to this therapist today to talk about some issues I have concerning my employment
and relationship problems with this guy I used to see. . . . I have a lot
of issues with physical appearance and people misunderstanding me because
of the way that I look. I am not an ugly person; in fact, a lot of guys used
to be interested in me. But I pointed out to the therapist that that is the
only reason they would talk to me (or it felt that way at least) and that
whenever they would refer to my physical attractiveness rather than feeling
good I would feel extremely anxious and insecure. I also felt insecure in
high school and college when other women would tell me to put myself
out there, wear these kind of clothes, etc. . . . My therapist
hinted to me that my look was too subdued, which cut deep even as I was in
the therapy office.
other women dressed to the nines and very oblivious to this issue. Looking
in the mirror is very painful for me. I usually choose my clothes quickly
and brush my hair only to get the knots out, without admiring how it looks.
My therapist wants me to be more secure about this and I guess put
myself out there at some point. Somehow, I lied to myself that it was
modesty to feel what I do, but it seems just as likely it could be self-deception
and insecurity. I dont know the difference between modesty and the
desire to be invisible based on insecurity and fear. I sometimes
feel like my body is a curse and when people look at me and judge me it really
stings so by not putting myself on display I can numb the pain of being assessed
by other people and being rejected or denied their affection. When that occurs
I feel extremely extremely hopeless. I recently remember reading about St.
Rose of Lima, this saint who used to rub coal on her face to make herself
ugly. I wish I had known about her a long time ago because I can relate to
ou ask a question that is very
relevant to todays world. It points to the fact that psychotherapists
who lack an understanding of the Christian faith are more likely than not
to lead their clients right into sin.
Virtue or Mental
Nevertheless, even though the
matter brings up issues that leave you feeling frustrated and confused, the
answer to your question is very simple and derives from a fundamental concept
of Catholic psychology: Anything done out of real love is a virtue, but
anything done out of fear has the character of a mental
Therefore, if you dress modestly
to preserve your dignity, out of love for your body
as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then you are acting
virtuously. If, on the other hand, you disparage your appearance because
of fear and insecurity, your behavior is disordered;
that is, you lack trust in God and you are thinking
not as God does, but as human beings do (see Matthew 16:23).
This same concept
applies to the distinction between other issues as well.
What about saints,
for example, who were very attentive to details? Was this a sign of
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? Well, someone
who pays close attention to details out of love for the work at hand acts
virtuously, whereas someone who obsesses about details out of fear that something
bad might happen if everything is not done perfectly acts from the place
of a mental disorder.
And what about
saints who fasted to the point of being frail and thin? Were they
anorexic? Well, someone who loses a taste
for the worlds delights out of love for things divine acts virtuously;
whereas someone who deprives herself of nutrition out of fear that she is
not in control of her body acts from the place of a mental
St. Rose of Lima rubbed coal on her face,
she did so out of love for God, to preserve her purity, not out of fear of
being rejected for not being good enough in the eyes of men.
To offer some comfort in your
feeling of hopelessness, lets note here that there is nothing wrong
with a Christian woman dressing attractivelyin fact, dressing attractively
But, again, lets understand
an important difference. To dress attractively is to attract the gaze of
the other not to your body itself but to your love for your body as a temple
of the Holy Spirit. Thus attractive dress must, by definition, be modest
dress, and modest dress, by definition, must be attractive dress. When a
woman dresses to make herself ugly she defiles modesty itself; in essence,
she insults her own bodyand she does so out of fear.
To dress sexy, though, is to
attract a gaze of lust to the body as an object.
Sexy dress broadcasts one message, intentional or not: that the wearer
has rejected moral responsibility to the body and enjoys sexual pleasure
as a form of entertainment. Sexy, therefore, as odd as it
might sound to some persons, is a rejection of love. And the rejection of
love is real hopelessness.
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:
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.