Christina

Christina, one of my patients, recalls how her mother would leave her working and sleeping with the maids. Away from the rest of her siblings in the house.

“The more I tried to please my mother, the more she’d put me down. All throughout my childhood, I wondered about this: I felt like an ‘insect’ rather than my mother’s child,” laments Christina.

Christina is a 50-year-old adult now. A wife and mother of 3 grown up boys. But she still feels like an “insect.”

Although she looks naturally pretty, she rarely appreciates what people say about her. Mostly she hardly looks people in the eyes.

Somehow, Christina figures that she is that way always. Her life today is safe and comfortable, but it’s barren and emotional destitute.

The “inner child” contains memories, images, and feelings of your childhood. Both conscious and unconscious. What is consciously remembered and what’s repressed or forgotten.

When a child is abused, traumatized, or deprived, the “inner child” splits from consciousness when being abused. But it carries repressed anger, rage, hurt and fear.

As you grew into adulthood, the repression from childhood and “splits” from consciousness remain. Even now, as an adult, you still have inside you the child you once were – your wounded inner child.

Healing the wounded inner child involves telling the story in therapy. Why is telling the story important?

Dr. Charles Whitfield eloquently explains,

“We begin to see the connections between what we are doing and what happened to us when we were little. As we share our story, we begin to break free of being a victim or a martyr, of the repetition compulsion.”

You can fly, but that cocoon has to go.

“You can fly, but that cocoon has to go,” says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I’ve worked with actually need to hear that message. It’s true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can’t be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he’d cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an “immobile cocoon.”

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a “war zone” and a “safety cocoon” all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you’ll be able to see the big picture. You’ll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you’re not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I’ve met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn’t work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you’re newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don’t want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings and fly into new adventures?

Seeing This Life As It Really Is

“Nothing is yours forever.”

The money you have in the bank, your car or house, your business, even the family you have. You only “own” them while your heart still beats.

Think about it. The fact of life is, there is no real, lasting ownership.

Even your own life is not yours. You lose that someday too.

This is a hard truth for multitudes. For we live in a culture that constantly creates the illusion of ownership. We delude ourselves with the belief that we can’t be happy without owning or having.

I think of my life. Some future day, some quiet, heavily overcast morning, the sun rises again. But that day, I will be gone. Absent from my body.

Dust will settle on the books and study desk I love. Another will have the keys to my condominium I now carry … and withdraw money from my bank accounts … and fill my personal space with his or her own laughter and tears.

That’s reality for all of us. Painful and difficult as it may be to endure such thoughts – that’s basic fact, that’s sure and real!

Nothing is yours forever. There is no true ownership on this temporal earthly life.

I once worked on this reality with a Chinese multimillionaire. He was overly attached to his possessions, leading to unnecessary mental and physical health problems.

He was big on “owning.” When I laughed about it, he started healing!

This reality we’re talking about, I remind you, is a world from which most mentally and emotionally disturbed patients have escaped. They’ve become pathologically attached.

And its this reality to which they must return before health is redeemed.

Seeing reality, seeing this life as it really is, is unquestionably the healthiest place for you and I.

Building Your Thinking Brain

To build your best self up, you need to improve your thoughts day by day. The ability to think clearly, realistically, and positively is one of our greatest secrets to help us live a happy, successful life.

If there is physical workout, there is also neurological workout. Brain workout. Thinking workout. When we do such, it strengthens the neuron pathways between areas of our brain.  That increases our IQ, even our EQ.

Therapy and counseling can be a long process. This is especially so when emotional and mental injuries are severe. Those who follow brain and thinking workouts have better chances of faster and more substantial recovery.

Christine had months of structured cognitive therapy with me focused on thought distortions. Having been traumatized by years of family violence, abuse, and dysfunction, she became flooded with emotions and unable to think clearly.

I identified the main tasks for Christine to work on in a challenging yet familiar way. Since she likes writing and painting, I asked her to keep a journal and write on it at least one entry each day based on a reading material I assigned her. I also prodded her to paint, reflecting her thoughts and impressions.

In due time, I was amazed to watch in real time how she got better and better. An example of her motivation to recover is, when she started a new blog where she put in her thoughts and sketches each day.

I’m proud of how Christine is able to manage her psychological trauma wounds by building up her thinking brain. She has become much better prepared to deal not only with her current challenges but also those in store for her in the future.

Build your thinking brain. Daily. Such workouts reserve a nest egg for you that can be recruited if disease, stress, or trauma strikes at any unexpected time of life.

Coffee and Psychotherapy

For many years that span multiple decades, Harvard scientists and medical doctors have studied the effects of coffee among thousands of individuals.

Health benefits are a recurring theme in all of these Harvard researches. As they say, coffee loves us back!

Among coffee’s health benefits, besides physical, based on Harvard research is on mental health.

There is, for instance, a 2011 study they made which showed that drinking coffee lowered the rates of depression and suicide.

They also found that coffee improves thinking skills, memory, and overall cognitive functioning.

I’ve done a lot of psychotherapy sessions in the coffee shop. I know it’s not traditional.

But I’m just that – un-traditional, unconventional, out of the box – because I desire healing to take place in a normal life context. Besides, it’s the coffee.

