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Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

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Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

Post  Guest on Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:42 pm

I found the following article on a Protestant website, but I want your input as to if it is good advice. I think it sounds pretty good. The reason I ask is that I have this problem: bad thoughts cycles, scrupulosity, etc.

OCD and Guilt
Jan 13, 2000 - © Cherlene Pedrick

by Cherry Pedrick, RN

copyright 2000

Okay, so you have these bad thoughts. Maybe they are blasphemous thoughts. That's bad, right? A sin, right? Well, let's think about it for a minute. OCD means having unwanted, intrusive thoughts. They just pop into your head, unwelcome and uninvited. How can that be a sin? How can you have guilt for something for which you have no control?

If you are like many people with obsessive thoughts, you fight these unwanted thoughts. Try not to think about them. But when you try not to think of something, it grows bigger and bigger until it takes over your mind, your entire day, thinking about what you don't want to think about and trying not to think about it.

So trying not to think the bad thoughts doesn't work. Penance, prayer, making up for the supposed sin, confessing the sinful thoughts to someone else - do these things help? Probably for a while. But the OCD brain isn't satisfied. It will never be satisfied with any ritual. When the thoughts return, you say another prayer, confess your thoughts again. It takes longer this time, but eventually the thoughts leave. But even quicker this time, they're back. And this time the thoughts are stronger, more horrifying because you know they won't be so easily dismissed this time.

So what is the answer? The solution makes no sense to most people. Let the thoughts remain in the recesses of your mind. The problem is the entertaining of bad thoughts, not in having them. There can be no guilt when we have no control over something. Paying attention to them, trying to get rid of them, doing rituals to rid our minds of them - all of these fall into the category of "entertaining thoughts." When we recognize the thoughts as OCD and unimportant and we allow them to just remain in the recesses of our minds, we take away their significance. We admit they are meaningless. Brain noise, I like to call these thoughts. We cease to entertain the thoughts.

It's not easy. One of the keys is to remind yourself that these thoughts are just OCD. We cannot control the thoughts that pop into our heads and God will not punish us for them. And doing penance for thoughts you have no control over is entertaining them.

Think of an obsessive thought as a train passing by. You can't stop the rumble and sound, you have no control over it. The train will go by no matter what you do. People that live near trains get used to them. If they hear them, they might say something like "There goes that train again." But they don't go out and try to stop it. They recognize it, then ignore it.

If you ignore one thought, another comes up. Just let them come. Note how busy your OCD is today. Then go on with what you are doing. Also, I think that filling our minds with good stuff helps. Not when the OCD is bad necessarily, but on a regular basis. Spend 15 minutes every morning and evening in Bible study and prayer, or whatever is uplifting and inspiring for you. The Bible verses will come back to you when they are needed.

But resist the urge to pray when the obsessions hit, except maybe to ask for God's help in dealing with OCD. Don't ask for forgiveness for OCD obsessions, only His help in dealing with them. Why ask forgiveness for a glitch in your brain, for brain noise? God made you the way you are for a reason. Along with the OCD comes other positive traits - concern and empathy for others for example. He can use you just the way you are, so there is no need to ask forgiveness for the way God made your brain.

It will take time to get accustomed to handling obsessive thoughts this way. You will probably feel guilty, like you will be punished for allowing these obsessive thoughts, this brain noise, to remain in the recesses of your mind. With time these feelings will ease. But at first, I think we need to just walk in faith that we are doing the right thing. The feelings are part of OCD. Sometimes I have what I call feelings of gloom and doom. It is usually OCD and I need to recognize these feelings as such.

Does God understand? I know He does, He made us and understands how our brains work. But I have an idea that might help resolve the guilt question. How about writing a letter to God? I know He already knows our thoughts and feelings, but it might help us understand ourselves. Explain to Him about your OCD and how the thoughts pop into your head. Tell Him they are not your thoughts, but OCD. Tell Him you love Him and want to please Him. You would be healthier and more able to serve Him if you could control your OCD. So you are choosing to use cognitive-behavior therapy to treat your OCD. Tell Him you are no longer going to do penance for for - the OCD obsessions. Finally tell God you love Him and thank Him for making you the way you are - OCD and all.


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Re: Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

Post  Allie on Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:58 pm


Hello! I hope you are doing well.
I read your post and I would have to say that I don't really care for the advice given here- something just doesn't seem to sit right when I read it. Although I am not someone with any great particular knowledge about scruples (and your particular situation).

Since I am not someone who is trained as a spiritual director, I will hold my tongue (or at least my typing) from giving any advice to you other than it would benefit you to try and find a good holy priest that could guide you through this. You may need to be under the obedience of a priest to get through the scruples/etc and to discern what is "psychological" vs true temptations being inflicted on you.

If you cannot find a good priest to assist you- perhaps you could look into some of the saints that dealt with the same things and how they dealt with it...a few off the top of my head: St.Faustina, St.Ignatius of Loyola, St.Alphonsus deLiguori...I also think that St.Francis deSales wrote about this in his direction to others. So perhaps they could help you out as well?

When I was early in my conversion I would have horrible thoughts/images enter my mind..I did not have the benefit of the Sacraments at that time. I remember hearing someone give the following advice: every time something like this happened, immediately start saying (mentally) the Most Holy Names of Jesus and Mary until the thought/image goes away. I still do this today and it has helped me greatly. But again, maybe all I am saying to you is of no benefit because I do not really know what you are dealing with.

