Thinking About Systems Thinking

Remember 1993?

The World Wide Web (which we now simply call the Internet) was beginning to take shape with the launch of Mosaic web browser. It was also the year I first encountered the term Systems Thinking.

Fifth DisciplineThe Cambridge University MBA programme, in particular Dr. John Roberts, took us on this weird and wonderful world of seeing our workplaces and the world through the lens of interconnectivity. I fell in love with the idea once I understood it. I devoured every page of Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline (1990), and I still have my copy today, albeit somewhat tattered (yes, that is my copy on the right).

I did not get to do very much with systems thinking in the business world, but my exposure to it changed my worldview and eventually led me into becoming trained in family systems work as a therapist.

After 15 years of studying and doing family systems therapy, I decided that this year – 2015 – would be the year where I explored how my knowledge of family systems could be used in organizations. I started by asking myself this question:

If my knowledge of family systems can help my family and the families I work with to become healthier and more functional, can I impart group leaders with the same knowledge to improve the health and functioning of their teams? Can systems thinking actually help organizations?

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2015 Resolution: Connecting Authentically, Imperfections and All

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”  - Brené Brown

I would like to leave 2014 with a confession. Here it is:

I did not specialize in marriage and family therapy because I was naturally good at these relationships. I came into this field somewhat shocked that there was so much I needed to learn for myself. In fact, had it not been for entering into this field, I am almost certain that I would be a divorced man today. Continue reading

Metaphors for Healing, Post-Infidelity

Over the years, I have worked with many couples presenting with infidelity or extramarital affairs. Although every couple’s experience is uniquely challenging, there are some similar patterns.

For couples where the affair with the third-party has ended, the marriage can begin to heal. But it is easier said than done. Often, the acted spouse (the one who committed the infidelity) believes that since he (often male, but not always) has ended the relationship with the third party, his wife ought to relax and have things go back to normal. But for the injured party, nothing feels normal anymore. Distrust, insecurity, sleeplessness, even flashbacks can take place despite her best intentions not to be bothered by them.

In helping couples to heal post-infidelity, I have heard similar metaphors being used again and again by my past clients. More recently, I started to offer these metaphors right at the beginning of therapy to my new clients. To my delight, I discovered that clients have appreciated having these pictures to hang on to—almost as if the metaphors help them to feel more normal more quickly, and enable them to be more understanding of each other’s experience going through the difficult process of recovery. It is my hope that by sharing these metaphors here, many couples can be helped in trying to salvage their marriage post-infidelity. Continue reading

Malaysia: We Are Family (Happy Merdeka Day!)

DigiMerdeka
Source: YouTube Digi Communications

When I returned to Malaysia after my Ph.D., people looked at me funnily and asked why I didn’t remain overseas. My answer to them was simple: my family is here.

For our 57th Hari Merdeka, Maxis and Digi have come up with ads that promote Malaysia as a family. When I watched them, one made me laugh out loud and the other moved me to tears. [Watch the ads at the end of this blogpost.]

The past few years have been very challenging for us here in Malaysia. I have tried to remain positive and hopeful despite the political battle cries, the droughts and haze that seemed not to have a solution, and most recently, planes that go missing or are bombed out of the sky. It hasn’t been easy to remain positive.

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What do you do on a holiday? I re-create!

CommonFactors
What I am reading on my break!

Some people chide me for being a workaholic. One of Rekindle’s clinical interns said to me yesterday that he could not fathom how I manage to do all that I do. I replied that during my Ph.D. studies, I was three times as busy as I am now. He didn’t seem very encouraged.

I admit that I am busy and sometimes physically tired from all the work, but I don’t feel tired in my soul. I love what I do. For instance, while I was sitting on the plane alone traveling to my holiday destination, I found myself thinking about what could be done to train up good marriage and family therapists in Malaysia. Instead of watching an inflight movie, I opened my new book, Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy (authored by one of my mentors, Doug Sprenkle) and devoured it for ideas on training therapists. Continue reading

Troubled? Try Journaling

Source: Google images.
Source: Google images.

There is nothing so precious to me as a retreat to a remote location on my own for a time of quiet reflection. With my journal in hand and nature all around me, I enter into my soul, look for my core self, and as if meeting an old friend, we get comfortable, sit down, and have long, deep conversations. Work stresses and family difficulties melt into the background.

I have been journaling since I was eleven. For years, I thought everyone journaled. So it still surprises me every now and then when I ask clients to spend some time journaling, and they look back strangely at me.

“Journaling? What do you mean?” some would ask.

Journaling is one of the best self-care activities you can do for yourself. When you are troubled and have no one to talk to, your journal can become your best friend and personal therapist. In this post, I would like to teach you a simple and effective way to engage in expressive journaling. The exercise itself will only take 10 minutes. Continue reading

An Apple A Day: Therapy and Change [with Podcast]

Source: Google images.

When clients come to see me for the first time, I explain to them what therapy is all about. I say something like this:

As I see it, therapy is about change. People come in to see me because they want to move from their current circumstance to a preferred situation. It could be a lack of life-clarity, or an inability to stop an addictive behaviour, or difficulties communicating well with a partner. They want to get better, but somehow find themselves stuck again and again.

Click icon to listen to podcast.
Click icon to listen to podcast.

I go on to explain how a professional can help them and emphasise that, for change to happen in a sustainable way, clients themselves have to be the ones to enact that change. I will give them an illustration. Something like this: Continue reading

Asperger Syndrome & Marriage – Support in Kuala Lumpur

Source: Click on image.

Update (21/5/2014): Listen to my radio show on the topic at BFM 89.9 with Dr. Alvin Ng and Sudha Kudva here – link.

Asperger syndrome (AS) is “one of a distinct group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior” (1). It is one of several autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and considered to the mildest form, sometimes also referred to as high-functioning autism (HFA).

In January 2014, I started a new support group with my colleague Sudha Kudva for wives whose husbands struggle with AS or HFA. This may well be the first AS/HFA marriage support group in Malaysia.

Here is how it began. Continue reading

Johnben Loy is back online! Really!

back-to-blogging
Source: Google Images

I admit it. I have neglected my online presence for far too long. My last post was more than 3 months ago, and I had promised myself to make at least one post a month after I launched Rekindle Community.

Worse, I had even promised Meera that I would blog about our topics before we went on air so that we can delve more deeply into them when we go on air. Both January and February exposed me as a promise-reneger. Continue reading

Sex Addiction Support in Malaysia (for men)

Source: Google images

When I first started practicing as a therapist in Kuala Lumpur, I bemoaned the lack of community support available for my clients. Practicing in the U.S., it was easy to get additional resources for clients and help them reach their therapy goals more quickly and effectively.

One of my areas of speciality is to help men with sexual compulsivity, also known as sexual addiction or hypersexual disorder (click here to listen to my talk on BFM about it in 2011). Helping a client work through addictive behavior requires not only personal (and relationship) therapy, but also peer group support. I looked around for a men’s support group but there was none available.

I am glad to announce that after three years of practice in Malaysia, I am starting to see more recovery groups forming. Recently, one of my former clients who had struggled with sexual compulsivity contacted me and told me that a 12-step support group has started, here in Kuala Lumpur, and that he was a part of it. I was very excited and offered to learn more about the group. They were open to meet up with me, and so we did. Continue reading