This is why such a soul experiences excessive sadness and despair soon as signs of its own lack of integrity show up, with the consequence that it immediately feels unacceptable to God.  That’s why a sick soul is always hiding the truth from itself, the mechanism for which is endless self-justification. And why the correction of such a soul is always taken as rejection.
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On Helping Souls That Are Being Tried
Do not lose your serenity on account of those who are being tried.  Pray for them; offer the sufferings of My Passion and some acts of self-denial, some self-imposed sufferings for them.”
Jesus to Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity
 
When souls are being tried, what they need from you is deeper love of Me—so that, through you, I may give them the grace they need.  So you see, you need your serenity even more at such times.  Do not try to buy peace for souls by losing your own!  Offer up your act of self-denial at such times, so that the soul who is suffering may get the grace to accept in joy what she cannot change—through your free offering of love.  You will see more and more how you are all instruments in the communication of My Love, for one another as for yourselves.  The more you will understand that, the more you will love one another.
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On Feeling Unloved
Only the realization that I love you now, I, Jesus, who know all your misery, all your sins, the failure of your whole life, only the knowledge that I Who know how underserving you are of anyone‘s love, yet love you nevertheless with the Love of God Himself, can take away the pain and anxiety of feeling unloved by so many persons, and not undeservedly.
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 The Age of St. Bernard’s is not like Ours.
St. Bernard, commenting on the Canticle (Song of Songs)

"Or perhaps, drawn away and seduced by his own concupiscence, he is still being dangerously tempted. Such a soul as this does not need a Bridegroom but a Physician, and for this reason receives, not kisses or caresses, surely, but only remedies for wounds in oil and ointments."

Yes, Bernard, in your time this was true — for the time had not yet come to force men willy-nilly from the highways and byways to the wedding feast. Men were still strong and able to overcome concupiscence with a help of the Physician less than the Kiss of His Mouth, less than the embrace of His intimacy. But now we are as children, impatient as we are weak, and needing, therefore, to be fondled and kissed by the Mother and her spouse, by Mary and Jesus.  0 Bernard, those of your age, who could help yourselves, needed the Physician only to supply the ointments of which you speak. But we need the Kiss of this Bridegroom who condescends to the weakness of little ones, like this little one who is too weak to help himself and therefore cries out:
"Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth, for thy breasts are better than wine.  For my justification now is not that I am healed by the ointments of the Physician, but that I am in the arms of His Mother, that it is her purity that makes me worthy of His embrace, not my virtue."
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If Something Is Painful
It seems I always assume that if something is painful, it is evil and to be avoided. Then, when I am suffering, I begin to think, and I do not rest until I have discovered some truth which I hope will remove the pain. But I do not think I do this only because I want to avoid suffering: it is rather that I look upon suffering as a sign that I am wrong somehow, that God is displeased with me, and therefore something in me must be changed.
    

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Posting 37


On the Psychology of Disturbed Souls
(written to a priest friend)

More and more I see how the disturbance of souls is connected with a certain power of the imagination, with the failure to distinguish what comes from sensible appetite and what comes from rational desire. And this is how this befuddlement operates: a certain image of something illicit comes into the imagination, and then, for lack of rational discipline, confusion arises between the sensible attraction to that object and the soul’s rational desire for it. As a result, such a soul feels itself irresistibly drawn without qualification to this object, so that, believing it has already given its rational consent, it does in fact give it, with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness before what is in itself a mere temptation.

At the same time this state is encouraged by the animal appetite itself which, in this way, secures the rational consent without which it would be frustrated. And for this reason I believe the Enemy is the principle behind this — because his power is limited to the imagination and the emotions and bodily reactions. And therefore when a soul fails to understand — practically — the distinction between the rational and the sensible orders, and likewise fails to recognize the dominion which grace gives to reason over sensible desires, the dominion of the devil is, for all practical purposes, extended to the whole man, whose reason is confused by the devil now because the person has confused his reason with his imagination. And therefore, if that person is to wait for the consent of his sensible appetite and emotions to live the life of faith, he will never begin.

For this reason it is most clear how important the rational discipline of the Faith is in dealing with disturbed souls, how they must be taught and encouraged, from the very beginning, to live in accordance with what the Faith teaches, to realize that grace gives them this power, however imperfect it may be in its operation because of emotional impediments, and then it will realize more and more its freedom essentially from such disturbances.

And in this way too, I am convinced, the disturbance will disappear, and for two reasons. For in the first place, the emotions in man tend to follow reason, so that the adherence to informed reason will subject the emotions more and more — and this especially because the act of turning to God's law in the face of a great emotional desire contrary to it will inevitably win great graces for the soul, thereby healing nature more and more. And in the second place, the Enemy (who, we may be sure, is very much present in such cases) will realize that by the soul's rational reaction he is only cooperating with the soul as it grows in grace  — and therefore he will very soon leave such a soul in peace for his own good reasons.

