Five Keys to Beating Scrupulosity
OCD with Religious Themes
What is scrupulosity and what can be done to overcome it? In this webinar recording, Ted Witzig Jr. shares real hope and practical helps with those who struggle with scrupulosity OCD and those who love them. He walks through five practical keys including:
- Understanding faith, doubt, and uncertainty.
- Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) skills to beat scrupulous symptoms.
- Effective support and using the 85% rule.
- Implementing exposure and response prevent (ERP) in OCD with religious and spiritual themes.
- Self-compassion and combating shame.
My name is Ted Witzig, Jr. I’m a clinical psychologist and pastor and I have spent over 20 years working with individuals and their families who are dealing with OCD and specifically OCD that wraps around religious and moral matters. And so today, what I hope to do is be able to share some key tools to helping you, whether you’re a sufferer, a parent, family member, friend, a therapist, in ways to beat Scrupulosity.
It often confuses people. It oftentimes shows up in ways that people aren’t sure what to do with it. They’ll think it is a spiritual matter, and so they’ll show up to clergy or try to deal with it through repetitious prayers or other things like that. And so, it can be confusing for people across the board.
So what I hope to do today is lay out a pathway that can help individual sufferers, their families, their clergy and mental health professionals work together in a way that helps to beat the scrupulosity. I’m gonna share up my screen here, and so let’s get started.
First of all, when we think about scrupulosity, what is it? So, first of all, it is considered obsessions to compulsions that have religious themes, hyper morality and pathological doubt, and worry about sin. And so I wanna make very clear that OCD and particular scrupulosity is not about somebody’s religion or their beliefs. There are millions and millions of people that practice their religious faith every day and every year and every week that don’t have OCD or scrupulosity. So it’s really important to understand that we’re not just talking about somebody who is devout. We’re talking about somebody who OCD has overtaken or gotten in the way of them being able to practice their faith. What you have also then is that the symptoms of scrupulosity follow moral or religious lines of teaching, oftentimes and almost every religion of the world has different beliefs that fall along these things.
Like what do we believe about what’s right or not right about how to deal with God, sex, violence, and what’s clean or not clean? I just wanna say also, as a Christian pastor, a lot of my examples will be coming out of my experience base today. But it’s important to know that scrupulosity has been identified in people of all the world’s religions.
I wanted to say also that there are a couple of different kinds of obsessions that occur. And the first type is called, I call it the intrusive or the ego dystonic or the shocking obsession are the repugnant obsessions. These are the kind that when the sufferer has them in scrupulosity, it slams into their thought stream.
They feel shocked about it. Like, oh no, I think I just shot blasphemous thoughts at God, or, oh no, I think that I committed the unpardonable sin or I had the image of having sex with a virgin Mary or something along those lines. And so the person has a sense of disgust at just having the thought, okay, what kind of a person am I that I would have a thought like this? I can’t believe that I would have this thought. And I think another thing, it’s really important is that these shocking type of obsessions, I should say they’re shocking to the person. No OCD professionals are gonna be shocked by these because we’re gonna say, you know what, this is what OCD does.
Okay. But to the person that has it, it feels very shocking. And so they feel very shameful. They feel very much like if other people knew I had these thoughts that they would send me away. They wouldn’t wanna talk to me. They would think that I was a bad person. Sometimes, for example, the thoughts, particularly in a religious context, a person will have these thoughts and people will interpret it as a spiritual attack or for example, something like a demonic possession or things of that nature.
But while I’m not debating that there’s a spiritual world, what I, what I would say is that, That, um, that intrusive, uh, obsessional thoughts? Uh, uh, these are things we see very regularly with O C D and they’re very, very common and they’re very, very common. Whether you’re, you know, uh, wherever you’re in the country, even the world, these kind of themes are very commonly seen.
Um, type number two, um, type of obsessions, uh, in scrupulosity is something I call faith syntonic. Ruminative obsessions. Now that’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Wow. Uh, but what it means is it, it is, it is obsessions that the person doesn’t question at all. Because they just think they’re, they’re just true. So like, like, um, uh, a question like, am I truly at peace with God?
Or what if I’m proud? Or what if I just lied? These kind of obsessions, um, don’t really slam into somebody’s thought stream as much, as much as they just come in and, and like, oh man, am I, am I too proud or, Or am I modest or, or am I really at peace with God or did I, did I really do, I really have love?
