Healing Negative Love

A patient once cried during session, “My God, why am I doing this? My mother used to do that. I hate it, but I see myself doing it again!”

Of course, she’s not her mother. The compulsion to repeat is unconscious-driven. It exists underground.

This is clearly demonstrated in extreme abusive relationships.

I discover that people with abusive parents often find themselves in abusive relationships. It just appears to be such a very common psychological wound.

I once saw a couple – a Filipina and an American – who continually abused each other verbally. Both felt so well that they never wanted what they’re doing.

Yes, both came from emotionally impoverished families. Both of their own parents verbally abused each other and their children.

Unconsciously, their relationship has the pull of something familiar. A vicious cycle acting out an adopted parental pattern.

And there’s also this inner script, “This time it’s going to be different. This time I’ll change the situation and I’ll claim the love i didn’t receive as a child.”

It’s obviously an effort to heal an old wound looking for love.

But the reality created is actually more misery living through further abuse in the present.

As Spanish philosopher George Santayana reminds us, those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

How do you stop doing what you don’t want to do?

“Heal the ‘negative love programming,'” as psychotherapist/author Dr. Bob Hoffman put it.

That’s “forgotten” unprocessed pain from the past.

The way out is the same as the way in – programming.

Our positive real self is just there.

“Negative love” that keeps us doing what we don’t want to do can be transcended and healed.

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.

Thinking Short-Term or Long-Term?

I think there are two ways to think.

Short-term and Long-term.

In therapy, those who are afraid to face and heal their pain are simply not willing to take short-term suffering.

“It’s hard to recall memories when I was abused and change habits,” said a patient with long years of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and sex.

Well, is it hard to live with addictions that damage one’s self and relationships?

Struggling though he was, this patient underwent therapy. He submitted to full accountability and life process change. He came to know his hidden deep-level wounds and “operated” on them.

Why? He learned that the pain of the process is just short-term.

He went through the short-term pain and eventually enjoyed the fruit of his labors in the long-term.

Same thing with other areas of our lives.

Health, for example. When you overeat and has heart attacks, you choose that life for yourself. No one forces you to do that.

You avoided the short-term pain of changing eating habits and exercising, but you didn’t realize you’re buying long-term pain.

Finances, another example. Lots of people are unhappy with their “secure salary.” They dream of owning their own business and becoming millionaires.

To accomplish that, you have to experience first the short-term pain of leaving your “secure salary,” working longer hours, and building your business.

If you say yes to short-term comfort, then you say no to long-term gains and profits.

Which one do you choose for your life? Short-Term or Long-Term?

The good news is, it’s never too late no matter how old you are.

But you have to make a choice on how you think.

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?

Are you a people-pleaser?

People-pleasing is a type of addiction. A person uses it in the same way other people use drugs, alcohol, smoking, gaming, work, or shopping.

You see, when you go through life as a people-pleaser, you’re not living life in your own terms. You’ve chosen to hide your true self beneath the surface. By being nice and drama-free.

Rebecca is a severe people-pleaser. A real pushover. Even when people are already being rude to and manipulating her at work, she remains agreeable. Condoning. A sort of idolatry.

She thought it’s “cool.” To please and put other people’s needs first. But instead of being appreciated, she finds herself being treated as a doormat. She’s confused and depressed.

Where lies the reason behind one’s addiction to people-pleasing?

Often, it lies behind a person’s need to avoid being disliked, invalidated, or criticized. Any sign of discomfort of others’ disapproval can prompt a person to please.

Psychologists discover “childhood traumas” as a common factor that developed people-pleasing addiction. It’s linked to issues of parent-pleasing to avoid disapproval and abandonment.

Psychologist Dr. Leon Selzer, in his Psychology Today article, “From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing,” writes:

“As children, people-pleasers felt loved only when they’re conforming to the needs and desires of their parents … when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support.”

Thus, a child being dependent on the parents’ acceptance, he or she may become fearful of its being withdrawn from him or her. This is where the choice of parent-pleasing comes in.

According to Dr. Selzer, not to do parent-pleasing can risk parental alienation and produce feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.

He observes that the child may feel “it less hazardous to abandon the self than to run the risk of being abandoned by their parents” and “over time, this choice between self-abandonment and parental abandonment came increasingly imperative.”

From parent-pleasing to people-pleasing. Do you think the link makes sense?

Never Too Old or Too Late

Age moves. It cannot stop. Each age, we’re called to adapt. Otherwise, we fall or get stuck.

Archeology says, during Stone Age days, 25 was a ripe age. That’s too soon, isn’t it? Interesting, just a little over a century ago, 50 is already considered elderly. It’s a different number nowadays.

I’m in my “second wind” these days being in my 50s. I just feel different. A radical departure to an old script in which it’s assumed everything goes downward for those advancing in age.

Traditional model of retirement does not apply to me. I seem to be hitting my greatest strides only this later portion of life. For I continue to do visible, productive, and relevant work.

I constantly ask my self as a psychotherapist, “Am I effectively capitalizing my life experiences, knowledge and wisdom, in helping others?”

This perhaps may sound arrogant to you. But the clients – individuals, couples, and families – I’ve so far helped appreciated the wisdom and lived experiences I shared with them.

They expressed how much they value that they know their therapist is real.

Now, this is not to brag or I love talking about myself. I just want to share with you my own journey of finding a special discovery that could be helpful to you as age advances.

Longevity scholar Laura Carlstensen believes that humans catch the “second wind” once they hit 50 in which …

“the first 50 years could be spent learning and shaping ourselves into the kind of people who can spend our next 50 years giving back to our community”

The “second wind” is reinventing one’s self. A time to decide how to make a difference with your limited time, given your strengths, resources, and natural limits.

It’s never too late or you’re never too old to live your best, meaningful life ever.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “You’re never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.”

The Benefit of Suffering

Lots of people say they choose what they want in life. Yet in reality, they’re not choosing what they say they’re choosing for their lives.

Why? What’s the matter?

Mary and William became restless after hearing an infidelity treatment assessment and prescription from their therapist.

The life recovery plan entailed focused work and taking responsibility for their individual and relationship recovery.

Both of them knew what they wanted: to save their wounded, dying marriage. But at a point of really choosing what they choose, a problem arose.

For some reason, they were trying to avoid getting well – the very thing they say they’re choosing for their marriage and family.

Both felt uneasy with strong urges to “escape” what’s difficult.

At this point, I saw what the problem is. Most avoid things they really want to have (not choosing what they choose), unconsciously avoiding painful and uncomfortable situations.

Dr. Rollo May, one of the world’s noted psychotherapists, once wrote:

“People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of availability of energy to transform their characters. Suffering is nature’s way of indicating a mistaken attitude or way of behavior, and … to the non-egocentric person every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth.”

Heraclitus said, “Where there is no strife, there is decay: the mixture which is not shaken decomposes.”

Scripture affirms what they say. “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which had been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sufferings and difficulties are doorways. To wholeness. Character. First-hand knowledge about life. Healing then is to quit trying to avoid the challenge of hard tasks.

There lies what’s profoundly positive, meaningful, and joyful in our lives … and truly choosing what we say we choose.