Just a thought I had that I thought was worth getting down while it was fresh rather than leaving until tomorrow:

The whole ‘I have no share in Olam HaBa (the Next World, which for this post can be either Heaven or the messianic era)” fixation that I’ve had for the last few years started with my Pesach OCD, thinking (correctly) that we didn’t previously keep the special Pesach (Passover) dietary laws properly through ignorance and (incorrectly) assuming that was the same as deliberately flouting them and would be punished the same way i.e. through losing my share in Olam HaBa.  Since then the feeling has never really gone away for long.  This has puzzled me a little, as my religious OCD is now reasonably under control.  Obviously these thoughts have a receptive audience in me, given that I experienced a lot of rejection from authority figures as a child and it’s easy to project that on to God and assume He hates me, as well as using this a focal point for my own self-loathing.  But I wonder if there is something else here too.

I just found myself thinking that while some people may have to rectify a particular trait or thought process to have Olam HaBa, I would have to change my whole mind, because I’m just full of ‘bad’ thoughts all day long.  I was thinking about having offensive or insulting thoughts about other people at the time, but I could apply it to religiously offensive or violent or sexual thoughts.

When I was doing CBT for my OCD, my therapist gave me some research results that show that, for example, over 50% of people have felt a sudden impulse to say something rude or insulting to a friend even though they were not angry with them; over 20% of people have, on seeing a knife, thought of slitting their own wrist or throat; and 11% or women and 18% of men have had the impulse to masturbate in public.

It’s reassuring in a way to see that extreme thoughts similar to those that I experience are just normal, albeit perhaps more frequent and intense in my case than for most people, which is probably the result of the OCD anxiety itself (the more you try not to think about something, the more you think about it).  But somehow I still make the equation “My identity = My thoughts” and therefore assume that having ‘bad’ thoughts mean I am a bad person even if I don’t act on those thoughts.  And because bad thoughts have no place in Olam HaBa, they would have to be removed for me to go there… but then there won’t be anything left because I am just bad thoughts!  Or I think I am just bad thoughts, because I think my identity is my thoughts which is tantamount to saying my soul is my consciousness, which is probably not theologically correct.  At any rate, the assumption in Judaism is that a Jew has an element of Jewish identity even if he or she completely rejects Judaism consciously, which would seem to indicate that our soul is something deeper and more durable than our conscious thoughts.

I’m not sure that I’m explaining myself well here.  It’s a shame I’m not currently in therapy, as I would like to know what my previous psychodynamic therapist would have made of this.  There is probably more to say about this, but it’s late and I should go to bed.  Perhaps I will return to this train of thought in the coming days.

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4 thoughts on “My Identity = My Thoughts?

  1. I’ve been wondering how far some of my own behaviour is explicable through OCD; being annoyed if someone in my flat cuts vegetables in a different way to me, for example. My identity is caught up in all manner of aspects of experience, some of which would no doubt surprise other people.

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