What happens with these kind of obsessions is the, the obsessional thoughts and the pathological doubt are interpreted as syntonic. That means that they, they fit with the person’s religious worldview. So, because again, I don’t wanna lie and I don’t wanna be proud, and I do want to be at peace with God.
So what happens is the actual distress doesn’t come with a thought slamming into their thought stream. The, the stress comes when the person starts to go, oh, no, what if I’m not? What if I’m not at peace with God? Oh, what if I am proud and that’s bad? And so then, It kicks off then obsessional rumination and or that, that, and it’s analysis and it’s trying to figure it out.
Am I, did I, and so there’s lots and lots of mental rituals and, um, neutralizations, um, And then oftentimes following that, some reassurance Sinky, we’re gonna talk about that more as we go here. So one question before we dive in further, and that is, does religion cause O C D or scrupulosity? So first of all, like I said, scrupulosity has been identified amongst, uh, followers of all, uh, the major world religions.
What it does do is it tends to take on the characteristics of a person’s religion or their cultural beliefs. And so it tends to mold itself, uh, to the, um, the, uh, person’s religious worldview. So I work a lot with, uh, Protestant Christians and, uh, so one of the things that you’ll. Find is that the kinds of things that they worry about have to do with the things that Protestant Christians worry about.
Correct. Belief, uh, whether, whether they, um, whether they, uh, um, have repented correctly, whether they have, whether they’re walking in a way that is. That is honoring God. Um, the interesting thing is if you, if you look at somebody that has scrupulosity in a, um, in an Orthodox Jewish context or ultra-Orthodox Jewish, the things that they’ll worry about are things like, um, mixing milk and meat and, uh, cleanliness.
And so what you’ll find is, and, and while it’s possible that, that those could be, uh, flip flopped, because OCD doesn’t really know any boundaries in terms of what it can, it can cause somebody to worry about what you see is the, the, the, um, Jewish believers, um, are gonna have obsessions that revolve around their, their religious beliefs and practices and, and then like the, the Protestant or Catholic or, or other groups are gonna kind of revolve around those.
So I like this quote, um, from Perdon Clark, uh, that just says it very succinctly. There is no evidence that religion causes O C D. However, your religious background and experience can influence the type of obsessional, uh, uh, concerns that develop in people with O C D. And I think that that’s, that’s definitely been the case in what, um, I have seen.
All right, so what are the five keys that we’re gonna be looking at? We’re gonna be looking at faith, doubt and uncertainty. We’re gonna talk about acceptance of commitment, therapy skills, and how we can use act to create synergy between your religious beliefs and the treatment. Um, we’re gonna talk about effective support and the 85% rule, again, to make sure that people are on the same page between.
Pastors and family and the sufferer and a, and a counselor, uh, to try to make sure we’re working in the same direction. We’re also gonna talk about helpful and unhelpful exposures. Exposure and response prevention is one of the primary treatments for for O C D, um, but we do want to make sure that it’s done in a way that is going to be respectful of people’s faith background.
And then the last thing we’re gonna talk about is self-compassion. Now these aren’t the only five keys to beating Scrupulosity, but today that’s what we’re gonna cover here. All right, so let’s talk about faith, doubt and uncertainty. First of all, I wanna highlight, and this is very important, faith is not the absence of feeling uncertain.
Okay. Faith is going forward through the uncertainty. This is a big key because uncertainty and the intolerance of uncertainty is one of the major drivers of OCD symptoms. We all love to feel certain I. I love to feel certain, you love to feel certain. We all love it when everything kind of feels like it lines up, but that’s not real life.
Our feelings and our circumstances don’t always match. And in O C D O C D is, is driven by this feeling of, oh no, what if I don’t know for sure and I have to figure it out for sure. And again, O C D doesn’t just say, oh, it’s okay if I’m 99% sure O O C D. Really, really fixates on that point. 0, 0, 0 0 1% chance that I might not be okay, and it actually flips it over and says, prove to me that I am okay.
And so it, we keep redoing and checking and things of that nature. It’s important to remember then. That faith is faith because we, we are believing in something that is beyond, and that doesn’t mean that there’s not, that faith isn’t real, that it’s not good. And, um, faith is good. But faith sometimes, or, or O c d I should say, wants to create a little formula here that that doesn’t work.
