Translated by Nicolas and Natalie Semyanko
Neurosis — a spiritual disease.
Reasons for illness. Facts cry out. Main forms of neuroses. Hypochondria and depression. The sin of suicide. Influence of mood on physical health. Sinful "breakdowns." The distinctions of childhood neuroses. Healing neuroses — suggestions and warnings. Can the blind lead the blind? Psychological self-help. Medicinal help. Problems of age. Dangerous "infection" (modern temptations). When the soul "quakes." Involutionary melancholy (psychology of aging). When a child sleeps poorly. Anxiety syndrome. Memorable event. "The Great sham."
The Holy Fathers about passions and virtues.
When the body, as consisting of many parts, becomes ill, it has the need for various medicines… The soul, on the other hand, being incorporeal, is simple and not complex, and when it becomes ill, only one medicine can help it — that is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Simeon the New Theologian).
The rampant growth of spiritual illnesses in the 20th century resulted not only from stresses and scientific and technical progress with its "information overload," but also, from the departure of people from God, and their sinful life.
Therefore, the only valuable psychotherapeutic assistance is the one that will bring people to Christ and, under the direction of a priest or believing doctor, will induce them to repent and amend their life. In this case, the word of the doctor or the spiritual guide will be reinforced by the blessed power of God, which is capable of healing the most serious spiritual illness.
This is an extensive group of illnesses, having non-psychological sources and tied into a series of genetic, exchangeable and other disturbances. The following basic illnesses of this group stand out: schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychosis, epileptic and elderly psychoses. The illness can be continuous or in attacks, faint or acute, severe or moderate. Typical symptoms of psychoses are: delirium, hallucinations, the disruption of the emotional sphere, disturbed behavior. With time, the intellect is impaired, memory suffers. The person’s personality changes.
A psychological illness is a heavy cross. The secret of its origin and its spiritual meaning cannot as yet be fully determined. My personal thoughts on this are basically these: in the case of psychotic states, the meaning of the suffering lies in the expiation of sins (either of the one who is ill, or of his parents, or of his ancestors). In addition, if this illness appears in childhood and progresses malignantly enough, then the sick person receives the chance for salvation as an innocent victim. The efforts and patience expressed by those near the sufferer will be salutary, if they are borne for Christ’s sake. If the psychosis appears in later years, then it too is given a person for his salvation. For the Lord is absolute Good. The Lord permits some to fall into the infirmity of being possessed, because He knows that the person would use his mind and will to his detriment; others He protects from dire sins. We read in St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians: "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5.) The sufferings of these people should not be relieved solely through pills and injections, but also with prayers for the health of these ailing servants of God. They are in great need of prayers in their behalf, because their spiritual strength is impaired, weakened by the burdens of the illness.
The baptized ailing should be delicately urged to repentance. This should be done between fits or during improvement. It would be good if there would be more religious doctors, nurses, attendants. Then there would be an Orthodox environment, and I am sure that the same medicines would work more effectively. Whenever possible, priests should be invited to the clinic to serve molebens (prayer services) with the blessing of water, and to distribute Orthodox literature. Experience with similar activity already exists. In October 1992, by the mercy of God, the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia Alexei II anointed a church in honor of the icon of the Holy Mother of God "The Healer" at the NII Clinical Psychiatric Hospital of the Scientific Center for Psychological Health of the Russian Academy of Medicinal Sciences. Priests that perform the spiritual care of the clinic’s patients were practicing doctor-psychiatrists before their pastoral anointment.
Most of psychotic pathology is traditionally considered incurable. This particularly applies to difficult psychoses, degenerative-dystrophic illnesses of the cerebrum, innate forms of mental inferiority and so on. But God’s mercy performs miracles according to people’s faith, and the laws of nature beat a retreat. Let me present several examples.
About five years ago I saw a woman in church with an infant in her arms, the face of which is familiar to any doctor. The diagnosis, as is said in such cases, was written on the girl’s face. It usually sounds like a verdict. Down’s syndrome. This pathological disease arises as a result of genetic disturbances.
The following week I again turned my attention to this girl, and then saw her at services regularly. The child (she was 3 or 4 years old) was always taken to Holy Communion. I lost sight of my "patient" when I had to move to another city because of my job. And so, one summer, four years later, I happened to see her again. The little one was returning with her mother from Vespers. Her face was sweet, smiling, beautiful! There were two snow-white ribbons under her light kerchief. It was impossible to recognize the "doomed invalid" in her. Only an experienced specialist could see the traces of the illness. May the Lord protect you, dear child!
I will present a clear example, which was written up in a small booklet called "When children are ill." Its author is the doctor and priest Father Alexei Grachev. "Two and a half years ago, a 12 year old girl from an orphanage came to me for confession. She could not put two words together, twisted like a top, her abnormal glance, continual grimacing, her whole appearance spoke of her "inferiority." And so, she began to come to confession and take Communion every Sunday.
Within a year, she felt the need to reveal her thoughts (whoever prays and takes Communion often, knows what this is). The girl began to lead such an attentive spiritual life that even those people who consider themselves great believers and churchgoers do not even begin to suspect. She began to read the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner"), to fight temptations, forgive offenses, to bear everything. In the course of several months, she learned to read and write, all signs of debilitation passed away, the stamp of spirituality appeared on her face. There was feeling and reason in everything she said or did…" Similar examples are not exceptions, there are multitudes of them…
The number of depressives increases every year. About 5% of the world’s population suffers from depressive disorders. More than half the overall number of psychologically ill consists of persons with varying expressions of depression syndrome. Millions of people throughout the world take special medicines (antidepressants, neuroleptics, relaxants), to gain spiritual comfort and well-being. One can hear discussions about depression, despondent moods, melancholy, suppression everywhere: in public transportation, at work, among acquaintances… Today, many consider depression to be an illness of civilization, with its demands on life and on humans.
Science knows many reasons for the rise of depressive states, but among scientists, it is not acceptable to speak of sin. But that is precisely the reason for many forms of abnormal depression and despondency. Both the Holy Scriptures and the holy fathers speak of this. The millennia of Orthodox experience witness this.
Depression — is, in its way, a signal to the soul about its calamitous state. This particularly applies to those depressions, which are not connected with the worsening of living conditions. A person suffers from sorrow and hopeless melancholy. As a doctor, I try to relieve these persons’ suffering with medication, discussions and human sympathy. But satisfaction during the sick person’s visit only comes when the discussion turns to the soul, faith and repentance. Then, with the consent of the patient, we try to evaluate the symptoms of the illness from a spiritual viewpoint.
I will not enter into details. I will only say that the Lord will not leave helpless those patients who find the road to church, repent of their sins and begin to live as Christians. Some recover; others, with God’s help, learn to fight their passions and, in this manner, control their disability.
Neurosis — a spiritual disease.
Borderline neuro-psychological disorders, among which neurosis takes up a large percent, convincingly place first among psychological diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 10% of the population of industrialized countries suffer from neuroses and their number has multiplied by 24 in the in the last 65 years. In Russia, 20-25 people per 1000 are ill with neuroses. These are only the recorded illnesses, and most likely can be considered only the tip of the iceberg.
Neuroses, like an epidemic, are spreading everywhere. It is known that 30 to 65% of the visitors to general practitioners are people with neurotic symptoms. A sad joke is circulating among specialists studying this pathology: instead of asking if a person suffers from neurosis, one must ask: "from which particular form of neurosis do you suffer."
The problems associated with the origin of neuroses have come under active review in the last ten years. The attitude towards this disease, as a light disturbance of the mental functions, is noticeably changing. The principle of functionality (simple reversibility) is not supported by modern clinical practice. According to published data, recovery from neuroses occurs in less than half the cases. It has been determined that only 10% of those ill recover in the first three years of the illness. Often, these sufferings last for years and even decades.
In accordance with the determination accepted in Russia, neurosis is a psychogenic (arising in the nerves), as a rule, conflictogenic (resulting from a conflict with oneself or others), neuro-mental disorder, which results from the disruption of particularly meaningful life relationships of the person. In simpler terms, neurosis develops when a person cannot find an appropriate answer to a difficult situation, solve an important psychological situation or bear some tragedy, depending on different conditions.
The symptoms of neurological failures are well known:
All these symptoms are accompanied by general feeling of illness, uncomfortable physical sensations. The display of neuroses can generally be called a steady loss of spiritual peace. A person with a neurosis criticizes himself clearly, is burdened by his condition, but cannot do anything with himself.
In addition to this, conditions exist that clinically resemble neuroses, but develop in their own way. There are determined to be neuro-like and result from different somatic (physical) illnesses, infectious processes, arteriosclerosis of the brain’s vessels and other pathological processes. Besides this, the neuro-like clinical picture can often contain persons with a bad personality or serious defects in upbringing.
The term "neurosis" has become firmly entrenched in our life and can be unfamiliar only to an infant. Emphasis is placed on school-age and pension-age neuroses; neuroses of achievement and loneliness; somatogenic and ecological, as well as many other varieties of this illness. The so-called noogenic neuroses are connected with the loss or lack of the meaning of life in a person, conflict of values. Data shows that about every fifth neurotic occurrence has a noogenic origin; in actuality, it appears that nearly every neurosis has spiritual roots. But lets put everything in order.
The original concept of "neurosis" was suggested in 1776 by the Scottish doctor Cullen, and, since then, discussion concerning the essence of this disease, the roots of its origin and the formulative mechanisms, have not become less vital. This, of course, does not mean that neuroses did not exist before Cullen; their appearance, like the appearance of any disease, occurred as a result of man’s original sin. The description of neuroses can be found in the most ancient written sources of humanity. For example, in the papyruses of Kahun (ca. 1900 BC) and Ebers (ca. 1700 BC) there are facts about the sickly states of women, which resemble clinical hysterical neurosis.
It is difficult to find another concept in medicine that is written up by different scientific schools so often and even contradictorily. Neurotic reactions, which can occur in a person following difficult crises, conflicts, somatic illnesses or life disorders, are greatly varied. Their symptoms are reflected in a person’s personality, particularly his character — therein lies the polarity of views on this problem.
Reasons for illness.
In addition, not only questions about systematic neuroses, but the very existence of them as nosological (sickly) forms are found on the cutting edge of scientific discussions. The extreme viewpoint of several psychiatrists looks something like this: neurosis — is normal behavior in an abnormal situation.
In accordance with other opinions, neurosis — is a brain dysfunction; the ousting of the inner conflict into unconsciousness; the uncompromising tenets and dogmatic pattern of thought; the inability to predict conflict and prepare for it; incorrect stereotypical behavior; unsatisfied need for self-actualization and so on.
Some researchers assign the sources of neurosis to the unique thoughts of the person, others — to the pathology of emotions, a third group — to the disruption of the process of self-knowledge, a fourth — to psychological immaturity and infantileness. There are even authors who are inclined to think that this is an inherited illness.
And here is one more point of view: M. M. Khananashvili speaks of neurosis as an illness that is based on an overload of information. In his book Informational Neuroses he offers the following confirmations of his ideas: "…it has been calculated that, in economically developed countries before 1970, every person, on average, traveled long distances in the course of one year, met a large number of people and received more information than had been available to a person before 1900 throughout his entire lifetime… Around 25% of the world’s population is subjected to the influence of sharply increasing informational overload…" This researcher sees the risk of the development of these illnesses in the prolonged fulfillment of a large scope of work under the conditions of a time deficit and a high level of motivation (initiative).
But the academic P.V. Simonov characterizes neurosis as an illness of lack of information. According to this scholar’s opinion (whose assertions are just as supported and logical), anger, for example, is compensation for lack of facts, necessary for the organization of adequate behavior, fear — is the lack of data necessary for the organization of defense, sorrow arises in the conditions of extreme deficit of information about the ability to be compensated for the loss, and so on.
Several authors expressed the opinion that neurotics suffer from the inability to love.
It should be emphasized, that each psychological trend was acknowledged by colleagues only when their representatives were able to present their view on the problem of neurosis in a well-argued and novel fashion.
So, there are many points of view, but no clarity; science is confused. This occurred, in our opinion, because neurotic pathology, apart from all else, has a spiritual basis, which many psychiatrists ignore or even deny. The unrestrained growth of neuroses in the 20th century is born not only of stresses and scientific/technological progress with its information overloads, but first and foremost from the intensification of sinfulness.
Throughout its history, humanity has survived wars, different natural disasters, floods, droughts, and tornadoes. And it is difficult to compare, for example, to what degree our present time is more anxious and unsettled than the epoch of Ivan the Terrible’s reign. Why did the problem of neuroses become so acute only recently? There is, it seems, only one reason — the growing faithlessness, the loss of a spiritual foundation, and with it the understanding of the meaning and goal of life.
It turns out, that the main origin of neurosis is not so much external stresses and difficulties, as much as the improper purposefulness of man, his unfortunate internal state. St. Theophan the Recluse writes about a man who is unable to direct the forces acting within him:
"Reason is clouded over, dreamy and distracted, because it is not held by the heart and is not directed by the will; the will is headstrong and heartless because it does not listen to reason and does not look at the heart; the heart is uncontrollable, blind and whimsical because it does not want to follow the directions of reason and is not sobered up by willpower. Not only did these forces loses their mutual assistance, they took on a sort of hostile approach to each other, one denies the other, as if consuming and devouring it…"
Sin, as the root of all evil, brings with it neurotic disturbances. Strengthening in the depth of the human spirit, it arouses passions, disorganizes the will, leads it out of the control of the emotions and imagination. According to St. Theophan: "the internal world of the person-sinner is filled with arbitrariness, disorder and destruction." Deep neurosis — is a sign of moral ill-health, internal disorder.
St. Theophan the Recluse points out that "the natural relationship of the composite parts of a person should be organized by the law of submission of the lesser to the greater, the weaker to the stronger; the body should be subject to the spirit, while the spirit by its nature should be directed to God. Man must exist in God with his whole being and consciousness…After falling away from God, that which had to occur, did: confusion throughout the composition of man: the spirit, separated from God, lost its strength and became subject to the body."
Professor D. E. Melichov believes, that lack of humility (pride) exists in the foundation of many mental disorders. Neurosis in this sense is not an exception. It is generally accepted that this illness develops because of conflict of personality with self (intra-mental conflict) or with other people (inter-mental conflict). Neurosis is the clash between the desired and the actual. The stronger the clash, the worse the illness.
Once, during a visit, a woman suffering from one of the forms of neurosis, emotionally and repeatedly said: "Doctor, I am tired of being ill and want to get well at any cost. In addition, I do not understand what conflict between the desired and the actual you are talking about." The doctor answered the patient something like this: "The Lord knows your sorrow, and if He does not hurry to change the present state of things, then, it seems, it is not His will to heal you immediately. For instance, when unpleasant things happened to saints, illness or sorrow, they thanked God for that and said, "I deserve this for my sins." But what is happening in our instance? "I want to be well at any cost." Here is the conflict between desire and actuality. One can and must, of course, undergo treatment, but it is very important to humble ourselves before the ill conditions that have come upon us, consider ourselves deserving of them and accept them with gratitude. The Lord will not forget you and will not send trials that are beyond your strength. The Apostle Paul assures us of this, saying: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1Cor. 10:13). Therefore calm down and do not despair. Neurosis — is a spiritual illness. Humble yourself before God, and you will feel relief!"
