Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is a mental dysfunction. In psychology, it’s referred to as a personality trait hyperfocused on flawlessness and perfect performances.

A young patient, Dina, was a scholar in the university. Her life has been an endless report card on grades, accomplishments, and looks.

One evening, Dina was rushed to the hospital by her father. Her sister found her slumped on the floor of her room with bloody cuts on the wrists.

She tried to end it all. That time, she could no longer keep up with her grades due to severe social anxiety.

What makes perfectionism toxic is its negativity. It’s overly anxious on avoiding failure, mistakes, and messes … an impossibility in reality.

Even if you express love to a perfectionist after some misses, it isn’t enough comfort. The perfectionist is way too dependent or conditional on performance to feel loved.

Psychology Today magazine explains,

“There is a difference between striving for excellence and demanding perfection. The need for perfection is transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, remember that “you are good enough.” You are worthy as you are because you exist.

You don’t have to prove your value to anyone, even to yourself. God has already placed that value on you and your life.

“Perfection is an illusion. Yet perfectionists demand it from others while being far from flawless themselves. The margin of error of the human condition is often our greatest area of excellence and discovery,” reminds writer Stewart Stafford.

The RAIN Tool

“We all have an omniscient narrator in our head who is harsh and negative commenting on our life. Having a voice constantly urging us to do better has some survival value – but it can make us miserable,” said New York-based psychologist John Gartner.

The other day, a talented young woman was sobbing during session.

She’s continually harassed by an inner judge which is critical, nit-picking, and devaluing her.

This thing inside her head was demanding. Full of unrealistic expectations. On the job 24/7.

She’s made to believe from the core that something is fundamentally wrong with her.

She’s been trying to control and fix what she felt is a basically flawed self.

It’s such an epidemic. This deep sense of personal deficiency. Getting stuck in the trance of unworthiness.

Mindfulness helps. It reduces the power the voice inside has over us.

Along the way in my sessions, I like doing Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. process tool to guide individuals in their private practice of mindfulness.

R.A.I.N. trains the emotions and thoughts to be self-compassionate.

R.A.I.N. tool for mindfulness goes this way:

R = recognize what is going on

A = allow the experience to be there, just as it is

I = investigate with interest and care

N = nurture with self compassion

According to Dr. David Kessler, MD, author of “CAPTURE,” studies show that meditation and mindfulness gives schizophrenics the “ability to pay less attention to and give credence to the voices in their heads.”

“For those with anxiety or depression, meditation stops the cycle of obsessive rumination and self recrimination,” Dr. Kessler added.

When Kittens Become Cats

The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.”

In many ways, we could say the same thing about our children.

When my daughter Angel was 3 up, she was cute, cuddly, soft and small.

Now that she’s older and bigger, I still love her just as much.

But she’s become so independent. And … isn’t quite as small or cuddly anymore!

I could say somewhat the same thing about her brother Paul and sister Christine, who are now young adults.

They’re former kittens, now developing cats!

As a father, time does keep slipping, slipping, slipping on me. And I’ve to admit that I’m not as young as I used to be.

A few days ago, I was in session with a Mom (along with her husband) who’s still calling her son “babe.”

Her son is almost 25, still dependent on her in all basic things.

It’s obvious that as we parent our children, we’re called to develop as adults as well.

This means, we need to be aware of appropriate developmental paths as time slips by.

My fathering my 3-year-old Angel, for instance, has to be far different from my fathering her in her teenage years.

I admit it’s tough for me to be a father of a teenager. And it is not easier for my daughter Angel.

At this point, she may literally be “not all there.”

Yet she needs my love and support to grow in certain areas, such as impulse control, judgment, and ability to face consequences.

This is “age-appropriate” parenting. For our kids’ mental health and overall wellness.

To do that, we parents need to be relatively functioning adults, while we’ve the opportunity.

For time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping …

The Medicine of Forgiveness

Forgiving people is healthy. Life-giving. Not only for your mental, emotional, or spiritual health. But also physical health.

Science shows that our physical bodies can be ravaged by negative emotions. Cancer and other deadly diseases as well as depression-levels are high among non-forgivers.

I know a 45-year-old man who’s full of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness in his heart. Over the years, he poisons his body with negative emotions.

Today, his life is at risk. He’s set to undergo two dangerous coronary surgeries.

Forgiveness is healthy.

It’s a forgiver’s project, not the trespasser’s. Forgiveness is for you, not for the other person.

I often hear people mean, “I’ll forgive you if you change or ask forgiveness.” That’s not how true forgiveness works to heal.

Forgiveness is unconditional. It says, “I forgive the person who wronged me regardless of whether or not the person repents.”

This doesn’t mean you sanction or condone the abusive behavior done. True forgiveness recognizes the reality of wrong done.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness is a separate construct from reconciliation.

People who truly forgive people heal. They set themselves free.

However, at the same time, they don’t assume that their forgiveness has necessarily influenced or made the other person repentant of the wrongs made.

