obsessive compulsive disorder. I read what you said on you website about
it and find it interesting, but for some reason, no matter how much I get
in touch with my anger, I get no relief for my OCD even though I recite Psalm
51 from time to time and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. That is the main
question I have to ask you. Basically, why in spite of my attempts to get
in touch with my anger and my own attempts to face my OCD fears, do I still
have this problem? Are there other spiritual reasons for OCD that you see
from what I write below?
go to a psychiatrist who tells me I have to learn to channel my anger more,
that it is more inward directed than outward and that that makes me depressed.
Sometimes all I feel is angry, though. I am not someone who is calm and is
silent when people offend me . . . and do not blame myself in
interpersonal situations when others could be at fault. So what Im
saying is that it makes no sense to me that I have OCD symptoms still. (BTW
my psychiatrist does not take the spiritual approach at all, he does not
seem to believe in anything beyond what can be seen or verified. He is very
scientific, but . . . told me once that he did not see the point of
the Catholic faith. I do not think he dislikes it, I just think he is
indifferent, but if I talk about anything spiritual in a session, I would
either hit a dead end or he would think of a religious sentiment as a guilt
complex or automatically link it to spiritualism or superstition. What Im
saying is that he seems to have a superficial grasp of these things that
deflates any real religious sentiment on the spot.)
had OCD since I was a child. It used to be about weird stuff; I was afraid
of being transported to a universe the exactly the same as this one and would
have to perform a ritual to make sure it didnt happen. But now the
OCD has to do more with dirt. I am not a chronic cleaner or anything like
that, but when I am in public places I have excessive fear of germs and disease
and am over vigilant about public bathrooms. I also dont like touching
doorknobs or stuff that other people handle. Theres also the fear of
disease spreadingbeing under the impression that you could have a disease
and may spread it to othersand the guilt that comes with it. I have
tried to overcome this a few times, by doing what I fear if what I fear is
unreasonable or refusing to give into my thought that I am infected, but
at that moment I always think that what I fear is reasonable and I should
definitely be doing something about it, or thinking about it. This also includes
what you said about taking communion on the tongue. I do not like to do this
and I did anyway, but the fear is great that the priest or minister will
touch my mouth and give me some disease so I receive in my hand again because
I am anxious all through mass if I make the point of receiving on my tongue.
In addition, I rarely receive the Blood of Christ because of my OCD fear
(herpes on the chalice, etc.) and also because I am afraid of dropping the
. . . I
think this comes down to trust issues; I have absolutely no trust that I
would be protected in any way, because in my opinion the universe is pretty
much run by forces that are indifferent and if youre not on the ball
youre screwed. . . .
. . . One
of the misfortunes from my OCD, is that it cuts off my availability to people
in need. . . . [T]here are so many homeless people that I would
like to help, but I see them as disease carriers and only help them on a
day when I feel braver. Other days, I cynically tell myself, Your OCD
is too much. You will regret it if you touch his hand or his dirty clothes,
and you will pay for your good deed with heaps of anxiety.
. . . I
see the act of surviving as a basic human need, one that reveals the hypocrisy
of all of us, and which at the end of the day, reigns supreme. I accept this
idea with despair, and somehow have made God and religion second to it, because
deep down, I believe everyone is more concerned about their survival than
God, even you. Dont take it personally, I dont know you, but
I see most religious figures as being pretty much the same as everyone else,
some are even meaner and more hypocritical and many seem to be rather bourgeois
in their attitudes. Priests with new cars, overweight nuns who raid the pantry
in the middle of the night, all of the people on the fence that cant
seem to get the real courage to jump off for good. So, perhaps my OCD is
a protective mechanism because I see only pretense that covers up the crudeness
of the human instinct to survive. . . . I dont
see anything more in human day-to-day encounters than calculation that people
try to hide behind and justify through social
conventions. . . . [S]o many at church seem
to go there to meet their friends or just to kill time.
thing is that . . . there is this priest I have this strange
attraction to. I feel as if he is attracted to me
too. . . . he is always there and then I feel guilty.
. . .
our psychiatrist has told you that
your anger is more inward directed than outward, so that gives
us a big clue about why even if I feel my anger I still have OCD.
From what you have writtenand you have done so with notable honestyI
will make an attempt to deduce the nature of your difficulties.
You say that you never deny to
yourself when someone angers you, and I do not doubt the truth of that statement.
From what you say, it seems clear that you can perceive accurately what others
do to you and why they do it. Still, there has to be something else going
on in regard to your anger; remember, we have that clue from your psychiatrist.
So what could he have meant?
Well, consider the difference
between something outward directed and something inner directed.
Something outward directed is obvious; its clearly apparent
and readily seen. In other words, its out in plain sight. In contrast,
something inward directed is more hidden; its not clearly apparent,
and so it can be obscure and elusive.
In short, each of these two
thingssomething outward directed and something inward
directedbelongs to a different universe.
In practical terms, this means
that you can have anger for things someone does to you and anger for
things someone fails to do for you. The things someone does to you
are obvious and apparent, and so your anger can be directed outward at them.
But the things that someone fails to do for you are elusive, and, because
they are elusive, they cause the anger that youre not in touch with
... an anger you dont feel ... an anger deep inside you that feeds
the OCD within you.
So lets ask now what could
be the cause of this elusive anger. What is it that has failed you so
You dont mention anything
apparent about how your parents treated you in your childhood, butto
the trained perception of a psychologistyou provide some very interesting
veiled evidence. For example, when you say that you see the act of
surviving as a basic human need, one that reveals the hypocrisy of all of
us, you are speaking of yourself as a child trying to survive despite
your parents hypocrisy. Hypocrisy
of what? we ask. And the answer is apparent: hypocrisy of
Priests with new cars
points to your father, who, I will guess, was likely
caught up in a preoccupation with material things. Overweight nuns
points to your mother, who, I will guess, was caught up in satisfying with food
the emotional deprivation she experienced as a child and also in her marriage.
And where were you in all of this? Missing. You were lost in the hypocrisy
of your parents universe. You were threatened with a universe of cold
calculation that hid its failure of love behind the image of being good
Thus your fear of being transported
to another universe was realisticat least, in the symbolic sense.
You feared getting lost in your parents cold universe that was dead
So, yes, your OCD served as a
protective mechanism. It kept you alive by teaching you to protect yourself
when no one else would protect you. But, ironically, in protecting you from
a lack of love, it sent you into a place that is even worse: a place
where you fear love.
This brings us to an understanding
of the OCD dynamic. In fact, it functions almost exactly like your psychiatrist
functions. Just as he has a superficial grasp of things that deflates any
real religious sentiment on the spot, the OCD dynamic has a superficial
grasp of things (it sees only the obvious threats of hurt that could be done
to you) and, on the spot, it deflates any real sentiment (the emotional
truth of how you have been hurt by what others have failed to do for
you). Thus, when someone fails you, because your inward-directed emotional
reactions have been deadened, as soon as you begin to have an inkling of
anger, the OCD defense suppresses it on the spot.
In practical terms, this inkling
of anger is simply a mental image of revenge. For
example, if your mother fails to recognize your needs in the moment, your
mind might create the image of your reaching out your hands to strangle her.
This doesnt mean that you actually would like to strangle her; it
just means that you desire the satisfaction of thinking of the possibility
of strangling her. This is a natural process that, under normal
circumstances, would never actually be carried out; the thought of strangling
your mother simply warns you that you have been hurt somehow by her and that
you need to do something emotionally honest to protect yourself.
Note here that
manyif not mostpersons fail in emotional honesty. Instead of
speaking to the offending person calmly and politely, their initial emotional
hurt passes almost instantaneously to an image of revenge, and then, impulsively
motivated by that image, they act aggressively.
real religious sentimentthe path of
lovewould allow you to acknowledge that mental
image of revenge, take it as a sign that you have been hurt, and then make
a conscious choice that, in spite of your feeling injured, you will pray
to God to protect you and to bring the person who hurt you to enlightenment
But, in the case of OCD, because
honest emotional protection was not learned in childhood, that mental image
of revenge is perceived as very, very dangerous and the OCD defense stops the
image as soon as it begins. Consequently, you find yourself with the urgent need
to wash your hands, the hands that have been stained with a
guilt for some thought that you cant quite
bring to conscious awareness. And, in essence, you wash away the possibility
of love, over and over and over.
Thus the OCD defense constantly
leads you into a place of emotional dishonesty and, ultimately, to a fear of
love. And without outside help to show you that it is happening, you are
left bewildered by an elusive anger that you dont feel and that seems
as if it doesnt exist.
So what can you do?
You are Caught
Between Two Angers
Well, first realize that you
are caught between two angers. You know one kindthe one deriving from
what others do to youvery well. So work on recognizing the anger that
derives from what others fail to do for youthe anger that you dont
feel but that lurks in the shadows.
