Crying Without Shame

Dina seemed incapable of receiving compliments. In our “chit chat” during session, after I’d affirmed her accomplishments and good looks, she started avoiding eye contact by staring at the floor or holding her self tightly.

As the session progressed, Dina got more defensive. She’d suspect rather quickly that I thought negatively of her, even with a simple greeting or smile.

Perhaps she may had felt, if only I’d tell her the truth, it would confirm how bad she really feels about her self.

As I had time to think about our session, I surmised that I had come too close to Dina … too close to uncovering what’s shame-prone inside her.

Her emotional demeanor was that of unexpected, untimely exposure. And then, fear or expectations of more exposure.

According to psychologists Drs. James Harper and Margaret Hoopes, shame is related primarily to a feeling of inferiority in individuals, families, and groups.

In contrast to guilt (evaluation of behavior), shame is an emotion in response to negative evaluation of one’s self or being.

Drs. Harper and Hooper further commented,

“Everyone has experienced shame. Yet there is a vast difference between a person having a shameful experience and a person having a shame-prone identity. In fact, some degree of shameful experience is unavoidable and even helpful when people relate to each other, but shame-proneness is always devastating.”

Dina’s shame had a source from which she has to heal. She based her identity on an accumulation of the shame of rejection and abuse she had experienced from her Mom since early childhood.

She had internalized her Mom’s attitudes of her as “bad me.”

As an adult and mother herself, Dina projected her “bad me” on everyone that had contact with her. This includes her husband and four children.

In my work with her, even with seemingly benign questions, this “bad me” always got in the way of her seeing and healing her injured self.

Part of Dina’s healing from her shame is accepting the wounded child within her. As she takes steps to free this part of her, other pieces would surface.

Such new living with wholeness also involves knowing and embracing Someone much greater/better than her self … and her Mom.

If truth is told, under these conditions, you can experience a “healing cry without the shame.”

Working for Family Change

Martha’s story is a story of her family.

Martha paints a picture of her husband as a narcissistic, raging individual. His insecurity and emotional disconnectedness are disguised as playfulness. His work is ever-present both at home, office, and everywhere.

Martha sees her self as overprotective of her teenage son, and condescending towards her husband. She suffers in silence at the childish antics and outbursts of her husband. Time and again, friends around Martha see her “martyrdom.”

The stress in Martha’s household is palpable. Early mornings, both her husband and 18-year-old would have troubles for her. Her husband is used to throw tantrums over things, such as breakfast or pieces of clothing before he goes to work.

Martha’s teenage son, on the other hand, is equally crude and petty. At times, her son would warn, that unless mommy Martha gets his college uniform ready or increases his allowance, he won’t go to school any more.

Each time, Martha gives in to her husband’s and son’s tantrums, believing that if she isn’t successful, she faces personal rejection.

Martha grows weary and depressed each day. She knows she needs to do remedial, corrective action or she breaks down. If Martha is determined to help her self, her husband and son, she has to initiate deep-level self-examination to start healing.

Let me give a few tough questions for Martha. You may join reflecting with her. If Martha will have the courage to face these tough questions and personal limitations, she can be half way to personal recovery and family change.

It’s time for Martha to evaluate her overprotectiveness and patronizing attitudes towards her husband and son.

Do you engage in self-pity?

Are you afraid of your emotions?

Do you accurately know what you feel?

Do you pretend to feel what you don’t really feel, while hiding your real feelings?

Do you avoid confronting your husband about his selfishness, chauvinism, and childishness because you’re afraid to stand alone?

Do you mask your frustrations by feeling sorry for your son who acts like his father?

Do you lack courage and self confidence that cause you to back away from appropriate discipline and responsible boundaries?

What “Infantilizing” Does

When 27-year-old Pamela left overseas, she felt crippled. She’s unable to run a washer and dryer, iron her clothes, cook simple foods, or reconcile her budget. Back home, she never learned to do chores around the house or other basic practical stuffs. Her Mom did all for her and she got used to it.

“Infantilize” is a psychological term which means what you may be thinking now. In less technical terms, it refers to a parent’s act to “baby” his or her child even past an appropriate age.

Parents, mostly mothers, who overprotect their children have been found to produce fearful, dysfunctional kids.

As Dr. Sylvia Rimm, author of “Smart Parenting: How to Parent so Children Will Learn,” wrote of the power wielded by children who are too dependent as a result of overprotection. She writes:

“Because they are kind and caring and the children’s symptoms of power (tears and requests for pity) are very persuasive, parents … continue to protect them, unintentionally stealing from them their opportunities to cope with challenge.”

Of course, parents often mean well. They certainly don’t intend to harm their children. But despite good intentions, their “infantilizing” paralyzes the children. It robs them of the joys of struggle and achievement.

Struggle is psychologically and emotionally good. Resistance, delaying of gratification, and challenges are good. When our children don’t have to struggle or experience obstacles, they don’t grow up. A child crippled with such will find life cruel and depressing.

It’s not our children’s fault! They were not brought into the world to raise Mom and Dad! We parents influenced them first. We made the family rules while they’re growing up. We may say our “infantilized” children didn’t do anything wrong. We did.

Next step? We parents begin with courage, honor, determination. Resolute spirit. Bountiful wisdom and faith to take corrective action before it’s too late. Let our children learn to tie their own shoes. Don’t bail them out every time.

Are your kids (still) running the show? Are they truly growing up or regressing?
Posted by Dr. Angelo Subida at 8:20 PM No comments: Links to this post

Never Growing Up

His name was Peter. Age 25. He talked a lot. In session, he liked to monologue. Joke away. But he’s not really saying much that matters. His feelings were often exaggerated, easily provoked, even silly.

