Some time back I wrote a piece for The Catholic Weekly on my youthful struggles with solipsism. A reader resonated with this and wrote me:
I hope this will be short – it’s just to touch base and thank you for your article on solipsism. It meant a lot to me because there’s a little opening to dark terror in my mind which I slip by quickly and ignore – when I was a pre-teen I called it “The Horrible Feeling” and my Mom pitied me and tried to comfort me through it – it reappeared occasionally in my twenties and briefly in my 40s too. Now I just say to myself, well I may be insane, but I trust in Jesus to save me. And then I try not to think about it. Even now writing to you I’m getting cold chills.
C.S. Lewis called such attacks (for that is what they are: assaults of unreasoning fear from the Enemy) the “odious inner radio”. I find it helpful to pray the St. Michael Prayer and to sing this simple song:
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
And in our souls take up your rest;
Come with your grace and heavenly aid
To fill the hearts which you have made.
I have only spoken of it to two people – one just didn’t know what I was talking about. The other thought it interesting, but sort of didn’t know what I was talking about. Which adds to the horror.
I wondered if yours is similar, and if you have a solution?
We all have things that terrify us. But they are all different for different people. And the Devil loves to stab us in our weak spots. The idea is simply to get your mind off God and if that does the trick, he’s happy. So what you do (and it sounds like you are doing it) is take that fear to God, which is exactly what he does not want. St. James says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). Taking your fears to God in Christ is that resistance and it drives Satan nuts. He is an ass, but even he can figure out when his efforts are counter-productive. He will keep trying (since he is unimaginative) but the more you turn to God for grace and strength, the stronger you get and soon it becomes obvious that, whatever else is the case, you are not the only thing there is. The day arrives when the memory of the fear becomes funny and that is the worst thing of all for the devil—being laughed at. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy.
It is this. I know that every human being looks out of the eyes in their head and sees everything around them (it’s like a lighthouse with a beam which scans and sees the world). We all see with ourselves as our centre. First of all that feels horrifyingly isolating. But the scary thing is this. Even though I know as a fact that everyone sees the world this way, from inside looking out with themself as the center of everything – yet in fact, I’m REALLY the one doing it. I’m looking out of my little world at you, Mark, and my letter to you, and it’s really just me alone looking out, I’m some kind of horrible lonely center of the world and everything else is outside me, no matter how much I might know that others feel the same. Sure, I know they feel the same, but I’m still seeing even that knowledge from my lonely center of the universe ….The fear of being special/different in some horrible, nightmare isolated hellish way is what follows from this …
It breaks me out in a cold sweat every time I think about it.
So there it is, and thank you for sharing your horror of a similar thing because it makes me feel less alone.
Luckily I love God and our dear Jesus and my precious children and I trust His goodness above all. (I’m a convert too)
And he loves you and will not leave you alone, though he will honor you with trials that you can find your white stone.