Conquering Vice

Yesterday, TV host Amy Perez of ABS CBN’s daily morning show Sakto, asked me, “Paano ba matitigil ang bisyo ng tao (alak, babae, sigarilyo etc) ngayong bagong taon?”

I responded in part, “Yung mga bisyo na meron ang tao ay sintomas lang, di pa sya yung sakit.”

The underlying, hidden roots that fuel vices are essentially psychological and spiritual. That’s where lies the key to new life … true, lasting change.

Isn’t this one truth we often miss amid inevitable challenges we face in life?

In my own life, I’ve traveled through several deserts. Family and marital trauma. Financial challenges. Abandonment and betrayal.

Each time, I got broken. Torn apart. My heart was such a wilderness.

Needless to say, I could easily had become an alcoholic, a womanizer, or some sort of addict. Like what multitudes of wounded people have become or done.

Yet something left me sane and resilient those desert times. Unaddicted. Not grasping “false medicine.” Devoid of life-damaging vices.

So what prods me on? What sustains me, through weeks and months and years of searing pain, in my own deserts?

It’s what’s underneath my deepest part and being: the pearl of great price. It’s the Star of Bethlehem.

To develop our best selves, we have two guides: internal and external.

Internal, of course, refers to renewal of the mind. Cleansing of the soul. At times, a need for appropriate therapy. And Scripture is the best, ultimate guide that lays the task for us very well.

External refers to how we fashion our life outside ourselves. Family relationships. Work. Choice of friends. Recreational activity.

Are your internal and external flowing well interdependently to lead you to a healthy lifestyle?

And so, as you start this new year, be ready to travel even through the desert (or deserts) of life.

Choose to live free of vices or “bisyo” with your best self – your body, mind, and soul – following the Star.

Celebrate the Process, Not the Result

A new year slogan says, “The best is yet to come!”

I like that. In my experience, and in the experience of a great many people, it can be true or inspiring a lot of times.

In my case, I’ve learned to just need to wait a while, get single-minded, probe more, take action more, to receive my best.

To receive the best that’s yet to come, here’s a well-proven tip: patience in the midst of process.

A broken-hearted, traumatized woman once asked me, “How long is therapy going to take to heal her pain of childhood abuse and rape?” She’s still receiving therapy for months for problems rooted in the terrible trauma of 20 years ago.

If you or someone is in the process of therapy, have patience. Healing from disease or injuries – whether physical or emotional – can take months, even years, especially when advanced. The best to come is one of deep-process healing and then strengthening for the future.

A major part of the process of psychological and spiritual healing is not only dealing with wounds from the past. It also involves acquiring skills, strategies, and new perspectives for facing the future in a healthy way. It calls for new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, behaving, and relating.

Don’t allow your self to be discouraged when your best life is not instantaneous. Individuals who are truly going to be healed from lingering emotional wounds are going to have to walk through a process that takes time.

Not only are you to be encouraged and steadfast in working through the process. But you are to be joyful that you’re on the way out! To freedom. To healing and wholeness. To your best life ever.

As Jeff Goins, one of my favorite writers, put it, “If you can celebrate the process, you can enjoy the outcome.” Measure the process, not the results.

This is critically important towards your way to “receive the best yet to come” in your life.

Keeping Hope Alive

Awhile ago, I read of Major F.J. Harold Kushner in New York Magazine. He was an American marine held by the Viet Cong for 5 1/2 years. Something happened to him:

“Among the prisoners in Kushner’s POW camp was a tough young marine, 24 years old, who had already survived two years of prison-camp life in relatively good health. Part of the reason for this was that the camp commander had promised to release the man if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with others, the marine turned into a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. As time passed, he gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold, he became a zombie. He refused to do all work, rejected all offers of food and encouragement, and simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks, he was dead.”

Famous author Philip Yancey says, “Kushner’s experience is a tragic, negative example of the need for some hope to live for.”

Can that happen to any one of us? Sure. I’ve seen this countless times in my therapy sessions. A loss of hope sickens the mind, heart, body, and soul.

As Dr. Carl Jung put it, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

But mind you, the loss of hope is gradual. Never overnight. It’s often imperceptible that you’re not conscious that it’s already happening to you. If you were, you’d stop the deadly disease.

The disease of hopelessness is like erosion. Silent. Never hurrying up. Slow but constant.

But the good news is, this disease is not terminal. It can be operated on, cured.

I have thought about this always. If you recall my previous sharings – both personally and professionally – a lot in this life would steal or take away our hope to move forward.

Hope and health are inseparably interconnected.

The medicine of hope is determination that refuses to quit when we encounter the pain that losses and sufferings bring into our lives. It must be worked though or else it remains a barrier to our health.

In the bestseller book, “The Road Less Traveled,” the author insightfully teaches us:

” … it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually … this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

Seeing This Life As It Really Is

“Nothing is yours forever.”

The money you have in the bank, your car or house, your business, even the family you have. You only “own” them while your heart still beats.

Think about it. The fact of life is, there is no real, lasting ownership.

Even your own life is not yours. You lose that someday too.

This is a hard truth for multitudes. For we live in a culture that constantly creates the illusion of ownership. We delude ourselves with the belief that we can’t be happy without owning or having.

I think of my life. Some future day, some quiet, heavily overcast morning, the sun rises again. But that day, I will be gone. Absent from my body.

