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Dealing with the often chaotic inner life

Discussion in 'Spiritual Formation & Disciplines' started by Mark Dohle, Aug 17, 2019.

  1. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Well-Known Member

    United States

    Dealing with the often chaotic inner life

    Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.—Psalm 23:4


    I have found that many people keep trying to be normal. Looking around everyone seems so much better off than they are. Or perhaps it is better to say, they think that they are unique in how they experience their inner lives. This describes me from time to time.

    A normal person can live in society and unless they want to, they will not draw attention. A person who is just a little over the line for ‘normal’, which is actually pretty wide, it is then that people can easily spot them, or will know after a few moments of discussion. This can cause anxiety in some because they do not know how to interact with them.

    The so-called ‘abnormal’ people are often harmless, intelligent, artistic, and may have peculiar ways of dressing, or talking. Though nowadays, it is not so easy to dress in a peculiar way, it is now normal to do so. So what is considered normal will change over time. Tattoos, for instance, are now pretty much mainstream, no one notices.

    It is our inner lives that make people think that there is something wrong with them. One way of looking at this is that we are all ‘abnormal’ in our thought life because we are unique in how we interpret reality. As well as our past, and its hold on us. So what goes on inside one’s heart, or soul, or mind, is seen by no one unless someone wishes to share.

    A friend wrote to me about his inner struggles, which are intense, and was worried about his state. He is a very intelligent man, deeply spiritual, and caring. Yet perhaps like most of us, when talking about our thought life, and the emotions we have to deal with, we can say that we all have inner demons. If someone denies this, they are perhaps the lucky ones who are actually blocked from experiencing their unconscious mind.

    A psychologist once told me that people could be put into three groups:

    One group has more or less a brick wall between the conscious and unconscious mind. They are often good people, but really have no ideas of the depth of their inner world. They live lives of inner quiet, in the sense that they are not aware of what is going on, though they can be driven by the unconscious and not even know it.

    The second group, which is very large, or those who have a window, with varying degrees of opaqueness that gives them a glimpse of their inner world at varying degrees of depth. These people can be conflicted, unsure of themselves, and often do not know what to do with the ‘inner demons’, or voices, or pictures, that they can be bombarded with. They are normal but have a lot to deal with.

    The third group is also numerous, but not as much as the first two groups. Are those who have a screen between the conscious and unconscious mind. So the content is not really able to be observed, but seeps through and can cause confusion and deep suffering. These people can make others uncomfortable because they use a language and a symbol system that is not shared by others. So they can be isolated, and need some sort of medical help. Many get help and can live in society. Others don’t, and their live can be very hard. They are often harmless, and even very good people. Many are what is called being ‘God-intoxicated’, but to a degree that can be tragic.

    The above is simplistic, but I believe broadly true. A friend in the second group wrote to me and asked some very deep questions. I felt out of my depth, but my inner life seems to correspond on some levels to his. Below is how I responded, based on my own experience as I continue to make my inner journey. He, being a man of deep faith, and we share the same belief system, I hoped that I could help in some small way.

    Since we both share the same faith, he being Catholic, the images I used will make sense to him. For a Christian, it is Christ Jesus who gets us through, for once we know we are loved, and all is seen, we can face it knowing we are not alone. I can testify from experience that the Lord’s grace is real, though He will not take our struggles away from us, but walk with us as we make our journey towards deeper love and trust.

    -----Tom (not his real name), what you are going through is normal. When these inner eruptions happen it is important to try to stay calm. We don't have to figure out everything, but we are called to walk through the valley of death fearing no evil. I would think that being a caregiver is exhausting, so your mother could be triggering you on a deep level that you may not be aware of until you let your guard down.

    These experiences cannot harm you if you accept the fact that they may be with you for a long time, even for the rest of your life. However, to not demonize them, but understand that they are coming from a place in your soul that is in pain, wounded, and frightened. This comes perhaps from a very young place, like a child before they reached the age of reason, so the emotions can be primordial and yes, very painful. The images can be horrific. If they are, however, all they are saying is that you are angry, or in pain, they are not commands. The unconscious as you know speaks through images.

    Just bring them before the Lord in a humble, trusting, loving manner. Also, pray for those who suffer as you do. This kind of suffering and allows you to grow in compassion and empathy for others, yes, even for your mother.

    I have something similar to what you are speaking of. It is common, but unique to each. This will draw you closer to the Lord, he will bring this out to the good. The spiritual path is not easy, but the Lord will not allow you to be overwhelmed, stay close to Him and yes his Mother.

    You are doing fine, a painful time, yes. A time of feeling perhaps uprooted, well yes. However, you are rooted in Christ Jesus, deepen those roots.

    If it gets very severe, the Lord also uses the medical field to help some people. For a few years, I saw a therapist who dealt with trauma before 5 years of age....she helped me. Yet I still have the struggle, I just don't let it bother me now nor am I surprised, nor do I feel like I have to figure it out. Yet it is still very painful. It is part of being human. Early trauma is remembered based on how the very young child interrupted what was going on. Though many do suffer true, overwhelming abuse when very young. Some memories can be false. It is probably almost impossible to separate true memories from false ones.

    I will pray for you my brother on the way, pray for me-----.Br.MD
    We teamed up with Faith Counseling. Can they help you today?
  2. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Handmaid of God † CF Senior Ambassador Supporter

    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    Hmmmmm. I'm not sure I agree on the sense that there are only these three types of persons.

    It seems to me that we ought also to be aware that some evil thoughts CAN arise from within ourselves. But they can also arise from outside. This probably isn't the most helpful consideration for someone who is experiencing one of many kinds of actual medical/psychological problems. But for the rest of us, I think it is helpful.

    And I'm not sure the point of view is seeking HEALING from those inner demons - especially those that are really us) or practical ways to deal with actual demonic intrusions?

    I'm not looking to argue (though forgive me that I do think I'm disagreeing). What do you think?

    By the way I especially like this part:

    And I'm not saying your advice is wrong, btw. I have my own experience, but I was helped through it in what I'm guessing is a pretty unique way by God directly, and I no longer suffer anymore, for some years now. But it did not give me anything I could offer anyone else, except to trust God.

    God be with you. :)
  3. Mark Dohle

    Mark Dohle Well-Known Member

    United States
    I do believe that we can be oppressed by demons, in fact, it is probably common. However, we can only be tempted or harassed by what is already in us. People fear their inner wounds, and suffering, as well as the irrational images that can come up. Best to trust God, don't fear what we experience, and understand that the Lord is with us, traveling with us, and in that we find freedom. To repress, or to run away from self-knowledge can lead to greater suffering, etc. I do believe that many people self medicates with drugs, alcohol, and sex, to ease inner tension, yet in the end it only complicates matters. Sin is our seeking to run away from life, from doing the loving thing.

    We each have our own experiences, so our thoughts on many issues may differ, however, we all have a commonality of experience that allows us to communicate, just as we are doing now.

    It is the truth that sets us free, and our own experience of our weakness and our inability to do this on our own makes the reality of grace much greater and more deeply experienced.

    Thanks for your comment my friend, always a pleasure.