Should you always tell the truth?

by Nathan Chua

Before I even begin talking about this touchy issue, I would like you, my readers to know, that I fully respect all opinions to the contrary of what I will share with you here. Like many other things, there are simply no easy answers to the problems we face negotiating through life’s vicissitudes.

Truth-telling can be tricky when we talk about it within certain contexts. More common among these situations where people struggle between being transparent or not, are instances of infidelity, or giving the dire news about someone’s imminent death. There are those, especially from some religious groups, that advocate for total transparency, that the old saying, “What they don’t know, won’t hurt them,” is unconscionable or unfair.

However, like most things in life that do not have easy answers, many also believe that telling the truth about a terminal disease or an affair may prove to be detrimental. In the case of an affair, there are studies cited that it is more likely for male partners to leave a relationship when they are the offended party. The revelation of a terminal disease may prove life-enhancing to one, but despairing to another.

I guess, the stand here is no different from what I have believed to be the best practice in therapy, which is to let the suffering individual, make his or her own decisions based on the prevailing circumstances. For it is the client who knows more about the people involved and the surrounding circumstances, than the therapist.

Frederick Humphrey, Professor Emeritus of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut refers to therapists who, by their influence or stature, encourage or even push their patients to truth-telling, as “Verbal exhibitionists.”

I often meet clients who treat me as some sort of expert in their lives, like I knew something about them that they didn’t already. These types of questions put tremendous pressure on a therapist. I often recuse myself from answering such questions, for it is in my opinion, the clients who are most equipped to provide such answers for themselves.

As in other things in life, there is always an option to keep a secret, a secret. There may also be instances when truth-telling can be liberating and useful to a relationship. But one thing I can guarantee for people who see me to seek advice on what to do, I will allow you to make decisions of your own liking, based on what is best for you, and the people around you.

What brings back the love in a relationship?

by Nathan Chua

As I join couples and families in their efforts to improve their lives together, I am beginning to see the wisdom in employing an old marketing slogan from a popular sports brand, “Just do it.” Much of the struggles that couples experience is not that they don’t love each other anymore, but they seem to have lost the ability to feel loved, or be loving.
There are many instances wherein couples think that they have to feel something, to do something. How can I be loving if I don’t feel like it? Unfortunately, the more a couple waits for the feelings to come, the more time is spent on waiting for something that needs acting upon.
This is probably one of the instances when acting or behaving a certain way, comes before the feelings of love. One only needs to go back to the courtship days, when each wants to outdo the other in expressing love. Even if you didn’t like to do certain things, you would do it to win the affections of the other. We do it to bring feelings of love.
So what should couples do to make them fall in love again? Just do it even if you don’t feel like it. No matter how wasteful you think buying those flowers is for your partner, just do it. No matter how much you don’t like expressing words of appreciation or tenderness, just do it.
Another common objection to this idea, is that people often feel it’s faking it to be someone you thought you have not been for so long. “It would feel fake if I were to change into a kinder, more appreciative and transparent person,” as many would say. Well, we can turn this statement around by saying that what you or others have considered to be your personality or style of relating, maybe just you faking it. The real you, is the one who wants to be more expressive, and who wants to act more consistently with how you feel inside. That self has been in hiding because of being hurt or shamed in the past, by the people you entrusted those genuine feelings and desires to.
Just remember you’re doing it because you want to keep the feelings of love. And if the law of averages applies, you will most likely receive the same loving acts in return. Furthermore, just do it because this may be the real you, who has been hidden from sight for so long…for that real you may turn out to be the better, more likable you.

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What makes counseling different from other ways of learning?

Let me start this post with two points.

Point One:

If there was one thing that cuts across all forms of helping activities in the realm of mental health, it should relate to learning. Counseling is no exception for me, as it involves learning, the same way we learn from lectures, talks, workshops and even church sermons. In that case, why then is there a need for personal therapy?

Point Two:

People frequently mistake counseling for seeking advice. It is seen as sort of a lecture or public forum, only that it is done in private, and advice would come as personal to the client as no other medium can provide. This means they don’t have to worry about guessing if the advice they heard from a lecture or a talk, is personal or applicable to them or not. This in part answers our question about the need for personal therapy from point number one. However, the reasons are much more complicated than this.

I have always contended that counseling is a process of discovery. It is a journey through life with someone who’s dedicated to helping clients find a way to themselves, or their real selves. This is what makes it special and different from all the other approaches to learning.

Secondly, and more importantly, it is experiential. How many times have we heard it said that the longest we keep information from a long-drawn-out lecture or sermon, can only be retained in our memories for the next 20 minutes.

Counseling is an avenue in which the lessons are long-remembered after the experience. It is analogous to experiences in life that we find unforgettable. That awesome trip you had in a place that you just ticked off from your bucket list…That brush with a life-and-death situation that you will always remember to tell in intimate gatherings…These are but a few examples of how experiential learning can be remembered so much more vividly, that a lecture or a talk can find hard to duplicate.

In my experience, I have at times been tempted to offer advice to people who see me. Clients would often come after numerous people have given them advice that made sense, but somehow they could not believe will work for them. This only goes to show that decisions that are offered from the outside, will be difficult to apply, until those same decisions come from the very person who asks for it. It is at times only in experiencing the learning process through counseling, that decisions can be made with courage, and new wisdom can be proudly owned, by the one who seeks it, and eventually lives it.