Believe in Yesterday

Psychologists have been re-discovering nostalgia. They claim it can have therapeutic mind-opening benefits.

As the Beatles sang long ago, “Yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away … Oh I believe in yesterday …”

I’d met a married couple years ago who were both threatening suicide. Due to the pains they’re experiencing in their marriage.

How could they be lifted out of that?

We used nostalgia, among others, during sessions. Visioning. Revisiting their past.

I asked them to think of their love theme song, the times they first met, the long-ago dates they had when they felt most loving and romantic towards each other.

Both also reminisced about the many wacky, fun times they had with their children when they were growing up.

Fortunately, their nostalgia trip remedied enough their joint suicidality!

We’re then able to work together on the deeper issues of their relationship.

Psychologist Tim Wildschut once observed that nostalgia can foster “feelings of connection” between people.

Even if they’re just confined to one person’s mind.

He told Psychology Today, “You revisit old relationships, bring people closer, and for a moment, it’s as if they’re there with you.”

I once emceed a high school reunion with my batch mates where all we talked about were our after-school hang outs, parties, favorite songs, and crushes.

How energized and vitalized the reunion was through nostalgia!

Everyone felt young again in the mind!

Memory can affect the mind to heal.

Those stuck in the negative effects of their present lives can focus on memories that cast the present in positive light.

“Nostalgia seems to stabilize people, to be a source of comfort and reassurance,” says University of North Dakota State psychologist Clay Routledge.

Who You Really Are When Alone

“Prison, I bless you!”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, noted author of “The Gulag Archipelago,” once wrote those lines while in jail, just before he won the Nobel Prize.

He was blessed in jail. In the agony, painful aloneness of imprisonment, he found God and his usableness to Him.

There is the paradox!

You can bless your problem. You can bless your wound. You can bless your loneliness.

Before my work as a psychotherapist, I felt I had wasted years. I was a troubled individual since youth. I credit my turnaround in life to my years of loneliness and self-healing.

As Dr. Calvin Miller put it, “Character itself is often the gift of aloneness.”

In the heaviness of a crisis, you can choose to like being alone. You cannot like yourself and know your gift unless you do spend time alone.

Possibly, like Solzhenitzyn, you’ll someday look back on a productive life and say, “Prison, I bless you!”

Great men and women all knew how to be alone. They knew how to celebrate who they are.

It’s small wonder that from aloneness came the Einsteins, the Gandhis, the Jobs, the Bezos, the Mandelas, the apostle Pauls of human history.

The quiet life is amazing. It’s full of treasures. It’s where you can find your depths, your confidence, direction, and self-worth.

Enduring trauma and healing from it is always lonely work. You can feel so alone. Yet paradoxically, it can profit you.

When you’re alone, that’s when you discover who you really are. And how you can be greater than ever before.

Get Natural

Substantual evidences from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the International Society of Sport Psychology, and other authorities have declared a best natural anti-depressant.

Exercise.

I remember one of my clients who took up boxing in the gym after taking brain drugs for a time. She reported that her exercise made her feel far better than all the psych drugs she took combined!

In dozens of clinical studies, exercise is proven to have superior supportive psychotherapeutic benefits. A repellant against depression and negativity, such as fear, worry, anger and tension.

Practiced regularly, exercise (aerobic or nonaerobic) helps bring better self esteem, enhanced mental and emotional performance, and resilience against stress.

Exercise “natural anti-depressant” may include: power walking, jogging, running, swimming, basketball, football, boxing, dancing, even gardening and housework.

Of course, a rule is do it safely and don’t overdo it to avoid unnecessary injury. Also, don’t try to expect to heal your emotional wounds overnight through exercise.

Major depressives in exercise programs spend their time too in psychotherapy. That goes to the internal roots to permanently keep the blues at bay.

Personally and professionally, I love daily power walks. At times, running. To exorcise my own demons! My own bodywork to free my mind so I can be of better help to others.

I like Henry David Thoreau, who writes:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend 4 hours a day at least … sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

Christina

Christina, one of my patients, recalls how her mother would leave her working and sleeping with the maids. Away from the rest of her siblings in the house.

“The more I tried to please my mother, the more she’d put me down. All throughout my childhood, I wondered about this: I felt like an ‘insect’ rather than my mother’s child,” laments Christina.

Christina is a 50-year-old adult now. A wife and mother of 3 grown up boys. But she still feels like an “insect.”

Although she looks naturally pretty, she rarely appreciates what people say about her. Mostly she hardly looks people in the eyes.

Somehow, Christina figures that she is that way always. Her life today is safe and comfortable, but it’s barren and emotional destitute.

The “inner child” contains memories, images, and feelings of your childhood. Both conscious and unconscious. What is consciously remembered and what’s repressed or forgotten.

When a child is abused, traumatized, or deprived, the “inner child” splits from consciousness when being abused. But it carries repressed anger, rage, hurt and fear.

As you grew into adulthood, the repression from childhood and “splits” from consciousness remain. Even now, as an adult, you still have inside you the child you once were – your wounded inner child.

Healing the wounded inner child involves telling the story in therapy. Why is telling the story important?

Dr. Charles Whitfield eloquently explains,

“We begin to see the connections between what we are doing and what happened to us when we were little. As we share our story, we begin to break free of being a victim or a martyr, of the repetition compulsion.”

In Search of “Real” Life Using Travel

A few years ago, I travelled around the exotic places of Thailand. It’s one of my “travel without money” adventures, once again. My Australian host treated me to a nice hotel and sumptuous meals.

For a few weeks, I was hanging out in the beaches and Buddhist temples. Simply curious. Savoring fresh air and seawaters. Knowing the culture and their religion.

I received special gifts of insight about me, fellow humanity, and life in general, along the way.

One afternoon, in a cafe, I met an aged American “secret agent.” He was with a young Thai girlfriend, possibly 4 decades his junior.

In our conversations, both intimated that they’re running away from something with their travels together. Not just around Thailand, but also around different Asian countries.

The elderly American, away from the pain of his divorce and estranged children. And the young Thai woman, an escape from poverty and a broken, abusive family.

People seem to be running away from something in their travels.

Yes, travel can be like that – but it’s also running towards something. A search for a run towards something “real.”

While watching a little boat passed by Hua Hin, I felt myself in both ways. Escaping from and running towards something.

I’ve been running away from the “worldly” idea of what life is. Imperfect though I am, I avoid that nonlife.

And I run towards a life with a higher purpose, authenticity, and connection. A life above the sun.

Reflecting, I realize how much society boxes me in. With illusions, diversions, false news. It simply cannot fathom that “normal” is outside its norm. I travel away from the abnormal to what’s normal.

People who found “real” life in their travels break the mold. They just don’t travel. They discover, see, and experience life as it really is.

Be free to travel towards the world and true living. Your whole life is yours to travel. It’s short. And you get to travel it only once.

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?

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.