Those mysterious things within
Thoughts are part of us, accompanying us, advising us, but also disturbing us, discouraging us. Some people are so tormented by them that they cannot find peace, are unable to get rid of them and thus are prevented from leading a peaceful, active life.
This is certainly not a new problem; Christian spirituality has long dealt with it. St. Ignatius, thinking back to the decisive episode in his life that led him to work out the rules for discernment, had noted the difference in the kinds of thoughts that crowded into his mind: “Amazed at that diversity he began to reflect on it: from the experience he deduced that some thoughts left him sad, others cheerful” (Autobiography, no. 8). For Ignatius such diversity is so important that he describes it as “the first reflection he made on the things of God.”
However, the analysis of thoughts was known to the Christian spiritual tradition well before Ignatius. Evagrius Ponticus wrote a famous treatise, Against Evil Thoughts, which has become one of the classic texts for its treatment of major vices. Evagrius saw thoughts as the origin of evil actions which, repeated over time, become vices that undermine the will and especially suggest to the individual that the tendency to evil is invincible, to the point of leaving the person in the grip of a sense of total loneliness and despair.
Evil thoughts may not only lead you to do evil, but also take away your energy and prevent you from expressing the best in yourself. They persistently remind us of traumas suffered, failures, health concerns, tasks we cannot complete. They bring on self-loathing and the possibility we may not be appreciated by others; or they delude, suggesting an exaggerated sense of self to the point of believing yourself to be the center of the world.