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 Mind of a Jerk

Jerks are known fools. Contemptibly obnoxious persons. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines them as “a stupid person, a person not well liked or who treats others badly.”

How do jerks think?

Jonathan is a certified jerk. Even with the slightest provocation, he’ll turn a minute or incomplete info into a basis to attack you. Verbally. Emotionally. Physically.

For over a year now, Jonathan has been verbally and emotionally abusing his two teenage children and their mother.

He abandoned his children since their childhood. Only to reappear last year in the guise of offering material support onwards.

Jonathan’s true state of mind thereafter is evidenced by his constant control and manipulation. He interprets interpersonal signals consistent with how he sees himself.

For example, when his children missed or forgot calling him, he assumed outright that they’re disparaging him. His expectations of them are excessively negative and unrealistic.

He also bad-mouths and blames their mother to no end, reading unverified threatening meaning into remarks or events. His lack of remorse and amend over past sins is so obvious.

Jerks are often deeply shamed-based. Their perceptual focus is always on the negative. All information they receive have symbolic meanings about their personal identity.

Psychologists/authors Dr. James Harper and Dr. Margaret Hoopes said that shame-based individuals guard against others’ discovering their shame. Much of it shapes the way they think.

Several cognitive patterns Drs. Harper and Hoopes describe as characteristic of shame-based jerks include:

• belief that “something is wrong with me” (impostor syndrome)
• an inappropriate matching of intensity of emotion with events
• label others negatively as if they’re the real thing
• distort incoming information in the perceptual process so that it fits with their world
• intention of others as well as themselves become very distorted
• overgeneralize and magnify
• poor reality testing
• frequent blaming of others and denying of one’s personal responsibility
• attributing ill will or motive to others without proper reason
• mind reading to the detriment of others and themselves
• believe even the most benign acts of others are directed against them to highlight their defects

Needless to say, jerks need a lot of help. But mostly, they fight it a lot.

Location-Independent Psychotherapy

It used to be a traditional way.

I once worked in the office. On armchair and tools.

But with it, the problem of high costs. Wasted time. Enduring more than 2 hours travel daily. The cost of fuel. Increasing weight, blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue.

I’m glad times change.

With the growth of the mobile and the internet, society has progressively moved work channels from the physical to the digital.

The lines between work and life are being erased in the process. Time and money are saved. The threat of burnout and mental health challenges are addressed.

Distance is no longer a problem between people engaged in a working process.

Whenever I do Skype or phone Psychotherapy sessions with counsellees from the Philippines, Qatar/Dubai, Australia, USA, Japan, or anywhere else around the world, I’ve come to feel that I’m more productive.

I experience refreshing working remotely than when sedentarily confined in a clinic cubicle. I’m glad I can do running or recharging while helping anyone, anywhere!

Productivity happens more in the comfort of home. Or, natural environs of individuals engaged in life session.

There is a beneficial domino effect to this location-independent Psychotherapy.

Its natural fruit is seeing that the main value exists not in the structure of a fixed physical space of an office. But in the value of output made.

I think I’m not alone in believing this to be so in our times.

The working world in general is showing a a rising trend of decreased need for a central physical hub to do work.

I’m reading US National Library of Medicine, which suggests that remote, digitally-based workers have higher performance outputs. The less office means increased productivity by up to 70%, according to Time Doctor Stats.

With technology spurring growth and saving costs, don’t be surprised if you see me championing a non-traditional office-less “psychotherapy without borders.”

Via Skype or phone. Or, in coffee shops, beaches, or malls. It’s organic. Natural life flow. Time/cost-effective.

In short, a more healthy option towards your search for healing and wholeness in your life.

Only You Can Choose the Moves You Make

Being a psychotherapist and life coach, I’m constantly faced with choices about life. Mind you, both for my patients and myself, they’re not easy.

Life can be a dangerous game. Issues can be a matter of life or death, victory or defeat.

My patients or clients are like me. Most likely, you too. A few times in my life, I tried to run away from “adulting.” I hated struggle. I didn’t like responsibility. Or, delaying gratification.

Yet in my attempts to escape the appropriate developmental tasks of my age, I experienced delays in my psychological maturity. I suffered the bad effects of my decisions. Life got unnecessarily harder.

In the game of chess, choices are crucial. Your chosen moves will determine the ensuing positions you’ll be in on the way to the game’s completion.

All the moves you make in chess are your responsibility. Only you can choose the moves you make. Your opponent or anyone else can’t make those moves for you.

In chess as in life, you can move forward or you can retreat backward. They’re ever-present choices.

Of course, there are times when you need to move backward. Retreat, regroup, recharge. But the call is always to move on – both in life and in chess.

I was speaking to a 50-year-old woman not too long ago about her lingering poverty. All her life, she chose to be a hard-working employee. And yet she still lived with bare minimum subsistence.

In the course of my conversations with her, she discovered a passion that she can turn into profit. She finally made a choice to change mindset. Sooner than she expected, she became a rich online entrepreneur.

