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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I am . . . single and a practising Catholic. . . . I have been in this job for about 5 years. I have for some time realized I have significant problems with anger. I have also been battling compulsive sexual disorders for some time (pornography, masturbation, etc.)—there is no need to educating me on the moral status of such behaviours. I know they are gravely disordered, and I have been availing myself of the Church’s sacraments for some time to remedy this issue. Thanks be to God I am seeing some tangible improvement in this area. I would like to eradicate it entirely but I know full well that such behaviours (which go back to early childhood) are not erased overnight.

In the context of spiritual and psychological healing I would like to give you all the relevant information so you can make a better assessment of the situation. I understand there are limitations to what you can provide over email, especially when this is not a face to face meeting. I am already seeing a very good Catholic psychologist and we are working on these areas. However I have been struck by the frank honesty of your articles, which to be honest angered in some way. I realise on an intuitive level I was angered because it revealed a truth about myself that I have been unable and/or unwilling to face until now. I hope that your wisdom in the matter can supplement the help I am already receiving.

To start from the beginning, I was subjected to significant bullying at school. There was one individual in particular that tormented me, both physically and psychologically. There occurred over a number of years during boarding school. I had brought this to the attention of the school authorities on a number of occasions but there was very little done. Eventually the frustration manifested itself upon one of his gang, who I attacked on at least two occasions after provocation. I never had the courage to attack the main ringleader directly—I was in too much fear of him. The end of high school thankfully brought this chapter to a close. Since this time I have since learned that the main individual took his own live. It is clear that he had significant problems, and I for whatever reason was his favourite target.

Unfortunately at this time I had developed a of masturbation, which in retrospect could have been a crutch or defence mechanism. Due to the deplorable state of religious teaching in the Church (which I am sure you are aware of) I did not know what a mortal sin was. This discovery happened at University college which by this time I had now become immersed in other problems (pornography). These two behaviours have been continuing up until this day, and has had terrible consequences on relationships with the other sex. It was only after the breakdown of my relationship with my then girlfriend (one of many) and my descent into clinical depression, that I better realized the full damage that these sins were causing. About this time I began to see the psychologist. I now understand how widespread such problems are in the world at this time.

Coming to the issue of anger, I have struggled with temper for some years now. It has recently become acute due to particular personalities in my workplace. There have been three particular individuals at my workplace who I believe exhibit behaviour consistent with personality disorders, or at worst are sociopathic. For some time now (around 12 months) I have been under great stress trying to provide . . . support to these people who are very rarely happy and are quick to complain, and quick to exaggerate . . . issues. I have reported two of them for their behaviour in the past. I am now at the point of being consumed with rage and taking pleasure in sadistic vengeance upon these people who seem to be hell-bent on making other people’s lives a misery. I see in these people the same behaviour as the school bully. In my defense all three people have had complaints leveled against them by staff. . . . The most troublesome one has issues going back almost 10 years ago, long before I arrived on the scene.

I realise that this brooding and pent-up anger is destroying me inside, and I realise that if I do not fix things it could have serious consequences.

I would like to keep my questions very simple: What advise can you give about dealing with such people in the workplace? What mental/spiritual exercises can you suggest for healing and letting go of this desire for vengeance and the sense of hurt?

Outline of the Answer
• Unconscious Revenge
• Unconscious Revenge
• The Motivation for Bullying
• An Absent Father
• Do You Really Love Christ?
• Summary

  
There is already much information about anger—especially anger resulting from the lack of a father and its relation to pornography and masturbation—available on this website; with all of this information [1] in the background, let me here explain that your approach to those difficult individuals at work amounts not just to conscious revenge but also to a form of unconscious revenge.

 
Unconscious Revenge

Any impulse to revenge is quite natural in that it results from our (fallen) human nature, a nature that, having lost the guidance of the beatific vision, blindly pursues its own desires of self-preservation and self-advancement, even at the expense of others. Often, the others we try to hurt have a clear and direct responsibility for the injuries that have been inflicted on us. But we can just as well get a taste of revenge by hurting even innocent persons; in fact, this is what happens in bullying—and this is what characterizes unconscious revenge.

 
The Motivation for Bullying

Consider what motivates a bully. In his own home, a child is physically abused, emotionally tormented, or both. He feels helpless and insecure. So he seeks out other children less powerful than him to bully; in doing so, he compensates for his fundamental insecurity by generating a feeling of confidence through his wielding power over others. Psychologically, it doesn’t matter to him that an unfair advantage over others weaker than himself makes his power unscrupulous; all that matters is the feeling of satisfaction in triumph.

But is the bully really angry with the innocent children he torments? Well, no, clearly, because he literally has to go looking for trouble. So where is source of the bully’s real anger? It goes back to his home—usually to his father in particular—where he has been tormented. Thus the bully takes out his anger at his father indirectly; he can’t attack his father directly because his father is too psychologically dangerous, so he attacks others who are psychologically safer targets.