A sick soul cannot be corrected — for a sick soul correction means rejection. This is how a sick soul is inhibited in its relation to God — because subjectively there are only two states for it, presumption or despair — either it feels that it is totally accepted or totally rejected, whereas the truth in this life is that it is never one or the other. A soul is always substantially accepted if it will itself accept God’s love — but the evil it does can never be accepted by God. But the sick soul cannot understand this distinction practically.
The reason for this is that a person who is mentally sick does not accept himself. And he does not accept himself because he knows, in a way, that the motivation of his life is unacceptable, that he is in a way dominated by desires which are wrong, which God will never accept — and he feels, therefore, that if the truth were out he would be condemned. And yet he himself does not actually know what that truth is — because a sick person does not want to know it. He would want to know it only if he were certain that God would accept him if the truth were out. It is strange, therefore, but such a person's relation to God is based on the premise that God doesn't know the truth. And therefore, any sign of God's displeasure is taken as a sign that God does indeed know the truth and that the person, therefore, is being rejected by God.  In this way we can see how the sick soul is inhibited in the exercise of the virtue of hope — because his hope is subjectively based on his own integrity instead of on God's, and therefore he is moved towards excessive sadness and despair as soon as he feels unacceptable!

To someone who does not understand this condition, therefore, it might seem to be nothing more than the operation of pride — and it is, materially, since the sick person does love his own excellence unduly! But the reason is not because he would rejoice in his own excellence, as is the case with the person who is truly proud in the formal sense, but because he feels unacceptable to God unless he is perfect. Hence the observed fact of "perfectionism” as a neurotic characteristic.
The troubled soul, as a result of this conflict, feels that he will be condemned by God if he does not measure up more perfectly, even though he himself would love God. And in this lies the principle of his cure.

The person's attitude is of course theologically false, and this falseness has to be communicated to the sick soul. But it cannot be efficaciously communicated in the form of a lesson in theology. The relation to God is a personal relation, and the sick person must be helped in its relation to God by its personal relation to the person who is trying to help him. Therefore, above everything else, the sick person must be convinced that he is loved and accepted as he is. Only then will he be able to face what he is, where his defects are, what they are, what his evil motivation is, how far he is dominated by that evil motivation, etc. In all this there is an identification of the psychiatrist, priest, counselor or friend, whomever is helping him, with a father, mother, and finally with God. And in this way, knowing that the person he loves and trusts loves and accepts him as he is, such a soul is disposed to believe this more and more also of God — and especially if the father-mother figure uses this opportunity to teach him of his relation to God, and how it is theologically impossible for a soul, no matter what sins it has committed and how many, to be rejected by God when that soul turns to God.

Here it should be explained to such a soul the meaning of Christ's redemptive act, that He came to save sinners, "to save what was lost." And now too such a soul is prepared to see how it must do violence to its own feeling in this matter of trusting God. It must see that, emotionally, God would be an enemy (to the extent that the person acts in accordance with his emotions), and that therefore his relation to God is false — because God is not an enemy, but a friend.
In this way a healthy conscience is formed, and the foundation for a sound spiritual life — of which the whole principle is truth, the liberating truth of God’s Goodness and the terrible truth of our own perversity, and the living realization, therefore, that our relation to God exists in principle only because of His Goodness, not ours, and that this Goodness is never denied to us when we go to Him — in fact our very going to His is the effect of that Goodness.

We can see here, too, why neurosis is a kind of duplicity sui generis, because the neurotic, since he cannot face the truth (that would make him feel rejected by God), he is therefore driven to live in an erzatz world where he can feel acceptable, perfectly acceptable, by virtue of his own innocence. Not that he succeeds in this objective — but it is his objective. He must feel perfectly innocent in order to be accepted. And therefore he is continually seeking to prove his innocence — which is, objectively, the essence of duplicity or hypocrisy. And yet it is not hypocrisy in the formal sense because it is only the effect of the need to be loved and accepted and the neurotic cannot, subjectively, feel loved and accepted in any other way.

From all this it is clear that what a sick person needs more than anything else is loving understanding and acceptance. For a sick soul has not rejected God. The danger, a11 too great, is that it feels God has rejected it. And clearly the Physician here is Jesus. But Jesus, too, depends on His instruments, and His instrument in this case is the psychiatrist, the priest, the friend,whoever is helping the troubled soul. And like any instrument, this instrument is good in the measure that it responds to the will of the user. And since the User here is God, it is clear that the essential implement of the psychiatrist, or whoever is doing this work, is his charity — since it is by charity, the union of the will with God's Will, that makes a person disposed to understand and act as God would want him to.

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