The Healing of Angelita

Angelita had one of the prettiest faces we can ever see. Her voice was weak and fearful as she spoke about her self. She kept leaning her head down saying, “I feel ugly.” She kept apologizing … she’s so lonely, wrestled with inferiority, thoughts of suicide, and a loss of self-respect.

She never felt wanted in her life. Her mother and father placed her in the hands of a stranger when she was born and walked out of her life. They left no clues regarding their whereabouts and no promise of return. Years passed. Angelita’s parents never appeared any more.

Angelita became a juvenile delinquent. Misery stalked her. She lashed out at the world, took alcohol and drugs, and became promiscuous. A number of times, she attempted to end her life. Her parents’ absence was simply unbearable. Suddenly, she decided she’ll look for them. She’d search and find them. And she did! She walked back into her father’s and mother’s lives one rainy day … but sooner than she expected, she discovered she still wasn’t wanted by them. Her parents waved her goodbye forever.

Since that darkest moment in her life, Angelita walked the streets and hunted unsuccessfully for employment. Here was a girl so confused, completely disillusioned about life … and terribly in need of being accepted and wanted. She almost broke down and became totally “crazy.” Because she’s unwanted, she’s convinced that her life was wasted, useless, and a bother. Strange though it sounds, she shouted to the skies and asked why this is happening to her.

Then, one day, Angelita passed by a hotel. She heard people singing and a voice on microphone speaking the Word on psychological and spiritual healing. Ushers invited her in, embraced and welcomed her lovingly. After sitting for a couple of hours, she learned of therapy and healing for the mind and heart through the unconditional love of the Father. She understood the salvation and healing message of the Father in heaven for her life through Scripture mentioned in the Healing Workshop.

When she recounted what happened, Angelita mentioned one psychotherapy verse cited in the workshop that left a lasting imprint on her: “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). That moment, when she learned of that verse and understood the Word, Angelita gave her life to Jesus as Savior and Lord. Since that day, Angelita found great hope for the future. She embarked on a journey of mental and spiritual healing with the counsel, support, and unconditional love of her real Father and new-found friends.

Angelita’s story … a story of complete therapy, redemption, and wholeness. I hope someday you’d meet her. She’s a totally changed, better person now.

Choosing To Stay Sick Than Heal?

One time, Mary saw me for counseling. She just checked her husband’s emails and social media accounts. To her shock, she discovered that her husband has been having secret multiple sexual relationships with various men in all their 20 years of marriage. Her husband is a gay sex addict.

Processing her grief and pain, she reached a point when she realized that she had to require something from her husband in order to heal. It’s “get help or get out.” She became so anxious and frightened about the possibility of her husband leaving her and cutting his support if she requires him to get help and rehabilitate. In the end, she chooses not to confront her husband. She chooses to look away.

“Betrayal blindness” is a state of mind in which you choose to keep a secret from your self. You have it when the reality that’s happening in your world and the consequences of that reality are actually more frightening than you walking in through it to heal. So, in essence, you lie to your self. You turn a blind eye. You don’t look at what’s actually happening because it would cost you too much.

Indeed, we can be too afraid to look at and embrace truth. As a result, we choose to stay sick instead of heal. We tolerate the intolerable because we don’t want to deal with the ramifications. It’s “betrayal blindness,” one of the most horrible bites one may suffer from away from recovery and wholeness.

Shakespeare and Growing Old

On Sunday afternoons, in a hotel restaurant, I normally take time to sit down with and talk to this group of aging men about life. It’s interesting that they listen a lot to me even when I’m not yet a “senior citizen!” Growing older fills their minds. Yet they seem to feel uncomfortable talking about it. What is it they may be trying to cover up?

I wonder if it’s not the simple truths William Shakespeare once wrote about in “Macbeth:”

“All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Growing old can be a prison of anxieties. Many worry that despite their successes or wealth, they’ll just fade into oblivion and be forgotten. They fear loneliness. Many get afraid about losing their mind, their memory, or capacity to live independently. Many have full of regrets for not having lived as they should.

Our culture conspires to make it more difficult for us to grow older in rewarding ways. There is a whole commercial business devoted to helping us cover up the physical symptoms of growing old. Cosmetics, drugs, surgery, or other commodities tailored to the elderly gives the message as if being young is the only way to exist. Medical technology and advances aggravate the situation with false, unrealistic promises of immortality or “fountain of youth.”

We don’t have to be wounded as we grow older. We can have a realistic perspective about it. It can present us an opportunity to deepen life’s true meaning and purpose. Aging can be a gift, but only if you surrender your self to God’s plan for your life. You can find peace in old age rather than rage when you know that Christ has already conquered death (Romans 6:23).

As noted psychologist, Dr. Erik Erikson put it, “The way you ‘take history’ is also a way of ‘making history’. ”

Kindness Heals

I’m reminded of Aldous Huxley, a noted writer-philosopher. He was dying. At his deathbed, he was asked what words and wisdom he would like to tell and leave to the world. He replied, “I wish people would be kinder to each other.”

