Obsessive thoughts can become a serious spiritual and psychological problem at the same time. A person can become discouraged or earn a neurosis in the form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. There have been times when thoughts have driven people to attempt suicide or otherwise harm themselves and others.
A lot of attention is paid to this phenomenon in patristic ascetic works – their authors describe not only the experience of obsessive states, but also reveal their nature, give recommendations for countering and preventing them. The main thing that the holy fathers warn about is that blasphemous and other sinful thoughts do not belong to us, but have an external, demonic origin. So don’t blame yourself for them.
“No one should think that he is guilty of blasphemous thoughts; for the Lord is a seer of the heart, and knows that such words are not ours, but of our enemies,” writes the Venerable John of the Ladder.
Another ascetic, closer to us in time, St. Macarius of Optina, also urges us not to be embarrassed and not to punish ourselves for what is happening in our head. Otherwise, if a person begins to lose heart or despair about this, enters into a dialogue with his thoughts, becomes afraid of them, or tries not to think about it at all costs, in other words, if he pays attention to them, the devil approaches him with new strength.
This attitude is largely characteristic of modern psychology. Experts warn people against desperately fighting obsessive thoughts, thinking about them, or, conversely, trying to drive them away. This can only intensify our feelings and instill even greater fear of them. It is known that if you tell a person not to think about a white elephant, all his thoughts will focus on this. So what do we do?
One psychological technique is to treat unwanted thoughts like an intruder at a party. Imagine that you are at a reception in a large hall, where, among other guests, you see a person who, for some reason, fills you with disgust, mixed with fear. You can focus all your attention on him, watch him, watch where he goes, what he does, who he communicates with, run away from him when he heads towards you, and thereby completely ruin your evening. Or, knowing about his presence and experiencing understandable annoyance and anxiety in this case, do not take it to heart: after all, there are many other people in the hall, and indeed there are other things to do. The second option will help you forget about this person soon and no longer take him into account: yes, he exists in the same space as you, but there is nothing in common between you, no points of interest. It is also recommended to do the same with unwanted thoughts that race through our minds along with the rest, to look at them impartially, calmly and indifferently.
Prevention of bad thoughts includes information hygiene. The well-known expression “a person is what he eats” is also relevant for the ‘food’ of information. The information we absorb on a daily basis undoubtedly has an impact on what we think about. Therefore, when you start reading texts, watching movies or videos, you should ask yourself the question: how useful is this for me?
Finally, in addition to all of the above, a Christian has a powerful weapon against unwanted thoughts – prayer. You can just talk to God, tell Him about the sinful thoughts in your head and ask Him for help to get rid of them. Also, participation in the sacraments of the Church, first of all, the communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, when we are spiritually and physically united with the Lord, can bring relief and remove obsessive states.
Translated by pravmir.com
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