So, that my 2 cents (and then some). May God bless you and guide you.
I will pray for you!

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Re: Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

Post  Allie on Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:08 am

I'm back (lol)

I just did a quick search and found a link to a book that looks like it may be good. It is written by Fr. Thomas Santa. You may want to check it out?

God bless you!


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Re: Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

Post  Elisa on Thu Jan 27, 2011 3:38 am


I agree with everything that Allie told you. And I don’t get a good feeling about that article either.

I will definitely keep you in my prayers. I never had “bad thoughts” or problems with scrupulosity, but I did have OCD about 15 years ago. I lived in a house that had 3 different bug infestations in a row and it caused me to be OCD about cleaning things and washing my hands. I didn’t rewash my hands, but I washed them way too often when I’d touch things.

A lot of people have their own quirks and issues about things. But the OCD is that feeling inside you that you have to wash your hands or wipe that counter or something bad would happen, so I’d feel a compulsion to clean. I thought it was a way of getting control over a situation that was out of control. I also developed a bug phobia that was related to things when I was little and I’d have nightmares. And I was having anxiety attacks.

Some things that people have problems with, they can overcome by keeping their distance or stopping entirely. But a mother cannot stop cleaning, (lol) it’s part of life. So it was hard to know when I was normally cleaning and when I was being OCD.

It was a bad year. It made me doubt my faith and brought up things from my youth that I had forgotten. And for the first time in my life I did not have peace in my heart and did not feel Our Lord’s consolation. All my life up until that time, I felt like Jesus was right next to me helping me through whatever happened, even when I was a young child. I felt like Jesus abandoned me and hid His face from me.

I tell you this so you don’t feel alone. While I wouldn’t want to relive that time, it made me a stronger person and strengthened my faith.

Like Allie said, try and distinguish what part of your problem is psychological and what is temptation. Because you may need to address the problems from 2 different angles accordingly. A good priest or spiritual advisor or good and moral psychiatrist.

While it’s true (like the article said) that temptations enter our minds, but temptations are not sins if we don’t entertain them or act on them, I also don’t think that we should just get used to having them all the time and not worry about it. If they are too frequent, then that needs to be addressed and analyzed to find out where it’s coming from. So that in time, it happens less frequently.

Now, since you have a scrupulosity problem, Confession might be hard for you. Hard to distinguish what is a sin and what isn’t.

About a year after I had my problem, I was feeling so much better, but I still had lingering fears. Like not liking to go down in my cellar and some little problems.

I got good advice in Confession. I told the priest that I had learned to trust God so much and often felt like I sailed on His wings, but that I confessed that I still needed to trust Him more, because if I trusted God properly, then I wouldn’t have any of those lingering fears.

The priest told me that while it wasn’t a sin, it was good to bring this to Confession. And he said, that we are all “works in progress.” We aren’t perfect. We are to avoid actual sin, yes. But our temptations and issues are things that we need to work on, but we aren’t done yet. Some things take time. To continue to trust God and pray for healing and help. And to take things step by step. Not to worry about not trusting God enough, but to learn to trust Him more. Learn to overcome problems with His help. Not worry that I wasn’t perfect now. We grow through our whole lives, grow in sanctity towards saintliness.

Does any of this help you? It helped me tremendously to hear it. And in time I have learned to trust God more. But I am not done yet. While I never had anxiety attacks again, I still woke up with anxiety sometimes because of hormones at certain times of the month (nuff said). And I would still have some fears or would feel overwhelmed sometimes. Today it happens very little, but I am far from perfect.

I often pray St. Faustina’s prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Three times in a row, slowly, thinking about how God will take care of us throughout whatever He calls us to. And in 5 minutes, I feel at peace.

If I feel fear about something, I just pray that God will see me through it and go on with whatever it is.

No matter how much you pray, pray more. This will help.

At Adoration the other day, there was a sign on the bulletin board that read, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”

Even when I was at my worst those many years ago, the only time I felt at peace was at Mass. I would sometimes cry at Mass, but I felt His peace there. I didn’t want to leave sometimes.

I don’t know how often you go to Mass or if you go to Adoration or visit the Blessed Sacrament, but I think, particularly in your case, this would help. Try and do these things more during the week. If you already do these things a lot, then try doing them with a different mindset. Not because you are supposed to or because it makes you a good Catholic or because you are very scrupulous. Do it because YOU NEED HIM. Yes, worship and adore Him, visit Him out of love. But also humbly know, that you are the one benefiting from being with Him. He will give you the graces you need to overcome your problems. Day by day, step by step. Just sit there and soak up His grace. Ask for His help in His presence and He will give it to you.

Examine your problems in His presence and ask for discernment. Ask Him to make the thoughts go away little by little, or if it be His holy will, go away soon and all together.

But not so that you can be perfect. Not so that you have dotted all the “i”s and crossed your “t”s religiously. Not because you are a good Catholic. But do it humbly because you have no other choice but to go to Him for help. You need Him, not the other way around. And He loves you with all His Most Sacred Heart.

I’m up late tonight waiting for my son whose bus out of NYC was stuck in the snow. He’ll be home soon now. So I’m glad I got to see your post.

God bless you and may the Holy Spirit guide you.

Also pray the St. Michael’s prayer often when you are troubled by these things. It will definitely help.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..


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Re: Advice needed: Scruples, thoughts and obsessive compulsive disorder

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