Lessons from ‘The Road Less Traveled’

This journey of reading ‘The Road Less Traveled’ by Scott Peck is very personal for me. I’ve heard about this phenomenal book since years ago – but I always find the excuse of not borrowing or buying this book. Until about a month ago when I was in faculty’s library. I was looking for some references for my classes and bumped into a yellowish book! And there it was! The book that have been waiting for me. I decided to borrow that book. What I thought was: if this book is really as good as what I’ve heard, I will buy this book.

What happened next is easy to guess. I simply fall in love with the truth in this book. Scott Peck is not just talking theoretically about the lessons in life, but he also lives the norms and values that he’s talking in his book.

I just arrived at the end of the first section – Discipline. I was struck by the weight that Peck mentioned about the meaning of problems. We usually see problems as barriers, as something that we should eliminate, but there are more in problems. “Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually” (p. 16). When we try to avoid problems, most of the time they will come back and haunt us because “problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit” (p. 30)

One of many ways that people do to avoid problems is by telling lies – hoping that the truth will be covered under the stack of lies that they create. As a professional psychologist, I see many clients who come and bring their heavy burden into the psychotherapy sessions. Peck mentioned, “One of the roots of mental illness is invariably an interlocking system of lies we have been told and lies we have told ourselves. These roots can be uncovered and excised only in an atmosphere of utter honesty … openness and truthfulness” (p. 58).

When we are brave enough to face the problems with openness and truthfulness, we can at last make our decision with total awareness – for our own good. “For to exercise power is to make decisions, and the process of making decisions with total awareness is often infinitely more painful than making decisions with limited or blunted awareness (which is the way most decisions are made and why they are ultimately proved wrong; p. 75).

Why we do have to be discipline and go through a lot of painful process? I believe the word of St Josemaria Escriva can give the closure perfectly: ” … without those clashes, which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges – the imperfections and defects of your character – and acquire the order, the smoothness and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection? If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint” (The Way, #20, p. 7).

Way to go, people! It may seem hard, but it is surely possible. Face your problems when they come, delay your gratifications and reap the fruits of your efforts flawlessly!

Silence: Part of Solution or Problem?

I believe you’ve heard people say: “Let’s sleep on the problems”. Or maybe you heard: “I wish the problems will go away by themselves”. Or maybe you say it to others every now and then?

Unfortunately problems can’t help themselves, they need to be solved. As Scott Peck stated in his book “The Road Less Traveled” (1978; p. 30):
Problems do not go away. They must be worked through, or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit“.

A lot of people choose not to deal with their problems, because they afraid to feel the pain of dealing with the situations. They wish that one day their problems will go away and stop chasing them. But, the problems are trickier than they think. The similar problems will keep on chasing them – with different people involve, different setting and time.

I heard many motivational speakers or preachers said that through problems, our character is shaped. Through our willingness to deal with the problems, we will learn to see that life is meaningful. “Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure” (Peck, 1978; p. 16). Problems are the media for us to show courage and wisdom, and at the end let us grow mentally and spiritually.

We all know that some of us choose to be silent when they have problems. The most useful excuse is: silence is golden. I am not saying that the excuse is lame, but it is very contextual. From my perspective, silence is golden when we deal with certain people who always want to win the argument, no matter how silly is their logic. But silence is not always golden, especially when we are experiencing problems that include other people. We owe them explanations.

Silence can screams louder than spoken words, because through silence, the person let problems hanging between him/her and other parties. The wrong understanding of being silence can distort the reality of the problems.

In order to avoid distortion of our reality, we need to have a map. It’s like a usual map everywhere else, but the point was to help us view the reality – where we are, and how to get to a place that we want to go. Therefore, we need a true and accurate map, which contains of information and appreciation of reality. But, we were not born with this map, we have to make them and keep on updating the information, or else our map will be outdated, false and inaccurate. By being quiet and not doing anything, we deliberately excuse ourselves from revising our map. Revision needs a lot of effort too, in which we have to add new information, change our direction if we went the wrong way, and admitting that our map is outdated. Therefore revisions “is painful, sometimes excruciatingly painful” (Peck, 1978; p. 45) and most people avoid this process.

