What are you living for?

People live for something. Or, someone.

Money. Cars. Spouse, kids. Mom, Dad. Friends. Business success. A job. Sports.

Fame. Sex. Food. Travels. A cause. Making a contribution. Fighting for a cause. Possessions, comfort.

The list is varied and endless. Depends. Every one is unique.

I had a millionaire client who loved buying lots of stuff. Her house was full of favorite things, like antiques, potteries, and furnitures.

That’s her passion. To collect those things. She even had framed photographs holding her favorite collections.

But these stuff she collects and spends a lot of money and time on, are they worth living for?

Many years ago, I was part of a Manila-based newspaper where I had a column.

I was a young man in search of true happiness through the writings I did.

One column I wrote was entitled “Impermanence.”

In that piece, I lamented about how all things are fleeting. I get this or get that because I thought it will make me happy.

Only to realize, something is always missing.

A measure of enjoyment, yes. But the happiness or satisfaction soon fades away.

Nothing this world offers fully satisfies. Even the good things.

C.S. Lewis writes, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself. There is no such thing.”

What are you living for? Is it worth it?

Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a mental dysfunction. In psychology, it’s referred to as a personality trait hyperfocused on flawlessness and perfect performances.

A young patient, Dina, was a scholar in the university. Her life has been an endless report card on grades, accomplishments, and looks.

One evening, Dina was rushed to the hospital by her father. Her sister found her slumped on the floor of her room with bloody cuts on the wrists.

She tried to end it all. That time, she could no longer keep up with her grades due to severe social anxiety.

What makes perfectionism toxic is its negativity. It’s overly anxious on avoiding failure, mistakes, and messes … an impossibility in reality.

Even if you express love to a perfectionist after some misses, it isn’t enough comfort. The perfectionist is way too dependent or conditional on performance to feel loved.

Psychology Today magazine explains,

“There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. The need for perfection is transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, remember that “you are good enough.” You are worthy as you are because you exist.

You don’t have to prove your value to anyone, even to yourself. God has already placed that value on you and your life.

“Perfection is an illusion. Yet perfectionists demand it from others while being far from flawless themselves. The margin of error of the human condition is often our greatest area of excellence and discovery,” reminds writer Stewart Stafford.

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.

Tim’s Advice

This guy, Tim Ferris, is a four-hour-work-week multimillionaire New York Times best selling author. He is one of the world’s famous experts on “new rich” and personal development.

Listen to one of his productivity mental health advices: “Poisonous people don’t deserve your time.”

I knew it was too hard for Mike, an addictive patient. When he entered therapy to care for his fragile wounded life, his mother was critical. She’d blame and judge him for his addictions.

She said that therapy was a waste of money and he could do it on his own.

Accept if the reality is, your family and friends happen to be not the best people to support your healing journey. They may misunderstand your needs through disinterest and uncaring.

Even all the way to shaming or verbal abuse. Such characterizes what happens too when you spend time with “poisonous people” in general.

Remember, if you’re just starting to heal your emotional wounds, you just have a tiny seedling with tiny leaves above the earth.

It’s extra vulnerable to being crushed when wind and rain come. So you would have to care for it as you would any fragile thing in your life.

Examine your present circle of support. Family, friends, mates. And ask these questions:

Are they supporting your fragile tiny seedling to flourish? Or, are they stomping on your growth?

Sometimes, you’ve to clear space for someone or something new to emerge. It’s hard but you’ve to do that in order to heal and grow.

Know the people who deserve your time. Find them, wherever they are. You need them. They’ll protect and nurture you till you become stronger.

My Art of Psychotherapy

Time passes swiftly. And I started late.

A desert of time to heal from trauma. The ending of a particular career. Entrance to a new calling. The maturation of children. Widowhood.

Then, freshly gained channels that permit expression of my “real” self. Bursting in recent years with previously unknown capacities.

It took me twenty or more years to realize that my prior years were not wasted or lost. It’s part of a grand plan to acquire special wisdom. To spur to grow. To be of greater use for others.

I feel good about being me. A personality in my “late blooming.” Somewhat arriving at fuller identity.

Nowadays, I’m a daily artist. My art is psychotherapy. I practice my art making sense of life experiences. I write about it, driven to understand the human condition.

My art of psychotherapy blends. The fusion of personal and professional dimensions affects me extraordinarily. My values. My lifestyle. My emotional stability.

Thus this work is not merely a way to earn a living. It has become the essence of my life. There are very, very few careers with this fruit of permeability.

It’s a best therapy ever. Possibly its most exciting facet is some heady sense of contribution to humankind. To a purpose greater than my own.

Every person I meet brings a prospect of a bright, beautiful painting. For revival. For redemption.

I do not do my art to get rich. I do it in order to live.

One masterpiece at a time. One life at a time.

Finding Your Truth

I don’t know what has happened. Or, where it has come from.

Last night’s group session, I had the truth in my mind. Yet I failed to express it. Something held me back.

It’s my personal blinder. A mistake. A negation of my personal sense of truth about my self.

As human as my struggling patients, it’s senseless to pretend perfection.

Therapy is self truth. It’s a process of seeking the truth about your self.

In the midst of the busyness of life and our world, we need to find a focus to make it happen.

It’s good, of course, to focus on healing our blinders or mistakes. You look into your self as you are with your faults – objectively.

But this is not enough.

You also need to focus on your assets. Your positives. Your gifts.

You must develop and cherish these assets. And work with them.

It’s also essential to look into your past. If you can do this deep enough, you see your mistakes again. And be in a position to learn from and avoid them.

I do not mean you obsess over your past mistakes and untruths, leading you to blame your self.

The real purpose of seeing your past is to live today with clear truths about your self.

Finally, plan for today’s possibilities. That will impact your future.

The primary excitement of knowing the truth about your self is becoming mature. Whole. Healthy.

Take stock of your self. Seek real truths about your self.

Look behind you, before you, and within you.

Remember that your self and life belongs to you. Especially, your truths.

Keep discovering.

Only You Can Choose the Moves You Make

Being a psychotherapist and life coach, I’m constantly faced with choices about life. Mind you, both for my patients and myself, they’re not easy.

Life can be a dangerous game. Issues can be a matter of life or death, victory or defeat.

My patients or clients are like me. Most likely, you too. A few times in my life, I tried to run away from “adulting.” I hated struggle. I didn’t like responsibility. Or, delaying gratification.

Yet in my attempts to escape the appropriate developmental tasks of my age, I experienced delays in my psychological maturity. I suffered the bad effects of my decisions. Life got unnecessarily harder.

In the game of chess, choices are crucial. Your chosen moves will determine the ensuing positions you’ll be in on the way to the game’s completion.

All the moves you make in chess are your responsibility. Only you can choose the moves you make. Your opponent or anyone else can’t make those moves for you.

In chess as in life, you can move forward or you can retreat backward. They’re ever-present choices.

Of course, there are times when you need to move backward. Retreat, regroup, recharge. But the call is always to move on – both in life and in chess.

I was speaking to a 50-year-old woman not too long ago about her lingering poverty. All her life, she chose to be a hard-working employee. And yet she still lived with bare minimum subsistence.

In the course of my conversations with her, she discovered a passion that she can turn into profit. She finally made a choice to change mindset. Sooner than she expected, she became a rich online entrepreneur.

Again, in life as in chess, we go for a “win.” We can choose to do that with each move or decision we make.