Bad Thoughts and what to do?
Anonymous asked this question on 8/5/2000:
Were you taught or do you know how do to keep from thinking things you're not suppose to, I can't be more specific sorry. I can't help myself from thinking things. What can I do to stop them? If you can't pin point what answer I want because I haven't been specific just give me the whole list of ways please and when to use the techniques and I'll see what I need. Thanks.
No, I'm not mistaken by the category I chose to ask this.
mscperu gave this response on 8/6/2000:
Just for your information: Somebody put a similar question on the Catholicism board.
The joy of the Lord be in your heart.
It's terrible being persecuted day and night by thoughts that evidently direct our attention to situations and things that are certainly not the object of our wishes and intentions. You fight against them and they come back. You may even suspect that you have a fixation, a mania or a kind of obsession. You suffer.
It may be that you look for a solution in order to have quiet in you interior frameset. That is not bad but it's not the attitude of a Christian.
For the real Christian it's not a technique that solves the problem. To believe that a technique's the solution that's like giving a young couple that initiates marriage a book about how to make love. First and foremost love, real love is needed. I hope that your suffering is so sharp because you love God.
God must love you very very much because he gave His innocent Son into death that you might be free from inner death. He wants to give you life, eternal life. That's no poetry. That is the truth.
Now read and meditate what the Lord has to offer you.
Beginning from the OT happiness consists in loving God:
Deuteronomy 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Even more so the real happiness according to the NT consists in have the very same thoughts of Jesus Christ:
Philippians 2: 1 If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, 2 make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3 doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; 4 not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. 5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; 10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If you are baptized you are sanctuary of the Holy Ghost and He wants to give you the same mind, feelings and reaction of Christ who is the head of the Mystical Body. We are the members.
You don't see that in your case? Well then pray, beg, ask, supplicate, beseech, implore like the widow with the unjust judge (Luke 18, 1 ff). When Christ comes back to take us with Him will He find this type of faith in you?
This is the most important part regarding your problem and situation. Christ must be the ever more the king of your heart's kingdom that's governs your life. If you don't have this kind of love, the mind of Jesus Christ you are nothing (1 Corinthians 13). You better take sleeping pills or get drunk or pay the people of Transcendental Meditation good money so that they sell you their machines in order to dominate your mind. Well you could take up yoga of Zen. These things are not bad but they don't give you the mind of Christ.
Sure you have to do your part. God hears you and He hurries to help. But He has given you a heart, a mind, a body. He will strengthen you but He will always respect your liberty, i.e. He will not move your hand against your will. He can't. He created you free.
Now let's come to the particulars:
The holy John Mary, parish priest from Ars (France) has had a prophetic gift. He saw if persons were going to heaven and he read peoples mind in order to help them in their confession. He said once (pay attention!): "We will suffer temptations and bad thoughts even up to ten minutes after our death!"
When I was younger I thought that reaching 50 years of age would give me some reprieve of mental temptations. There was no let off. Then I thought that becoming 60 everything would change for better. Now I'm waiting for reaching 70.
Saint Theresa from Avila (Spain) called the imagination "la loca de la casa - the insane of the house/mind".
You can't force out thought. There is an ancient proverb: Expel nature through the door it will come back through the window with double force. Force doesn't do it.
And every case is different.
One of the Fathers of the desert was giving advice to his disciples. One asked him what to do with the bad thoughts. The wise man answered: "Repel them at the beginning. Shut them out. Don't let them in.". To the next who asked the same question he said: "Let them in, look at them and then fight them". Those who heard the advice protested: "How can you tell him to let in bad thoughts." The monk answered: "The first is a weak man. He can't fight; he hasn't the strength. The other one is strong in the love of God. He can look the enemy in the eyes and squash him".
Experiencing our weakness should bring us nearer the Lord.
A monk was tortured by thoughts and imaginations. When the Lord appeared to him in vision the monk complained: "Lord, why do you let me be tortured so much? Why didn't you help me?" The Lord answered him: "You didn't ask me!"
Why does the Lord permit these constant temptations? So that we may feel our need of Him everyday. And every endeavor to stay near Him makes us grow in spirit.
