Robby B. Echavez, MAEd, RPm, RPsy, MAGC (cand.)

David Becker, an Argentina-based German clinician, asked a group of listeners: “Is it necessary to remain strong all the time?” He was astounded by what he has heard from many patients and at that time he asked the question, from several Yolanda survivors. There seems to be an unwritten code that most of us follow, as if it were written on stone, an edict carved into our hearts: You must be strong.

Ellis calls this a musturbatory thought or in other words (still his words), as Dr. Cui reminded us in one support group sharing, a bullshit thought. Put into human context, it is an impossibility to “must be strong” in its absolute terms. To be strong sometimes is possible. To be strong for one person is feasible. To be strong against a particular storm or health crisis is achievable. But to be strong all the time, for all persons, against all challenges is nothing but an ideal.

Perhaps we have believed in the Legend of the All-Strong because of the potency of the psychic defense of denial. Strong in many, especially amongst codependents who have long since discovered the action of denial patterns in themselves, this defense mechanism, adaptive in some cases but troublesome in the long run, denial can wreak havoc in our lives by causing us to…

• have difficulty identifying what we are feeling
• minimize, alter, or deny how we truly feel
• perceive ourselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others
• lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others
• label others with our negative traits
• think we can take care of themselves without any help from others
• mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
• express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
• not recognize the unavailability of people to whom we are attracted

In fewer words, denial raises our fantasy of omnipotence. I can solve all problems, feed everyone in the family by myself, attend to all my needs without support, ace all meetings and presentations, and face every challenge. There is no backing down! When we delude ourselves (it is a fantasy after all), for a time it can feel like we are truly invincible. Tell a lie many times and it passes for truth, the Nazi propagandist Goebbels said. We have told ourselves this myth so many times, we feel that it must be.

Reality has a different opinion, however. At some bend or turn, a frustrating relationship bursts your bubble; an additional task on our already heaping list of to-do’s breaks the camel’s back; the unplanned arrival of family and relatives evokes an unwelcoming, “Hala, milagro! Nabanhaw!”; and the incessant “mama” of a usually cared-for daughter evinces irritability. Then the strong facade breaks, eroded by the accumulated tears of guilt and shame that has come from years of denial, never yielding to wear and tear and always clinging mercilessly to the bullshit of “I must be strong.”

“Isog man gyud ko. Di gyud ko mutalaw,” said every codependent and every Filipino who identifies with the suffering Christ. How many times have we been accused of being a martyr for someone or something? When does it ever end? “Kanus-a pa man diay ko maayo ani?”

Because it is part of our personal and collective unconscious, this Myth of Sisyphus and our identification with the Way of the Cross, it is not an easy program to awake from. CODA offers a viable, still difficult, first step: “We admitted we were powerless over others, that our lives had become unmanageable.” And then corollary lessons as the codependents speak of acceptance and gratitude. Dr. Cui formalizes it by asking us to write a list of 10 things, persons, or situations in our lives we have lost control over.

One form of acceptance, one idea in this list of ten, is acknowledging that it is okay to “talaw panagsa”; to remind oneself that breaking free from the Legend of the All-Strong is alright. It doesn’t carry any real consequence. What if I say “I can’t make it”, or “I can’t do it”, or “I’m not ready”? Will I be a rotten person? Will the world stop spinning? Will we stop breathing and die? These catastrophizings don’t happen. What happens when we talaw panagsa is that we accept our limitations and free ourselves of the guilt that often ensues when we march on, heedless of our human shortcomings.

It also brings breathing back. To retreat or withdraw, is not losing. Sometimes a setback is needed to give oneself the time to breath, to regroup, to recuperate, and, as the Cardinal Tagle would say, re-create.

Talaw panagsa,
aron makaamgo nga dili hingpit kita.
Talaw panagsa,
aron matambalan ang mga duha-duha.
Talaw panagsa,
pagtan-aw niini ayaw laina.
Talaw panagsa,
aron ikaw makapahulay ug ginhawa.

Talaw Panagsa


Co-Dependents Anonymous, Inc. [CODA]. (1998). The Fellowship Service Manual of
Co-Dependents Anonymous
. Author.

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1 Comment

Najlepsze Blogi · May 12, 2022 at 5:20 pm

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