 
An Absent Father

Now, you suffered greatly from being one of those targets. You experienced considerable anger at those who bullied you. You even retaliated at one of the weaker bullies. Still, that’s not the whole story. Your own anger did not begin in school with bullying.

Why were you in boarding school? Where was your father? Was he ever there when you needed him? You don’t mention him in your message, and so, in your making him “missing” in your message you unwittingly describe his real place in your life: missing.

Because your father was missing—because of his failures—because of what you lacked because of his lack—because of how he cheated you of guidance and protection—you experience considerable anger at him. You may be aware of some of this anger, but other aspects remain unconscious. Let’s see how this plays out.

You complain primarily of your anger at your co-workers. But, in spite of the fact that their behavior has been provocative, your anger at them can be tracked back through them to your anger at having been bullied in school; that is, those bullying experiences amplify your current anger at your co-workers. Furthermore, the anger from those bullying experiences can be tracked back beyond school to your anger at your father’s failures which amplified your anger at those bullying experiences.

In the end, it all comes back to your father, and so to resolve the problems with your co-workers it will be necessary to bring the anger at your father to the forefront.

To do this, begin by remembering that you say you are a practicing Catholic.

 
Do You Really Love Christ?

You say you are a practicing Catholic. Well, do you really love Christ? Do you really love Him from the depths of your heart? If you do, then remember His own words: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And what did He command us to do in regard to those who irritate us? “But to you who hear, I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27–28).

Most likely, your father did not teach you, through his own behavior, and from the depths of his heart, to act in this way. So remember that. And then, for the love of Christ, keep His commandments. When your co-workers try to make your life misery, bless them. Go out of your way to be patient and kind and to give them the explanations they need. Pray for them. Essentially, do for them what your father failed to do for you.

Moreover, keep in mind three things here.

 
Affirming Feelings

First, to return a blessing for a curse does not mean that you are disavowing your feelings. In fact, to keep Christ’s commands, and to act in all things with love, you have to know precisely what you are feeling. Because love is an act of will, not something you just fall into,[2] you have to make a conscious effort to wish the good of someone even when that person irritates you. Your feelings tell you that someone is trying to make your life misery; your love for Christ allows you to act with kindness in spite of what you are feeling. In order to practice the Catholic faith in truth, it is necessary at all times and in all things to will to overcome your feelings and the impulses to revenge associated with those feelings.

 
Being Honest

Second, to act with kindness in spite of what you are feeling does not mean that you are being dishonest. If you act with kindness in spite of the fact that you would like to take pleasure in sadistic vengeance, you are acting with love because God calls us to act with love, and to follow His commands means that you are being honest about your faith.

 
Humility, not Humiliation

Third, to refuse to retaliate against your enemies does not mean that you are allowing yourself to be humiliated. Your being willing to keep Christ’s commands despite what others do to you takes considerable confidence in God’s providence and justice. Any insult that someone inflicts on you is really being inflicted on Christ Himself, and He is fully capable of defending Himself; your remembering this constitutes true humility.

  

Just before His Passion, as He was being arrested, Christ prevented Peter from defending Him. “Do you think that I cannot call upon My Father and He will not provide Me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).

  

So, instead of trying to defend your self—and all the illusions of personal honor that go with it—sheathe your sword in humility, as Christ told Peter, lest you die an everlasting death by the “sword” of hatred and revenge.

 
Summary

In all things and at all times, not just with your co-workers, keep Christ’s commandments. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Moreover, as you do this, remember how your father failed you, and consciously make the decision to do for others what your father failed to do for you. Pray for those who mistreat you; pray that their souls might be enlightened and their hearts might be opened by the same love that moves you to keep Christ’s commandments; and pray also that this love, which your father failed to teach you, will now come back to him as a blessing.

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. See, for example
    www.chastitysf.com/healing.htm
    www.chastitysf.com/father.htm
    www.chastitysf.com/q_anger.htm
    www.chastitysf.com/q_procrastination.htm
    www.chastitysf.com/q_anger-mass.htm

2. St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. I-II, 26, 4.

 

Healing
Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition


by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.


A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites is now available at your fingertips in book form with a comprehensive index.
 
Psychological defenses help to protect us from emotional injury, but if you cling to the defense mechanisms that were created in your childhood and carry them on into adulthood—as most everyone does unconsciously—your quest for spiritual healing will be thwarted by overwhelming resentments and conflicts.
 
Still, God has been trying to show you that there is more to life than resentment and conflict, something so beautiful and desirable that only one thing can resist its pull: hate.
 
So now, and in every moment until you die, you will have a profound choice between your enslavement to old defenses and the beauty of God. That decision has to come from you. You will go where you desire.

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Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.