Sometimes, Failure is Not Failure

Sometimes, failure isn’t really failure. It’s part of the process of success. As long as you don’t get stuck. Continue moving forward.

Jack Ma is China’s famous multi-billionaire. He was at first a serial failure before he striked success. Failed many exams at school from primary to college. Rejected from Harvard 10 times. Turned down for 30 jobs. Only interviewee out of 24 rejected by KFC.

He is living proof that failure is part of success.

The world would have us believe that failure has no value.

Now, we can’t be sure about that.

In our culture, there is indeed a lot of emphasis on instant success. If you don’t hit big at a certain point or time, you’re a failure. So many of us strive for the elusive overnight “success” status, not realizing that in and of itself it doesn’t really mean much.

In therapy too, many among us want instant success. Magic. Overnight recovery. Like instant coffee, we unrealistically expect instant relief to our deepest pains. Rather than a candle that burns slow and steady for a long time.

Many years ago in my youth, I was a chess champion. I tell you, the training was long and hard to become one. Instead of resorting to available tricks or shortcuts, I focused on the slow burn. Rather than “enduring” my training, I learned to enjoy the process and what I do.

That made me win games, even after painful losses. Become a champion.

Life is creativity. Focus on the “long game” instead of short-term results that don’t last. Love the process. That way, you’ll be a steady flame, not a flash in the pan. A champion in creating your best life.

Managing Your Death Anxiety

This week, we have All Souls Day again. Culture reminds us once more the reality of death in our human existence. It also directs us to remember those that passed on – family members, friends, and others who profoundly influenced our lives.

As a young boy in grade school, I first attended funeral when my paternal grandmother died. I don’t remember anyone, including my parents, spelling out death to me in a frightening or philosophical way. I recall just playing around during the funeral, seemingly unaffected.

Then one day, while passing by my grandmother’s house that lay alongside a Main Street, I suddenly cried. My grief over my grandmother’s death broke out of mental/emotional denial or unawareness. I’m thankful that my personal distress had awakened me to something I needed to see.

In our society, it’s a common sight for people to talk about those who died and not feel anxious by the thought that death will happen to us as well. We recover from grief. And then, we move on with our everyday lives not minding the need to prepare for such inevitable existential reality.

But, at some point in our lives, all of us will be faced by this reality of certain physical death. It may be in deep, powerful ways that it affects the way we think, feel, and behave towards a lot of things. It’s a time of faith. A time of being compelled to ponder our own mortality.

Death anxiety. William James, American philosopher, eloquently referred to fear of death as “the worm at the core of human existence.” Psychologists tell us that we are often unaware of the effects of death anxiety to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

When left inadequately managed, death anxiety can magnify our fears, obsessions, social anxieties, and other psychological imbalances. It can amplify our disdain of people who neglect us or don’t share our values.

In my exposure Therapy session with Roger, we tried to cure his recurring panic anxiety attacks. His common triggers were traffic while inside his chauffeured car, train stations, and foot bridges. When we first started scheduling our sessions in those normal places, he completely went haywire in protest and rage.

It’s interesting that a common theme flowing through Roger’s thread of thoughts and safety behaviors while looking at those normal places is fear of and anticipation of his own death. I can’t help thinking then if his recurring panic anxiety attacks, accompanied by high temper, are a reflection of his own desperate attempts to manage death anxiety.

Having reached an age when I too am inescapably visited by thoughts of mortality, I wrote this reflection with great soul-searching. Am I living with true purpose given the limitedness of time remaining? If I die tonight or sometime, can I be sure where I’m going? What legacy am I making to leave the world a better place?

The Art of Detachment

Carol set limits.. She told her husband, “I feel so devastated by your affair. You even used our car to bring her out and to our vacation house. Despite your promise to stop it, you still continue. I want you out of the house. If you agree to seek help, maybe we can talk.”

Carol sought relief. But that’s not the reason why she did that. She did it for her. While she wished her unfaithful husband would make a turnaround, it’s out of her hands. She separated from her husband’s problem and responsibility without separating from him. She still cared to offer him help.”

Detachment. At times, it’s an only way we can do to survive overwhelming pain, frustration, and disappointment of our “broken dreams.” Its often a first step in reclaiming our lives. It can be our best hope towards recovery and wholeness.

First-aid emotional detachment teaches us to endure the unendurable, the inexplicable, the paradoxical. Not just in our selves or our relationships, but also in the world in general. Managing the difficult task of detachment frees us to go even amid unanswered questions.

I’m reminded of Mommy Wilma who learned to practice a “script” with her daughter. Wilma heaved a deep sigh of relief, after telling her daughter “I separate from your problem which is your responsibility without separating from you!”

Detachment is a conscious choice. An expression of our own will to survive.

 

When Your Adult Child Disappoints You (Part 3)

Therapy for both parents and adult child can be useful. It often is. It may be a first step to help us understand ourselves, our adult children’s problems, and the family system or culture that contributed to the problems we face.

If you’re a parent who is unhappy about your adult child’s choices in life, you need a safe place. This is especially so when your mental or physical health and overall well-being is already being affected. In many cases, therapy becomes an only way to get support to cope with the feelings of shame and embarrassment inherent in the situation.

Shocked, stunned, and scared! That’s how a mother and father reacted when they knew of their 35-year-old son’s addiction to drugs. When I asked them, what they did, they said they immediately rushed in to “rescue.” They brought him back home, provided for him and his family, and reverted back to treating him like a child.

Well-meaning as it was for them, the parents’ over-involvement with their addicted adult son came close to sabotaging his rehabilitation. Only after a week back home, his son got arrested by the police for using and selling shabu in the neighborhood. The son is now in jail, awaiting a program of drug rehabilitation.

