Manny’s lonely childhood

On the outside, Manny’s childhood was rich. He seemed to have everything. Wealthy parents. Status. Intelligence. Good looks. First-born. All he needs and wants, he gets.

But actually, most of his childhood was hell.

“Dad let Mom (a successful businesswoman) rule the house. She’s demanding and rock-hard authoritarian,” said Manny during session.

He added with a sigh, “My Dad, who’s a noted doctor, was aloof and unaffectionate. God, I was so lonely!”

Manny and his brother never had family times and fun with Mom and Dad. They almost wouldn’t talk during meals or travels all their years. They’re more like dorm mates.

“My parents just provided. I wish they had the humanity to hug me, touch me, talk to me, be loving. But no, they’re both cold, aristocratic, aloof and smart at anything,” he lamented.

When I asked further about his emotions, Manny felt he might as well have been a zombie.

After sharing about his feelings and thoughts on his childhood, Manny was left with no doubts how, where, and why he became a Zombie himself!

A zombie to his wife. A zombie to his children. A zombie among his acquaintances and work mates. A zombie towards all his relationships.

Manny’s healing started when he fully understood the nature and dynamic of how he was programmed to be a Zombie like his parents.

Something interesting happened in my sessions with Manny thereafter. At some point.

As he experienced emotionally (not merely informationally) how he adopted his parents’ ways, he smiled a lot.

He learned to understand himself better. He learned to understand his parents too without condemning them. He developed compassion for himself, his Mom and Dad.

Manny also learned there is no more emotional need to cling to his false Zombie exterior. It’s not really him any more than it is his parents’ as he saw where they came from.

Freeing at last.

The RAIN Tool

“We all have an omniscient narrator in our head who is harsh and negative commenting on our life. Having a voice constantly urging us to do better has some survival value – but it can make us miserable,” said New York-based psychologist John Gartner.

The other day, a talented young woman was sobbing during session.

She’s continually harassed by an inner judge which is critical, nit-picking, and devaluing her.

This thing inside her head was demanding. Full of unrealistic expectations. On the job 24/7.

She’s made to believe from the core that something is fundamentally wrong with her.

She’s been trying to control and fix what she felt is a basically flawed self.

It’s such an epidemic. This deep sense of personal deficiency. Getting stuck in the trance of unworthiness.

Mindfulness helps. It reduces the power the voice inside has over us.

Along the way in my sessions, I like doing Tara Brach’s R.A.I.N. process tool to guide individuals in their private practice of mindfulness.

R.A.I.N. trains the emotions and thoughts to be self-compassionate.

R.A.I.N. tool for mindfulness goes this way:

R = recognize what is going on

A = allow the experience to be there, just as it is

I = investigate with interest and care

N = nurture with self compassion

According to Dr. David Kessler, MD, author of “CAPTURE,” studies show that meditation and mindfulness gives schizophrenics the “ability to pay less attention to and give credence to the voices in their heads.”

“For those with anxiety or depression, meditation stops the cycle of obsessive rumination and self recrimination,” Dr. Kessler added.

When Kittens Become Cats

The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat.”

In many ways, we could say the same thing about our children.

When my daughter Angel was 3 up, she was cute, cuddly, soft and small.

Now that she’s older and bigger, I still love her just as much.

But she’s become so independent. And … isn’t quite as small or cuddly anymore!

I could say somewhat the same thing about her brother Paul and sister Christine, who are now young adults.

They’re former kittens, now developing cats!

As a father, time does keep slipping, slipping, slipping on me. And I’ve to admit that I’m not as young as I used to be.

A few days ago, I was in session with a Mom (along with her husband) who’s still calling her son “babe.”

Her son is almost 25, still dependent on her in all basic things.

It’s obvious that as we parent our children, we’re called to develop as adults as well.

This means, we need to be aware of appropriate developmental paths as time slips by.

My fathering my 3-year-old Angel, for instance, has to be far different from my fathering her in her teenage years.

I admit it’s tough for me to be a father of a teenager. And it is not easier for my daughter Angel.

At this point, she may literally be “not all there.”

Yet she needs my love and support to grow in certain areas, such as impulse control, judgment, and ability to face consequences.

This is “age-appropriate” parenting. For our kids’ mental health and overall wellness.

To do that, we parents need to be relatively functioning adults, while we’ve the opportunity.