To close this post, I will quote from Elridge Cleaver:
If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem“.

So which one are you?

“Maybe Someday We’ll Figure All This Out”

– title was taken from the lyric of ‘Someday’ by Rob Thomas, songwriter and lead singer of Matchbox Twenty –

Image from robthomasmusic.com

Everyday I deal with my clients, at the hospital or at University clinic. Sometimes I deal with the usual stress problems, such as: low academic achievements, a child who doesn’t want to go to school, a teenager with low self-confidence and many more. But, I also deal with many ‘hard cases’ too, such as: anorexia nervosa, oppositional defiant disorder, marriage problems or homosexual relationships.

Everytime they start to tell their side of stories, I started to build the setting and the characters in my mind. With every add up from them, I could see the picture in my mind also adding up to a better level. The conflicts, the way of thinking, the feeling and the wishes are all there – disconnected to each other and waiting to be connected. I guess that is what psychologist or therapist are doing – seeing the connections and make the clients realized how they connected to each other.

Many times during the sessions, I would love to tell them: “… someday, we will figure all this out!” … But when is ‘someday’ actually? We never know. It’s true that a psychologist needs to predict how many sessions that a client will need to overcome their problems, but in reality, client comes with one particular problem – and end up knowing that particular problem is just the effect of something bigger. Brief therapy will not work for this kind of case. Then I will need to dig deep … so, I don’t know for sure when is that ‘someday’ comes.

Of course, during the sessions, some clients show significant changes toward positivity. They got the insight, learn to apply it to their current problems and then generalize the skills to overcome other problems too. Not too many clients are able to enable themselves – but this is what I’ve been trying to do: enable my clients to enable themselves.

Way to go, psychologists … Learn daily and update yourself at all times! Someday, we will figure all this out …

September – October 2011 Wrap-Up

It’s been a while since my last post (I should be thinking twice if I want to call myself: blogger!). Anyway, this is the wrap-up of what I’ve been doing in the past months – September and October 2011. It was busy months, but surely I had a lot of fun.

September 24, 2011: Protect-A-Child Seminar

This was a part of seminars held by Protect-A-Child organization in Surabaya with its founder Paul and Debora Hamel. It was held with support from JJFm Surabaya and I was given the honour to be the guest speaker. My talk was about: Recognizing Challenging Behaviors in Children and How to Avoid them from being Abused. The article that I wrote was then published at Gloria Tabloid (2 editions: 3rd and 4th week of October).

Me, Paul dan Debora Hamel, and Richie Lim

September 24, 2011: Managing Stress

It was a small gathering for about 20 women at Darmaria, Surabaya. The intention of this gathering was to learn about how to manage stress in our daily life. It was my second time giving the speech at Darmaria and I was honoured to be part of them.

October 3 – 8, 2011: School of Children Counseling

It was an annual seminar with Rev. David Goodwin from Kidsreach Australia. The seminar was about how to deliver counseling process from children in crisis or trauma for 88 counselors from all over Indonesia and Malaysia (Sabah). This year I got the honour to be the interpreter for David Goodwin.

With David Goodwin and Lexy Pello

Before studio recording

October 11, 2011: Teacher Training at Mawar Sharon Christian School

It was an honour for me to be the guest speaker at teacher training at Mawar Sharon Christian School. The theme was about Recognizing Challenging Behaviors on Children and how teachers can help them during regular classroom process. The whole training went well and we learned a lot from the case studies at the school. Nice to work with you all, teachers!

The teachers as participants


Living in the Tunnel of Past Life

These past few days, I’ve got a daily text message from a-44-year-old woman who complained about what happened to her 30 or 35 years ago. She is a big fan of a used-to-be famous child singer in Indonesia, since 35 years ago. She is very proud of the fact that she is able to get in touch with her idol up until today. She exchanges text messages, photos and visitation with her idol every few times in a year. She also has hundred of photos of her idol. And amazingly, she is still flipping her photo albums regularly – so she will know when one photo is not at the right place!

