Drama in The Morning

I hate drama movie, novel with drama or anything related to drama. Do not mention Korean drama to me, I won’t have appetite to even hear what you say. Sarcastic?

As in drama, this morning I had an unusual morning routine. My head told me that I have to finish some paper works (exam papers, slide for my classes, reports) before I meet my client later on today. But somehow when I had my toast and tea ready for breakfast, I decided to watch the DVD of “The Fault in Our Stars”. Yes, what a dramatic start to my day.

At the end of the movie, I shed tears. I cried and turned on my laptop.

Before I got married, I asked my Mom on why people have to be with someone in life. My question was rooted from my fear of losing my loved ones. What’s the point of loving and living with someone whom we might lose in the next years? What’s the point of being hurt and left alone? My Mom said that we have to embrace the years of life – the togetherness, because that’s all we can do. Death is out of our hands. Drama it is … God’s plan, His drama.

The closing of that movie really gave me the answer, that the time of being together with the one we love is actually the moment that everyone should cherish, the moment to be grateful for. I learned this hard lesson when I lost my Grandma a few weeks ago. I learned to let it go, when God called her home. Yes, she is home. It was hard on me, I cried a lot, but at the same time – I believe my Grandma felt my tears as tears of love and she could finally saw it from up above.

Enough for drama this morning, I need to get back to work. I guess, I can handle a little drama every now and then – but please, no Korean drama.

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Psychoeducation: Trip to Hell or Understanding

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As I lay myself to sleep, I turn on the radio and stumbled into a talk about sex. The speaker is called ‘an expert’ of sexual life (I missed the first part of introduction).

This type of talk is one form psychoeducation, in which psychologists are responsible to educate society regarding certain topics. The objective is to deliver the right information. Yes, the right information.

The speaker said that it is dangerous for parents of two children with different sex to let the children play together. The boy might imitate the girl in doll playing or the girl might be tomboy while playing with the boy. He mentioned that this kind of mixed playing process can cause sexual disorder.

The speaker also said that men are tend to follow their instinct and therefore, they might turn to be a sadomasochist because his instinct is no longer satisfied with a normal sex life.

I’m speechless. The program is still going on while I wrote this post. Sexual education is one important program for everyone and has to be delivered differently – based on the audience or age. Nevertheless, the information should be accurate and scientific.

I am trying not to judge this speaker on the radio, but his facts are not scientific and he used the word ‘might’ many times.

Personally, I always believe that our profession as a psychologist is not an easy one. We need to carry out our moral responsibility well – for the well being of our clients and the community. And of way to doing so, is by giving the correct and scientific information for the society.

I hope the society can enjoy the ride to understanding from our profession.

“I am a Psychologist”. Sorry, what?

Yes, I am a psychologist.
It is interesting to notice the first impression of others when they ask me about my job. Mostly they will ask, “Don’t you feel stressed out listening to others in daily basis?” Or “What kind of problems that people share with you?”.

Even though I’m working in a big city in Indonesia, Surabaya, people still second guess this profession. It can be caused by the limited information regarding this work or the wrong conception regarding this job. People tend to think that psychologist is the one who is responsible to take care of patients with mental disability or schizophrenia. They forget to see between those two gaps – anxiety, depression, relationship issues or even daily hassles. Sometimes people come to my office to share how they feel or think – and that’s all.

Working in this area has a lot of benefits for me. For example, I have the privilege to learn a lot about life and its complications without the need to experience it first hand. I also blessed to have the opportunity to broaden my knowledge of life – how to see things objectively and slow to judge. Sometimes, when people are busy talking of others, I can float myself out of the circle and not being part of that ‘small minded’ conversation (as Roosevelt said).

Another important experience as a psychologist is the need to keep on updating oneself with recent knowledge. Going for conference and engage with a group discussion is very challenging and also enriching. For me personally, to be able to learn from and share with others is fun.

And if you still unfamiliar with our job, try to watch some well-known series: Bones (with Dr Sweets), Law and Order: SVU (with Dr Huang) or Criminal Minds (with Dr Reid). Despite the criminality background, their part in the series is quite loud. And you may get the seriousness of this work (well, not that serious though).

