Recommended Readings

Spiritual Counsels


Questions and Answers

Subject Index

Contact Me

Related Links

Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I really appreciate your site... it has been very helpful and refreshing. But may I make a suggestion? I recently visited it to see if you had anything about excessive anxiety, as I tend to struggle with that. I am a very scrupulous person, and although I frequent the Sacraments regularly, I tend to agonize over the state of my soul. So to be presented immediately with the phrase [b]ut by continuing in your self-sabotaging behavior you show that you would prefer to send yourself to hell just to prove to someone how much he has hurt you  was just about enough to give me a heart attack. Don’t equivocate the truth on your site, but out of charity for those of us with such crosses, you may want to consider softening the corners of your presentation a bit and reassuring us that the mere presence of depression and/or anxiety is not an automatic ticket to hell. I now have twice the anxiety I did before visiting, a panicked lump in my throat, and no more courage to continue reading, although I am in a state of grace!

Outline of the Answer
• Irony
• Self-sabotaging Behavior
• Sending Yourself to Hell
• Proving, not Preference
• The Solution

From what you say, I don’t think your problem is clinical anxiety so much as scruples. The clue to this psychological deduction can be found in your saying that you almost had a heart attack in reading about self-sabotaging behavior. Now, the irony here is that “almost having a heart attack” is itself a manifestation of the very sort of self-sabotaging behavior that so troubled you when you read about it.

Self-sabotaging Behavior

So, why is “almost having a heart attack” a form of self-sabotage? Well, consider your unconscious intent in saying it to me. The implication is that something I have done has offended you. So, if you really were to have a heart attack, then you could turn to me and say, “See? Look what you did to me!”

Thus we can see that there is a certain satisfaction in your “almost having a heart attack”; that is, your pain is intended to hurt me. You carry this dynamic even further when you conclude that “I now have twice the anxiety I did before visiting, a panicked lump in my throat, and no more courage to continue reading.”

Consequently, the truth of your anxiety reveals itself: the satisfaction that you throw at me comes back to hit you as a disability.

Sending Yourself to Hell

This, then, illustrates the psychological meaning of preferring to send yourself to hell just to prove to someone how much he has hurt you: Someone hurts you, and you, whether consciously or unconsciously, sabotage yourself in the hope of hurting the one who hurt you. 

All of this returning of hurt for hurt is a form of unconscious anger and it’s called revenge. Moreover, because revenge is a form of hatred, and because hatred is a form of murder,[1] revenge—that is, unrepentant revenge—will send you not just to psychological hell but also to the real hell. And the desire for revenge, as I describe in the answer to another question, is the basis for scruples.

Find out when anger, even  
unconscious anger, is a sin

Proving, not Preference

After reading the shocking truth about preferring to send yourself to hell just to prove to someone how much he has hurt you, some persons worry that I’m saying that all people will go to hell when they self-sabotage, regardless of how they do this or what they do.

Well, the answer is “No, that’s not what I am saying.” Perhaps that goes to show how profound the issue really is. Let me explain.

The focus of my statement properly belongs on the matter of proving, not on the matter of preference. In the dynamic I describe, the person in question has not just been hurt by mistreatment, and is not just feeling frustrated at the unfairness of it all, but he or she also clings to the hope of somehow regaining the affection of the offender. Thus the victim reasons, “If I can make [the offender] realize how much he (or she) has hurt me, then maybe he (or she) will feel sorry for me and have pity on me and start being nice to me.” Consequently, the victim seeks to prove to the offender that the mistreatment has had harmful effects.

Now, for some persons, that proof can be expressed through criticism or nagging. “There you go again. You’re always [making me late, getting in my way, insulting me, embarrassing me, etc.].” Or perhaps it will take on an accusatory tone. “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep making me look bad before the children?” Or it can become rude. “You [expletive deleted] jerk! You almost caused an accident!”

But for other persons the proof can take on a subversive quality, such that the harm is self-inflicted, and the unspoken implication is, “Look at what you made me do to myself!” The self-harm can take on many manifestations, such as alcoholism, eating disorders, drug addiction, smoking, masturbation, academic failure, criminal activity, or whatever. Even some physical illnesses can be caused in this way. Regardless of how it manifests, though, it’s all self-harm, and it’s all a sin because self-harm is a defilement of love. It’s all a sin against love, and if it isn’t recognized as a sin and repented, it can send a person to hell. It’s not that the person wants to go to hell but that the person would go to any lengths, even to hell itself, to prove something to someone.

The Solution

So, what can you do? Well, give up the smug satisfaction of thinking that you are in a state of grace when you unconsciously desire to harm yourself and others. To give up this satisfaction, it will be necessary to accept the fact that the root of anxiety is a lack of trust in God’s providence. When you are in a state of anxiety you are preoccupied with a concern for what others think and do, especially for what they think about you and how they can hurt you by rejecting you. But when you trust in God’s providence, the focus of life shifts away from what others do and turns to the bond of love between you and God.


Keep in mind that this bond of love will never be broken by God, and that God never rejects anyone, but that we can reject God by defiling love with sin.


When you have surrendered your life to this love, there will be no more anxiety, no more depression, no more self-sabotage, and no more desire to send yourself to hell to prove a point to anyone.

Love, after all, never misses the point, and so it never needs to prove anything.


Who wrote this web page?


1. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).


Related pages:

Low self-esteem

Unconscious sin

Blind to your own anger

What is “anger without sin”?


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 don’t see living faith. They don’t see protection from evil. They don’t see genuine, fruitful devotion. They don’t 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 credibility—and 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. Let’s bring them back.

Ordering Information


 Back to the list of questions


No advertising—no sponsor—just the simple truth . . .

For the sake of truth, this is a website with NO ADVERTISING.

If you find these pages to be informative and helpful, please send a donation in appreciation,
even if it’s only a few dollars, to help offset my costs in making this website available to you and to all.



Questions and Answers

Spiritual Counsels                                                         

INDEX of Subjects


Privacy Policy

Permissions Policy                                           


About CSF                                   

Social Media


In San Francisco?



in association with
A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

Copyright © 1997-2021 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

All material on this website is copyrighted. You may copy or print selections for your private, personal use only.
Any other reproduction or distribution without my permission is prohibited.
Where Catholic therapy (Catholic psychotherapy) is explained according to Catholic psychology in the tradition of the Catholic mystics.