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.

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.

Your Problem Is “Not-Me”

Problems do affect people. And it’s common sight how people convince themselves that their self-identities are bound up with their problems.

I’m reminded of Connie. He is like a lot of people who express the nature of their selves in terms of externals. He is fast losing his health and engaged in varied addictions, such as drugs, gambling, alcohol, and nicotine.

In our sessions together, he kept describing himself, “I’m useless. I’m an addict. I’m depressed and hopeless.” Rather than seeing his addictions as separate from his person, he embraces them as his globalized identity (“I am my addictions!”).

Interestingly, Connie has good things in his life that he is unable to see. His degree in a top university. His computer programming skills. A mother who cares and is supportive of him. A young, innocent daughter who looks up to him.

The person is not the problem. Rather the problem is the problem.

In the case of Connie, the way to healing his damaged self and life is to regard his addictions as an “entity” in itself apart from him. Instead of saying “I am,” he says “I have.” He has addictions, with which he has a relationship that has taken over his life.

That’s the problem, not him.

When Connie gets that, he can begin to work through his addictions more accurately. The problem invaded his person, which can now be reserved or protected or retrieved from the problem of addictions.

If this sounds too fanciful for you, you may try such a conversation your self. Think of some problem you have. Think of it not as an identity characteristic but as an entity outside of your self.

Discover then the fact that you are not your problem, but that you have a relationship with it!

And within that relationship to the problem, you have responsibilities and possibilities for your life that the problem has not removed. The problem has only succeeded in obscuring those possibilities and oppressing the potentialities of your self.

Remember again, your problem is “not-me.” Your problem is the problem!

Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a uniquely human problem.

In the world as a whole, statistics indicate an increasing suicide rate. According to the handbook of psychiatry by authors Philip Solomon and Vernon Patch – a suicide death occurs about every 20 minutes.

Firstly, the one who did it could not see things realistically. He or she could not realize that the problems he or she is experiencing are just temporary and solvable.

Second, the trauma inflicted on the family and loved ones is devastating. Aside from emotional damage, it sets a negative example to children who will later find themselves in painful life conditions.

And most importantly, just as murder is sin, suicide is sin.

One of God’s ten commandments plainly states, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). To kill one’s self is murder and never God’s will.

In the whole of Scriptures, only 7 suicides are recorded:

Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Samson (Judges 16:30), Saul (1 Samuel 31:14), Saul’s armor bearer (1 Samuel 31: 5), Ahithopel II (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas (the Gospels).

Not even one among these who committed suicide was at the center of doing God’s will.

Clinically, in therapy, psychiatrist J. Motto cites 10 warning signs of individuals most likely to commit suicide:

1. Those with severe depression accompanied by intense emotional pain (depression is known to be a leading cause of suicide).
2. Those with intense hopeless feelings.
3. Singles … over 45.
4. Those with prior history of suicide attempt.
5. Those with severe health problems.
6. Those who experienced great losses – death of spouse, loss of job etc
7. Those who made a specific suicide plan, from fleeting thoughts of suicide to
actual attempt.
8. Those with chronic self-destructive behavior, such as alcoholism, drug
addiction etc
9. Those with intense need to achieve.
10. Those with excess disturbing life events within the last 6 months.

Body Image and Mental Health

When I was a boy onwards spiraling out of adolescence, I was painfully thin. I remember each time I dressed, I’ll put “extras” on my shoulder to look bulky.

In social events, I looked like a tall ectomorphic pole without the “extras!” It made me feel self conscious and had to repair my self view from this in years following.

It can be hard to stand against culture”s overemphasis on physical appearance. It tends to distort vision.

A client, Celia, had acquired a sense of worthlessness from others who jeered her “ugliness” and twisted form. Finally, it darkened her judgment and mental health as she accepted their assessment of her self based on externals.

The self is so much more than our body weight, physical appearance, or organic definition. Our “true self” operates on another deeper level of awareness.

If we get that, we won’t overreact to the “illusions” of culture or unkind feedback we encounter. Low self esteem – a negative view of self – is arrested.

So naturally even as we take care of our physical appearance and health, we know a crucial difference. The authenticity or core of our selves is essentially separate from the physical state of our selves.

What To Do When My Child Misbehaves

What I’ve known is, all children misbehave no matter what their family situation is. I surmise it’s a natural built in to the predictable pattern of development of children their age. Yet it’s still vital for parents to determine if the misbehavior is just normal for the child or related to parental deficits.

A therapist/counselor can be helpful in assisting and clarifying what parents cannot see. I recall spending hours of session with a single Mom whose 14-year-old daughter has dropped out of high school and often been running away from home. The question that arose was, “Is this daughter acting in that way because she never knew her father, or it’s because she’s a teenager?”

Some times, answers are not black or white. “This misbehavior is all about the parents’ divorce” or “This behavior is all about teenage behavior.” Some times, I’m saying, it can’t be accurately distinguished. In this case of the Mom and her 14-year-old daughter, the misbehavior most likely reflects both typical teenage feelings and some stuff resulting from her father’s abandonment and other relevant factors.

I know. It isn’t comfortable to have answers like that. But it’s the likely truth.

When children misbehave, a best answer is for parents to give their child loving “consistency.” Is the child getting wild, crazy, or out of control? If you think you’re being loving by letting your misbehaving child get away with anything, you’ve got it wrong. Your child may look thankful for allowing him or her to misbehave. But sooner deep inside, he or she’ll find out that you don’t care enough to take him or her to the right path.

My fellow parent, it’s a tough tightrope to walk, isn’t it?

If you’re a Mom or Dad who have emotional wounds or dysfunction your self, you need to give attention to your healing while being actively involved in your children’s lives as well. So, one best gift you can give to your misbehaving child is to be a healthy parent! That requires primary care if you’re to realistically hope to influence your child for the better.