What it does is it wants to say faith. Equals certainty. Okay? And that, that, um, that little formula is gonna spin you around in a way that really is unhelpful. Faith equals. Trusting God through the uncertainty. When you say faith equals certainty, all of a sudden that’s gonna spin you in a, in a way that’s, that says I have to check and I have to analyze.
And, um, that’s accidentally gonna turn you into somebody who’s gonna be putting gasoline in OCDs engine. So OCD also wants you to believe that uncertainty and doubt is just dangerous. Okay, that having feelings of uncertainty and doubt are dangerous. Everybody sometimes has feelings of uncertainty and doubt, even the most faithful, and it’s important to understand that while uncertainty and doubt are uncomfortable, it’s not dangerous.
It’s not dangerous, and you can learn to tolerate it. In fact, what I would say, and this is really important because this is one of those places where you can create synergy with the treatment. Okay with faith in treatment or moving in the same direction, is that treatment for O C D is learning to tolerate the uncertainty.
It’s learning to push past doing the rituals. You know what faith is? Faith is moving through the uncertainty, and, and it’s really important to understand that, that, that people of faith all over the world, and, and even as I think about Old Testament, new Testament, uh, teachings, what you see are that the faithful.
Went from a place that that was familiar to them through uncertainty, and then they trusted God through that. And so here’s the thing, you can move forward in faith and do your treatment. Now, does that mean you’re gonna feel certain through the treatment? No, no, no. That’s not what it means. In fact, what I’m saying is that you can move forward in your treatment and, and learn to tolerate the uncertainty, and it’s, and it’s doable.
So remember this, faith is what you believe. It’s not what you feel. O c d on the other hand, wants you to believe your faith is what you feel. And as a psychologist and even as a person, I love emotions. I love to talk about emotions. I love to, to understand people’s emotions. One of the things you need to understand is your faith is not your emotions.
Your faith is what you believe, what you believe to be true. So remember this, feelings are not facts. Okay? Now, O C D wants you to say, feelings are facts. And if you feel unpeaceful, that means that the fact is you’re not right with God. And we really need to remember that what makes you right with God is what you believe.
Okay. And who you believe in. I love this. Uh, this is a, uh, a little, um, uh, scripture from Mark, uh, 9 24. And, um, and, and it, it really teaches this that I can have faith and st still feel uncertain. Um, uh, in this particular passage, Jesus asked a, a father of, um, Young man. He said, do you believe and and he said, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
And so what we need to remember is that sometimes we need to say, okay, I believe this is true and I need to move forward acting on that with what I call walking faith. Walking faith is the direction of your faith, and then you keep going whether you’re feeling it or not. Okay? Another thing is to remember.
That God loves you completely, even when your feelings are uncertain and clouded by doubt. I want you to think about those of you that are parents, okay? Do you love your kids less when they struggle? Okay? When they go through a time when they’re, um, hurting or, or doubting or, or frustrated or whatever. No, you don’t.
In fact, when they’re hurting, okay? When you see your kids hurting, what do you as a parent feel? Your compassion just increases for them during those times. So, so it’s very interesting because we can even understand that, that we love people as they struggle, but for some reason OCDs convinced us that, that, um, if we have any doubt or uncertainty, that God’s like, oh, you’re done.
Okay. Um, another, another thing to remember here, and this goes back to this, this thing about the role of feelings and faith. O c d, by its nature blocks the peaceful. Feeling that people of faith desire in religious practice, we love to feel peaceful. We love to have that sense of certainty that we have peace with God.
But I, I wanna highlight something. This goes to just the biology of human beings and the biology of O C D, okay? It’s very important to understand that the part of the brain that is activated in O C D. Okay, that sends this message. It says it’s an air detection circuit in here. It’s in the mid part of the brain, your Singulate system, and it puts the message out and it goes.
Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong. You got it. It’s, it’s not quite right. Not quite right. And the other part of the br and the frontal lobes are going, fix it. We gotta fix it. We got a problem, fix it. Fix it. Come on. What’s the problem? Fix it. Fix it. Analyze it. Fix it. And what we have then is a loop that is, that’s going on here biologically, that in which the more and more we try to feel peaceful.
The less and less peaceful you will feel. Okay. It’s a lot like a little child. If you’ve ever seen a toddler try to pick up a balloon. The closer they get to the balloon, the more they kick it out in front of them, okay? And the more you try to make yourself self feel peaceful, the more you’re going to go.
