The Benefit of Suffering

Lots of people say they choose what they want in life. Yet in reality, they’re not choosing what they say they’re choosing for their lives.

Why? What’s the matter?

Mary and William became restless after hearing an infidelity treatment assessment and prescription from their therapist.

The life recovery plan entailed focused work and taking responsibility for their individual and relationship recovery.

Both of them knew what they wanted: to save their wounded, dying marriage. But at a point of really choosing what they choose, a problem arose.

For some reason, they were trying to avoid getting well – the very thing they say they’re choosing for their marriage and family.

Both felt uneasy with strong urges to “escape” what’s difficult.

At this point, I saw what the problem is. Most avoid things they really want to have (not choosing what they choose), unconsciously avoiding painful and uncomfortable situations.

Dr. Rollo May, one of the world’s noted psychotherapists, once wrote:

“People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of availability of energy to transform their characters. Suffering is nature’s way of indicating a mistaken attitude or way of behavior, and … to the non-egocentric person every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth.”

Heraclitus said, “Where there is no strife, there is decay: the mixture which is not shaken decomposes.”

Scripture affirms what they say. “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which had been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sufferings and difficulties are doorways. To wholeness. Character. First-hand knowledge about life. Healing then is to quit trying to avoid the challenge of hard tasks.

There lies what’s profoundly positive, meaningful, and joyful in our lives … and truly choosing what we say we choose.

The Value of “Hate”

“Hate” is a psychological and emotional state. Despite the negative implications it evokes, it could not really be that negative.

In fact, if you look deeper, “hate” can be good!

I once sat across a 28-year-old woman who screamed, “I hate my depression! I hate my condition!” She didn’t really like her state and she’s lost about what to do with her self.

As we progress together, she’s able to use her “hate” as significant motivator to get better. Hating her depression was actually a good thing!

Maybe, “hate” is too strong a word to describe what I’m driving at. But “hate” or dissatisfaction is a jewel we better not miss.

Think about it.

You need to be emotional about where or what you are for you to take action!

You “hate” when you see your marriage crumbling.

You “hate” when you watch your children get addicted to drugs or the wrong crowd.

You “hate” that you couldn’t earn enough income to feed your family.

You “hate” when you find your self unable to keep relationships or friendships.

There it is.

Define what you “hate” about where you are right now in your life. Get specific about what changes you need to go where you want to go.

Maria

At the time I started to see her, Maria had been in therapy for few months. She saw me for she felt stuck from a previous therapist. She reported that her therapy was not moving anywhere.

When Maria was born, her father and mother looked to her for the fulfillment of their damaged dreams. They pushed her to activities they felt incapable of doing.

Growing up, Maria felt that her parents owned her by the way they spoke to and treated her. When she refused what they wanted her to do, they’d call her demeaning names.

Under such circumstances, Maria developed a shame-prone “core identity.” She felt bad because of disastrous consequences of asserting her individuality, own thoughts and feelings.

Toxic parents are shaming. They treat children as possessions. Not persons, but extensions of themselves.

When children develop their separate and unique identity, they’re seen as a threat by their shaming parents to their personal needs.

The result is, children are not moulded to feel valued as a person. In the shaming process of being treated as a possession rather than a person, wrong behavior and self are the same.

This is the reason why unhealed people who are shame-based end up spreading the shaming process in relationship with others.

Without therapy or intervention, the cycle perpetuates itself all the time. Affirming the mental template of badness – a possession rather than a person.

Finding Your Truth

I don’t know what has happened. Or, where it has come from.

Last night’s group session, I had the truth in my mind. Yet I failed to express it. Something held me back.

It’s my personal blinder. A mistake. A negation of my personal sense of truth about my self.

As human as my struggling patients, it’s senseless to pretend perfection.

Therapy is self truth. It’s a process of seeking the truth about your self.

In the midst of the busyness of life and our world, we need to find a focus to make it happen.

It’s good, of course, to focus on healing our blinders or mistakes. You look into your self as you are with your faults – objectively.

But this is not enough.

