Enjoying Your Age

Life is short. Each one of us goes through its seasons. Childhood. Youth. Adulthood. Old age. And then, we passed on to the next season beyond earthly existence.

Through each season of life that passes by, we’re all called to develop accordingly. Based on age where we find ourselves in. Developmental tasks are a given. We fulfill them, we grow. We find wholeness and happiness.

As author Bo Sanchez says, “Every season requires a response. Don’t mix them up or you’ll have problems. During spring, you plant. During summer, you work. During autumn, you harvest. And during winter, you renew.”

I’m reminded of a 30-year-old single Mom with two young children, ages 3 and 5. Struggling financially to support her self and two kids, she applied for an OFW contract job in a Middle East country. She got the job.

In the days following, she experienced tremendous panic anxiety. Her present moments had been a mental pain for her as she imagined leaving her kids to work overseas. Sleepless and depressed, she sought outside help and comfort.

Shortly, it dawned on her what’s truly more important to her. She realized more and more that she will never get this season of her life back at home with her little kids. She cancelled her trip for overseas work and started a new business instead with close friends.

Most importantly, she’s able to prioritize mothering her kids she called “gifts and blessings.” At this season of her life, she felt much happiness with her little ones at home who want to snuggle and just simply spend time with her.

Enjoy the age where you’re in! Maximize the gifts and blessings of your season of life.

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!

Your Best Life Ahead

Something new came into the life of Maria as a result of her husband’s infidelity – tears. She was still obsessed over processing all the events circling around the wound of her marriage and life. It was overwhelming, a deepest cut. And all she could do was look out the window and cry for months.

I asked her in one of our sessions if she’d ever run out of tears. I mean, a “dry cry.” She finally said, “Yes!” Of course, I suspect she remained crying as she always did, but no liquid present! That is one woman who had truly cried a river for some time. That was several years ago. Time and distance passed.

Then one day, she made a call and reappeared to me. I noticed a different Maria. In our talks, she reported significant accomplishments in her life after her unremorseful husband’s infidelity and separation from him. As the days, weeks, and months went by, things looked clearer to her that led to a successful writing and business career. By placing distance between her and her marital wound, she gained valuable progress in healing her self and building a new life.

Looking at Maria’s massive crisis that engulfed her life, it’s important to note one helpful action she did – she sought professional help. Since the situation was beyond her ability to handle and decipher, it made great sense to her to see a counselor from the beginning. According to her, that choice speeded up rather than prolonged her healing process. She honestly believed that something self destructive might had happened to her if she didn’t make that choice.

If you’re deeply hurt right now, I know your teary eyes may feel like heavy weights. But in time, as you take the right steps and commit your self to recovery over the long haul, you’ll be back at the top of your game. You’ll be brand new! And pretty much better rising out of the ashes. There is always the promise of hope beyond the pain.

So, if you’re locked up inside, open the door. Open the window. Go outside. Take deep breaths. Pray. Look as far as you can see. Take responsibility. It’s wonderful. It’s worth the price to pay to live your best life ahead.

Are You Loving From An Empty or Full Tank?

This week, I received a heartbreaking message from a divorced, 32-year-old Middle Eastern woman I’d call Riza. She is currently remarried after a time of promiscuity from the first divorce and left everything to be with her second husband in a foreign country.

After just less than a year of being with her second husband, Riza texted me the other night to pour out and describe her latest update. A part reads, “I have walked out and gone to international airport to leave the country as my self esteem is very broken with my husband.” What strikes me about Riza’ s declaration is that it’s her self esteem which got very broken, not the relationship with her husband.

I feel for Riza. My heart goes out to her. She is in a very painful place. Despite her natural beauty and “wanting to love and be loved,” Riza still finds her self empty and have not been making good progress learning to truly love and receiving love with the various men who passed by in her life. She has a “mountain” to climb but has to learn from the pain first about her self and her former love relationships before she can move on to climb the top.

Divorce or ending of a love relationship is especially traumatic and destructive for those who “love from an empty bucket.” If the center of your life and love is in your partner and the relationship dissolves, your center is suddenly removed. Since the bucket is empty, what else is left of you?

What could it be like if the loving is from a “full bucket” within a whole person? If loss, divorce, or ending of a love relationship comes, you would still experience pain and trauma. Of course. But it would not be so devastating and destructive because you love from a “full bucket.” You would still be a whole person.

