Doing Psychological First Aid

Do you know Red Cross? Most likely. It’s known globally to come by first administering physical First Aid to the wounded and traumatized on the spot.

Psychological First Aid resembles Red Cross Physical First Aid. Both is for emergency and prevention. Both teach on-the-spot procedures to avoid much suffering, even death.

When a person got bitten by a snake, for instance, instant Aid must be provided. It’s impossible to contact a doctor right away.

To prevent unnecessary emotional trauma leading to suicide, loved ones or friends need to know how to do basic psychological First Aid on the spot.

Then, you bring the person to a doctor or hospital for proper treatment.

The need for widespread training in on-the-scene Psychological (or emotional) First Aid is plainly evident all around us.

We see children being sexually, physically, or verbally abused by toxic parents.

We see marriages and families breaking up.

We see old people lonely, unwanted, sick, homeless.

We see the unemployed suffering severe anxiety and insecurity.

We see people in shock in disaster or war-torn areas.

We see the mentally ill in and out of institutions.

We see students or teenagers becoming disillusioned, self critical, contemplating suicide.

We see people or media “fooling our minds” every day, by misguiding, deceiving, tormenting, scaring, pampering, teasing.

The need is simply overwhelming.

Yet something can be done. During every emotional crisis or traumatic event. On the spot.

Know and learn about it … before things get too late.

A Secret to Living Well

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s German. Like me, you may have a hard time saying or pronouncing it. The word means “community feeling.”

According to noted psychoanalyst Dr. Alfred Adler, that feeling is one of the marks of a well-lived life. It signifies the value of social interest in giving meaning and purpose to one’s life.

Such may be in the form of varied kinds. Such as: grandparenting, volunteering, philanthropy, ministering, health coaching, devoting one’s resources to some social or political cause.

Psychological studies showed that people who are engaged in some form of helping others are far more healthy and satisfied with their lives.

Yesterday, in the mall, a man greeted and tapped me on the back. He was a former patient, who’s with his smiling wife. For a year, they underwent personal and marital therapy with me.

It’s 5 years ago. Today, they’re living a healed, more balanced and happy life as a couple. Gone were their dark days of experiencing infidelity, bankruptcy, and abuses in their marriage.

The man said, “Doc, let’s have a selfie photo together!” I obliged, of course.

“We owe a lot to you. Count me and my wife in as one of those who went through a successful therapy and life change with you!”, he joyfully remarked.

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s the feeling I felt about what happened to this couple. And each and every time I’m able to have an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives. Simply priceless!

Most days, I begin with writing tasks, followed by seeing patients in my sessions.

I would then hold court in one of the many coffee shops or hotels around – sharing stories, jokes, Scriptures, deep talks about topics such as life’s meaning.

In all of those, my social interest is ever-present. A desire to contribute in whatever way I can to help others – psychologically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and even physically as well.

Life is beyond self. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and have lived well.”

Possessiveness and Pain

A lot of persons are hindered by possessiveness. Not able to hold things loosely. Let go. Release the squeeze.

Smothering rather than loving is typical. Parting cannot happen without internal bleeding.

If you ask Nora, she gets blown away with the thought of relaxing her grip on her young adult daughter. Who is leaving and getting married.

Deep inside, she admits fearing surrendering her prized “possession.” Even though she must say goodbye eventually.

Because releasing introduces the panic of losing control. The terror of risk. Uncertainty. Concern for safety.

It applies to friendship too. Friendship needs letting your friend have the freedom to be and to do. A space for the other person to grow.

Also, in releasing a dream. At times, we need to come to grips with reality. What really is. So we can let go. And move forward to a new story.

What maturity all this requires!

Dr. Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “The greater the possessiveness, the greater the pain.”

What is it that can bring peace to a possessive heart? To turn loose. To let go. Because, in fact, there’s nothing or no one that we can truly own.

Everything goes. Sooner or later. Child. Job. Wealth. Romance. Friend. Future. Dream. Health. Even this life.

Things get really safe only when we learn the art of holding things loosely. Everything is safe which is so dedicated to God.

You Are Who You Create Your Self to Be

Self.

Psychology refers to the human self in varied ways. Personality. Identity. Psyche or soul. Deep core.

Since we all age, does the passing of time affect who or what you are? Will you be the same self/person 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years?

Depends.

