Who dictates us obsessional thoughts?
Normally, people consider a thought as something not important because they are not discerning about their thoughts. However, the right thought is a father of good and the wrong thought is a father of evil. Thought is similar to the rudder: the direction and mostly the fate of a great vessel depend on a small rudder, this trifling board on the back of the ship.
Saint Ignatius Bryanchaninov, the biship
Here are some thoughts that cause the desire to commit suicide:
– The world is awful and full of evil; there are just a few good people out there;
– Nobody loves me;
– My situation is hopeless;
– Life is terrifying;
– I cannot achieve things I wish in life (or things other people want from me);
– I will never be happy;
– Non-existence is good rest from life;
– Suicide is the only solution;
– If I commit suicide I can join the one I love who is already THERE and so on.
Such thoughts run through our mind, they stick with us and don’t leave us even for a second, making us suffer more than those events that caused the crisis.
There are some mental diseases (depression of organic genesis, schizophrenia, etc.), which are characterized by obsessional thoughts together with other symptoms. Pharmacotherapy is the only method of help in such cases and to get a treatment one should contact a psychiatrist. However, most of people suffering from obsessional thoughts under the psychological trauma don’t have psychopathological abnormalities. Following our recommendations, they can get rid of such thoughts and come out of the crisis.
What is the nature of obsessional thoughts?
From scientific point of view, obsessional thought is a continual repeating of undesirable ideas, attractions, apprehensions, desires, memories, fears and actions which cannot be removed by the willpower. The real problem is hyperbolized, enlarged and distorted. Usually there is a line of such thoughts going on in circle, which isn’t possible to break so people are running round like squirrels in a cage.
The more people try to get rid of such thoughts the more of them come. That is how the feeling arises that the thoughts are being forced. Frequently (but not always) obsessional thoughts are accompanied by the depressive and painful emotions as well as by the feeling of anxiety.
In order to solve this problem we need to answer the following questions:
· What is the nature of obsessional thoughts? Where do they come from?
· How to fight with obsessional thoughts?
As it turns out, physiology does not have clear answers.
Many psychologists tried to explain the reason of obsessional thoughts. Different schools still argue on this issue but the majority connects them with fears. However, this theory doesn’t explain how to overcome this problem. Classical psychology doesn’t suggest any recipes for effective struggle against this phenomenon because cannot find the source of it. In other words, it’s difficult to fight with the enemy if we don’t know who it is.
Nevertheless, the successful solutions have been well known for thousands of years. Mentally healthy people have an effective method to fight with obsessional thoughts. We all aware that these thoughts' power is rooted in their effect on our consciousness regardless of our will, and this is our weak side. It means that someone else’s independent will, different from ours, is behind these thoughts. The very term "obsessional thoughts" assumes that these ideas are imposed by someone from outside.
The irony of these thoughts is often surprising. Logically we understand that there is something unreasonable about them, that they aren’t based on the real outside circumstances and are absurd; and yet we cannot resist these thoughts. When they appear, we ask, "How did I come up with this idea? Where did this thought come from?" We cannot find the answers but still think that such thoughts are our own. Moreover, they exert a great impact over us. A person under obsession can maintain quite critical attitude and realize its nonsense but he is unable to stop it by his own efforts. It means that we deal with independent mind different from ours.
So whose are those minds and will that work against us?
Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church say about evil spirits’ attacks. I would like to clarify that they don’t think of those demons as of primitive funny looking creatures with horns and hoofs. Demons don’t have visible appearance, which is why they can act without being noticed. There are various names for them such as energy, angels of darkness, things in existence; but we know very well: their main weapon is lie.
Therefore, according to the Holy Fathers, evil spirits are the reason of thoughts that we consider as ours. Our habits die hard. The problem is that we get used to consider all thoughts, internal dialogs and struggle as ours and only ours. In order to win the fight one has to understand that these thoughts do not belong to us but are dictated by the outside hostile forces. Evil spirits act like viruses trying to stay unnoticed and undetected whether you believe in them or not. Saint Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) wrote about the nature of such thoughts: "Spirits of anger battle against a human being with such cunning that thoughts and dreams brought by them seem to be born in his soul directly and not from the angels of darkness alien to him".
The criteria to determine the source of our thoughts is very simple. If the idea shutters our peace of mind, it comes from the evil spirits. "If you feel immediate confusion and inconvenience in your heart, it comes not from heaven but from the opposite site – from the spirit of darkness"– St. John of Kronstadt said. This is precisely how obsessional thoughts influence.
To say the truth, often we are unable to evaluate our own condition. The famous modern psychologist V. K. Nevyarovich writes in his book "Therapy of a soul": "Absence of a constant internal work on self-control, moral sobering and conscious management of our own thoughts also has its effect and it was described in ascetic patristic literature. We can also consider, with more or less grain of evidence, that some foreign and obsessional thoughts can have foreign nature and are demonic. In accordance with the ascetic patristic theory, a man often is not able to distinguish the real source of his own thoughts and his soul is permeable for demonic elements. Only the experienced ascetics of holiness and piety with souls purified by praying and fasting can discover the approaching of darkness. The souls that are covered with sinful darkness often cannot feel and see it because it’s difficult to discern something dark in a dark".
