Dennis and His Secret Gift

Abandonment is a time of trauma. Devastating repetitive losses. Personal disappointments. Upheavals in childhood. Chaos and abuse in family.

For Dennis, his abandonment trauma was an awakening. It helped him a lot to change the direction of his life. He knew he had much work to do. But at last, he knew what was truly important. It took losing his wife to another man and therapy to finally shatter his illusion of permanence and self-sufficiency.

Somewhere in the abyss he was sharing in our sessions, missing his wife, he was able to look up. He felt so astounded at how painful the abandonment and loss was. He realized how alone he was. He was in a critical period during which he must look to his own resources.

But something even deeper happened to Dennis. He discovered the secret gift of his abandonment and loss. It helped him find his way to “old wounds” from traumatic events he may not even remember. Finally, he can address his long unprocessed, unresolved feelings.

Abandonment and trauma may do accomplish more quickly what many psychotherapists strive for in years of therapy — bringing you to the seat of your “unconscious.” To your deepest parts, where lie your permanent recovery and wholeness.

Beyond the support of family, friends, and therapists, you spend most of your waking time with your own self. As your own separate self, you face this challenge alone. First you must be in touch with your secret fears and pains. Listen to what they’re telling you about your emotional needs.

The journey to the core of the self, preparing you for deep-level healing, is the secret gift of abandonment and trauma. It’s a crucial opportunity to shape your life from the inside out.

Receive the gift. You’ll forever be changed by it.

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.

“I Was Wrong”

“I was wrong.”

Those words are one of the most difficult things to say for most people. Whoever we are. Whatever our situations or circumstances.

Perhaps this is the tragedy of fraternity student members of Aegis Juris at the University of Santo Tomas. These frat officers and members were caught in a major hazing scandal that led to the death of a neophyte.

Based on latest news, these young men, along with their “big brothers” and lawyers, have become so vehement in their defense. Despite obvious evidences, they insisted that the hazing did not take place or they were not involved if there was one.

The need to “cover up” the crime and wrongdoing so offended the senators who were hearing the case. This led to the imprisonment of its frat leader as well as the victim family’s call to disbar the lawyers assisting the cover up.

What was the main crime?

I think it’s not so much the initial mistake or wrongdoing done as it was their insistence on their own innocence. I believe this case is a poignant illustration of the disastrous results of being unable to say, “I was wrong.”

I’m reminded of one of my patients, Charle. One of the clearest indicators of his psychological and emotional illness is inability to admit and deal with self-destructive behaviors. He specializes in self-justifying and self-excusing.

When I asked the father, who used to abuse Charle physically and verbally since childhood, to join in family session, the request was turned down. He said his son was to be completely blamed for his condition.

Medically speaking, if a person has a wound, he has to admit the wound. Then, allow a doctor to open it up and remove all foreign articles so he can heal. Once the infected area is cleansed and treated, tissues can be new again via healing elements.

Such concept is at work as well in psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing. Shameful acts, wrong attitudes, dysfunctional behaviors need to be admitted as they are. Taking responsibility for them starts a person’s healing of his mind, emotions, and spirit.

Self-justification and mental health. Do you want to be right or well?

Do You Procrastinate?

“Procrastinatis.” Not taking action.

After doing psychotherapy consulting for many years, I’d come to see a most common cause of why people don’t heal and get whole …

… and that is, most already know what to do to heal. Especially after they’ve gained knowledge from their therapy work.

They’re not just doing it.

Meaning, procrastinatis. The envisioned personal mental health recovery is already in their heart. They’re not just taking action to make that vision a reality.

Worst, others eventually quit or prematurely terminate their process.

This truth actually applies to any other area of our lives. Starting a dream business. Nurturing or saving a relationship. Losing weight, get fit. Finish a worthwhile project. Turning away from sin and to God.

And … much, much more!

If you’re guilty of not taking action on what you need, here is one solution.

Rocking chair.

That’s where 81-year-old Fernando, father of one my patients, is. In his procrastination and vices all these years, he never held a good job or built a solid business. Just his wife who worked to support him and their children.

Reflecting on his life from the rocking chair, he felt so sad. Depressed. His mind and heart was full of regret. He remembered he was given lots of opportunities and resources when he was younger. To which he uttered, “What a waste.”

At the same time, he beheld the oppposite in his imagination. He set worthwhile goals. He took action on each of them without delay or quitting. He imagined the feeling of being a successful multi-millionaire businessman. He became a loving and responsible husband and father. His wife and children loving and respecting him.

From the rocking chair, he discovered a solution. But he ran out of time.

Heal your “procrastinatis” … before it gets too late.

When Mind Makes the Body Sick

Health can be a puzzle. I’ve just heard the news of a young actress who’s a gym buff pronounced fit by medical doctors and yet dropped dead a few weeks ago. In addition, I’ve known of an aged man who’s a heavy alcoholic all his life and yet seem to remain well.

Bad health affected Alan’s life. When he entered our therapy session, he complained of not able to sleep enough for years, unexplainable aches and pains in his body, and lack of energy at work. When he had himself checked in the hospital, the doctors gave him a clean bill of physical health.

Even with nutrition and disciplined exercise, Alan found himself still feeling physically sick. Probing deeper in his psychotherapy, he discovered a truth: his lifelong emotional problems were the ones producing his physical illness or deterioration.

He had the worst mental health between ages 13 when he was abandoned by his parents to 53 when he went through a painful marital divorce. Because of this, even if science and medicine can cure every disease of his body, he still could not be well.

Health is not just physical. It can actually be more non-physical. Our best medical and psychological knowledge indicates that wellness or wholeness is far more than not being physically ill.

As Dr. Bruce Larson put it, “Our bodies are barometers of our inner, nontangible experiences, thoughts, fears, angers, resentments, hopes, joys. It is safe to say that 90% of most physical ailments have a real emotional, spiritual connection.”

Mental health plays a powerful influence on what happens to our bodies. When we are better at loving, having more satisfying personal relations, good emotional copers, and close to God, the odds are we’ll have minimal illness. We avoid premature aging or health deterioration.

The fact is, we have more control or autonomy than we think in this whole matter. Let’s all learn and practice to be and do those things that make for real, whole-person health.

Angel’s Poem

I sat with my 14-year-old daughter, Angel, a few days ago when she spoke of a poem she did in school. Her poem’s title lighted my face up — “Happiness and Sadness Are Twins.” Isn’t that title something deep and interesting to ponder on?

It is good that sometimes we experience sadness. Such experience protects us from the illusion that life is all bed of roses. Under trying circumstances, when we feel sad, we are compelled to see reality as it really is rather than sugarcoat it with a pretense of happiness.

I was amazed the first time I heard one of my patients, Nick, referred to himself as a loser. He felt so sad and dejected. But as I questioned him, I realized he had developed this self-opinion from very few isolated failures. He got locked in self pity.

As Nick progressed in his therapy, he became aware how much of the narcotic effect of constant happiness and comfort in him came largely from being “overspoiled” in the family. He was not exposed enough to what life is really like. So even infrequent loss or failure spelled damage to him already.

Happiness and sadness is the stuff of life. They are twins in the sense that they go together in all lives. Glory and pain always come bound together Therefore, to see life as it really is, we will have to resist the notion that we ought always to win. Sadness can be a powerful lesson that there is meaning inspite of loss.

At times, our lives are visited by darkness. Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Breakup. Remember then that all is not sadness. There could be an overwhelming happiness waiting on our patience. All temporary sadness or loss can be sustained with meaning in anticipation of a coming happiness or victory.

I agree with my daughter’s poem. Happiness and sadness are twins!