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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I . . . find myself stuck in many of the unconscious conflicts that you describe, the most striking of which has been outbursts of anger and blaming . . . my parents. . . . My question regards study and self-discipline. I have had a consistent problem of serious procrastination since about the 7th grade (it was also during this grade that I discovered pornography and became addicted to it and that I began to spend many hours on the Internet). This procrastination has led to the near failure of [a] class in high school and my failing a . . . class last year in college; I also had to drop another class. . . . I feel as though I’m taking a gamble every semester between getting my work done at the last possible minute (quite literally) . . . [staying up] all night . . . and failing the class.

. . . I’ve found that if I can at least study with another person around, then I can get some work done, but having someone to study with isn’t always possible and the results have been mostly inconsistent.

One issue that I’ve noticed especially in the past few months is that I lack motivation to get things done. I even feel as though the love of God is not a strong enough motivator in my life due to my own brokenness. When asked by my spiritual director if there was anyone I could be accountable to that would motivate me to get my work done, I responded that I couldn’t think of anyone to be accountable to. I feel like I’m aimlessly floating this way and that, doing my work on a whim, if I do it at all.

I feel as though I understand in my mind that I need to enter deeply into the spiritual life and be healed through God’s grace of any past hurt that I’m carrying, but I continuously stumble over the same problems, such as procrastination and masturbation. I’m also almost always constantly fatigued (although this probably might be due to sleep deprivation).

How can I discipline myself to study well? What can I do to stop procrastinating? Do you have any advice for studying? What else do you think is going on here?

Outline of the Answer
• Anger
• Puberty
• The Psychological Meaning of Masturbation
• The Psychological Meaning of Procrastination
• How to Stop Procrastinating
• Summary

 
From your first sentence, we both know that anger at your father is behind your problems, but merely knowing about the anger doesn’t do anything to resolve it. Instead, it will be important to understand how and why the anger affects you in everyday events.

 
Puberty

Let’s begin by examining what happened when you were in 7th grade. This is a time of puberty—when you would have been about 13 years old—that marks the entrance into the body’s sexual maturity, and, by extension, into adult social responsibility. From what you have told me, I surmise that, because of your father’s failures, you faced the prospect of puberty with considerable uncertainty. Without the guidance of someone showing you how to face the unknown mysteries of life with confidence in God, you would have been crippled with fear at the prospect of facing the unknown obligations of adulthood.

Moreover, when all the manipulative aspects of sexuality were imposed on you through pornography at this time of adolescent crisis, you had no opportunity to develop a stable identity other than that of a slave to lust and hatred.

 
The Psychological Meaning of Masturbation

In this context, you used masturbation to provide a form of self-soothing and a feeling of control. Yes, masturbation feels good in the moment; nevertheless, it is a failure of sexual responsibility because it distorts the reproductive function into mere self-serving pleasure. Hence we can see the spiritual danger of masturbation: it’s a non-achievement that provides the illusion of achievement. At its core is anger at your father (and your mother, as may also be the case) for not comforting and guiding you when, in the face of impending responsibility, you felt vulnerable and insecure.

 
The Psychological Meaning of Procrastination

Similarly, procrastination can be understood psychologically as a sort of mental paralysis that arises when you face the fear of the unknown. It all results because of a lack in your father’s guidance when you most needed it. Thus, with no accountable person around, your journey into mature life became an aimless wandering without a guide—and so it can be said that your every action was not much more than a whim. Therefore, when new tasks appear in front of you now, you freeze psychologically. Behind it all, at its core, is anger at your father for not motivating you when you most needed guidance.

Thus it can be said that procrastination is not just a matter of not knowing how to do something, but that it’s an emotionally poignant matter of despair about what you do know: it’s a matter of knowing that you lack confidence in how to do something combined with knowing unconsciously that your father has failed to prepare you to do anything combined with a subtle knowing that, in your despair, you really don’t want to do it right now.

 
How to Stop Procrastinating

Understanding this, we can now proceed to describe what you need to do to stop procrastinating.

 
Make the Connection

First, admit to yourself that your father’s failures have had real and practical consequences in your daily life and have led especially to your own failures. When you experience a lack of motivation (or a lack of discipline, or distraction when trying to study, etc.) tell yourself, “This is happening because of how my father failed me.” The point here is not to blame your father so as to punish him, but to take the blame off yourself. Your difficulties don’t mean that there is something wrong with you—the real problem is that you have been cheated of something you very much need. Furthermore, this means that with proper guidance you can acquire what is now lacking in you.

 
To Become A Father to Yourself

Second, resolve to become a “father” to yourself. Instead of staying stuck in blaming your father for what you don’t have, and in unconsciously punishing him with your failures, focus on taking personal responsibility to provide for yourself with what has until now been lacking in you. This is easier said than done, so there are three things you can hope in to overcome your despair.

Hope in psychological guidance, such as you are now receiving from my writing, and do whatever it takes to learn from it.

Hope also in a growing cooperation with your own unconscious, so that your unconscious will be an ally in learning. Realize that your unconscious is not “out to get you”; it is, in essence, the truth of your life, which, until now, you have largely suppressed because, in not having your father’s guidance in how to appreciate it, you have feared it. Through your psychological work of healing you will find that your unconscious can be a trusted source of enlightenment.

Hope also in prayer, which will become more and more meaningful to you as you let go of your anger at your father and come to see God not as a reflection of your father’s failures but as He really is: your truest and deepest hope.

 
Beyond Blame into Forgiveness

Third—speaking of letting go of anger at your father—begin to discharge the static buildup of desiring the satisfaction of “hurting your father as he has hurt you.” This sort of satisfaction is called revenge; it traps you in blame, and it is revealed for what it is when the grace of God cures your psychological blindness and you see that all your failures have had one secret intent: to hurt your father.

Your true success now will depend on giving up the satisfaction of hurting your father, and you can do this by pursuing real achievement for the love of God. Up until now you have been unconsciously seeking failure so as to punish your father; now you can seek achievement to exalt God the Father. This “discharge” is called forgiveness because it is the cessation of your secret hatred for your father and the beginning of genuine love for God and for all.

 
Summary

Follow this guidance and you will become a “father”—to yourself and to all God’s children.

In summary, then, when faced with any new task, (a) remind yourself that you fear the unknown and doubt yourself because your father failed to provide you with comfort and motivation and that his failures have crippled you; (b) in spite of your doubts, call upon the hope of knowing real guidance and comfort in a way you have never known before; and (c) offer your true successes and achievements from now on to God, for use in His service, and also as a special gift to your father, that someday his eyes, too, might be opened.

Above all, cling to the knowledge that with prayer and psychological guidance you now have all the resources you need to succeed in life, despite what your parents failed to give you.

 

Buy a prayer card to help with procrastination 
and self-sabotage
 

 

Who wrote this web page?

 


 
Recommended Reading
 
A treasure of a resource for psychological and spiritual healing. Information gathered from my websites (including this webpage) is now available at your fingertips in book form.

 

Falling Families, Fallen Children by Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. Do our children see a mother and a father both living in contemplative love for God with a constant awareness of His presence and engaged in an all-out battle with the evil of the world? More often than not our children donít see living faith. They donít see protection from evil. They donít see genuine, fruitful devotion. They donít see genuine love for God. Instead, they see our external acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the other things we do that contradict the true faith. Thus we lose credibilityóand when parents lose credibility, children become cynical and angry and turn to the social world around them for identity and acceptance. They are children who have more concern for social approval than for loving God. They are fallen children. Letís bring them back.

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