I don’t feel peaceful. Okay. Actually the, the brain projections, the nerve projections, the vagus nerve that comes down to la, the largest descending nerve into your chest and abdomen. Okay? It sends anxiety messages into your chest and abdomen that give you the feeling of something’s wrong. Okay? And so it’s very important to understand that feeling is the, essentially the neurological opposite.
Of feeling peaceful. Okay, so you need to remember this, that feeling peaceful is not the same thing as being at peace with God. And I wanna just remi remind you of this. I’m gonna to give you just a, an example of this. When, um, um, my wife and I have twin daughters when they were born, um, uh, while they’re 19 now.
When they were, um, when they were right when they were born, they thought that they heard something in one of their. Uh, hearts that wasn’t quite right. And so, um, they hooked my little daughter up to a, uh, a bunch of wires and things like that to, to do, uh, an examination of her heart. I was standing there, I was, in fact, I was holding her little hands while, while this was going on, and I loved her.
This little, this my little baby daughter that was just born that I love so much, I’d give my life for her in a second. Okay. The question is, was she loved? Absolutely. My wife and I loved her so much. Did she at that moment feel peaceful? No, not at all. She was screaming, she was unhappy. She didn’t know what was going on.
She was not liking what was, you know, having these little, uh, electrodes put on her chest and, and not being wrapped up swaddled in a blanket. So the feeling. Was anything but peaceful, but was she loved? Absolutely. And that’s one of the things you have to remember about faith. Is that the feeling of faith may be all kind of messy, but the focus of your faith needs to be on what you believe and moving toward that and walking in your values, believing that God can sort out the difference.
Now, uh, that was the first section and that first section was on faith, feelings and doubt. The second section now is about acceptance and commitment therapy. Oh, I wanted to just, Say one thing, I wanna go back here. Um, there is, um, uh, at the bottom of, of, uh, the page, I have some links, um, to different, um, tools and resources.
Free tools and resources. And if you go to the, the website there, uh, there was a, um, The, I have a resource called coping statements. Um, it’s particularly, um, it’s specifically written towards, uh, Christians with scrupulosity, but it, it could also be adapted otherwise, but, but it is called, um, um, Coping statements for Christians with Scrupulosity, and it really talks about faith and doubt, and it has a number of statements that could help you in your, in your treatment forward.
This next section is about acceptance commitment therapy, and I have some resources suggested books and resources on act. It’s a newer of the, um, of the treatments for O C D, but it really has a lot of wonderful application, especially for those with scrupulous scrupulosity. Um, and I would also say that, um, over the time that I have been doing O C D, I have, uh, doing OCD treatment.
I have watched the field. Progressed through with cognitive behavior therapy and exposure and response prevention. And as it’s gone on, then uh, acceptance to commitment therapy came out. And what we’re really finding is a wonderful, um, uh, merging together of acceptance commitment therapy with exposure and response prevention.
And I really wanna recommend to that, that to you as OCD sufferers, I wanna recommend that. To, uh, O C d treating professionals as well. That, um, that I think that there is something there together that really is helpful. So, The acceptance part of acceptance commitment therapy is learning skills to help you detach from assigning meaning to obsessions.
And, and this is really important because our tendency is to do something called fusion where we have an obsessional thought like, oh no, did I commit the unable sin? Oh no. Did I repent, right? Oh, no. Did I just, um, do I really love God with my whole heart? Or, or whatever those things are. And when the person has a thought, they grab onto that thought in their mind, and then they start fighting with it.
They start analyzing and what they do is they leave the present moment. They go up into their head. So like, you might be with your family, you might be with your spouse or your children. Um, but, but you might be their body. But where’s your mind? Up in your head? You’ve left the moment you’re up in your head fighting and fighting and fighting.
Here’s the problem, the more you fight. With obsessional thoughts, the more power you give to the O C D and the stickier that those obsessional thought gets. So here’s the thing. You need to remember when thoughts of a religious, sexual, or a moral nature come into your mind, okay? This is key. You must reject the notion that you have to fight, analyze, or control the obsessions in order to show God or yourself that you don’t want them.
Okay. This is why I really like this for, for, uh, people of faith with Ooc D because oftentimes they’re looking at this going, oh, no, I had this thought. I had a thought. Oh no. What if I’m, what if I’m gay? Or what if I, uh, sexually touch my child? Or some kind of, uh, of thought like, like that. What ends up happening is a person goes, oh no, I had that thought, so I have to fight.
