This next excerpt comes from what I learned from my aunt on the importance of handling emotions as they come. When I was younger, I thought that to be a good person I had to push down any negative feelings. However, this quickly led to using food to soothe. Thankfully, my aunt taught me how to handle those feelings when they come up. The mistake many make is either to shove it down like I did and/or to spew those negative emotions on others. Neither is effective. I’ve learned to get in touch with how I feel and either write my feelings down, get them out through exercise, pray in tongues, or do imagery whereby I take an emotion, such as anger, and visualize it as a volcano and see it going to the cross. I then visualize God’s peace coming into me. In this way, I’m acknowledging it and then letting it go. Betty continually reminds me of the importance of bringing our unconscious into prayer, as the head can try to stay in control and block the healing. Something powerful happens when we involve the unconscious, and I’ve found the healing to go much deeper than if I had just talked about it.
We can increase our pain by refusing to deal with our pain. The more we repress it, the more it gets exaggerated. It can get stuck down in the unconscious and become problematic.
For example, what happens if someone says something hurtful to us, and we choose not to deal with it? Instead of letting it come up and recognizing it’s there, we shove it down. Pretty soon we have all of this turmoil and repressed emotions inside us until one day something triggers it and we explode. This happened to me a lot when I was younger and had bulimia. I would shove my angry feelings down, since I thought I had to be a good girl and not get angry. I would tamp down my feelings by eating. However, to be perfect was a lie I took in, and it kept me sick. I wrote an excerpt about it called “The Phantom Saint” that you can find in my blogs.
Ironically, it was Fr. Jerry Bevilacqua, who later became my spiritual father, who first identified the perfectionist in me. My mom told him she had this perfect daughter. Fr. Jerry said, “That girl is going to have serious problems later on if she doesn’t start expressing her emotions.” So my mom, Fr. Jerry, and my aunt prayed with me. I was in the 6th grade at the time. After the prayer, I got in trouble for talking in class, which up until then never happened. I remember being upset about this imperfect side that was showing itself, but thank God it did. If we repress our emotions, especially when we use an addiction to do so, we will stunt ourselves emotionally and will need to make up for lost time later on. My anger was more immature in the 6th grade, because I hadn’t learned how to use it in a healthy way.
As I explain in the “Phantom Saint” excerpt, perfectionism is a lie and is actually dark, because it disguises itself as doing good for the Lord, when in actuality it is a slave driver that is never pleased. The perfection we expect for ourselves can later become a demand on our kids, as we continue the pattern of expecting perfection from them. One Lent, my aunt gave me the assignment of meditating on the below letter from St. Therese of Lisieux to her sister. She said to read it over and over until the message sunk in. I wrote an excerpt about this topic that you can find in my blogs under ”St Therese Story.“ It includes the story about the bird that St. Therese refers to in her letter
Particularly focus on the part where St. Therese says, “what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy…That is my only treasure…Why would this treasure not be yours?”
How can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love him?
… If you have understood the story of my little bird, you would not have asked me this question. My [___________ (fill in the blank: virtues, talents, many gifts, etc.)] are nothing; they are not what give me the unlimited confidence that I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust, when one rests in them with complacence and when one believes they are something great…Ah! I really feel that it is not this at all that pleases God in my little soul; what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy…That is my only treasure…Why would this treasure not be yours?
Oh, dear Sister, I beg you, understand your little girl, understand that to love Jesus, to be His victim of love, the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love…But we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, and this is the difficulty…Ah! Let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, let us love our littleness, let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to look for us and He will transform us in flames of love.
…Oh! How I would like to be able to make you understand what I feel!.. It is confidence and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love.
St. Therese of Lisieux