When asked what he’d do now after having graduated from college, he paused a little. Then, he said he’d go back to college and take another bachelor’s degree.

Totally unrelated to the first one he took, he said in jest of his next college course, “I’d like to make a difference in the world by studying the oceans and underneath them!”

Then, he sipped his coffee and ate a lot of cake in front of him. At 5’8″ and almost 300 lbs., he professed his love for food.

My years of counseling teenagers, university students, young adults, middle-aged or senior men, and couples revealed to me a widespread psychological affliction in our society. It’s a syndrome in our society that’s causing a lot of problems in all walks of life.

Clinicians call it the “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

You remember the happy-go-lucky character of Disney’s Peter Pan, right? That’s where the psychological syndrome was named after.

Peter Pan symbolizes everlasting fun and youthfulness. He rejects all things Adult. He avoids growing up vehemently. He wants to remain a boy forever.

Unknown to many of my patients (including their parents, spouses, or friends who care for them) is a chilling reality. They are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Peter Pan.

We have a mental health problem of a man-child caught between the adult man he doesn’t want to become and the child or boy he could no longer be.

As Peter Pan himself said in the play, “No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

Forgive me for hyping a psychological claw to unearth this often hidden Disorder. Reversing the process of this syndrome is crucial to the stability of our families and society.

It’s never too late for an adult man to grow up and for his loved ones to offer aid to make that happen.

Enjoying Your Age

Life is short. Each one of us goes through its seasons. Childhood. Youth. Adulthood. Old age. And then, we passed on to the next season beyond earthly existence.

Through each season of life that passes by, we’re all called to develop accordingly. Based on age where we find ourselves in. Developmental tasks are a given. We fulfill them, we grow. We find wholeness and happiness.

As author Bo Sanchez says, “Every season requires a response. Don’t mix them up or you’ll have problems. During spring, you plant. During summer, you work. During autumn, you harvest. And during winter, you renew.”

I’m reminded of a 30-year-old single Mom with two young children, ages 3 and 5. Struggling financially to support her self and two kids, she applied for an OFW contract job in a Middle East country. She got the job.

In the days following, she experienced tremendous panic anxiety. Her present moments had been a mental pain for her as she imagined leaving her kids to work overseas. Sleepless and depressed, she sought outside help and comfort.

Shortly, it dawned on her what’s truly more important to her. She realized more and more that she will never get this season of her life back at home with her little kids. She cancelled her trip for overseas work and started a new business instead with close friends.

Most importantly, she’s able to prioritize mothering her kids she called “gifts and blessings.” At this season of her life, she felt much happiness with her little ones at home who want to snuggle and just simply spend time with her.

Enjoy the age where you’re in! Maximize the gifts and blessings of your season of life.

Do You Procrastinate?

“Procrastinatis.” Not taking action.

After doing psychotherapy consulting for many years, I’d come to see a most common cause of why people don’t heal and get whole …

… and that is, most already know what to do to heal. Especially after they’ve gained knowledge from their therapy work.

They’re not just doing it.

Meaning, procrastinatis. The envisioned personal mental health recovery is already in their heart. They’re not just taking action to make that vision a reality.

Worst, others eventually quit or prematurely terminate their process.

This truth actually applies to any other area of our lives. Starting a dream business. Nurturing or saving a relationship. Losing weight, get fit. Finish a worthwhile project. Turning away from sin and to God.

And … much, much more!

If you’re guilty of not taking action on what you need, here is one solution.

Rocking chair.

That’s where 81-year-old Fernando, father of one my patients, is. In his procrastination and vices all these years, he never held a good job or built a solid business. Just his wife who worked to support him and their children.

Reflecting on his life from the rocking chair, he felt so sad. Depressed. His mind and heart was full of regret. He remembered he was given lots of opportunities and resources when he was younger. To which he uttered, “What a waste.”

At the same time, he beheld the oppposite in his imagination. He set worthwhile goals. He took action on each of them without delay or quitting. He imagined the feeling of being a successful multi-millionaire businessman. He became a loving and responsible husband and father. His wife and children loving and respecting him.

From the rocking chair, he discovered a solution. But he ran out of time.

Heal your “procrastinatis” … before it gets too late.

The Leisure Delusion

Fun, fun, fun. Travels, cruises, tours. Surfing, beaches. Shopping, sumptuous dinners.

The quest for a “good time” lies at the bottom of lots of people’s pursuit of pleasure. To escape work or the rat race. Even as a motivation for retirement.

After 40 years working in a bank, Mario and Marsha shared how much they craved retirement now. Now that their kids are all grownup, they felt free.

They looked forward to the leisure and “inheritance” of retirement pay. They said they’d spend their money and time in their hands traveling, and simply “doing nothing.” That brief future together was what they’d like to be, especially in the present moment.

Then it hit them! In our session, Marsha was telling her husband, “I could not understand what’s happening. We hurried to retire and relax, do what we planned. Why am I bored? Is something wrong with me?”

I’m reminded of the mother of a young son as he impatiently waited for Christmas to come. He cried, “I wish it were Christmas!” His mother, with her gentle wisdom, told his son, “With such wish, you will wish your life away!”

The whole problem with leisure or “good time” delusion is that it is deceptive. It puts your days in separate boxes. It presumes that a day is going to be more enjoyable and far different. It chops off segments of life as worthless because they’re not your “wished day.”

As a result of that, you find yourself kept from seeing or treasuring your present moment. You get bored. Weary of the pattern of your days. The leisure blinds you to the importance of the work you gave to earn it and the need to create new meanings in life as a whole.

Of course, we can enjoy the “good time.” Have our days off. We can treasure it. But it’s not meant to be the “goal of life.” Creativity is key. We find excitement and energy when we know we’re creating. Creating meaning in our days – not leisure – makes life!