Having this thought. Okay. And I have to fight it, uh, so that I can show God and myself that I don’t want this thought. Now I get it. Um, the, uh, the acceptance skills in terms of acceptance and commitment therapy don’t mean that you like or agree or want the thoughts. What it means is I’m not gonna fight with the thoughts.
I’m not going to get in this battle with the thoughts because the more we fight with them, the stickier they get. Um, and so in fact, there’s a, there is a New Testament scripture that talks about taking every thought captive. And one of the things that happens is people oftentimes with O C D oftentimes interpret that to believe.
I need to grab onto my obsessional thoughts, grab, crush, and kill them. The problem is the more that you try to grab onto those thoughts, and the more that you fight with them, you fuel the thoughts, you accidentally create a rebound. And so what we’re actually trying to do is actually. Um, that what taking them captive means in this sense is to disempower them.
We are disempowering the thoughts, and we do that by, in fact, shifting instead of shifting or trying to fight, grab and crush. Those thoughts we’re trying to shift. Toward then the things that you value and get out of your head and move forward in faith. I wanted to say one more thing here before I go on to the, to the second part of act.
If you wonder if you’ve sinned, like what if I, you know, what if I did this or what if I did that and you’re not sure? If you have, then you need to move forward. Okay? You need to go on as if you did it. You need to keep moving forward. Okay. The thing about it is O c D constantly gets us mo looking in the rear view mirror.
Oh no. Did I, did, you know, did, did what I said yesterday to that person. Did I do this wrong? And that the analysis, we can analyze things for years. Okay. Can we’re, oh man. Did I cut in front of somebody at the drinking fountain in sixth grade? For heaven sake. Sorry, I got a microphone right there. The, um, uh, the thing to remember, Is that act and your faith are about going forward and forward in faith is the thing you need to remember.
Think about riding a bicycle for a second. Okay? If you’re constantly looking over your shoulder like this and you stop pedaling, You’re gonna fall over, you’re not gonna get anywhere. Your goal is when OCD is going, Hey, you need to analyze this. Hey, you need to check this out cuz you’re not sure did you or didn’t you sin over here?
You need to focus forward. And get on the track pedaling as hard as you can to go forward down the track. Now what is, what do we learn from the feelings part? We want our feelings to say it’s okay to go on. That’s not the reason to go on. The reason to go on. Is that you need to think about moving forward towards your, your, um, values.
So the ACT skills, the the commitment part of ACT is talking about living a meaningful life. Based on your values. This is why it’s a wonderful treatment for people of faith because values is about what we’re about. Okay? And so what we can do then is think about being a, if you have a value, like a service or value of being able to, to show love in some way, or you have a particular skill or method that you like to, to, to share kindness and love with other people, that what ACT teaches us.
Is the way to beat your, your obsessional, um, complaints and, and fears is instead of trying to analyze it inside, we focus on living out, um, and, and using walking faith instead of getting stuck on our head. Okay. It’s a beautiful synergy because it says instead of me sitting at home analyzing whether or not I said the right thing to somebody and, and being stuck and so paralyzed that I don’t, um, go to the food pantry, um, and uh, and, and go help serve.
Okay, because I’m too a, I’m too much stuck in analysis here going, I don’t know if I’m good enough to, to be worthy of serving. No, no, no. We get out and go. Okay. So it’s, uh, one of the, um, Bain phrases in ACT is get out of your head and into your life. So another thing about ACT is it teaches us that the key is the direction of the movement.
Not the feelings that you have, not the presence of any particular thoughts. Martin Luther said this comment, and he said it this way, at least this is attributed to him, that you can’t stop a bird from flying over your head. Okay? But you can stop the bird from making a nest in your hair. The whole point is people with O c D are are holding themselves responsible for essentially these thoughts like birds flying over their hair.
Or they’re over their head. What we wanna do is instead go, you know what? I need to think about what is my life about? And then get active and involved in doing those things. Now we’re gonna go on to the next section now, and it’s called Effective support. And the 85% rule, one of the most common. Uh, compulsions that I we’ve been talking about is this analysis and these mental rituals.
But the second most common, um, kind of cluster of compulsions in Scrupulosity is reassurance seeking and reassurance seeking can come out in repetitive confessions, asking people questions for reassurance and et cetera. That will only keep you stuck. I know of people, for example, who, let’s say they’ve worried about, did I commit the unpardonable sin?