For time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping …

Impostor Syndrome

“I’m a fraud! After being a CEO of this food company and earning millions, I don’t think it’s my talent. I’m just lucky. I didn’t do it,” said Paul during one of our teary-eyed sessions.

Like most of us, Paul suffered from some painful aspects of self-doubt. He feared being found out. Psychologists call it the “Impostor Syndrome.”

The “impostor syndrome” is a psychological state that reflects a belief that one is an inadequate and incompetent failure. Such is despite obvious evidences of success or competency.

I’m comforted by this. For I too, like everyone else, feel waves of self-doubt on a regular basis. It comes through if I’m about to write a new book or blog post, meet a new client, or make a TV appearance.

It gets particularly bad when I procrastinate. It gets especially bad when I start thinking of comparing myself with other doctors and writers.

It seems inevitable that at certain points of our life’s journey, self-doubt will come along uninvited. For a ride. To our discomfort.

A solution? Welcome it! Understand it.

Writer Joanna Penn once observed, “In fact, if you don’t feel any doubt, there’s probably something wrong!”

When you feel that creeping “impostor syndrome,” acknowledge it. Don’t resist. Embrace the self-doubt as part of your growth process. Feel your feelings … then continue moving forward.

If you’re suffering badly from this and unable to improve, you possibly need to see a psychotherapist. Although friends can listen, there is usually a short shelf life for this kind of confession.

So, take deep breaths. And make sure you’re getting back to real life.

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.

A Secret to Living Well

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s German. Like me, you may have a hard time saying or pronouncing it. The word means “community feeling.”

According to noted psychoanalyst Dr. Alfred Adler, that feeling is one of the marks of a well-lived life. It signifies the value of social interest in giving meaning and purpose to one’s life.

Such may be in the form of varied kinds. Such as: grandparenting, volunteering, philanthropy, ministering, health coaching, devoting one’s resources to some social or political cause.

Psychological studies showed that people who are engaged in some form of helping others are far more healthy and satisfied with their lives.

Yesterday, in the mall, a man greeted and tapped me on the back. He was a former patient, who’s with his smiling wife. For a year, they underwent personal and marital therapy with me.

It’s 5 years ago. Today, they’re living a healed, more balanced and happy life as a couple. Gone were their dark days of experiencing infidelity, bankruptcy, and abuses in their marriage.

The man said, “Doc, let’s have a selfie photo together!” I obliged, of course.

“We owe a lot to you. Count me and my wife in as one of those who went through a successful therapy and life change with you!”, he joyfully remarked.

“Gemeinschaftsgefuh.”

That’s the feeling I felt about what happened to this couple. And each and every time I’m able to have an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives. Simply priceless!

Most days, I begin with writing tasks, followed by seeing patients in my sessions.

I would then hold court in one of the many coffee shops or hotels around – sharing stories, jokes, Scriptures, deep talks about topics such as life’s meaning.

In all of those, my social interest is ever-present. A desire to contribute in whatever way I can to help others – psychologically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and even physically as well.

Life is beyond self. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and have lived well.”

Get Natural

Substantual evidences from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the International Society of Sport Psychology, and other authorities have declared a best natural anti-depressant.

Exercise.

I remember one of my clients who took up boxing in the gym after taking brain drugs for a time. She reported that her exercise made her feel far better than all the psych drugs she took combined!

In dozens of clinical studies, exercise is proven to have superior supportive psychotherapeutic benefits. A repellant against depression and negativity, such as fear, worry, anger and tension.

Practiced regularly, exercise (aerobic or nonaerobic) helps bring better self esteem, enhanced mental and emotional performance, and resilience against stress.

Exercise “natural anti-depressant” may include: power walking, jogging, running, swimming, basketball, football, boxing, dancing, even gardening and housework.

Of course, a rule is do it safely and don’t overdo it to avoid unnecessary injury. Also, don’t try to expect to heal your emotional wounds overnight through exercise.

Major depressives in exercise programs spend their time too in psychotherapy. That goes to the internal roots to permanently keep the blues at bay.

Personally and professionally, I love daily power walks. At times, running. To exorcise my own demons! My own bodywork to free my mind so I can be of better help to others.

I like Henry David Thoreau, who writes:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend 4 hours a day at least … sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”