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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

I went 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.

I see 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 don’t 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 her.

Outline of the Answer
• Wolves in Psychotherapists’ Clothing
• Virtue or Mental Disorder?
• Dressing Modestly
• Attractive versus Sexy

You ask a question that is very relevant to today’s 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 Disorder?

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 disorder.

Dressing Modestly

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 world’s 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 disorder.


Hence, when 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.

Attractive versus Sexy

To offer some comfort in your feeling of hopelessness, let’s note here that there is nothing wrong with a Christian woman dressing attractively—in fact, dressing attractively is admirable.

But, again, let’s 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 body—and 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.


Who wrote this web page?


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: hate.
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.

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