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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Pride and vanity, lying and posing — these are the spiritual essence of
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.
religious-philosophical system, having a following, in part, in modern
neoheathen movement New Age, uniting many sects.
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