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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

[My abusive mother left her house] to me when she died and it’s legally mine, but it will, in reality, always be my mother’s house. My neighbors, sweet as they may be, constantly remind me how I’m not doing things like my mother did and maybe I’m doing that on purpose. I don’t know. It’s not the house I grew up in, however, so there are no childhood or even unpleasant memories associated with this house, other than she died here. . . . She was an immaculate housekeeper and I’m not. When I’m at home, I’m either reading or writing, and keeping house and washing dishes just isn’t on my radar screen until it’s absolutely necessary. Maybe that’s a revenge factor on my part that I wasn’t aware of. I just figured it was because reading is a more important activity, for me, anyway. Do you have any comments about this?

 
The issue about neatness and cleanliness is really a profound issue of love. When you care about a possession, you consequently want to keep it in good condition.

It’s the same for creation itself. When we really, really understand that God created this world, we are moved to take good care of it. Environmental abuse—even the act of spitting on the ground or throwing a cigarette butt on the sidewalk—shows us up as hypocrites if we claim with our lips to love God.

Furthermore, it’s the same for the body. Anyone who really understands how the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit would want to keep the body well-groomed, modestly dressed, free from addictions, properly nourished, and physically fit.

Think of cleanliness and order, therefore, as aspects of the holy, whereas chaos and filth are aspects of the anti-holyóthat is, the demonic. Therefore, if you respect your environment as an aspect of a holy life, you will be pained to see dirt and disorder anywhere. But if you tolerate dirt and disorder, then something deep in your unconscious is at work: anger.

Although your mother was a meticulous housekeeper, she probably did her chores out of duty, rather than for the sake of pure love; that is, if she had any love for God she wouldnít have abused you, so we know she certainly wasnít living a holy life. Despite what others thought of her, you know she was a hypocrite, and that angers you. Thus your unconscious desire is to throw her cleanliness back in her face so that you can get the satisfaction of showing her what a fraud she was. But sheís dead. So into whose face can you throw the dirt now?

Well, although, the disorder in your house is a manifestation of your anger at your mother, your allowing the dirt to accumulate is an expression of anger at both yourself and God. Because you have to live in it daily, the dirt signifies your hatred of yourself, and because the dirt stains Godís creation, it also signifies your anger at God.

You hate yourself because you have no other way to come to terms with the abuse you suffered. As a child you must have tried desperately to find an explanation for your motherís behavior, but, because abuse is always irrational and never makes conscious sense, you came to the same conclusion that every other child comes to: “Itís my fault. Iím bad. Thatís why Iím treated so miserably. I deserve it.” And so you hate yourself as punishment for being bad.

You are also angry because no one ever stopped your mother from abusing you. All your life you have been blaming God for being absent. But what did God do to deserve your anger? Well, nothing. Absolutely nothing. He has always been present and has done everything to demonstrate His love for you. So why are you angry at God? Well, you are really transferring your anger onto God from someone else. And who might that be? Well, itís your father, the one who never stopped your mother from abusing you. In fact, he was so absent from your life that you donít even mention him in your question.

So you hate God, and you hate yourself, and you hate your father, and you hate your mother. Distracting yourself by reading and writing is just an intellectual way of ignoring the hatred that is always right under your nose. Nothing will ever be resolved this way. Itís like sweeping dirt under the carpet and saying to yourself that the room is clean.

If you have any love for your soul, allow yourself to see the dirtóthe dirt of your hatredóand then, through prayer, fasting, and forgivenessóand, ultimately, loveódo anything it takes to clean up the mess.

 


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