I’ve realized that the personal therapy of countless individuals and couples in my sessions is facilitated by the coffee and the community hub feel of the coffee shop.

Of course, a lot of times, it’s the processing that makes the difference. And this processing is hugely impacted somehow by the conversations and experiences shared in the coffee shop.

Famous writer Gertrude Stein once wrote,

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within your self. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

Voltaire claimed drinking tens of cups a day as a secret of his creative productivity.

The philosopher James Mackintosh had said that the powers of a man’s mind were proportionate to the quantity of coffee he drank.

Coffee and mental health? There must be something to see in it.

Treatment and You

In my assessment, most problems or individual dysfunctions are a disease of “core pain,” “lost selfhood,” or “false self.” Recovery needs to be complete, addressing the whole person – cognitive (the “head”), the emotional and experiential (the “heart” and “spiritual”), the physical (organic health), and personality (with learned and constitutional factors).

To treat and heal the “psychological wounding,” a process can be started requiring several action steps. These actions are closely related and generally occur in a circular fashion, with work in one area a link to another area. The “Treatment Plan,” which includes tools, vehicles, methods or techniques that help in the healing and recovery, include taking action on the following:

1.) Complete physical examination (to rule out any medical causation)

* Unless there is some major brain or organic damage, I don’t recommend drug therapy or taking any kind of synthetic drugs for psychotherapy/counseling. Have a right diagnosis to rule out any physical/medical causes of your psychological/emotional distress.

2.) Abstinence, detachment, or detoxification

* … from whatever person, place, thing, activity, behavior, chemical, or experience that pollute, block, or distract the treatment/recovery plan

3.) Individual counseling and psychotherapy

* Regular and adequate attendance and workups, which may include psychological first aid, couple or extended family work, with a therapist/counselor.

* Process is usually composed of three pillars: diagnostics, treatment plan, relapse prevention.

* Psychotherapy is mostly internal work to finish “unfinished business” or unprocessed pain, which includes areas such as grieving, original pain work, working through the core issues, doing “personality” work, completing developmental tasks, setting healthy boundaries, among others.

4.) Group therapy or support group

* … that is specific for type of wounding being treated, such as depression, dysfunctional family, affairs, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. and depending on person’s needs

* Group therapy or support group provides emotional and social support. Here, you can hear others’ stories, increase your awareness about what happened, and begin working a 12-step or healing-is-a-choice program.

5.) Expanding circle of support

* Regular contact and sharing with one or more trusted and safe friends etc.

* Starting and cultivating new, healthy friendships, and choosing to connect to a safe community for volunteer opportunities or community involvement.

6.) Inpatient or other intensive recovery experiences, such as workshops/seminars, weekend retreats etc.

7.) Adequate self-care

* “Food therapy” or healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements.

* Taking up an exercise program, such as running or jogging, to boost brain power and the immune system.

8.) Self-education on area of psychological/emotional wounding, such as depression, infidelity/ divorce wound recovery, anger management, wounder inner child, toxic parents etc.

9.) Beginning and/or continuing, conscious contact in a relationship with a Higher Power.

As previously noted, these “treatment plan” steps or actions interact and merge with one another. They are not necessarily distinct or separate areas of the the healing and recovery process.

Adultery

Are you a cheating husband or wife?

If you are and you want to heal yourself and your marriage/relationship, here’s a sneak preview of some therapy steps generally prescribed by clinicians and therapists:

* Abstinence 100% from all contacts and communications with the OP (other person) or adultery partner;

* Take responsibility for your behaviors and misbehaviors;

* Show sincere evidences of remorse and repentance, relationally and spiritually;

* Realize that there is never an excuse for adultery;

* Be sensitive and patient when your spouse/partners suffers from triggers out of the infidelity wound;

* Check your anger and resentment at the door;

* Acknowledge the depth of the pain and wounding that your affair brought to the marriage and family;

* Admit mistake committed and avoid all excuses and rationalizations to deflect attention to the adultery;

* Stop blaming your spouse/partner for your affair;

* Repent of and stop recruiting the children to be “partners in crime” in the adultery;

* Be truthful from here on – no secrets any more;

* Get your personal healing of emotional wounds with a professional therapist;

* Get marital healing with your spouse/partner only through increased structure of professional psychotherapy and counseling sessions, especially in the beginning stages;

* Stop being defensive;

* Be trustworthy;

* Renew your mind and stop thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else;

* Figure out the “roots” of your unfaithfulness to your spouse/partner;

* Check what your spouse/partner needs on a regular basis;

* Expand your circle of support – safe friends, therapist, community etc.;

* Educate your self about affairs and infidelity treatment;

* Listen – really listen;

* Seek help from God as your best source of strength, healing, and life recovery.

Adultery is treason to marriage, family, and society. In the Philippines and in some places, adultery is a legal crime punishable by imprisonment. In the time of the Old Testament of the Jews, adulterers were stoned to death.

For those who persist in adultery or cheating, the costs are so high — psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Marriage and children are casualties. Mental illness or addictions can develop. For true Christians, the Bible says that God may choose to discipline them or take them away from earthly life. Indeed, cheaters can choose what they want to do but they cannot choose their consequences.

Adultery or cheating is not an unforgivable crime or sin. It can be healed. With the right heart and actions, one can be whole again – and even the best person one can be in this life and beyond.