Beside her idol issue, she also maintain a lot of anger and sadness from the past – mostly anger. One day, back on 1981, she was a teen and wanted to watch the movie of her idol. But then her Aunt told her that the movie was a porn movie – and there was no further discussion. Her mom warned her not to watch that movie. She still embrace her anger toward her Aunt until today. In one of her text message, she mentioned something about killing her Aunt because she was the main enemy against her dream to watch that movie!

She also mentioned something about her ex-classmate 35 years ago. One day, this classmate broke one of her wooden toy and her mother decided to throw away the broken toys, because she did not want to widen this so-called small problem. But her mother was not ready for the unexpected anger! She is still embracing that anger until now. In one text message, she said that when this ex-classmate die, her both hands must be cut and cemented to her grave, and adding the words: “These are the hands of a person who loves to break my stuff.”

I had goosebumps when I read her text message. The anger radiates through her typed words. I can’t imagine how hard it is for her to be fixated in a tunnel of her past life. She is hardly move forward and seems to ignore all the good things in her life. She could not remember all the good happenings because her judgment is clouded by her anger. Keeping anger on the same issues for 35 years is like carrying a mountain on your shoulder while you try to walk. It will definitely stop you from moving forward. The effort of carrying the mountain itself is a killing.

She is one example of those people who are in need to let go off their past. This is a severe case, and she needs professional helps from psychiatrist, psychologist and her religion adviser. She has no one to help and her family has to ‘carry’ her for the rest of her life.

I learned a lot from this woman – in which I choose to be happy and grateful at all times, no matter what the situation might be. I choose to let go off my past burdens and embracing the present moment. I won’t let my past blockade my present sunshine and destroy a way to grab my future in my hands.

Wish you have a great weekend, people!

Happy Independence Day, Indonesia!

August 17, 2011- the 66th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.

I was born and grew up in Indonesia – and I am proud to be one. Despite the corrupted system in every area of life, living in Indonesia is good. We do have thousand of islands, million of nice people and uncountable holiday destinations. My favorite domestic trip is Bali and Jakarta. They offer different air of enjoying holiday, but still, they offer a lot of things.

Sunset at Kuta Beach (September 2010)

Daily show at one mall in Jakarta (Christmas 2010)

Indonesia is also a rich place of diversity – cultural, religion, or background – which should be embraced and not interpreted as the source of riot and conflicts.

My first year of doing Masters in Airlanga University - Surabaya

There are a lot of things to do though – for governments and all Indonesian people. Please think of the our daily safety while traveling, doing our job or having family time. Lots of people will miss you – once you become reckless and lose your time in enjoying life!

One truck slipped on my way from Malang to Surabaya

Look at those workers without safety apparatus!

What a high-risk family traveling

But above all …

I wish Indonesia all the best – getting rid to those corrupt leaders (fingers crossed), clean system, better education and transportation system … and a deeper love for this country!

I’m in Love (Again)

Since the first time I fell for it, I knew it will be my lifetime lover. I fell in love with writing – and will always be.

I am a writer and I write a lot. In my diary, my blog, my articles and my patients’ reports (if that’s included). The reason why I love writing is because the unlimited space of being in the process itself. I can always write about someone else – fiction or non-fiction, and the story will enrich itself during the process. I can be the creator of my characters or … I can be the character for my story as well.

When I saw movies about writers or read books about them, I always imagine how cool it is to be a writer. They can go beyond borders, interpreting casual events as something special (richness of language, I supposed) and breathing life into the characters in their books. Writers may have the power to control their characters – but there’s no guarantee it will always be that way, because sometimes the characters will evolve themselves – with or without helps from the writers.

I love to write about life – how a story of ordinary people can be seen as extraordinary when we see them as such. The basic for me is listening to others. Their stories, their nags, tears and laughters and also, the twisted plot of life.

I have to admit that it’s been a while for me to really let myself fall in love again with writing. But now, I’m drifting myself back. And as a start, I bought Glimmer Train, a journal of short stories (Summer 2011 – vol 79) and the bulletin of Writers Ask. Good start – which means I need to close it with a good end.

Have a great weekend everyone!
Let yourself fall in love again with your interest or hobbies – and excel with love!

Oh Well, Relationship!

I always believe that as a psychologist I own the honor to learn many factual things about others – while I am doing my work. Since this is Friday night, let we discuss something light – relationship. I am inspired by many cases that I have found on site – abusive relationship, gay relationship, cheating on partners and many more.