There was once a religious person who was suffering very very much from terrible thoughts. In desperation, even in anger with God he cried out: "Lord, this is intolerable. Until when do I have to support this?" Oh wonder! This same moment all temptation ceased! What a quiet, what a peace in mind and heart. But the quiet was empty. God was not there. Because the Christian didn't need the help of God any more. The quiet was the peace of a cemetery. There was no life in it. Can you believe it? The person needed only a minute or less to understand that. Humbly he begged: "Lord give me back the thoughts and temptations."
There is nothing that doesn't happen without God giving His permission. Even the devil is God's employee and cannot do anything without the consent of God. You are never tempted above your inner strength. If you sin it's your fault. Don't you doubt it!
Now some suggestions.
You have to look at what you do and how you do it. You can't pray to God that He may preserve you from sickness and then you eat contaminated food. This is tempting God.
You can't leave your house door wide open and pray to God that no dirt, no animals and no bad people will enter.
To give an everyday example. Suppose you want to be chaste in thoughts. Then you consume hours and hours of TV (Tortured Vision) that fills you up with violence and pornography and perversion. How can you tell the Lord: "Please preserve me from bad thoughts?" If you hate somebody and you haven't reconciled yourself with that person how can you ask the Lord to take away those hateful thoughts? You try avoiding dirt and then you will not get dirty. You avoid the occasion of sin, bad company, a languorous life, avarice, resentments, pride, bad magazines and bad conversations and you will have 70 percent of temptations less.
You get that straight first. Otherwise the advice even of saints doesn't work.
Now you look at the people you are frequenting. Someone said: show me your friends and I tell you who you are.
A chimney sweep and a baker decided to live together. But after some time the baker said: "I can't live with you. People won't buy my bread any more because I am full of soot". You enjoy the company of saints and something will rub off. You live in the company of sinners, what do you think will rub off? Virtue?
The best way to confront bad thoughts consists in not giving them space. A glass of wine full up to the rim doesn't accept any more. Suppose a married man has these temptations according to Matthew 5: 27 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart"
What do you thing helps him more: fighting against temptations or being deeply in love with his wife? If he is tempted he should look at his marriage and hurry to court anew his wife. Besides it will be a great help if he tells her about his temptations. The sacrament of marriage is very strong. By the way the same is true for women! Do you think that viewing soap operas and sitcoms doesn't' make her wish to feel the arms of the movie star around her? So what do you think should fill up your mind so that bad thoughts can't have any space? Ponder that.
Being much time alone and doing nothing is a perfect scenario for Mr. Lucifer to suggest thoughts of the kind he prefers. Being occupied doesn't leave you much time to sin and to have vacuous thoughts.
Regarding guilt you should be quite clear.
Having bad thoughts is no sin. It's like rain. It comes and goes. You get an umbrella and it can go on raining. The rain continues? No problem. You don't use an umbrella you will get wet. What is the umbrella? Prayer, work, exercise, having a wonderful time with your family/friends/colleagues, serving somebody… You let your imagination help you there and it depends on the situation, what is at hand and what is adequate.
For instance, at times you suffer an assault of these temptations and prayer only would expose you more to it. It may be better to do something of the other things. You know yourself. If you don't it's time to pay attention
Sin begins when you consent. What does it mean? You look at a thought, conscience rings the bell and tells you "this is bad" and you don't do anything. That is consent. It is worse you actively seeking, isn't it?
If you have problems regarding homosexuality that is very upsetting. It's an aggravated suffering. There is help. Up to now they haven't found anything real that causes this problem through a deformation of the brain or physical things like that. Let some Christian psychologist help you. I am personally afraid of psychiatrists. I have worked several years as part time chaplain in a mental institution and I have seen the moral disasters they can cause. From the Freudians beware! Additionally we have now the curse of cultural conditioning. Society tells you over and over again that it is all right to be homosexual. And you finish believing it. Many wouldn't have that problem if the present culture didn't snare them. So confide in somebody y let him/her help you.
Finally I recommend a profound and strong spiritual life nourished by the Word of God, the Eucharist, confession, prayer, participating in a Catholic group or movement. .
And we should pray for each other. We are all under enemy fire.