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.

Celebrate the Process, Not the Result

A new year slogan says, “The best is yet to come!”

I like that. In my experience, and in the experience of a great many people, it can be true or inspiring a lot of times.

In my case, I’ve learned to just need to wait a while, get single-minded, probe more, take action more, to receive my best.

To receive the best that’s yet to come, here’s a well-proven tip: patience in the midst of process.

A broken-hearted, traumatized woman once asked me, “How long is therapy going to take to heal her pain of childhood abuse and rape?” She’s still receiving therapy for months for problems rooted in the terrible trauma of 20 years ago.

If you or someone is in the process of therapy, have patience. Healing from disease or injuries – whether physical or emotional – can take months, even years, especially when advanced. The best to come is one of deep-process healing and then strengthening for the future.

A major part of the process of psychological and spiritual healing is not only dealing with wounds from the past. It also involves acquiring skills, strategies, and new perspectives for facing the future in a healthy way. It calls for new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, behaving, and relating.

Don’t allow your self to be discouraged when your best life is not instantaneous. Individuals who are truly going to be healed from lingering emotional wounds are going to have to walk through a process that takes time.

Not only are you to be encouraged and steadfast in working through the process. But you are to be joyful that you’re on the way out! To freedom. To healing and wholeness. To your best life ever.

As Jeff Goins, one of my favorite writers, put it, “If you can celebrate the process, you can enjoy the outcome.” Measure the process, not the results.

This is critically important towards your way to “receive the best yet to come” in your life.

Your Extended “Gifts”

While the Christmas and New Year 2017 holidays are not over yet, it’s not too late to give extended “gifts.” To our selves. To others.

Possibly this may be your “gift” per day from here onwards.

Here are some suggestions for your extended “gifts:”

• Forgive one who hurt you, including an enemy.

• Smile a little. Then a little more. Till you laugh.

• Reduce your anxiety or demands on others.

• Converse warmly together without gadgets, phone, or TV.

• Do wash the clothes for Mommy or Daddy.

• Fix coffee or breakfast for someone you care about.

• Visit your grandparents with your cheers and gifts.

• Listen.

• Find the time to fulfill a promise.

• Express appreciation.

• Ask for forgiveness when you did wrong.

• Take a walk with your child.

• Learn the art of under-reacting.

• Enter into another’s grief.

• Speak kindly to someone you don’t know.

• Be gentle and patient with an angry or depressed person.

• Support to reconcile a broken relationship.

• Give hugs to people.

How about that?

Extended “gifts” to you and others! Sincerely. Lovingly. Without expecting anything in return.

That is mental health and wholeness, isn’t it?

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.

Mastering Sex

It’s part of God’s natural gift to human nature. Within the context of marriage, sex is good. It’s designed as an integral part of true love and commitment of two people in life union.

Yet, sex can turn bad.

Damaged. Polluted. Distorted or abused. In our society today, lots of channels feed bad sex. And bad sex creates psychopathology and other unwanted consequences.

Recently, Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein, an award-winning movie producer, was exposed of his sex addiction. Tens of movie celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie, Gwendolyn Paltrow, Ashley Judd, among many, came out into the open to report his raping or sexually harassing them in the past. It has become a full blown scandal that ended Harvey’s respected status and career in Hollywood.

I’m reminded of Bong, a patient who consulted me about his out-of-control sex drive. He engaged in sex with his live-in girlfriend. He also had sex with strangers or pay prostitutes for it. Bong said in session, “Sex to me is like food. It’s a basic need. I can’t understand why I feel bad about it.” His girlfriend found out and broke up with him.

What makes a person a slave to sex appetite instead of its master? There could be a variety of reasons. There’s space here for me to mention 3 possible reasons: bondage to world’s view, bondage to self, and bondage to ungodly mentality.

Bondage to world’s view. The world does not know about true love. Love is unprotected by widespread loose sex, pornography, sexual perversion, prostitution etc we see in our media and culture. To master good sex is to cut free from this bondage and live differently away from damaging worldly influences.

Bondage to self. The wounded self deprived of real love in the past or present can be vulnerable to addiction to unquenchable, out-of-control sex appetite. Mastering good, healthy sex demands healing of this primal psychological wound that caused severe narcissism. To be cut free from inappropriate pleasing of self and self-seeking attitudes.

Bondage to ungodly mentality. Sexual immorality is bondage to unspiritual, materialistic, robot mentality. One who feasts on pictures, films, and thoughts that feed moral weakness is a robot, not a master of sex, much less of himself.

At times, as a psychotherapist and human myself, I too am challenged to master the lure of bad sex. Professionally and personally. That always involves constant renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). Free from the imprisonment of imagination so the self can be free to make good, healthy choices.