Intrusive thoughts and confession


#1

Hi,

As my first post on this forum I want to start with a rather heavy topic.

I was raised in a catholic home, which was fairly faithful to the church. At the age of 17, I completely lost my faith. I spent the next 9 or so years trying to 'normalize' myself with the rest of society, believing that I could change fundamental parts of myself, among which included a more liberal attitude towards sex and a tolerance and acceptance of non-catholic ways of living. Also, I began to watch porn, and developed a pretty severe aversion to people of all sorts.

My problem now is that I've 'sexualized' my mind set. I have problems with intrusive sexual thoughts sometimes including my family, women in general, and even children(which REALLY disturbs me). These thoughts make it difficult to treat people as people, and not just objects. Because of this, I've completely stopped viewing porn.

I wanted to ask whether or not it is required to mention these thoughts to a priest through a confession of sins. Can a person really be sinning for having these thoughts? Can I hope to be free of these sexual thoughts? If so, how should I approach this?

all comments and suggestions would be helpful,

thanks.


#2

The only thing that I can suggest is that whenever one of these unwelcome thoughts enters your mind is to say "Get behind me Satan" and then recite the Hail Mary. Or whatever prayer is meaningful for you.


#3

I would suggest The Catholic Support Group for Sexual Addictions Recovery:
saint-mike.org/csgsar/


#4

Welcome home, and what a wonderful story! :slight_smile:

The first post from a new member is usually something “from the heart” and which they have struggled with - yours is no heavier than most, and, in fact, fairly typical. It’s often a difficult sexual or relationship problem.

Answering your question.

I have, a couple times, asked a priest in the confessional whether I should confess thoughts such as these and the answer was a clear “No”. Only confess those sins and thoughts which I have consented to.

We also have, in Fr Z’s blog, which is quite highly regarded in this forum, under 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession.

14) …never confess “tendencies” or “struggles”… just sins;

Nevertheless, there can be value in **mentioning ** (not “confessing”) temptations and struggles in the confessional as a way of opening your heart to God through the ministry of the priest. I have done so from time to time, and never regretted it, or been reprimanded for it, so long as I - keep it brief, and don’t present it as if it were the confession of actual sin.

If you were to “mention” such thoughts as these then you might well find that it relieves some anxiety on your part, and priests are, in my experience, very understanding of the confessional being used for these purposes. Be assured that nothing will shock him!

Some people say, “when in doubt, confess”. I tend to agree with that, for both spiritual and psychological reasons. Unless your pastor has told you otherwise, eg. “You shouldn’t confess that again”, or you are discerning within yourself a tendency to dump too much in the confessional. I have practised this for the last year, and still keep my (weekly) confessions to about two minutes.


#5

Intrusive thoughts are no fun, and the way you’ve programmed yourself makes them harder to deal with. But although it will take a while, you can make them start to go away.

Being upset (angry, sad, worried, scared, frustrated) makes your brain pay attention to whatever caused the feeling. So getting emotional about intrusive thoughts makes them stick around longer and come back more often.

So try to regard intrusive thoughts as just trash that means nothing. Any time they come along, think of your brain as a stream, and the intrusive thoughts as trash floating into your brain and then back out again. You don’t have to touch the trash, look at it, or worry about it. It’s just rotten leaves and bits of sticks, floating down the stream. Even if there’s a lot of rotten leaves floating down the stream every day, they’re just meaningless trash.

Think of other things that are positive. Keep busy and cheerful.


#6

I agree with this, and like the analogy!

For me, it is sometimes easier to let an intrusive thought go by mentioning it in the confessional. This stops the cycle of “I’m not going to think about this…I’m not going to think about this…I’m not going to think about this…”.

At other time I have indeed just said to myself “This is silly - let it go”. In fact, I probably do that more often. It’s only when it hangs around that I take it to the confessional.

Thankyou for the junk in the stream analogy. That’s worth remembering.


#7

the way I deal with intrusive thoughts is with immediate prayer to block out the thought. this may be verbal or silent depending on the situation. I normally ask Jesus to let the thought pass and I also ask the Blessed Mother and St Augustine to intercede on my behalf. If the thought persists I pray again, sometimes several times in a row...

God Bless!


#8

one of the best things we can do is to study the Bible all of our life. Yeah, that’s dry, especially in the beginning. Nobody around you may be studying the Bible, but that is God’s love letter to you. When you don’t understand something, you need to remember those things and search for answers. In the first place, this Bible study isn’t for anybody’s benefit except you. But, that’s what it’s for.

While you may study the Bible your whole life, it doesn’t take that long to understand it. see my next post.