What they’ll do is they’ll just, they’ll not tell some, uh, other people that they have O C D, but you know what they’ll do? They’ll go ask that person, well, what do you think the pardonable sin is? They’ll ask somebody else, what do you think it is? Then they’ll get online, okay, and, and, and ask Google what it is.
Let me tell you what. Reassurance. Seeking through online searching is not a good thing, okay? It is only going to keep you stuck. Okay? So it is very important that you have key support people in your life that understand O C D. Okay. And it’s okay if they don’t know about it very much at the beginning.
There’s many, many great ways to learn about O C D, um, this conference and, and the re resources and materials are out there. Your support me, people need to understand what O C D is. Okay. They also need to understand what reassurance seeking is, repetitive confession, those kind of things, and be able to identify it so that they can know well enough that when you’re kind of subtly seeking reassurance that, um, that the, the support person can say, um, I think you need to use your skills.
I love you enough that I can’t answer que those kind of questions. Okay, now it can take time and effort to get family members, clergy, mental health professionals, and, and, uh, physicians on the same page. Now sometimes it’s, uh, things are working along well enough that there, there doesn’t have to be a whole lot of collaboration.
Because people are kind of already moving in the same direction. The physician goes, yes, hey, I think you need to take an S SRI medication. The mental health professional says, Hey, you’ve got O C D and this is what we’re gonna do, and you’re, and the family is on board and the clergy’s on board, but sometimes, People, you’ve got people that are in different, different angles.
Here you’ve got, maybe sometimes you have a, a counselor that doesn’t know how to treat O C D or you have a, you have a clergy that doesn’t, that never worked with somebody that, that has, um, O C D or you have family members that think, uh, the issue is you just need to try harder, uh, or pray more. And so we have to work together.
Now, here’s the thing. Communication takes time and effort. Okay. I know it does and nobody has extra time and, and, um, and so what I would say is I would really encourage you that if you’ve got people in your support, people that up, uh, support network that aren’t working together, take the time to try to build those bridges.
Okay. If you have a pastor, for example, Christian pastor that doesn’t understand, um, uh, O c D, the, uh, the resources on my website, for example, they’re all, they’re free and they’re, and the, the concept he can learn or she can learn about the, the, your mentor or bible study leader can learn about, um, What, uh, O C D is and, and how they can be a support to your faith and treatment.
Your family members need to understand what, what the treatment is. Because if you’ve got a, a counselor who’s, uh, saying, Hey, we need to do, uh, exposure and repo, uh, response prevention. You explain it to a family member or family member says, don’t do that. Okay. Or you have, um, a, uh, A counselor who, uh, understands O C D really well and understands exposure and response prevention very well, but does, doesn’t understand your faith, and so you feel like they’re putting your faith in the crosshairs of the, of the treatment.
This can all be worked through. And sometimes you need to do a consultation with, with somebody who can help. These people can all get on the same page. What I wanna say is it takes time and effort, but you know what, what I find is generally the counselors and the clergy, you know what? When they finally talk, They, they really, they really care for you.
And they want to be on the same page. They, they would like to be on the same page. But you know what, sometimes counselors are afraid of clergy. Sometimes clergy are afraid of counselors. Sometimes family members are afraid of, you know, and all these things. Let’s break down the communication barriers and get on the same page.
It is worth it. So I say identify someone, and I think this is really key in O C D treatment, particularly for scrupulosity, particularly when we’re trying to understand what is and isn’t o c D. So identify somebody. It could be a pastor, it could be a family member, um, a friend, um, Who can help you and the therapist determine what things are a part of the practice of your faith and your church community.
So what’s the normal practice versus what is O C D? So for example, if your, um, if your, uh, Practitioner is trying to help you to stop, uh, having, um, compulsive praying, for example. That’s a good goal. Compulsive prayer sometimes can really get, uh, be a, uh, to be a problem. But if you, um, if for example, your, your, um, uh, practitioner says, You cannot pray.
We’re stopping prayer altogether and you are going, ah, man, I don’t know if I can do that. It feels like a violation. Those kind of things. The question is what’s the difference between healthy prayer? And O C D prayer because they’re not the same thing. Okay. Oc d prayer is a response, is a, to an obsession.