Enjoy your work as much as we enjoy our work 🙂

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?

In Reality or Sway In The Dream?

Yesterday, I had a talk with an old friend about his relationship. He’s about to get married and he is facing a problem – not too big, but significant. He used to dream about having a tomboy girlfriend, independent and able to do her own stuff. But now, he is in a serious relationship with a very sensitive woman and dependent. Time goes by and he realizes that she is the one. He knows that he will marry this girl because he believes in her changing process – to be a better woman.

Retrieving stories and experiences from the past, I was then coming to a conclusion. I told him that his relationship was build on reality bits. It might bite him hard, but once he accepted it, he knows exactly what he’s dealing with. I compared his stories with those many others who let themselves sway in the dream of having an exotic, princess-like relationship with magic carpet, great castle or Doraemon’s door. They might start their relationships with a fabulous beginning – but what’s the point if when reality hits and they move backward slowly? By the end of the day, they have to accept the reality that their dreams won’t match to each other and at last, they walk their separate ways.

I’ve read a story of a young woman in national newspaper about her extravagant wedding. The dress was made with thousands and thousands of Swarovski beads and the celebration was nothing, but magnificent. Wait! But the most surprising part was the fact that their marriage shattered after 5 months. Yes, only 5 months! Did they ever taste happiness? Maybe. But what’s the point of having extravagant wedding party and face the reality of breaking up in just 5 months?

Or another story of my best friend who had been together for years in reality lives. One time, his girlfriend told him that a relationship is like two hedgehogs tying to warm each other. That goal needs enormous efforts, because they are aware with their spikes – and might hurt their partners along the way. The spikes are the symbol of our weaknesses and how our partner’s strength can lift us up – and vice versa. If the main attention is on the spikes, then forget about warming each other. They will blame one another and looking for each others mistakes. But if the main attention is on the warming process, then they will do their best to complete each other.

It is our choice – to stay in reality or to sway in the dream. It does not mean that we can’t build any dreams as a couple. But when both party understand and accept the reality of their lives, then they can build their dreams together. Still possible …

To close this post, I would like to copy and paste one insight gained by my best friend. He said that in life there are many bridges that we build. Some of them are strong enough to help us crossing from one place to another – in which the bridge mediates our process to be a better person. But there are also some bridges that were build just to be burned down! Why? Because their existence will ultimately bring us back to our past. They do not mediates our changing process toward goodness – but to our past, regret and unfulfilled dreams instead. Such bridge makes us sway in the dream of our past, of our unwillingness to move forward – because reality will hit too hard. So, burn down the bridge …

Have a great journey, everyone! Reality may bite you hard, but the wounds will eventually be healed. But letting yourself sway in the dreams, will hurt you badly when reality hit.

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.

Cheating

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?

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.

Exploring Human Mind

This week is my 3rd week of working at Premier Hospital Surabaya (Ramsay Health Care). The experience itself is priceless. Thanks to Josephine Ratna for her trust on me and -most of all- the knowledge and opportunities given to me.

Through the meetings with my clients, I learned that human mind is something big. It has its own universe, in which all the process of thinking, analyzing, and even feeling, happen.

The range of the cases are big. From an anxious housewife to a cheating husband. From a worry Masters student to a psychotic adult. Each case brings its own uniqueness and teach me its own lessons.

In a case of ‘dizziness provoked by anxiety’, the cleint was referred for CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) sessions by his doctor. The process of CBT went well because he was willing to participate – which include doing his reading homework and build a dynamic discussion with me. He learned on how we think and perceive stimulations from our surroundings. If we have negative scheme regarding the happenings, then our brain will send ‘dangerous alarm’ to our body and cause physical symptoms – headache, cold sweat, fasten heartbeat or gastric problems. So, what should we do? Cognition reframing to change the negative scheme into positive one.
How to do that? Through CBT techniques.

Negative scheme is in our mind because we let that scheme shaped itself throughout the years. By planting a new positive scheme, our brain will adjust to this new scheme and will be able to see the happenings or surroundings in a more positive way.

