Dr Terence Leong Archives - Promises Healthcare
To Forgive Others, Is To Set Myself Free

To Forgive Others, Is To Set Myself Free

Written by: Dr Terence Leong, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Promises Healthcare

Translated by: Christian Tan

First published on Wan Bao Fu Kan on 31 May 2020.


“I forgive you.” while on the surface seems to be an innocuous word and easy to say. But in reality, it’s one of the most difficult words to express in our human language. A few years ago, a middle-aged man angrily dragged his 13-year-old son to our clinic, it turned out that Mr Zhang (pseudonym) had discovered his son hiding in a corner of his room smoking, and slapped the boy hard in a fit of anger. Even after being scolded the boy was recalcitrant and didn’t even feel remorseful. In her efforts to appease the situation at home, his wife suggested bringing the son to see a counsellor.

On that day, I happened to walk past the therapy room. I could only hear the loud arguments between the father & son, and loud sobbings of the mom. Just as I stepped into my office, my office phone rang. It was an urgent call from my colleague, the therapist, who alerted that the situation was getting a bit out of hand, and asked for my assistance in the therapy room. Upon arriving at the scene, I could hear the son’s angry retort, “You’ve never loved me since young, why are you trying to control me now? All you’ve ever done was scolding me. So what if I behave myself? Would you even notice?”

It took more than an hour to calm all parties down. After which, I carefully interviewed both Mr Zhang and his son, and I finally got to the root of why the situation had become so tense between father and son.

It wasn’t the 13-year-old boy who had caused the breakdown in their relationship. The issues stem from painful experiences when Mr Zhang was growing up. Mr Zhang had grown up with an abusive father who was not only alcoholic and chain-smoked, who often vented his anger on his wife and children. As a result, Mr Zhang made a vow from young to never touch alcohol and cigarettes. Unfortunately, his demeanour also became very stern with hardly any smile on his face and had high expectations with his own children. Why did it become like this?  It was because he had never forgiven his own father. The deeply buried hurts had made him prone to irritability, and thus he didn’t know how to praise or encourage his own child, and only knew strict discipline as his way of bringing up his child. Moreover, his biggest worry had been over his child coming into contact with alcohol and tobacco.

Mrs Zhang explained, her husband was a good man, but was a man of few words, and was not good in expressing his feelings. She knew that he really cares about the child, but it was a pity that communication was poor between the father and son. As a result of a craving for his father’s love and experiencing scolding and punishment from young, the boy had grown to become more rebellious in recent years.  

In fact, Mr Zhang’s father had quit smoking and drinking for many years. However, as a result of the poor relationship between Mr Zhang and his father coupled with a break in communications for more than a decade. Mr Zhang couldn’t come to terms with my conclusion initially. But for the sake of his own son, he finally agreed to receive counselling. After several months, he finally understood the root cause. He asked me, “I’ve finally understood that the root cause of my frustrations was the unresolved anger and hatred towards my own father, but what should I do after so many years?”

Fortunately, one day his mother decided to visit their grandson together with his father. Although he felt embarrassed initially, Mr Zhang struck up his courage, squarely faced his dad and said: “I forgive you.” This simple yet miraculous sentence seemed to untie the knots of anger and hurts between Mr Zhang and his father. From that day onwards, Mr Zhang began to smile more frequently face and he could finally express his love fully to his son. As a result, his son stopped being rebellious. Not only did he stop smoking, but also paid more attention to his studies.

As a psychiatrist, I’m truly happy for this family and admire Mr Zhang’s courage in forgiving his own father. They continued with counselling for some time, and finally mended their father and son relationship that was formerly broken.

Therefore, forgiving others is also giving ourselves a chance to receive complete healing.

From The Cradle To The Grave: A Mother’s Enduring Love

From The Cradle To The Grave: A Mother’s Enduring Love

Written & Translated by: Dr Terence Leong, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist

First published on Wan Bao Fu Kan on 19 Jan 2020 in Mandarin


Many years ago, whilst I was a trainee, I used to work in the Institute of Mental Health. One night, while I was on duty in the emergency room, an old lady in her 90s brought her 60-year-old daughter to the clinic. With a calm and friendly smile, she told me that her daughter had relapsed. It turned out that her daughter had been suffering from schizophrenia for many years, with frequent relapses that required innumerable hospitalizations. At the age of 16, she started to suffer from hallucinations and paranoid delusions. She became suspicious of others, and her temper became extremely volatile. In the early days, she resisted taking medication, resulting in a rapid deterioration in her condition. Within a few months, she was forced to drop out of school. Subsequently, she did try to work, but was unable to hold on to a job. Without a stable income, she was unable to support herself and was unable to lead an independent life. Moreover, her psychotic symptoms worsened, impacting on her self-care. She had to stay at home near-daily, relying on her mother to care for her. 

The old lady was a senior nursing officer in our country before her retirement. She made many important contributions to our country’s healthcare system and she was a pioneering leader in the nursing profession. Unfortunately, her husband passed away early on, and she had to raise all their three children by herself. Her eldest son went abroad to start a business and now has a successful trading company in the United States. Her second child also did well in her studies. After getting her master’s degree, she taught at the university for several years but decided to become a housewife after getting married. The third child was originally the smartest and most sensible amongst the three children. She studied hard since young, and did well academically, with excellent grades every year. She was a filial child, who would always help her mother with housework. In short, she was never a trouble to her parents.

Unfortunately, she fell ill during the first year of junior college, resulting in a dramatic change in her personality and behaviour. Formerly a cheerful, vivacious and enthusiastic young lady, she became irritable and impulsive. Her paranoia resulted in her isolating herself from her friends and loved ones. The old lady took care of her with infinite love and silently accepted this difficult mission. But the eldest brother and the second sister refused to associate with her, and did not welcome their visits even during the Lunar New Year.

The years gradually passed. The old lady is now retired and the frailties of age took a toll on her physical health. In her twilight years, she sincerely begged her two elder children to take care of their sister. But they both adamantly refused to accept this burden. After asking several times, and after having the door literally closed on them on the 2 older children, the old lady finally understood. She courageously continued her lifelong mission and patiently looked after her daughter. By then, she was in her early 90s, and her daughter was in her 60s. That night, she quietly told me: “I’m actually tired, but I cannot die. Because she still needs me.”

That night, I truly understood the greatness and self-sacrificing nature of a mother’s love. 

Schizophrenia is a serious, long-term disease. The support of family members is very important to the patient’s recovery. Without the help of family members, even if you take the best medicine and see the best doctor, it will be to no avail.