It’s part of a mental ritualization. And so let’s figure out, can we say, you know what, Hey, you know what? It’s okay for you to have at the end of the day, a two minute prayer. Okay. It’s okay for you to recite this particular prayer or whatever, but when you do what? When you say things like, um, I have to pray until I feel a certain feeling in my chest, in abdomen until I say In Jesus name.
In Jesus name. In Jesus name, amen. And then I don’t have a certain thought that says, oh no. What if I accidentally prayed to Satan? And that’s why I have to pray again, and I have to go through all those things again. Oc D prayer is not okay here. Okay? I want you to be very clear. But sometimes we need.
Somebody who can help you and the practitioner to know where O c D and faith begins and ends. Um, there are some really nice, um, lists, uh, that, um, uh, that, uh, some authors have put out that, that, and, and again, a website, uh, you can find this. What are the differences between healthy religious faith and O C D?
So one of the things that I wanna wanna say is you need to be able to do whatever other people from your faith community can do as part of their normal practice of faith. Okay. That’s the key here. Whatever other people can do, you should be able to do. Okay? If they can walk into to a sanctuary, sit down and listen to a sermon, you should be able to sit, to walk into a sermon, uh, walk into a sanctuary, sit down and listen to a sermon if it is that.
Um, and, and then, and so that’s kind of what we want to use as the, the, um, what is normative. I use this thing called the 85% rule a lot of times. Um, I didn’t come up with it. I don’t remember who I learned it from, but it’s, it’s, it’s, you could say, okay, out of a hundred people in my faith community, how many, what percentage of them would do this particular thing?
Okay. If, if you would say, let’s say you say, uh, you know what, I can’t, um, I can’t, uh, go to, I can’t even attend services anymore because of my O C d. I say, okay, well let, let’s see what’s normative here. Out of a hundred people from your church, what percentage of ’em go to go to service, uh, on, on Sunday and or on the weekend and, and you, and you say, oh, well, yeah, way more than a, you know, way more than 85%.
We’d say, well then that’s, it’s normative that people from your church go to go attend services. And so we should say for you, that should be part of your goal to get back to that. Okay? Now, If it is something that’s very, if it’s, um, how many people, for example, have to go and, and have been confessing the same sin to multiple pastors year after year after year, and have gone to different churches, different clergy, and they all say you need to stop confessing, and you keep confessing and you keep confessing and you keep confessing.
What percentage of people do that? You know, at very few it’s about one to 2%. You know why? It’s one to 2%? Cause one to 2% of people have O C D. Okay? And so we can say, oh yeah, it’s way that’s under, uh, way below 15%. So we say, that’s not normative. That’s the O C D, and I have to get over that. Okay, so exposures, uh, what to do, what you do and do not have to do.
Okay? So first of all, you don’t have to do exposures that involve doing things that your faith specifically forbids or says is sinful or immoral, okay? So for example, you don’t have to destroy, tear, or burn your Bible. Okay. You don’t have to deface anything, any, you don’t have to commit sacrilege. If, if, if that’s not things that people in your religious group would do, you shouldn’t do it.
Okay. That, that’s just, you know what, I’ve, I’ve never, I’ve never had, uh, somebody destroy their, um, their Bible, for example. Um, you don’t need to do exposures to pornography. Um, sometimes, uh, fears about, um, uh, about, uh, sexual things keep people from, um, moving forward. And it’s very important for you to be able to not get stuck by that because, uh, um, otherwise, uh, OCD will control your life for sure, but you don’t need to do exposures to things like pornography that would be considered sinful by your.
By your faith. Another one, you don’t have to do things like, um, like a, like a, an exposure in which you have to sit in church, uh, shouting Blas thoughts at the preacher, for example, uh, as an exposure. But you do need to be able to go in church and allow those thoughts, uh, to pass through your, uh, your mind without neutralizing.
Okay, now some of you go, oh, dad, I, I, uh, I don’t know if I can do that. Well, that’s, that’s why you have a therapist and you’ll, you can work through it. But while you don’t have to do some exposures the exact way that somebody might have ’em, uh, somebody else do ’em, we gotta figure out how to get around it.
Okay, well, I’m saying you don’t have to do exposure to pornography. You do need to figure out how to move forward in your life, uh, not being bound up by those, uh, sexual intrusive thoughts. For example, uh, you don’t have to give up the core beliefs of your faith. Okay. You don’t, uh, the concept that, that in order to cur cure your O C D, you have to, to, to leave faith.