In fact, many forgivers rightfully choose not to reconcile. They create significant boundaries between them and the unrepentant persons who hurt them.

Dr. Charles Zeiders, author and psychotherapist, writes:

“Human nature is fallen, and people are capable of sadism, abuse, and grotesque behaviors that will again hurt us … We forgive, but we do not pretend that the people we have forgiven have been touched … or that reconciliation is possible. Even though we forgive in this life, we might have to wait for the next life to enjoy full community with those who have harmed us.”

Are you in love or an addict?

When a woman is routinely abused and coerced but nonetheless refuses to protect herself or leave the relationship, is it something you can call love?

Clinical psychological research and media news are full of documented cases of wife or woman batterings in intimate alliances.

Extreme are cases in which men have killed women. These women chose to stay on despite atrocities or severe hardships.

Nida was an executive and single Mom of two daughters. She seemed deeply depressed even before she met Norberto.

She was unhappy with her failed relationship with her husband whom she’s separated as well as her own parents. She hardly had friends.

After a series of sexual encounters and live-in with Norberto, Nida was forced by him to leave her job.

Along with it, Norberto dictated on her to sell her properties and use her money to support him and his five children from two other women he had in the past.

One time, Nida cut herself. Attempted suicide. Fortunately, she had relatives near their house. It happened after the usual verbal and physical beatings of Norberto.

In a visit by two of Norberto’s older children after the incident, Nida told them of her satisfaction and love for their father.

Is that true love?

From the vantage point of addictionology experts, Nida’s relationship with Norberto fulfills the criteria for addiction, not true love.

Nida had given up all outside relationships, her work, and any sense of personal dignity, normality or decency in order to continue her addiction to Norberto.

Nida accepted and identified with Norberto. His domination. His narcissistic claims about himself.

And she felt her relationship with him gives her own life value.

Yes, there is a difference between love and addiction. Between true love and fake love.

Are you a people-pleaser?

People-pleasing is a type of addiction. A person uses it in the same way other people use drugs, alcohol, smoking, gaming, work, or shopping.

You see, when you go through life as a people-pleaser, you’re not living life in your own terms. You’ve chosen to hide your true self beneath the surface. By being nice and drama-free.

Rebecca is a severe people-pleaser. A real pushover. Even when people are already being rude to and manipulating her at work, she remains agreeable. Condoning. A sort of idolatry.

She thought it’s “cool.” To please and put other people’s needs first. But instead of being appreciated, she finds herself being treated as a doormat. She’s confused and depressed.

Where lies the reason behind one’s addiction to people-pleasing?

Often, it lies behind a person’s need to avoid being disliked, invalidated, or criticized. Any sign of discomfort of others’ disapproval can prompt a person to please.

Psychologists discover “childhood traumas” as a common factor that developed people-pleasing addiction. It’s linked to issues of parent-pleasing to avoid disapproval and abandonment.

Psychologist Dr. Leon Selzer, in his Psychology Today article, “From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing,” writes:

“As children, people-pleasers felt loved only when they’re conforming to the needs and desires of their parents … when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support.”

Thus, a child being dependent on the parents’ acceptance, he or she may become fearful of its being withdrawn from him or her. This is where the choice of parent-pleasing comes in.

According to Dr. Selzer, not to do parent-pleasing can risk parental alienation and produce feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.

He observes that the child may feel “it less hazardous to abandon the self than to run the risk of being abandoned by their parents” and “over time, this choice between self-abandonment and parental abandonment came increasingly imperative.”

From parent-pleasing to people-pleasing. Do you think the link makes sense?

Never Too Old or Too Late

Age moves. It cannot stop. Each age, we’re called to adapt. Otherwise, we fall or get stuck.

Archeology says, during Stone Age days, 25 was a ripe age. That’s too soon, isn’t it? Interesting, just a little over a century ago, 50 is already considered elderly. It’s a different number nowadays.

I’m in my “second wind” these days being in my 50s. I just feel different. A radical departure to an old script in which it’s assumed everything goes downward for those advancing in age.

Traditional model of retirement does not apply to me. I seem to be hitting my greatest strides only this later portion of life. For I continue to do visible, productive, and relevant work.

I constantly ask my self as a psychotherapist, “Am I effectively capitalizing my life experiences, knowledge and wisdom, in helping others?”

This perhaps may sound arrogant to you. But the clients – individuals, couples, and families – I’ve so far helped appreciated the wisdom and lived experiences I shared with them.

They expressed how much they value that they know their therapist is real.

Now, this is not to brag or I love talking about myself. I just want to share with you my own journey of finding a special discovery that could be helpful to you as age advances.

Longevity scholar Laura Carlstensen believes that humans catch the “second wind” once they hit 50 in which …

“the first 50 years could be spent learning and shaping ourselves into the kind of people who can spend our next 50 years giving back to our community”

The “second wind” is reinventing one’s self. A time to decide how to make a difference with your limited time, given your strengths, resources, and natural limits.

It’s never too late or you’re never too old to live your best, meaningful life ever.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “You’re never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.”