We read in the life of St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) how much relief humility brings: "The behavior of the novice Brianchaninov in the monastery was distinguished by absolute obedience and deep humility. For his first task, he was assigned to the bakery. The baker was a former serf. It happened that on the first day of work in the bakery, someone had to go to the stockroom for flour. The baker told him brusquely: "All right, brother, go for the flour!" — and threw him the flour bag so, that he became covered with flour. The new novice humbly took the bag and went. In the stockroom, spreading the bag with both hands and holding it with his teeth as instructed by the baker, so that it would be more comfortable to pour the flour in, he felt a new, strange feeling in his heart, which he had never felt before: his humble behavior, the flouting of the feeling of insult, so sweetened his soul, that he remembered this moment the rest of his life."
Most modern researchers agree that neurosis is an individual illness. A person does not become ill with neurosis all at once: this illness has its preliminary stage. One can draw a distinctive portrait of a "potential" neurotic — actually, there would be a whole gallery of types, each of which would have the tendency to pass from potential, hidden ailing powers to real ones. One of the distinctive peculiarities of such people is their style of thinking, bearing the character of non-compromise; one can sense that their assessments are categorical, most occurrences have no shadings and are built on the contrast of bad/good.
Neurosis often results from internal conflicting processes. The external provocative factors and events by themselves are simply the "last straw" or "starting mechanism" for the development of neurotic disorders. A person with a tendency towards this illness develops a distinctive nervous reaction to events. Some reasons for emotional suffering (conflicts, stresses) pass with time, become non-actual, but soon others replace them, and the illness intensifies.
Throughout the illness, acute and prolonged neurosis and neurotic development set the neurotic reaction apart. The suggested scheme permits the analysis of the shift from one type into another (reaction — neurosis — development). Patients diagnosed as "neurotically developed" are for all intents and purposes unable to work, and often consider them as invalids.
Neuroses can be considered a prolonged development of passions (as defined by the holy fathers, i.e. as a sinful disposition of the soul). The lack of love and humility lies in the depths of the foundations of various neurotic symptoms, and there, where there is neither of them, conceit ripens, as well as hostility, impatience, irritability, lingering resentment, envy, fear, and so on.
Some patients, suffering from prolonged neurosis, confessed: "Envy is destroying me. When I see that my neighbor or acquaintance has something better, I cannot sit still, it is as if I am burning up inside."
Many neurotics speak of spiritual lack of feeling, of internal cold. The Ven. Seraphim of Sarov taught: "God is fire, warming and kindling the hearts and insides. Thus, if we feel coldness in our hearts, which is from the devil (for the devil is cold), then we will call the Lord, and He, upon coming, will warm our hearts with perfect love, not only to Him, but to those close to us. And the coldness of the hater of good will be banished by the warmth."
In particular, we must mention the various types of fears (phobias), which arise from the infatuation with occult practices. It is thought that these fears tell a person that their soul is in a dire sinful state. It is too bad that many have become the victims of occultism in modern times. We will present the following example.
A person N, 38 years old, came for a visit. In her youth, she met a young man and wanted to marry him, but suddenly he married someone else. N. suffered greatly, cried a lot and gave in to the suggestions of her friends to "bewitch" a groom. They gave her detailed "instructions," in which even the prayers for the dead are included. Soon after completing these magic acts, N. felt a horrible fear and a pressing sense of dread, but this notwithstanding, she continued to perform these occult rituals. And N. sought medical help for neurotic phobias from psychiatrists and psychotherapists for almost 20 years; treatment brought little help. After thinking about what she had done, she realized that she had to repent and turn to God. After the first confession of her life she felt long-forgotten peace and joy in her soul.
Serious illness is another powerful psychotraumatic and neurogenic factor. Unfortunately, not everyone can accept illness in a Christian manner. Courageous acceptance of ailments is rare, more often, such people have neurotic reactions. Professor V.P. Zaitsev lists five types of similar reactions to myocardial infarctions, among them:
Every illness has spiritual roots, but it is sometimes impossible to identify them, while neurosis is singled out from among other illnesses by being a moral barometer, in a way. Its connection to the spiritual sphere is apparent, and the growth of this ailment following spiritual anguish and pangs of conscience can be rapid. But sin only paves the way for the rise of neurosis, the growth of neurotic expressions depends on the peculiarities of the personality, living conditions and upbringing, neurophysiological preconditions, as well as various stresses and other circumstances, many of which are hard to take into account. Not everything can be put into one scheme, life is much more complex. One person may develop neurosis, while in another the reaction can be limited to shock, but illness does not arise. The base essence of neuroses — is a secret known only to the Lord.
Complications associated with the search for the reasons for the commencement of neuroses, are very conditional because most scholars and practitioners attempted and attempt to resolve this complex problem independent of faith in Christ. In addition, the spirituality of the patient is replaced by education, erudition, or is not taken into account at all, is denied, though many consequences of spiritual injury in a person suffering from neurosis are revealed, in our opinion, correctly. But it is necessary to understand that, when speaking of the pathological processes of self-knowledge, of the "neurotic" order of thinking and distinctive features of the emotional sphere, these qualities were first disturbed on the spiritual level, only later were they reflected in the person’s spiritual life.
Everything stated above relates not only to neuroses, but to the wide group of disturbances making up the so-called "lesser" psychiatry: the accentuations, or pre-illness disturbances of character, acquired psychopathies and others.
It must be noted, that the clinical study of neurotic disturbances have changed fundamentally in the last 10-15 years. It has become more complex, confused (as, by the way, have the souls of the people seeking help), while the length of the illness has become more prolonged. Misunderstandings are constantly increasing among people, — even among the closest; unlocking the door of the heart and mind of the patient is becoming, in our view, harder and harder. And this is not only our observation, but also the opinion of many colleagues in this field.
Neurosis, particularly some of its forms: stubborn obsessive states, steadfast fears — can arise as the result of demonic activity. Otherwise, how can it be possible, for example, to assess the insurmountable desire to wash their hands several tens of times before meals or recount buttons on coats of people passing by, and so on? And those ailing suffer terribly, agonize over their condition, are burdened by it, but cannot do anything about it. Notably, the medical term "obsession," referring to insurmountable events, is translated as possessed. The Bishop Barnabas (Beliayev) writes: "The wise men of this world, who do not accept the existence of evil spirits, cannot explain the source and action of obsessive ideas. But the Christian, who runs into the dark powers continually and carries on a battle with them, sometimes even visibly, cannot doubt the existence of evil spirits."
A sudden thought comes down on a person like a storm, and does not give him a minute of peace. But let us say that we are talking about an experienced ascetic. He arms himself with the powerful Jesus prayer. And the battle begins and continues, with no end in sight. The ascetic recognizes those which are his own thoughts, and which are the strange, evil ones that were sown. But the entire effect is still ahead. The enemy’s thought often pledges that if the person does not give in to them or permit them, they will not disappear. He does not give in and continues to pray God for help.
And precisely at the moment, when a person thinks that truly, possibly, the battle is hopeless, and when he begins to lose faith in the possibility of a peaceful life — the thoughts suddenly disappear. This means, that the grace of God has come to assist, and the evil spirits have scattered. Heavenly light shines into the person’s soul: peace and quiet reign.
In conclusion, I wish to underline, that a person who suffers from neurosis is not better or worse than anyone else; his illness — is simply a personal event as the consequence of sin. Human nature has been damaged by sin since the days of our forefathers; therefore, all of us must repent and improve, hoping for the Lord’s help and mercy.
Facts cry out.
There is no doubt that modern life does not help people’s mental health. Societal social pressures grow every year. On the other hand, a moral crisis is evident. Many people have found themselves in a state of spiritual vacuum: having no faith in Christ in their hearts, they slip into the path of sin. And a sinful life can never bring true happiness.
Of course, there are moments of psychological breakdowns among Orthodox Christians, because no person on earth is free from sin, but the Orthodox prays to the Lord for mercy, partakes of the soul-healing mysteries of Confession and Communion, and the merciful Lord, pitying the penitent, heals their hearts and gives them spiritual peace.
The following facts reveal the state of our Russian society. The level of overall crimes from 1987 to 1996 has increased 2.2 times. The number of marriages in 1996 has decreased by 17%, while divorces have increased by 21%. The number of children born out of wedlock has increased by 76%. The number of suicides from 1985 to 1995 has increased by 79%.
The spiritual health of our young generation is particularly worrisome. The eroded spiritual reference points in society, the difficult social conditions are a difficult burden for the tender children’s souls.
Many families can be called unsuccessful: parents often abuse alcohol, and maternal alcoholics are no longer rare. Half of the 13-year-old boys and girls drink alcohol. The age for beginning smokers has dropped to 10 for boys and 12 for girls. Today, no one is surprised when schoolchildren have sexual relationships. Every 10th abortion is performed on a teenager. The use of narcotics is growing among the youth. Venereal diseases in teenagers, child prostitution — are, unfortunately, sad distinctions of our times.
By facts provided by the MVD RF, in Russia at the start of 1995 there were 50,000 abandoned children, 620,000 teenagers had police records. Teenage serial killers have appeared. Judicial psychiatry never used to have such cases and, one can conclude, what a monstrous level of aggression in society they reflect.
A child’s ordeals begin in infancy. Here is an excerpt from one young mother’s letter: "Children have been robbed of childhood. "Thanks" to television and mass information systems small children already know what sex is, and what and with whom one can perform it. When they grow older, will they be able to assess pure love? Look at what cartoons show children. The titles speak for themselves: "Insane," "Star fighters," and so on. Movies lack morality and are ignorant. Recently the cartoon movie "Everyone goes to heaven" was shown. The essence of this film: there is no need to work, one must play arduous games until they win, and cultural leisure — is a girl from a cabaret. And look at the toys offered to children: ninjas, aliens from outer space, killer-robots and so on. To what end? What can these toys give children?" Unfortunately, the author receives many similar letters, and in each — pain and sorrow on the part of the parents concerning everything occurring around them.
There was an interesting study performed by the police and national education departments in the city of Fullerton, in the state of California, USA, in March 1988. Here are the results:
Commentaries are superfluous. It is especially necessary to point out, that these frightening metamorphoses occurred in less than 50 years, from the time of strong growth of materialism in the USA. One must think that this is a natural result for any society based on materialistic ideas. The pro-American way of life is being imposed on the rest of the world this past decade. The question, to what shall it lead? — begs a troublesome prognosis.
The program of our television broadcasts are filled with monstrous names, behind which are rape and depravity. Bare bodies are exhibited in all fields of mass communications. Members of all sects are working in our Russian schools, directly undermining the spiritual valuables of Orthodoxy. The spirit of amassing wealth and bowing to the dollar, sex changes, virtual reality and euthanasia, Satanism, child pornography, instructions for suicide and terrorism — these are the frightening realities of our life.
Children are subjected to the influences of members of the occult, hypnotists and other dark personalities. The consequences of these actions on their tender souls are very dangerous. Doctors know how many severe complications people undergo after they have watched televised séances of modern "magicians." But children are our future! What will it look like?!
Main forms of neuroses.
In medicine it is typical to single out three main classical forms of neuroses: nervous breakdown, obsessive-compulsive disorder and hysteria. We shall consider them in the order that they are generally discussed in special literature.
Neurosthenia. This is considered to be the most frequent form of neurosis. It was singled out in the 1880s as an individual nosological entity. The American doctors Beard and Van Dusen, independently of each other, first wrote about this neurosis in 1869. Since then the diagnostics of neurosthenia have spread widely. Professor B.D. Karvasarsky offers a curious example: during the First World War, a special program of learning was created in the British army, upon completion of which the doctor received the title "Expert in Neurosthenia."
The given illness, as seen from its very name, is expressed by nervous weakness right down to the deep exhaustion of a person’s living powers. Sleeping hearths of infection become more acute, cholestitis, gastritis, ulcers of the stomach or duodenum make themselves felt. The illness appears to be a catalyst, highlighting the somatic pathology.
The portrait of a neurosthenic is typical — this is a person who is quick-tempered, irritable, quickly wound up, "at the drop of a hat," in whom the nerves are clearly giving out (hypersthenic form of neurasthenia) or, just the opposite, lethargic, whining, feeling tiredness and exhaustion in all of his life powers (hyposthenic form). But it is interesting to note: the high irritability and irascibility of the neurosthenic is not directed toward himself, but towards others! Everybody and everything irritates him, he is often capricious, is easily angered and enraged, but almost never rises to the spiritual height of knowing his own imperfections, mistakes and sins. In this way, neurasthenia is more or less an egotistical neurosis, nurtured by the passion, which the holy fathers called pride or conceit.
Father Alexander Elchaninov wrote: "Nervousness and so on are expressions of sin, and specifically, pride. The main neurasthenic is the devil. Can one imagine a humble, kind, patient person as a neurosthenic?" "Irritability comes from not knowing oneself, from pride, and also from not realizing the depth of our nature’s damage, and from not knowing the meek and humble Jesus." (Righteous St. John of Kronstadt). "No one should justify irritability with some illness" (Elder Ambrose of Optina).
The Archbishop Arseniy (Zhadanovsky) wrote the following concerning the reasons for irritability and loss of spiritual peace: "Sometimes an irritable state comes upon you suddenly, discontent with people around you, an oppressed state of the soul, melancholy, disappointment. The littlest thing — and your mood is ruined. Why? Apparently, your spiritual ground was prepared for this mood previously. Irritability, discontent are called out by envy, hostility towards them…"
Thus, we can infer, that neurasthenia is more or less the consequence of departing from Christ, falling into neo-heathenism. It is an expression of passions. Neurasthenia can be considered in its way the opposite of meekness, humility, patience and a peaceful structure of the spirit.
Priests of the Church paid particular attention to keeping peace of the soul under any life circumstances. "I do not wish you riches, or fame, or success, or even health, but only spiritual peace. This is the most important. If you will have peace — you will be happy" (Ven. Alexis of Zosima). A logical deduction follows: the best medicine for neurasthenia is deep repentance, a Christian way of life, with patient and humble carrying of one’s cross.
Obsessive-compulsive neurosis. Obsessions, that is, existing outside the will and desires of a person, could be specific thoughts, memories, images, doubts, as well as acts. Obsessive fears are also assigned to obsessive neuroses. If a person experiences unaccountable fears of the unknown, it is called a fear syndrome; if he fears something concrete, like darkness, heights, sharp objects, close spaces, similar obsessive states are determined to be phobias, specifying their particular fear by their names. For example, cancerophobia — fear of cancer, claustrophobia — fear of small spaces, hypsophobia — fear of heights, misophobia — fear of being dirty, pantophobia — fear of everything around you.
Sometimes phobias appear only in appropriate circumstances: fear of heights only when rising to heights, fear of mice only upon seeing one (Peter the Great, for instance, panicked at the sight of cockroaches); but sometimes they arise at the very thought of something.
Fear is inherent in fallen man’s nature ("Fear is absence of firm hope," said St. John of Damascus) and deeply biological, because man carries within himself an animal beginning, which instinctively fears threats from without: darkness, attack and so on. In many instances, this acts as a defensive mechanism, protecting us from all threats to our well-being. By fearing, a person becomes more cautious, is able to protect himself, to save himself from approaching threat. Fear is instituted by nature in the memory from previous generations, as psychoanalysts say, in the "collective unconscious" (Carl Young).
But neurotic fears are characteristically not based on any real threat, or it is an illusory or unlikely threat. For example, one person suffers from cardiophobic neurosis, that is, he fears that his heart will stop at any moment. On one hand, theoretically that is possible, because sudden death occurs even among young, apparently healthy people, but the objective possibility of such a sudden heart stoppage in such a person is miniscule, while it has a place as an artificial, imagined, fantasized threat to life, conditional on false thoughts and unfounded fears.