What does “kindness” mean? Here’s what “kindness” means if we go by the American Heritage Dictionary: “of a friendly nature, generous or hospitable, warmhearted, good, charitable, helpful, showing understanding or sympathy, humane, considerate, tolerant.”

Heeding Huxley’s words, I feel how much it applies to our society in general. Reading recent local news, for example, we can witness a lot of unkindness. Government leaders fuming mad and assassinating each other’s characters in public. They all speak of healing our country. But how does a country heal when leadership is ruled by poisonous emotions, tongue, behavior, and self-perception? Sadly, the practice of kindness in our country, and even in the rest of the world, resembles a drought.

When I think of the numerous men and women who see me in the psychotherapy session, I never fail to see their eyes glistening with held-back or free-flowing tears. In relating their stories, they react with poignant sadness. Often, they remember that kindness was nonexistent in the growing up period of their lives. And goodness! How much they hunger and yearn for their parents to show more kindness to them and each other.

I usually tell them it’s ok not to be ok. To feel sad about the unkindness they’ve experienced in their lives. Even weep for the kindness they did not receive from their parents or others when they were children. But, they need to learn to let go, eventually. They need to learn to grieve completely their unprocessed pains. And then, use their present lives and relationships as a “second chance” to experience the kindness they did not have.

Kindness heals. Choose it for your self and others.

What Happens to Left-Behind Children of OFWs?

“Parenting and providing are two different things,” is one of the remarks I made during my recent television interview last week over at Ikonsulta Mo GMK UNTV. Congressman Erin, the TV program’s senior host, was asking me on the impact on parenting of parents going overseas for work on their left-behind children. To that I painted a not-so-good picture of the psychological and social realities of the OFW phenomenon on the Filipino family.

I’m reminded of Maria who went to Dubai to work as an office employee. She left behind a 3-year old daughter and a 15-year-old son in the care of her husband. After 10 years as a migrant worker, Maria found herself husband-less with a drug-addicted, delinquent son who dropped out of school and a teenage daughter who became deeply depressed and suicidal that she had to be rushed for psychiatric treatment. Her husband had sexual affairs and impregnated one woman who happened to be a single mother.

Although dubbed as “Bayani” by the government for their remittances boosting the country’s economy, the psychological and social costs of labor migration among Filipinos remain so increasingly ¬†high. Statistics and studies show that the separation of family members from one or both parents working abroad have been linked to problems such as marital breakdowns/infidelity, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, early marriage of young children, and parental alienation. Dependency on money received abroad have also been implicated as contributing to families of migrants becoming materialistic, losing desire to work, and suffering mental health or relationship disorders.

Indeed, the economic well being of OFW families cannot be divorced from the conditions of nurturing the mental health of left-behind children. To address the known care deficits that always happened, it’s crucial therefore for OFWs to be able to communicate with their left-behind children in healthy ways while overseas as well as educate themselves on the value and dynamics of true parenting given the sub-ideal family situation they find themselves in. The issue of surrogates or alternative caregivers is a significant area of development to better nourish the mental health and physical care of left-behind children.

Depression Will Pass Too

I work a lot with depressed people. The greater the wounds or losses experienced, the greater the depression. Here’s what I notice: when they’re over the depression, they say something like “I’m a better person because I went through it! I discovered new things about me.”

Like all things in this life, every depression will pass. However, it will pass only if you do the right things. With the right course of actions, you can shorten your depression. You can heal. You can grow. In fact, after healing through dark valleys of your soul, the experience could be one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in your life.

If you’re depressed right now, go through each day … one step at a time. Endure and reflect every moment. Pray. Seek help. Expand your circles of support. Look to the future with great expectation of how depression can make you the best that you can be in your life.

Sooner, thanksgivings will pour out your windows! There will be laughter spilling through your door. Things will get better. Your depression has passed. You’ll thrive. You’ll flourish.

Do You Have Conflict Phobia?

Kelly is depressed. She lacks sexual desire towards her husband. She actually feels distant emotionally from him. For years, Kelly’s husband tries to control her and treat her like a child. He’d complain about her clothes, her friends, her spending. He’d belittle her in front of their children and others.

Yet even though this bothers her so much, she says very little because she doesn’t want to fight. By giving in to the unreasonable demands of her husband even early on prior to marriage, Kelly taught her husband that it’s ok to control and abuse her.

Many people have “conflict phobia.” They’d do everything to avoid it so as not to experience turmoil or conflict. But, this “conflict phobia” and avoidance only sets up any relationship for further turmoil rather than less.

The lesson? Learn the psychological steps to deal with conflict. Standing up to an abusive person, for instance, after years of giving in is very hard. Yet it’s essential for healing and saving the other person, your self, and the relationship. I’ve witnessed many patients who even after many years of giving in learn to take a stand for themselves and change their relationship.