Focus on your Goal

Many years ago, Harvard psychologist Dr. Gordon Allport pointed out a secret power. It seems applicable to whatever stage of life we’re in.

Dr. Allport said that the striving for a goal beyond one’s reach is thought by numerous psychologists to be the greatest power to unify the diverse elements in a personality.

As an adolesent, the overriding goal of playing world championship chess against the Russians affected every part of Bobby Fischer’s life.

It established his priorities. What he did each day. Where he went. How much he slept. How he viewed the world and life in general.

Bobby came from a broken family. Abandoned by his father. Raised by a single mom. As it turned out, the goal of being a great American chess champion was his “beyond reach.”

His whole life was ordered by His desire to be a world chess champion. This single dominant goal unified his life during a period which could had been very fragmented.

I’m reminded of Brandon, who’s a serial womanizer and bar owner. In our therapy work, he’d push to save his family and want to indulge in his addictions. He felt split and torn.

Then, one day, he came to know Christ. He made a total commitment of his life to Him. That changed everything about him and how he lived his life from thereon.

Imperfect though he was, Brandon’s energies and abilities gradually became more focused and working together.

He now have a point of reference to unify everything about his life. His self. His family. His relationships. His business. Old values and experiences are seen by Brandon as Christ sees them.

“The staking of an overall goal compels the unity of the personality in that it draws the stream of all spiritual activity into its definite direction,” as psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler put it.

Healing The Inner Parent

As a psychotherapist, I have heard countless times bitter conflicts between wounded persons and their parents. There is always resentment and anger present. During childhood, for whatever reasons, persons experienced a parent who belittled, ignored, abandoned, manipulated, or psychologically attacked them.

Unfortunately, anger or resentment towards parents is never safely left tucked away in the past. Most of the time, the mind and heart stores poisonous emotions that don’t disappear or heal on their own. They remain stored in the subconscious with its accompanying toxic feelings when left untreated.

So along the way, the process of “repression” that Freud described breaks down. Your past, unprocessed parental wounds can subconsciously exert total command over your present feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This can be in the form of addictions, alcoholism, infidelity, rage, mental illness, materialism, criminal behavior, among others. The psychological truth then is, holding on to your past resentments toward your father and/or mother robs you of present-day peace of mind, happiness, and health.

Therapy from your parental wounds first involves healing your “inner parents” before you can heal with your real-life parents. Making peace with your real life parents requires enough internal rehabilitation and stability. That involves learning to give up your resentments, your anger, your annoyance, your desire to punish, and your need to blame your father/mother. After that is done enough, you can become a more loving and nurturing person for the healing of your self and the process of healing your relationship with your parents.

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

We Are Authors Of Our Selves

Mental health and the matter of “willing and choosing” has a close linkage. ┬áIt’s apparent, viewed from the perspective of self creation, healing, wholeness, action. I also call or describe this psychological principle as “taking responsibility for your self.” As Sartre put it, we are the authors of ourselves.

A patient, Benjamin, has a recurring dark side to his mind in viewing his present predicament. He constantly blames others for his debts and business bankruptcy, his physical illnesses, and his family disintegration. And with avoidance of personal responsibility comes Benjamin’s string of psychological disorders, such as anxiety panic attacks, depression, obsessive compulsions, and substance addictions.

Each one of us is a “constituter” of the world we find ourselves in. We author the form and meaning that we give not only to our internal but to the external world as well. We each process events, circumstances, and relationships in our lives through our own neurological and psychological apparatus. Through the accretion of these individual choices, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and our failures to act in constructive ways, we ultimately manufacture our selves and our worlds.

We cannot avoid this personal responsibility, this freedom of “willing and choosing” for our selves. No matter what happened to us, done to us, from the outside, we remain our own primal world “constituters.” We remain responsible for our own response and existence — nobody else. Those who deny, ignore, or become unwilling to take responsibility for themselves end up remaining sick or stuck. Such principle is a highly essential visible denizen in all psychotherapy treatment.

Healing in the Family

Recently, I was with a former celebrity actor’s family who “loves the Lord, cooking, and eating together.” But it was not so prior to their family transformation and healing about five years ago. This family then fits Barbara Ehrenreich’s morbid picture of it: “Not the ideal and perfect living arrangement but a nest of pathology and a cradle of gruesome violence.” With God’s therapy, the family members stopped being worst enemies of each other and started growing in faith. How happy I am witnessing this family’s journey of recovery and wellness!

Psychotherapy cures psychological and emotional trauma suffered by a family. It’s a significant part of one’s whole self healing. Family therapy centers sprout around the world precisely due to countless individuals and families suffering from the wounds inflicted upon them by family life. When alienation, brokenness, and a lack of wholeness reign in the family, it can produce mental disorders and breakdown.

Still, important though psychological treatment may be, it remains incomplete when the damage inflicted on the family by personal sin is not thoroughly dealt with. Sin and psychopathology are closely intertwined. Sin destroys a family. Personal sins of the past, though already acknowledged at the mental and emotional level, may continue to haunt a family without spiritual treatment and intervention. It’s like a stone you throw into a pool, the ripples continue long after the stone has reached the bottom. All sins then, both those committed routinely and in secrecy damaging the family, need to be absolved through a deep process of confession, grace, and forgiveness.

No therapy can substitute for spirituality to complete the deep process of healing and wholeness. Sin destroys our ability to truly love God, our self, and others. Only the Christ of Christmas can fully restore and heal it.