Here is another example: a mother, fervently loving her child, all of a sudden catches herself thinking that she might suffocate him. This thought horrifies her, it does not correspond to her moral views, is not dictated by any real external circumstances — just the opposite, it is absurd, without any real reason. But, like a splinter, it becomes rooted in her consciousness, continues to bring her pain that she is ashamed to acknowledge to anyone.
Obsessive thoughts often begin with the question "What if?" Later it becomes automatic, becomes rooted in the consciousness, and, repeated often, create real difficulties in life. And the more a person battles with them, the stronger they take hold.
The main reason for the development and the very existence of neurotic fears is the overblown sensual imagination, which is usually by-passed by the special literature devoted to this subject. A person, for example, does not simply fear falling from heights, but "ignites" the imaginary situation, imagining his funeral, seeing himself lying in the coffin and so on.
Besides this, in similar states, there is weakness of mental defenses (censorship) due to the natural individualities of the given personality or as the result of a sinful state. It is common knowledge that alcoholics are more susceptible to suggestions. Debauchery substantially weakens spiritual strength. The lack of continual internal effort of self-control, spiritual sobriety and conscious administration of one’s thoughts is manifested (these efforts are described in the literature of the holy fathers).
It must also be admitted that some thoughts are in reality foreign to a given person, therefore demonic. Unfortunately, a person is often unable to determine the true source of his thoughts, and the demonic suggestion easily enters into his soul. Only experienced monks and holy people already purified by prayerful tasks and fasting, are able to reveal the approach of dark spirits. The souls of usual people, enveloped by sinful darkness, often do not sense or see this, because it is hard to see what is dark in the dark.
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) explains: "The spirits of hate conduct war against humans so cleverly, that thoughts and ideas suggested by them appear to be the person’s own."
Bishop Varnava (Beliaev) writes: "The mistake of modern persons is, they think that only they suffer "from thoughts," while in actuality they suffer even more from demons… Then, when they try to defeat thought with thought, they see that opposing thoughts — are not simply thoughts, but "obsessive" thoughts, that are impossible to deal with and before which a person is helpless, which have no logical connection and are foreign to him, extraneous and hateful… But if a person does not recognize the Church, grace, holy mysteries and the value of virtues, how can he defend himself? Of course he can’t. And then, since the heart is empty of humility and other virtues, demons come and do whatever they want with the mind and body of the person" (Matt. 12:43-45).
These words of Bishop Varnava are fully confirmed clinically. Obsessive neuroses are harder to treat than any other neurotic type. Often they do not submit to any therapy, exhausting their victims with the most severe sufferings. In stubborn obsessions a person is steadfastly deprived of his ability to work and simply becomes an invalid. "Fear causes great harm, — writes the Elder Macarius of Optina, — the body is weakened by the decline of the spirit and the absence of tranquility, and illness comes without illness." Experience shows that true recovery can come only with the grace of God.
The fear of God (reverence before their Creator) is necessary for every person, but this great gift is often distorted and replaced by animal cowardice. The fear of God has several levels, the first of which is fear of violating God’s laws — sinning, doing something vile, unworthy, and offensive, in the eyes of God. The second level applies to more accomplished pious ascetics and consists of the fear of falling away from God, losing His grace, holy peace, for this departure would mean spiritual death.
"Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom," — say the Holy Scriptures (Job 28:28). "By living without the fear of God, one cannot accomplish anything noble or amazing," writes the universal teacher of the Church St. John Chrysostom.
On the basis of the literature of the holy fathers, we can conclude that it is precisely the fear of God that is capable of healing a person of his neuroses: when a person gains this spiritual gift, then this noble fear drowns out the other small, day-to-day living fears. Just as a large wave on the ocean absorbs the small ripples, so does the true fear of God consume neurotic fears — phobias.
And finally, the last aspect related to the reason for the rise of fear, which is also not discussed in scientific literature. We see it pointed out in the Holy Scriptures: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:18). It turns out, that the presence of fear in the soul and heart of a person means the absence or lack of love for God.
Let us now briefly discuss obsessive (compulsive) actions. Their character may be very different. They often take the form of some habitual ritual and are repeated contrary to logic and necessity. For instance, the obsessive washing of hands; rituals while dressing and undressing; senseless moving of furniture; counting money constantly; tapping, rocking; avoidance of specific objects; repetition of specific words and actions upon contact with some seeming evil. A feeling of relief upon performing the obsessive action is characteristic. But this relief is temporary and soon the need to repeat the given ritual arises again.
An important moment for clarifying the nature of obsessive actions is their aforementioned alien nature and their compulsion to performing senseless acts. This is what Bishop Varnava (Beliaev) writes about this: "What is the source of this coercion, if a person with all the strength of his soul rejects and doesn’t want it, considers it an element alien and abnormal? Clearly, from another spiritual essence — evil and unclean. Then one understands the illogic of thought, this tyranny, of which scholars themselves speak, one understands the relief after completing the act… (that is, the devil departs, glad, that he forced a person to do something against his will), one understands the agonizing discontent with oneself, because the person’s conscience tortures the person for listening to the devil."
In particularly difficult cases a person cannot control himself and becomes a sort of "biorobot." Remember, for example, the ritual murder of the three monks in the Optina Monastery, performed by a criminal who later admitted, that some strange power forced him to perform this crime and he could not resist it. Other criminals often mention a similar force that overpowers the will and consciousness. This, by the way, does not lead to their release from legal responsibility. Drug addicts and alcoholics also mention a strange forcible irresistible desire. The power that stands behind all this, I think, is clear.
Hypochondria and depression.
Two more forms of neurosis are also emphasized often — hypochondria and depression. Hypochondria is an excessive withdrawal into an illness, it is the syndrome of the "imaginary patient." It features constant digging in one’s own feelings, the main focus of thoughts and ideas on the problems of one’s "precious" health, sometimes the full belief in the presence of some dangerous illness, which doctors cannot reveal, or a greatly exaggerated sickness that is present.
With time, such patients become impossible to live with, "laughing-stock for the heathen," for doctors. They constantly test their pulse, measure blood pressure, take never-ending tests, undergo EKGs, fuss with medicines and medical recommendations.
Usually, such people do not have much faith or none, because hypochondria is the violation of the second law: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…" (idol Ex. 20:4). "Idol" or "graven image" in this case is the person’s health.
Many researchers note, that there is a "desirable escape into illness" in this neurosis, as well as in hysteria, from life’s difficulties. Hypochondriacs are in great measure egotists, this often provides serious problems in a person’s life and leads not only to spiritual illnesses, but to physical ones as well. By living only for oneself, a person dooms himself to suffering — while if he sacrifices himself for others, he gains happiness, because true happiness comes from love of God and others.
And finally, depression. In clinical psychiatry, two principal types of depressive states are underscored. One of them is related to internal (endogenic) reasons and is less dependent on psychological factors and situations (endogenic depression), and the other, in contrast, develops from different tribulations, troubles, which build up in the individual-psychological exceptionalities of a person, on the scale of his values (neurotic depression).
The expression of depressive disorders is noticed in various mental illnesses. This is the most widely disseminated syndrome of spiritual disorders; about 5% of the Earth’s population suffer from it, and up to 60% of all mental pathology consists of depression states. Depression has "grown younger": its victims are no longer only the elderly or middle-aged, but also youths and even children.
Dejection, unhappiness, and melancholy — these are so characteristic of our contemporaries. Today, many consider that depression is an illness of civilization. Science knows much about the origin of depressive disorders, but among scientists, it is unacceptable to speak of sin, while the reason for many forms of abnormal dejection is precisely the sinfulness of the person.
Depression — is in its way the soul’s signal about its unfortunate, disastrous condition. But this is not "crying over sins," but the suffering of an unrepentant soul, to which demons whisper: "All is lost, there is nothing to hope for… besides death there is nothing to expect…" Unfortunately, one often hears such complaints from patients.
Depressive neurosis sometimes begins because of life complications. The person’s mood falls, nothing makes him happy, everything irritates him, he becomes dejected, everything around him is seen in a dark light. Often similar states come about because life did not follow "the right scenario," the way one wanted; something desired was not achieved, some sort of conflict occurred, a breakdown, one offended another…
Depression has different masks: sometimes it is expressed physically, such as a stomachache, headache, regular sleeplessness. This type of disorder is called masked depression.
The Most Holy Bishop Varnava (Beliaev), in one of his works, includes the statement of the ven. Sincliticius of Alexandria: "There is sorrow that benefits and sorrow that harms. Sorrow that benefits consists of grieving over your sins, over the sufferings of others and about the evil in general taking place around us… This is "Godly sorrow" (2 Cor. 7:10). But our enemy brings us worldly sorrow, which leads to melancholy. This state has to be driven away primarily by prayers and psalm-singing." He writes further: "There is one act in the science of salvation, which brings a person to God by the shortest route. That is — sorrow for sins… Spiritual experience and the portent of grace in the heart convince us, that solitary prayer accompanied by hot tears of repentance is the most powerful method of comfort. True, the first tears are bitter, acrid, but later one feels relief, joy, a ray of light. The further a person moves along the path to salvation, the lighter the load on the soul… This is a wonderful act of grace!"
But there is another sorrow, which the Apostle Paul calls the sorrow of the world (2 Cor. 7:10). A fashion-plate cries about not having a new spring hat and that her boots have gone out of style, that "this one" began to court "that one," and "that one" is prettier or happier than she. A young person is sad about not having enough pocket money to spend on pleasures; a couple is unhappy with each other, each only seeing defects in the other. Workers, doctors, engineers, lawyers — all are unhappy with their insufficient salary, there is never enough; a merchant is in despair over a loss, and so on, and so forth. Everyone cries and mourns, even those living in wealth and luxury. They sorrow over things which are mortal. This is a demonic sadness… A person suffers, sighs, tries to live his life without sadness, forgetting about God and the salvation of his soul.
The person goes to a doctor, who prescribes sedatives and medicines for improving moods. Clearly, this is not healing a spiritual illness, but numbing the consciousness of a person… But we must mention that we have neurotic depression in mind here. In those cases when the depressive state continues for more that two or three weeks, has daily (morning — worse, evening — better), and seasonal (spring and fall) fluctuations, the sick person requires medical attention.
The most immediate connections are determined between neurotic depressive disorders and the virtuous-moral state of a person. As doctors, we, of course, relieve the sufferings of our patients with medications, discussions, as well as simple human sympathy, but satisfaction during a patient’s visit comes only when the discussion turns to soul, faith, and repentance. With the consent and willingness of the patient, we try to evaluate the symptoms of his illness from a spiritual viewpoint.
The spiritual roots of this neurosis descend into egoism, pride, passions… A Christian gains great joy from doing good deeds, caring for others, refusing personal benefits.
The sin of suicide.
In the conclusion of the chapter on depressions, it is appropriate to speak of suicide, since it is precisely despair that is the forerunner of this terrible act.
Suicide is the willing deprivation of one’s life. The sad statistic of suicides in Russia was secret for a long time. In the beginning of 1989, for the first time in the last 60 years, the overwhelming numbers were publicized, and each was preceded by hopeless despair, the loss of the reason for living. Yearly more than 60,000 Russians lay hands on themselves — this is a whole city of suicides. And this is particularly tragic, because the suicides among young people 20-24 have grown by 2.9 times. In other age groups of adults, this number increased by 1.6-1.8 times.
Here is another eloquent fact: the level of suicides in Russia in 1915 equaled 3.4 persons per 100,000, in 1985 it was 24.5, in 1991 it was 31, and in 1993 it was already 38.7. Even higher numbers were noted for 1998.
Twenty percent of all suicides are performed by children and youths up to 19 years of age. In 1996 alone: 5-14 years old — 2756 suicides; 14-19 — 2358, and these are only the recorded suicides. Ninety-two percent of the children suicides were performed by children in unhappy families.
What are the reasons for suicide? The doctors’ point of view is the following: an overwhelming number of suicide victims are mentally healthy. Suicide is a personal crisis. Social factors do not have a decisive part, this is a spiritual problem.
Archbishop John (Shahovsky) writes: "Poor suffering suicides! You did not accept atonement, the short-term earthly purifying sufferings — sweet for the acceptor — oh, sweeter than those imaginary pleasures for which you died in grief. Yes, it was in your power to do that which the evil power whispered to you, that did not have any power over you at that moment, but it was also in your power not to do that. It was in your power to know that God exists, that He is not only the highest Expression of Truth and Fairness, unattainable for our understanding, but even greater than all these human ideas. It was in your power to understand, that God cannot give a Cross and not give strength, — that it was in your power to turn to God, to save yourself by calling (not falsely) His Name…"
Suicides before their suicide have no idea that there stands a vile, inexpressibly evil spirit behind their backs, urging them to kill the body, break the precious "clay vessel" protecting the soul until God’s set time. And this spirit suggests, and urges, and demands, and compels, and frightens with all sorts of fears: only in order that a person would press the trigger or jump over the windowsill, running away from life, from his unbearable anguish… The person doesn’t even guess that the "unbearable anguish" — is not from life, but from his depressed spirit, which sees everything in a black light. The person thinks that he himself is reasoning, and comes to a suicidal decision. But in fact, it is not he, but one is speaking through his thoughts whom the Lord called "murderer from the beginning…"
A person only agrees unknowingly, unseeingly takes the sin of the devil on himself, binds himself to sin and to the devil… One repentant prayerful word, just one sign of the salutary Cross and one look on It with faith — and the web of evil is torn, the person is saved by the power of God… Only a small spark of living faith and devotion to God — and the person is saved!
Influence of mood on physical health.
Neurosis is not the only consequence of internal conflict, different physical illnesses can also result. Nervous "lava" beats like a whip on the vessels and bronchi, penetrates the stomach, squeezes the heart with a steel fist. Scientists single out a special group of disorders, which are now called psychosomatic, because nervous factors are one of the main reasons for their occurrence.
Traditionally, the following illnesses are considered part of this group: stomach ulcers and ulcers of the duodenum, hypertension, ischemia and bronchial asthma. Lately the following have been added, not without basis: ulcerative colitis, tireotoxicosis, myoma of the uterus, rheumatoid arthritis and a series of other illnesses. Modern medicine considers that around 80% of all illnesses are in one way or another associated with mental disorders.
The Ven. Ambrose of Optina wrote, in letters to laymen, that "illnesses most often occur as a result of the anxious state of the soul." And the Ven. Ephraim of Syria says: "The irate person kills and destroys his soul, because his whole life is spent in confusion and is remote from peace. Peace is alien to him, he is also a long way from health, because his body aches, and his soul grieves, and his body wilts, and his face is pale, and his thought betrays, and his reason is exhausted, and dark thoughts flow like a river…"
Confusion and nervousness, as was mentioned earlier, often have sinful roots. Sin, expanding in the depths of the spirit, conquers both the soul and body of a person. The origin of psychosomatic pathology can be sketched as the process of expression, or "materialization" of sin: sin — character — illness. Obviously, this scheme should be applied carefully and not to all cases.
But sometimes the Lord can permit an illness to test the faith of a person, or for his spiritual perfection. It is enough to remember the great sorrows of Job the Much-Suffering, the great patience of the Ven. Pimen the Much-Ailing, the illnesses of the Ven. Seraphim of Sarov, or Ambrose of Optina and many other sycophants of God.
Internal pressure, confusion, anxiety together with other sins can provoke a person to drink, to use narcotics… Psychologists, for example, determined several character traits characteristic of "alcoholics." According to data provided by V.T. Kondrashenko, some are easily hurt, are poorly prepared for practical living, weak-willed; others — are overly sure of themselves, vain, have difficulty with life’s misfortunes, stubbornly thirst for attention. If psychotrauma is added to these character traits, the possibility of a nervous breakdown is greatly increased.
