Mental Health

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The effects of prayer is miraculous

praying monk 3

To many people the monk seems remote and unsociable.  It seems that he is concerned with his own soul and that he offers nothing to the Church or to the world.  That is not the case.  If the Church has been preserved for so many years, this is due to monasticism.  The person who enters a monastery and offers everything to Christ enters into the Church.  Perhaps someone will ask, ‘Do those who live alone in a cave help the Church?’  The answer is ‘yes’.  The cave-dwellers help the Church in a mystical way.  A monk who lives in a cave may not cultivate trees and vegetable gardens, he may not write books and do other things that help towards spiritual life and progress, but there he creates and develops and is assimilated to God.  Hermits stay in caves so that no one distracts them from the spiritual life.  With their fervent and pure life and above all with their prayer they help the Church.  I’ll say something that will seem grossly excessive to you.  But I want you to believe it. It is about the contribution of a monk’s prayer. Listen to me carefully.

Let us assume that there are seven educated preachers, who live holy lives. Their rhetorical skill is unparalleled.  Each has a parish with ten thousand parishioners. Thousands who hear them are moved to repentance and return to Christ.  Whole families are saved.  Nevertheless, one monk who no one sees and who sits in a cave somewhere has a much greater effect with his humble prayer.  One produces a greater effect than seven.  That is what I see.  I am sure of it.  That is how important a monk’s prayer is.  He is on his own in his cell, but the reverberations of his prayer reach everyone, even if they are far off.  With his prayer, the monk participates in all the problems which people face and works miracles.  His contribution, accordingly, is greater than that of the most gifted and worthy preacher.

 

Excerpt from a book, Wounded by Love, The Life and the wisdom of Saint Porphyrios, page 171.

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Conscious, subconscious, unconscious

superconscious-mind

The soul is multilayered:  Conscious, subconscious, unconscious

Either we want it or not, because of the original sin, because of our falls and of the guile that entered man, he folds his soul in two –hides his soul. Ultimately, to speak with psychological terms and definitions, man has the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious: namely, the soul is multilayered. This means that if man’s soul was divided into ten layers, the six lowest layers would be the unconscious, the next three would be the subconscious, and the topmost layer would be the conscious. Thus, from these ten layers which are the object of man’s soul, only 1/10 is conscious –and barely. This means that someone knows, is aware of, and is able to control, only a very small part of himself.

As a result, the moment someone says “I love God and I give myself to Him”, no matter how well disposed he is, he’s only actually giving that 1/10. Over the other 9/10 he has absolutely no control, and is unable to give them over. Someone, however, doing this work, namely giving his whole self to God –in reality giving this 1/10- somehow experiences the following. The next day, or even within that exact moment, a certain part of that 9/10 which is hidden inside the subconscious and the unconscious, becomes conscious.

Consequently, the next day someone, if he is honest with himself, will admit that although yesterday he gave his whole self to God, today he feels as though he must give himself again to God, as a new state has arisen within him.  In the spiritual life it is in this way that one makes a start and again makes a new start, giving himself again and again to God. And, if one does this both honestly, and honorably, he progresses and someday arrives at a state where he has finally given his whole self to God. And because of this the saints don’t have what we have: a conscious, a subconscious and an unconscious. No; their entire being is transparent before God. In this way, the saint controls himself completely. Never does a saint feel that within him exists states that are crude and dark, let’s say, a basement of the soul, states that he doesn’t know, and doesn’t control. The saint doesn’t have such things.

You understand, therefore, what work we have to do on ourselves. And this work is interesting. This is not, however, simply like a practical work. This is the great mystery; the more someone knows himself and gives himself to God, the more he is immersed in the grace of God, in the love of God, and the more he is captured by this grace, and this love of God. In this way, man becomes radiant, is illumined, is gladdened, rejoices, has joy, and is made gleeful.

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self righteous indignation

self rightous

Why are you concerned about your opinions? I do not like this…, “Why is it like this?  Why did he tell it like this?  I would have told it better.  Why did he do that? Etc..  These are the biggest evil and badness.

Taken from Elder Joseph the Heyscast

This is exactly what got Judas to deny Christ.

John 12:4-5

But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

So the question, should be directed at me only. Christ said, why have you forsaken me while on the cross? But when it comes to those who crucified him, He says ‘Forgive them for they know not what they do’, eventhough what they were doing was completely wrong. So logical and rational thinking can make us deny Christ today, God forbid, if we don’t focus on our own brokeness.

