Labels Don’t Define You

Diagnostic labels are typical. You enter a hospital, consult a doctor, and take lab tests. Then, you’re given a Label of your condition.

In psychological care or mental health, labels abound. They emanate mostly from DSM. It’s a doctor’s guide on mental health disorders used by MHP (mental health practitioners) around the world.

Yesterday, I was reading a psychological report on Marino, a teenage client. It’s issued by a registered drug-based professional mental health agency based in Manila.

In the report I found lots of familiar DSM labels. Depression. Agoraphobia. Social anxiety. Depersonalization Disorder. Schizophrenia.

As usual, aside from the labels, the agency required the client to take brain drugs. When the drugs manifested serious side effects on the teen client, his mother chose to stop it.

When the mother reported about it to the agency, she was simply told to comply. Without drugs, they said, no psychotherapy will be allowed for his son.

Labels and the pharmaceutical industry usually go together in psychiatry. Describing who you are as “depressive” or “BPD” or “schizoid” is an attitude often encouraged by the big pharma.

In my initial session with Marino, I’d noticed how much the “labels” given him have already affected his sense of himself. Mostly in our talks, he spoke of who he is as the “labels,” the sickness.

Sadly, in my observation, Marino has come to see himself as inherently dysfunctional. A major part of it was the result of the way he was labeled and boxed in.

Framing one’s identity around some drug-based label is dangerous. It harms one’s overall health. Worse, it can destroy even the core of one’s self identity.

You are more than any diagnostic “label.” You are a person, not an object. The label is just a temporary state or external behavior. It does not exclusively define you.

Transcending “labels” means looking at life beyond them. Labels can be useful in a way. But they can also shape your thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Be careful then. Discern differences. Labels stick, but they can also be unwrapped. You and any label are two different things.

Most importantly, you can be stronger than the “label.”

Living Your Life Again

We live in a fast-paced age. The world is a smaller place because of technology, internet, and airplanes through our skies.

This advancement has lots of pluses. The speed, the technology, helps. Speaking for myself, I can conduct sessions anywhere I am to attend to those from varied places or nations.

Yet despite the advancement to make life easier, people still feel uneasy. You can see the tension: in their faces, voices, hands, bodies. The way they live.

Now, why is this happening? Well, you proceed to the source of the problem: your mind. Keep your mind alive now. Your imagination.

Do you see a frown of anxiety on the face of your mind? Are your teeth gritting? Your jaw stiffening? Now, in your mind, smile. Choose to shift to a face with joy.

Let me tell you about a man. He won out over his wounds and tensions.

He had undergone a severe family and marital trauma. Abandoned, deprived. He was no youngster. He was already in his 60s, a senior citizen.

What to do with his life and time in which he lived empty, depressed, and tense?

He decided it was moment for action. He had to bring life back into his life. He had to do it in simple, realistic ways.

Well, what could a man his age do?

First, he became a life coach to couples, families, and other adults. He was a wise, talented, and friendly guy. It suited his personality. Soon he had substantial clientele and been earning well.

Second, you see him volunteering as a toddler caregiver in a church’s Sunday kids’ school. Spending time with children brought him much joy. It makes him feel more alive.

And lastly but not the least, he found peace leading bible studies and joining periodic mission trips through his church. His life leads to more life.

In his 60s, abandoning the passive concepts of retirement, he found healing for his wounds. He used his mind and work to get active. Live life again.

Your Extended “Gifts”

While the Christmas and New Year 2017 holidays are not over yet, it’s not too late to give extended “gifts.” To our selves. To others.

Possibly this may be your “gift” per day from here onwards.

Here are some suggestions for your extended “gifts:”

• Forgive one who hurt you, including an enemy.

• Smile a little. Then a little more. Till you laugh.

• Reduce your anxiety or demands on others.

• Converse warmly together without gadgets, phone, or TV.

• Do wash the clothes for Mommy or Daddy.

• Fix coffee or breakfast for someone you care about.

• Visit your grandparents with your cheers and gifts.

• Listen.

• Find the time to fulfill a promise.

• Express appreciation.

• Ask for forgiveness when you did wrong.

• Take a walk with your child.

• Learn the art of under-reacting.

• Enter into another’s grief.

• Speak kindly to someone you don’t know.

• Be gentle and patient with an angry or depressed person.

• Support to reconcile a broken relationship.

• Give hugs to people.

How about that?

Extended “gifts” to you and others! Sincerely. Lovingly. Without expecting anything in return.

That is mental health and wholeness, isn’t it?

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

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.

A Secret to Beat Depression

When you’re psychologically depressed, you’re behaviorally depressed. Your mind expects more pain than gain. Life doesn’t excite you any more. You feel you’re unfit for life. That depresses you even more.

One solution is pretty simple. Direct.

When you find your self – whether consciously or subconsciously – in a vicious cycle of depression and inactivity, keep moving.

Be more active! That’s the antidote. A proven prescription.

Cognitive behavioral therapies all teach the art of being more active to become less depressed. Among clinical psychologists and their dozens of studies, they’re convinced that a most powerful antidepressant is “successful performance.”

Christina had trouble being active again after suffering losses. Employments. Relationships. During our therapy sessions, its tremendous hard work for her to defy her depressive inertia, with its self doubts and crying spells.

After developing an inventory of activities, scheduling them, and working on her resistances, i stumbled upon a “vehicle.” Together, Christina and I experimented on launching a new business where she could be motivated to be active.

Having a strong desire to help people, her new business that does help people took off! She realized how it gives her purpose seeing others happy after she helps them with the product of her business. With her loved ones cheering her on, she became so active each day, knowing she’s making a difference.

Christina is one good example of “being active” in order to beat depression. Discovering her right niche and activities is the secret. That led Christina to her “successful performance” which gave her rewards and meaning to move on.

Patting her self on the back at every turn – learning to schmooze with her self big time! – Christina experienced the essence of a very effective cognitive behavioral therapy for depression.

Master Your Brain Health Without Drugs!

A Secret to Survive Trauma

Surviving any trauma or crisis involves the ability to “withstand painful feelings.” I know it can be so difficult to do.

That holds true especially when you’re going through deep, wounding emotional experiences, such as betrayal, infidelity, rejection, or abandonment.

Yet if you’re to survive, you do need to be a person of this essential ability within you.

I’m reminded of lawyer Wendy, an excellent example of such a person. When she saw me, she was in much pain and humiliation because of her husband’s infidelity and lack of remorse.

Yet she endured these painful, uncomfortable feelings. She sought help and counsel, took vacation breaks, enlarged her circle of support, and was able to resume her responsibilities as a working mother to her children.

The ability to “withstand painful feelings” means learning to live with such feelings without being overwhelmed ot immobilized by rage, depression, or anxiety.

That involves objectively understanding what happened, facing issues raised, and integrating the event in your life. A survivor puts the trauma or crisis into perspective, think the issues through, and learn to charge neutral or be less emotionally reactive so he can get to the “other side.”

Therapy is usually geared towards helping you through the process of integrating the trauma, crisis, or event in your life. Knowing and developing cognitive skills will lessen the toxicity of emotions produced by thinking distortions.

Such is crucial so you can be detached enough to problem solve.