in the Catholic Mystic tradition
as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.
Spiritual Counsels |
The Benefits of Loving God With a Pure Heart |
A Story About Desire |
Psychological Healing |
treatment Techniques |
The Work of Knowing Yourself |
Demonic Influence |
Putting it into Practice |
The Length of treatment |
Summary: When You Feel Stuck
only we did exactly what Christ told us to do—through prayer and
fasting,  turn
away from the satisfactions of the world so as to renounce sin,
pray constantly, and live chaste,
modest, and humble
lives filled with loving sacrifices for the
salvation of other souls—we would be spiritually
and mentally healthy.
Nevertheless, even in her time Saint Teresa
of Avila could see the true depth of human nature: that we scorn the way of a
holy lifestyle and seek immediate, tangible comfort for our
You see, the gift our
Lord intends for us may be by far the best, but if it is not what we wanted we are
quite capable of flinging it back in His face. This is the kind of people we are;
ready cash is the only wealth we understand.
The Way of
Today, things are even more disordered
than in times past. Now we live in a culture of diabolical insanity. In today’s world,
most families have been stained with divorce and the dysfunction
of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. Traditional family security has been shattered.
And children, rather than basking in prayer and a sense of belonging to God, have become
lost souls wandering in a wasteland. Children are brainwashed from infancy by movies,
television, magazines, popular music, sports, and social media that are all awash with the
diabolical vices of aggressiveness, competition, defiance of authority, sensuality, hatred,
anger, revenge, and lust (even in marriage). Hence when many individuals experience emotional
distress, they think in depths of their hearts, “God owes me. Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t mean
much to me right now. I want tangible compensation for all I have suffered!” Gluttony,
pornography, masturbation, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are the currency of the “ready cash”
the modern world demands from God.
Consequently, in today’s culture of insanity
the fundamental Christian principle of dying to the self has so lost its
meaning that even most Catholics today find the concept to be incomprehensible. Trust in
God and love for God have lost their meaning. And, sadly, all the while this is occurring,
most of us are blind to it.
Accordingly, many individuals
today need Catholic psychological healing, not
Orthodox Psychotherapy, to help them
overcome the unconscious resistances to doing the very things they know
consciously they should be doing.
Hence it can be
said that Catholic psychological healing is a bet that you make that getting close
to your unconscious will remove the psychological obstacles that prevent
you from loving God with a pure heart.
The Benefits of Loving God
With a Pure Heart
When you learn to love God with a pure heart,
you will be working spiritually for the salvation of your soul, but you can experience
many other benefits as well.
You can grow in the
Fruits of the Holy Spirit and therefore get along
in peace with family and neighbors and be an inspiration for their spiritual
You can live a life free from grave
You can have the clarity of mind to develop
your talents, work productively, and provide for your material
Your physical health can improve.
You can do penance for the past sins you
have committed and thus shorten the penance you will have to do in
A Story About Desire
I don’t know whether it’s
true or not, but the story goes that a man came to an ancient philosopher
desiring to learn wisdom. The philosopher took the man out into a river and
then suddenly wrestled him down under the water.
Just at the point of drowning him, the philosopher hauled
him out again and said, “Now, what did you say you wanted?”
The poor guy was just gasping and wheezing, begging for
“Well, when you want wisdom as much as you want to
breathe,” the philosopher told him, “then you shall have it.”
Many persons find it difficult
to make a total surrender to God through their own efforts, and they discover that
education and reasoning do little to overcome their resistances. In this case,
psychological healing must be used to understand and overcome the
fear that puts up obstacles to the spiritual
purgation necessary for living a
These obstacles are created by
emotional resentments that begin in childhood and become the core of your
psychological defenses. Such defenses have an original purpose of protecting
you from intense emotional pain by hiding your resentments from conscious awareness,
but as you get older these resentments can so erode your confidence
and self-esteem with feelings of victimization,
hate, self-blame, and
self-punishment that they affect not only your
mental health but also your social health and spiritual health.
In fact, individuals caught up in
their unconscious defenses are stuck in the false belief that they are
“in control” of their lives and their own mental health.
And why is this?
Well, you may not want to admit this to yourself, but all of us have dark and
hateful thoughts and imaginings that we keep shrouded
in secrecy and don’t want to reveal to anyone, especially not to a psychologist.
How many times have you said to yourself, “If people knew what I was really like,
they would never want anything to do with me”? But the more you try to hide the
truth of your life from others, the more you hide it from yourself, and the more you
fall into pride—the pride of doing everything your way without need for
total surrender to God.
All the treatment techniques that I use
are evidence based, but the evidence does not come
just from scientific experimentation; much evidence comes from ages of experience and
theories and techniques
have been developed since the early 1900s when Sigmund
Freud formulated the concept of psychoanalysis. These techniques have
one basic objective: to help us do the things we would like to do, but,
by ourselves, cannot manage to do.
