Do you really want to be free?

Therapy is freedom work. It affirms and protects everyone’s God-given right to be free.

Yet I found that a lot of individuals, couples, families, and even cultures still choose to remain oppressed. Even when they realize they need to be free.

Slavery and oppression has become their home.

“I’ve a right to do whatever I want to do with her, she’s my wife,” said Ric in a marital session with his wife, Donna, of 20 years.

All throughout their marriage, Donna endured her husband’s physical beatings and verbal abuses. Sexually, she’s often overpowered and forced.

For such a long time, she never knew how or had the courage to set her self free. She made her husband’s slavery and oppression of her her home.

Slavery and oppression are of various kinds. This case is domestic/marital.

Other kinds are: political, economic, psychological or emotional, addiction, racial, parental, religious, corporate, informational, injustice to the poor, among others.

I find it appalling to see how much an oppressor, dictator, or slavemaster is able to control and dominate a victim’s life. He abuses and suppresses the victim down.

And the victim just submits and thinks it’s the way it is to be. Until the he or she feels at home to remain an oppressed slave.

I’m reminded of this man enslaved by drugs and vices. “I can’t help it!,” he claimed. When he lost everything, hit bottom, he finally chose to find ways to rehabilitate.

No oppressor wants a slave to be free. The slave has to awaken and fight to be free.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Take Charge of your Health

Medicine in the form of pharmaceutical drugs plays a significant role in countless lives, such as among the elderly or seriously ill.

But the truth is, it can be just as much a curse (causing disability or death) as a blessing (especially in severe cases and diagnostic purposes).

We live in a world of “pharmageddon!” And statistics say that prescription drugs are killing far more people today than illegal drugs.

In treating mental health patients, I’ve witnessed a number of them drugged by psychiatrists, which produced more ill health than health.

A case in point was a friend of mine who chose to agree to every drug her doctor gives her for her depression and anxiety. She never recovered from decades of brain medication.

She actually got worse than before she took the drugs, getting in and out of a psychiatric or psychological facility, and finding new diseases inside her body.

If you’re not careful, “problems” can do appear that were not problems at all after indiscriminate approval of every drug, test, diagnostics, or procedure by your doctor or in the hospital.

I’m reminded of this actress who died just recently. Her slippery slope began, where each drug and test given to her led to another.

Sooner, one of these chemical interventions inside her body may had proven fatal, possibly by way of drug interaction, infection, or surgical complication. How dehumanizing, this “over-medicalizing!”

I’ve been thinking, how come, hundreds or thousands of years ago, people lived for so long and died even without much medical attention at all. In some, even when their life span had been shorter, they lived meaningful and fruitful lives.

Certainly, they had something else to account for their health apart from reliance on medicine or medical professionals.

(Related article: “Why We Are Losing Americans To Prescription Medications?”
https://theduneseasthampton.com/blog/why-losing-americans-to-prescription-medications/)

Curable Or Incurable

“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.

Healing Your Parent Wounds

What do you do when your neglectful or abusive parent becomes ill and seeks your sympathy to get to the end of his or her life?

For a lot of people, the duty of honoring parents can be a perplexing dilemma. Such is especially so, when their parents have given them no or few reasons to honor them. Parents who were toxic and distant when their children were young tend to incur resentment rather than kindness.

Several months ago, I experienced this common dilemma. My 80+ year old father became finally sick and called for me after many decades of absence, neglect, and physical abuse during my youth. I never had a real conversation with him, a time spent eating out or walking in the mall, or directly receiving money from him. It’s fine that he asked for me now that he’s sick. But where was he when I needed him then?

Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s best-loved presidents, had an abusive, brutish father. His father, Thomas, hated his books and controlled his life by sending him out to work as a kind of slave to others. Even as an adult, Lincoln did provide finances to his father to bail him out of trouble despite disconnection and abuse in their relationship.

Eventually, Lincoln confessed that he was unable to stand his father any more. During his father’s terminal illness, Lincoln ignored messages from him. He wrote a note not to his father but his stepbrother to explain his absence: “Say to him that if we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant.” Lincoln didn’t attend his father’s funeral.

Warren Buffet, the world’s no. 2 richest man in the world, once shared his life with his mother. He remained distantly dutiful to his mother, who had subjected her children to endless verbal attacks. Buffet was 66 when his mother died at 92. His tears at her death were not because he was sad or because he missed her.  He said in his biography: “It was because of the waste.”

In my years of psychotherapy practice, the issue of “parent wounds” is an extremely recurring shadow evident in my sessions. Unbeknownst to these adult children, much of their psychological sufferings and dysfunctional behaviors are traceable to their lingering unprocessed pain from this kind of wounding. So, even to the end of their parents’ lives, they simply can’t imagine how else to be with or see them.

We are all children of our parents. Still, the ability to see our parents as children too can easily elude us. In my own life as well as in others, I’ve witnessed and experienced firsthand the shortcomings in parents which became damaging to us as a child and when we’d become parents ourselves. Like nothing else, such glimpses across generations can aid us to comprehend those who parented us.

