In this chapter, we will try to go into more depth about the ways to heal nervousness, discuss the spiritual approach to this problem, speak of psychotherapy, familiarize the reader with several methods of psychological self-help, offer recommendations of a healthy nature.
The only true path to recovery from neuroses lies through the Orthodox faith, repentance and improving one’s life to live by God’s laws. The most important thing for a person to understand is the sinful sources of his illness, to thoroughly realize his weakness, to hate the sin of pride, conceit, anger, melancholy, falsehood, adultery, greed and gain; to want to change himself, with honest repentance turn to the Lord.
It is absolutely necessary for the ailing to attend services, take part in the Mysteries of the Church — Repentance (confession) and Communion. The following words are in the prayer, which the priest reads before confession: “Take heed, therefore, lest having come to the physician, you depart unhealed.” One must partake of the mysteries often and with a grieving heart, deep faith and hope in God’s mercy.
It is essential that one read the Holy Scriptures, especially the Gospel, and fulfill the laws of Christ which are contained in it. “There is not a single illness out of all the illnesses that burden human nature, neither spiritual nor physical, which could not receive doctoring from the Scriptures” (St. John Chrysostom).
The literature of the holy fathers and lives of the saints offer invaluable help, where they provide models for imitation, revealing the true destiny of man, the greatness of moral beauty, patience and steadfastness when faced with difficulties.
Spiritual life is impossible without fast and prayer. “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting”(Matt. 17:21). With the blessing of a spiritual father, it is good to memorize separate psalms and prayers. The role of prayer in attaining and keeping inner peace is very great. Elder Sampson (Seavers) asserted, that the peace of the soul in one who prays constantly is protected from external disturbances.
The soul is strengthened by pilgrimages to holy places, Orthodox monasteries. is Commemorations in the Godly Liturgy and molebens offer great help; regular consumption of Epiphany-blessed Holy Water with prosphora, piece of artos; sprinkling the residence, the sick person himself, and his personal property with holy water.
It is essential to keep track of the processes which are occurring in the soul. One must keep track of one’s thoughts, because every bad act is usually preceded by a bad thought. One must definitively cut off anything negative, sinful, vile, not enter into any sinful discussions. The Orthodox Church teaches how to battle sin in its very beginning, on the level of thought.
“The process of the transformation of sin from thought into action has been determined precisely by the Holy Fathers. The entire course of action is as follows: at first there is the introduction (i.e. a sinful thought arises from nowhere), later attention (“conversation” with the sinful thought — and this is already the beginning of accepting the sin), later (sinful) pleasure, afterwards the desire (to actuate the sin), then decisiveness, and, finally, the act (see Philophei of Sinai, Philokalia, v. 3, Ch. 34 and so on). The longer a person permits temptation to entrench itself in the soul, the closer he is to downfall.
‘Introduction’ is the simple presentation of an object, either from the act of feeling, or memory and imagination, presented to our consciousness. There is no sin here, since the birth of these images is not in our power. Sometimes, though, it can become a fault, if the tempting image is regarded with the mind and the person enters into what might be called a conversation with it.
Sometimes the object attracts attention to itself by its novelty, astonishment, but afterwards, when its impurity is realized, it must be banished, otherwise it becomes ‘attention’. He who has banished a sinful thought, has extinguished the internal war. ‘Pleasure’ from sinful objects is already a sin. It is only a step from pleasure to ‘desire’. ‘Decisiveness’ comes from desire. The desiring person has stated his permission to act, but has not yet thought up or done anything to attaining his goal; the decided has already considered everything and decided; the only thing left is to ‘act’.
Therefore one must avoid all possible “ideas,” fantasies, fruitless imagination, particularly of a sensual nature.
One must learn not to judge others. If someone is being denounced or judged in your presence, you should lead the conversation elsewhere, and if that is not possible — leave.
One must always blame oneself for everything that happens in life, then the soul will achieve equilibrium, spiritual peace and quiet. “If everyone would blame themselves, the result would be peace,” wrote Archbishop Arseniy (Zhadanovsky), — self-reproach lets us bear offenses quietly, not feel them.”
It is healthy to break the habit of verbosity and arguing over trifles. One must certainly deny everything false, ostentatious, theatrical, pretense, exaggeration, hypocrisy — everything that is everything sinful, even little things.