Never Growing Up

His name was Peter. Age 25. He talked a lot. In session, he liked to monologue. Joke away. But he’s not really saying much that matters. His feelings were often exaggerated, easily provoked, even silly.

When asked what he’d do now after having graduated from college, he paused a little. Then, he said he’d go back to college and take another bachelor’s degree.

Totally unrelated to the first one he took, he said in jest of his next college course, “I’d like to make a difference in the world by studying the oceans and underneath them!”

Then, he sipped his coffee and ate a lot of cake in front of him. At 5’8″ and almost 300 lbs., he professed his love for food.

My years of counseling teenagers, university students, young adults, middle-aged or senior men, and couples revealed to me a widespread psychological affliction in our society. It’s a syndrome in our society that’s causing a lot of problems in all walks of life.

Clinicians call it the “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

You remember the happy-go-lucky character of Disney’s Peter Pan, right? That’s where the psychological syndrome was named after.

Peter Pan symbolizes everlasting fun and youthfulness. He rejects all things Adult. He avoids growing up vehemently. He wants to remain a boy forever.

Unknown to many of my patients (including their parents, spouses, or friends who care for them) is a chilling reality. They are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Peter Pan.

We have a mental health problem of a man-child caught between the adult man he doesn’t want to become and the child or boy he could no longer be.

As Peter Pan himself said in the play, “No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

Forgive me for hyping a psychological claw to unearth this often hidden Disorder. Reversing the process of this syndrome is crucial to the stability of our families and society.

It’s never too late for an adult man to grow up and for his loved ones to offer aid to make that happen.

Sometimes, Failure is Not Failure

Sometimes, failure isn’t really failure. It’s part of the process of success. As long as you don’t get stuck. Continue moving forward.

Jack Ma is China’s famous multi-billionaire. He was at first a serial failure before he striked success. Failed many exams at school from primary to college. Rejected from Harvard 10 times. Turned down for 30 jobs. Only interviewee out of 24 rejected by KFC.

He is living proof that failure is part of success.

The world would have us believe that failure has no value.

Now, we can’t be sure about that.

In our culture, there is indeed a lot of emphasis on instant success. If you don’t hit big at a certain point or time, you’re a failure. So many of us strive for the elusive overnight “success” status, not realizing that in and of itself it doesn’t really mean much.

In therapy too, many among us want instant success. Magic. Overnight recovery. Like instant coffee, we unrealistically expect instant relief to our deepest pains. Rather than a candle that burns slow and steady for a long time.

Many years ago in my youth, I was a chess champion. I tell you, the training was long and hard to become one. Instead of resorting to available tricks or shortcuts, I focused on the slow burn. Rather than “enduring” my training, I learned to enjoy the process and what I do.

That made me win games, even after painful losses. Become a champion.

Life is creativity. Focus on the “long game” instead of short-term results that don’t last. Love the process. That way, you’ll be a steady flame, not a flash in the pan. A champion in creating your best life.

Enjoying Your Age

Life is short. Each one of us goes through its seasons. Childhood. Youth. Adulthood. Old age. And then, we passed on to the next season beyond earthly existence.

Through each season of life that passes by, we’re all called to develop accordingly. Based on age where we find ourselves in. Developmental tasks are a given. We fulfill them, we grow. We find wholeness and happiness.

As author Bo Sanchez says, “Every season requires a response. Don’t mix them up or you’ll have problems. During spring, you plant. During summer, you work. During autumn, you harvest. And during winter, you renew.”

I’m reminded of a 30-year-old single Mom with two young children, ages 3 and 5. Struggling financially to support her self and two kids, she applied for an OFW contract job in a Middle East country. She got the job.

In the days following, she experienced tremendous panic anxiety. Her present moments had been a mental pain for her as she imagined leaving her kids to work overseas. Sleepless and depressed, she sought outside help and comfort.

Shortly, it dawned on her what’s truly more important to her. She realized more and more that she will never get this season of her life back at home with her little kids. She cancelled her trip for overseas work and started a new business instead with close friends.

Most importantly, she’s able to prioritize mothering her kids she called “gifts and blessings.” At this season of her life, she felt much happiness with her little ones at home who want to snuggle and just simply spend time with her.

Enjoy the age where you’re in! Maximize the gifts and blessings of your season of life.

“I Was Wrong”

“I was wrong.”

Those words are one of the most difficult things to say for most people. Whoever we are. Whatever our situations or circumstances.

Perhaps this is the tragedy of fraternity student members of Aegis Juris at the University of Santo Tomas. These frat officers and members were caught in a major hazing scandal that led to the death of a neophyte.

Based on latest news, these young men, along with their “big brothers” and lawyers, have become so vehement in their defense. Despite obvious evidences, they insisted that the hazing did not take place or they were not involved if there was one.

The need to “cover up” the crime and wrongdoing so offended the senators who were hearing the case. This led to the imprisonment of its frat leader as well as the victim family’s call to disbar the lawyers assisting the cover up.

What was the main crime?