Ultimately, with this cross-generational insight, we can view more clearly how we’ve been hurt and shaped. And finally, the hope of closure and healing from our “parent wounds” becomes a reality. Such facilitates making the prospect of our own personal change and fully seeing our parents’ humanness less frightening.

When Giving Too Much Turns Wrong

I woke up this morning thinking about a mother and son in my session not too long ago. Well, it’s like watching a story in a movie. Expert clinicians in the psych field have dealt with their condition, which they call “affluenza” or “rich kid syndrome.”

Entitlement. Addiction. These two words pretty much describe the current condition of the now middle-aged son. A college drop-out and never held a job in his life, he has become addicted to drugs, alcohol, car racing, women, and casino gambling. Heir of family wealth, he feels entitled to too much money without having to work for it.

The mother brought her son to me because she’s confused about what’s happening to him. For over a decade now, her son has been under psychiatric medication, in and out of psych facilities. She doesn’t see her son recovering but worsening day by day with depressive and nervous breakdowns. Since he was a little child onwards to adulthood, it’s his mother who’d be by his side, protecting and insulating him with access to lots of money, bailing him out when he does something wrong, and seeing to it that everything is done for him.

As it turns out, the mother never realizes the “abuse” she’s been doing to her son for so many years. When I started inviting them to explore the “roots” of their situation, they got nervous. The mother stopped me. The son did not want to let go of his usual “comforts” so he can begin healing. Truth hurts. Both mother and son, in this case, are in dire need of appropriate help and support. Unfortunately, they rejected it and would rather prefer to remain in bondage and misery outside of truth.

Let’s stop for a moment and think about our own family situation. Our parenting. Our children. Do we abuse our kids by giving them too much? By the way, this disease is not only common among the wealthy or middle-class families. It can be as common too even in poor families. It is no respecter of persons or status. It’s a hot battle in the mind.

Cure for Pain

Pain is a place for the mind and soul. It’s an inevitable part of life. We’re often unable to fully understand the substance of our self. But our willingness to go deeper and experience the pains of life can make us find this true substance …. and wellness in spite of them.

Pain is not just physical. Mother Teresa was once quoted saying that the worst disease in the world is not leprosy or tuberculosis but the feeling of being unwanted, unloved, and abandoned by every one. Life’s pain also includes the non-physical, the emotional, relational, and spiritual pain. It’s so because the self is of many components, one but of many parts.

In psychotherapy, there is mostly this type of pain. A lot of psychopathology and socially unacceptable behavior is really a heart cry to be loved and accepted. Few people ever come out directly declaring this aspect of pain in their lives. But the behaviors and feelings manifested say it loud and clear.

How then do you find wellness … in spite of your pain?

Evelyn, a patient with severe heart disease and few friends or family to help her, shared her hints that we can all learn from: “I just accept and bear it and every moment be present in the Presence.” Anxiety is known to stimulate pain. Evelyn learned to conquer that through solitude and prayers. She learned to experience wellness amidst her varied pains, even at times eliminate the pain, by changing her attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.

An anonymous writer once wrote about a secret formula: “Suffering is not a question that demands an answer; it’s not a problem that demands a solution; it’s a mystery which demands a Presence.”

Yes, you can experience wellness … in spite of your pain or suffering. Apply the secret.

Natural Mental Health

When I reviewed the studies on psychiatric drugs and treatments most commonly used for mental health patients, I found very little or no evidence of effectiveness. The “disease model” of psychiatry and mainstream medicine does not work.

In fact, numerous patients even got worse with synthetic brain drugs. And a number of human rights legal cases have even been filed against brain drugs over the decades.

Why are people so readily satisfied with the short cuts and simplifications of the medical disease model of mental health?

It seduces us to our wish for a quick fix. The instant gratification that does not require us to struggle with life issues — as if changing our lives are as simple as popping a pill or abstaining from a substance or activity.  It gives the appearance of magic.

In addition, although insights from psychotherapy can be useful tools, I see a need to go beyond them too. You will surely need to work on your addiction or psychological disorder specifically.

But what I believe the most crucial work is lies in what you need to think, feel, and do in regard to the direction of your overall life, of which addiction or a mental health problem is just one expression.

To heal beyond the drug-based or disease model concentrates on strengthening the “life skills.” A person needs to replace an addiction or emotional dysfunction with deeper satisfactions and better ways of coping.

These include personal, marital, and family therapy; emotional and social skills training; job skills; spiritual life savers; and stress management.

Then, there is what I call a “community reinforcement approach” or involvement in therapeutic groups where people’s lives are addressed as a whole as well as their addictions.

The ultimate goal is “whole life” natural recovery and transformation — which disease-oriented treatment says is impossible. There is no reason why you are unable to shed the “addict identity,” for instance.

You  altogether can put your self permanently on a new, healthy plane of existence. It is within reach. If you believe it, and act on that belief.