What are you living for?

People live for something. Or, someone.

Money. Cars. Spouse, kids. Mom, Dad. Friends. Business success. A job. Sports.

Fame. Sex. Food. Travels. A cause. Making a contribution. Fighting for a cause. Possessions, comfort.

The list is varied and endless. Depends. Every one is unique.

I had a millionaire client who loved buying lots of stuff. Her house was full of favorite things, like antiques, potteries, and furnitures.

That’s her passion. To collect those things. She even had framed photographs holding her favorite collections.

But these stuff she collects and spends a lot of money and time on, are they worth living for?

Many years ago, I was part of a Manila-based newspaper where I had a column.

I was a young man in search of true happiness through the writings I did.

One column I wrote was entitled “Impermanence.”

In that piece, I lamented about how all things are fleeting. I get this or get that because I thought it will make me happy.

Only to realize, something is always missing.

A measure of enjoyment, yes. But the happiness or satisfaction soon fades away.

Nothing this world offers fully satisfies. Even the good things.

C.S. Lewis writes, “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself. There is no such thing.”

What are you living for? Is it worth it?

Manny’s lonely childhood

On the outside, Manny’s childhood was rich. He seemed to have everything. Wealthy parents. Status. Intelligence. Good looks. First-born. All he needs and wants, he gets.

But actually, most of his childhood was hell.

“Dad let Mom (a successful businesswoman) rule the house. She’s demanding and rock-hard authoritarian,” said Manny during session.

He added with a sigh, “My Dad, who’s a noted doctor, was aloof and unaffectionate. God, I was so lonely!”

Manny and his brother never had family times and fun with Mom and Dad. They almost wouldn’t talk during meals or travels all their years. They’re more like dorm mates.

“My parents just provided. I wish they had the humanity to hug me, touch me, talk to me, be loving. But no, they’re both cold, aristocratic, aloof and smart at anything,” he lamented.

When I asked further about his emotions, Manny felt he might as well have been a zombie.

After sharing about his feelings and thoughts on his childhood, Manny was left with no doubts how, where, and why he became a Zombie himself!

A zombie to his wife. A zombie to his children. A zombie among his acquaintances and work mates. A zombie towards all his relationships.

Manny’s healing started when he fully understood the nature and dynamic of how he was programmed to be a Zombie like his parents.

Something interesting happened in my sessions with Manny thereafter. At some point.

As he experienced emotionally (not merely informationally) how he adopted his parents’ ways, he smiled a lot.

He learned to understand himself better. He learned to understand his parents too without condemning them. He developed compassion for himself, his Mom and Dad.

Manny also learned there is no more emotional need to cling to his false Zombie exterior. It’s not really him any more than it is his parents’ as he saw where they came from.

Freeing at last.

Is psychotherapy just talk?

Psychotherapy is known as “talk cure.”

A process of talking things through when faced by life’s wounds and challenges.

In reality, it’s beyond talk.

Fact is that nobody gets healed or whole by mere talking.

Something goes deeper than talking in psychotherapy.

I once worked with an attractive woman who sounded like an expert psychologist.

She read a lot on psych and can espouse even complicated concepts about how the mind works.

Yet despite her knowledge and talks in our sessions, she remained the same.

Only to return swiftly to her old ways of verbally/physically abusing and manipulating her husband and little kids.

Then back in our sessions, she’d be quite a different persona.

Looks familiar?

Have you ever tried to change like her by talking things through, only to end up doing the same old things in the same old ways?

Here is something I want you to fully see and understand.

From a biological perspective, change does not take place with mere talking and knowing.

Note that even the brightest people in the world fall into self destructive behavior.

So the answer could not lie in intellectual reasoning.

Transformation happens in a Process.

Fundamental change occurs experientially, not informationally.

In the “talk cure” I do, a major part of the beyond is in the releasing to make it experiential.

We learn and develop life habits emotionally.

Therefore, we can only come to true healing by releasing emotionally. With authentic awareness and depths.

It’s a new education. A re-education of the damaged self into wholeness.

You Are Worth More Than You Think

“I’m diagnosed with BPD,” said a patient. “I’m that and unable to function,” he continued.

I heard a lot of times people like him “believing” the labels placed on them.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I dislike diagnostic labels.

I’m not into the listing of personality or mental disorders. I think they dehumanize.

If ever, these labels, no matter how scientific they seem, only describe your “patterns” or symptoms.

They don’t bring you to the core of who you really are.

Yes, only “patterns” or symptoms — but you your self is much more.

I’m reminded of this man who became a famous chess grandmaster and world champion. He said “Chess is life.”

For him, chess defined who he is.

He spoke and behaved to look intelligent, put together, productive, brilliant.

He became a shuffling recluse, consumed by paranoia.

Throughout his life, family, love, and fun were scorned by his intellect as beng beneath his consideration.

Three months before he died, psychiatrist Dr. Skulason was by his bedside.

This chess genius told him, “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”

The man, Bobby Fischer, was definitely much more than who he thought he was.

Appearances or words pale next to essence.

When you learn to find the True Source of who you really are within your self, you can drink from your own cup of love.

Every human is much more than what is seen.

The real self resides in the invisible.

New Mental Health Crisis of Teenagers

Just awhile ago, a distressed mother texted me.

It’s about her 17-year-old son whom she brought to see me for therapy.

She said that her son, a former honor student, has withdrawn from school.

He is now spending countless hours just watching YouTube videos daily at home.

CNN 2018 edition reported on “Smartphones: New Teen Mental Health Crisis.”

It’s based on a recent study published by the American Medical Association.

It investigated the link between digital addiction and the mental health of thousands of teenagers.

The study found a “statistically significant association.”

Teenagers who are heavily addicted to digital devices are more likely to become prone to psychiatric problems, according to the study.

The researchers examined mental consequences of digital diversions.

These include social media, streaming video, text messaging, music downloads, and online chat rooms.

Teens with digital addiction showed psychopathology symptoms.

Among symptoms identified are brain ADHD or patterns of severe inattention, hyperactive behavior, and impulsiveness that interferes with functioning or development.

Treatment options include:

• psychotherapy involving cognitions, emotions, and behaviors;
• parental boundaries and discipline
• home logistical tech arrangement
• medications or natural brain foods;
• play or arts;
• school accommodations;
• spirituality;
• peer groups

Healing Negative Love

A patient once cried during session, “My God, why am I doing this? My mother used to do that. I hate it, but I see myself doing it again!”

Of course, she’s not her mother. The compulsion to repeat is unconscious-driven. It exists underground.

This is clearly demonstrated in extreme abusive relationships.

I discover that people with abusive parents often find themselves in abusive relationships. It just appears to be such a very common psychological wound.

I once saw a couple – a Filipina and an American – who continually abused each other verbally. Both felt so well that they never wanted what they’re doing.

Yes, both came from emotionally impoverished families. Both of their own parents verbally abused each other and their children.

Unconsciously, their relationship has the pull of something familiar. A vicious cycle acting out an adopted parental pattern.

And there’s also this inner script, “This time it’s going to be different. This time I’ll change the situation and I’ll claim the love i didn’t receive as a child.”

It’s obviously an effort to heal an old wound looking for love.

But the reality created is actually more misery living through further abuse in the present.

As Spanish philosopher George Santayana reminds us, those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it.

How do you stop doing what you don’t want to do?

“Heal the ‘negative love programming,'” as psychotherapist/author Dr. Bob Hoffman put it.

That’s “forgotten” unprocessed pain from the past.

The way out is the same as the way in – programming.

Our positive real self is just there.

“Negative love” that keeps us doing what we don’t want to do can be transcended and healed.

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.