All posts by huibee

The elderly companion

I came across quite a few “love-less” relationships in some elderly couples recently. They are normally above 60 years of age, retired, spending a lot of time together (if not all the time), and starting to argue within 5 seconds of a “conversation”.

I am not sure if it’s right for me to call them “love-less”. But there does not seem to be anything else, other than complains, arguments, resentment, and even hostility. Sometimes I feel like they are hating each other.

Whenever I try to shift the topics to something else, within a short while, and often without me realising, the topic is again back to the partner, what s/he has done, how s/he hates him/her doing that etc. I observe “loathing” on their faces when they talk about their partner.

“Hmm.. Ok. It appears that you two dislike each other very much, and dislike spending time with each other, and will start arguing once you talk. How about separation? Have you guys considered —” (Normally I don’t get to finish what I intended to say)

“No la! This is normal what! Don’t be silly la! You know how old we are now… It’s normal la, spending time together and arguing. You are young, you don’t know just yet”

Deep down most of them admit that they are no longer able to live the life on their own, without that partner who has been with them for many decades, whether with or without children. “Divorce” never crosses their minds, it can’t be mentioned, they don’t even consider it, as if it will lead to some disaster, socially, familial, morally etc. But they feel miserable with this life of retirement, it was never what they imagined to be (free, joyful, enjoyable etc). Even when they go on holidays, they can argue non-stop.

Other than listening to them, I’m not sure what I can do to help them. They don’t need any medication. They do need some counselling or psychotherapy, but they are not keen to stick to doing homework and learning new skills to communicate better, to manage anger better etc., they think they know better.

But normally, if both are relatively healthy, I’d at least recommend them to spend more time separately, look for their own interests and circles of friend, develop purpose of life of their own. This usually helps, as it indirectly enhances the quality of time they spend together. What say you?

介绍书:故事思维(英-中译)

原文要是看得懂的话,我一向不看翻译书(所以简单来说我不看英译中的书),这是我在北京上课的一名助教老师送的,和我平时看的书不太一样,确实是很棒的一本书,只是有些地方翻译得不太清楚,简单的故事却变得不容易明白。(建议购买英文版本来看)

By Annette Simmons

By Annette Simmons

书里主要说些在生活中、职场上,如何用故事影响别人,讲故事的好处,和怎么选择好的故事、演说好的故事等等。

其实说故事的确是个很重要的技能,包括我平时在临床的经验,有时你和病人说理论说道理,还不如拿个贴切实用的故事和他说说,对方会突然挺直背盯着你关注你说的话(比较有兴趣听),透过故事也比较能够直接理解你要传达的意思(包括间接的提高他的动机、完成家庭作业等)。

可以看看这本书,当然最重要的还是把里面学到的实践用上(我还得多加努力…)!

Free and Alive – An email from a reader

My work email (hello@huibee.com) does receive emails quite frequently, from people seeking psychological helps, worried family members, potential clients, advice seekers, existing psychology students etc. However, this one is quite unique!

I’ve got the permission of the reader to share this email that he’s written to me last week.


Hi,

There is a story I want to tell You, I hope this letter reaches you and you’ll have some time to read it.

I’m a 21 yo guy from Hungary. 
A few years ago somehow, somewhere on the internet I stumbled on this post:
http://huibee.blogspot.hu/2012/09/behavioural-experiment-for-social.html?m=1
I don’t remember how I actually managed to find such a thing, but It was haunting my mind for years. “You should go take a banana for a walk, that would be fun”
I was daydreaming about it a lot more than I’m proud to admit
Not because it’s something foolish to think of, but because I haven’t done it for years, even though I wanted to and could’ve.
I even put in on my bucket list to make sure I’ll do it one day.
Then I realized that every day could be that “one day”. I don’t have to wait for it, not a single day.
So one day, on april 8th, 2018 I went for a walk with my banana, called “bobo” (I assume it’s not protected by copyright, right?)
It was amazing. People were laughing, smiling all the time around me. Someone even stopped to pet the banana, while other took pictured of it (and me). Since it’s 2018, it’s not a common thing to see someone taking a walk with their banana.
Of course there were some grumpy people who just didn’t get it and looked at me with that judgemental, disgusted face
I’m never affected by such things, I didn’t care about how they thought that i’ve lost my mind or whatever, all I cared about is the smile on the faces when walked past me.
It was a wonderful feeling. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too cold nor too hot, everything was just right.
I wish I could do other things with such a “free” spirit. Do you know any other ideas that are similar to this in some way? You know, that day for that 3-4 hours I felt really alive, which I haven’t felt for a long time. I’ve been trying to find my place in this mess called “world”, but it’s really difficult if you are entirely different than everyone else.
Honestly I really wish that you would understand how big impact that post had on my life.
If you have some free time, I would like to continue emaling for a while, if you don’t mind.