Abusive Relationships

I have a few clients who come for counseling because they have been living in an abusive relationship for years. The first one who usually come and asks for help is the victim – mostly women. One women came to see me and told me her stories. She was married to a rich husband – a businessman. They have been married for more than 15 years and the cycle of abusive relationship have been started early on their marriage life. The trigger was usually small stuff and as a snow ball, it gets with bigger every year goes by. Another woman also came and shared her marriage life – in which she had experienced 20 years of verbal, emotional and physical abuse from her husband. Both women caught my attention because they have many children during those years of being abused by her husband.

Their husbands represent the common profile of abusers – showing off their ‘power’ upon their wives and/or children – by throwing any verbal put-downs or literally, using any stuffs around them; crying or begging for forgiveness once they have done with their abusive behaviors; buying gifts or sending ‘the air of love’ and the cycle will start all over again.

Sometimes, this abusive relationship was worsened by the presence of a third party. Oh well, relationship …

Beside the wives as victims in many abusive relationships, we have to pay attention to the children in those families. They might ‘get used’ to it, but they might never be able to get over it. Sons will believe that abusive relationship is acceptable and he will do the same cycle to his own wife later on. Daughters might be attracted to the same type of men, just like her old man. The need of cutting off the cycle of abusive relationship in the future generations can be the reason to strengthen the victims/wives to get out from such abusive relationship.

Asking the wives to get out from such relationship is not an easy work, especially when they depend on the husbands – economically, in decision making or any other aspects. They also feel sad and pity toward their husbands – “where he will stay if I leave him, will he be alright after I leave him”.

Gay Relationship

I also have a gay couple who come for counseling. I thought the process of counseling would be different compare to heterosexual couple, but I found out that they also face the same problems. There is no difference between homosexual or heterosexual relationships – skip the gender.

The issue of having affair, cheating on their partners, addiction to porn or being obsessed with certain body figure are some of the many stories behind gay relationships. For me as a psychologist, this is a chance for me to learn from their stories and at the same time, help them objectively.

It is important to look inside ourselves as psychologist, counselor or minister of where we stand – our stand point. It is a no to mixed between religion with professional point of view while helping homosexual cases. If we can differ our point of view, then we can help them to help themselves. But if we choose to stand on religion/faith over professionalism, then it is hard to support such clients – because all we can see is sin and the sinner.


Believe me – no matter what religion, skin colors, occupations, level of education/SES – everyone has the same chance to cheat on their partners. They difference is laying on the action taken, once the temptation comes. I’ve seen doctor, church people, businessman, jobless man and many more – who admit or caught that they have affairs with others who are not their partners.

Most of them believe that their affairs were purely physical, only sexual experiences and no feeling upon it. But who knows? Most of all, by cheating – they definitely hurt someone else and crush their feelings into bits.

Oh well, relationships …

Why don’t you share your stories with me?

Crackberries Epidemic

Nowadays we can easily notice young people – and even young children – playing with their gadgets everywhere they go. Laptop, portable video game, handphone, mp3 player and BlackBerry or other smart phones. Technology and those sophisticated tools are created as ‘tools’ for human being. They are supposedly help us to finish our tasks and responsibility in a more efficient way. But what we are facing now is way different. Our gadgets are the main obstacles for us to be effective with the tasks and responsibility – of course, when we used them excessively!

Crackberries is the nickname used for those BlackBerry users who become hooked up with the technology and act similarly with those junkies – drugs, sex addiction, gambling and kleptomania. Therefore, it is can be said that crackberries are also prone to experience mental health problems. Addictive users can only survive a few minutes without checking on their emails, messages, messengers and twitter. One obvious sign is when they focus on their gadgets and ignoring those aroun them.

The first known effect is we are becoming prone to distractions or interruptions. An article in TIME magazine explores about how people become obsessive and addicted to their gadgets and bring disruption to their works, thoughts and private lives. The article also wrote about the result of a study by Basex, to 1,000 officeworkers in New York City and found out that interruptions at the workplace has a high cost of $588 billion a year! This number is an add-up of daily interruptions of 2.1 hours or 28% of the workday. You can count the pile up of those two-hour of distractions!

