Friday, April 2, 2010

Oh! Logismoi!

I was driven from sleep and not long thereafter, my bed, by the flood of anxiety-inducing, mind spinning, thought-racers, logismoi (log-iss-MEE).

For the uninitiated, it goes something like this:

What if?What if!  I bet she thinks that, if she said that to me then I would say this! And then in typical fashion she would respond with 'X' and I would say [insert brilliant remark here].  And that would show her.

Or more commonly:

Hmm.  I'm awake.  The baby hasn't woken up yet.  What time is it?  I'm afraid to look.  What if he isn't breathing?  What if I heard his not breathing and that's what woke me up?  I'm afraid to look.  Should I get out of bed and go over there?  I can't.  He'll wake up or worse not wake up.  Maybe I should wake up Mr. Flavius and get him to check.  Mr Flavius is snoring.  Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea.  Does he have sleep apnea?  Maybe that's why he does [insert random idiosyncratic tick].  Maybe I should wake him up?  He could check on the baby. Whatwasthat?!  Was that the dog?  Does the dog have fleas?  Fleas carry parasites.  Parasites are so gross.  Can they get in your epicardium?    

This is my brain on logismoi if I do nothing.

The logismoi is the unending stream of thoughts that are always with us.  Freud called this the id and ego, but I truly think that this was giving it too much legitmacy.  Freud believed the ego was the 'I' and the id was the impulse drive behind the 'I.'  The fathers talk about the nous and the logismoi.  Simply put the nous is the heart or the eye of the soul and the logismoi is
the thoughts which are connected with images as well as with the various stimulations originating from the senses and the imagination. The thoughts logismoi evolve to sin through the stages of desire, action and passion. They are called logismoi because they act in the reason (logiki).
~Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
The Fathers would say the nous, the heart is the 'I' and the mind, full of this logismoi, is the thing that distracts us from our authentic selves.  That most of us do not know ourselves and misidentify the authentic self as this stream of consciousness is sad.  It makes the rise of stream of consciousness as a writing technique and therapeutic tool even more sad.  Is there no place that we have not given over to our lowest passions?  But this is the deal, right?

In reading the Fathers, speaking with my priest, and listening to the podcast of Archmandrate Meletios Webber there is but one consistent answer:  prayer.

I am a particularly lazy woman and sometimes (okay, let's be honest:  all of the time) I would rather stay in bed and drown in this dross rather than struggle against it.  Were it not for the anxiety actually causing me to twitch and fidget, thus giving rise to my other
great anxiety and physically driving me out of bed and then my bedroom I might actually succeed in drowning in the dross.  And once out of bed I find myself with 3 choices:  the Interwebs:  Extra! Extra!  Google all about it!  Logismoi drowns woman searching internet for endocardiac-parasytic-infections-from-fleas-related-to-sleep-apnea!  TV, to drown out the logismoi and avoid the struggle.  Or finally, the Icon Corner, to wrestle with our defeated foe and throw myself on Christ's mercy.  I wish I could say that I chose Door #3 more often.  Struggle, struggle, struggle

I have nothing particularly enlightening to say here about all of this other than to say that Metropolitan Jonah says that when in the course of your struggle you feeling like things are getting worse then it means you're actually getting better.  Maybe it is because we are actually engaged in the struggle.  Fr. Joseph Huneycutt related a story about some-holy-father-whose-name-escapes-me, who said that "when the Devil with his temptations keeps pricking, pricking, pricking at me . . .  I thank him.  'Thank you for reminding me of my Lord.  I had forgotten him, but for your reminding me'."  He went on to say that after that the Devil will leave you because even he will not work for free and bring benefit to your soul. I like what Fr. Stephen of Glory to God for All Things has written about it and I invite you to go read what someone, who is far smarter and holier than I, has said about it.


Sandy said...

Are you sure you are writing about yourself here? Because I am almost sure you were writing about me. How often I choose a temporary distraction rather than the fight.

Jenny said...

Thank you...especially for the thought that feeling worse can actually be a sign of doing better.

Anonymous said...

Great post. So true. I literally will writhe and toss from my logismoi -- a torturing web of regret and shame and other oh-so-uplifting emotions. I can drag things up from decades ago and still cringe at the memory.

The only relief, as you pointed out, is to throw myself at the feet of Our Lord and trust in His Mercy.