Why you should [NOT] come to the Idaho Catholic Women's Conference...
My dearest Wormwood,
You did the right thing in confiding to me your patient’s impulse to attend a religious conference. The key here is to redirect her desire to refresh her soul towards something far less sustaining. Can you convince the patient that her spiritual dryness is due to overwork? That she is altogether too busy and rundown to exert herself in attendance of this sort of thing? It is of no consequence that it is exactly this sort of thing which might truly refresh her; our aim must be to obscure that fact completely, keeping it from the patient’s conscious realization.
This is most efficiently achieved by distraction, and such distraction is most delectable to us when it consists not of true pleasure, but rather of turmoil. Stir up false guilt of every kind. Remind her that her husband and family cannot do without her. Entice her into believing her presence in her home is indispensable.
You must encourage her pride in such a way that she maintains the image of herself as self-sacrificial mother, one who gives at every moment and takes nothing for herself. This image of mother is one of our better inventions, as it preys on a woman’s natural inclinations towards self-gift, twisting them into imitation martyrdom. In this condition, mothers are driven to pour out everything they have and are easily lured away from anything that might refresh or refill them for fear of being perceived as “selfish.” This fear is an opportunity; use it to prevent your patient from approaching anything that might truly quench her soul.
You are right to fear this conference. Any refreshment of the soul at regular intervals provides a steady obstacle to our goals for it; a whole heap of it at once may prove difficult for us to overcome indeed. Our aim, of course, is the gradual and nearly imperceptible drying out of your patient’s soul. As she becomes brittle, having avoided nourishment and rest, she is less able to perceive the Enemy’s insipid plan for her existence and eternal significance. Once you have led her to this state, little further effort from you will be required. Any small irritation or inconvenience may be enough to trigger a snap, provided you have cultivated a gradual buildup of resentment against the very ones she has been designed to nurture. Thus, your patient will be the very one to erode the bonds of love with those whom you have convinced her that she cannot leave.
In this way, my dear nephew, the patient will slowly but surely starve her soul, leaving to the side the riches the Enemy has prepared for her, until it exists on nothing but the worldly platitudes we have planted in the culture at large. Once you have drawn her into abandoning by habit those things she once clung to as necessary for her immortal soul, you can begin once again to coax her into absence from her dear ones, provided that the sustenance she seeks is nothing truly satisfying: a pedicure, a bubble bath - anything will do, provided that it is spiritually shallow in nature and conducted under the intention to escape from these wretched, draining creatures.
So you see, you must wait for the moment your patient has withdrawn her affections and begun herself to foster the resentment that we once had to suggest to her. Only then is it safe to allow her to believe that she ought to withdraw physically: when the cause is some superficial act of “self-care” and nothing that might truly feed her emaciated spirit.
Your affectionate uncle,
Writer | Host, Brave New Us Podcast
Based on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis