You can fly, but that cocoon has to go.

“You can fly, but that cocoon has to go,” says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I’ve worked with actually need to hear that message. It’s true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can’t be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he’d cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an “immobile cocoon.”

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a “war zone” and a “safety cocoon” all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you’ll be able to see the big picture. You’ll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you’re not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I’ve met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn’t work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you’re newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don’t want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings and fly into new adventures?

Will Blaming Heal You?

Blame.

It’s people’s favorite pastime. Blame is to point to someone or something to be responsible for something wrong or unfortunate that happened to you. As a result, you find your self feeling powerless or helpless.

Maria shared during our session that she spent a large portion of her life with a husband who has been long addicted to pornography and women. She chose to remain in the marriage because of the children and his financial support.

Her focus for years was on blaming her husband for her unhappiness. As long as she could vilify him to friends and relatives, she did not see a need to take action. She spent nearly 20 years hurting and blaming her husband and circumstances.

Eventually, Maria and her husband separated. Her husband continued on with his addictions and extra-marital affairs.

Do you want to guess what Maria did after the separation? She found a boyfriend who was a married man.

After several months, her married boyfriend abandoned her for he could not completely commit to her and their relationship.

This in turn wounded her again more severely, allowing her to blame this boyfriend for her predicament rather than be accountable for her choices and actions.

Blaming others can be comfortable and familiar. See, it’s their fault!

Each time and in every circumstance where you blame others, you are reinforcing your belief that you are not responsible. Feeling the victim always, you get centered on your being helpless and powerless.

People who habitually blame others focus on what affects them and what they have no or little control over. By concentrating on these externals, they prove to themselves that there is absolutely nothing they can do.

Indeed, when you are living without personal responsibility and accountability, you move on stucked to the blame mode.

The pathological result is draining energy from your self, others, and the world.

Unconscious Roots

If you go to Dr. Sigmund Freud, he’d say that there is an “unconscious” in your mind. He believed that there is a conscious as well as an unconscious content within the psyche. To him, the concept of the “unconscious” is a basic principle that makes it possible to understand and treat mental illness. Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, and dysfunctional behaviors, are evidence of the “unconscious” at work.

When you are in the grip of the “unconscious,” applying Dr. Freud’s theory, you are not totally aware of why you do or say things. “Unconscious” thoughts, feelings, and behaviors usually contain unwanted negative information. They don’t appear on the surface but buried underneath. They are experienced as absolute facts. They’re automatic.

Often a counselee and I can understand messages from the unconscious by discussing it together. One afternoon in a therapy session, a housewife recounted one of these “direct insight” messages from her unconscious. She is pretty and articulate, yet has been reclusive and afraid of social functions for decades now in her marriage. Her self-esteem is so low. She could not figure out how to proceed from here to change.

Then, at one point, she started to sob. She recalled how much she was physically and emotionally abused by her mother since she was a child. Much of her childhood was spent serving along with the yayas in their affluent home. Her mother would punish her in varied ways and prevent her to leave the house to play with others her age.

Seeing the obvious, I processed with her this traumatic childhood past that she has had. She then was able to look more clearly in the mirror to see where her current unwanted feelings and behaviors may be coming from. She begun understanding herself more deeply since then, struggling though she still is overcoming her current “unconscious” automatized emotions and beliefs about her self.

William James once wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” Years of experience as a psychotherapist have taught me that the roots of psychopathology and addictions are attitudes and beliefs coming from the “unconscious” mind. It’s necessary to get beyond the verbal, conscious level to make sure that what’s being addressed in the recovery process is truly what really is.

Smiles and your Brain

One of my recent sessions was filled with joy. A couple, who used to experience bitterness, rage, and anger towards each other learned to smile a lot at each other. With that, they discovered how much they’re capable to feeling kind and compassionate to each other, struggling though they may be. A cheerful smile became medicine to their marriage.

Smiles have a therapeutic effect on our brain chemistry, according to experts. Researchers have found out that “when we smile, it releases brain chemicals called ‘endorphins’ which have an actual physiological relaxing effect.” They say that smiles not only diffuse crisis or tense situations in relationships. They also diffuse tension within our selves.

Have you ever witnessed people using foul language, with rising tempers or careless behaviors towards each other? They usually have stern, frowning faces. Some are used to brawling and slander. They threaten or damage relationships and themselves. Their emotions as well as the way they react to situations are out of control. And they seldom smile. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with unsmiling, joyless faces.

So, the next time you felt so angry with someone or because of an argument, remember how it affects your health and well being. Look instead at the bright side of things. Tap that part of you inside that feels lighter and cheery. Smile. It can do wonders.

When Anxiety Panic Attack Strikes

You and I will experience anxiety all throughout life. It’s normal. Feelings of anxiety are natural body responses that support our very basic survival need to escape from harm.

For example, if you see a snake inside your house, the anxiety you experience will heighten your drive to remove it and quickly allow you to respond to protect your loved ones.

However, there is such a thing as an abnormal amount of anxiety. Psychiatrists have what they call “general anxiety disorder,” among other things. Severe anxiety symptoms happen on more days than they don’t. There are frequent signs of extreme nervousness or getting frantic even for no external reason. Such psychological condition can significantly impair one’s quality of life.

Sometimes, a person’s true condition can be difficult to determine. That is because, for instance, there could be little difference between having an “anxiety or panic attack” and a “heart attack.”

Once, I saw a person with a long clinical history of anxiety, fear, and panic attacks. She tried many medications and counseling sessions. Yet, there’s no significant improvement. Only to find out that she had been suffering from abnormal heart rhythms caused by some type of heart disease.

Yes, anxiety disorder may imitate heart disease (or some other type of medical condition). So to rule out any medical or physical causation before you go into therapy and counseling, have a thorough physical examination first.

Then, the psychotherapist would have enough information to assess at least two possibilities: did anxiety and panic cause physical disease or did the physical disease make the body develop anxiety and panic?

Building Memories With Your Kids

To be honest, I’m kind of a late bloomer when it comes to learning healthy parenting. Beginning as a parent myself many years back, I’d to overcome my own “parent wounds” so I can better parent my own children.

Still, along the way, I made mistakes that I need to learn from. And I’m glad I’ve been able to do some makeups these recent years despite my self and my past mistakes. I praise God for the gift of days I spend with my children together and the opportunity to learn to be a “healed” better father to them.

Among other things, here is one big practical parenting lesson I realized along the way: a child’s thinking is more emotional than cognitive. I learned the hard way that a child’s memory is much more strongly affected by feelings than by facts. Being more cognitive than emotional myself, I somehow felt that I “lectured” and disciplined too much during my earlier parenting years.

So now, I do what I can to make time to build warm memories and be a friend to my children. It’s a struggle at times for there are other variables outside of me influencing the mind and heart of my kids. But this time, I make intentional efforts to care for and nurture them emotionally by having “fun” taking walks, eating out, doing things together, watching movies, hanging around, going to church and places, buying stuffs etc.

Yes, our children do experience emotions about us parents each day. Feelings of love, joy, security. Or, feelings of pain, sadness, anger. And they will carry those feelings in their inner being for a lifetime. If you are a parent like me, what can you do to develop memories with your kids where emotions are warm and pleasant, when there is a sense of excitement, discovery, and fun?

We parents need those golden memories and moments to plant life lessons, warm feelings, a rich sense of God’s presence and love into the hearts and lives of our children. Isn’t that the best preventive mental health care ever?

Depression Is Not A Medical Illness

If you are feeling depressed and low, I got one important advice for you: avoid a medical doctor or psychiatrist. 95% of the time, he or she is the one most unqualified to deal with your depression.

I say this because a medical doctor is predominantly “biochemical” in training and protocol. After a mere 10 or 15 minutes talking, the psychiatrist gets his prescription pad and issues you a drug. That is, because he believes that your depression is a physical/medical illness.

How mistaken and dangerous to your health! With depression, there is no scientific or objective proof that something is wrong with the tissues of the physical body. Even the label “chemical imbalance” (serotonin abnormality) in the brain most often blamed causing depression remains a theory, not a fact, up to this day. There are no laboratory tests (empirical evidence) that will show damage or breakdown of any body tissues when you are depressed.

The diagnosis “clinical depression” is based on thinking, feeling, and behavior – not on something wrong in the physical body. So when a psychiatrist gives you an organic or synthetic drug to treat your depression, he is really unable to help you. You’re given something your body does not need and may actually just contribute to worsening your condition (as I’ve witnessed in so many patients!).

Of course, there are physical illnesses (e.g. cancer) that can lead to depression, but they will have a truly medical disease label and laboratory evidence. It’s not just the stand-alone label “depression.” In that case, you treat the physical problem with organic drugs – but not the depression. The depression is treated in another way based on the patient’s unhealthy attitudes or responses in thought, feeling, and behavior to his or her various life situations.

Be careful!