But let us remind you, that the main reason for overuse of alcohol and narcotics is conscious sin, and the Lord treats it by way of repentance. Doctors and psychologists, medicinal preparations and psychocorrectional methods (morally applicable) — are simply support, but no more.
The distinctions of childhood neuroses.
The extensiveness of borderline neuro-mental states among children and teenagers has reached a previously unknown level — about 80% of children in Russia need medical-psychological assistance. Among youths, recognized as unqualified for army recruitment on the basis of health, 47% are mentally ill. Increased nervousness, excitement, emotional instability, tendency to conflicts, sleep deprivation — are typical symptoms, found in 8 out of 10 children.
Most authors underline the negative role of improper upbringing in the origin of neurotic reactions among children. The well-known specialist in children’s neuroses, Prof. A. I. Zacharov, emphasizes the following aspects:
The expressions of childhood neuroses are varied: emotional instability and over-sensitivity, whining, easily changing mood, capriciousness, excitability, difficulty in falling asleep, uneasy dreams, night fears, thumb sucking, biting skin around nails, stuttering, eneuresis, nervous tics and so on. Some symptoms are seen more often in one age group, others — in another.
Let us present an example. A grandmother visits the doctor about her 9-year-old grandchild. Her parents often fought, created scandals, and finally divorced, the father left the family. Because of this, the child developed bronchial asthma, but no allergy or change in the bronchial-lung matter was revealed, and she did not have frequent colds. It turned out that the girl has a neurogenic form of asthma; the neurotic conflicts were the reason for the asthmatic attacks. This illness — is the cry of the child’s soul.
Another distinction of childhood neuroses is the change of behavior. Some children run away from home, skip classes, others begin to smoke, try alcohol. Most of these children wind up on the street and are raised by its rules. Who is to blame? The parents. The children must be loved, they must be reared, they must be prayed for. The betterment of the child’s mental state in large part depends on the parents, their spirituality, their relationship, on the atmosphere they create at home.
Children must be protected from any deleterious influence, because these days a whole slew of different types of obscenities are poured on their tender souls. Parental piety — is an effective example for children to imitate. Its opposites are drunkenness, non-spirituality, amoral behavior — alas, also an effective example, but one that is lethal. The Most Holy Patriarch Alexis II said, that "if there is no consciousness of sanctity in the soul, the abomination of desolation becomes entrenched in it."
Let us consider those psychopathological states, which can be revealed in infancy and early childhood and that demand medical attention.
Neuropathy — is characterized by increased irritability, capriciousness of the child, unstable mood, expressed by fearfulness. Such a child sleeps poorly, has a poor appetite, loses weight easily, his attention is diverted quickly. Subfebrility can be a symptom (small but persistently raised temperature, around 98.78-99.14), diarrhea, neurogenic vomiting.
The syndrome of early childhood autism (alienation) — is characterized by the lack of desire to socialize with peers or surrounding adults. The child is emotionally cold, indifferent to others, says little, sometimes completely refuses to associate, tends to move stereotypically. In newborns with this pathology, there is no "complex of animation" in response to emotional advances.
Hyperkinetic syndrome: its characteristics are uncontrolled motor functions, extreme (unhealthy) activity. The child is unbalanced, hysterical, acts with no consideration for the circumstances, unable to follow accepted rules of behavior. It is usually difficult for these children to adapt to school, they are overly restless, absent-minded, continually put a strain on others and provoke other children to wrong behavior. Sensing their defect, it seems like they do everything to others "on purpose" — and a vicious circle begins.
Hyperkinetic syndrome in its development has two tendencies. In one case, with God’s help, through the competent tactics of parents, psychologists, teachers and doctors, it weakens and disappears by 12-14. In the other — it transforms into psychopathy, and the individual becomes even less able to adjust, more isolated. The second tendency is extremely unpleasant.
Among neurotic disorders beginning in childhood or youth are tics — involuntary, fast, non-rhythmic movements of a limited group of muscles (blinking, twitching); non-organic eneuresis (involuntary urination day or night inappropriate to age); stuttering.
School neurosis can develop during the earliest school years. The reasons for this are the psychological unpreparedness of the child for school, unacceptance by his peers, humiliation, assault, excessive strictness and inexperience of the teacher. The child suffering from this neurosis looks depressed, refuses to go to school, imitates (often unknowingly) different illnesses. Parents should be attentive, be able to recognize his spiritual difficulties and help him. A medical consultation or the advice of an experienced psychologist would not be amiss.
But it is important to remember that child psychology does not enter into ideas such as faith in God and Orthodox spirituality, Christian virtue, churchgoing, does not mention sins and passions, that is, the science of the soul is developed, while at the same time denying the existence of the human soul and ignoring the Creator. While such secularization is possible, say, in geometry or car building, it is totally impermissible in a science studying the laws of a person’s spiritual life.
Psychology, while correctly expounding on many particulars and details, unfortunately does not see the whole picture. Raising children in the spirit of true virtue, not fictitious spiritual and emotional health, is impossible without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and without the help of God. Only by God’s grace does the person’s soul become purified, enlightened and filled with understanding. Without grace it is not only incapable of perfection, but it cannot comprehend the entire tragedy of its disastrous state.
By God’s mercy, books and articles by religious psychologists are now appearing, including priests which were educated in psychology before entering the priesthood. Thus, the spiritual vacuum of psychology is being filled, which for well-known reasons has been dominant the last eight decades.
Healing neuroses — suggestions and warnings.
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.
Can the blind lead the blind?
Neuroses are traditionally treated by psychotherapy.
The Orthodox Church has always very decisively spoken out against all occult activities and magic. The "Book of Rules," based on the decisions of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the directions of the holy fathers, and being the collection of church laws, distinctly and clearly determines this activity to be ruinous and satanic. Naturally, then, no spiritual father would dare to suggest going to a medicine man, fortuneteller or medium. But he can bless turning to a professional psychotherapist for help. But in this case, the person can still often be in serious danger.
Psychotherapy — is a medical specialization, not connected so much with healing in the usual sense of the word, as much as acting on the personality of the ill person, on his soul. It creates good goals for itself, tries to comfort the sorrowing person, helps him gain spiritual balance. But in practice the following complex situation occurs: this area of medicine is spiritually powerless when trying to heal the person’s soul and is in close contact with it, because it has no moral reference points. One cannot relieve the spiritual burden of another person without having one’s own spiritual values. "Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?" (Lk. 6:39).
A doctor can have a medical degree, the title of professor or academic, but this still does not alter the situation, if he is a materialistically minded person, or holds non-Christian viewpoints. His attempts will not give the soul the necessary reference points, moreover, they can lead it into depths of sin, and the sorrows of the ailing will only increase. How often have people, who had first sought out pseudo-psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, hypnotists and so on, turned to us for help.
Spiritual uncertainty, the helplessness of psychology and psychotherapy based on moral "pluralism," permitted the introduction of a huge amount of occult psychotechnology — western, eastern and "homemade," which is morally unacceptable.
One of the principles of modern psychological practice is, the "goal justifies the means." Often doctors offer "advice," which brings the soul obvious detriment. We often see situations, where the doctors offered patients out-of-wedlock unions — allegedly with the goal of normalizing family conflicts — which is simply recommending adultery. A person is counseled to lie or manipulate other people, if this benefits him (many similar recommendations can be found in the books by Dale Carnegie).
The tragedy of the modern science of the soul consists in indulging human passions, trying in any way possible to raise self-esteem or to emphasize meditation, mental self-regulation through altered states. The preparation of future psychotherapists is created on an amoral base. Thus, the computer examination is filled with all sorts of indecencies., Let us present an example, so as not to be considered unsubstantiated. To the question "What would you suggest a person that is ill with psychosthenia, read in order to enliven his flaccid neocortex?" — the correct answer is: "The works of Guy de Maupassant." Commentaries are superfluous…
The doctor does not choose the patients. Most often, we have people who are unbelievers or those who do not know the true God — people of other faiths, neo-heathens. But there are also many who are in search of Truth. Precisely because of this, the psychotherapist has the responsibility of both doctor and human. His task is to help the patient limited by illnesses and conflicts, confusions and losses.
For the doctor devoted to psychotherapy, it is important to have true spiritual values, which would determine his work with patients. Without a personal, and, we add — Orthodox — spiritual platform, he will not be able to distinguish the situational (psychosocial) and biological reasons for the illnesses from the existential, world-view ones. If the patient is one whose soul desires to find the Lord, the Orthodox psychotherapist must help him in this.
The doctor, of course, cannot be a substitute for a priest, he only precedes him, sometimes acting as a "barrier," keeping the patient from falling into greater temptations and sins — drunkenness, adultery, suicide.
Unfortunately, today the number of Christian psychiatrists and psychotherapists is a minority. This, as we see it, is one of the reasons for the poor effectiveness of help with neuroses. Psychotherapy today has thousands of psychocorrectional techniques. The very quantity shows that psychotherapists do not know how to heal a person. True recovery from spiritual disorders begins with a repentant attitude toward God. But in this area, most psychotherapists are complete ignoramuses.
In summary, we can say that the only psychotherapeutic help that will be helpful and healthy, is that which leads to Christ, and is led by an Orthodox doctor or psychologist, leading a Christian way of life. In that case, the word of the specialist will be supported by the blessed power of God and will comfort the sick, point out the path to Him, Who is the Truth, the Way and the Life!
The ill person’s correct evaluation of his own failings and mistakes is very important on the path to psychological self-help. We often try to justify ourselves and seek reasons in other people or external circumstances. The wisdom of the holy fathers teaches us never to justify ourselves, because humans by nature are selfish, and will always find a way to distort an alibi in their favor for the true state of affairs (for instance, maybe I did get angry and was rude, but I am also a live being, while he should have… and so on, gradually becoming more and more convinced in the guilt of the other and justifying oneself).
Instead of self-justification, it is better to blame oneself, to try to determine the reasons for the fall, which is usually hidden in selfishness, conceit, and especially pride. "Where there is a downfall, there pride is established first of all; for pride is the precursor of downfall" (Ven. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain).
One of the active psychological methods is rationalization. First of all, one must calm down, pray; then take a clean sheet of paper, a pen, and attentively, soberly analyze the evolved conflicting situation, write out the main reasons for strife and possible ways of resolving the conflict, weigh the "pros" and "cons," look at the needs and fears of all the participants of the resulting misunderstanding, find true arguments in favor of composure, self-control, humility.
In conjunction with this, one can observe several formerly unnoticed situations, essential psychological nuances. The resulting stage of rationalization must be a specific decision, because the longer there is an undetermined, double relationship to the conflict, the harder it is to resolve, and therefore, to restore spiritual balance. The enemy of our salvation is always trying to take away our spiritual peace, to confuse, to bring to melancholy. We will not give in to his suggestions.
Foresight. Notwithstanding the variety of life’s circumstances, many of them are repeated often and are in some sense a "cliché." By experience it is known, that we are capable of "tripping," losing spiritual peace or giving into temptation in the same circumstances time and again. Therefore, we must prepare ahead of time for difficulties… We cannot foresee everything, of course, but we can prepare for many and try to deter them. Preparation must consist not only of thought, but also of prayer, talks with a spiritual guide, his counsel and blessing.
St. Theophan suggests: "In the morning, after prayer, sit and figure out what you must do during the day, where you will be, with what and whom you will meet, and, when applicable, determine ahead of time what to think, where, what to say, how to keep your spirit and body and so on. This means, that the true Christian must "control himself," keep control over the actions of his soul, and not permit them to crawl wherever they want. He must be the ruler of his internal condition."
Substitution — is a simple and effective method. Who doesn’t know how pleasant it is to listen to church singing, to read spiritually-enlightening literature, to walk along a forest path, to listen to birds singing, to admire the flowers in the meadow… One person enjoys working on his cabin, another — meeting friends and an evening spent in sincere and soul-warming society and so on. There are many similar recommendations; every person can add to this list with attention to oneself. The ability to rest with benefit for the soul is wisdom, which is worth attaining.
A few words concerning the use of medications for neuroses (tranquilizers, antidepressants). In the case of neurotic states, when the symptoms of the illness are directly related to psychological factors and living conditions, medications serve an assisting role, weakening the internal pressure and dulling the acuteness of complaints. They are usually prescribed for a short period of time. The main condition of recovery will be the search for the optimum resolution of the conflict, and in the spiritual plane — humility and repentance.
In cases of neuroses and neurotic-like states, phytotheraphy is a great help, that is, the use of medicinal herbs for healing. But we will note that it does not remove the reason for the neurosis and only relieves the symptoms.
Traditionally, the following herbs have been used: valerian roots, peppermint (leaves), hops (cones), motherwort (grass), rough marsh bedstraw (grass), hawthorn (flowers), German chamomile, caraway seeds. Here is an approximate list of the sedatives, which can be used independently — they do not require a prescription (in Russia): valerian extract (or tincture), Valerianachel, Percen, glycine, motherwort extract (or tincture), Novo-passit, Deprim, Valocerdin, preparations of tranquilizers No. 2, 3, Corvalol, Corvaldin, Adonis-brom, Validol, Valocardin, drops of Zelenin. How to use them and their doses are included either in inserts or on the packaging.
Raisins, dried apricots and honey act beneficially on the nervous system…
Let us speak of healing with honey in more detail. Its effectiveness is well-known: it gives good result in neurasthenia, nervous overexertion, after long and psychologically difficult tasks.
The Bulgarian scientist Stoimir Mladenov offers the following scheme for healing with honey: 100-120 g. of floral bee honey a day for 2.5-3 weeks. One should take 30 g. of honey morning and night, and after lunch — 40 g. In the evening, honey should be dissolved in a glass of cool water and drunk half an hour before sleep. In 10-12 days from the beginning of this treatment, sick people, or those with pre-illness disorders, as a rule sleep well, gain vigor, their working ability increases.
The benefit of toughening the organism is also worth mentioning. Physical toil within one’s strength, work in the garden, light running, walks, swimming. A tired body troubles the soul with irritability, unseemly thoughts.
Now we will consider sleeplessness, since this complaint is found among the majority of patients suffering from neurotic disorders. Sleep is a sensitive moral barometer. It changes (worsens, improves) depending on our spiritual and emotional states. One sleeps poorly after hurtful conversations, from sins that torment the soul. The Lord grants good, deep sleep.
We repeat well-known truths to those patients whose hearts are open to faith: it is absolutely necessary to pray both morning and evening (experience shows that if for any reason you sacrificed prayers before sleep — you will sacrifice deep sleep as well), read the Gospel, make the sign of the cross before sleep on your room and bed, drink holy water and bless the house with it, if it is not blessed. And most importantly, go to Confession and partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Many people, who begin to follow this plan with faith and hope in the Lord, feel a great improvement in their well-being and gain spiritual peace.
Psychological suggestions can be the following. First of all, permit yourself to not sleep, do not overload yourself with thoughts of sleep and its rapid onset. Often a person suffers more from worrying about not sleeping than from sleeplessness. Late evening is a time for quiet activities and relaxed conversations. Take a walk before sleep, refuse a large meal, air out the room. Take a warm shower or soak your feet in warm water.
Here is another suggestion: soak two teaspoons of hops in a glass of boiling water, let it stand 4 hours, strain, drink the glass before night. Before sleep, rub lavender oil on the temples or drop 3-5 drops of lavender oil on a sugar cube and suck it before sleep. It helps to attach a linen bag with dried valerian roots at the head of the bed. It has been observed that dark bedding helps calm the nervous system.