Another research by Gloria Mark and Victor Gonzales from the University of California, to 36 officeworkers, also found out the high price of distractions during working hours. At average, workers only devoted 11 minutes to a project – before their email reminders beep, got a knock on their door/cubicle or the ring of their phone. And more surprisingly, those workers need ‘a stunning 25 minutes to return to their original task’. This distraction ‘blows away the goals you’ve established’, said Mary Czerwinski, a senior researcher at Microsoft, especially when it is done at the beginning and the end of a task.

The same detrimental effects also attack children and teenagers. Andrew Kakabadse, a professor of International Management Development from Cranfield mentioned that 59.2% students are using information from the internet and inserting straightly into their schoolwork without any attempts of changing or reading it. Furthermore, 1/3 of those students do not know that their action can be considered as plagiarism.Socially, this crackberries epidemic hamper face-to-face conversations, making us losing our spatial judgment, increase irritability when gadgets are not working and also decreasing the space of private life.

Since the age of users are getting younger, we believe that we have to do prevention actions to protect our future generations from excessive use of gadgets. Parents need to gain knowledge on the detrimental effects of giving access to their children at very young age. There are many gadget-misused cases which involve children – such as: playing a porn movie at the school library using his parent’s laptop or flash disk – not to mention reckless parents who save their private photos unlocked in their share laptop! Children are prone to be exposed in such things in their early age and we believe that it has effects on their mental health – later, if it is not now.

Some parents do not understand the reason why they give their young children BlackBerry and let them use it without supervision. It is important for parents to understand every step that they take when it comes to their children. It seems that they know how to update themselves with the latest gadgets – and put the information into minimum.

We surely won’t be able to stop the epidemic – but we still can choose to be wiser users. What’s your choice?

Anorexia Nervosa – Screaming in Silence

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is one form of Eating Disorders according to DSM-IV-TR classifications. To diagnose a person as an Anorexic, following are the diagnostic criteria:

A. Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected). 

B. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight. 

C. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight. 

D. In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

The fear of gaining weight or becoming fat is not like the usual fear of gaining weight and becoming not good looking, because this fear drive Anorexics to do self-starvation actions and produce excessive weight loss. For the Restricting Type of Anorexia Nervosa, the person do not regularly involved in binge eating behaviors, but being excessively restrictive on their food intake. They would consume a piece of bread, or a glass of juice, or a small plate of vegetables … for the whole day! and for them, that’s all they need. On the other hand, the Binge-Eating/Purging Type of Anorexia Nervosa has numbers of binge-eating and purging episodes during their Anorexia period.

When Anorexic Screams in Silence

People in general may see self-starvation actions and excessive weight loss as something stupid and ridiculous. But when we have a moment to look deeper, we can find the reasons of why Anorexics do what they do. I knew many stories of how they have to go through stormy days when their loved ones called them as fat, piggy girl, round shape and many more. The diet habit usually starts on young age, 14 to 18 years old (read this story), but many findings open a new fact that Anorexia starts earlier than that. I knew one girl who shows symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa when she’s at her year five (Yes, Primary School)!

Sometimes the cause was the yearning feeling of getting attention from their parents – early on their teenager years. Some parents are good at criticizing – because they think that is equal with giving attention to their children. Some other parents shows ‘mind your own business’ attitude and therefore, their children can’t get closer to them. These young children desperately need help!

They need to be acknowledge, to be accepted and not to be ignored. They need to hear from their parents that they have problems and their parents are willing to help. Parents or spouse usually realize this when the symptoms of Anorexia become too obvious. This is when their scream starts to caught attention.

What Can We Do to Help?

There are many things that we can do – as family members, friends, spouse, or church friends. The most important things are to be available for them, pay attention to what they need (not the Anorexia’s need), concern about the problems and at the same, understand how an Anorexic think and perceive ‘food, fat, calories’ in their mind. How we think about food is totally different with their stand point during Anorexia episodes (this handout is useful for family and friends).

And most of all … listen to them when they ask for your attention. Do not wait until you hear they scream in pain and you are late to offer some help.