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.

Conquering Vice

Yesterday, TV host Amy Perez of ABS CBN’s daily morning show Sakto, asked me, “Paano ba matitigil ang bisyo ng tao (alak, babae, sigarilyo etc) ngayong bagong taon?”

I responded in part, “Yung mga bisyo na meron ang tao ay sintomas lang, di pa sya yung sakit.”

The underlying, hidden roots that fuel vices are essentially psychological and spiritual. That’s where lies the key to new life … true, lasting change.

Isn’t this one truth we often miss amid inevitable challenges we face in life?

In my own life, I’ve traveled through several deserts. Family and marital trauma. Financial challenges. Abandonment and betrayal.

Each time, I got broken. Torn apart. My heart was such a wilderness.

Needless to say, I could easily had become an alcoholic, a womanizer, or some sort of addict. Like what multitudes of wounded people have become or done.

Yet something left me sane and resilient those desert times. Unaddicted. Not grasping “false medicine.” Devoid of life-damaging vices.

So what prods me on? What sustains me, through weeks and months and years of searing pain, in my own deserts?

It’s what’s underneath my deepest part and being: the pearl of great price. It’s the Star of Bethlehem.

To develop our best selves, we have two guides: internal and external.

Internal, of course, refers to renewal of the mind. Cleansing of the soul. At times, a need for appropriate therapy. And Scripture is the best, ultimate guide that lays the task for us very well.

External refers to how we fashion our life outside ourselves. Family relationships. Work. Choice of friends. Recreational activity.

Are your internal and external flowing well interdependently to lead you to a healthy lifestyle?

And so, as you start this new year, be ready to travel even through the desert (or deserts) of life.

Choose to live free of vices or “bisyo” with your best self – your body, mind, and soul – following the Star.

Building Your Thinking Brain

To build your best self up, you need to improve your thoughts day by day. The ability to think clearly, realistically, and positively is one of our greatest secrets to help us live a happy, successful life.

If there is physical workout, there is also neurological workout. Brain workout. Thinking workout. When we do such, it strengthens the neuron pathways between areas of our brain.  That increases our IQ, even our EQ.

Therapy and counseling can be a long process. This is especially so when emotional and mental injuries are severe. Those who follow brain and thinking workouts have better chances of faster and more substantial recovery.

Christine had months of structured cognitive therapy with me focused on thought distortions. Having been traumatized by years of family violence, abuse, and dysfunction, she became flooded with emotions and unable to think clearly.

I identified the main tasks for Christine to work on in a challenging yet familiar way. Since she likes writing and painting, I asked her to keep a journal and write on it at least one entry each day based on a reading material I assigned her. I also prodded her to paint, reflecting her thoughts and impressions.

In due time, I was amazed to watch in real time how she got better and better. An example of her motivation to recover is, when she started a new blog where she put in her thoughts and sketches each day.

I’m proud of how Christine is able to manage her psychological trauma wounds by building up her thinking brain. She has become much better prepared to deal not only with her current challenges but also those in store for her in the future.

Build your thinking brain. Daily. Such workouts reserve a nest egg for you that can be recruited if disease, stress, or trauma strikes at any unexpected time of life.