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?

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.

Keeping Hope Alive

Awhile ago, I read of Major F.J. Harold Kushner in New York Magazine. He was an American marine held by the Viet Cong for 5 1/2 years. Something happened to him:

“Among the prisoners in Kushner’s POW camp was a tough young marine, 24 years old, who had already survived two years of prison-camp life in relatively good health. Part of the reason for this was that the camp commander had promised to release the man if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with others, the marine turned into a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. As time passed, he gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold, he became a zombie. He refused to do all work, rejected all offers of food and encouragement, and simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks, he was dead.”

Famous author Philip Yancey says, “Kushner’s experience is a tragic, negative example of the need for some hope to live for.”

Can that happen to any one of us? Sure. I’ve seen this countless times in my therapy sessions. A loss of hope sickens the mind, heart, body, and soul.

As Dr. Carl Jung put it, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

But mind you, the loss of hope is gradual. Never overnight. It’s often imperceptible that you’re not conscious that it’s already happening to you. If you were, you’d stop the deadly disease.

The disease of hopelessness is like erosion. Silent. Never hurrying up. Slow but constant.

But the good news is, this disease is not terminal. It can be operated on, cured.

I have thought about this always. If you recall my previous sharings – both personally and professionally – a lot in this life would steal or take away our hope to move forward.

Hope and health are inseparably interconnected.

The medicine of hope is determination that refuses to quit when we encounter the pain that losses and sufferings bring into our lives. It must be worked though or else it remains a barrier to our health.

In the bestseller book, “The Road Less Traveled,” the author insightfully teaches us:

” … it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually … this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

Are You Lonely?

Often when I work with disturbed people, I try to sense which feelings are most painful. A number of themes surface into my actual sessions.

But a common thread reveals that majority of them feels an inner vacuum.  An unsatisfied inner pain. A craving for fulfillment.

In one word: loneliness.

Psychological research reveals that loneliness is a most pervasive emotional disorder of our times. In fact, even without those clinical findings, we know that loneliness has always plagued humankind since time immemorial.

Interestingly, more so in our modern times.  Even with the rise of technology and other special comforts at our disposal. When there is deep emotional trauma, loneliness is most acute.

Experiences most conducive to acute loneliness are: the loss or death of a loved one, a broken home, parental abuses, separation or divorce, infidelity, leaving one’s home for work overseas.

All of these special experiences prevail in our times. They contribute to the increase of incidences of harmful effects of loneliness on people.

In her article in Mental Hygiene titled “Loneliness in Old Age,” author Irene Burnside writes:

“Loneliness is the state of mind in which the fact that there were people in one’s life in the past is more or less forgotten, and the hope that there may be interpersonal relations in the future is out of the realm of expectation.”

Essentially, loneliness is a connection issue. It can be remedied. But the first steps need to be taken by the sufferer himself or herself.


Master Your Brain Health Without Drugs!

Your Problem Is “Not-Me”

Problems do affect people. And it’s common sight how people convince themselves that their self-identities are bound up with their problems.

I’m reminded of Connie. He is like a lot of people who express the nature of their selves in terms of externals. He is fast losing his health and engaged in varied addictions, such as drugs, gambling, alcohol, and nicotine.

In our sessions together, he kept describing himself, “I’m useless. I’m an addict. I’m depressed and hopeless.” Rather than seeing his addictions as separate from his person, he embraces them as his globalized identity (“I am my addictions!”).

Interestingly, Connie has good things in his life that he is unable to see. His degree in a top university. His computer programming skills. A mother who cares and is supportive of him. A young, innocent daughter who looks up to him.

The person is not the problem. Rather the problem is the problem.

In the case of Connie, the way to healing his damaged self and life is to regard his addictions as an “entity” in itself apart from him. Instead of saying “I am,” he says “I have.” He has addictions, with which he has a relationship that has taken over his life.

That’s the problem, not him.

When Connie gets that, he can begin to work through his addictions more accurately. The problem invaded his person, which can now be reserved or protected or retrieved from the problem of addictions.

If this sounds too fanciful for you, you may try such a conversation your self. Think of some problem you have. Think of it not as an identity characteristic but as an entity outside of your self.

