The Scientific and Monastic Practice of Sleep Restriction

According to Saint John Chrysostom, “animals recognize sufficiency as a limit with respect to food and water and will not go beyond what they need even if innumerable persons try to force them on to excess” (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 58 on Matthew). He likewise remarks that “nothing is so conducive to enjoyment and health as to be hungry and thirsty when one sits down to eat, and to identify being full with the simple necessity for food, never overstepping the limits of this, nor imposing an overwhelming load on the body (Saint John Chrysostom, No one can harm the person who does not harm … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Pure of Heart, for They Shall See God

If the goal of our lives as Christians is union with God (theosis), then the means by which we can attain this union is through the acquisition of a pure heart.  It seems     providential that we have reached this beatitude just as we arrive at the first Sunday of Great Lent.  During this season of the holy forty days, which is a microcosm of our entire lives, we are given an opportunity to struggle, arduously, yet joyfully, for the purity of heart of which the Lord Christ speaks in His Sermon on the Mount.  Saint John Cassian has written, “The goal of our vows, as we have said, is the kingdom … [Read more...]

Coping with Chronic Pain: Exercising the Body and Training the Soul

Those suffering chronic pain often feel as though whatever they do seems to only make their condition worse and so conclude that it is better to just give up and do nothing. This understandable tactic, however, narrows not only their movement, but also their lives and their possibilities. An ancient Christian writer, Minucius Felix, once wrote, “Fortitude is strengthened by infirmities, and calamity is very often the discipline of virtue; in addition, strength both of mind and of body grows sluggish without the exercise of labor. Therefore all your mighty men whom you announce as an example … [Read more...]

A Bit on Compulsive Buying’s Distant Cousin

Before taking leave of this series on compulsive buying, I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts concerning compulsive buying’s distant cousin, hoarding, that tendency to stockpile possessions and that difficulty to let go of items that just might be useful if the right occasion arrives. I describe them as distant cousins because the two maladies share some basic family resemblance in terms of being about our relationship with material things, but fail to live like close relatives in the same house with the same daily routine. Hoarders like compulsive buyers tend to view … [Read more...]

Taking Captivity Captive: The Role of Mindfulness in Overcoming Mindless Compulsions

In our busy world we often perform routine tasks without giving them much thought.  We’ve performed them so often that after the rote tasks are completed we often wonder to ourselves, “I don’t remember doing that” or “I was so deep in thought about work or family that I don’t remember the drive to work this morning.”  This isn’t to say the work was done in a sloppy fashion or the drive to work was reckless.  It does tell us however that we didn’t have our focus on what we were doing at that particular time.   Most of the time there aren’t any adverse consequences in “spacing out”.  Yet, when … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying and Getting some Help from a Friend

In the last post, I spoke about learning not to act on the impulse to go out and buy and the use of the exposure and response prevention technique, which is very much about the real choice we have with respect to our actions that the fathers speak about at length. I also mentioned the relationship between this process and the life of asceticism in general. Of course, it is not easy to live an ascetic life, especially at the onset and in isolation from others. Likewise, it is not easy for someone who is used to medicating feelings of sadness, anxiety, or other emotions with a shopping spree, to … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying: the All-important Distinction between the Thought and the Act

In Ancient Christian Wisdom, I note, “After the distinction between temptation and sin in thought, the ancient ascetics instruct the faithful in the obvious, but crucial difference between sin in thought and sin in deed as well as in the need to prevent the former from slipping into the latter. Origen views sin in thought as tolerable and treatable, but sin in word and deed as dangerous and difficult to cure, if not incurable. For this reason, when a wise man is disturbed by a storm of thoughts, he keeps that tempest of the mind hemmed in, neither uttering a word, nor moving a muscle.” … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying-Avoiding That Which Leads You to Act

Compulsive buying is a psychological and a spiritual disorder that is symptomatic of a distorted and dysfunctional view of self, others, and the world around us.  The real danger in this disorder, besides the obvious social and financial ruin it can wreak, is the compulsivity with which it is practiced.  Compulsivity can easily become a way of living, a modus operandi for daily life if not checked and dealt with effectively.  In the next few posts, I will offer practical steps in dealing with compulsion. For the fathers, passions and compulsions are related concepts that distort reality and … [Read more...]

Towards a Definition of Compulsive Buying: Chaotic Thoughts and Chaotic Lives

According to Christian teaching, when our thoughts are preoccupied with something other than seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven, when our behaviors seem to be controlled by something other than our will to follow the commandments of Christ, we find ourselves in a vulnerable place spiritually and by extension psychologically.  Compulsive buying disorders, like pathological gambling, and other impulse control disorders are places of great vulnerability in which the sufferer can’t rationally make sense out of certain unfortunate courses of actions that are taken over and over again. Saint John … [Read more...]

Virtue: The Ultimate Remedy for the Problem and the Passion of Anger

In the past blog posts on anger, we have seen the way in which modern approaches to managing anger can be used by Christians in a way that is consistent with the teachings of earlier ascetics. Consistency with Christianity and the message of Christianity, however, are not the same. The ultimate cure for the problem of anger is not to be found solely in techniques such as relaxation, reframing the situation, taking a time out, thought stopping , or assertiveness training, as valuable as these techniques may be. No, the ultimate cure can only be found in acquiring the virtues inherent in the … [Read more...]