You Are Worth More Than You Think

“I’m diagnosed with BPD,” said a patient. “I’m that and unable to function,” he continued.

I heard a lot of times people like him “believing” the labels placed on them.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I dislike diagnostic labels.

I’m not into the listing of personality or mental disorders. I think they dehumanize.

If ever, these labels, no matter how scientific they seem, only describe your “patterns” or symptoms.

They don’t bring you to the core of who you really are.

Yes, only “patterns” or symptoms — but you your self is much more.

I’m reminded of this man who became a famous chess grandmaster and world champion. He said “Chess is life.”

For him, chess defined who he is.

He spoke and behaved to look intelligent, put together, productive, brilliant.

He became a shuffling recluse, consumed by paranoia.

Throughout his life, family, love, and fun were scorned by his intellect as beng beneath his consideration.

Three months before he died, psychiatrist Dr. Skulason was by his bedside.

This chess genius told him, “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”

The man, Bobby Fischer, was definitely much more than who he thought he was.

Appearances or words pale next to essence.

When you learn to find the True Source of who you really are within your self, you can drink from your own cup of love.

Every human is much more than what is seen.

The real self resides in the invisible.

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?

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.

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.

Are you mentally healthy?

Mental health is the absence of mental illness. It’s more than “normal” or “natural.”

Mental health comes from purpose, discipline, habits.

If you have the following qualities, you’re most likely a mentally healthy person:

• stable personality with no awkward unexplained moods

• self controlled, good nerves

• relaxes easily, sleeps well

• good self esteem: self assured, modest, guards self respect

• independent, personally responsible

• admits mistakes and imperfections

• moderate in all things

• communicates easily and respectfully

• lives in present moment

• takes good care of physical body

• able to have fun and laughter

• offers encouragement and appreciation

• unselfish, giving, sharing

• courteous, respectful language

• lives with faith and a definite purpose in life

• high tolerance for chaos, confusion, disorder when unavoidable

Take note: mental health is an inside job. You don’t get it from anything external!

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

“Once a cheater, always a cheater.”

It’s a common cliche. An old adage.

Is it really true?

One couple came to see me for marital therapy. It’s a case of the husband serially cheating on his wife.

The husband admitted having affairs several times in the few years of their marriage. He claimed he had the affairs just for sex and that he loved his wife and had a great sex life with her.

For a time during therapy, the relationship somewhat improved. The husband observed abstinence from his affairs. They learned better skills communicating and loving.

Then, the husband was caught contacting and seeing his affair partner again. Evidently the wife noticed no prior signs of the repeated cheating for he remained privately loving to her.

The wife felt something was wrong which she called an “invisible barrier” between them. But she couldn’t put her finger on it.

According to findings presented at an American Psychological Association annual convention, they found that people who cheat on their partners once are approximately 3 1/2 times more likely to cheat again.

I find it interesting that this finding did not apply only on those doing the cheating. They saw that those who were cheated on in one relationship were also more likely to be cheated on again.

Judging from the number of cases I’ve seen, cheaters do tend to cheat again. But I’d say not everyone. Some do change completely.

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

That gets to be true I must agree … unless the root psychological wounds or unmet needs of the cheater are sufficiently dealt with.

Here are some possible underlying themes within cheaters I suspect exists:

• a never-ending quest of the cheater to make up for what he or she did not get as a child

• the more shame and guilt the cheater experiences, the more it tends to be projected onto the partner

• the cheating may be used to punish himself/herself or humiliate the partner

• a “bad me” core belief that leads to addictions for temporary relief

Bad habits are known to be hard to break. That includes the habit of cheating.

In reality, cheaters need clinical intervention to prevent repeated disasters.

Why People Overworry

A few nights ago, I was watching one of Dr. Chuck Swindoll’s public speeches on YouTube.

I liked the the question and theme of his talk: “What is the #1 struggle of people today?”

In my brain, I had several guesses before Dr. Swindoll announced it. Money? Sex? Power? Marriage? Family?

None of those.

Dr. Swindoll pointed to this: WORRY – our #1 struggle.

Agree. Whatever the life issue or breakdown, too much worrying is so common. A frequent resultant pattern in most people’s reactions.

The overworry then produces large doses of anxiety. Paralyzes productivity and problem solving. Causes unnecessary pain in relationships.

Psychologist Dr. Chad LeJeune explains how it works:

When you’re hiking along a cliff, for instance, she says your brain may tell you “I might fall” and you picture yourself falling. She says it’s a helpful thought because you realize you need to be careful in your walks.

However, “when your anxiety is high,” Dr. LeJeune continues, “you’ll experience that image not as ‘I might fall’ but as ‘I will fall’ ”

This shows that, with heightened anxiety, you’re less able to discriminate between the thought of “might happen” and reality.

I’m reminded of a patient, Edward, whom I once invited to the MRT city train station. It’s part of his anxiety panic “exposure therapy.”

Edward retreated. Ran away from the exercise. He had experience being mugged and held up in the MRT many years ago. In his mind, he said it will happen again.

Psychologically, it’s called “cognitive fusion.” A thought becomes fused with what it refers to. The fused thought is experienced as reality … outright an inevitability.