Discover then the fact that you are not your problem, but that you have a relationship with it!

And within that relationship to the problem, you have responsibilities and possibilities for your life that the problem has not removed. The problem has only succeeded in obscuring those possibilities and oppressing the potentialities of your self.

Remember again, your problem is “not-me.” Your problem is the problem!

Adultery

Are you a cheating husband or wife?

If you are and you want to heal yourself and your marriage/relationship, here’s a sneak preview of some therapy steps generally prescribed by clinicians and therapists:

* Abstinence 100% from all contacts and communications with the OP (other person) or adultery partner;

* Take responsibility for your behaviors and misbehaviors;

* Show sincere evidences of remorse and repentance, relationally and spiritually;

* Realize that there is never an excuse for adultery;

* Be sensitive and patient when your spouse/partners suffers from triggers out of the infidelity wound;

* Check your anger and resentment at the door;

* Acknowledge the depth of the pain and wounding that your affair brought to the marriage and family;

* Admit mistake committed and avoid all excuses and rationalizations to deflect attention to the adultery;

* Stop blaming your spouse/partner for your affair;

* Repent of and stop recruiting the children to be “partners in crime” in the adultery;

* Be truthful from here on – no secrets any more;

* Get your personal healing of emotional wounds with a professional therapist;

* Get marital healing with your spouse/partner only through increased structure of professional psychotherapy and counseling sessions, especially in the beginning stages;

* Stop being defensive;

* Be trustworthy;

* Renew your mind and stop thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else;

* Figure out the “roots” of your unfaithfulness to your spouse/partner;

* Check what your spouse/partner needs on a regular basis;

* Expand your circle of support – safe friends, therapist, community etc.;

* Educate your self about affairs and infidelity treatment;

* Listen – really listen;

* Seek help from God as your best source of strength, healing, and life recovery.

Adultery is treason to marriage, family, and society. In the Philippines and in some places, adultery is a legal crime punishable by imprisonment. In the time of the Old Testament of the Jews, adulterers were stoned to death.

For those who persist in adultery or cheating, the costs are so high — psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Marriage and children are casualties. Mental illness or addictions can develop. For true Christians, the Bible says that God may choose to discipline them or take them away from earthly life. Indeed, cheaters can choose what they want to do but they cannot choose their consequences.

Adultery or cheating is not an unforgivable crime or sin. It can be healed. With the right heart and actions, one can be whole again – and even the best person one can be in this life and beyond.

De-Selfing

In a group therapy session, a woman was asked what she enjoyed doing. Her name was Maria, who shared:

“There is not anything I enjoyed doing. My whole life was taking care of my husband. I wanted to do what he desired. I was always there for him no matter how I felt. I listened for hours on end to his problems. I really lived for him. And now I have no life.”

“De-selfing.” It’s a term coined by author Harriet Lerner in The Dance of Anger, which is eventually adopted as a clinical concept in mental health. It refers to a state of under-functioning or over-functioning because too much of one’s self or basic integrity – thoughts, feelings, behaviors, ambitions etc – are compromised or harmed under pressure from a relationship.

A common result of “de-selfing” is a host of mental and emotional disorders or symptoms, such as depression, addiction, personality disorder, obsessive compulsion, suicidal ideation, among others.

Maria, based on her story, had a long-standing habit of “de-selfing.” She lived through her husband and failed to care for her self. She ignored, neglected, or minimized her own needs in order to be what she misperceived a good wife is.

She missed essential self-nurturing that’s vital to her own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. When she suffered a loss from her husband, she found her self empty, having “no life.”

If you are like that group therapy member Maria, who had completely replaced her own well-being with that of her husband, taking care of your self must now become a priority for you.

It’s your way of rebuilding your self-esteem … your whole life as a matter of fact. You may feel discomfort at first while you’re changing this life-damaging “de-selfing” habit, but it should gradually lessen over time.

Treating your self well is not selfish, as you may have been taught or conditioned to believe. Rather it is basic self-respect – a nurturance of life that is so foundational to your total health, well being, and relationships.