Are you loving from an empty bucket or a full tank?

Looking At The Bright Side

One of my recent sessions was filled with joy. A couple, who used to experience bitterness, rage, and anger towards each other learned to smile a lot at each other. With that, they discovered how much they’re capable to feeling kind and compassionate to each other, struggling though they may be. A cheerful smile became medicine to their marriage.

Smiles have a therapeutic effect on our brain chemistry, according to experts. Researchers have found out that “when we smile, it releases brain chemicals called ‘endorphins’ which have an actual physiological relaxing effect.” They say that smiles not only diffuse crisis or tense situations in relationships. They also diffuse tension within our selves.

Have you ever witnessed people using foul language, with rising tempers or careless behaviors towards each other? They usually have stern, frowning faces. Some are used to brawling and slander. They threaten or damage relationships and themselves. Their emotions as well as the way they react to situations are out of control. And they seldom smile. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with unsmiling, joyless faces.

So, the next time you felt so angry with someone or because of an argument, remember how it affects your health and well being. Look instead at the bright side of things. Tap that part of you inside that feels lighter and cheery. Smile. It can do wonders.

No Incurable Illness, Only Incurable People

“There is no incurable illness, only incurable people.”

That’s Dr. Bernie Siegel in his book “Love, Medicine, & Miracles,” with a subtitle “lessons learned about self-healing from a surgeon’s experience with exceptional patients.”

That statement strikes me. I want to understand what Dr. Siegel is pointing out and its applications. I do, for it concerns what I do a lot of the time. In a society such as ours, the response to life’s stress and problems are pretty much left to the individual. The individual’s mind must learn to disconnect psychologically from external pressures to cope better and not get sick.

Not everyone who suffers a trauma, loss, or deep stress develops a severe illness. Whether the illness is mental, emotional, or physical, the deciding factor is always how an individual thinks about or copes with the problem. Scientific evidence shows that mental factors are always present in cancer, depression, violence, addiction, and other types of breakdown. Those who can reframe their minds despite stressful circumstances and continue with their lives generally stay well or better.

I once talked to a separated married couple in great distress. The husband was a drug addict, overdosing on prescription pills, a gambler, and a womanizer. He was harming his wife, both physically and verbally. He had undergone long five years of psychotherapy sessions already and he’d still not able to control his anger and addictions. The simple truth is, he was being driven to his sickness. The requirements of recovery are obvious and yet he remained disabled in his will to bring himself to wellness.

If a person deals completely with anger, addiction, or abandonment when it first appears, illness or mental breakdown need not occur. Often, when we do not deal with our deepest emotional needs, we set ourselves up for physical illness or mental disorder. Yet what are we most comfortable with? Avoiding or denying there is a problem. Telling a loved one we’re seeing a doctor to put up an appearance. We’re actually more comfortable finding escapes and covering up instead of going directly into the roots of our pain ourselves.

No incurable illness, only incurable people.

OFWs and Parenting

I call some parents “ghost parents” because they haunt children and homes they neglect, deprive, or leave behind. Yes, they exist. But you and I may not easily know what it really is and their destructive effects.

Most “ghost parents” are male, but some are female. You heard of parents who didn’t become involved in the lives of their children. Some are distracted or distanced by money or work, others by affairs. Some are separated or divorced, some see child-rearing as beneath them. Some are abusive, emotionally and even physically.

In the Philippines, we have a social reality called the “OFW phenomenon.” I know of an OFW mother who had an affair and traded her three very young kids for that and an overseas job in the Middle East to join her affair partner. Emotionally traumatized, the youngsters grew restless and confused, waiting long hours every day by the house gate. They were simplistically told that Mom works abroad “for you” (omitting the adultery detail).

Reliable government statistics show a rising rate of broken marriages and families among OFWs. A number of years ago as head of a national association of colleges, Dr. Vicente K. Fabella studied the impact of OFWs’ family separation. His study showed that one in every four OFW spouses separate. And up to two in five OFW children drop out of college because of lack of parental guidance.

Am I stepping on some toes as I write this? Very good! I join a global mental health battle to save the seed. “Ghost parents” are definitely one of the frequent and most damaging sources of psychopathology among individuals, marriages, and families today. I bled for all the children of “ghost parents.”