonment.

So how then do you free your self from this life-damaging internal prison? How do you find joy, peace, and fulfillment?

Answer: self-acceptance.

That means, self-liking, self-caring.

If you can be vigilant guarding your self from being hurt or damaged by your wounded emotions, surely you can be vigilant and enthusiastic for the greatest task of guarding your best treasure.

That is, the healing and growth of your capacity for self-acceptance.

Accepting your self amid the inevitable ups and downs of life. Accepting your self in a troubled world. Accepting your self — both in triumphs and tragedies.

Christmas’ Biggest SECRET

Do you know the biggest secret of Christmas?

I tell you, it’s not Santa Claus. Not the gifts or “aginaldos.” Not the colorful Yuletide tree. Nor even the family reunions, parties, and bounty foods.

It’s a simple secret and yet so easy to miss nowadays. Even ignore or deny.

Once, I was in Thailand. While there, I started getting scared of running out of resources. That’s when I learned an essential life lesson. I’d always have something to share to others. Time. Energy. Smiles. Food. A lending hand.

I realized, the more I give, the more I receive! The generosity gave me joy and peace.

Over two thousand years ago, Someone got generous. It was the first Christmas.

We’re all familiar with religion. It tires. It enslaves our minds and hearts. For it only tells us to do this and to do that in order to reach out to God. It’s never-ending, yet there is no true satisfaction.

But, Christmas comes. It erases religion.

Christmas is the generous God Himself reaching out to mankind in the form of the greatest gift of His one and only Son, Christ Jesus, to save, reconcile, and give us everlasting life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Look.

The biggest secret of Christmas is a “relationship, not religion.”

It’s ever before our very eyes. It dwells in the hearts and souls of mankind. Changing lives, bringing lasting joy, peace, and life on earth and hereafter.

 

Working for Family Change

Martha’s story is a story of her family.

Martha paints a picture of her husband as a narcissistic, raging individual. His insecurity and emotional disconnectedness are disguised as playfulness. His work is ever-present both at home, office, and everywhere.

Martha sees her self as overprotective of her teenage son, and condescending towards her husband. She suffers in silence at the childish antics and outbursts of her husband. Time and again, friends around Martha see her “martyrdom.”

The stress in Martha’s household is palpable. Early mornings, both her husband and 18-year-old would have troubles for her. Her husband is used to throw tantrums over things, such as breakfast or pieces of clothing before he goes to work.

Martha’s teenage son, on the other hand, is equally crude and petty. At times, her son would warn, that unless mommy Martha gets his college uniform ready or increases his allowance, he won’t go to school any more.

Each time, Martha gives in to her husband’s and son’s tantrums, believing that if she isn’t successful, she faces personal rejection.

Martha grows weary and depressed each day. She knows she needs to do remedial, corrective action or she breaks down. If Martha is determined to help her self, her husband and son, she has to initiate deep-level self-examination to start healing.

Let me give a few tough questions for Martha. You may join reflecting with her. If Martha will have the courage to face these tough questions and personal limitations, she can be half way to personal recovery and family change.

It’s time for Martha to evaluate her overprotectiveness and patronizing attitudes towards her husband and son.

Do you engage in self-pity?

Are you afraid of your emotions?

Do you accurately know what you feel?

Do you pretend to feel what you don’t really feel, while hiding your real feelings?

Do you avoid confronting your husband about his selfishness, chauvinism, and childishness because you’re afraid to stand alone?

Do you mask your frustrations by feeling sorry for your son who acts like his father?

Do you lack courage and self confidence that cause you to back away from appropriate discipline and responsible boundaries?

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.

Dennis and His Secret Gift

Abandonment is a time of trauma. Devastating repetitive losses. Personal disappointments. Upheavals in childhood. Chaos and abuse in family.

For Dennis, his abandonment trauma was an awakening. It helped him a lot to change the direction of his life. He knew he had much work to do. But at last, he knew what was truly important. It took losing his wife to another man and therapy to finally shatter his illusion of permanence and self-sufficiency.

