Altering Mental Block

In my line of work, I have the privilege to meet a lot of people – listen to their stories and mapping their cognitive functions. By doing so, the process of psychotherapy will serve as the basis for my clients in understanding their way of thinking, distorted belief or simply to know that they have options.

The hard part of psychotherapy is to talk and make family members to understand client’s situation – that they need time to readjust to their new pattern of thinking or how much they need support from their loved ones. Sometimes I scratch my head due to disbelief that family members can’t wait to reach the end line of the process.

What if we – as psychologists – are the ones who need to give support to our loved ones? The answer is as hard as those family members of our clients. When we put down our professional titles and be an ordinary family member of our loved ones, chances are we facing the same difficulties like others.

We have our expectations, our own hopes, as well as fears, whether they will make it or not. Will they be able to pursue their dreams, or will we have to accept the fact that every hopes shatter to pieces? All those questions are in our head – the so-called psychologists – when we walk together with our loved ones who need help or support.

The journey will not be easy. We need to learn from the family members of our clients – who wait and support patiently through every session and years of psychotherapy.

We need to alter our mental blocks and believing that our loved ones will be able to get through their hardest days, their biggest fears and their made-believe limitations. We also need to help them in overcoming those blocks – and make them believing in themselves. It will not be an easy journey, because they might have grown up with the same way of thinking for the past 20-30 years before we met them. But it will certainly be a worthy journey to conquer.

If you’re facing this kind of problem, believe in yourself and believe in your loved ones. Having a set of positive belief will bring you to a new stage of life. Keep up the hard work!

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!

“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 …

Sandtray Therapy with Dr Bart Begalka

Sandtray Therapy is a not a new concept of having integrative intervention based on available theory. The classical Sandtray therapy is based on Jungian theory, so you will find anima, symbolic items and all those psychodynamics terms – which is fun!

I registered for a-14-hour of Sandtray Therapy training with Dr Bart Begalka from Trinity Western University, Canada. He is known as child therapist for so many years and he uses Sandtray as one of many approaches for his therapy sessions.

Animals figure inside the sandtray

The training was held by Soegijapranata Catholic University at Semarang. We learned on how to interpret the symbols used by our clients, the placement, the time needed to arrange everything inside the sandtray (or outside?) and how to relate that picture with past and current condition of our clients, and also the wishes deep down.

Even though it looks like children play therapy, but it can be used for adults. It can help those adults who has difficulties with unresolved childhood trauma or repressed emotions. It can also be used to resolve conflicts between two individuals, husband-wife, parent-child or siblings.

When Bart interpreted my sandtray

The modern Sandtray Therapy does not really have rules, as in classical Jungian Sandtray Therapy. Bart even said that there is no rules in this therapy, except for those procedural steps. This therapy is really one of those projective therapy that can be used for many emotional problems in childhood through adulthood.

Thanks to my ex-classmate at Airlangga University who were there together to attend at the training and proved to me that friendship is something valuable.

with Dr Bart Begalka

A Child Wishes For A Home

This morning I had a session with a 10-year-old boy named R. He was reported by his mother as a rebellious, naughty and aggressive. He also failed his 3rd grade and now have to repeat the same grade again. After listening to his mother’s dos-and don’ts- I asked the parents to leave us alone.

I asked him about his activities before he met me. He answered without hesitation, but sometimes he didn’t want to have eye contact with me.

Due to short time of meeting, I asked him to draw pictures. I used BAUM (Tree Test), DAP (Draw-a-Person) and HTP (House-Tree-Person). I was surprised with the result! He drew the house halfway and he said that it was done. He drew a very small figure of a person and also a tree.

Then we talked through his pictures …

It was then revealed that his parents live separately because of domestic fighting. He used to stay with his father, until he got his academic report last month and the result was ‘Fail’. His aunt (Father’s older sister) asked him to leave the house and stay with his mother, because his aunt thought that such failure is an embarrassment for the whole family.

So, he stays with his mom since last month. His mom always screams and shouts at him. She just can’t talk. She only knows how to scream and shout! Poor boy …

When I asked R of one biggest wish that he wants … He answered: my parents to be reunited again, to live together again and taking care of me.

I did a quick session with R, it was only about 15-20 minutes. Then I asked his parents to come in and I let R went out of the room with his cousin. I took no time to ‘shoot’ the problems to his parents. His mother had teary eyes and I knew that she tried hard to hold them back. She admitted that she always scream and shout. She said that she never expected such damages happen to her son.

His father also has his own issues. He feels responsible to take care of his unmarried siblings, including his older sister. I can understand his position, because that’s how Chinese family raises their children: take care of your siblings when your parents passed away. But I made my point to his father, that he has R now. He has a son who needs to be prioritized.

I’m not seeing myself as a judge, who can classify between bad and good parents or which parenting style is the best compare to others. I’m not yet a parent myself. At least, I have my neutral ground when I help parents …

I wish there are many helpers out there who can save lives of young children, like R. Who might lose his future because he doesn’t have a solid ground to grow up when he’s a young boy …

Way to go, Parents!

Writing is my way to share it to you.