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?”

Sex Addiction As An Illness

Sexual addiction is an illness. It’s solitary, dehumanizing, and satisfies only itself. Contrary to love, it’s fleeting. It causes people to abuse their bodies. It distances us from our emotions, destroys good feelings about ourselves. It therefore causes people to be broken and alone.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, sex therapist and author of “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction,” provides an operational definition of sexual addiction: “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Contrary to real love, the sex addict obsesses over and depends on sex for comfort from inner pain. He or she uses it for nurturing, relief from stress etc.

Once, I heard a married man saying that he has sex with multiple women because “God is love.” Indeed, the notion of sexual addiction can be confused like that! It’s also confused with what is positive and legitimately pleasurable in married love enjoyed by the “normal” population. As life unravels, the sex addict despairs, helplessly stucked in the cycle of shame, degradation, and danger. Like a broken car, the sex addict needs a mechanic!

Nowadays, people need education and a clearer perspective about sexual addiction as an illness. Often this is obscured by media and by our reluctance to face sexual issues – personally, professionally, and publicly. The illness is further masked by secrecy and shame that inherently characterizes it.

The world is full of helpless sexual addicts in need of help.

The Real Problem

I feel for Baron’s parents. They see that their son’s problem is his addiction to alcohol, drugs, women, and money. After years of having him confined to three addiction rehabilitation centers, nothing still changed.

Baron is still addicted to drugs, alcohol, and spending money to pay for sex. His parents are frustrated already, losing hope. They’re about to give up.

I say that there is always hope. Baron’s parents may had sent him to three rehabilitation centers and their son never responded appropriately to heal.

Here is my take: in all of those rehabilitation efforts for Baron, they’ve possibly not gone down to the roots of his “real problem.” Their view was only external – counting the number of times he took his addictive “drugs of choice.”

Addiction is not the problem. It is only an external symptom, a result or manifestation, of the “real problem.” The addict’s way to happiness or numbing of his sorrow is to take “drugs of choice.” Yet he remains oblivious to the core of his problem and the varied options to address it.

So, simply laying down external bottom lines and consequences (an important part of recovery though it may be), counting and suppressing the use of alcohol or any “drugs of choice,” in an addict will lead nowhere.

If treatment providers such as doctors, nurses etc in the rehabilitation centers focus on the inner life of the person addicted and treat the “real problem,” there’s a higher chance of true rehabilitation and new life for a recovering addict.

Winning Through Losing

Once in Thailand, I was almost victimized by a terrorist-linked international client that hurt me. I kept shaking my head because I was their guest yet always left alone in strange places. Immediately after I arrived home, a couple met me that led to my most productive work ever. A loss can be a blessing! Was it real loss or simply my “winning in disguise?”

Reality is, it’s important at times for you to lose in order to win. Trauma victims or older men and women often have self-views that are clearer because they’ve often been washed with tears of failure. Pain and glory often blend together in life. It’s a matter of critical maturity for you to be able to suffer defeat and keep standing after the defeat.

I have a patient named Mike who demonstrates this principle. After crashing a multimillion business venture and incurring huge debts, his family and friends began distrusting him. His darkness consisted of people avoiding him in get-togethers as if he’s afflicted with a contagious virus. Even his wife and children developed a negative attitude and low respect towards him.

Overwhelmed by the trial, Mike sought psychotherapy. His tears during our sessions were one of his powerful lessons that there is meaning in spite of his loss. Whereas before, arrogance and narcissism characterized him, over time his pain fostered deeper self reflection and approachability in him. His losing provided him a contrast against which his winning can be defined and pursued.

Thomas a Kempis wrote, “It is good that people sometimes misunderstand us, that they have a poor opinion of us even when our intentions are good. Such experiences lead us toward humility and protect us from conceit. Under trying circumstances we seek God all the more. Our inner life grown stronger when we are outwardly condemned.”

You’ll never know what winning truly is unless you’ve experienced some losing in your life. Delusion damages your self when you think that all that matters is winning. Show me an excellent loser and I’ll show you a person who can handle the heaviness of life well and keep his self esteem intact to keep on going. Remember, an excellent loser is not “all the time” loser.

Yes, winning can be through losing. Losing teaches us that life is of value even when we are not winning. No darkness is forever. Since winning and losing occur in all our lives, the issue of being a winner or a loser is ultimately a matter of life perspective. It’s a mindset.

We Are Fellow Travelers

I am your fellow traveler. Yes, I may be your therapist. But we belong to the same road. We choose to trek the same destination. We share a common world and basic experiences along the way.

This realistic view of life influences my work and relationship to those who seek my help. The “therapist” and “patient” relationship is a human journey. So I prefer to think of my self and of my “patients” as “fellow travelers.”

As I have progressed through my own life, I realize how imperfect I am. I commit mistakes. I have my share of wounds and pains. I too find my self struggling in certain areas of my thinking, feeling, and behaving. I experience circumstances where I don’t have control, except my self. Truly, we are all in this together. And there is no therapist and no person immune to the inherent tragedies of existence.

Dr. Eric Fromm, the noted psychotherapist, often cited Terence’s statement from thousands of years ago when teaching students, “I am human and let nothing human be alien to me.” That urges me to be a “fellow traveler” to my “patients.” It opens me to that part of my self that corresponds to a wound, struggle, or fantasy offered by patients. No matter how violent, lustful, or horrific.

With that, my being a “fellow traveler” vastly enhances my ability to look out the patient’s world. And hopefully, the patient out into mine.

Strength At Broken Places

“Life breaks us all sometimes, but some grow strong at the broken places.”
— Ernest Hemingway

John had all the signs of a walking wounded dead. His wife’s cyber affair and departure ended their 20-year marriage. During those 20 years, he had accomplished a level of public recognition in his international work in the religious field.

Now, John was alone and very distraught. He found himself in tears each day. Many of his relatives and friends had turned their backs on him. His growing children were being alienated from him by his adulterous wife, blaming that he was the cause of her deeds.

When I met John in the session, he could not move on. His days were filled with depression, loneliness, and emptiness. For two years, he isolated himself. He refused to circulate around people and find support in church or communities.

Then, he finally gave in. He agreed to join support groups and reach out to new friends. Week after week, he shared his wounded thoughts and feelings through small group teaching and sharing times. All these while loudly proclaiming inside him that he’s hopeless.

Then a miracle happened to the innermost core of John’s self.

John’s tears began to dry up. Smiles were appearing on his face. He began to have stronger faith and realize that there was life for him after the trauma of his wife’s infidelity and abandonment. He was starting to receive more strength by reaching out to God and people.

Today, John is a millionaire entrepreneur and has a huge new circle of friends, and has written two best selling Recovery books. Among the communities where he became active, he is now easily one of the happiest and most sought-after teachers in his church family.

I believe John’s secret of his self healing was living out the principle of St. Paul, who wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Turning his brokenness into strength became his transcending choice.

Whatever the cause of your woundedness, you can choose to grow strong at broken places. I do my self, and a lot others, so do you!