From Forums of the Virgin Mary [translation]:
The elimination of toxic thoughts that are not good for us.
We all have what is sometimes called a subconscious world, which makes strange ideas arise in our minds, ones we would not dare to identify as ours before anyone.
How did they get there?
These thoughts are implanted directly by fallen angels speaking into our ears.
And other times implanted indirectly by them, through culture and society, or by our animal instincts (the flesh).
They appear in our minds and we have to deal with them, because they are so strange that they demand energy and disturb our hearts.
So we must make an effort, first to accept the fact that they are not ours, and then to get rid of them so that they do not come back and take away yet more energy.
And how to do it?
The Desert Fathers, the first monks, and anchorites already defined what is the best way to deal with these thoughts through the teachings of Jesus in the Bible.
Because if we do not do it in an effective way, we will not be able to lead a Christian life away from sin and with a calm heart. Here we will talk about the teachings of Jesus to deal with the strange thoughts that come to our minds, ones we don’t know what to do with, in a practical and efficient way.
Have you ever been sitting around, “minding” your own business when suddenly an unpleasant thought pops into your brain?
A thought that you did not choose, that you would never choose?
The fact that thoughts seem to happen to us, that they come in a way that even seems independent of us, is the reason why it makes sense to personify them as angels and demons, because they seem to have a life of their own.
It seems like a cartoon show, when a character is trying to make a decision and has a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, both trying to convince him of what is right.
In our case, good and bad thoughts, or angels and demons, can only make suggestions.
They do not have the power to force us in any direction, but only to tempt or guide us to the right or wrong path.
Therefore, it is our task to know if angels or demons are behind the thoughts that arise in us and to be wise as serpents, as Jesus suggests, to deal with them.
All this happens in our inner life, and the first thing to take into account is that many thoughts that are not ours usually come to mind.
They can be thoughts of our parents and friends. They can be thoughts of our culture. It may be an impulse of our animal nature. [scroll more more]
And they can be temptations that the devil sends us or thoughts that come to us by way of good angels for our improvement.
Therefore, the most important thing to realize is that we are not our thoughts.
We are persons who are experiencing those thoughts and feelings and we must step back from them to evaluate them.
There will be some thoughts and feelings that we can claim ownership of and accept that we want them to belong to us, and others that are just passing by and that we decide do not belong to us.
If we do not take this distinction into account, we can fall into the error that the choice of thoughts becomes automatic, as most people do.
And they end up making decisions without even realizing that they are making them, because they take every thought that comes to them as their own.
Because everything happens so quickly and so automatically, some do not develop the awareness that this process is happening and that we can decide which thoughts we can accept as our own and which ones we can let go as others.
When we monitor our thoughts and are aware of what kind of world we want to create in our inner lives, we can move away from thoughts that are not really ours and choose which ones to make our thoughts.
Therefore we must take control of this cycle for our healing.
Because also, the faster we are able to say no to the thoughts that we decide are not what we want for ourselves, the less often they will present themselves to us in the future.
And when we have made a selection of good thoughts and have allowed them to become habits, we will find that our inner condition is much healthier.
We also find that monitoring becomes easier and consumes less energy.
This is why the practice of guarding our thoughts is so essential to Catholic practice.
We do not have to accept every thought and feeling that comes to us; we are free; we can choose to claim possession of only those thoughts that bring us closer to God, and let temptations pass.
And how do we let temptations pass?
The early Christians taught that one of the best ways to overcome temptation is to distrust ourselves, especially what we think and feel, and put all our trust in God.
Because Scripture warns in several places that this is what mainly moves God to assist us in our temptations and sufferings.
Because He does not act like this with those who trust in their own light and trust in their own strength, and who by attributing everything to themselves, usurp a glory that belongs only to God.
The first Christians already knew this, but little by little this teaching has been relegated in the Church.
The early fathers taught that it is very important to address thoughts that we define as not our own, that is, those of demons, as soon as they arise within us.
Because the longer we allow them a space in our hearts and minds, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.
They knew that what people cared about most were things like health, money, safety, the opinions of others, the future.
And as a result of this, imagined scenarios and exaggerated fears arose, and it made things go out of our control. [scroll for more]
They knew that worry has the unique ability to steal precious and limited energy and spend it elsewhere.
And that this robbery of energy and attention leaves us vulnerable and ill-equipped to do what God asks of us in the present moment.
The Desert Fathers offered some remedies for unruly thoughts.
They were unanimous in teaching that one should never fight toxic thoughts by debating them directly.
Rather they argued that it was better to catch the thoughts at their first appearance and respond to them very simply, with brief counter-thoughts inspired by or drawn from the Holy Scriptures.
That is, if the darkness catches your attention, don’t stare into the darkness, but turn on the light of truth again.
They called this practice antirrhêtikos, which means something like “respond” or “speak against.”
What did Jesus Himself do in the desert when Satan tried to tempt Him to abandon His mission: see Matthew 4:1.
Jesus took brief biblical passages that turned His attention from the father of lies to the Father of Truth.
One of the most precious biblical texts used in times of temptation is Psalm 72, which shifts our focus from present problems to the God Who is always ready to save us when we cry out: “O God, come to my aid; Lord, hurry to help me!”
This prayer became so revered in the ancient monastic tradition that we can finally read it today at the opening of the Liturgy of the Hours.
But this technique was not the only way to deal with dark or troublesome thoughts for the early Fathers.
Among other things, they advised what came to be known as ‘undressing the “thoughts,” that is, disclosing negative thoughts and temptations openly and honestly to an “elder,” to bring to light any distortions that needed correction.
We can do this today with our spiritual director and in the most acute cases in Confession.
And one of the most common concerns of human beings of all time is about the future.
So one of the favorite antirrhêtikos since ancient times has been to apply the teaching that appears in Matthew 6: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all of these things. Do not worry about the things of tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.”
By reciting it in response to my concern, I return to God the future that seems to threaten me, acknowledging that only God dwells and presides over that future.
I am not and cannot be there, but the moment I give up worry and choose trust, I give my future back to God.
Only then will He be able to work there in full freedom before I arrive.
On the contrary, when I worry, I take my future out of the Hands of God and under my own control, which is actually incompetent.
Well up to here what we wanted to talk about the teachings that Jesus left in the scriptures on how to get rid of dark thoughts that can come to our minds, and adopt kind thoughts that purify our life.
And I would like to ask you what you do when some strange thought comes into your head.
[resources: Frequent Confession]