 

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Lasting Love shows Trust

trust

Love believes all things 1 Cornithians 13:7

That is the kind of love we want for our marriage or for our friendship to last for a life time.  No love can grow without trust. We are called to love by our God.  Trust is the base of love.  We are talking about confidence, trusting and believing in people.  That is what love is actually.  I trust my fellows and that I have confidence in them.  Love and trust are intertwined. They go hand in hand.

There are three kinds of people in the world.  The first is the gullible people. People who are naive and believe everything and anything.  And that is the fear of most of us to be gullible.  The second is the cynical people who do not believe anything.  They are suspicious and skeptical of everything.  The third is the healthy people that can love and give people the benefit of the doubt.

What if we are not healthy?  Which option is much safer and much wiser for us?  To be more believing and trusting people or be more skeptical.  I think the natural response is to be skeptical.  A lot of pyschological studies have been done and the finding was that one of the saddest people in the world are skeptical people.

And the characteristic of the happiest people in the world are people who are more trusting.  The worst thing that could happen when we are trusting too much is that we will be burned. People will abuse our trust.  But which is better? That our trust is abused once or twice or ten times and we live happy for the rest of our lives or live skeptical having no relationship with anyone and afraid of anyone all our lives because we are afraid to be burned once or twice or even ten times.  And to live sad and lonely all our lives because we are skeptical of people.

They actually did some IQ test because they thought that the gullible people had less IQ.  But the test showed otherwise.  Trusting people have better IQ.  Trusting people know what they are doing.  It is a choice.  When we stop trusting people, then we stop relating to people and stop loving people.  If we don’t relate well then we breaking the commandment of love neighbor.  We can never say we love people without trusting them.

Trust means giving people a second chance when they mess up.  For example, we don’t leave a small group and say I will never come to this small group again. Or say I am never going to speak to this person again saying he/she embarrassed me and abused my trust.  Love that trusts gives a second chance.  How many chances have we gotten from our good Savior?  We can’t take this decision without giving a second chance.  For example, we mess up in a game and a good coach will let us play again.  But a bad coach will put us on the side and the self-esteem is down and we end up hating to play and hate the game all together.  Or when a youngster gets into an accident or someone who just started to drive gets into an accident, the worst thing is to tell this person to never drive again.  But the best thing is right after the accident, to let them use the car and start driving.  Give them a second chance saying, I trust you.  Very important to give this grace to people.  How many times we did something stupid by mistake and people punished us for the rest of our lives because that is a stupid mistake?  And how many times when we were given a second chance that we were so appreciative of that and we did our best because we are given a second chance.

Sometimes it is very hard to trust certain people.  How do we trust?  How can love believes all things?  When we are trusting people because of God and His commandments and because of the love and relationship, we are not really trusting them but we are trusting God.  We are taking a huge risk but it is a step of faith.  We are trusting God.  We are not trusting the people at hand.  Sometimes, we lose this trust even with God.  When God does something we don’t understand, we don’t give Him a second chance either.  We say O you messed up this, I am not talking to you again.  We say to Him you don’t love me and this and that.  When we fall into this trap, we need to recite the following verse.

But God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9

We don’t understand the wisdom of God but we should trust Him.  One of the greatest gift that we can give anyone is the gift of trust.  Same way that God trusted us, the same way that God has given us more than we deserve, we should trust other people as well.  May God grant us His abundant grace to do just that.  Amen.

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The Problem of Emotional Immaturity

Many people know the truths of the Bible relatively well.  They can recite many of the Ten Commandments and articulate key principles for Christian living.  They believe wholeheartdly they should be living them.  The problem is they don’t know how!

The following is one simple, common scenario:

Almaz is a gifted manager in her company.  She has been a Christian her whole life and loves spending time with God.  When the vice presdient of her company was making schedules for mangers to meet clients out of town, he asked Almaz to pick up the weeks she would prefer to travel over the next three months.  Within the week Almaz emailed him the dates and eagerly awaited his confrimation.  None arrived.  Almaz called his office the following week.

His administrative assistant answered.  “Well, according to the schedule I have infront of me, the next three months are all full,” she said.  “I guess this means he does not need you right now.  But thanks for calling.”

Almaz sat stunned in her chair.  “Thank you, “she replied robotically and hung up.

For the next two weeks Almaz wrested with God and herself.  She asked God for forgiveness for the anger she was feeling.  She tried to figure out why the vice president had changed his mind.  She humbled herself to God.  She cried out in prayer for love toward her coworkers.  She lost sleep.

Finally, she concluded God was dealing with her stubborn self-will.

Over time Almaz distances herself from the vice president and other managers, avoiding them whenever possible.  During the next two years she worked hard, but she felt like she had hit a ceiling in how far she could go with this company.  Eventually, she took a position with another company.