Some of these techniques are
based in conscious, rational thought processes.
techniques, for example, focus specifically on changing thoughts and behaviors.
Note that vocal prayer is the preeminent form
of Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.
and reasoning are also forms of psychological healing. Note that this has
been a preferred method of Christian treatment, beginning with Christ
Himself, continuing with the Apostles, and fully exemplified by men such
as St. Thomas Aquinas (whose work is often recalled by modern Catholics in
their practice of psychotherapy) and St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual
Still, some persons develop such
deep resistance to changing their lives for the good that psychological healing must
reach deep into their unconscious minds, well past their conscious
Imagery helps you visualize things that could or might occur so that
you can achieve them or avoid them in the future. Note that St. Ignatius
of Loyola anticipated this concept in his Spiritual
Prayer (or contemplative prayer) calls upon inspiration by the Holy
Spirit to reveal and understand unconscious mental conflicts. Note that Catholic
mystics through the ages have had much to say about this.
Dreams  can
be interpreted to help you understand emotional
elements of your life that you have not yet recognized consciously. Note that the
Book of Daniel provides a practical example of this, while the Book of Sirach (34:5)
warns us that dreams are not meant to be taken as predictions of actual future
The Work of Knowing Yourself
Some persons will say that they
want nothing to do with “touchy-feeley psychology” and will insist
that their lives are quite fine without it. Those who say this, however,
have usually experienced family dysfunctions such as alcoholism, or emotional,
physical, or sexual abuse. In an environment of lying, broken promises, arguing,
and violence, they grew to fear emotions as something
dangerous, and so they fear knowing the emotional truth about themselves; that is, they
refuse to know themselves.
Nevertheless, in order to live
a true Christian lifestyle, all persons, male and female, need to know themselves
well enough to be able to manage their internal emotional reactions to external
events, so as to remain always in a place of Christian purity of heart. Two common
“emotional traps” illustrate this.
Let’s say that someone says
something critical to you. Your immediate reaction, based upon learned behavior
from childhood, will be to defend yourself. That can provoke more criticism,
and more arguing, until you get so exasperated that you start saying hateful
and vengeful things—and right there you have abandoned purity of heart
and fallen into sin. This all occurs because interpersonal conflicts result
from failed emotional communication.
Let’s say that someone corrects
something that you did. You could just say, “Thank you. I hadn’t thought of that
before.” But instead, because your mother or father constantly critized you
as a child, you sink into silent despondency, thinking, “I can’t do anything
right. I’m just a worthless piece of garbage.”
Let’s say you’re on
your way home from work and suddenly you feel a temptation to stop at a bar
and drink—to use drugs—to shoplift—to stop at a strip
club—to get a “massage” from a prostitute—to
masturbate. So right there you have abandoned
purity of heart and fallen into sin. This all occurs because behind every
temptation is an emotional reaction to some event earlier in the day that has
shaken your self-confidence.
Emotional awareness, therefore,
is a psychological tool that provides protection from sin.
Interpersonal conflicts result from failed emotional awareness. Temptations
do not just appear out of nowhere; behind every temptation is an emotional
reaction to some event that has shaken your self-confidence. It is impossible
to stay in the place of Christian purity of heart if you fail to know yourself well
enough to understand your emotional reactions to the events around you.
Thus Catholic psychological and
spiritual healing helps you to know yourself so that you can learn to respond to
every moment of the present with an understanding of the emotions involved—and this
understanding gives you the ability to respond
and appropriately to the situation.
if someone says something that hurts you, you can say to yourself, “OK.
I’m feeling helpless and abandoned.” In the midst of these feelings,
you can recognize how you responded
to similar feelings as a child. Then you can choose an appropriate,
non-defensive, mature, and psychologically
response to your current feelings.
But if you
haven’t done your psychological work, instead of naming your feelings
you will just feel a vague yucky inadequacy and
go off and drown the yuck with food or drugs or some other dysfunctional
behavior. The sad thing is that when you drown the yuck, right along with
it you drown the possibility of forgiveness—and that opens a hellgate to
Demons are everywhere, trying to subvert
God’s will in regard to everything. Primarily, demons affect our behavior by trying to
affect our thoughts, so as to discourage us and lead us into doubt, despair, and sin,
and our task is to resist such temptations. In some cases
demons can affect circumstances, but only with God’s permission; in these cases, our
task is to surrender to God’s will.
Some persons, however, falsely believe that
psychological disorders can be the result of demonic influence.