I think it’s not so much the initial mistake or wrongdoing done as it was their insistence on their own innocence. I believe this case is a poignant illustration of the disastrous results of being unable to say, “I was wrong.”

I’m reminded of one of my patients, Charle. One of the clearest indicators of his psychological and emotional illness is inability to admit and deal with self-destructive behaviors. He specializes in self-justifying and self-excusing.

When I asked the father, who used to abuse Charle physically and verbally since childhood, to join in family session, the request was turned down. He said his son was to be completely blamed for his condition.

Medically speaking, if a person has a wound, he has to admit the wound. Then, allow a doctor to open it up and remove all foreign articles so he can heal. Once the infected area is cleansed and treated, tissues can be new again via healing elements.

Such concept is at work as well in psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing. Shameful acts, wrong attitudes, dysfunctional behaviors need to be admitted as they are. Taking responsibility for them starts a person’s healing of his mind, emotions, and spirit.

Self-justification and mental health. Do you want to be right or well?

Do You Procrastinate?

“Procrastinatis.” Not taking action.

After doing psychotherapy consulting for many years, I’d come to see a most common cause of why people don’t heal and get whole …

… and that is, most already know what to do to heal. Especially after they’ve gained knowledge from their therapy work.

They’re not just doing it.

Meaning, procrastinatis. The envisioned personal mental health recovery is already in their heart. They’re not just taking action to make that vision a reality.

Worst, others eventually quit or prematurely terminate their process.

This truth actually applies to any other area of our lives. Starting a dream business. Nurturing or saving a relationship. Losing weight, get fit. Finish a worthwhile project. Turning away from sin and to God.

And … much, much more!

If you’re guilty of not taking action on what you need, here is one solution.

Rocking chair.

That’s where 81-year-old Fernando, father of one my patients, is. In his procrastination and vices all these years, he never held a good job or built a solid business. Just his wife who worked to support him and their children.

Reflecting on his life from the rocking chair, he felt so sad. Depressed. His mind and heart was full of regret. He remembered he was given lots of opportunities and resources when he was younger. To which he uttered, “What a waste.”

At the same time, he beheld the oppposite in his imagination. He set worthwhile goals. He took action on each of them without delay or quitting. He imagined the feeling of being a successful multi-millionaire businessman. He became a loving and responsible husband and father. His wife and children loving and respecting him.

From the rocking chair, he discovered a solution. But he ran out of time.

Heal your “procrastinatis” … before it gets too late.

When Mind Makes the Body Sick

Health can be a puzzle. I’ve just heard the news of a young actress who’s a gym buff pronounced fit by medical doctors and yet dropped dead a few weeks ago. In addition, I’ve known of an aged man who’s a heavy alcoholic all his life and yet seem to remain well.

Bad health affected Alan’s life. When he entered our therapy session, he complained of not able to sleep enough for years, unexplainable aches and pains in his body, and lack of energy at work. When he had himself checked in the hospital, the doctors gave him a clean bill of physical health.

Even with nutrition and disciplined exercise, Alan found himself still feeling physically sick. Probing deeper in his psychotherapy, he discovered a truth: his lifelong emotional problems were the ones producing his physical illness or deterioration.

He had the worst mental health between ages 13 when he was abandoned by his parents to 53 when he went through a painful marital divorce. Because of this, even if science and medicine can cure every disease of his body, he still could not be well.

Health is not just physical. It can actually be more non-physical. Our best medical and psychological knowledge indicates that wellness or wholeness is far more than not being physically ill.

As Dr. Bruce Larson put it, “Our bodies are barometers of our inner, nontangible experiences, thoughts, fears, angers, resentments, hopes, joys. It is safe to say that 90% of most physical ailments have a real emotional, spiritual connection.”

Mental health plays a powerful influence on what happens to our bodies. When we are better at loving, having more satisfying personal relations, good emotional copers, and close to God, the odds are we’ll have minimal illness. We avoid premature aging or health deterioration.

The fact is, we have more control or autonomy than we think in this whole matter. Let’s all learn and practice to be and do those things that make for real, whole-person health.

Unchoosing Masks

Once, I met three brothers. Something seemed a little too regular or constant about each one.

The first brother is comic. Joke by joke, he uses laughter to wall himself off from others’ inattention or admiration. He plays the clown to avoid the burden of facing his dependency and lack of productivity.

The second brother is a cynic. He claims to know your agenda, motivation, or knowledge. Posturing himself as an expert with special knowhow, he discredits even others who offer authentic support.

And the last brother, a depressive. He is unable to think and feel well about himself. He feeds on idle time. He wallows in self pity in the tearful room where he isolates himself. The troubles he experiences inside himself are deep.

Comic. Cynic. Depressive. Three brothers, three masks.

Healthy self esteem is usually non-existent for those walled in by psychological masks. The comic, cynic, and depressive are often ones whose low self esteem prevent them from all they can be. The masks they wear keep them self-centered rather than take responsibility for providing their lives with meaning, product, and accomplishment.

Does these have to be with these three brothers?

Of course, not. All three of them can choose more than they are today. It happens when they learn to unchoose their masks.