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
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:
- Cardiophobia — the ailing
fear "for their heart," fear a second heart attack and sudden
death; they are overly cautious, especially in attempts to expand their
programs of physical activity; growing fear is accompanied by bodily trembling,
weakness, paling skin, heart palpitations;
- Depression — an oppressed,
depressed condition, apathy, hopelessness dominate the mental state.
- Hypochondria — its main
feature is the clear reassessment of the severity of one’s condition, an
extreme fixation on the state of one’s personal health;
- Hysteria — its
characteristics are egocentrism, demonstrativeness, desire to attract
attention of those around them, to arouse sympathy;
- Anosognosia — expressed by
rejection of illness, ignoring medical recommendations and crude breaches
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
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.
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