Several days ago, I was in a “graduation.” A patient, Anthony, finished our long-term therapy program. And all his family members gathered together for a joyous celebration.

One of Anthony’s close cousins remarked publicly, “He changed. He is not the same person I know. Something happened to him.”

Anthony’s body still has some similarity and continuity with what it was before. But he developed a new, different set of beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral manifestations.

He was seen not to be the same self/person he used to be. For Anthony, therapy facilitated a life change.

When I took my old car before to the mechanic for repairs, he made some replacements. Some parts of my car were changed that made it look new and run better.

Whether via therapy, some other kind of healing experiences, or a negative traumatic event (e.g. stress, depression, abuse), you may not be the same person you used to be.

Either for good or bad. For better or worst.

It’s a matter of what parts of the self are chosen to change. It’s nature, degree, and dynamics. Depending on how much the parts, connections, and interactions produce the different changes.

You alone can make that choice. The self/person you want to be.

As Stephen Richards writes, “You are essentially who you create your self to be, and all that occurs in your life is a result of your own making.”

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

It’s a common cliche. An old adage.

Is it really true?

One couple came to see me for marital therapy. It’s a case of the husband serially cheating on his wife.

The husband admitted having affairs several times in the few years of their marriage. He claimed he had the affairs just for sex and that he loved his wife and had a great sex life with her.

For a time during therapy, the relationship somewhat improved. The husband observed abstinence from his affairs. They learned better skills communicating and loving.

Then, the husband was caught contacting and seeing his affair partner again. Evidently the wife noticed no prior signs of the repeated cheating for he remained privately loving to her.

The wife felt something was wrong which she called an “invisible barrier” between them. But she couldn’t put her finger on it.

According to findings presented at an American Psychological Association annual convention, they found that people who cheat on their partners once are approximately 3 1/2 times more likely to cheat again.

I find it interesting that this finding did not apply only on those doing the cheating. They saw that those who were cheated on in one relationship were also more likely to be cheated on again.

Judging from the number of cases I’ve seen, cheaters do tend to cheat again. But I’d say not everyone. Some do change completely.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

That gets to be true I must agree … unless the root psychological wounds or unmet needs of the cheater are sufficiently dealt with.

Here are some possible underlying themes within cheaters I suspect exists:

• a never-ending quest of the cheater to make up for what he or she did not get as a child

• the more shame and guilt the cheater experiences, the more it tends to be projected onto the partner

• the cheating may be used to punish himself/herself or humiliate the partner

• a “bad me” core belief that leads to addictions for temporary relief

Bad habits are known to be hard to break. That includes the habit of cheating.

In reality, cheaters need clinical intervention to prevent repeated disasters.

Courage Heals

Courage was a big thing for Mother Teresa. She said, “To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.”

It’s essential to the meaningful attainments she made in her life –serving as a missionary against “injustice among the poor” in India.

Wounded souls. That’s how we may describe the inner state of individuals after suffering injustices in their personal lives and relationships.

Standing up to these personal injustices and wounds requires courage. Overcoming fear in order to heal. In order to be able to do what gives life.

For years, Maria, a 16-year-old high school girl, received abusive, name-calling text messages. She was pushed around at school. She avoided places in her school in fear for her safety.

Finally, she broke down. She could no longer bring herself to continue attending classes. Her grades dropped. She suffered from panic anxiety attacks, lack of sleep, and stress headaches.

Her mother brought her to me. She lamented, “My daughter has become emotionally crippled. It takes all my energy to get her out of the car and ‘go over there.’ ”

To get well, Maria needs a healthy dose of courage. Against injustices and its perpetrators.

It’s not for her own good that she allows her self to be humiliated and shamed in school. To do so only harms her psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“Be men of courage; be strong,” the Bible says (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Courage matters.

It helps us correct injustices and wrongs. It gives us power over risk and its associated fears. It leads us to be better persons, spouses, parents, children, friends and citizens.

You can fly, but that cocoon has to go.

“You can fly, but that cocoon has to go,” says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I’ve worked with actually need to hear that message. It’s true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can’t be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he’d cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an “immobile cocoon.”

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a “war zone” and a “safety cocoon” all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you’ll be able to see the big picture. You’ll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you’re not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I’ve met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn’t work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you’re newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don’t want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings and fly into new adventures?