Never Growing Up

His name was Peter. Age 25. He talked a lot. In session, he liked to monologue. Joke away. But he’s not really saying much that matters. His feelings were often exaggerated, easily provoked, even silly.

When asked what he’d do now after having graduated from college, he paused a little. Then, he said he’d go back to college and take another bachelor’s degree.

Totally unrelated to the first one he took, he said in jest of his next college course, “I’d like to make a difference in the world by studying the oceans and underneath them!”

Then, he sipped his coffee and ate a lot of cake in front of him. At 5’8″ and almost 300 lbs., he professed his love for food.

My years of counseling teenagers, university students, young adults, middle-aged or senior men, and couples revealed to me a widespread psychological affliction in our society. It’s a syndrome in our society that’s causing a lot of problems in all walks of life.

Clinicians call it the “Peter Pan Syndrome.”

You remember the happy-go-lucky character of Disney’s Peter Pan, right? That’s where the psychological syndrome was named after.

Peter Pan symbolizes everlasting fun and youthfulness. He rejects all things Adult. He avoids growing up vehemently. He wants to remain a boy forever.

Unknown to many of my patients (including their parents, spouses, or friends who care for them) is a chilling reality. They are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Peter Pan.

We have a mental health problem of a man-child caught between the adult man he doesn’t want to become and the child or boy he could no longer be.

As Peter Pan himself said in the play, “No one is going to catch me, lady, and make me a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun.”

Forgive me for hyping a psychological claw to unearth this often hidden Disorder. Reversing the process of this syndrome is crucial to the stability of our families and society.

It’s never too late for an adult man to grow up and for his loved ones to offer aid to make that happen.

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!

Self-Abandonment

We all need love. We all need approval. It’s a basic reality of our human existence.

Our self, in its deepest core, needs love and approval to survive, grow, and thrive amid life’s challenges.

However, the problem begins when we become overdependent on others that we miss giving our selves first the love and approval we need.

I’m reminded of Imelda. She was telling me that she has already read all sorts of psychology and self help books to boost her self.

She’d practice Self-affirmations like “I am worthy,” “I love my self,” or “I have talents people need.”

Still, she finds her self criticizing her self, dwelling on her negative feelings, and turning to addictions.

Why the self-abandonment?

Why is this repeatedly happening – psychologically and emotionally – to countless individuals?

You see, when you give your self love and approval in just the rational way, it doesn’t work.

This is especially true when your self affirmations are coming from that part of your brain where your unprocessed “wounded inner child” resides.

If you’ve had a horrible childhood where you experienced abandonment, abuse, or deprivation and it’s a past still in your present, that part of you will block your self affirmations.

It feels that you’re just “making it up” when you give your self love and approval.

Obviously, in order for your self love and approval to affect the core of you, it cannot come from your ego-impaired “wounded inner child.”

For healing to take place where your self can truly experience your self love and approval, you need to be connected to your “Higher Self.”

Your wise, loving “Higher Self” goes deeply inside of you where your “wounded inner child” can develop the capacity to believe when you give your self approval.

This “Higher Self” then follows it up whereby you learn to take loving actions toward your self.

This is how you heal your “love-approval addiction.” You give your self love and approval first from your “Higher Self” rather than from your pre-programmed mind.

In this way, your inner child can experience accepting and believing them.

Self Parenting

Once, during a quiet evening, I saw and heard this over TV Channel 7 broadcast, “Paano ka mag-aalaga ng bata kung ikaw ay bata rin?”

It struck me a lot. A therapeutic question!

How indeed do you bring up your child when you’re a child yourself?

That question gave me one of my most insightful points during a self parenting seminar that I did for  a large, South Manila-based school.

Around a hundred people or more came (fathers and mothers, teachers, principal, guidance counselors, including the wives of the municipality’s mayor and congressman).

It’s a different kind of parenting seminar. That’s because my focus was on the parents themselves and not on the children.

In the seminar, I shared about inner healing and character formation of the parents first before they can apply healthy parenting techniques to their children.

I also shared about my own parenting journey. My ups and downs. My mistakes and joys.

More than a psychotherapist, I’m a human father with three children. I’ve known and experienced how essential it is to be an “adult father,” not a “child father.”

I hope to reach out to more parents in this area of “self-parenting.” I’m not an expert on child rearing techniques (others can more effectively teach that!).

But I believe I’ve been raised in a unique way to teach well on how to “parent one’s self” and heal the “inner child” as a foundation for authentic, longterm, healthy parenting of children.

I know. I’ve been there.

And I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience it first-hand myself.

Is Anything Lasting?

Many of us tend to crave things. We long for more and thirst for something better.

If only I have millions in the bank … if only I’d married the right person … if only I completed my degree … if only I was born in a different family … if only I have good connections. The list is endless.

Then sooner or later, with all our endless cravings, we find ourselves feeling empty. We catch existential angst.

Confused, we don’t experience lasting satisfaction in anything, anywhere. We wonder where the time has flown.

A young single woman I’d call Martha saw me once in deep distress. She’s into daily prescription drugs due to her anxiety panic attacks. She described her self a “workaholic.”

According to her, she craves for a lot of things that she wants to possess, such as jewelry, cars, condos, and foreign travels. She hates not working. If idle, she feels panic.

Once Martha had casual sex with a man who picked her up in a coffee shop. She craved and loved the attention. She gave her self and body to the stranger with all gusto. She liked the excitement.

In the session, she remarked, “But after, I never thought it would be so quick.” Then she admitted it made her feel bad about her self and other areas of her life.

One of life’s greatest deceptions is we need to crave to own something, crave to be with someone, or crave to do something, before we can feel happy.

Our agenda is filled with temporal goals. Have you ever thought that life is more than these transient things we endlessly crave for?

Think about it.

There is an ultimate answer to make us live life to the fullest. Know the secret of what lasts.

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!

Escape from Intimacy

Addicts are incapable of intimacy. They turn off their internal information systems through the use of their addictive agent.

Therefore, they can not have available to themselves essential information about what they feel and think. They block the process of knowing who they really are.

I had a client who was a sex and cyber-porn addict. He was caught by his wife paying prostitutes – both male and female. According to him, his sex addiction had leveled up which now included perverted acts in the bedroom.

Being threatened with divorce by his wife, he hit bottom and sought help to heal emotional wounds and repair his intimacy dysfunction in the marriage.

I believe that a first prerequisite for this sex addicted husband to rehabilitate is intimacy within himself. It means accurate “presence with the self.”

In order to be intimate with his wife, he has to know who he is, what he feels, and what he wants.

For instance, when he is able to feel his true deepest feelings, he must learn what exactly to do with them and how to properly express them rather than act them out in self-destructive ways.

In order to be intimate with his spouse, he needs first to be intimate within himself.

Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef, noted author/psychotherapist, once wrote that the “love” addictions (sex, romance, relationships) are all “escape from intimacy.”

She said that too many people are unaware of themselves and so unaware of what they think, feel, and know.

As a result, there is no way, according to her, for these “love” addicts to ever honestly express themselves to others.

When something is triggered inside (e.g. some “pain”), they’re unable to get in touch with old, buried “alive” parts of themselves that continue to haunt them.