There are too many things to share with you all. But I want to close this evening now. Hope this sharing can benefit you …

Writing is my way to share it to you.

A Lesson From Paper Shredder

Today I spent my time by working. Not the office or clinical work, but my casual work. I have a part-time job at BRIDGE office, which facilitate Sister School Program between Australia and Indonesia. I’ve been working there for almost 5 years (since AEC office).

BRIDGE is a project funded by Australian Government, and therefore it won’t stay forever. The project will end this Dec 31st. So, these days will be pack with packing the stuff.

I will share a bit about paper shredder, by which I’ve spent most of my time today to shred unused documents.

While the machine was doing its function, I saw at how the cutters shred the papers. They destroy the whole page within seconds into tiny parts (3mm wide). I saw that the used-to-be-important document was nothing when it came to the paper shredder. As if it came to an end or death.

I was wondering if our mind can work the same as the paper shredder. Would it be easier for us if we can tear or destroy bad memories within seconds? Would it be nicer if we can throw the trauma and bad images into a machine – so that we don’t have to remember it again?

All of us bear some burdens, in which we all carry our traumas, mistakes, grave errors, bad thoughts, nightmares or our darkest past. We are all the same. The difference lays on how we react to that burden. Some people choose to stay in the trauma – somehow enjoying the pain. It looks like paper jam in the paper shredder (happened to me few times this morning). Some other people choose to wait for while, embrace the feeling and then drop it (what a great message from Richard from Texas in Eat, Pray, Love). But some other people choose to ignore the trauma and walk through life as if nothing happened. Well, how can you live a life that way? Even though you act as if nothing happened, the trauma is still there – burning inside you!

If we have a machine or organ inside our brain who can work like a paper shredder, I believe we won’t learn from our mistakes. We can easily throw away our mistakes, wipe it away. We won’t have any reminders of that mistake again. Mistakes and wrongdoings are there as reminders for us in living our lives. They act as reminders to stop our ‘id’ in leading the decision making. Mistakes were made as a lesson for us today.

Thanks to the paper shredder at BRIDGE office which turned out to be my inspiration.

Writing is my way to share it to you.

When You Get Depressed

I just had lunch with my friend from Sydney. She’s having her break in Indonesia and now is carrying her first child. She came with her mom and decided to do some baby stuff shopping.

During shopping, we talked a lot, trying to fill the gap when we were separated. After heading north and down to south, I told her that I had those depressed period, sometimes ago. Her first reaction was, ‘Seriously? Did you ever get depressed? What happen to you when you get depressed?’

She was not the first person who ask me the same question. Sometimes, when I look into the mirror, I wonder to myself, do I look like a clown? Because no one ever believe me that I’m just a normal person, who can shed a tear or get angry when things going out of control.

Years ago, someone said to me: ‘Your life seems cheerful and you’re only facing small problems’. And then he turned out to be the person who gave me one of my biggest problems in my whole life. Thanks to him, because if he was right, that my life was easy, he finally got me into trouble and the process, shaped me in such a wonderful way.

A brother from one monastery, who happened to be my friend, also told me the same thing. He never thought that I am such a person who ever shed tears or get depressed.

When I ask my best friend, why do people said things like that to me, he told me that ‘what-so-called as being happy all the time’ is my blessing. Only a few people in my inner circle who really understand what’s going on in my life. These few people can’t be classified as: others, because they have deep impact in my life, and vice versa.

Oh by the way, my friend from Sydney also ask me, ‘What happen to you when you get depressed? What did you do?’ I guess I’m just like others when they get depressed. Cry a bit, expressing anger here and there, and finally stand up and close the book, because I have to face a new life with new steps.

You may get depressed. Everyone has a right to get depressed, but the next step is different for everyone. Some people choose to look down at themselves ad enjoying the period of being sad and feeling empty, so they can get sympathy from others. Some are just tired to keep themselves in that dark hole, so they are trying hard to get out and enjoying the sunshine.

Which one is your choice when you get depressed?

Writing is my way to share it to you.