Pharmacies have sedatives, which can be used for calming and improving sleep. A medical consultation would help. Sleeping pills should be taken only under the direction of a doctor; decoctions and tranquilizing extracts can be used independently.
Remember that spiritual and physical health — is a gift of God, and one must treat it carefully.
Problems of age.
"Doctor, tell me what I should do. I am 50 years old. Until 50, I was a calm and even-tempered person. At the present time, because of aging, I do not recognize myself: I am irritable, whiny, I have trouble sleeping, I have no strength. I find it hard to stand during the church service. I am first hot, then cold. I perspire, my head spins. I have begun to pray less, I am not able to cope with household tasks. What should I do? Respectfully, E.K."
Dear E.K.! As you have correctly diagnosed, the well-known symptoms of menopause are at the root of your problem. Many changes are occurring in your organism in connection with hormonal reconstruction. The complaints which you listed are, unfortunately, typical.
First of all, I want to calm you down. This time will pass, and your feelings will normalize. All you need is time and patience. You are neither the first nor the last. Do not demand the former level of activity of yourself. The spiritual conflict is born precisely because the woman automatically tries to remain at original levels, be just as active as before, cope with everything, but at this time this is either very difficult or simply impossible.
Therefore calm down, reconcile yourself to the fact that you are just a bit ill. Talk to your household. If you have grown children, then this is the perfect time for them to roll up their sleeves and help in the house.
In church, one should choose a less occupied area, where there is more air. Everything can be organized; it is not worth panicking or getting discouraged.
Tinctures of soothing herbs will greatly help. It is good to eat honey; eat dried apricots, raisins, take multivitamins. Walks outdoors are very healthy.
I will also add that now there are medicinal mixtures of various properties and actions, eliminating the ill effects of menopause.
It is interesting to note the following in the spiritual level. At this time, a woman’s naturally negative sides of her character (read: sins) can become more acute. Say, if a woman earlier felt a tendency toward melancholy or irritability, these characteristics clearly become more felt, and she can no longer control herself. Take this into account. May the Lord grant you health and spiritual peace.
Dangerous “infection” (modern temptations).
A 50 year old woman visits her doctor with her 23 year old daughter V. The circumstances which led to them to visit a doctor are such: the girl, until recently a student of one of the capital’s colleges, had been infatuated with the creativity (if such can be said) of a famous western rock group. She created a whole collection of audio and video recordings, clippings from newspapers and journals, photographs of these musicians. This lasted a year to a year and a half.
Rock music has a strong influence, both on the mental as well as the physical condition of the person. The well-known researcher of rock and roll John-Paul Regembal writes: "The strength of rock is in the irregular pulsations, rhythms, evoking a bio-mental reaction of the organism, capable of influencing the functions of different organs of the body (in part, the beat can speed up the heartbeat and increase the amount of adrenalin, as well as sexual excitement).
If, for instance, the short rhythm equals 1 ½ beats per second and is accompanied by a heavy pressure of super-low frequencies (15-30 hertz), it can strongly arouse a person. If the rhythm equals 2 beats per second, at the same frequency, the listener falls into a dancing "trance," which is similar to a narcotic one. Modern rock-groups utilize the spectrum of 80 thousand hertz to 20, or even less. The intensity of sound reaches 120 decibels, even though human hearing is tuned to an average intensity of 55 decibels. This is a definite storming of the entire individual. There have been cases when an overabundance of high or low frequencies strongly traumatized the brain.
Contusions of sound are common at rock concerts, as well as sound burns, hearing and memory loss. It is impossible to expose yourself to rock for extended periods of time and not be psycho-emotionally traumatized. In addition, there is a loss of control over the ability to concentrate; control over mental activity and will is significantly weakened; unrestrained outbursts lead to destruction, vandalism and revolt, especially in large gatherings, where the mental field of the crowd, the enhanced aforementioned influences of rock, for all intents and purposes deprive a person of individuality, turn him into part of a machine directed by satanic leaders.
As we can see, rock music has a destructive influence on the character of a person. It is not by accident that many rock soloists are drug addicts and even openly Satanists" (from an article by N. Bogoliubov).
Free internet access became available in the institute, where V. was a student. What happened! The girl began to skip lectures, her grades fell sharply. All her thoughts were occupied with rock idols. She jumped from site to site, searching new details of personal lives, tastes, habits of her favorites.
With time the ability to "surf" the Internet clearly became insufficient, and V. began to search for any other type of connection. In the meantime, the girl’s sphere of interest widened, she began to be interested in much which, as she put it, "is shameful to mention." The Internet attracted her like a magnet, V. could not live without it even a day. She thought time was wasted, if she could not submerge herself in the "sea of fascinating information."
V.’s behavior changed noticeably. She began to be irritable, talked back to her mother. From lack of sleep (because Internet access is cheaper at night) her head began to ache, her vision worsened. In the Internet-café, which she began to visit regularly, she made dubious acquaintances. Once she was offered heroin, and "grass," which, the girl admitted, she had tried, and more than once. "I thought, — she said, — that it would help me with my tiredness, to overcome sleepiness." Within a year V. was expelled from the institute for poor grades, but this did not sober her up. Her mother rang the alarm, understanding that the computer, or rather the passion, would completely destroy her only daughter.
The mother calls herself a religious person. V. says: "I believe in God, but I almost never go to church." Still, she agreed to visit only an Orthodox psychotherapist.
Thank God, the girl recognized that in the last two years she did not live a real, but a "virtual," world, and was a captive of her passions. This passion, apparently, can be can Internetmania. Looking at the image of the Holy Mother of God in my office, V. asked hopefully:
— Will the Lord help me?
— Of course, He will help, — I answered, — nothing is impossible for God. You must ask Him for this with all your heart, begin to go to church, truly repent of your sins and have firm resolve not to return to them.
The girl listened attentively, and in her tearful eyes, as it seemed to me, a ray of hope appeared. I prescribed sedatives, made several recommendations, and we separated, agreeing to meet in a week. This was the first clinical visit related to the Internet in my practice. Unfortunately, it seems that one can expect other similar types of visits.
When the soul “quakes.”
At one time I met with a curious clinical case. I had to lead a consultation in which mother and son suffered from obsessive fears for their health and alternately induced one another.
The phenomenon of obsession is determined to be the appearance in the consciousness of a thought, image or some event, not connected at the given moment with the content of the consciousness, and seen by the ailing as emotionally unpleasant. Obsessive fear predominates in the thoughts of the neurotic, generates emotional tension, assists to disadapt a person to his surroundings.
During the conversation, it turned out that the mother of my patient received lengthy treatment from psychiatrists for obsessive fears, while the son grew as a very impressionable, emotional boy. His first obsessive fear appeared after a cancerous swelling. The patient continually checked his body, studied medical literature concerning oncology, was depressed, inhibited. The young man added that the fear arose suddenly, after his mother told him about her old illness.
Then new fears arose in the mother about her health. She decided that she had leukemia, because she felt listless, apathetic. After an oncologist’s checkup they were both found to be healthy and she soon recovered from her imaginary illness, but then became ill of phobias twice more. Once this was connected with the grandmother’s heart attack — and they decided that they suffered from heart ailments. Another time they feared dying in an automobile accident. And this fear arose first in one, and only later in the other.
There are similar cases, when after one member of the family was ill with obsessive fears other household members became ill. S.N. Davidenko wrote about a patient, suffering from a tic and the fear of blushing or sweating. His mother’s sister suffered from an obsession concerning overperspiration, one of her daughters — the fear of blushing, the sister of the patient himself — the fear of heart attack. What possibilities…
A family, which came to me for consultation, was non-believing. When a person does not have faith, there is no fear of God, and instead of them, others may "blossom" — sickly, absurd, obsessive fears. The soul is Christian by nature, therefore, if it exists in a non-spiritual atmosphere, it sorrows and "quakes" for any reason.
Involutionary melancholy (psychology of aging).
"Mother was diagnosed with "involutionary melancholy." Please tell me about this illness."
Involutionary melancholy — is an illness which can surface at an elderly age. Even the name reveals that the basis of the abovementioned pathology is a sick depressed mood. The main symptoms of involutionary melancholy are apprehension and sorrow, which can be expressed in different degrees of severity.
Usually this illness develops gradually. The initial period usually lasts 2-3 months, when the precursors begin to be felt: worsening sleep, growing fatigue, weakness, loss of memory.
Provocative factors that can be characteristic for this age are changes in social status, material condition, loss of a husband or wife, forced change of habitat, conflicts with children. Many elderly people are concerned about the political, economic instability of our era, characterized by local wars, drops in national currency with the loss of savings, and many other circumstances.
An old French proverb states: "Everyone ages as he lived." There is a deep meaning in these words. The body ages with each year, but the soul… The soul is immaterial, and if it is with God, then with age it brings good fruit. St. Theophan the Recluse, speaking of the different ages of a virtuous Christian life, thus described old age: "This is a time, when the internal battle calms down and the person begins to taste peace and sweetness of the gathered spiritual blessings. The farmer, eating the fruits of his labor after harvest, or dough, leavened and soured, fully risen, — these are images of old age. The most wise Sirach portrays the actions of wisdom, how it first tests its beloved, then turns to him, gladdens him and reveals its secrets to him (Sir. 4:18 and on). This last is the character of spiritual maturity. We assign such a person strength, gravity, steadfastness, experience."
Priest and doctor Father Valentin Zhohov writes of the elderly Christian: "Before us is not an old man, but an elder, evoking the feeling of respect. Such Christians, with faces like icons, can only be found among the Orthodox. Handsomeness does not come by itself, but is the result of efforts and patient suffering."
One of my old friends related that he searched for Truth a long time, thought about eternity, but only became a confirmed Orthodox Christian after he met the glance of an elderly woman, returning from a church service. "How much simplicity, humility, nobility there was in her appearance, walk… And there was so much kindness in her eyes!" — he recalled.
Probably many Orthodox are familiar with the worrisome-reverent feeling which one feels when talking with an experienced elder, spiritual father. After such meetings there is sweetness, peace and quiet in the heart. But most of the present elderly population — are children of the 1930s and 40s. Year after year, decade after decade, atheistic "order" has been seeded in their souls. The Party, Komsomol applied their "values" to them. Rethinking life with time, particularly in these latter years, some of them have come to church, repented, found God, while others remain captives of the "ideals" of youth, waste time and waning strength on meetings, curse the civil authorities, are offended and disappointed.
Melancholy becomes as natural to them as breathing. Why, one can understand this on a human basis: life passed, but justice remains elusive. Responsibilities and awards are in the past, and money has lost value after reforms. The soul is worried; the feelings of approaching illnesses, fear and the bitterness of real or imagined solitude do away with its peace. There are cases when such old people kill themselves.
It is interesting to note the following: the kernel of personality is revealed with age. For example, a kind person does not lose his kindness, the sensitive may become weepy/good-natured, while the selfish become miserly, and so on.
Your mother should be observed regularly by a doctor-psychiatrist. If she is a religious person, then it would be good to meet with her spiritual father or the priest to whom she goes to confession. Explain your mother’s illness to the priest, so that he could construct the necessary strategy for caring for her soul, ask him for his prayers…
When a child sleeps poorly.
"Our child is 4 years old. He doesn’t sleep well at night, twists and turns, grinds his teeth in his sleep, wakes up and goes from his bed to ours. What should we do?"
There can be many reasons why a child doesn’t sleep well. One must consider the following conditions: is the child healthy, is he outdoors enough, does he become overexcited during playtime, does he fear darkness, is his bed comfortable and so on. If he goes to daycare, then you must find out what his relationships are like with his peers, with his teacher. All these circumstances are very important.
Sometimes, the child gets a good nap during the day and then sleeps worse at night. On average the child of 3-4 should sleep 10-11 hours. Many children at this age do without a nap. If the child has slept during the day, the interval between the nap and bedtime at night should be no less than 3-3 ½ hours.
Speaking of recommendations, first of all I will point out the necessity of keeping to a daily schedule. One should put the child to sleep at a regular time. You should spend some time next to him, make the sign of the cross over him and bless him for the coming sleep. Speak softly, kindly, calmly. He may not want to part with you, he may have a subconscious fear of losing his parents, finding himself alone. Hug him, kiss him, make him a comfortable "nest," let him take a beloved toy to bed. If during the day something has not been fully said, if you have punished the child, then you must explain why he was punished and forgive everything. In a word, the situation should be resolved by evening.
And remember: the Lord grants a healthy, deep sleep. Orthodox parents teach their children prayers, the sign of the cross, and the child will not fall asleep until he makes the sign of the cross on himself. He knows that he is protected, that he is not alone: the Lord is with him, the Most Holy Mother of God, his Angel-Protector, multitudes of saints are praying for him, for mother, father and for all Orthodox Christians. The child attends church services, partakes of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. His parents are married in the church; their house is blessed in the name of the Most Holy Trinity; there is a crucifix, icons, a votive, in his room. The child has God’s and parental blessing, on his chest is a cross with which he never parts. This is the internal and external world of a child in an Orthodox home.
You ask what should you do if the child comes to the parents’ bed. First of all, you should be calm. You can offer that he go to the bathroom, and then decide: should he stay until morning or will you take him back to his bed. And in future always be consistent, stick to the original decision.
Concerning the grinding of teeth, this occurs from involuntary contraction of muscles in the jaw and points to sleep that is not deep enough, to the excitability of the child. One can use herbs that serve as sedatives for calming the nervous system. I can recommend glycine, 1-2 tablets a day under the tongue, a spoonful of honey just before sleep, a warm shower before bedtime.
There are audiocassettes with the lives of the saints on sale in churches, reworded for small children. If there is a tape player at home, then it is good to play a soul-healthy recording for the child for 20-30 minutes. If then sleep has not improved, then come for a visit to me or to another specialist.
"The doctor said that I have vegetal-vascular dystonia. What kind of an illness is this, how does it come about and how should it be treated?"
Very often people come to the doctor, suffering from what is a widespread illness at present, which is called "neuro-circulatory dystonia" (NCD) or vegetal-vascular dystonia.
At the base of this pathological state is the overexertion of the central nervous system, which results in the disruption of the regulation of the vascular system, worsening of the blood-supplying organs and tissues, trophic disorders, worsening of the ability of capillaries to carry blood. In professional literature this pathology is also known as the "anxiety syndrome."
Other risk factors are often added to the original nervous overexhaustion. Among them are the chronic periodontic infections (tonsillitis, haimoritis, carious teeth), head traumas, consequences of acute or chronic intoxication (first of all alcoholic, and now narcotic). Symptoms of this illness are connected primarily with the disruption of the functioning of one or another vegetative processes. Among them are headaches, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion, excess perspiration, sensitivity to cold, sensitivity to weather changes, inconsistency of arterial pressure, worsening of sleep and others.
More serious complications of this illness are hypertonic illness, arteriosclerosis with ischemic heart disease, dystrophy with signs of early aging.
NCD often develops in people who are "fixated" on their health. The term "hypochondria" is well-known to doctors, which means a stubborn fixation on one’s well-being, sometimes reevaluating the severity of one’s condition. Thus, there are many hypochondriacs among those suffering from this illness, though, of course, not everyone can be put into one category.
Undoubtedly, one should treat oneself reasonably, protect one’s health, because it is a gift of God. Only the extremes are harmful.
It is difficult to treat NCD. The main emphasis is made on the change in a person’s way of life. I would say that the main medication for this affliction must become the acquisition of spiritual peace. And as we well know, there is no peace of the soul without God’s grace. A peaceful spirit and clear conscience together with a reasonable fast, physical labor, toughening of the organism — are elements of recovery.
