Proverbs 4:3-4 says: When I was a father’s child, frail yet the darling of my mother, he taught me, and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words: Keep my commands that you may live!’
by Joe Coruna

I have been in the practice of psychiatry for more than 30 years and I often wonder why I became a psychiatrist. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Not until when BCBP came into my life did I realize that God indeed has a hand and a purpose for each and everyone of us, especially in our chosen profession or business. Psycho-spiritual therapy now plays a major role in my practice for psychiatric patients and for those undergoing marital discord.

Take this case in point. A 35 yr. old male, Joe (not his real name), married, a Roman Catholic residing in our city, an only son to a prominent and successful businessman from Manila, came into my clinic one day for neuropsychiatric evaluation. His reason – to support his application for the annulment of his marriage, that he is psychologically and mentally fit and that his spouse is not. He was seeking nullity of his marriage in court on the grounds of psychological incapacity.

In the Brotherhood Christian Marriage Retreat, BCMR, in the talk Healing our Marriages, we start by saying that two people, coming together in marriage, coming from different family backgrounds, or different regions with different cultures, and most especially with different personalities, can be a sure-fire formula for marital disharmony if the union is not centered on God.

Joe, the petitioner in the case at hand, married Marie, the respondent (not her real name) when they were both very young and immature. Fairy tales are okay for children and dreamers so everyone thought they would soon outgrow their immaturity. They tried to iron things out by seeking mental health experts but eventually were referred to me. I soon found out that God had never been in the center of their relationship. They were educated in Catholic schools but the Christian values taught had not been internalized.

Joe grew up with feelings of rejection. His father, very strict and obstinate, was a businessman who had so much delusions that one day he would become a phenomenal success, that he had neglected his responsibilities as head and father to his family. Joe harbored ill-feelings and resentments toward his father because he had never become an ego-ideal in his life. His father’s womanizing, his constant quarrel with his passive, dependent and narcissistic mother, at times displacing his anger towards him, further augmented his ill-feelings.

His wife, Marie, on the other hand, was also narcissistic and histrionic, and had grown up with a father who was also a womanizer, non-affectionate and non-demonstrative of his feelings toward his children.
Both of them brought these hurts into their married life. At the slightest provocation, there erupted chaos in their relationship.

I started on the psycho-spiritual approach with psychodynamic formulations, then re-directing, re-motivating and/or re-enforcing what was left of their religious, moral, social, cultural and spiritual values. But the evil one was very strong. The spiritual battle was on. I asked for special prayers from our BCBP community. Unfortunately, even as we seemed to progress, Marie left the country with a married man. The courts, as well as the marriage tribunal of the Catholic Church, thus declared the annulment of their marriage on grounds of psychological incapacity in favor of the petitioner, Joe.

Postscript: Marriage is not an adventure but a lifetime commitment – from the context of psychological incapacity. I tried to bring Joe to the BCBP. He was not interested, he said, and finally he decided to organize his own community, still a catholic, teaching his young members the importance of religious, moral, social, cultural and spiritual values in one’s life. As I look at it, this was a well-compensated mechanism to bury the past hurts that he had brought to his marriage. He also said that he will never forget what I repeatedly told him – that without JESUS CHRIST in the center of a marital relationship, the marriage will fail. [9-07-09]

Formerly Chapter Head of BCBP CagdeOro, Chapter Joe, as he is fondly known, is now in his 2nd term as member of the BCBP’s Board of Trustees. He is affiliated with the Maria Reyna Hospital, Cagayan de Oro City, as Asst Medical Director, is an active member of the Phil. Psychiatric Assn, and a Board Trustee of the St. Joseph Golden Home Foundation of the Archdiocese of CagdeOro. Joe’s wife Hedy is an internist; his daughter is a fellow and diplomate in Family Medicine.

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