Somewhere in the abyss he was sharing in our sessions, missing his wife, he was able to look up. He felt so astounded at how painful the abandonment and loss was. He realized how alone he was. He was in a critical period during which he must look to his own resources.

But something even deeper happened to Dennis. He discovered the secret gift of his abandonment and loss. It helped him find his way to “old wounds” from traumatic events he may not even remember. Finally, he can address his long unprocessed, unresolved feelings.

Abandonment and trauma may do accomplish more quickly what many psychotherapists strive for in years of therapy — bringing you to the seat of your “unconscious.” To your deepest parts, where lie your permanent recovery and wholeness.

Beyond the support of family, friends, and therapists, you spend most of your waking time with your own self. As your own separate self, you face this challenge alone. First you must be in touch with your secret fears and pains. Listen to what they’re telling you about your emotional needs.

The journey to the core of the self, preparing you for deep-level healing, is the secret gift of abandonment and trauma. It’s a crucial opportunity to shape your life from the inside out.

Receive the gift. You’ll forever be changed by it.

Unbreakable, Permanent Solution

South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Neil-Peters, 2017 Miss Universe, has an incredible testimony after her recent win. She was “hijacked, car-jacked.” Yet she turned her experience into a positive mental health advocacy.

Neil-Peters was quoted by the news:

“Never allow yourself to be a prisoner of fear. Because if you allow yourself to be, you’re going to live your whole life in fear. Go for therapy, it really, really helps. Don’t be too proud … I can walk with you – that makes us unbreakable.”

Fear is a most common disability of those struck with psychopathology. Not normal fear. But fear that is severe. Out of proportion. It’s fear that makes one choose to remain a victim. A person whose fears have become overwhelming gets crippled to move on in life.

I’m reminded of Pablo who struggled with fear and depression a lot. He was bullied a lot in his life by his parents and schoolmates. As a result, he would have panic attacks and gasp for breath. He literally could not breathe and this happened often. Fear was strangling him.

Too often, when we meet a person struggling with unbearable pains of fear, we simply tell them “Get over it!” Or, dismiss the unreality of the source of the person’s fears. In spiritual circles, we may tell him or her, “Have faith.”

However, I’ve observed that none of these work most effectively. None is a solution to the problem of the person regarding fears. The solution to the problem of fear is love. That kind of solution is permanent. Unbreakable.

You can choose to be unbreakable in the face of any fears you experience. You can make it through any rain. And that’s love, super doses of it.

Getting the right kind love is the medicine we all need to overcome all the fears we will face on earth.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Have you known how to experience perfect love in your life?

Angel’s Poem

I sat with my 14-year-old daughter, Angel, a few days ago when she spoke of a poem she did in school. Her poem’s title lighted my face up — “Happiness and Sadness Are Twins.” Isn’t that title something deep and interesting to ponder on?

It is good that sometimes we experience sadness. Such experience protects us from the illusion that life is all bed of roses. Under trying circumstances, when we feel sad, we are compelled to see reality as it really is rather than sugarcoat it with a pretense of happiness.

I was amazed the first time I heard one of my patients, Nick, referred to himself as a loser. He felt so sad and dejected. But as I questioned him, I realized he had developed this self-opinion from very few isolated failures. He got locked in self pity.

As Nick progressed in his therapy, he became aware how much of the narcotic effect of constant happiness and comfort in him came largely from being “overspoiled” in the family. He was not exposed enough to what life is really like. So even infrequent loss or failure spelled damage to him already.

Happiness and sadness is the stuff of life. They are twins in the sense that they go together in all lives. Glory and pain always come bound together Therefore, to see life as it really is, we will have to resist the notion that we ought always to win. Sadness can be a powerful lesson that there is meaning inspite of loss.

At times, our lives are visited by darkness. Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Breakup. Remember then that all is not sadness. There could be an overwhelming happiness waiting on our patience. All temporary sadness or loss can be sustained with meaning in anticipation of a coming happiness or victory.

I agree with my daughter’s poem. Happiness and sadness are twins!