Of course, one should turn to a specialist for help as well, but I repeat: medications for this illness play only an supporting role.
I took down this story from the words of a patient. "I was born in Moscow, christened in infancy, but not raised in the church. I grew a healthy, active boy, in school I grasped everything at once, was always a good student. Went to college as an economics major. In the institute, tasting freedom, I sinned to destruction, which seemed perfectly normal.
At the end of the fourth year I suddenly became overly talkative, lively, could not sit in one place even for a few minutes. Slept 2-3 hours a day, lost a lot of weight. After a month this condition somehow quieted down by itself, maybe because I began to take sedatives. But by the fall of that year everything began again, but exactly "opposite:" I became depressed, did not want to live.
By the persistent requests of my parents I turned to a psychiatrist, and soon I was diagnosed with "manic-depressive psychosis." Many medicines were prescribed, which I had to drink almost incessantly. I was terribly disturbed with the label "insane," I feared that this spiritual illness will become known to my friends and acquaintances.
About this time I first crossed the threshold of a church. My illness led me to God. The priest who gave me my first confession became very close to me immediately. I began to attend church services, take Communion. I liked everything in the church: the singing, the appearance, and the faces of those praying… I felt like I came to my Father’s house after being away a long time.
But then I got "caught in a whirl," I began to feel "tolerable," and then I began to attend church less regularly, took confession less often, and then completely left the Church. Completed the institute. I had two recurring attacks of the illness. Swallowed tablets, which the psychiatrist prescribed…
And then one evening the telephone rang. I lifted the phone and could not believe my ears — the priest called. But where could he get my telephone number? He did not know my surname, nor my address, only my given name! Soon surprise was replaced by a feeling of such warmth and peace of the soul, that I cannot describe it. I felt tears coming, and in my head thoughts were spinning with kaleidoscopic speed: "Lord! How could I leave you? Why did I stop going to church?!
I became ashamed. But these were my feelings only. The priest asked if I was ill and did I require any assistance from him. He said something else very simple and warm, gave me his blessing and said farewell. Imagine, he did not rebuke me for anything, on the contrary, he was so kind and friendly.
I did not sleep almost all night, I thought much. Looking at the icons, I prayed and cried, asked the Lord’s forgiveness. Towards morning I had the thought that I must return to the church and deeply repent. I read somewhere that such a confession is called "general" — of your whole life. The Lord permitted me to repent this way. I will not describe my spiritual state at that moment, but I will only say that I felt like some ice floe fell from my soul. And… the illness departed. In the course of several years I was for all intents and purposes healthy. The doctors were surprised and wondered: "How could this be?"
Later on I visited psychiatrists, but I never again felt the acuteness of the symptoms of the illness. Repentance — is a great blessing, granted us by the Lord. Thank God for everything!"
In the years of medical work I, like many of my Orthodox colleagues, have seen marvelous and miraculous examples of God’s help to people. The Lord, His Most Holy Mother, his saints, grant healing help abundantly according to the faith of those suffering. Strictly speaking, each event of recovery — is a great mercy of God. The overcoming of sinful passions is a miracle and cannot be called anything else, such as, for example, when the adulterer begins to lead a virtuous life, and the drunk or drug addict gain deep faith, become enchurched. I have often witnessed how a mother’s repentance gained the health and even the miraculous salvation of a child’s life. In my years of medical practice I have seen many recoveries from incurable, from a medical standpoint, diseases, acute illnesses. The given example — is only one of many like it. Marvelous are your deeds, O Lord!
“The Great sham.”
The term "hysteria" is derived from the Greek word "uterus." During the times this spiritual illness was first described, it was thought that only women suffered from hysteria (later on it was found that men also suffered from it).
Hysteria was first mentioned in the ancient past. Hippocrates and Avizenna wrote about it. Later, hysteria was studied by famous scholar-psychiatrists such as Jacques Charcot, Pierre Janet, and many others. Psychoanalysts especially devoted a lot of attention to hysteria. Still, the approach to studying hysteria was one-sided for a long time. There were practically no spiritual-moral commentaries on this subject.
So, hysteria. The spiritual evaluation of this psychopathological state could be portrayed as showing off. Hysterical individuals are easily noted for their emotional imbalance, which is expressed by stormy and bright changes of mood. The speech of these people is full of images, play-acting seeps in, pride. The hysteric thirsts for attention to himself and suffers greatly in its absence. The hysteric characteristically wants to seem greater than he is in real life.
According to the well-know Russian professor P.B. Gannushkin, the behavior of hysterical people is filled with unnaturalness and falseness. "Every action, every gesture, every movement is calculated for the observer and for effect. They necessarily have to be original and they do not reject any method of attracting attention."
"The hysteric, extremely subtly and acutely perceiving one thing, remains insensitive to another, — wrote P.B Gannushkin. — Kind, gentle in one situation, they later reveal indifference, egoism — in another."
Professor G. E. Sukhareva noted, that hysterical individuals have behavioral difficulties from childhood. They are very capricious, disobedient, love to play to leading role and express aggression, if they are not able to. Their mood is noticeably very imbalanced.
Once these children go to school, they have trouble dealing with the group, because they cannot match their interests with the interests of others and always strive to be first, they cannot bear to have someone else praised in their presence.
If they have a good intellect they can do well in school, but their knowledge is superficial, their interests not constant.
Heightened irritability, a tendency toward lying makes these young people harder to bring up. Still, when one can find an activity which coincides with their interests, their condition is markedly improved.
Heightened volatility, constant desire to put oneself forward, to be better than he is, the discrepancy between desire and actuality — all of these are the source of conflicting tribulations. Hysterical children often react inadequately to any life failure, and characteristic signs of hysteria are part of the picture.
I will give an example. A child asks for candy (toy and so on), but the mother refuses his request. Then the child throws himself on the floor, screams, twists and continues to demand sweets. The frightened mother frequently gives the screaming child a handful of candy, just to quiet him down. Here, truly, "let the child have anything he wants, as long as he doesn’t cry." And the pleased child eats the candies and completely forgets about his "inconsolable grief." What did all this mean? This is a typical hysterical reaction, still childlike, rather crude, straightforward. And how did the mother act? She fulfilled the desire of the child, guaranteeing similar types of reactions. And there can be no doubt that the dear child will repeat this reaction more than once, because it brought the desired, necessary result.
We, parents, sometimes unconsciously encourage demonstrative traits in our children by praising them too much, permitting them to interfere in adult conversations, to interrupt the talker and so on. The child notices this and soon does everything for show: reading poetry, dancing, singing, playing. Adults, as a rule, are touched by this, smile, praise, kiss the child and do not at all think about the fact that the child’s behavior is clearly demonstrative. This is aggravated even more because in modern families there are one, at most two, children who, naturally, become the "center of the universe" for their parents. In the past, in the patriarchal Russian family, which had, as a rule, many children, no one at the meal would dare to dip his spoon into the soup kettle before his father. Now the situation is different. Sometimes the entire family fusses with spoons, forks, frying pans before their darling, wanting to feed and indulge him deliciously and abundantly. And then we are surprised by the egoism, the inordinate pride of the "fledgling." Worldly examples, similar to the abovementioned, abound. They are innumerable. Strictly speaking, the entire tenor of the life of the modern person, beginning in pre-school and up to pension, teaches a person hysteria. Of course, everyone absorbs these "lessons" differently. It all depends on the upbringing and worldly outlook of the person.
As mentioned before, the main feature of hysterical personalities is the constant striving for attracting the attention of others. Pointed affectation, unnaturalness, dishonesty shows in their actions. They would do anything, would stoop to any trick to gain universal attention, sometimes resorting to obvious falsehood and taking advantage of the feelings of others.
Clear expressions of the attributes of hysterical individuals are mental immaturity, infantilism, which are expressed in unbalanced interests and attractions, easily changed moods. They are quickly disappointed in friends and change them easily, even though at first their friendship seemed eternal. For hysterics it is only a step from love to hate.
Classical literature contains clear examples of hysterical individuals. Gogol’s Klestakov can be considered a classic hysteric.
We often see the variation of so-called pseudologist among hysterical people. Along with demonstrativeness, there exists in their behavior a stormy game of imagination, a tendency to fantasize. And the subject himself is usually the hero in those fantasies.
In some psychiatric classifications, the group called "narcissistic (conceited) individuals" is mentioned. The main symptom of a narcissistic individual, as Professor U.A Alexandrovsky points out, is the belief, arising in one’s youth, in one’s particular significance, in his talents, his unusually appealing appearance, which should arouse universal delight. "The need for delight, the desire to see oneself surrounded by admirers and worshipers, undoubtedly draws this type nearer to hysteria, just like the inability of these subjects to be compassionate, to show concern for others."
These individuals tend to fantasize, and the themes of their fantasies involve their successes, achievement of unlimited power, might, wealth. They love to talk a lot bout their famous friends — actors, politicians, the powerful of this world, of their ties with secret societies or very important organizations. And their stories are either based on superficial, "nodding" acquaintance, or (more often) appear as the product of an overactive imagination. In relating their information, the narcissistic individuals not only expect special delight in those surrounding them, but demand respectful attitudes for no reason, submission, as to a person standing above those around them," writes the same author.
Hysterics are sometimes sly, elusive. There are many swindlers among them. They often possess great intuition.
Many founders of sects, such as, for example, Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), undoubtedly had a hysterical character. The same can be said of many other "charismatic" individuals. For example, it is known that the founder of theosophy (1) Yelena Blavatskaya in her youth was noted for amazing falsehoods and stormy fantasies, about which her close relatives wrote.
The "conditional enjoyments or desires" mechanism of the sickly symptoms is specific to hysteria. It is like a criteria for separating hysteria from various other non-hysterical manifestations. Different sickly manifestations can be pleasant and desired by the hysteric, promising some sort of gain or freeing one from some kind of responsibilities.
The hysteric needs an audience. For example, if Robinson Crusoe had hysterical tendencies, they would never have developed, because there was no one to see them.
They are easily suggestible. But their suggestibility is very particular. The hysteric, as a rule, picks up on ideas if they are in his favor.
Clinical manifestations of hysteria are tremendously varied. There can be hysterical fits, paralysis. One sees hysterical hyperkinetics, expressed in shaking body or separate parts. I have observed hysterical deaf-mutes, blindness. In the past, one saw the so-called "hysterical arc." At present, many psychiatrists point out that hysterical reactions are now found in more subtle forms.
Jacques Charcot called hysteria "the great imitator," even though one cannot say that hysteria and imitation are identical concepts. The hysteric actually suffers; but his suffering is caused by conditional desire. The imitator simply makes believe he is ill.
The range of hysterical behaviors are very wide and many-faceted. They can be young people with earrings, for example, in their nose, and green-red-blue hair. Or a politician, for whom conceit is dearer than anything else.
Hysterical behavior can be found, unfortunately, in Orthodox circles. I have seen such "matushkas" (as they call themselves) who with their delights in a moment transformed a young priest into a "miracle-worker" or "seer." The hysterical person immediately makes a "diagnosis," divides churches and hierarchs into those who "have grace" and "do not have grace." The criteria in such cases is, of course, one’s "instinct." Sometimes one gets the feeling, that such a person actually thirsts for some kind of "hot" facts, sensational information or simply gossip. And then he finds himself in his element. In addition, the hysteric does not consider the very facts as important as their personal interpretation of them.
The hysteric can stand out not only with their extravagant appearance, theatrical mimicry or unique speech. They could be imperceptible in appearance, but their speech will be filled with quotes, appearing scientifically educated. If worst comes to worst, he could simply break into a mysterious silence. But this is all posing. One can sense the falsity and unnaturalness in his behavior.
The feelings of a hysterical person, while appearing warm and gentle, are always mixed with a sense of coldness. The person himself is the most important thing to that person.
Clinical psychiatry distinguishes between hysterical neurosis and hysterical psychopathy. These states are separated by the depth, expression and origin of the hysterical expressions. Hysterical neurosis is generally characterized by personalization of conflict, that is, the manifestation of hysteria in the form of different physical ailments and sensations. Very often, for example, a hysterical "knot" appears in the throat. Remember examples in classical literature, when young ladies fainted from worry.
Psychopathy — is an individualized anomaly, which is characterized by the disharmony of an individual’s mental structure. The criteria for psychopathy are: 1) the expression of mental disorders, leading a person to social disadaptation; 2) total alteration of the entire mental image of the person; 3) the relative stability of mental particulars (P.B. Gannushkin).
Psychopaths are divided into constitutional, which can arise as the result of different illnesses, head traumas, infections etc., and acquired. The second group of psychopaths are the result of upbringing, environmental and situational conditions.
Unfortunately, our reality is often the "supplier" of psychopaths.
Psychopathy occupies the middle ground between psychoses and neuroses. In some ways it does not "make it" as a psychosis (as a rule, ranting, hallucinations and other expressions are missing from the clinical picture), but it essentially differs from neurotic disorders. Also, neuroses are usually connected with some sort of emotionally significant experiences, distressing a person with events and life conditions. But the psychopath, well, is always a psychopath. Of course, in isolated moments his behavior may be worse, while in other periods of life — one can observe relative compensations, but the general anomalous psychopathic background remains.
If a person suffering from neurosis, speaking conditionally, hurts himself, then the psychopath through his behavior hurts others around him as well. Without question, the level of expression of psychopathic traits in persons which have them, vary individually. There is also a difference in the way various types of psychopathic disorders are treated. For instance, as an example, the following types of psychopaths are differentiated: excited, hysterical, reactive-volatile, constraining, and others. In earlier classifications, we could see, for example, the following variations: queers, fantastics, liars, emotionally dull, irritable, neurotic, depressives.
The treatment of psychopaths is a long, difficult and often ineffective process. The same can be said of the spiritual rehabilitations of psychopathic personalities! But what is impossible for man is possible for God.
A serious illness can be a powerful psychotraumatic factor. Unfortunately, not many are capable of bearing illnesses like Christians. Adequate, courageous reactions to illnesses are met rarely, much oftener in such situations there is a neurotic reaction. Thus, Professor V.P. Zaitsev delineates five types of similar reactions to heart attacks, among which a hysterical reaction is described. Egocentricism, demonstrativeness, desire to attract attention for sympathy, are characteristic.
Again I repeat, two conditions must be present for hysteria to reveal itself fully: benefit, and an audience; nothing hurts hysterics more than the lack of attention to their person. In that case, life becomes duller and loses its attraction.
The Bishop Varnava (Beliaev) uses the following expression — "living a lie." Hysterics, in their extreme displays, live a lie.
Many hysterical personages are habitués of different manifestations, demonstrations. To them it is not even important who or what they are defending, which rights they fight for.They are attracted by the ability to be in the public eye. With the onset of democracy in the last decade, on the waves of the crisis of moral values resulting from the lack of spirituality that had ruled the society 70+ years, a large army is attacking the souls of people containing different types of magis, sorcerers, mediums, magicians, bringing so many ills to the people who come to them. Though I will not enter into the details of describing this occult destruction, I will say only that in their individual tenor the great majority of these "healers" — are hysterics, desiring glory and recognition. Of course, there are conscious servants of evil among them, having different levels of ordinations. But many of them are simply swindlers, who have no knowledge of any occultism, but simply take spiritual advantage of their compatriots, pumping no small amount of money out of their pockets. Without a doubt, this circumstance does not remove the responsibility from the person coming for such "help," even to a swindler. It is a grave sin.