Dust will settle on the books and study desk I love. Another will have the keys to my condominium I now carry … and withdraw money from my bank accounts … and fill my personal space with his or her own laughter and tears.

That’s reality for all of us. Painful and difficult as it may be to endure such thoughts – that’s basic fact, that’s sure and real!

Nothing is yours forever. There is no true ownership on this temporal earthly life.

I once worked on this reality with a Chinese multimillionaire. He was overly attached to his possessions, leading to unnecessary mental and physical health problems.

He was big on “owning.” When I laughed about it, he started healing!

This reality we’re talking about, I remind you, is a world from which most mentally and emotionally disturbed patients have escaped. They’ve become pathologically attached.

And its this reality to which they must return before health is redeemed.

Seeing reality, seeing this life as it really is, is unquestionably the healthiest place for you and I.

Never Growing Up

His name was Peter. Age 25. He talked a lot. In session, he liked to monologue. Joke away. But he’s not really saying much that matters. His feelings were often exaggerated, easily provoked, even silly.

When asked what he’d do now after having graduated from college, he paused a little. Then, he said he’d go back to college and take another bachelor’s degree.

Totally unrelated to the first one he took, he said in jest of his next college course, “I’d like to make a difference in the world by studying the oceans and underneath them!”

Then, he sipped his coffee and ate a lot of cake in front of him. At 5’8″ and almost 300 lbs., he professed his love for food.

My years of counseling teenagers, university students, young adults, middle-aged or senior men, and couples revealed to me a widespread psychological affliction in our society. It’s a syndrome in our society that’s causing a lot of problems in all walks of life.

Clinicians call it the “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

You remember the happy-go-lucky character of Disney’s Peter Pan, right? That’s where the psychological syndrome was named after.

Peter Pan symbolizes everlasting fun and youthfulness. He rejects all things Adult. He avoids growing up vehemently. He wants to remain a boy forever.

Unknown to many of my patients (including their parents, spouses, or friends who care for them) is a chilling reality. They are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Peter Pan.

We have a mental health problem of a man-child caught between the adult man he doesn’t want to become and the child or boy he could no longer be.

As Peter Pan himself said in the play, “No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

Forgive me for hyping a psychological claw to unearth this often hidden Disorder. Reversing the process of this syndrome is crucial to the stability of our families and society.

It’s never too late for an adult man to grow up and for his loved ones to offer aid to make that happen.

Enjoying Your Age

Life is short. Each one of us goes through its seasons. Childhood. Youth. Adulthood. Old age. And then, we passed on to the next season beyond earthly existence.

Through each season of life that passes by, we’re all called to develop accordingly. Based on age where we find ourselves in. Developmental tasks are a given. We fulfill them, we grow. We find wholeness and happiness.

As author Bo Sanchez says, “Every season requires a response. Don’t mix them up or you’ll have problems. During spring, you plant. During summer, you work. During autumn, you harvest. And during winter, you renew.”

I’m reminded of a 30-year-old single Mom with two young children, ages 3 and 5. Struggling financially to support her self and two kids, she applied for an OFW contract job in a Middle East country. She got the job.

In the days following, she experienced tremendous panic anxiety. Her present moments had been a mental pain for her as she imagined leaving her kids to work overseas. Sleepless and depressed, she sought outside help and comfort.

Shortly, it dawned on her what’s truly more important to her. She realized more and more that she will never get this season of her life back at home with her little kids. She cancelled her trip for overseas work and started a new business instead with close friends.

Most importantly, she’s able to prioritize mothering her kids she called “gifts and blessings.” At this season of her life, she felt much happiness with her little ones at home who want to snuggle and just simply spend time with her.

Enjoy the age where you’re in! Maximize the gifts and blessings of your season of life.

People Are Lessons

People are lessons.

When relationships fall apart, I often hear sayings such as “This too shall pass” or “Everything happens for a reason.” Familiar words of comfort or perspective. Especially in difficult times, from broken marriages or friendships to all sorts of breakup.

People come into your life. Some stay long or enduringly. Some stay short. But yes, all your relationships with people happen for a reason. It’s important to see the part people play in your life or self development, regardless of outcomes.

Recently, I was speaking to a mother with her teenager son. Her son was verbally “bullying” me during our time together. Ignoring. Criticizing. Discounting. Invalidating. In the course of the mother’s account, I got informed that her son was severely bullied before in school and had lately been kicked out of school for his bullying other students on campus.

Unfortunately, some missed learning the lessons from people who hurt them. In the case of the teenager son in my session, he duplicated the same mistake in his own life rather than catching the lessons he can learn from those who bullied him in the past. Life lessons such as on how to treat others, kindness, friendship, communication.

People are lessons.

To your spouse or fiancée who loves you, you learn the value of intimacy in finding joy and meaning in life.

To a friend who taught you to save and invest money, you’re taught what’s worth buying for and what’s worth letting go of.

To a parent who worked hard for your studies and future, you can thank for the lesson of sacrifice and devotion in caring for your child.

To a loved one who betrayed or broke your heart, you learn the lesson that pain is temporary and wholeness is everything.

To the stranger who flashed a smile at you or extended courtesy to you, you learn the lesson that not all people are harmful or damaging.

People are lessons.

Let’s learn from them well as we age forward.