Even though, Almaz is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, her commitment does not include relating well to people in an emotionally mature way.  Instead, she misapplies biblical truth and follows, most probably, the relational skills learned unconsciously in her family growing up.

What assumptions is she making about her vice president?  His administrative assistant?  About God’s will for her life?  What might she have done to prevent her pain?  To preserve her relationships at work?  Unless Almaz receives equipping in this area, she will likely repeat the same pattern over and over again.

Part of growing into an emotionally mature Christian is learning how to apply practically and effectively the truths we believe.

Here is a brief summary of a mature emotional adults

. Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer—clearly, directly, honestly

. Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings.

. Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial.

. Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect.

. Appreciate people for who they are—the good, bad, and ugly—not for what they give back.

. Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others.

. Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves.

. Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others.

Almaz did not have the skills and emotional maturity to resolve her conflict maturely.  She also did not have the ability to state her feelings and beliefs without thinking adversarially.  The end result was an isolation and coldness in her relationship at work that resembled hell more than heaven.

A tragically misinterpreted verse in the New Testament is Jesus’ proclamation: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Most people think that Jesus calls us in this verse to be pacifiers and appeasers who ensure that nobody gets upset.  We are to keep the peace, ignoring difficult issues and problems, making sure things remain stable and serene.  When, out of fear, we avoid conflict and appease people, we are false peacemakers. For example, Achame is engaged.  She would like more time to rethink her decison but is afraid that her fiance’ and his family will get angry.  She goes through with the wedding.  She is a false peacemaker.

The way of true peace will never come through pretending what is wrong is right! True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace. Jesus models this for us.

Many of us believe loving well is learned automatically.  But we need to have some tools and excercises to learn how to love.  We need to ask God prayerfully to help us to love and relate well with others.

Besides prayer, we need to look two things very carefully namely assumptions and expectations.

Checking Out Assumptions

Checking out assumptions is a very simple, but powerful tool that elimnates untold number of conflicts in relationships.  It enables us to check out whether what we are thinking or feeling about others is true.  It enables us to clarify potential misunderstandings.

Every time we make assumptions about someone who has hurt or disappointed us without confirming it, we believe a lie about that person in our head.  This assumption is a misrepresentation of reality.  Because we have not checked it out with the other person, it is very possible we believe something untrue.  It is also likely we will pass that false assumption around to others.

When we leave reality for a mental creation of our own doing (hidden assumptions), we create a counterfeit world.  When we do this it can properly be said that we EXCLUDE God from our lives because God does not exist outside of reality and truth.  In doing so we wreck relationships by creating endless confusion and conflict.

Almaz, in our opening illustration made all sorts of assumptions about why the boss failed to schedule her to meet with clients.  Her life was driven by these assumptions in her head, which mostly likely were false.

Expectations

Unmet and unclear expectations create havoc in our places of employment, classrooms, friendships, dating relationships, marriages, sports teams, families and churches.  We expect other people to know what we want before we say it.  Expectations are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon.  We all know the unpleasant experience of other people having expectations we never agreed to.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our world is to be a community of emotionally healthy adults who love well.  This will take the power of God and a commitment to learn, grow, and break with unhealthy, destructive patterns that go back generations in our families and cultures—and in some cases, our Christian cultures also.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.  Lord, we have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in us.  Please change us.  Make us a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom we come in contact sense Your tenderness and kindness.  Deliver us from false peacemaking that is driven by fear.  Lord Jesus, help us love well like you.  Grow us, we pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Your Holy name, Jesus. Amen.

 

Excerpt taken from a book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

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Thinking, desiring and Acting

desire

The Three Powers

Christ caution in the sermon on the mount is not against repetition but against vain repetition which may be understood as saying the words of scriptures in our prayers mindlessly, thoughtlessly or saying them without striving for a life that embodies them.  That is vain repetition.  Repeating sacred words over and over is not vain repetition if they flow from the heart.  But saying even a single word heartlessly is.  Not only do we used repeated stories and words to drive into our hearts the truth of faith but we also use repeated motion. Consider Baptism.  In the Orthodox Christian tradition, we immerse 3 times into Baptismal waters.  It is because of the Holy Trinity but there is also another reason.  It involves our understanding how each of us overcome sin and experience healing.

A man thinks about his reputation, desire to be admired by others so he takes some opportunities to boast about some accomplishments.  A woman sees another woman feels jealous of her so she gossips about her to her friend.  A child remembers the ice cream in the freezer, craves it on a hot day and so he sneaks into the kitchen and spoon out a few bite.  Now, they may not know it but each of these common strugglers with their common struggles is revealing what the Saints of the Christian tradition identify as the THREE POWERS or THREE PARTS present in every human soul.