#9

(from previous posts of mine)

Regarding unwanted thoughts

While Jesus makes it clear that one can sin in ones thoughts...just cause some lustful thought or other like thought happens does not mean that one has sinned....

What should we do with* unwanted* sexual thoughts or other "bad thoughts"..thoughts against God etc? Those pesky temptations that can come ....even though we are not seeking them or doing anything to bring them etc...

Are they mortal sins?

For a mortal sin one needs a grave matter ...full knowledge AND deliberate consent!!!

A. If you do not want the thought...it the thought displeases you: it can be a sign actually that you did not give any consent or do not give full consent.

B. Even if you felt a temptation for the thought -- and were drawn to it involuntarily ---but rejected it and maybe even turned right to God : again a sign not full consent (if there was any).

C. But what if one has a tempting thought --say of a sexual nature and even hesitated for a moment...but then rejected it for one did not want to sin?: it can be partial consent perhaps (and thus a venial sin)-- or it may be no sin at all but rather a strong temptation that drew you but then you saw what was happening and turned away.

D. A temptation can even be very strong or the thoughts very often -- but this does NOT mean one has consented!

Remember --for it to be mortal there must be that deliberate consent!

What to do? on the spiritual side--relax first of all and remember the above.

Next -- know that the more one fears the thoughts the more likely they are to come.... or said another way --the more a person stress about seeking to avoid the thoughts the more likely he will have a problem with them.

for example: for the next 10 seconds try NOT to think of an apple.

tick tock ...

tick tock...

Ok what did you think of?

Most likely an apple.

So it is best to ignore them and just not consent and then turn your attention to some other good thing...for instance whatever you are doing.
Simply do not consent and move on....

Another point -- thoughts can just happen --they are the stuff with which we think...it is up to us to consent and take them further or not. And just because they are REAL VIVID and almost "think themselves" does not mean per se that one has given ANY consent.

They can be annoying...but need cause no actual harm ....

(Now difficulties with thoughts can happen to anyone..and has for centuries.....nothing new!...but I will note too that "some" have a condition known as OCD (I knew someone with this once...it was a painful experience)..and thus should seek further professional help to work at overcoming it and to live a more peaceful life...)

(also some suffer from scrupulosity and ought to have a* regular confessor*)


Another help...is the distinction of "first thoughts and emotions" (as Baur calls em) what they call the prima of the prima.."the first of the first" (as one of my Professors called em...he was a Dominican)..these are the first involuntary things that just come up....such are not sins. They can tempt one of course to sin...or one can then proceed to some sin...but they are the stuff of the mind and emotions which "happen to one" ...and really the are opportunities for growing in virtue etc as well...

How to deal with these? First of relax...don't scruple...don't fear them...to try to swat them all as the come...just simply turn to other things...or the thing you are doing...or to God...(of course do not consent)...but if you are too defensive against them...they may get worse actually...and confuse you more...instead turn to God or again other good things...accept that hey..somethings wild thoughts will come to you...

(and these can happen to all of us by the way...)


There is a story from the desert of the early Centuries of the Church where a younger hermit when to an older one with the problems of thoughts happening to him all the time....the older hermit told him to go outside open his cloak and catch the wind.

The younger hermit said such is not possible...

the older hermit replied --neither is it possible to stop all the thoughts that can come to you.......your choice..... is to consent or not...


#10

Discuss your difficulty with the Priest in confession -- (but do not go into detail of course).

One is obliged only to confess mortal sins....


#11

When you start studying the Bible, don't expect to understand everything the first time around. Look for insights in study materials and cautiously use this website to search for answers.

Read Psalm 1. It's the main psalm. Look at what the "blessed man" does. He is studying the law of God. the other guy is following the ways of the world. We all want to be that "blessed man."

Read James chapter 1 verse 1. "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ"

YEAH. That's what WE want to be -- a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You need to WANT that. do you?

You also need to use confession to unload all your sins -- repent -- turn away from sin and towards Christ. You need to want this with all your heart (that is, the deepest desire of your whole person). You need to love God with all your soul (which is interpreted to mean, even if you have to sacrifice your life for your faith).

"with all your mind" -- you need to become "single minded" about following Christ -- that's the most important thing in your life. This includes the familiar advice of "using your head."

"with all your strength" -- with all your effort, and even with all your money.

We may become proud of ourselves when we go 15 minutes without sinning, and maybe that's a start. But, remember, whatever we do to obey God's commands, God expects of us -- it's the minimum we need to do.


