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.

The Leisure Delusion

Fun, fun, fun. Travels, cruises, tours. Surfing, beaches. Shopping, sumptuous dinners.

The quest for a “good time” lies at the bottom of lots of people’s pursuit of pleasure. To escape work or the rat race. Even as a motivation for retirement.

After 40 years working in a bank, Mario and Marsha shared how much they craved retirement now. Now that their kids are all grownup, they felt free.

They looked forward to the leisure and “inheritance” of retirement pay. They said they’d spend their money and time in their hands traveling, and simply “doing nothing.” That brief future together was what they’d like to be, especially in the present moment.

Then it hit them! In our session, Marsha was telling her husband, “I could not understand what’s happening. We hurried to retire and relax, do what we planned. Why am I bored? Is something wrong with me?”

I’m reminded of the mother of a young son as he impatiently waited for Christmas to come. He cried, “I wish it were Christmas!” His mother, with her gentle wisdom, told his son, “With such wish, you will wish your life away!”

The whole problem with leisure or “good time” delusion is that it is deceptive. It puts your days in separate boxes. It presumes that a day is going to be more enjoyable and far different. It chops off segments of life as worthless because they’re not your “wished day.”

As a result of that, you find yourself kept from seeing or treasuring your present moment. You get bored. Weary of the pattern of your days. The leisure blinds you to the importance of the work you gave to earn it and the need to create new meanings in life as a whole.

Of course, we can enjoy the “good time.” Have our days off. We can treasure it. But it’s not meant to be the “goal of life.” Creativity is key. We find excitement and energy when we know we’re creating. Creating meaning in our days – not leisure – makes life!

Overcoming Your Need to Please Others

Do you feel an overwhelming inner need to please others?

If you do, know that psychologists call it with varied descriptions. Approval Addiction. People-Pleasing. Need-to-be-Liked Syndrome. Whatever we call it, it refers to getting your self-value through the approval of others.

A patient, Rebecca, hated the job offered to her. But because it’s her father’s office and business, she said yes when she really wanted to say no. She quieted her inner voice of protest for she believed it would displease one who’s significant to her. She overextended her self.

As a result, Rebecca got too depressed and sick that led her to seek therapy. Her days were filled with boring routines, sadness, and moments of crying while on her desk. She eventually developed signs of insomnia and anxiety-panic. She felt helpless.

A first major step for Rebecca to cure her condition is to become totally aware of her behaviors. Her people-pleasing. Her approval seeking. Her avoiding confrontation – not “rock the boat.” Awareness of it includes understanding how it created her emotional wounds that she can’t heal if she doesn’t take a look at them.

“The need to feel ‘okay,’ liked, or approved-of is rooted in the messages a person received about their inherent worthiness and belonging while growing up,” says clinical psychologist Erika Martinez. “Somewhere along the way, people with contingent self-worth learned that their worth came from others’ approval, not from within themselves.”

To cure approval addiction, you learn to practice getting your self-worth from within yourself and not from what people say about you. That takes self-love. Self-compassion. Accepting who you are – flaws and all. It’s understanding that even if people dislike or disapprove of you, it’s not a reflection of your value as a human being.

How do you know you’re overcoming your need to please others? A sign is when you find yourself able to speak up when mistreated or wronged. It’s tolerating disapproval, criticism, or dismissal without hurting yourself in some way. It’s taking a stand, asserting your unique identity and gifts.

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 1)

Donald’s young adulthood, like his teen years, has been a constant source of misery for his parents. He’s always been into drugs, gambling, promiscuity and sex addiction, drinking, and endless debts. After years of his parents spending for his therapy, he still chooses to live a life of mess.

His mother, in session, was telling me that she wanted to believe him that he means it this time – to change his life. But she added, “How can I believe him who’s been lying to me all his life? I know I can’t!”

Are you a parent who has grown up children who makes you feel unhappy? Does your adult child disappoint you because ….

* he/she has a problem with addiction (eg. drugs, alcohol, sex)?
* he/she can’t get or hold a job?
* he/she is chronically depressed and isolated?
* he/she can’t or won’t leave home?
* he/she is estranged from family and friends?
* he/she is mentally ill or suicidal?
* he/she is in trouble with the police or law?
* he/she is incapable of supporting himself/herself?
* he/she is excessively dependent?
* he/she is aimless and can’t face responsibility?

As a psychotherapist and a parent myself, I’ve been listening to people talk about their children for many years. They want perspective and support for the fears, worries, resentment, impatience, and frustration they experience as parents to their adult children who fail to thrive.

Behind every one of these failing adult children is a parent who feels his/her life may also be falling apart. The parent’s heart is breaking. The Mom may be crying herself to sleep in the privacy of her bedroom. The Dad could be scratching his head in confusion.

Parents who feel unhappy about their adult children often wonder, “Where did we go wrong?”

Discovering the Best Psychotherapy

Recently, I read of this article by a psychiatrist who was critical and disappointed of his own profession. He found from his research that as much as 70% of depressed people who consulted psychiatrists were so minimally or not helped at all.

Interestingly, he noted from his study that over 80% who consulted a minister gained significant relief. Such particularly disturbed the psychiatrist for his profession was into helping people and yet it’s not making a desired difference.

One middle-aged single woman’s depression and addictions drove her to psychotherapy. Her previous years of psychiatric drug use and hospital confinement were so ineffective that it made things worst for her. Lately, she became promiscuous and had sex with different men within just a month.

When she came to me, she was overwhelmingly depressed. She’s attempting suicide. She’s not only depressed but staggering under an overburden of guilt. In addition, she was pregnant. For the years of psychiatric treatment, she should buy drugs and pay other services to house her?

There must be a better way!

While we may not hesitate to go to a cardiologist or surgeon for our physical ailments, a “doctor of the mind” is something else. The meaning of the word “psychotherapy” comes from the original Greek roots “psuche” and “therapepuo” which means “mind/soul healing.”

God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8,9). In the real healing of mind and soul, only God’s ways apply. Therefore, we should not be surprised when the theories of Freud, Skinner, Adler, Yalom, and others are diametrically opposed to God’s ways as stated in Scripture.

Humanistic psychologists or drug-based psychiatrists have no or little to offer by way of genuine psychotherapy. They’re committed to helping people with only the humanistic or physical tools/concepts available to them. Both humanism and science (man-centered) try to solve mankind’s problems independent of God.

What is the best psychotherapy? Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) If you’re healing in the areas of mind, emotions, and soul, particularly those that spill over into life values, you’ll have to know God and His healing principles.

Self Image and your Physical Body

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, compact, or big.

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 image from this in years following.

It can be hard to stand against culture”s overemphasis on physical appearance. It tends to distort vision and image of our true selves.

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 external appearances alone.

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.