The Soul of Adulthood

This is a key psychological truth: struggle is good.

When you don’t have to struggle, you don’t heal and grow up. It’s the “soul” of maturity and adulthood.

Many times in therapy, individuals demand quick fixes amid the high drama of their lives. They avoid the pain of struggle. Those who become successful in this only prolongs their misery.

Rowena is spoiled, smothered, and coddled as a child. Her Mom does every basic chore for her, removing all comfort roadblocks from her path.

Now at 30, Rowena refuses to leave home. Her Mom likes doing things for her. Since home is an only place where she “runs the show,” she failed to learn the value of struggle.

Rowena is unable to leave home. She wants to continue studying in a university and receive allowances from Mom. She doesn’t want a job. She can’t.

In my own sessions with Rowena, she said that life feels cruel and depressing to her. She felt trapped in a fantasy world and emotional prison she could not understand.

Joining Rowena in therapy is her Mom. Over time, she realized the part she played, allowing Rowena to bargain, manipulate her, and pretty much run the show.

Mom just kept playing the game of “no struggle” for her child all these years. But now, she’s healing her self. She begins to address her own childhood shortage rather than continue projecting it to Rowena.

I’m reminded of one psychologist who said, “Struggle is easier when you’re not unconsciously controlled by the ghosts of your own past.”

Struggle is good. Without optimal doses of it, there is no growth and life. No reason to exist. No sense of accomplishment.

Welcome struggle!

Instead of running away from it, you embrace it. Through struggle, you grow up to be healthy and balanced.


Feeling chronically empty, bored, and numb, Lito, whom I met in the set of one GMA 7 TV shoot of “Out of Control,” desperately seeks “excitement.” To feel something, not to kill himself, he slashes his wrists and other parts of his body. He overdoses in alcohol and cigarettes, instigates brawls, and sexually acts up with multiple partners. He says, “I feel so dead, cutting myself and doing these other things are the only ways I know I’m alive.”

What I notice to be a “disorder that does not specialize,” BPD or borderline personality disorder, according the DSM-IV/V, is characterized by at least five of the following:  1. Impulsivity;  2. Unstable and intense interpersonal relations;  3. Inappropriate or intense anger;  4. Identity confusion;  5. Affective instability;  6. Problems being alone;  7. Physically self-destructive acts;  8. Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom.

Individuals with BPD often experience unprocessed emotional wounds. That’s why BPD is also called and known as “emotionally unstable personality disorder.” Underneath the madness lies a deep emotional abandonment trauma. I’m reminded of a book on borderlines by Dr. Jerold Kreisman. His book’s title aptly describes a lurking overwhelming emotion inside a BPD:  “Don’t Leave Me, I Hate You.”  Because of the depth of abandonment wounds, clinicians working with BPD must walk a narrow path between giving support without rescuing and encouraging independence without signaling abandonment.

BPDs are known in mental health care to be one of the most difficult of patients to care for. There is usually a lot of work ahead to explore unconscious wounds that fuel breakdown on the surface. A lot of structure, consistency, and trust-building over time are needed to reach significant progress that leads to a point of stability and wholeness. There is no other way.