The truth is actually the other way around. Psychological disorders result from
emotional resentments that have been stuffed away into the unconscious, and then,
if the resentments are especially strong, the anger and hatred underlying them
will attract demons the way blood in the water attracts sharks. Remember a
fundamental point here: demons cannot get into us unless we invite them in,
and one clear invitation is through the door of anger and
lust. Consequently, if demonic oppression is
suspected, prayers of deliverance—and formal exorcism, if required—will be necessary.
Note well, though, that the demons will keep coming back as long as there is hatred and
lust for them to feed on. To stay free of the demons, the unconscious resentments
underlying the psychological disorder must be resolved through Catholic psychological
and spiritual treatment.
Sometimes persons seek
medical treatment because they are “hearing voices.” Quite commonly, the “voices”
will be diagnosed as auditory hallucinations
and anti-psychotic medications will be prescribed. But if the medications do not
stop the voices, then it’s likely that the voices are not hallucinations but are
real spiritual experiences of a demonic nature. In such a case, an exorcist should
be consulted to cast away the demons, and a Catholic psychologist should be
consulted to help heal the underlying unconscious issues, especially lust and anger,
that the demons are feeding upon.
The Place for
Psychological and spiritual healing is
hard work. It will often seem counter-intuitive because it does not examine
only what is on the surface of your life. To be able to cure the pain and
confusion of your life, you really have to examine and change what motivates
you to act in ways that cause pain and confusion,
and, for the most part, this motivation is unconscious
and under the surface of your life. Therefore, your true motivation cannot be
examined directly. It must be examined indirectly by digging through all the dirt
and filth hidden under the surface. It’s no wonder, then, that most people
fear psychological healing—and fear psychologists.
psychiatric medication has a special appeal to it, an appeal that is seen
more and more today in advertising. Rather than go through all the hard work
of constantly monitoring your feelings, thoughts, and actions, why not feel
better without having to do anything at all? Why change your lifestyle? Just
take some pills a couple times a day and go about your life as
Now, the truth
is, psychiatric medications are generally mandatory for the treatment of
disorders such as schizophrenia and mania. For
other disorders such as depression,
PTSD, anxiety, or
obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychiatric medications
can, in some cases, be a helpful adjunct to psychological treatment. That is, medications
can suppress debilitating anxiety or alleviate your depressed mood such that
you can then feel comfortable enough to do the hard psychological
It’s important, then, to keep in mind
that psychiatric medications are not curative. The
medications merely suppress unwanted symptoms for as long as you take the medications.
If you stop the medications, the symptoms will flourish again in full strength. But,
if psychological healing is used in conjunction with psychiatric medications, the
psychological treatment holds the possibility of a genuine cure by resolving the deep
unconscious issues that lie
behind the symptoms—and then the medications can be discontinued.
In the form of psychological and
spiritual healing I practice, and as I describe on this website, you can be
guided—through the sacraments, vocal and mental
prayer, fasting, study,
and the insight resulting from the psychotherapeutic relationship—into
understanding the roots of your unconscious conflicts and defenses; you can
learn to identify the events of life that have wounded you and to understand
the emotions surrounding those events.
That is, it’s not enough
just to “know” intellectually what
occurred—it is important to feel the pain and then be able to identify
and “name” the emotions associated with your pain.
This process occurs through
your speaking about your life in a therapeutic setting so as to interpret
connections through spontaneous associations to your intellectual memories
and through other techniques, such as
free association and
From my website A Guide to
Psychology and its Practice:
Eventually, through the work of psychological healing,
you can recover a full awareness of your emotional life that in childhood you learned to
suppress as a psychological defense.
The goal of all
this work is not to blame your parents for the hurt they caused you
but to get past your hidden resentments
and anger at your parents for the hurt they caused
you. To do this work, it is necessary to bring to conscious awareness the many
emotional injuries that you experienced in childhood. Only then can you take
full responsibility for your life and
your parents and honor them for whatever good they
did do. If you don’t do this work, then your anger at your parents will get stuffed
down into the unconscious where it will cripple your life with insecurity and failure.
So remember, as long as you have unconscious anger at your parents, trying to honor
them is just a lie.
The Length of treatment
The length of treatment depends on the
nature, the severity, and the extent of the emotional wounds that
have afflicted you—and those criteria in turn affect the strength of your resistance to
change, which in turn affects the length of the treatment. For example, someone who experienced
a lack of parental involvement and guidance in childhood, but who
had supportive friends and teachers throughout childhood would likely be receptive
to changing old patterns of thinking and behavior and so might need a few months of weekly
sessions of treatment to change old patterns of behavior. In contrast, someone who experienced
repeated parental failures throughout childhood, who lacked a social network attuned
to his or her needs and aspirations, and who experienced continued emotional trauma as an
adult would likely develop strong defenses resistant to facing the depths of his or her
emotional pain, resistant to changing behavioral patterns, and resistant to relinquishing
the desire for revenge on others—and on God. Overcoming those resistances could take several
years of weekly treatment.