Thank You,


The post he mentioned was written during the time when I was in the UK and doing a diploma with Donald Robertson. You can also read it here (I moved my blog over in 2013, but the old link he provided has got a video of us doing it).

I’ve never thought that my blogpost would reach someone that far away, and influenced him in such special way. I mean, seriously, we can never imagine how things may turn out. I’m so glad that he took the effort and initiation to look for my contact (wasn’t available in my old blog) and got in touch with me.

Be kind, be grateful, and live your life to the fullest. Try out different things, embrace new experience.

He also attached the picture of his pet, Bobo, at the end of the email.

banana

How is Morbid Jealousy diagnosed?

Her son wants her to see me, thinking that the mother couldn’t let go of the past, and has always been picking fights so much that the home is never felt peace. So she came.

When I asked about her relationship with the husband, she said they are always fighting. “Which couple wouldn’t? We face each other 24/7. We live together, work together, go out and in together. It’s normal right (that they fight all the time)?” I tried to imagine, being married for about 40 years, facing each other 24/7, yea, perhaps she’s kind of right (deep inside I still don’t feel right, especially if there is only “fight” between them). So we continued to talk about her children, grandchildren, work, neighbour, leisure etc. And I figured that her life is all about this family for the past few decades, she’s never seen the world outside, and she feels miserable in the family, that she’s sacrificed so much for the family but is not treated fairly and nicely by the members in it. So I helped her to find out what she used to love when she was young, and wanted her to look into engaging in these activities again.

What concerns me took place during our second session. She said she has nobody to talk to about “these things” for the past so many years. “Even if I said it, nobody believed me, they all think that he’s a perfect dad.” She told me the husband is always flirting other women, including her own sister, their maid, neighbour, and now daughter-in-law. I was slightly shocked, because I’ve heard a lot about the family from the son, in my mind, her husband is a traditional but good dad, except that he’s bad tempered and uses swear words when he’s angry. But I listened on.

She gave examples. She told me a few incidents that she observed. She even questioned the husband when things happened. But that only led to arguments, as the husband always denied it, and the children always sided their father. She felt alone, unfairly treated, and disappointed. (What do you think at the point?)

Some of the incidents she observed are: the husband peeping the maid while the latter is taking shower; the husband’s hand gesture was very close to the daughter in law’s face which she deems very inappropriate as a (asian, traditional) father-in-law; the husband used very gentle voice to speak to the daughter in law; the husband was chatting up with her sister. It’s mainly surrounding in themes of this sort.

She has told me not to tell her son or anyone about these. She doesn’t want to spoil their father’s image, and she knows nobody would believe what she says anyway, because they are never really there, she’s the one who spends so much time with him. She also thinks the husband will “lose face” if these things are broken out in the family.

When I was listening, I had “morbid jealousy” (read more here) in my mind. But at the same time, I know it’s also possible that the husband is really “that kind of person” (sorry for being judgmental, I’m a woman, haha). It’s not quite possible to confirm either way, unless I have a third party in the family who can tell me more, but I’m not allowed to share these with the members in the family since that would break confidentiality and trust.

So I’m going to continue digging without causing suspicions in the family. I’ve seen quite some cases of morbid jealousy in the past few years, the diagnosis is always confirmed with the statements of the spouse and/or family. Is this diagnosis possible without presence of another party?

Do email/whatsapp me if you suspect that you or your partner might have the condition, or you would like to know more about the treatment. There is also a quiz you can do here!

N.B. I’ve noted this else where in my blog, but I think it’s important to again emphasise that all cases under my “Clinical case studies” category are written either agreed by the patient and family OR modified/combined so that it’s not possible to trace back to the person. 

