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.

Freedom from Self-Lies

Engraved on the front of a building are these words: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

People who pass by that place look at those words many times. In fact, they originated from the Scriptures.

But we can’t be sure if people who read them really believed they’re true.

Therapy is truth work.

It’s a brave, disciplined effort to face one’s self-lies. And how truths can equip one to fight them.

Alan was over 300 pounds. He’s a food addict.

Doctors repeatedly tell him the truth that his overeating will ruin his health and make him unhappy.

Yet he kept eating too much even though it makes him miserable. He knew he had a problem he needed to change. But … did nothing to change it.

Eventually, Alan’s self-lies led to multiple surgeries. His pain worsened – physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and spiritually.

He’s unable to be free to be his best self because he did not apply truth in his situation.

He hanged on to ways of acting and thinking even though they’re self-destructive.

Dr. Chris Thurman of Minirth-Meier Clinics explained about “tapes we have in our heads.”

He wrote, “These tapes are ones that continually play either truth or lies that affect every action and thought. When your program is faulty because of the lies in it, the daily ‘data’ it analyzes will trigger the wrong responses.”

I’ve lots of truth-seeking patients.

I help them get rid of their self-lies in their “tapes.” And … replace them with the truth.

But I also remind them that they need to commit themselves to “practicing truth.”

There it is … the way to experience freedom to be your real self.

Thinking Short-Term or Long-Term?

I think there are two ways to think.

Short-term and Long-term.

In therapy, those who are afraid to face and heal their pain are simply not willing to take short-term suffering.

“It’s hard to recall memories when I was abused and change habits,” said a patient with long years of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and sex.

Well, is it hard to live with addictions that damage one’s self and relationships?

Struggling though he was, this patient underwent therapy. He submitted to full accountability and life process change. He came to know his hidden deep-level wounds and “operated” on them.

Why? He learned that the pain of the process is just short-term.

He went through the short-term pain and eventually enjoyed the fruit of his labors in the long-term.

Same thing with other areas of our lives.

Health, for example. When you overeat and has heart attacks, you choose that life for yourself. No one forces you to do that.

You avoided the short-term pain of changing eating habits and exercising, but you didn’t realize you’re buying long-term pain.

Finances, another example. Lots of people are unhappy with their “secure salary.” They dream of owning their own business and becoming millionaires.

To accomplish that, you have to experience first the short-term pain of leaving your “secure salary,” working longer hours, and building your business.

If you say yes to short-term comfort, then you say no to long-term gains and profits.

Which one do you choose for your life? Short-Term or Long-Term?

The good news is, it’s never too late no matter how old you are.

But you have to make a choice on how you think.

Healing the Family

She doesn’t know why she’s been severely depressed and anxious much of the time. Lita rarely socialize or get out of the house.

Lita experiences constant social anxiety when with people. In her mind, she worries that other people are silently putting her down or making fun of her.

As a result, her family hurts. The father, mother, and siblings came to me with sobs of sadness and pain about Lita’s isolation from them and others.

In the sessions, Lita recounted her family experience since childhood. She felt caught in the middle of her parents’ constant quarrels.

All that time during fights, both her father and mother vied for her support. She felt guilty for everyone’s feelings, including those of her siblings.

Virginia Satir, noted family therapist and writer, believes that a critical first step to the healing process is full or 100% awareness.

In her book, “Helping Families to Change,” she asserts the following goal for hurting families:

” … to see freely and comment openly on what you see, to be able to hear freely and comment what you hear, and to be able to touch freely and be able to comment openly on that experience – these comprise the restorative task.”

So, to heal your self and your family, here’s one master key: Stop pretending!

Based on Satir’s formula, there are skills or habits that need to be developed for total or 100% focus and awareness to avoid pretending.

3 things.

• seeing, not just looking
• hearing, not just listening
• sensing your touch

That’s what happens in my sessions in the initial phase. Progressively focus on these essential tasks.

Becoming aware – coming to your senses – is the first step to set you and your family free!

The High Price of Doing Nothing

People need therapy. Especially in severe, destructive, or unmanageable situations.

In fact, each one of us needs it for lifetime personal wholeness. No one is exempted from growing.

We all want to be happy. We strive to reach our goals. Our desire is to worry or stress less. We want peace of mind.

It’s one reality about the human condition that doesn’t change. Yet, for some reasons, many tend to resist therapy.

We can be fine spending thousands on gadgets, clothes, dinners, or travels. But still, many find themselves hesitant to spend on therapy … on “self-investment.”

Joseph and Carol were fighting in big ways. And have been ever since. He was smart and outspoken. As for Carol, she’s no longer caring to Joseph, but materialistic and know-it-all.

“You mean, we just talk. How long?” Carol asked asked during their marital session. She simply wanted to know how quick the process will be.

They never returned to continue their therapy. About a year after, I received a text message from Carol. Her husband had become an alcoholic and been having sex with his secretary.

There is no quick fix in mental and emotional healing. The cost of doing nothing is heavy and long-lasting.

“Men are disturbed not by things but by the view they take of them,” said the ancient philosopher Epictetus. His implication is that our feelings are caused by our thoughts.

When you think of Therapy as “quick fix,” frivolous, or a waste of time and money, you’re not seeing life as it really is. You’re not fully aware of your thoughts and how it harms your reality.

Life, as in therapy, requires us to show up. We “do work” developmentally over a period of time – over months or years. There is no magic, miracle, or overnight cure.

Consider the high price of doing nothing.

Where will you be a year, 2 years or 5 years from now, with the same old wounds and patterns stealing your happiness now? What’s the cost of inaction or remaining stuck?

Clinical and anecdotal evidences show that the “costs” are really high. Much higher – financially, relationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – than temporary therapy processes.

What is your health “worth” to you? Can you put a price on your life?

Impostor Syndrome

“I’m a fraud! After being a CEO of this food company and earning millions, I don’t think it’s my talent. I’m just lucky. I didn’t do it,” said Paul during one of our teary-eyed sessions.

Like most of us, Paul suffered from some painful aspects of self-doubt. He feared being found out. Psychologists call it the “Impostor Syndrome.”

The “impostor syndrome” is a psychological state that reflects a belief that one is an inadequate and incompetent failure. Such is despite obvious evidences of success or competency.

I’m comforted by this. For I too, like everyone else, feel waves of self-doubt on a regular basis. It comes through if I’m about to write a new book or blog post, meet a new client, or make a TV appearance.

It gets particularly bad when I procrastinate. It gets especially bad when I start thinking of comparing myself with other doctors and writers.

It seems inevitable that at certain points of our life’s journey, self-doubt will come along uninvited. For a ride. To our discomfort.

A solution? Welcome it! Understand it.

Writer Joanna Penn once observed, “In fact, if you don’t feel any doubt, there’s probably something wrong!”

When you feel that creeping “impostor syndrome,” acknowledge it. Don’t resist. Embrace the self-doubt as part of your growth process. Feel your feelings … then continue moving forward.

If you’re suffering badly from this and unable to improve, you possibly need to see a psychotherapist. Although friends can listen, there is usually a short shelf life for this kind of confession.

So, take deep breaths. And make sure you’re getting back to real life.