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.”

Troy’s Anxiety Disorder

I feel for Troy, 42. In the midst of traffic or cramped places, he’d suddenly get too anxious. Often, his anxiety leads to uncontrollable panic attacks.

Heart palpitation. Severe perspiring. Overthinking. Confusion. A lot of disorientation. Troy has never understood or traced the roots of his recurring anxiety panic attacks.

In the course of therapy, he told his story. Since childhood, he has been exposed to verbal abuse that resulted in a lot of problems.

Daily at home, while he was still a little boy onwards, Troy was constantly yelled at. Name-called. Insulted. Disrespected. Unappreciated. Cursed and bullied.

Now a husband and father, he found the effects of his childhood wound influencing his adult life. They took the form of personal anxiety panic attacks, extending to his relationships and work.

The worst form of abuse is verbal. Verbal abuse is the same as emotional abuse. When someone goes through it over time, he may develop a mental illness. And anxiety disorder is the most common.

According to studies and evidences from neuroscience, verbal abuse has an impact on both hemispheres of the brain. It harms a person’s self esteem, moods, and ability to make decisions.

Friend, be mindful of verbal abuse. If you’re a victim yourself or you have a loved one manifesting strange behavior, go seek help before things go worse.

 

Labels Don’t Define You

Diagnostic labels are typical. You enter a hospital, consult a doctor, and take lab tests. Then, you’re given a Label of your condition.

In psychological care or mental health, labels abound. They emanate mostly from DSM. It’s a doctor’s guide on mental health disorders used by MHP (mental health practitioners) around the world.

Yesterday, I was reading a psychological report on Marino, a teenage client. It’s issued by a registered drug-based professional mental health agency based in Manila.

In the report I found lots of familiar DSM labels. Depression. Agoraphobia. Social anxiety. Depersonalization Disorder. Schizophrenia.

As usual, aside from the labels, the agency required the client to take brain drugs. When the drugs manifested serious side effects on the teen client, his mother chose to stop it.

When the mother reported about it to the agency, she was simply told to comply. Without drugs, they said, no psychotherapy will be allowed for his son.

Labels and the pharmaceutical industry usually go together in psychiatry. Describing who you are as “depressive” or “BPD” or “schizoid” is an attitude often encouraged by the big pharma.

In my initial session with Marino, I’d noticed how much the “labels” given him have already affected his sense of himself. Mostly in our talks, he spoke of who he is as the “labels,” the sickness.

Sadly, in my observation, Marino has come to see himself as inherently dysfunctional. A major part of it was the result of the way he was labeled and boxed in.

Framing one’s identity around some drug-based label is dangerous. It harms one’s overall health. Worse, it can destroy even the core of one’s self identity.

You are more than any diagnostic “label.” You are a person, not an object. The label is just a temporary state or external behavior. It does not exclusively define you.

Transcending “labels” means looking at life beyond them. Labels can be useful in a way. But they can also shape your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Be careful then. Discern differences. Labels stick, but they can also be unwrapped. You and any label are two different things.

Most importantly, you can be stronger than the “label.”

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.

What’s True Love?

What is true love?

Everyone talks about it. We want to see and experience it.

You look for it. You long for it. You hope and wish to find that one fellow human being who will truly love you, and whom you’ll truly love in return.

You think that if you find him or her, you’ve found true love to make you happy. True love, most of us tend to believe, lies from outside of us.

I’m used to hearing individuals or couples saying, “I can’t live without you.” So when one loses the other, he or she also loses his or her self.

Even if you get true love from outside of you, it will only be for awhile. It won’t last long. True love doesn’t work that way.

You and your loved one are two separate individuals. You can love another person without losing your self.

True love then is essentially located from within your self. Not outside of it.

As Ravi Shankar put it, “Seek not outside your self, for all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found.”

Finding true love then is not about finding your completeness in another person. You don’t need another human being to complete you.

In reality, you’re already complete and whole as you love and accept your self. If you don’t have true love for your self, you can’t realistically expect someone to give it to you.

You only need someone in your life when you desire to share with another your wholeness. Bless the other with true love already residing within your heart.

So a next question is, if true love is found within you, how do you know it’s there, to attract true love from another person?

Rx to Suicide

It’s sad to note that hundreds of thousands of men and women around the world committed suicide. Men typically die of violence, such as through gunshot or self-strangulation. Women hang or cut themselves or overdose on pills.

What drives people to kill themselves?

I’m not aware of any well-studied psychological theory that explains the nature of suicide fantasy and the final action. But more often than not, i surmise it can be a combination of factors. Neurochemical vulnerability. Identity and self esteem issues. Desperation. Circumstance.

In addition to these factors I mentioned as possible precipitatants of suicide, society and culture seem to also play a role.

Psychology Today writer Abby Ellin writes, ” … we live in a culture where disorders of the mind are kept quiet. People are honest about struggles with cancer or diabetes. They talk openly about injuries. But depression is a dark secret.”

When Albert, 54, saw me, he’d been wanting to kill himself. His identity and self esteem was very tied into his social, public profile – his CEO status, his business, his family – and these things started to dissolve when he was faced with economic bankruptcy and loss of work.

He felt so depressed and down. Talking about his feelings to his wife or friends would most likely help Albert. Except, of course, he was not a person who wanted to appear vulnerable to any one in any way. Even in therapy, he struggled with this.

People who have thoughts of suicide suffer from hopelessness that their business or finances will rebound, that their mate will love them, or that someone will want them after a broken marriage or relationship.

Ultimately, therefore, hope is the medicine to this deadly dark secret.

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.