So, I Opened a Book at Random…

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July 23, 2013 by lucieromarin

…because it was time for mental prayer, I was in a slough of despond (a work-day full of disappointments) and felt that I was in some way asserting myself by rejecting my usual reading in favour of a funny little book that I acquired at least a decade ago from a run-down church in a grubby area of town. I read a few lines and thought it quaint; published in the 1970s, it seemed a mixture of vestigial 50’s piety, budding 80’s liberalism, and practical good will. Then, still thinking about my miserable day of failure, I read this:

‘The “reasoning process” of the super-ego goes somewhat like this: “Whatever you do, you must do it well, so well that there will be no doubts or regrets about it. If you do it perfectly, you will have no reason to doubt yourself. You will not have to calculate whether you could have done better, or why you did not do better. If you do anything imperfectly, you are guilty of disturbing your sense of well-being with feelings of insecurity and anxiety. You must therefore establish a perfect self-ideal; and, what is more, you must strive to achieve that ideal without making excuses for yourself. Stop pampering yourself and begin at last to prove your sincerity! Anything short of this ideal is nothing!”…the super-ego is not interested in “thinking with the facts”. As it did in childhood, it still lives and thrives strictly on imagination, emotions, and feelings. It looks only to the flaws in your performance. It blames you for your shortcomings, without giving any consideration to the circumstances of the situation. It has only two ratings, namely, one hundred percent and zero. It induces people to strain either from an anxious eagerness for success or from a fear of failure.”’

If the word ‘super-ego’ makes you queasy, try reading it again with ‘untrained choleric or melancholic temperament’ in its place. Yep. Then, I read this:

‘Some people mistake their super-ego for their conscience. As long as this misunderstanding persists, these people are exposed to many unnecessary difficulties in their religious practices. They may feel obliged to repeat a single prayer until they have recited it without a single distraction. Others find themselves torn between a genuine need for rest or recreation, and a strong emotional doubt as to whether they should spend that time doing something “more profitable” or “more meritorious.” This impossible tyranny of the super-ego induces some to diminish their interest in religion and others to abandon altogether every religious practice, even the sacraments.’

So, I guess that Divine providence/weird co-incidence/my psychic link to self-published 1970’s piety-stall literature wishes to to remind the world of something: when you’re feeling bad about stuff, take your temperament and your training into account. How many people have left the Faith because of a burnout from which they could have recovered, or which they may never have experienced at all, if these misunderstandings had been addressed?

(The book was called ‘My Daily Life,’ and was published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood.)

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