Psychological problems or Social/familial/educational issues?

I’ve had quite some worried parents approaching me, telling me about the behaviour of their children – how these youngsters stay at home, not working/studying, not contributing to the family/society, simply playing games or spending all their time online browsing or social-media-ing.

I used to think this is some psychological problems that I can do something to help. But as I progressed and when I looked at those generations before us, I see that it’s becoming a “trend”, that arises due to the development of our society.

Such problems never occur in our grandparents and parents’ generations. Why?

If they didn’t work hard, they were likely to starve to death, they probably wouldn’t survive. The big environment and society are in such a position that “you have no choice, you work, or you die.” (slightly exaggerated – but if you really approach them and ask them, this was indeed how they felt). So many of them worked hard, come up with great ideas and achieved great things.

What about the children of those parents that approached me?

Their parents are generally well-to-do, white collars, giving the best to these kids, best education, best material life, best experience etc. The kids get what they want, without much effort or any hard work. Why would they want to work (hard)? Why would they not just enjoy life? Why wake up at 6am, stuck in the traffic, do things that he might not enjoy for 8 hours every day? – while he can sleep in all he wants, do what he wants, while still get everything he needs to survive and also everything he wants?

I know this saying is rather simplified. But really, if you think I’m pointing finger to their parents, no I’m not. It’s how the society has developed into, of course more importantly there are problems with our education, when children think all they need is doing well in exams and nothing else. This is worse in the Eastern, Asian, Chinese societies, because parents, as long as they are still alive and capable, look after and even pay for their children, including adult children.

What can we do about this? What can parents do about this? How can I help the children of these worried parents? Or instead how can I help these worried parents to simply stop worrying about their adult children? And perhaps then the problem is solved? Because sometimes we care too much that this love does more harm than good.

 

Disclaimer: I surely ain’t talking about every youngster out there are like that, there are many that work hard (or not) and have great achievements…

Euthanasia

This is the first time I came across this word. Euthanasia.

It’s also called “mercy killing”, or “painless death.” This is the definition from google “the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.”

I searched about it after hearing a patient telling me about “legalised suicide” in some countries. She isn’t depressed, but she was for quite a period of time. When she was thinking about ending her life and making plans about it, she came across this idea – that it’s legal in some countries and even some with the assistance of a physician. (You may read more about it on google, especially the Belgium’s “Euthanasia Act”).

She asked me, “isn’t that nice? So it wouldn’t be so painful. And less trial and error. Maybe it’s just a pill and it’s done”

I’m aware of quite a number of patients of high risk suicidal, yet they are still around because they are scared to do it or scared of pain. I’m thanking god that they are scared of pain and hence they are still around, and hence I still get to help them.

I asked her, “Joey, do you still want to end your life now?”

“No, but back then yes. I didn’t do it because I was scared, but it would be good if it’s legal and I can die painlessly” (N.B. even if it’s legal it’s under certain kind-of-strict conditions, it’s definitely not that simple)

“So now you are ok to live on?” “Yes”

“That’s the thing.” I explained to her, “Joey back then wanted to die. That was Joey with depression wanted to commit suicide. But does Joey (without depression) want to die?”

“Ehmm I guess no” (She’s no longer depressed now)

Actually that’s all I want to say today. You feel like there’s no purpose to live on, you want to die, you might even feel like a burden to your family, or it’s such a suffer living… But it’s you with depression (or other mental/physical problems) who are thinking so. It’s not you. It’s like when you’re enraged (very, very angry) you shout that you want a break up or a divorce, but you don’t mean it at all. You regret it later on. So when your emotion is not like the usual you, you can’t make the decision to take away your own life, it’s not (the original) you, yes it might feel so real, but no, you don’t mean it. So don’t do this. Please seek help. It can be treated, and you can be like many of my patients, who are grateful that they didn’t/couldn’t make that move.

 

Please give yourself a second chance. Malaysia suicide hotlines:

The Befrienders
03-7956 8144/ 03-7956 8145
www.befrienders.org.my

Life Line Association Malaysia
03-4265 7995
http://lifeline.org.my/cn/

Agape Counselling Center Malaysia
03-7785 5955 / 03-7781 0800
http://www.agape.org.my

Related read (in Chinese): 识别自杀的预警信号