You also need to focus on your assets. Your positives. Your gifts.

You must develop and cherish these assets. And work with them.

It’s also essential to look into your past. If you can do this deep enough, you see your mistakes again. And be in a position to learn from and avoid them.

I do not mean you obsess over your past mistakes and untruths, leading you to blame your self.

The real purpose of seeing your past is to live today with clear truths about your self.

Finally, plan for today’s possibilities. That will impact your future.

The primary excitement of knowing the truth about your self is becoming mature. Whole. Healthy.

Take stock of your self. Seek real truths about your self.

Look behind you, before you, and within you.

Remember that your self and life belongs to you. Especially, your truths.

Keep discovering.

Therapy via Skype

Distance is dead!

I was having an emotionally-charged psychotherapy session with a foreign couple when the woman partner told me she’s moving back to her home country. She could not bear the infidelity of her man. We were both disappointed. Sessions had been going well, but incomplete. No significant momentum yet.

Then, a few days after, she phoned me. She thought of a practical alternative – session via Skype. This provided her hope and continuity, which she needed a lot during that time. It’s like face to face too such as in traditional sessions. The medium of video and voice conferencing through Skype then became instrumental for her eventual healing and stabilization – personally and relationally.

We do live in a different time now. With the fast rise of Internet and technology, psychotherapy and other mental health services have been moving in with the times. For the final sessions with this hurting couple, we did meet in person again, which felt like a more appropriate way to end the sessions.

Both the couple and myself felt “upbeat” and at ease. Such seemed to be a reflection of our Skype sessions at processing issues and maintaining therapist-patient relationship. We commented that our face to face sessions did not feel that much different from our previous Skype sessions.
Overall, I think that being able to continue our sessions via Skype was incredibly useful for both the patient and me. Distance was no longer an obstacle to heal. In both my and the couple patient’s opinion the therapy had been successful. Skype played a role in this.

The use Skype and other modern forms of distance communication technologies could improve access to psychotherapies for people living in remote areas or foreign countries. It’s helpful to those who are busy traveling or working, those housebound, disabled, or bedridden. In my observation and opinion, the role of online therapy delivery is going to expand and is likely to continue to do so due to people’s needs and our changing times.

Does Your Child Have Psychological Illness?

Parenting is hard. Especially when your child is going through frequent disruptive behaviors. Withdrawing or disrespecting you. Having school failures. No matter what you do or what school does to help your child, nothing seems to work at all.

Your child may need special attention. Professional help. Look for some indicators or clues to know if this is the case:

* your child is violent, bullying, or hitting others

* your child is manifesting frequent mood swings or temper outbursts

* your child is harming his or body and in various ways

* your child lacks energy, drive, or motivation

* your child overeats or gets addicted to substances or certain behaviors

* your child ignores physical hygiene and appearance

The Invisible Handicap

Building self-esteem is an oft-stated goal in psychotherapy. It’s a basic clinical concept that self-esteem is central to good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

When mental disorders or life traumas do strike, self-dislike degrades healing, performance, and overall health. Such mental state produces internal resistance, relapse, and blockages to therapy and recovery.

A damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is well recognized in psychological literature and clinical practice to be responsible for producing or contributing to:

* Depression
* Anxiety
* Stress symptoms
* Psychosomatic illness, like headaches, insomnia, fatigue, and digestive tract upset
* Hostility, excessive or deep-seated anger, dislike and distrust of others, competitiveness
* Spouse and child abuse
* Infidelity
* Promiscuity
* Entering into abusive/unhappy relationships
* Alcohol and drug abuse
* Sex, porn addiction
* Eating disorders and unhealthy dieting
* Poor communication (e.g. non-assertive, aggressive, defensive, critical, sarcastic)
* Dependency
* Sensitivity to criticism
* Tendency to put on a false front to impress others
* Social difficulties – withdrawal, isolation, loneliness
* Poor performance, laziness, inactivity
* Preoccupation with problems
* Status/appearance concerns

Plus … a lot more!

No wonder, a damaged self-esteem or self-dislike is called a big “invisible handicap.”