This little excerpt is from the excellent book, Achieving Peace of Heart by Father Narciso Irala, S.J. written over 60 years ago.
Father talks about the re-education of the mind and the will when overcome with sadness, discouragement or depression. He goes more in depth in his book, but through this excerpt you are able to see that often the cure is simple, if applied consistently and with perseverance….and that the cure is in our hands.
Exercise Conscious Life
When you are not engaged in intellectual work, rest your mind by receiving conscious sensations with an easy, peaceful attention to the things of the external world.
And when doing mental work exert yourself in concentrating all your attention there. Forget the past, future and yourself. In the beginning you will do this easily for a few moments.
Then by progressive increase of attention you will attain normal concentration. The root of the evil is in domination of conscious mental activity by the unconscious.
Now the acts prescribed above are in themselves insignificant. Yet, because they are fully conscious and often repeated during the day, they attack the root of the evil directly. They produce a reaction of greater joy, peace and mastery.
Don’t Be Discouraged
Do not think it strange if in the morning you notice a greater sensation of the symptoms, discouragement or fatigue, and if fatigue is less and sadness almost gone by the afternoon or after doing some work.
The reason is that the unconscious is in control during sleep. And there is danger after awakening of continuing under its disturbing influence. After some controlled acts, however, joy returns again and our vigor is rejuvenated.
Nor should you wonder at the periodic appearance of enthusiasm and discouragement, progress and apparent setbacks. This happens in many mental and nervous illnesses.
An uncontrolled imagination drives a man toward pessimism and exaggeration of his troubles, and hence to discouragement and despair. For sad events and experiences, at one time conscious but now perhaps forgotten, continue to be active on the unconscious level. They tend to add a pessimistic overtone to all mental images.
If we reflect on our thoughts and feelings we shall see that even insignificant beginnings can have terrifying consequences. A brief daily examination in writing of the course of your pessimistic imaginings will quickly convince you of this.
You will then belittle those fears, troubles and worries. If you discount your fears by 90 percent, you will be closer to reality.
Give no importance then to imagined ills or fears for the future. Better still, once you recognize the error or exaggeration of your unconscious mental associations, deliberately come to the opposite conclusion: enthusiasm, joy, courage, optimism.
For, as Father Gar-Mar again said, the shadow of the cross is often larger than the cross itself. So black, so sad, so crushing are the crosses we dream up for ourselves.
Foster Joy and Optimism
Insist upon joy and optimism as opposed to the sadness and discouragement which sometimes seem so natural. Do this by briefly changing your occupation and busying yourself with thoughts, readings and conversations which make the mind happy and elevate it.
Do not pretend to drown melancholy in alcohol for, as a modern author says, drinking does not drown our troubles but only irrigates them.
The central powerhouse which supplies current to our organs is optimism, either instinctive or acquired.
Feelings of joy and health stimulate blood circulation and accelerate nutritional processes. If you doubt your forces and think yourself sick, you are already beginning to be sick. Then the central powerhouse has lowered its potential. All lights grow dim. Your organs do not work so well.
Sad passions, such as fear, worry, discouragement, agitation, anger, scorn, anxiety, make us realize the truth in the common phrase, “It makes me sick!”
All joy is curative and all discouragement tends to increase our troubles. Gladness is a swimming pool of health where we should bathe each day.
Get Down To Work
If you suffer from any of the personality maladjustments remember that there is no lesion in your higher faculties, above all in you will.
What happens is that you do not know how to use them. These faculties are marvelous forces. When well directed they are capable of transforming any mental pattern and curing any abnormality.
But you must know how to avail yourself of their benefits. This is easily attained by re-education. You have the cure in your own hands. A little constancy and method is enough.
Your thoughts are the limit of your activities. No one takes a single step further than his convictions. If you imagine to yourself that you cannot do this or that, you will never do it.
“Possunt quia posse videntur,” the old Romans used to say. “They can because they think they can.”
Aside from the times when you need the ministrations or advice of a profession physician, your six best doctors are sun, water, air, exercise, diet and joy. They are always there waiting for you. They cure your ills and do not cost you a cent.
“What I have written, I have written.”
The soldiers, followed by the crowd, led Jesus away to Calvary. Pilate was alone in the palace, intensely angry with himself, and with the Pharisees.
He played the coward; and far worse, he realized that the Jews had used his cowardice to gain their purpose – the death of Jesus.
Pilate had retaliated, as cowards will; he had a placard nailed to the top of the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
The Pharisees were indignant, but Pilate stood his ground. “What I have written, I have written.”
There is much of the Pharisee in Pilate. He gave in on the great issue, Christ’s death; but he was adamant in the petty wraangle about the placard.
Do I fuss over trifles, and neglect things vital to my soul?
Speaking of your thoughts…..
Are your thoughts building a castle or a manure pile? It is vital to control the thoughts we have in our most important relationship…the one with our husband!
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Thank you. I have been reading his book this Lent. It has been a very good read. 😊
Christine Smith said:
This is excellent and I am grateful that you have shared this wisdom with us. It is just as pertinent today as it was it was written 60 years ago.
Today especially, we have so many distractions and constant advertising, messages, and “entertainment,” and I believe it’s led to a lack of ability to focus and many times we focus on ourselves, leading to melancholy.
I have saved this so I may return to it as often as needed! Thank you.