The desire to be seen, to be the center of attention is often connected with vice. Hysterics, especially in their youth, are always in love, are in an "ocean" of erotic fantasies. Hysterical women cannot resist flirting, coquetry even for a short time. Often, hysterical people, particularly psychopaths, are fully possessed by vice and lead a corresponding way of life.
The Orthodox psychologist V. Rev. Boris Nichiporov justly writes: "The ideals, which the social consciousness is cultivating today, are the following. The first daily ideal — a girl as a photo-model. Beauty and a figure are demanded, white teeth, external attraction and so on. In general, the starting point of everything is not the heart or mind, but the hip. Everything must come from the hip and no higher than the hip — thoughts, and desires, and feelings."
Lunacy. Doctor V.K. Neviarovich truly points out that "beginning with the end of the 19th century, atheistically oriented scholars tried to prove that neither possession nor lunacy existed, but all of these were simply manifestations of hysteria. V.M. Bekhterev (1857-1927), a major Russian scholar, studying psychiatry, neurology and psychology, unfortunately shared this opinion. But his experiments stemmed from strictly materialistic positions, which could not avoid influencing his scientific research. Thus, in one of his works he even attempted (o horrors!) to assert that all the Gospel miracles of the Savior — the healings and the resurrections from the dead — could be explained by the hysterical sufferings of those people who believed in Christ.
Unfortunately, even now official medicine, to the joy of the entire demonic world, does not discriminate between emotional illnesses and spiritual, and tries to heal many possessed people with insulin, or hypnosis, or chemical compounds, and lately even occult methods (meditation, the method of Stanislav Groth and so on)."
The same author writes, "that hysteria and possession are not one and the same, but there is no better preparation for possession than hysteria, because the devil is the "father of lies," and all hysterics lie; the devil, according to the words of the holy fathers, is an "artist" and "monkey," and the characteristics of hysteria are imitation, acting and a sickly artistic imagination. The fall of the devil occurred because of vanity and pride — and the similarity is obvious…"
Father Alexander Elchaninov wrote the following about this emotional illness: "Hysteria is the decay of the personality, and it frees a tremendous, ruinous (in its destructive power) amount of energy, like in a splitting atom."
Pride and vanity, lying and posing — these are the spiritual essence of hysteria.
So what is, in fact, hysteria: sin or illness? I think that hysteria — is a sinful composition of the soul, which often results in sickly sufferings.
What do I mean to achieve by writing this? In order to "look the enemy in the eye," as we say, and to battle with him, rooting out the weeds of hysteria in our own souls. And, also, to better see this sinful illness in the reality surrounding us.
How should one react to hysterical behavior? First of all, it is not worth following the hysteric’s lead. Keep your dignity and composure, and if necessary, reasonable strictness. I will remind you once again, that hysteria stops when there is no witness. Therefore, the mother which I mentioned earlier should have ignored the "convulsions" of the raving child and should have calmly continued doing her own work.
 Pantheistic religious-philosophical system, having a following, in part, in modern neoheathen movement New Age, uniting many sects.
Psychotheraphy occupies a unique position in medicine. Two individuals meet in the mutual process of doctor and patient working together. A soul is healed by a soul. Those ailing with a psychotherapeutic profile are a completely special contingent. Their sufferings are often related to moral conflicts, family difficulties, trouble after difficult illnesses, spiritual searchings. As a rule, the person looking into the eyes of the doctor feels a deficit of love, understanding of others, support from his close friends. He turned to the specialist when the sufferings filled his whole soul, his whole organism, and there is no more strength to bear it. Sometimes his sufferings turn into severe somatic symptoms, different pains, numbness, other disorders.
Most often I have to treat and consult people either unbelieving, or with weak, unformed faith. For this reason, the psychotherapist has a great responsibility, both as a doctor and as a person. His task is to help the patient constricted by illnesses and conflicts, confusion and losses. For the doctor dedicated to psychotherapy, it is important to have personal spiritual values, which will determine his work with patients. Without a personal (I add: Orthodox) spiritual platform he will not be able to distinguish situational (psychosocial) and biological reasons for illnesses from existential, world outlook ones.
The domination of materialism and, correspondingly, the lack of spiritual demands of doctors in this very complex and very specialized, in the medicinal sense of the word, profession has not gone unnoticed. Most unfortunately, Orthodox spirituality is not a criteria for a psychotherapist’s activity in our society. But how right it would be to be guided by Christian values in such a complex task as soul-caring. In reality, each psychotherapist works in the measure of his view of life, of his principles. On the other hand, there is another difficult problem — even if there is faith in Christ in the doctor’s soul, it does not always find a response in the heart of the patient.
The doctor does not choose his patients. In his visits, he may see a rabid atheist or a representative of another philosophical-religious bent. In the latter cases, the medical credo "do no harm" should be applied fully. My experience shows that the focus of healing non-believers and non-Orthodox should be on common sense, spiritual support, medications. That is, it should be more psychophysiologically oriented. But we should also reverently treat the soul of such a person, because it also is the image of the Creator. If a person comes for a visit, the soul of whom wants to find God, but tosses about in ignorance, then the Orthodox psychotherapist must help him spiritually as well. He does not replace a priest. He only precedes him. The doctor is sometimes a "barrier," protecting the patient from even greater temptations (alcohol, vice, suicide).
Often patients ask me about the meaning of personal life, after seeing icons and the Gospel in my office. Then to those, whose heart is open to faith, I tell about Christianity, about the Christian understanding of life’s meaning, the meaning of suffering. I am sure that psychotherapy, which follows the principle "be patient, everything will pass" is not permissible in most cases. I will relate just a few examples.
About a year and a half ago, a wealthy 52-year-old entrepreneur came to me in the state of obvious anxiety. He told me that he does not want to live any longer, because he no longer sees any reason to live. In the last eight years he was married three times to women half his age, earned much money, and this is the sorry result…
Another example. A middle-aged woman lost her only son. Grief, tears, hopelessness and despair did not leave her from the moment of the automobile catastrophe, which occurred two years before… Another example. A young person who has suffered two heart attacks by the time he was 38… There is a theme that is practically forbidden in layman medicine and psychology. That is the theme of death. Doctors prefer to remain silent about death. Science is helpless here. Severely ill patients are consistently comforted: "Everything will be fine," "Everything will be normal." And the person dies in this lie. He dies unprepared, without repentance, without a spiritual will and testament.
I have often seen the death of unbelieving persons. I remember one person well. Horror and panic were on his face, he was full of the greatest anxiety. There are no words that can describe the chilling fear of the soul in which he found himself. Even the thought of death arouses despair in the atheist. For the Orthodox person, the memory of their hour of death — is an important factor in improving their life. From childhood on, the Christian asks the Lord for a death without sin, peaceful, blameless, and a good answer at the dread judgment seat of Christ. When one reads about the death of the righteous and saints, the soul become filled with deep emotion and joy, not with grief…
Curative psychotherapeutic influence should, in my opinion, have a hierarchy of goals: from the immediate (to calm, instill hope, remove symptoms of illness) to the most important — the internal growth and development, the conversion to enduring values. In the opposite case, psychopractice can become a dangerous manipulator of people’s souls or bring only a "cosmetic" effect.
I am deeply convinced that psychotherapy, when possible, should become a "bridge" to faith in God. I truly rejoice when I see my former patients in church. If later on they come to see me, it is only as guests, because in their souls they found the Almighty Healer — our Lord Jesus Christ.
I will share another example with you. For three years, I worked in the rehabilitation unit of the cardiology clinic. I had to mentally rehabilitate those recovering from a heart attack. The patients, who were mainly men of working age, could find no peace. Their mood was depressed, there were often tears in their eyes. Others — were bewildered, were at a loss and did not believe this was happening to them. Of course, at 45-50 years old, one has lots of plans, projects. And all of a sudden, a severe illness strikes — heart attack. The words alone causes people to shudder, goose bumps come out.
As a doctor psychotherapist and psychiatrist, I was supposed to diagnose mental anomalies and treat them, using medications and psychological influences, according to instructions. Different researchers have determined, that even 6-12 months after the heart attack, 90% of the patients are still depressed. The reason for the stubbornness of depression, as observations showed, were united with the loss of the reason for living, the destruction of hopes.
In becoming familiar in detail with literature about the mental rehabilitation of heart attack victims, I noticed one tendency, which could be called a departure from reality, smoothing over the sharp corners or distraction. Of course, it is important to calm down, but then what? I asked myself these questions very often.
In the Center of Mental Health of the Russian AMN in May 1993 there was a conference called "Mental disorders and cardiovascular pathology." I was a participant. The theme of mental rehabilitation of heart attack victims was discussed in the context of the question "quality of life." There were many presentations and lectures on psychological rehabilitation.
The main philosophical thought of those speaking followed the following outline: live worthily — ail worthily — die worthily. In addition, worthily was understood more as consisting of societal way of life, but certainly not moral. There was not a single word about spirituality, God, faith. The scholars, it seemed to me, tried to hide behind their scientific terminology, to avoid answering to the main question: "What should be set against illness?" This is precisely the question in which secular medicine and psychology find themselves at a dead end. The way out is not simple, it can be found in turning to Christ, in humility.
Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov) wrote: "Undoubtedly there exists a connection between unbelief and so called education (in atheistic countries, editor’s comment). But the matter is not in education, in our opinion, but in something else. In what, precisely? In non-humility! Or, more simply, pride! At least, my opinion is such. Education sets people apart from the masses, gives them an advantage, opinion of self grows… and with this comes pride. "Faith is humility," says St. Barsanuphius the Great. But this is not the most important; an educated person begins to believe in himself: in his mind, in his knowledge, not in God, not in God’s grace." There is nothing more I need to add.
My mother, Galina Petrovna Avdeeva, has been the chairman of the clinic where I saw patients for 14 years. She, as a religious person, tries to create a warm Christian climate in the hospital in all ways possible. Under her direction, we worked out a program to help the ill in the ambulatory wing. One of the main ideas of the program was that a heart attack (or some other severe pathology) — is an event, from which it is necessary to extract something valuable for the future, turn the sufferings into something meaningful and overcome the illness on the mental and spiritual levels. With God’s help, we attempted a holistic approach to a person in the unity of all the spheres of his existence: biological, social-psychological and spiritual. The slogan of our program has become "Doctor and patient in search of meaning."
My spiritual director, Father Boris Zakirov, who is quite familiar with the questions of psychology and philosophy, often came to our clinic. He met with the doctors, familiarized himself with our plans, made many recommendations and blessed the program "for the glory of God and for helping others." To willing patients, we began to read the teachings of the holy fathers, particularly those, which touched on the humble acceptance of illnesses for Christ’s sake. In my office, we listened to fragments of Orthodox singing, met with priests. After I returned from the Holy Land, we were given the blessing to rub ourselves with the votive oil from the Lord’s Tomb, from the Tomb of the Most Holy Mother of God. To our great joy, the cardiology clinic was 100 meters from the Church of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. Some of the ill, when possible, attended services, prepared themselves for confession and Holy Communion. And before being released home, they became truly Orthodox. Glory to God, pouring mercy and generosity on us!
With particular attention, we, together with the ill and recovering, read the teachings of S. Theophan the Recluse. How clearly, how precisely Bishop Theophan, the beloved of God, speaks of illnesses, of their meaning for our life. I will gladly quote the Saint: "Everything is from God: illnesses, and health, and everything, which is from God, is given us for our salvation. Thus, should you accept your illness and thank God for caring about your salvation. How that which God gives serves in salvation, we do not need to seek, because we may never find out. Sometimes, God sends one thing as punishment, as a penance; sometimes as a wake-up call, to bring a person to one’s senses; sometimes, to save one from a danger that would have threatened the person if he were well; sometimes, so that the person would show patience and thus earn a greater reward; sometimes, to purify the person of all passions, and for other reasons… You, when you remember your sins, say: "Glory to Thee, O Lord, that You have given me penance for improvement!" When you remember, that you have not always in the past remembered God, say: "Glory to Thee, O Lord, that You are giving me a reason to remember You more often!" (Publication 1, letter 42, page 41).
Among all the medical specializations one exists, which can be fully linked to priesthood. Its name — psychiatry. Probably it will not be an exaggeration to say, that many priests during the years of their service met up with situations, at the confessional or during other soul-caring, when their spiritual children revealed some emotional or thinking disorder in their behavior. One can find cases of pastoral care for the mentally ill that are in remission. And finally, there is a wide group of borderline (between health and illness) of mental/neurological breaches, the extensiveness of which is sufficiently great.
States of the soul exist, as pointed out by Archimandrite Cyprian (Orthodox Pastoral Service, Paris, 1957) which are difficult to determine by the categories of moral theology and which do not enter into the understanding of good and evil. These states belong not to the ascetic order, but to the psychopathological, and develop from the body, from nature.
In the past, students of the Theological Academy studied pastoral psychiatry. At the present time this subject is not studied for organizational reasons related to its teaching. But this question is being animatedly discussed and, one hopes, will be decided for the better.
Pastoral psychiatry strives to delve into those spheres of spiritual life, which are not qualified as sin, but are "akin" to it, or "nudge" the sick person to sin. For example, anxiety (if this is a symptom) is not a sin, but can lead to severe consequences of the sufferer. As a result of mental illness, the soul of the person becomes, in a way, covered with a "veil of fog," which must dispersed. Such a soul, as correctly noted by one priest, loses its way to the Lord. The will of person is weakened. Pastoral recommendations are premature, because they cannot be accepted by the sick person equally. Healing such illness purely through ascetic means are not justified. The help of a psychiatrist would be appropriate. It is good if there is an Orthodox doctor in the parish. In that case, the priest can use his help. Knowledge of psychiatry would also help the priest. Psychiatry in these situations does not stand in opposition to priesthood, but strives to enrich it with certain knowledge. The role of the priest is to influence the one being nourished towards patience and humility, to pray for him. The role of the doctor, hoping for God’s help, is to treat the spiritual disorders with methods of modern medicine.
A psychiatrist-psychotherapist, acting on the will of the person, his reason and emotions, helps overcome the illness or its consequences. He tries to remove the pathological symptoms and syndromes from the central nervous system which, like depression, alarm, asthenia, and others, arose not because of enemy temptation, but because of biology and inheritance. After recovering (when possible) the person returns to his usual state. He can soberly look at the life around him and at himself, go to God’s church, pray, work for the benefit of the family and society. In the measure of recovery of the sick, the "weight of the input" of psychiatric help will weaken, but the spiritual, on the other hand, will grow.
Certainly, the aforementioned is just a sketch portraying the intricate region of knowledge of pastoral psychiatry. As an illustration, I will present an example from a book by a famous Russian psychiatrist and a deeply religious person, D.E. Melichov, Psychiatry and the problem of spiritual life. The author, in one of the chapters, describes Dostoevsky’s illness and the experience of his spiritual path.
"The illness of F.M. Dostoevsky is very telling for a priest, as an example of inborn inherited epilepsy: the genius writer suffered from epilepsy from age 15. It was a relatively bearable form of mixed epilepsy with rare seizures and equivalents, thanks to which he kept his creative abilities to the end of his life, though he did suffer significant memory loss. This illness was more severe in his student years, then again during the trial, the death sentence, the years of exile and military service.
