Doing Psychological First Aid

Do you know Red Cross? Most likely. It’s known globally to come by first administering physical First Aid to the wounded and traumatized on the spot.

Psychological First Aid resembles Red Cross Physical First Aid. Both is for emergency and prevention. Both teach on-the-spot procedures to avoid much suffering, even death.

When a person got bitten by a snake, for instance, instant Aid must be provided. It’s impossible to contact a doctor right away.

To prevent unnecessary emotional trauma leading to suicide, loved ones or friends need to know how to do basic psychological First Aid on the spot.

Then, you bring the person to a doctor or hospital for proper treatment.

The need for widespread training in on-the-scene Psychological (or emotional) First Aid is plainly evident all around us.

We see children being sexually, physically, or verbally abused by toxic parents.

We see marriages and families breaking up.

We see old people lonely, unwanted, sick, homeless.

We see the unemployed suffering severe anxiety and insecurity.

We see people in shock in disaster or war-torn areas.

We see the mentally ill in and out of institutions.

We see students or teenagers becoming disillusioned, self critical, contemplating suicide.

We see people or media “fooling our minds” every day, by misguiding, deceiving, tormenting, scaring, pampering, teasing.

The need is simply overwhelming.

Yet something can be done. During every emotional crisis or traumatic event. On the spot.

Know and learn about it … before things get too late.

Finding Your Right Work

Work is life. It consumes so much time from our limited supply of days. In just a few short decades, the time and energy we spent working adds up to be life itself.

Livelihood is a natural expression of our working life. A source of income. Using our talents and capacities. Doing what we do best.

“I’m looking for something more than money out of my work; I expect deep fulfillment and a little fun too,” said an executive of a major American corporation.

Right livelihood – whether via a job, profession, business, or any talent – is as important as mental health and wholeness. Just as the right foods are for our physical bodies.

Buddha described “right livelihood” as work “consciously chosen, done with full awareness and care, and leading to enlightenment.”

Surely, I’d not recommend orange robes and vows of poverty for us like Buddha. But I can see the practical psychology of his point.

You (and all of us) need to choose the right livelihood. Your right work. For the only one life you have.

But most people today are “aliens.” They’re alienated from both their natural talents and potentials. Their proper place and function. Their purpose for life.

Most people merely work for the money. Eight-to-five penance for daily bread! As a result, many get bored, frustrated, constrained or dulled in their days. Some get serious mentally illness.

I met a young woman who drifted into a boring, but high-paying accounting job. After much inner struggle, she left her secure niche to study psychology.

She’s getting straight A’s in her studies. But having a hard time paying bills. A life state she didn’t experience before.

Yet she was sure that she had found the right road for her life. Her right career. Her right livelihood. That allowed her to excel and gave her the power to be resourceful.

Nothing stopped her from becoming a psychologist. So after years of hardship, she completed her graduate studies. She used her former contacts to start practice.

Now a successful, highly paid psychotherapist, she said, “My choice and hardships were so challenging. But I feel at home in this work. For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing joy and fulfillment.”

Travel and Health

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Travel is good. Based on ample studies and evidences, its highly beneficial to your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Many years ago, I was in one of the lowest points of my life. Feeling over-stressed personally and professionally, I felt tired. I just wanted to stay in bed and not do anything.

Then a DHL courier knocked on my house gate with a package for me. In it includes a free two-way travel ticket to Seoul, Korea with all-expenses paid accommodation for 30 days from a known sponsor.

That’s huge therapy!

The development of a possible depression in me that time was stopped. My “foreign travel without money” brought in a fresh supply of fuel into my mind, heart, and spirit. After that vacation, I got back home and to family and work with overflowing zest!

According to a psychological study from Cornell University, there is a direct link between the experience of happiness and even just planning a trip. It also showed scientific proof that traveling reduces stress levels, relieves anxiety or depression, even rather dramatically.

Anthony was a very resistant patient. Even after months of sessions, he still felt stuck. He watched self help videos, read materials, did gym workouts etc. in addition to his therapy sessions. Still nothing seemed to work for him.

Since he wanted to experience change in his life, he tried travel. He went to Japan with his wife and two young kids. He moved from place to place, from snow to snow there. And in the process, he started noticing receiving bits and pieces about himself.

When Anthony went back to session after a couple of weeks, he seemed to have showed a different view of things. The newer, unique life perspective resulted not only from his self discoveries but also from the culture or peoples he connected with along the way.

Henry Miller described aptly this one healing benefit of travel, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Travel makes you healthier. Don’t miss its high benefits to heal or reinvent your life.

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.