It is thoughts "of the devil" that support our dependences (alcoholism, game mania, painful neurotic dependence on some people etc.). Thoughts that we consider as ours by mistake push people to suicide, despair, offences, non-forgiveness, jealousy, passions, pride, unwillingness to accept mistakes. Such thoughts persistently force us, under the mask of our own thoughts, to act badly towards the others and not to work on self-improvement. These thoughts do not allow us to develop our spiritual life, they bring the feeling of our superiority over others etc. Such thoughts are "moral viruses".
The spiritual nature of such "viruses" is confirmed by the fact that sometimes it’s very difficult for people to do some virtuous deeds or just enter the church to pray. People can feel internal resistance to do so; they can put a great amount of labor in order to overcome the thoughts, try to find many excuses not to do something that is good for us. Is it difficult to get up early in a morning and go to church? No. And yet, people would prefer to go to any other places than to church. It’s much easier to spend a day watching TV, than to pray during the same period of time. One Russian proverb says, "Church is near but the road is slippery; the tavern is far away but I go there anyway". In fact, all our life consists of continual choice between good and bad. Everyone can see the action of such "viruses" by analyzing his everyday choices.
The advice of spiritually experienced people about the way to overcome bad thoughts has always worked reliably! Their experiences definitely tell us that church’ understating of this issue is correct.
How to defeat obsessional thoughts?
The first steps are the following:
1. Admit the presence of obsessional thoughts and the necessity to get rid of them!
Admit that these thoughts are not yours but result from an outside attack of other forces. As long as you consider these thoughts as your own, you won’t be able to oppose against them and neutralize them. Indeed, it’s not possible to neutralize yourself! Make a firm decision to get out of this slavery and build your life without these "viruses".
2. Assume the responsibility upon yourself.
It should be noted that if you let the obsessional thoughts enter your mind and have took certain actions under their influence, only you become responsible for the results. You cannot shift the responsibility to these thoughts because you accepted them and acted according to them. It was not the thoughts that acted but you yourself.
3. Do not make a negative self-suggestion by repeating the obsessional thoughts to yourself!
The power of self-suggestion is well known, it helps in very difficult situations. Self-suggestion can kill the pain, treat psychosomatic disorders and significantly improve the psychological condition. Thanks to simplicity and efficiency, it has been used in psychotherapy since old times.
Unfortunately, self-suggestion of the negative statements takes place as well. A person experiencing the psychological trauma says to himself, and also aloud, some unconscious statements that don’t help to overcome the crisis and even make his condition worse. For instance, one can constantly complain to friends or give to himself such affirmations as:
– Nobody loves me;
– I fail in everything I do;
– My situation is hopeless/desperate.
Thus, the mechanism of self-suggestion turns on, which brings a person to the feelings of helplessness, depression, despair, various sicknesses and mental disorder. So, the more often one repeats the negative ideas, the deeper they affect his thoughts, feelings and emotions. By doing so people drive themselves into the crisis slough. What to do then?
If you caught yourself repeating such spells, do the following. Change the negative affirmation for the opposite one and repeat it as many times as you can. For example, if you constantly think and say that your life is over after divorce, 100 times tell yourself clearly that your life goes on and will be better and better each day. Make such suggestions several times a day. A good result will follow very soon. Making the positive affirmations, try to avoid the word "not". For instance, you shouldn’t say "I’ll not be lonely in the future"; better to say "I’ll be with my loved one anyway". Bear in mind, this is very important. Moreover, never make affirmations for something unreachable and unethical; also, one shouldn’t make affirmations to enhance his self-appraisal.
4. Search for the hidden benefits you gain from your current condition and give them up!
Strangely enough, a person being constantly attacked by the hard and exhausting obsessional thoughts often finds certain imaginary benefits in them. Such a person doesn’t want to acknowledge these benefits because the very idea of having advantages from the source of suffering seems blasphemous. Psychology calls it ‘a secondary profit’. In the given case, the secondary profit is a side gain from the suffering that exceeds a profit from the problem solving and possible future wellbeing. I cannot name all gains that one can get out of his sufferings but here are the most common ones:
1. There is no delight for me in the future. My life is over and the only thing left for me is a mere survival.
The profit: there is no need to think how to get out of the situation (‘life is over’), no need to put any efforts. One starts to pity himself, finds excuses for his mistakes and wrong actions. In this situation, such person attracts sympathy and attention from his friends and close people.
2. "It’s better not to live at all than to live this way. I don’t see any sense in such life, there is no hope".
If there is some hope, than one has to put certain efforts. But people don’t want to labour. Therefore, it’s much easier to pretend that hope is gone and do nothing. All you have to do is just remain effortless and accept the role of a victim.
3. "Nobody loves me" or "I’m in the way of other people"
The profit: it’s a perfect excuse to feel sorry for yourself and not to seek help from others, to drift without trying to improve yourself.