#12

First of all, the one thing that is probably more concerning to you: yes, you can be free of these thoughts. Everyone who has had such an addiction feels like those intrusive thoughts are so strong and overcoming, but if you distance yourself and boldly fight for the virtue of chastity, it will be the Lord who will grant you the freedom and peace that you are looking for.

Now as for the sin: the Lord said it out clearly, He who in His divine mercy was so kind in softening many other burdens. He said it clearly: to desire someone in one’s mind lustfully is to have committed adultery with that person. In words that we understand: it is a mortal sin of the gravest kind.

Now the Church does understand and teach that many factors soften and decrease the guilt of such a sin, inasmuch as the free will (or deliberate consent) is not fully present.

How to handle this. What you mention does sound like an interesting spiritual battle. First of all, pray to the Blessed Virgin every day. To become closer to our Heavenly Mother, pure and chaste in all her ways, will bring about those virtues within your heart. Suddenly, what you once found attractive or interesting will disgust you - not because you will no longer feel attraction for the beauty, but because the very idea of destroying such beauty, of transforming a divine attribute into an evil act, will thoroughly disgust you.

Learn (and watch some movies) about the life of some of the most wonderful women saints of our beloved Church. First of all, s. Maria Goretti, the Martyr of Chastity, a brave young girl whose life and death you may find very touching. Every time I am tempted against purity or chastity, I pray to her, who understood and forgave…find out about the Little Flower, st. Therese of Lisieux, that fell in love with the Lord at such a young age and entered Carmel at the age of 15. She died at 24, yet her writings on the little way to sanctity are so deep and full of love that she was proclaimed Doctor of the Church. Find out about St. Faustina Kowalska, the Apostle of Divine Mercy…her Diary is one of the most simple yet wonderfully inspiring works. Growing closer to them, you will purify your heart and Satan will fly away from you, because above all he hates purity with all his self.

The Blessed Virgin will be your greatest aid. I recommend you find out about the Brown Scapular and perhaps decide to wear it always. The Blessed Virgin is, as a creature, Satan’s worst enemy. To Her the Almighty gave power to step over him. He dared to tempt our beloved Lord, but he would never even approach the Blessed Virgin. Learn to love her, and she will lead you to Christ, for all love towards her is love towards her divine Son. Praying the Rosary may feel burdening at times (I am not exaggerating) but try to pray it every day, even if just one decade (like the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross). It is said that demons are terrified by the Rosary.

Finally, you should grow attached to Confession as if the confessor were your best friend. Remember: he acts in persona Christi, it is to Christ that you confess. Confess often, as often as you can, and ask your confessor for spiritual direction on this matter. You shall be freed from this torment faster than you would dare to hope.

Pax Christi tecum

P.s.: following advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it would be a great idea to do something such as tracing a small sign of the cross with the thumb over your heart every time an impure thought comes to mind. I also personally repeat to myself in my mind, when something tempts me to lust:
To the pure, everything is pure. To the impure, nothing is pure.


#13

Have you been to a counselor? Sometimes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can manifest with intrusive thoughts.


#14

[quote="smithbryanf2, post:1, topic:293269"]
Hi,

As my first post on this forum I want to start with a rather heavy topic.

I was raised in a catholic home, which was fairly faithful to the church. At the age of 17, I completely lost my faith. I spent the next 9 or so years trying to 'normalize' myself with the rest of society, believing that I could change fundamental parts of myself, among which included a more liberal attitude towards sex and a tolerance and acceptance of non-catholic ways of living. Also, I began to watch porn, and developed a pretty severe aversion to people of all sorts.

My problem now is that I've 'sexualized' my mind set. I have problems with intrusive sexual thoughts sometimes including my family, women in general, and even children(which REALLY disturbs me). These thoughts make it difficult to treat people as people, and not just objects. Because of this, I've completely stopped viewing porn.

I wanted to ask whether or not it is required to mention these thoughts to a priest through a confession of sins. Can a person really be sinning for having these thoughts? Can I hope to be free of these sexual thoughts? If so, how should I approach this?

all comments and suggestions would be helpful,

thanks.

[/quote]

Hey, I had the same problem as you. Not as severe, but inappropriate images or thoughts often came to my mind, even in situations such as the Mass! It was awful. Of course, trying not to think about something only makes you think about it even more. I felt so trapped in my shame.

Here's what a priest told me in Confession: Every time you have an intrusive thought--every vile image or fantasy that comes to mind--offer that to God. Honestly apologize to Him and ask Him to take this burden from you.