Again, in life as in chess, we go for a “win.” We can choose to do that with each move or decision we make.

Knowledge is Never Enough

In my practice of therapy and counseling, I’ve always found one thing: knowledge is never enough.

At best, I helped my counselees see and know the psychodynamics of their emotional or mental disturbances.

But, I’ve always realized that their knowing is not the same as their capacity to change their thinking, their emoting, and their behaving.

Their knowing has always been inadequate to stop them from self-sabotaging.

One counselee I had recently gained insight. Her rage or uncontrollable anger is traceable to her unconscious hatred of her mother.

In her work and social relationships, she realized how she has been “transferring” that feeling into other females who have similar traits to her mother.

Surely, she understands how she got the ways they are — but not what to do. Not the ability to apply what she already knows.

Insight and expression of repressed feelings alone don’t work in my sessions. Something needs to be incorporated in order for a broken person to heal.

That sets me to do some tall thinking about psychotherapy. I went back to tools of therapy and started giving application assignments, among others.

Data alone is not enough for deep and lasting personal change. The truth is, most of us are very good at identifying what’s wrong with us and our experiences.

Yet that knowledge in and of itself rarely produces deep level personal healing and recovery.

In fact, without the appropriate steps and frames, insight may result in “re-traumatizing” a hurting person.

So, make sure you have insights plus the experiential aspects in your recovery journey.

Transcending Death

Working as a therapist, “hints” of death and its accompanying anxiety are never absent. I hardly get through my sessions without sensing a cry for help from individuals hurt by dire consequences and relationships.

It’s not private bias or indulgence on my part. It’s a universal concern we all have as human beings.

This “death anxiety” though is often invisible. A male patient in his early 40s told me about his much younger cousin who died recently of cancer. After learning it, he suddenly felt a rushing in his panic attacks.

Once while inside an airplane, everything was well when he took his seat. Then suddenly, he became so uneasy and felt, “This plane is where I am and it’s about to crash!” No amount of care from his wife or plane assistants could calm his anxiety and fear.

We have two choices to deal with “invisible death anxiety.” We either face the truth directly or we try to flee the anxious feelings and not attempt to come to terms with it. I think the latter response appears more common in modern times.

In the “Hour of Death,” author Philippe Aries writes, “Except for the death of statesmen, society has banished death. In the towns, there is no way of knowing that something has happened … Society no longer observes a pause; the disappearance of an individual no longer affects it’s continuity.”

Ernest Becker, in his “The Denial of Death,” describes the reality of the human condition. He says, “Man is a worm and food for the worms. This is the paradox; he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual … Literally split in two… He sticks out of nature with a towering majesty and yet goes back into the ground a few feet … to rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and have to live with.”

Thus to make invisible our inherent death anxiety makes little sense. Our society focuses us more on the “economic” or “making a living.” Such conditions us to deny or be unprepared to dying. Yet we all need to face the reality of it to live well.

Free from the non-essentials of life or unnecessary personal disabilities. Free from “denying the problem,” “immature defenses,” “distortion of our reactions,” or projecting fears to things or persons.

Death anxiety is not beyond human control. If it’s made visible and faced head-on, it can bring much quality of life. Especially in light of our limited years. I believe the measure of a good life is how we view and transcend our own death.

Watch Your Brain Nutrition

Natural brain nutrition is essential for our mental health. Healthy foods and supplements have a positive effect on the serotonin and dopamine levels needed by the brain.

Serotonin used in the brain is known to affect mood and social behaviors. It also moderates appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire/function.

Dopamine, on the other hand, functions as a neurotransmitter (a chemical released by nerve cells or neurons to send signals to other nerve cells). Dopamine affects way we perceive pleasure/rewards.

Mental disorders, such as clinical depression, addictions, or personality maladjustments, partly stem from a relative deficit in serotonin and/or dopamine levels.

Natural foods to keep our brain “healthy and happy” – counterbalancing serotonin and dopamine levels – include oily fish, whole grains, blueberries, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, eggs, chickens, brocolli, nuts, among others.

It’s interesting to note that, in two studies in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it’s found that the highest suicide rates are found among those with the lowest protein levels. Proteins are building blocks of brain neurotransmitters.

Natural brain supplements are especially helpful. They are known to have a positive effect on serotonin, dopamine, and protein levels of the brain.

I often recommend Transfer Factor Plus and Brain Recall supplements (http://drsubida4life.com) to my clients, which balance serotonin and dopamine levels as well as increase blood flow in the brain. Many of my clients report how these supplements strengthen their focus, impulse control and overall immune system.

Nowadays, our common diet is filled with fast-food meals and harmful ingredients. This modern-day food “norm” has a negative, even a toxic effect, on the brain and our mental health.

The way to go is natural brain nutrition through healthy foods and supplementation. When psychopathology symptoms are present, natural brain nutrition is often life-saving.

Don’t forget it!