I can’t imagine the deep emotional pain these parents are going through. While they had their best intentions for their son’s good, they’re just really “enabling” his addiction. Taking control over their son’s out-of-control life took away the responsibility to solve problems that rightfully belongs to him. Instead, they put that responsibility, on them.

The truth is, our adult children have the right to live their own lives. Whether to save or squander it, it’s up to them. As Simone de Beauvoir tells us, “we must recognize their liberty, even in failure.” We are not the source of that right. It’s one we can not take away from them.

No matter what happens to our adult children, we parents need to take care of ourselves. We may always offer help to them that’s wise and appropriate. But in most cases, our self-care and “doing nothing” seems best. It may be all we need to do.

As we take care of ourselves as parents, when and if our adult children become ready to receive real help, we’re capable of giving the right kind.

Nicole

The famous psychologist, Dr. Carl Jung, once wrote that resistance makes us unfocused, restless, and apathetic, which in turn “begets meaninglessness.” When the Big R (resistance) has us, we cease to live or work at all. We avoid being responsible and finding any meaning in life.

Resistance is an escape. It’s a form of war against or running-away from what needs to be done. In psychotherapy, a patient who rejects recovery, too tired or lethargic, and unable to focus on any of life’s courses, is a resistant person.

A young woman, Nicole, was smart enough to hold a high-paying position in her company. Yet she wouldn’t go for it. She’s always heard giving her self and others varied reasons why she’s “incapable” of doing where she’s seen to have great potential. One day, to the shock of those around her, she resigned her job.

Nicole went back to her mother’s care. For years, she withdrew from applying for a new job and just stayed with her Mom. She felt helpless and hopeless. She avoided even the simplest tasks of self care. In the depths of her growing depression, she missed life’s opportunities.

I’ve been reading parts of author John Sanford’s book, “The Transformation of the Inner Man.” I discovered he describes a condition he called psychological “amniosis,” which seems to apply perfectly to Nicole’s state, her Big R.

Sanford writes that “amniosis” means an “inability to come out of the amniotic fluid and be born, or flight by regression to return to the safe hiding place of the womb … Amniotic people want to be taken care of. They want to find strong people – ones in whom they can nestle, upon whom they can be dependent…”

People with the Big R usually experience a damaged self esteem. And people with a damaged self esteem often avoid being powerful, responsible, and well-adjusted. Or, they become addicted to temporary sources of relief, such as drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling etc, that prove life-damaging in the long run.

It’s a good thing Nicole is becoming increasingly aware of her Big R in our sessions. She’s now being “reschooled” away from her earlier programming, inappropriate cultural or society values and biaes, and other influences that have damaged her own self, her own uniqueness, her own interior wisdom.

The Missing Link

Jean-Paul Sartre, the humanist French philosopher, was an atheist. He didn’t believe in God. But once, he fell down a chimney he was erecting. After many failed attempts to extricate him, volunteer rescuers took the chimney apart so they could get him.

Newspapers reported that when the rescuers reached him, they found him praying for deliverance. On his deathbed, Sartre directly and personally called out to God. This embarrassed his fellow atheists and humanists.

Such experience is evidence of man’s inherent spiritual nature. Every human being has four sides to his nature – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. That’s the total person. Anyone who ignores or neglects this truth does so at his own peril.

Nowadays, the form of therapy most commonly neglected by secular doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors is spiritual therapy. Our education and culture is overwhelmingly secularized and based on atheism and humanism.

Psychotherapy or counseling that views people as merely body, mind, and emotions is completely inadequate. There is an essential missing link. We will never solve the problems and illnesses of humanity until we recognize this missing link.

In my therapy sessions, I never fail to discover how the spiritual nature in our being can actually stabilize and motivate our mind, emotions, and body. In fact, we do not even need to improve our emotions, mind, or body!

We simply need to fuel, empower, or restore our inoperative spiritual nature. Most miserable and hurt people are not conscious of the fact that their continuing misery and hurt emanates from spiritual deficiency or God-void in their lives.

Truly, even though we get momentary relief or happiness on the physical, psychological, or emotional planes of life, we will never attain lasting happiness. Until the missing link of God-void in our spiritual nature is fulfilled.

Make sure, when you’re healing, you’re healing your total person.

Healing a Troubled Marriage

Every human being is designed to love and be loved. Things are designed to be used.

A big reason why much in our relationships are in chaos is because we use people and things are ones loved by us.

I’ve once a married couple in therapy that lasted for about a year. Both of them came from very wealthy families.

Their lives together is laced with separate businesses, bank accounts, and managed properties. They “profit” from each other’s ventures.

In my working with them in our sessions, I could not be sure if marriage is truly the best word to describe their relationship. You see, since marriage, they never “dated.” Sex stopped for decades. They lived their lives as if they’re co-dorm mates.

Until one day. The wife discovered her husband having affairs with multiple women. One of them was housed in one of their condominium properties. Their world crashed. And both of them declared they still “love” each other.

It’s a deep mess. The unfaithful husband apologized for his betrayal. He assured his wife that he was letting go of the other women. And he agreed to his wife’s requirement for them to go through personal and marital therapy.

Both of their lives had not been easy despite their families’ affluence. They told me repeatedly of tales of abandonment, the drugs, the alcohol, and the lonely nights that define their past.

They speak of dysfunction freely of their families of origin. It was as much a part of their story as what happened to them in their relationship.

In therapy, they developed emergent awareness and honesty. When they’d learned to be honest, they’d become aware that much of their relationship with each other is focused on “things.” They used each other to increase these “things.”

And in the course of doing so, they missed each other’s persons.

Indeed, our pockets may be full. But our hearts are empty. Love people, not things. It’s the path to better living, your best self and relationships ever.