Making naïve attempts to explain or infer the world views and creativity of writers or social activists using an illness is a crude error. F. M. Dostoevsky was a genius author "not thanks to, but in defiance of" the illness. Being an autobiographical author, he in his creativity showed, in part, both the great variety and the contradictory expressions and sufferings of unstable types of human individuals. At the same time, like a believing person, the faith of whom "ran the gauntlet of doubts," he in his array of heroes also reflected attempts to make sense of his illness, and the experience of his battle with illness… Prince Mishkin and Rogozhin in "The Idiot"; the clarity, humility and faith of the Elder Zosima and the revolt of Ivan Karamazov; the clarity and purity of Alesha Karamazov and the deep moral deformity ("infernality") of Fedor Karamazov and Smerdiakov; the uncontrollable power of desires and fits of passion in Dimitry, giving way to deep repentance, the thirst of redemption through the path of suffering, and so on. He perceived himself as a captive of his fate and illness, and battled with it. Duplicity, duality was the fate of not only his heroes, many of whom perished in the battle with their double. He recognized duplicity in himself and to his death summed up his experience of battling with it. But Dostoevsky to the very end kept his creative powers, his critical view of his illness, his character and his deep compassion for people. Duplicity was the tragedy of the ill genius and his heroes. But he kept, as Strachov wrote about him, a "deep spiritual center, determining all the contents of his mind and works," from which energy was emitted, enlivening and transforming all his activity…
From this example, one can succinctly summarize the relation of the religious ill person himself to the expressions of the illness, and delineate the main paths of behavior of the priest/soul caretaker with epileptics. One can underline two main responsibilities of the priest in relation to the sick: 1) urge the ill person to medical physicals and, when necessary — to systematic treatment, and 2) help the ill person in his fight with his illness, critically recognizing and overcoming his anomalies of character and behavior.
The doctor-psychiatrist can treat the ill person in the periods of acute psychoses, help reduce the number of attacks and seizures and, when possible, prevent their reoccurrence. The role of the spiritual father is particularly important for the ill in the periods between attacks, when they realize the tormenting contradictions of the polar states of rise and fall, of sudden insight and great wrath, enlightenment and darkened states, the polar states of the blessed desire for goodwill to the world and people and the dark animosity, suspicion and moralizing teachings… The behavior of the priest is determined by the mutual task of pastors to help a person attain deep repentance, to reinstate the correct spiritual sensation of life in the person’s soul, the correct view of their sin and their eternal human calling, which is subjected to such dramatic ordeals in sick persons, when the duplicity is expressed maximally."
The Holy Fathers about passions and virtues.
He who has found the path to longsuffering and non-hatred, has found the path of life.
It is better to cut irritability short with a smile, than to fume unceasingly.
Irritability and rankling are the same as snake poison, because they distort the face, and weaken the muscles, and cause the person to have insufficient strength to perform; but meekness and love banish all this.
Be attentive to yourself, that you are not possessed by quick temper, irritability, rankling, from which you will lead a fearful and unsettled life. But attain magnanimity, meekness, kindness and everything that is proper for a Christian, in order to lead a peaceful and serene life.
If you have ought against any, or any against you, make peace. If you do not do this, anything that you bring to God will not be accepted (Mark 11:25, Matt. 5:23-24). If you fulfill this commandment of the Lord, then you can pray to Him boldly, saying "Lord, forgive me my debts, as I forgive my brother’s, fulfilling Your commandment! And the Lover of Mankind will answer: "If you have released him, I will release you: if you have forgiven, I forgive your debts."
Do not think, that you alone carry more sorrows than anyone else. As no one living on earth can avoid its air, thus a person, living in this world, cannot avoid being tempted by sorrows and illnesses. He who is occupied with the earthly, will feel earthly sorrow; he who strives for the spiritual, will suffer about the spiritual. But the latter will be blessed, because their fruit is plentiful in the Lord.
God does not permit the soul hoping in Him and patient, to be tried in such measure that it comes to despair, that is to fall into such temptations and sorrows, that it cannot bear them (1 Cor. 10:13). And the evil one cannot tempt the soul and burden it with sorrow as he will, but only as much as permitted by God. Let the soul only bear it courageously, holding on to hope in faith and awaiting God’s help and hope; and it is impossible for it to be abandoned.
Ven. Ephraim of Syria
Hatred comes for harboring ills, harboring ills — from pride, pride — from vanity, vanity — from lack of faith, lack of faith — from hard-heartedness, hard-heartedness — from laxity, laxity — from laziness, laziness — from despondency, despondency — from impatience, impatience — from conceit.
Prayer depends on love, love — on joy, joy — on meekness, meekness — on humility, humility — on service, service — on hope, hope — on faith, faith — on obedience, obedience — on simplicity.
Ven. Macarius the Great
We must consider sadness healthy for us only in the case when it results from repentance for sins, or a fervent desire for perfection, or contemplation of future blessings. The blessed Paul says the following concerning this: "For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Cor. 7:10).
There is also another type of sorrow that is indecent, that fills the sinning soul not with the intention of correcting one’s life and purifiyng itself from passions, but with ruinous despair. This is what did not permit Cain to repent after murdering his brother, and did not let Judas seek ways of assuagement after his treason, but led him, through instilled despair, to hang himself.
Ven. John Cassian
The one who observes moderation does not sorrow that he did not get food, the virtuous, that he did not perform shameful indecencies, the tranquil, that he did not get revenge, the wisely meek, that he is deprived of worldly honors, the unselfish, that he suffered a loss. They have completely doused in themselves such desires — and therefore do not feel sorrow; because the passionless are not hurt by sorrow, as one in armor is not pierced by arrows.
Sorrow comes from that which is revolting (disasters, sorrows, disappointments); from sorrow also comes a gloomy frame of mind (as is said: he is out of sorts, in a bad mood); and from both comes senseless abuse (griping at everyone).
If you want to suppress sorrow with a gloomy frame of mind, then embrace good-naturedness and array yourself in joy without anger.
St. Nil of Sinai
Anger is the memory of hidden hatred, in other words, harboring ills. Anger is the desire to do evil to the offending one. Quick-temperedness (biliousness) is the sudden inflammation of the heart. Disappointment is an unpleasant (annoying) feeling that settles in the soul. Rage is the defeat of good mood and the disgrace of the soul.
Anger, like the quick motion of a millstone, can grind down and destroy spiritual wheat and fruit in one moment — more that anything else can do in a whole day. Therefore, one must carefully pay attention to oneself. It, like a flame fanned by strong winds, burns and destroys the spiritual field faster than a slow fire.
As darkness disappears with the appearance of light, so does all sadness and anger disappear from the fragrance of humility.
Ven. John of the Ladder
When someone is either good to us, or we bear evil from someone, we must look to the hills and thank God for everything that is happening to us, always reproaching ourselves and saying, as the fathers said, that if something good happens to us, then this is God’s Providence, but if bad, then it is because of our sins, because truly everything which we have to bear, we bear because of our sins. The saints, if they suffer, suffer for God’s name, or in order that their virtues be revealed for the sake of many others, or that their crowns and rewards from God be increased.
Ven. Abba Dorotheus
The Lord supplements the lack of good deeds with either illnesses or sorrows.
St. Demetrius of Rostov.
When, for example, the sick person plans to bear his illness in good spirits, and does so, the enemy, knowing that in this manner he will become entrenched in the virtue of patience, sets about disrupting his good will. At first, he makes the person think of all the good deeds that he could be doing if he was in another circumstance, and tries to convince him that, were he healthy, how well he would work for God and what benefits he would bring to himself and others: he would go to church, lead discussions, would read and write to help others and so on.
Noticing that such thoughts are beginning to be admitted, the enemy repeats them more often, multiplies them and paints them brighter, leads them towards feelings, calls out desires and efforts to such deeds, portraying how well these or other feelings would go, and encouraging pity, that he is tied hands and feet by illness.
Little by little, repeating such thoughts and movements in the soul often, the desire changes to discontent and vexation. The former good will in this manner is disturbed, and the illness is no longer accepted as medicine from God and a field for the virtue of patience, but like something not belonging to the act of salvation, and the desire to free oneself from it becomes uncontrollable, still seeing freedom from illness as freedom to do good deeds and to please the God of all beings.
When the person has come down to this, the enemy steals this good reason for the desire to be well from his mind and heart, and, leaving only the desire for health for health’s sake, forces the ill person to look upon the illness with vexation, not as a barrier to good, but as something which is hostile by itself. From this stems impatience, which cannot be healed by good thoughts, deprives of strength, turns into complaints and deprives the ill person of the former peace from good-spirited patience. And the enemy rejoices, that he has managed to disrupt it.
In the same exact manner, the enemy disrupts the poor man, patiently bearing his fate, painting for him what great deeds he would perform were he rich.
It is easy to get rid of these temptations, if he who has an experienced director, counselor and person to talk to, follows his directions with humble submissiveness. But he who is deprived for some reason of such a blessing, let him be attentive to himself and strictly learn to distinguish the good from the bad from the fundamentals of Christianity, on which all our lives should be based. If events, disturbing (as it appears to us) our abilities to widen our scope of good deeds, are sent by God, then accept them with submission and do not listen to any suggestions, swaying you from such submission. In sending such an event, God does not expect anything from you, except that you keep yourself and act as the illness demands and permits.
Ill or poor, be patient. God does not demand anything from you besides patience. By bearing it well, you will be doing a good deed unceasingly. No matter when God will look at you, He will see that you are doing good, or exist in good, if you bear the condition well, while a healthy person does good intermittently. Why, by desiring a change in your state, do you wish to change the better for the worse?
Ven. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
God does not permit temptations to exceed our powers. The master lightly strikes the crystal or glass vessel, so as not to break it, but he hits the silver or bronze hard; thus the weak are given light, and the strong are given the heaviest temptations.
Anger turns into hatred and rankling, when it is kept long and fed in the heart. For this reason we are ordered to cut it out fast, so that it does not grow into hatred and malice, and so that greater evil will not be added to evil. "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil," says the apostle (Eph. 4:26-27).
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
One must try at all cost to keep spiritual peace and not be disturbed by insults, but bear them with equanimity, as if they do not relate to you. Such an exercise will give our heart peace and make it a dwelling for the Holy Spirit.
If you only knew, what joy awaits the righteous soul in the heavens, you would decide to bear all sorrows, persecutions and slander with thanksgiving.
If this very cell were full of worms and if they would be eating our body all of our temporary life, you should agree to this with complete desire, in order to not deprive yourself of that heavenly joy, which God has prepared for those who love Him.
Ven. Seraphim of Sarov
When the mind submits to God, then the heart submits to the mind. This is what humility consists of. What is humility? Humility — is the meek devotion to God, united with faith, blessed by Godly grace.
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
Punishment by itself does not heal a person of his sinfulness; a person can suffer greatly, but if these sufferings that are sent him as a test will arouse anger and bitterness in him, if he will not humble himself and bear them patiently, with submission, thanking God for the granted single true means capable of leading to the blessed residences, but will arouse in himself anger, irritability, hatred toward everyone around him, saying words of despair, and maybe even curses, toward the reasons which caused these sufferings, then he will only be increasing his sunfulness, adding to the old, not yet repented through these sufferings sins, one of the very worst sins — opposition to His holy will.
Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow
Immeasurable grief over sins, reaching the point of despair, is denounced in the teachings of the holy fathers. This grief should be dissolved with hope on the mercy of God: one should grieve and hope at the same time. Grieve, because we anger God with our sins, distance ourselves from God. Hope, because we have an All-powerful Doctor for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ, spilling His blood for us.
In order not to give way to irritability and anger, one must not rush.
Ven. Ambrose of Optina
Where is the true ideal, encompassing all human nature in its fullness and in its never-ending development, close to all and accessible to all, easily experienced, giving the weak less, the strong great, worthily gracious, attracting everyone and satisfying all? There is only one such ideal — that is the Christian God: be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect…
Try to show a person the greatest demand of nature, which could not be satisfied in Him; imagine the highest perfection, in which He would not be found. He is the very reality, love, good, purity, truth, unselfishness, self-denial, industriousness, patience, courage — but who can number all of His perfections? Does He not fit into the spirit of our time because there are no passions in Him, with which we can justify ourselves, and He does not indulge us in them, "because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth" (Is. 53:9).
Christian parents bring their children to Him, stand them before Him in that holy school, which is called the Church. Here upbringing is pursued according to all the laws of human development.
First through the senses — by impressions. As a person recognizes and begins to love the beauty of nature in its general features before any learning, by becoming familiar with it through simple contemplation and childhood experiences, so in the Church the first notions of God, the earliest and more important in the person’s life, come through the contemplation of images, actions, symbols pointing to the spiritual world.
The mother, the object of all the love and tenderness of the child, stands with a reverent expression and prays before the Saviour’s icon; the child looks at her, then the image — and does not require long explanations of what it means. This is the first, silent lesson of the Knowledge of God.
The child in church: the beauty of the church, the lighting, the bright vestments of the priesthood, the singing and silence of those standing and praying while facing the sanctuary, the holy activities, the lack of everyday objects, the forbidding of irreverent movements, the demand for attention to something higher, special — these are lessons of reverence before God, which cannot be replaced by any fancy speech of a religious teacher.
In these lessons, one cannot notice the moment at which the children begin to understand what is being read or sung in the church; we only know that we loved our Saviour long before the lessons in the Law of God, because we often heard readings about Him, prayed to Him often, kissed His Gospel, cried about Him when the Gospel of His Passions were read, and rejoiced with all our hearts, celebrating His Bright Resurrection.
This abundance of blessed influences and the very grace of God is what parents deprive their children of by not taking them to church to receive Holy Communion and not taking them to church from infancy, for the empty reason that the child doesn’t understand anything — as if only an analyzing wisdom is the guide of all influences acting on the development of a person! Here, especially, is where religious feeling is instilled, the main engine of spiritual life. The loss of this time and this method of developing the heart is a loss that is irreparable. Later, the child will assimilate even abstract notions, and will begin to repeat lessons, but the heart, which is already occupied by other influences and tendencies, will be dull and deaf to spiritual impressions.
Archbishop Ambrose (Kliucharev)
A person, subject to irritability and breathing anger, very clearly feels the presence of an evil, enemy power in his chest; in the soul it produces the very opposite of that which the Saviour says of His Presence: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden in light" (Matt. 11:30). In that presence, one feels horrible bad and heavy — both spiritually and physically.
Righteous St. John of Kronstadt
Do not complain, child, do not, if the Lord had forgotten you or was not merciful to you, you would not be alive; you just don’t see His mercies, because you want your own and pray for your own, but the Lord knows what is better and healthier for you. Always pray, of course, for deliverance from grief and from your sins, but at the end of your prayers always add, saying to the Lord: "Still, Lord, let Thy will be done."
Elder Alexis of Zosima
The amount of suffering that the soul can accommodate is also how much it can accommodate the grace of God.
Elder Alexander of Gethsemane
In healing the sick, the Lord usually adds: "Your sins are forgiven you." We can infer from this, that the majority of illnesses are sent as punishment for sins. For this reason, when we are struck by illness, we should not grieve, but rejoice, because they redeem our sins.
If the person realizes that everything in his life is done by the will of God, and never forgets that, then he bears all the disappointments and vicissitudes of life easily, understanding that everything is sent by the Lord for his benefit or for the redemption of sins, and is therefore always calm and happy.
Archbishop Alexander (Tolstopiatov)
Bear insults, reproaches, unfairness, bear each others burdens, desiring by this to supplement the insufficiency of spiritual work, one must consider oneself deserving of all insults and troubles ("we receive what is due us").
You know that at the end of time people will earn salvation through sorrows. Are we excluded from this law? Not for nothing did the holy fathers suggest remembering death more often (many times daily), about the Judgment, about the necessity of answering to God for every word, deed, thought, for trickery, for attachment to the world, for vanity, for all which is secret, known only to the Lord and our conscience.
Hegumen Nikon (Vorobiev)
Missionary Leaflet # E142
Copyright © 2004 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)