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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I have always forgiven, you have no idea for how many things. What I really need . . . is how to love myself enough to stop the feelings that I keep stuffing down in order to NOT hurt others. . . . It’s myself I keep hurting, because I care so much about keeping the peace. I only (at times) try to tell them how I feel, in the hopes that they will understand.

However, (and I begin the paragraph with that because it really is a whole different subject) it is very different to allow one that you don’t live with, and especially one who has nothing to do with influencing or raising your children, to make serious mistakes and treat them with patience and kindness than it is to allow someone who does have those direct influences on yourself and those you love to make mistakes that can cause harm. For example, a person I know recently drank alcohol in his car while driving home from work. This person has youngsters and teenage children at home and is old enough to know better. Even as they are treated with patience and kindness, at what point do you stop allowing such behavior? How do you explain it to a teenager? How do you make peace with yourself for allowing it without any consequence?

Outline of the Answer
• Not Hurting Others
• Offenses Made in Your Presence
• When Children are Involved
• Learning from Mistakes

 
You say that you want “to love myself enough to stop the feelings that I keep stuffing down in order to NOT hurt others.” Well, this means that right now you are pushing your feelings out of awareness—that is, “stuffing” them—to avoid hurting others, and you think that it would be better to have no feelings at all—that is, to “stop” your feelings.

Your feelings, however, are an expression of your reality, so if you “stop” your feelings it’s like murdering a part of yourself. If you really were to love yourself, therefore, you would be able to love your feelings; in psychological terms, “to love your feelings” means that you could understand them rather than just “get rid” of them as if you were having an abortion.

The real way to not hurt others is to learn to love yourself; to do this, then, endeavor to follow a step-by-step psychological process of emotional honesty. First, acknowledge exactly how you were hurt. Then admit to yourself your feelings of hurt. Then recognize your humanly natural impulses of revenge that result from feeling hurt. Then make the decision not to act on those impulses, but, despite what you’re feeling, to give to others your patience, kindness, compassion, forbearance, mercy—and forgiveness.

In other words, forgiveness is not a matter of ignoring offensive behavior while keeping your mouth shut. Forgiveness is a matter of refusing to hate someone despite your knowing very well that your mind is surging with impulses to get a sweet taste of revenge.

Follow this process of choosing forgiveness over hatred, despite your feelings of hurt, and you will do good to yourself and to others. That’s real love.

 
Offenses Made in Your Presence

You have no control over what someone does when you are not present. Moreover, you have no responsibility for changing the behavior of another person (with the exception of your own children while they are still minors). But when someone does something in your presence that you find contrary to your moral values, then speak up and say, “I cannot accept this.” Tell the other person why you feel offended; if the other person does not treat you with respect, then leave. Don’t leave in a huff, and don’t leave with indignation; leave with gentleness and kindness. But leave.

  

Circumstances, however, will determine the nature of your leaving. If the offense occurs while riding in a car, for example, you could, if you have great courage, say, “Stop the car right here; I’m getting out.” Or you could wait until you reach your destination and then state that you will “leave” the relationship until the other person decides to change his or her behavior.

  

If, in a misguided attempt to “keep the peace,” you stay, you will give the impression that you condone the offending behavior, and that hurts both of you. It will hurt you because you come across looking like a coward, and maybe even a hypocrite; it will hurt the other because it deprives that person of a warning that could, perhaps, inspire repentance.

 
When Children are Involved

When children are involved, then be honest. Tell the children that the offending behavior is wrong, let them know that you cannot change the behavior of another person, admit that you feel frustrated, and tell the children to pray for the enlightenment and repentance of the offender. That way, in your being honest, you have at least given the children reason not to believe that they are crazy—or bad—for seeing what almost no one else will admit.

 
Learning from Mistakes

And how do you make peace with yourself for having allowed misconduct “without any consequence”? You tell the children openly and honestly that you made a mistake. By admitting the truth to them (and you can believe that they already know the truth anyway), you not only make peace with them but you also make peace with yourself because finally you have had the courage to face the truth of your own dishonesty. Then, from the depths of your heart, pray for the wisdom and courage to learn whatever you need to learn from your mistakes so that you will be able to act with greater courage the next time your feelings tell you that you have been offended.

 


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