Believe in Yesterday

Psychologists have been re-discovering nostalgia. They claim it can have therapeutic mind-opening benefits.

As the Beatles sang long ago, “Yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away … Oh I believe in yesterday …”

I’d met a married couple years ago who were both threatening suicide. Due to the pains they’re experiencing in their marriage.

How could they be lifted out of that?

We used nostalgia, among others, during sessions. Visioning. Revisiting their past.

I asked them to think of their love theme song, the times they first met, the long-ago dates they had when they felt most loving and romantic towards each other.

Both also reminisced about the many wacky, fun times they had with their children when they were growing up.

Fortunately, their nostalgia trip remedied enough their joint suicidality!

We’re then able to work together on the deeper issues of their relationship.

Psychologist Tim Wildschut once observed that nostalgia can foster “feelings of connection” between people.

Even if they’re just confined to one person’s mind.

He told Psychology Today, “You revisit old relationships, bring people closer, and for a moment, it’s as if they’re there with you.”

I once emceed a high school reunion with my batch mates where all we talked about were our after-school hang outs, parties, favorite songs, and crushes.

How energized and vitalized the reunion was through nostalgia!

Everyone felt young again in the mind!

Memory can affect the mind to heal.

Those stuck in the negative effects of their present lives can focus on memories that cast the present in positive light.

“Nostalgia seems to stabilize people, to be a source of comfort and reassurance,” says University of North Dakota State psychologist Clay Routledge.

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.

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.

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 …