When God made man He created the soul to contain three parts or powers.  There is the INTELLEGENT OR RATIONAL POWER involving thoughts, knowledge and reasoning.  There is the DESIRING POWER involving yearning, longing and craving.  And then there is the INCINIVE OR ENERGTIC POWER involving energy, fervency and action.   So man as he is created to be in the garden would think about God that is his rational power.  He would long about God about whom he was thinking that is his desiring power.  And he would act on that longing by living in obedience to God that is his energetic power.  As long as these three powers of his soul thinking, desiring or acting were working normally life was paradise and man was happy.  It is not that the serpent was a game changer, it is what Adam and Eve allowed to happen inside of them after the serpent appeared.

How did these three powers work themselves out practically after the fall.  Do you ever do things you shouldn’t.  Ever say things you shouldn’t or think thoughts you shouldn’t or desiring some things best left undesired.  Ever feel conflicted like a part of you want one thing while another part wants another.  Ever act on an impulse where you later regretted.  Ever leave something Good undone or unsaid.  Ever feel that you are your own honest enemy.  Ever sin and ever wonder why?  It is because like me there is a breakdown in one or more of the three powers of your soul.  Thinking wrongly, desiring wrongly and/or acting wrongly.  This breakdown, this fragmentation, this inner conflict is our inheritance from the fall in the garden of Eden.  How do we know when our rational power is sick?  When we think wrong thoughts, we obsesses, reason poorly, loose touch with reality or we don’t pray because we are too busy thinking.  How do we know when our desiring power of our soul is sick?  We are controlled by craving and appetite, desires are extreme, we feel a bit animalistic.  We don’t pray because we are too busy craving.  How do we know when our energetic power of the soul is sick?  We are busy, super busy and out of balance or burned out or restless and lazy.  We don’t pray because we are too busy praying or too busy lounging.

Sometimes all three powers are sick together.  That was the Serpent’s plan to tempt Adam think about becoming God like apart from God.  And to desire that power in independence apart from God.  And to reach for that fruit and take a disobedient bite apart from God.  The temptation itself was not a game changer. Engaging the Serpent was.  Now we don’t think ourselves usually in terms of these three powers of the soul.  But there is not any hour of any day when they are not in play.  We think about something there is the RATIONAL, we form an attachment or an aversion to it, there is the Desiring.  And we put into a motion, a plan to acquire it or avoid it, there is the energetic.  When working according to nature, this is how we acquire virtue and grow, thinking on good things which nurtures a desire for good things which leads us to act on good thing. 

When not working according to nature, these three powers of the soul give the world as it is today.  From this tragedy, rises a question.  How then do we heal?  How are we restored to the same natural use of three powers of the soul?  THE SHORT ANSWER IS THE CHURCH.  The Church gives us the best chance for inner healing for salvation for union with God.  So that is why the Church begins with the Sacrament of Baptism.  How many times is a body of an adult or a child immerse into baptismal waters?  Three.  Is it because of the Holy Trinity?  Yes, but there is another reason why we immerse a human being three times in Baptismal water.  And it involves a whole understanding of the healing of the human person.   In Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends into the waters of the font and brings the literal presence of God in what we call GRACE.  That grace is healing grace.  When we immerse three times, we are bringing that healing grace into each of the three powers of the soul.  We immerse once so that grace can heal the rational power and help this person in their thought lives and their reasoning. We immerse twice so that Grace will heal the desiring power and help this person control and rightly channel their appetites.  We immerse a third time so GRACE will heal the energetic power and help this person to act wisely and to lead a well ordered life.

After the Sacrament of Baptism, should we fall in sin, we are given the sacrament of Confession.  In which, our merciful God forgives the misuse of the three powers of thinking, desiring and acting. And restores us to our Baptismal innocence, giving us a fresh start.  Finally, we are given a Sacrament of Holy Communion in which God gives us His very own life.  If Baptism is the beginning of the healing process, what is the end of the healing process?  IT IS CHRIST, OUR ONE AND ONLY EXAMPLE OF PERFECTLY HEALED HUMAN BEING.  The three powers within His human nature were perfectly integrated and in harmony, which is why everything about Him, His feelings, His reaction, His deeds and words were all perfect.  God became a person to show us what a person of God should be. Everything Christ is by nature we can become by GRACE.  His life becomes our life and that is what it means to be human.  A human who is comfortable with repetition.

Source:  Fr. John Oliver, Hearts and Minds podcast of Ancient Faith Radio.

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