The point is that when you try to reveal the hidden ‘profits', many things come to light which look very unattractive. It’s rather painful process; however, if you managed to find and realize your ‘secondary profit’, you will be able to find some other ways to make it useful as well as to eradicate it; moreover, you can find a good solution of how to get out of your troubles.
Once again, all "secondary profits" are hidden from our consciousness. The only way to uncover them is to analyse your actions, thoughts and desires without bias.
5. Prayer is the strongest weapon against the obsessional thoughts.
The world-known doctor, laureate of Nobel Prize on physiology and medicine by work on vessel-suture and transplantation of blood vessels and organs, Alexis Karrel said, "Prayer is the strongest form of energy radiated by a human. It has the same real power as the law of gravity. As a doctor, I took care of some patients whom no therapeutic treatment could help. They were able to heal up from their sicknesses and melancholy only due to calming influence of a prayer… When we pray, we are connected with inexhaustible power of life that sets in motion the entire Universe. We pray to receive at least part of this power. Addressing an appeal to God in the form of sincere prayer, we improve and heal our souls and bodies. It’s impossible that at least some of the praying words wouldn’t bring the positive result either to man or woman".
The spiritual explanation of the prayer role is very simple. God is stronger than the Satan; when we ask His help, He exorcises the demons which "sing" mendacious songs to us. Everyone can get evidence of it, and for that, you don’t need to be a monk.
As every good deed, the praying should be done with reasoning and efforts.
One mustn’t try to out-argue the obsessional thoughts. The Holy Fathers say, "You got used to talk to yourself and you try to out-argue your thoughts but they can be repelled only by Jesus prayer and by silence" (St. Anthony of the Optina). "The temptation thoughts become haunting, if you allow them to settle in your soul and moreover, if you start negotiations with them. But if you immediately push them away by strong effort and by addressing to God, these thoughts will retire and leave your soul atmosphere clean" (St. Feophan Zatvornik).
For example, if the point of obsessional thoughts is grumble, pride, unwillingness to accept the circumstances the way they are, then the essence of the prayer should be the resignation: "Thy will be done!" If the obsessional thoughts dictate you despondency and despair (which is the result of pride and grumble), the thankful prayer will help: "Thank God for everything!" If a memory about someone haunts you, simply pray about that person, "Lord, bless him!" How can this prayer help you? As you know evil spirits don’t wish good to anyone; but when you pray for somebody you do that person good, so seeing this demons will stop haunt you by his image. One lady said to me that this kind of prayer helped her a lot and that she could actually feel the presence of dark spirits and their powerlessness and disappointment.
Of course, many thoughts can seize us simultaneously (nothing else is as fast as our thoughts), therefore you can combine the words from various prayers: "Lord, have mercy upon this person! Thank You for everything!" Pray constantly, until the invasion of thoughts stops and you reach the peace of mind. You can read more about how to pray at our site.
6. Church Sacraments
Another way to get rid of evil spirits is church sacraments. First, it’s a confession. When we confess and repent our sins, we wash grime out of our souls including obsessional thoughts.
One would think, what is our fault?
Spiritual laws are certain: if we feel bad, it means we have sinned. Because only sin makes us suffer. Grumbling over a situation which is grumbling against God, depression, resentment – all these sins spoil our souls. By making a confession, we take the responsibility for our condition and tell God about our intention to change it. Besides, when we confess, we openly name evil spirits as such and they don’t like it, they don’t want to be exposed. So, when a priest reads a prayer during a confession, God grants us His forgiveness and exorcises the haunting demons.
Communion is one more powerful weapon against evil. Receiving the communion, we get God-given power to fight against evil within ourselves. "This Blood takes and drives the demons away and calls for angels to us. The demons run away when they see the Blood of Lord, and angels gather there. Shed on the Cross, this Blood washed the entire Universe. This Blood is our salvation. Soul is washed by it" –
"The Holiest Body of Christ, if accepted well, is a weapon for belligerents, a return for those moving away from God. It supports weak people and cheers up the strong ones. It heals diseases, maintains our health, helps in self-improvement, in our efforts and sorrows; because of it we can become more passionate in love, more refined in knowledge, be more ready for obedience, more susceptible to God’s grace", said St. Gregory the Divine.
I cannot imagine the mechanism of such deliverance but I know for sure that many of my acquaintances including my patients got rid of obsessional thoughts after practicing the church sacraments. Hundreds of millions of people have experienced the blissful power of the sacraments, that’s why we shouldn’t ignore the help of God and His Church in our fight with evil spirits. Of course, for some people their victory over the obsessional thoughts is just a temporary thing and this is quite normal because this fight is long and difficult.
7. Pull yourself together!
Idleness, self-pity, apathy, despair and depression are the most nutrient media for the obsessional thoughts to grow and multiply. That’s why try to keep yourself occupied with something useful, maintain the physical activity, pray, have enough sleep and don’t try to benefit from your bad condition.
Michael Khasminski, crisis physiologist
Previous articleNext article
Solid support to overcome crisis (Crisis psychologist Michael Khasminski)