You are Caught
Between Two Beliefs
Second, realize that you are
caught between two beliefs. One belief is that the world is hostile and that
it is reasonable to protect yourself in every way possible. The other belief
is that God can be trusted because He loves us, and that His love never fails.
If you want love in your life, you will have to choose the second belief
over the first. Complacency and fear will only keep you stuck, so you will
have to fight to defend that second belief.
From what you have said, I know
that you want love in your life. In fact, you developed OCD because you want
love in your life; that is, you saw hypocrisy, you knew you didnt want
anything to do with it, but, not knowing how to love you became stuck in
the fear of love. Like the man in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew
25:14-30) who buried his talent in fear, you have buried love with OCD. Now
you have the possibility of knowing how to love.
of Your OCD Will Panic in Fear Because It Will Think that You Intend to Kill
Third, if you even contemplate
healing, understand that the voice of your OCD
will panic in fear because it will think that you intend to kill it off.
Reassure it that, contrary to getting rid of it, you want to help it grow
bigger and stronger as your
Its new role, however, will be the guardian of
love, not the guardian of
Fourth, make a decision to practice
in vivo exposure to break away from that
first belief. Begin with the acknowledgment that all OCD defenses have a
basis in what is reasonable, and then progress to an equally reasonable
discipline of their practice.
For example, when you enter a
public restroom, wash your hands first thing; thats reasonable for
health. But wash your hands only once; that, too is reasonable for mental
health. Then, after using the toilet, wash your hands; thats reasonable
for health. But wash your hands only once; that, too is reasonable for mental
health. And, because some individuals do not wash their hands after using
the toilet, you may use a paper towel to protect your clean hands from touching
the door knob as you leave the room; thats reasonable for health. But
what about the paper towel? Should you suffer anxiety from touching it, or
from carrying it in your pocket? No. Remind yourself that germs do not grow
on dry, rough surfaces. Moreover, give a blessing to the paper. Make the
sign of the cross on it and say, Brother and sister germs, I command
you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, neither to harm me nor anyone
This too is reasonablefor mental and spiritual health.
at God Derives from Your Own Belief System
Finally, realize not only that
youre angry at God but also that your anger derives from your own belief
system. In His infinite love, God never does anythingor fails to do
anything that we think we need from Himin order to hurt us. Therefore,
it can never be reasonable to want to hurt God. There may be times when it
seems to you that God has failed you, but in those cases you are projecting
your experiences with your father onto God.
You know that your
father is concerned only with himself, and so you believe that God, too,
must be some sort of tyrant.
You know that your
father will not protect you, and so you believe that God cannot protect
You cannot trust
your father, so you believe that God must be untrustworthy.
Because of these beliefs, you
desire to hurt Godbut, because of the OCD defenses, this anger does
not reach your conscious awareness.
For example, you know that you
fear dropping the chalice at Communion. Behind this fear, though, lurks the
truth: you want to drop the chalice to get back at God. (Notice, as I said
previously, the fact that you want to drop the chalice does not mean
that you would like to actually drop the chalice; it only means that
your mind wants the satisfaction of thinking that it would be possible to
drop the chalice.) But, because of your beliefs about God being unforgiving
and mean, you cannot even allow this thought to develop, so your defenses
deflate it on the spot. Thus you are left with phobic anxiety rather than
access to the truth.
As another example, your attraction
to that priest also links your feelings about you father to your anger at
God. The priest notices you in the way you wanted your father to notice you;
thats nice, but it also reminds you of your anger at your father for
not noticing you. Consequently, you desire to hurt God through the priest
(himself a father), but, because you cant tolerate the
truth of this desire, you feel guilt, not the underlying anger at
All in all, you prevent yourself
from trusting in Godand you deprive yourself
of Gods lovebecause you cling to your belief
that God cant be trusted. What is that but anger at God turned
inward against yourself? It hurts you, not God.
You could change your beliefs
if you want, but its up to you to want healing more than you want
to remain disabled with fear. Maybe you should
discuss with your OCD defense the idea that both of you stand to benefit
if you both learn to protect yourself with love rather than fear.
Unfinished business in OCD
How a defense is a protection
1. It may seem silly to some people, but to achieve
any deep healing you will have to speak to your psychological defenses as
if they had an independent existence from you. Moreover, think of them as
children, because they were created when you were a child, and they have
remained trapped in the timelessness of the unconscious, never growing
2. Such is how Saint Francis of Assisi tamed the
dreaded wolf of Gubbio.