Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Scrupulosity And Exposures That Do Not Compromise Faith

At last weekend's IOCDF Conference, I was lucky enough to sit in on a workshop co-led by one of my favorite IOCDF presenters, Ted Witzig, Jr. (FYI, his Christian counseling group has a great website). This year, instead of just talking about scrupulosity, the panel that he was on discussed appropriate ERP's for religious scrupulosity. I was really looking forward to this workshop, and it did not disappoint.

Anyone who is familiar with the treatment for OCD understands that the basic idea of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) is to do the opposite of what OCD tells you to do. So if I obsess about Hit and Run OCD (like I did yesterday!) and my OCD tells me to drive back to check the "scene of the crime," proper ERP treatment tells me I should not drive back to check. Do the opposite of what OCD tells you to do. This can be less straightforward though, if your obsessions involve things of a moral or religious nature. However, Dr. Witzig very strongly believes that we do not have to compromise our faith to treat our OCD. I agree.

Here is an example from my own life: For some reason, I developed a fear that someone (in particular, another Christian) would find inappropriate material in my possession and that they would repeat this fact to others in my faith community and that they would all hate me. Here is the crazy part about this - uh, I don't actually have inappropriate materials in my possession! So why I even thought someone would ever find something of an inappropriate nature, well, I guess that just demonstrates how irrational OCD is. I was always anxious about leaving my phone, or iPad, or Kindle behind somewhere to be found by another person. Then one day, I downloaded a book to my Kindle. As I was reading the book, I came across a section that was inappropriate (of a sexual/violent nature, if I recall correctly). I did not know it was in the book before I purchased it, and I certainly would not have purchased it if I had known. Regardless, I had purchased it and it was downloaded to my Kindle and now I was horrified that there was a permanent "record" that I bought this item. This and other similar events caused significant distress for me.

Oh how I love my Kindle!
One of my therapist's suggestions to fight this obsession was to go to a bookstore and purchase (ugh in public!) a "girlie" magazine. It was never in the plan to read it/look at it, but I was just supposed to buy it and throw it out when I got home. Instantly, I had second thoughts about doing this, though I'll admit, I considered going through with it. But I just did not feel right about purchasing such an item and also giving my money to something that I found morally wrong. I summoned the courage to discuss this situation with a member of my church staff (who already knew the basics of OCD because I had previously educated him). He expressed discomfort with that ERP as well. I did tell my therapist that I was really not comfortable with this ERP and the idea was quickly discarded out of respect for my faith. (A good therapist will never force you to do something against your will.)

Ironically, just talking about the situation with one of my church pastors took a lot of the sting out of this whole obsession. It really started to bother me a lot less and I never pursued any more ERP for this issue. But what are some exposures I could have done that would not have compromised my faith? I could have purposely left any of my electronics out in the open for anyone to pick up and peruse and I would have had to live with the uncertainty of what they thought about any material they saw. I also could have done some imaginal scripting in order to raise my anxiety (on purpose) and force myself to sit with the uncertainty of the situation. In an imaginal exposure, I could write out a scenario something like this:

I buy something inappropriate. Someone from church somehow finds out about it. They repeat it to others in my church. Then it gets back to the church staff. Everyone in church now knows about it. They all think I'm a bad Christian. They don't let me serve in any ministries. I get laughed at behind my back. I get looked down on. The staff calls me in to the office to reprimand me. I feel so bad that I end up leaving the church. I lose all my friends. My life falls apart. My family is embarrassed and ashamed. I'm a loser and I'm all alone. God is disappointed and ashamed of me, etc., etc.

On and on the script would go - laying out every terrible consequence that I think could happen because of it. I believe the idea is to read the script over and over again, until finally, it just doesn't scare you anymore. See Jon Grayson's book for some good suggestions on imaginal scripting and how to properly implement this into your treatment program.

These are just two different ways that I could have done an ERP that would still challenge the fears without challenging my faith.

Additional common fears that a lot of Christian people with OCD have are swearing in church, or cursing God. Again, a sufferer doesn't actually have to do these things to get the benefit of ERP. He/she can write out the "what if" scenario that would play out if they actually did the very things that they fear doing. Another critically important ERP is to not avoid going to church or religious functions.

The point is, ERP can be done in a way that doesn't damage the integrity of a person's religious beliefs. It just may take a little creativity. And if there's one thing I know about people with OCD, it is that they are extremely creative.


6 comments:

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    1. I was torn about it. But in retrospect, I'm really glad I didn't do it.

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  2. I agree with Kristina, Monique, I wouldn't have wanted to do it, either. I love the new look of your blog! :)

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    1. Thanks, Linda! I wanted something that would be a little easier on the eyes to read. I'm pleased with how it looks. Blogger has some decent customizable templates.

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  3. This sounds like a great session, wish I could have gone! (Living in Australia makes it tough). As a Christian also with OCD I agree with you not buying the girlie mag and in the past I've thought it's better to put up with a bit more OCD than compromise faith - but ideally it's good to work on it without compromising. Thanks for the link, will check out Dr Witzig's site!

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    1. Welcome Nicola! (Such a pretty name.) One thing that always crosses my mind when getting to sit in on such great sessions like this is how much I wish so many other people had the same opportunity. I literally just heard someone say that the IOCDF should do some of these conferences internationally, and I could not agree more! Hopefully some day. : )

      Ah yes. I also could not agree more with you. I too would keep more OCD in my life rather than compromise my walk with Jesus. And as a fellow sufferer with the same beliefs, I know you know what a difficult statement that is to make. However, thankfully, I've really come to believe that we don't need to make a choice between the two. I think we just need to re-think how we do some ERPs.

      I'm so glad you visited. Stop by any time!

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