Thursday, 22 November 2012

ACT and Cheer up your hearts

One of the challenges with scrupulosity, is that it creates a paralysing, even damning, feeling. It makes you scared to make choices or be trusting in something. I’ve been so consumed with thoughts of

‘Have I done something wrong?’
‘I have done something wrong! Oh no my life is over.’
‘Will God not help me?’
‘Have I done something in the past I still need to repent of?’
‘What’s the real meaning of life?’
‘Why doesn’t God just help me or answer me?’
‘I have to be so careful so that God does not have a reason to punish me.’

These thoughts put your thinking and state of mind somewhere other than ‘HERE’, not in the present moment, and so concerned about existential questions or past or future events that you are stuck and can’t progress in even the simplest of tasks that are right before you.

There are many things I don’t do either because I am scared they will create problems in the future due to them not being acceptable behaviour to God or because I can’t seem to feel right about engaging in an activity until I sort out the BIGGER questions rolling round in my head.

The thinking is that I’d feel much better if I could just resolve all of the questions I have before I move on and live my life. This is the trap! There always seems to be something I can feel bad about or something that needs questioned.

In my experience, the advice given to those with scrupulosity is they need to work on ‘acceptance’. Acceptance that you won’t always have the answers and that certainty cannot be achieved in some things, even when you are dealing with God.

This can seem counter-intuitive to a member of the church. We are always told to seek to understand things, get answers from God through prayer and scripture study and gain a ‘knowledge’ of truth. The scriptures are full of people who have felt unworthy or helpless or with questions and the stories show their determination and endurance to get an answer, which never fails. Yet because I have OCD I am being told I need to just ‘accept’ that there’s stuff I don’t know or things I might not be able to get an answer to?

I could write a massive blog post on the above paragraph alone, but I won’t bore you with my mental gymnastics around the subject of doubt and it not seemingly being acceptable in church circles, maybe because of the strong and constant use of terms such as ‘I know’, and ‘without a shadow of doubt’.
Here is where I currently am in the process of overcoming this problem – to try and not question worthiness and existential stuff on a daily basis. It is stopping me from doing anything good with my life, RIGHT NOW. I’m in a state of inaction in many respects as I’m wrapped up and consumed with the thoughts listed above.

From reading the scriptures I have been really interested in this idea of ‘action’. A doctrine of the church that is unique to the Book of Mormon that everything that God has made, including humans, can either act or acted upon.

In 2 Nephi 2:14 it tells us

 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

Now this is not what you would call a principle unique to ‘church’ as it is evident within science that this is an obvious principle of existence. Everything acts in it's own way and is acted upon by many forces. However, I call it a ‘doctrine’ unique to the church because with bringing it into the scriptures we are saying it has some importance and bearing on our understanding of ourselves as Children of God.

I can tell you outright that with OCD I feel very much ‘acted upon’ and don’t feel so much that I am free to ‘ACT’ for the reasons I’ve explained above.

In another scripture, 2 Nephi 10:23, we are told

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

So here we are to understand that we are definitely one of the creations that was created to primarily ‘act’ and not be acted upon. So I am to ACT. The other thing I get from this scripture is that first and foremost God wants us to ACT, even if our actions may lead to ‘everlasting death’.  It is our right and privilege as Sons and Daughters of God to choose, and to ACT. Anyhting that prevents us acting is not helpful to our purpose.

Having scrupulous thoughts and doubts stop us living, acting and choosing what we will do today or tomorrow as we are so focused on the questions and doubt. We have somehow lost the tolerance to accept that we might have or will do something wrong and don't know with certainty some things with spiritual significance. This causes us to be overwhelmed and unable to ACT.
Another scripture in D&C 58:27-28 says

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

I am to choose things with my own free will. I get to choose what I will do and for what motives. I am not to feel constantly restricted and compelled to do things by the Church or commandments. Not only am I supposed to ACT according to my own free will, but I have been given all the power already to do so. God wants me to make choices based on what I want, what I know and what circumstances I am in.

Here's a thought - God doesn't want to give you answers to everything. The real exercise is that he has given us the power within ourselves to do things and choose things, and he wants to see what we are going to do with it. Being crippled by doubt and fear, which OCD gives us, is not expected and is not necessary to progression.
I have the opportunity and the power to ACT for myself. I have certain things to help me along the way such as church and scriptures, but at no point does God expect me to hit a state of inertia out of fear of Him or because there’s a few unanswered questions. He’d rather we ACTED, despite our previous wrongs and regardless of whether we get the future stuff wrong.

We are ultimately learning how to best be ourselves and how can we do that unless we ACT in the way we want to? While this may involve looking to God and asking some deep questions occasionally, it is not to become so burdened by fear and doubt that we don’t live and even enjoy this mortal existence.

Buddhist teaching has a principle of ‘Mindfulness’. This is being accepted as an effective psychological tool in Western society. It’s all about living and experiencing the moment. I believe that this is what we need to do. Then the bigger eternal questions and doubts will all come out in the wash, and meanwhile we have built our lives and lived in a way that means we have become something and gone somewhere. Take the risk that you aren't worthy and take the risk that you might be wrong about something. That is the purpose of our existence and it’s ok to feel life’s simple pleasures in the process. What use are we if we can't do any good because we are so concerned about being good?

Now while Wikipedia is not the ultimate, all knowing power of the internet, the following page is a good intro to mindfulness. Please check wider sources if you wish to know more.

I'd be interested in any feedback or disagreements you have with what I've shared above. I'm always open to corrections and constructive criticism. I'm learning here too.


Katie L. said...

I think you're right on. The idea that we should "know with certainty" is cultural and not doctrinal or scriptural.

Alma is pretty explicit about this; he says, "Faith is NOT to have a perfect knowledge of things."

Our salvation or standing with God is not contingent on doing everything right. It's not contingent on repenting for each little tiny mistake or imagined mistake. That is why there is grace.

Mindfulness therapy helped me more than anything else to overcome my OCD. I hope you continue to use it. Good luck!

LDSRuminations said...

Thanks Katie. I am so surprised you are still popping by and reading some of my blog. Thank you. I never know if my ramblings are of any use or make sense to others, so I appreciate your time and comments.

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