Integral ecology

Martha Reyes: "Without faith, psychology is paralyzed".

Dr. Martha Reyes talks to us in this second part of the interview about the psychological problems that affect Hispanic women in the U.S. and the importance of faith to heal them; healing tips and the importance of detecting red spots in a person's behavior.

Gonzalo Meza-September 21, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes

(Unsplash / Alex Shute)

Dr. Martha Reyes was born in Puerto Rico, but has lived most of her life in California. She has a B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from California State University. She also obtained a second master's degree and doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is the author of several books, including "Jesus and the Wounded Woman", "Why Am I Not Happy?", "I Want Healthy Children", among others. She also has a collection of catechetical material and religious music. She has been a host and guest in several Catholic television programs. She gives conferences and directs the "Hosanna Foundation" in California.

Dr. Marta Reyes

To get to know Dr. Martha better, Omnes conducted an interview, the first part of which was published earlier. In the conversation she talks about her evolution from composer to psychologist; the Hosanna Foundation she created to help the population; the psychological problems that affect Hispanic women in the U.S. and the importance of faith to heal them; healing tips and the importance of detecting red spots in a person's behavior.

You have a book entitled "Jesus and the Wounded Woman". From your perspective, how does our faith and the community where we live, parish, for example, help to prevent and heal those wounds? 

- We find many cases of women wounded and healed by Jesus in the New Testament. In my book "Jesus and the Wounded Woman" I talk about them. For example, the Syro-Phoenician woman, the Samaritan woman, the hemorrhagic woman, the bent-over woman, the woman with the alabaster perfume, the widow of Nain. These are figures that have remained engraved in the history of salvation, but they are characters with whom we can identify. In the Old Testament there are also many women like Deborah, Esther, etc., but I cannot identify with any of them because I have never led an army or sat on a throne. But I do identify with the Samaritan woman or the woman with the alabaster perfume. The Gospel presents the dialogues they had with Jesus. They are the same dialogues that all women can have with Jesus Christ. He wants to heal them, not only physically, as happened with the hemorrhoea, but to reintegrate them where they belong. In this example, after the woman was healed of the flow of blood, Jesus wanted to give her back her lost dignity and present her healthy to the community. When he said, "Who touched me?" the whole crowd stood up and had to look for her and identify her from the crowd. Jesus wanted to present her to the world as a woman healed of her dignity. They no longer have to reject her, or turn away from her, because she is now a healed woman.

Something similar happens in Jn 4, with the Samaritan woman. There at Jacob's well, Jesus meets her. She had four or five husbands and suffered stories of brokenness; however, Jesus was willing to turn those pages quickly and give her a new chapter in the story of her life. It is interesting to note that in that passage, a day earlier Jesus had tried to get to Samaria but they would not let him in. However, the next day, Jesus went to Samaria and entered through the back door; what was that door: the wounded heart of a wounded woman. When that woman was healed, he went to the city, to Samaria, and began to preach to all the Samaritans. There is another passage in the Word of God, Prov. 4:23: "First of all, guard your heart, for in it is the fountain of life". God has a special interest in healing wounded hearts. We also see this in Heb. 12:15: "Take heed to yourselves, lest any of you lose the grace of God and a bitter root spring up and injure many". And in Lk 6:45: "So a good man brings good things out of the treasure that is in his heart, but an evil man brings evil things out of his evil depths. The mouth speaks of what the heart is full of". Therefore, actions, behaviors and decisions are born and spring from the good or bad heart. And that is why the Lord is interested in healing wounded hearts and faith gives us the best tool.

Without faith, psychology is paralyzed because it becomes only intellectual concepts or proposals and hypotheses. Faith is what mobilizes healing, because the Holy Spirit is the healer. If he knows God's thoughts, how can he not know ours? The Holy Spirit is liberating and revealing. Sometimes we Catholic psychologists have the dilemma of asking ourselves, "What do I do or what do I say? I don't understand what this person is telling me because he doesn't know how to articulate his problem. He is not explaining it well. There, in those cases we can also invoke the Holy Spirit to reveal the root of the problem. Faith moves, heals and liberates. I know of cases of people who have been in psychotherapy for many years, but it was not until they went to a healing retreat and experienced a "spiritual breakdown" in front of the altar, or the Blessed Sacrament, or in the Holy MassI say that the forgiveness offered by the Lord and the healing power of the Holy Spirit are the "nuclear energy" of all healing. I say that the forgiveness offered by the Lord and the healing power of the Holy Spirit are the "nuclear energy" of all healing. Faith is in some cases the last and only possibility of healing as it happened to the hemorrhagic woman, who had spent all her money on doctors and they had not been able to find her problem until she came to Jesus.

As you pointed out, faith plays a crucial role in all disciplines, including psychology. Why do you think it is important to pause in life to analyze or attend to an emotional and psychological condition? In some cases it can even serve as prevention.

- We have to make sure that we have a clear, uncluttered and free mind to analyze, discern and decide. This is a vital transaction in life. A healthy mind is the engine that energizes existence by giving us cognitive clarity, positive emotions, visionary imagination, attainable expectations and healthy behaviors. Those behaviors that come from a healthy mind will produce achievement and great rewards. The opposite happens when we live with a damaged mind, because it leads us down a path of errors. Unhealed wounds (from childhood, adolescence, early adulthood) are a time bomb that can detonate at any moment. An overwhelmed or tired mind makes bad decisions. And poorly discerned decisions can turn into big mistakes and regrets that will later destabilize our lives. The only way we protect and defend ourselves from what I call "emotional attacks" is by acquiring the skill of filtering life's events calmly and wisely. A healthy heart is a wiser heart.

The healthy mind is a wiser mind. We do not need intelligence so much as wisdom. Wisdom is a gift from God, but it is also the addition to inner healing. To live with a healthy mind is to live life slowly and respectfully. I sometimes use this phrase in retreats with women: "we have to give an 'eviction order' to sabotaging thoughts". If we don't, we keep accumulating them. Neither our mind nor our body is built to store so much pain. These will take their toll on us and will cost us dearly as they become heaviness, disappointment and even physical illness. Jesus Christ said in Mt 11:28-29: "Come to me, you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and your souls will find rest". There I see the inner healing, the healing of the heart. Meekness and humility must walk hand in hand. Jesus also adds in Mt 11:28-29: "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light". That is to say, the yoke of life is not eliminated, there will be a yoke and a burden, but this is bearable, because when one feels accompanied and protected by God, that unbearable burden becomes a bearable and justifiable burden. As time goes by, when we make an analysis in the light of faith, we will be able to find the hidden blessings that were waiting for us behind that pain.

Unlike physical illnesses, emotional or psychological illnesses are not easily detected by laboratory tests. What are the red flags that alert the community or family that a person is not doing well? 

- Red lights are lit when the person shows a droopy face, a droopy look. When he or she has lost the glow of his or her face, his or her verve and illusion. Life gives us challenges, burdens and hurts, but it also gives us ample opportunities to be excited about something or a lot. For example, every married woman should be excited about her children, even if her marriage is not going well. She should live inserted in her children's lives, looking forward to providing them with the best life possible and for as long as possible. Today we recognize an emotional and psychological condition (and we see it in some children) called: "the sad mother's disease". Children raised in such circumstances are much more likely to develop anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder or even addictions.

So it's important to be on the lookout for red flags that we need to catch early. And as women, not all of us are going to live in environments with people who know how to identify those signs to help us. We have to acquire that skill ourselves to "self-analyze" and stop ourselves. I love to make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. I suggest to many sisters and people to go to the Blessed Sacrament with a notebook in hand and talk to the Lord, open their hearts and start writing. The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is going on inside you and you will understand better and you will understand yourselves better. The Holy Spirit will give you guidelines, recommendations and new ideas that were previously hidden under the rubble of pain or the wounds of the past.

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