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.”

What’s True Love?

What is true love?

Everyone talks about it. We want to see and experience it.

You look for it. You long for it. You hope and wish to find that one fellow human being who will truly love you, and whom you’ll truly love in return.

You think that if you find him or her, you’ve found true love to make you happy. True love, most of us tend to believe, lies from outside of us.

I’m used to hearing individuals or couples saying, “I can’t live without you.” So when one loses the other, he or she also loses his or her self.

Even if you get true love from outside of you, it will only be for awhile. It won’t last long. True love doesn’t work that way.

You and your loved one are two separate individuals. You can love another person without losing your self.

True love then is essentially located from within your self. Not outside of it.

As Ravi Shankar put it, “Seek not outside your self, for all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found.”

Finding true love then is not about finding your completeness in another person. You don’t need another human being to complete you.

In reality, you’re already complete and whole as you love and accept your self. If you don’t have true love for your self, you can’t realistically expect someone to give it to you.

You only need someone in your life when you desire to share with another your wholeness. Bless the other with true love already residing within your heart.

So a next question is, if true love is found within you, how do you know it’s there, to attract true love from another person?

Conquering Vice

Yesterday, TV host Amy Perez of ABS CBN’s daily morning show Sakto, asked me, “Paano ba matitigil ang bisyo ng tao (alak, babae, sigarilyo etc) ngayong bagong taon?”

I responded in part, “Yung mga bisyo na meron ang tao ay sintomas lang, di pa sya yung sakit.”

The underlying, hidden roots that fuel vices are essentially psychological and spiritual. That’s where lies the key to new life … true, lasting change.

Isn’t this one truth we often miss amid inevitable challenges we face in life?

In my own life, I’ve traveled through several deserts. Family and marital trauma. Financial challenges. Abandonment and betrayal.

Each time, I got broken. Torn apart. My heart was such a wilderness.

Needless to say, I could easily had become an alcoholic, a womanizer, or some sort of addict. Like what multitudes of wounded people have become or done.

Yet something left me sane and resilient those desert times. Unaddicted. Not grasping “false medicine.” Devoid of life-damaging vices.

So what prods me on? What sustains me, through weeks and months and years of searing pain, in my own deserts?

It’s what’s underneath my deepest part and being: the pearl of great price. It’s the Star of Bethlehem.

To develop our best selves, we have two guides: internal and external.

Internal, of course, refers to renewal of the mind. Cleansing of the soul. At times, a need for appropriate therapy. And Scripture is the best, ultimate guide that lays the task for us very well.

External refers to how we fashion our life outside ourselves. Family relationships. Work. Choice of friends. Recreational activity.

Are your internal and external flowing well interdependently to lead you to a healthy lifestyle?

And so, as you start this new year, be ready to travel even through the desert (or deserts) of life.

Choose to live free of vices or “bisyo” with your best self – your body, mind, and soul – following the Star.

When Another New Year Comes

We mark our calendars with New Year. 365 days of 1,440 minutes a day is about 525,000 minutes supply per year!

New Years are milestones. They represent significant points in the passing of time.

Stop and reflect about your self. Your life, every new year.

It looks like New Years are designed to enable us to make an annual life self assessment. Not only of length of years we’ve got, but our depth or quality of life as well.

Are you just growing older? Or, are you also growing whole and healthy?

The psalmist gives us a best wish to say each rolling new year along this line.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I’ve a caution for you and I.

These New Years are not like an insurance policy where there can be pledge of automatic renewal. Obviously, no one holds a guarantee of another forthcoming new year added into his or her life.

So, if our Creator gives you another new year, He must have some plans for you. He has some things in His mind that He wants you to pull off through your self and life.

Surely, that includes more than your coming 525,000 minutes for the new year!

You need wisdom.

Wisdom comes privately inside the self. It’s a by-product of right choices, habits, and principles applied to circumstances and relationships. It’s a fruit of a disciplined, deeper self.

Can you find marks of wisdom in your self, life, and future plans when another new year comes?

Make the most of the time given to you. One of these New Years will be God’s terminal point in your life!

Christmas’ Biggest SECRET

Do you know the biggest secret of Christmas?

I tell you, it’s not Santa Claus. Not the gifts or “aginaldos.” Not the colorful Yuletide tree. Nor even the family reunions, parties, and bounty foods.

It’s a simple secret and yet so easy to miss nowadays. Even ignore or deny.

Once, I was in Thailand. While there, I started getting scared of running out of resources. That’s when I learned an essential life lesson. I’d always have something to share to others. Time. Energy. Smiles. Food. A lending hand.

I realized, the more I give, the more I receive! The generosity gave me joy and peace.

Over two thousand years ago, Someone got generous. It was the first Christmas.

We’re all familiar with religion. It tires. It enslaves our minds and hearts. For it only tells us to do this and to do that in order to reach out to God. It’s never-ending, yet there is no true satisfaction.

But, Christmas comes. It erases religion.

Christmas is the generous God Himself reaching out to mankind in the form of the greatest gift of His one and only Son, Christ Jesus, to save, reconcile, and give us everlasting life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Look.

The biggest secret of Christmas is a “relationship, not religion.”

It’s ever before our very eyes. It dwells in the hearts and souls of mankind. Changing lives, bringing lasting joy, peace, and life on earth and hereafter.

 

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?