No, you don’t. You don’t have to, but you do need to learn how to follow the tenets of your faith and not OCDs skewed version of faith. Okay? Um, you don’t have to leave or stop going to church, but you do need to live in a way that’s functional. Okay? Um, you don’t have to completely stop praying. But you do need to learn how to pray in a way that doesn’t feed into O C D.
So, uh, here’s a, like, God, give me the grace to push through my feelings of uncertainty and to not do my rituals. Good prayer. Okay, God, give me grace to accept obsessions and resist compulsions. And you don’t have to agr share or agree to the same religious beliefs as your therapist. Oftentimes people have to work with people of different faiths, but you do need to follow through on your agreed upon exposure exercises.
Okay? And again, if you’re having trouble doing that, then we need to find a ways to build bridges there by bringing in clergy, by bringing family bring, bringing a consultant. Okay. And I have at the bottom there a, a, uh, a link to a thing called Principles of Effective and Religiously Sensitive Exposures.
Last section is on, on self-compassion, and I want you to remember this, this is important because people with O C D and Scrupulosity sometimes are really, really hard on themselves. And really, really brutal. And their picture of God has been skewed by O C D. So first thing I want to remember is that O C D is an affliction.
It’s an affliction, okay? So I want you to think about your practice of faith, and I want you to think about how does God feel about and treat the afflicted, okay? And I will tell you that in the Old and New Testaments as I read them, I see God showing compassion on the afflicted. Okay. In fact, I see him encouraging the, the us, uh, as people to care for the weakest and the afflicted and those that can’t care for and defend themselves.
Okay? That life is sacred. Okay. And I think that, I mean, Isaiah, I love this, uh, this Isaiah 42, 3, a br bruise, Reed, shall he not break in the smoking flax, shall he? Not quench, he’s just talking about the compassion and kindness and the gentleness of God. So some ways to increase your self-compassion. How would you treat a good friend or a loved one dealing with the same issues that you are?
See, many of you, if you would think about your friend, if they were having a very same thing. You wouldn’t be nearly as hard on it. You wouldn’t say to them, oh, you’re a terrible mother. You’re a terrible, or you’re a terrible Christian. You’re a terrible um, uh, worker. You’re a terrible whatever. Nah, you wouldn’t do that.
So, and one of the things that I say to my clients is, I’m only asking you to treat yourself like God would treat an afflicted person and how he would direct you to treat a struggling loved one. Okay, so keep a growth mindset instead of this past fail mindset, the perfectionism, the all or nothing OC D wants you to be look at and say, you’re either perfect or failure.
You’re all in or all out, and that’s it. Okay. It’s better to look at it. And let’s say you’re listening to a sermon and you think, oh no, I’m failing at this now. That’s a good reminder. I need to work on that. Okay. I need to, I’m gonna try to grow in that. Okay. But, but to say it pass fail and then to go to extremes is not, is not helpful.
And lastly, don’t pathologize what is normal. If you feel, um, like for example, if you feel that you’re supposed to be positive and happy a hundred percent of the time, and you’re never supposed to have a a, an unpleasant emotion or an unpleasant thought, you’re gonna really struggle. Because nobody does that.
Everybody has unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Even the most faithful people sometimes have thoughts and feelings and don’t feel the way they want to. Everybody’s their motivation and desire goes up and down for things. It’s, uh, and so just remember that it’s okay that you feel these things. Remember, your faith is not your feelings.
Your faith is what you believe. I’m gonna end here with just some online resources. I have, um, online resources, free resources for [email protected]. There’s all different kinds of things to help you there. Uh, Ian Osborne has a site piece of mind. Foundation has things. Um, one of the things that I didn’t mention here today, but is something called the.
Two screen method of mindfulness, um, that’s from a book called Freedom From Anxious Thoughts and Feelings that I really like. Here, I have it here. Here’s, here is, uh, a number of of books that I, that I use. And I, and I just really wanna encourage you, there’s, there’s, there is, uh, many, many tools out there and, um, and, and resources and, uh, don’t give up.
Don’t give up. Um, O O C D wants to really hurt you, um, and hurt your faith. Um, but I wanna encourage you to move forward in hope and forward in faith. And, uh, you can beat O c D, you can beat Scrupulosity. And uh, I wanna thank you for joining me today, and I hope that this has been an encouragement to you.