You Feel Stuck
People often tell me that they
feel stuck and unable to make any spiritual progress, and they ask me what
Learn to Pray
Well, first of all, pray. But
be careful here. Just going to Mass and praying the Rosary isn’t
sufficient to inspire healing. Healing prayer must be a constant moment-by-moment
communication with God in the heart. Healing prayer can also be a matter of
deliverance prayer for yourself or with a priest
and exorcism by a priest-exorcist. Moreover, healing prayer is not simply a matter
of asking for specific things to occur or for material benefits; instead, pray for
humility to accept your brokenness, for
wisdom to accept God’s guidance in all things, for
courage to face your emotional pain, for
determination to resist worry and doubt, for
strength to persevere through darkness, and for
understanding accept the guidance necessary to make
meaningful changes in your beliefs about yourself and
to change your physically and spiritually unhealthy behaviors.
Moreover, don’t expect that
God will tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey
[N]! This is what I want you to do.”
God’s answer to your prayers will come though ordinary daily events.
It will be up to you to open your heart to believing that ordinary
events—under the influence of constant prayer—can help guide you.
For everything that occurs (especially for
distress), say to yourself, “What is this
telling me about what I need to learn about myself and how I need to
One good prayer for psychological and
spiritual change is the following prayer of my own. (It really works, because I
used it during my conversion.)
take me as Your disciple.
Guide me; illuminate me; sanctify me.
Show me what is holy,
and I will pursue it.
Show me what is unholy,
and I will turn from it.
Command me, and with Your grace
I will obey.
Lead me, then, into the fullness
of Your truth and Wisdom.
the Social World
Also, as a way to detach from the
unholy influence of the social world, follow the
Spiritual Counsels on this website.
If you find that you have
difficulty praying and keeping the Spiritual Counsels,
then consider that your stuckness could be a form of anger,
directed at others, especially your parents. That is, you
may be unconsciously creating a disability so as to send
yourself to hell to prove to others that they have failed you.
Discovering and understanding
ego states can be an important part of psychological healing.
For example, the “inner child” can hold much of your emotional pain from childhood, and
its pain of being neglected can be the basis for much of your emotional distress and
dysfunction. In this regard, note that it can be comforting to know that you do not have
to identify with the distress of a child ego state; that is, the adult part of you can
listen objectively and without fear to the child’s emotional pain. So if you resolve to
listen to that pain, rather than run from it as you likely have been doing most of your
life, then the missing part of your psychological healing can
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1.When prayer is combined with fasting for psychological healing,
it is important to understand both prayer and fasting in a very specific sense.
In regard to healing, prayer
must be more than “standard” formal prayers (such as the Rosary); prayer must be an
intimate communication with God as an appeal for deep personal scrutiny (both
psychological insight into past emotional injuries and psychological insight into the
ways current thoughts and behaviors are affected by those past emotional injuries) and
an appeal for the desire and courage to alter dysfunctional life patterns through
a dedicated surrender to, and trust in, God’s will.
In regard to healing, fasting
should be considered to be an act of distancing oneself from anything that is not necessary
for nurturing a state of life governed by total love for God. Hence we can fast from worldly
activities (e.g., entertainment and sports) that bring material pleasure to life but that
actually distract us—and often lead us away—from an awareness of God’s holy presence in our
lives. In this regard, the most benefit will result from perpetual fasting. (Note that perpetual
avoidance of mortal sin could also be considered a form of fasting, but this sort of fasting
must be considered mandatory for every Christian.)
We can also fast from food and drink that our bodies do not really need
for optimal functioning. In this regard it is important to understand that fasting does not
amount to a ruthless act of merely denying ourselves pleasure from good food; instead, fasting
has two aspects. First, it can refer to cutting back on—and even eliminating, if possible—unhealthy
foods (e.g., junk foods, sugary foods, processed foods). Second, it can refer to a selective
reduction of the usual amount of food for a limited time, so as to effect a purging of
physiological toxins from the body and also to stimulate a greater awareness of a spiritual hunger
for the presence of the holy in our lives.
2. Note that a traditional Catholic
guide such as the Baltimore Catechism claims that dreams are irrational and
meaningless and should be ignored. But note carefully that this Catechism was
written at a time when the psychology of the unconscious was not scientifically
understood. It just goes to show that scientific knowledge—in contrast to
Catholic dogma—is always limited to the current culture. If you want to believe
the Baltimore Catechism about dreams you may as well believe that the world is flat
or that the sun revolves around the earth.
3. Be careful not to be deceived by
“medical marijuana.” Marijuana is an evil substance, and any use of it, for any
reason, opens a hellgate to demonic influence. As politically correct as “medical
marijuana” may seem, it’s all a demonic deception.
in the Catholic Mystic tradition
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