I'll be honest, every time I did this, I felt like crawling under a rock. It takes courage to tell God what He already knows, to admit to Him that you are struggling with this burden. However, you *will *feel His love and forgiveness. Go frequently to Confession and have the courage to ask for His help and mercy there. It does get better, please believe me.

Your mind is wounded right now from porn and hypersexual garbage from the media. It needs the healing that can only come from the Sacraments and prayer.

Beyond that, all I can suggest is to stay away from sexualized media. It's tough, but try older books and movies until you're in better control of your thoughts. Or go non-fiction and read about history, science, philosophy, whatever inspires and interests (and distracts!) you. Finally, try praying to the Virgin Mary and ask her to protect your purity. She'll do what it takes to bring you to her Son. Mary is amazing.

I'll be praying for you. Good luck! And welcome home. :)


#15

Hi inkling,

Thanks for the post. Also, its reassuring to know there are others out there who’ve dealt with the same thing.

For me, it seems that constant ‘i’m not gonig to think about this’ attitude created a lot of problems, especially when I came to doubt the pretty much everything about my life.

It’s good advice. thanks.


#16

Hi to everyone, I also am suffering from intrusive thoughts they a and they are very sexual to every part of my life specially to the Lord and Mother Mary they are disturbing and have take a hold on my life for the last 2 1/2 years. I have spoken to many Priests and they have told me that they are not sins, as I do not want them and they upset me a great deal. I have been to confession so many times and it hasn't help them go away. I'm also seen a psychologist which thinks there due to something that has happened in my life. Any thoughts


#17

Hi, Heaven 2001,
I had the same problem. What I found after examining my conscience and help from the Church, my spiritual advisor, and professionals was a held onto desire for what was pleasing to the eye. I kept thinking it was the devil tempting me until it finally hit me that he did not have to tempt me I was doing it for him with my roaming eye and curiosity which became a habit. It was a tiny desire resulting in temptation. This weakness had to be identified in order to be dealt with. I discovered it by bringing it up in the confessional, reading what the Church teaches on sex and the dignity of the human body and taking advice which did not appear to work at first. Also, I realized I was trying so hard it was intensifying the thoughts. The devil has a way of confusing us so I am sure he threw a monkey wrench into the gears from time to time. Other things I hope you find helpful (it was to me) are listed below. All or none of it may not apply to you. Only you can judge that.
1. Join like minded Catholics. Give up any friends or acquaintances who want to pull you back into sin. Pray for them instead that they too may recognize our loving Lord and turn from their ways.
2. Don’t look to find loopholes in Church teaching on sin. Accept the fact that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches nothing but the truth beyond all human intelligence. Temptation has a way of minimizing sin’s seriousness to the point of weakening us to commit to them.
3. Find a good spiritual advisor.
4. Call the diocese where you live. Ask for help in finding a Catholic psychologist or social worker. Most likely, you will speak with a lay person who may be able to help.
5. Read and re-read the previous posts. They contain a lot of good solid information.
6. Look into Scrupulous Anonymous mission.liguori.org/newsletters/scrupanon.htm . I have received their newsletters for years.
7. Participate in the Sacraments and precepts of the Church.
8. Rest assured you are not alone. If everyone confessed their sins in public, you would see we are all sinners—even those you thought walked on water. We gain merit and forgiveness in our working toward bettering our relationship with our Lord. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
9. Strive to be single minded putting God first in all things.
10. When praying, keep in mind who we are praying to. Meditate and thank our Lord always.
11. Realize that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. He came to us in all humility as a piece of bread. If He suddenly appeared to me in this life, I would fall dead knowing my sins. I know, though, He would welcome me regardless of them so long as I am in the state of grace.
If we take advantage of what is available to us, we find our temptations become less intense until we recognize them for what they are and put them out of our mind. We will always be tempted from time to time because the devil is always at work, but we can rest assured God will not let us be tempted beyond our means. If it is His will, “Beyond our means” could mean giving up our lives, but even then, God will give us the grace to bear it. He created us for himself and wants us to be with Him in heaven. He did not create us to fail and lose salvation. It is our free will to choose Him or not. I cannot encourage you enough to keep reading this post, so it is worth mentioning again. Pray for the grace of perseverance and the ability to see through the facade the devil places before us. May God bless you on your journey to Him.


#18

Deliberately holding them in your mind and entertaining the thoughts is sinful. Having them merely pop up involuntarily is not.


#19

Hi, Bill, that is so true. However we can bring thoughts on by ourselves that can lead to those serious sins. This weakens us. By recognizing what in ourselves can conjure them up can strengthen us for when the devil turns up the heat. May our Lord bless you.


#20

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