I’m slightly wary of writing this in case it exacerbates a delicately-balanced situation, but here goes: lately I’ve been having thoughts that verge on ‘pure O’ OCD (obsessive thoughts without compulsions). These never completely went away before, but had been quiescent for a while. Lately, they’ve sprung up again. I’m not sure why, perhaps, perversely, a response to various things in my life going better (job, getting back together with E, progress on my novel, feelings of religious progress).

Pure O OCD can take many forms. It often manifests in ways centred on moral worth, one way or another, hence its other name of ‘scrupulosity.’ It can appear as doubt about moral or religious worth: “Am I a good person?” or “Do I really believe in God?” It can also manifest in other ways, particularly where a concern about moral worth shades into fear of performing immoral actions: “Am I a racist? Do I want to hurt people? Do I want to abuse children?”

I’ve been having thoughts like this recently. Actually, I’ve had them for years, but they might be more frequent and disturbing lately. I don’t think they meet the requirements for diagnosis with OCD, certainly in terms of distress. I do not feel hugely distressed the way my OCD distressed me in the past. I know this is my brain, not me. Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the “Am I a bad person?” thoughts completely, especially when they are pushing on an open door inasmuch as I wonder about my moral life a lot anyway.

The other, related, thing I’ve been doing lately is ruminating on certain things I’ve done in the past that were less than morally perfect. I’m aware that, objectively, the misdeeds were minor. If we have a scale of bad deeds from 1 to 10 where 1 is a minor breach of traffic law, for example, and 10 is genocide, then these are a 3 at most, probably lower (small breaches of lockdown laws included). And they were a long time ago, some going back to adolescence. There also isn’t really anything that I can do to change what happened or rectify things. But I keep thinking about them.

Part of me wishes there was some kind of ritual I could do to atone, or in Jewish terms, to make a tikkun (rectification), to draw a line under the past. But then, wanting to do a ritual to remove obsessions is OCD, so it’s probably not a good idea.

Like I said, I don’t think this is pathological OCD, so I don’t want to go to a doctor or psychiatrist. I might talk to my therapist, as I’m seeing her anyway. I’m not hugely distressed by the thoughts, I just worry where they might lead. I would be tempted to do some exposure therapy, but I find exposure therapy for thoughts without compulsions tricky and would probably need a CBT therapist to help, which, as I said I don’t want to do, particularly as I don’t think I’m actually diagnosable. If anything, I would worry that focusing on my thoughts for exposure therapy would make things worse. But the situation is there, and it’s upsetting and worrying me a little.

15 thoughts on ““Am I a good person?” ‘Pure O’ OCD

    1. Part of me wishes there was some kind of ritual I could do to atone, or in Jewish terms, to make a tikkun (rectification), to draw a line under the past. But then, wanting to do a ritual to remove obsessions is OCD, so it’s probably not a good idea.

      tashlich?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you!

      I guess I feel I want something more specific. Plus, I guess I feel these are interpersonal acts which Yom Kippur won’t help with, but in that case, ritual in general wouldn’t help. Maybe I’m looking more for something more practical, like helping someone in a similar situation.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Without going too much into it, I don’t really know what cause would be appropriate, but I have in the past given tzedakah donations precisely to try to “draw a line” under something I’d done (e.g. dropping my tefillin), so I guess it’s a possibility.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. If you worry about being a good person, you generally ARE one. Those who aren’t as nice are too often convinced of their own merits, even if they’re not backed up by their behavior or attitudes. You are very self-aware. It can be a curse.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Have you talked with your rabbi about this? Maybe that would help. Maybe prayer and meditation, also, would help you come up with a way to put this behind you. Guilt is awful. I have similar thoughts. What about asking your doc for a med to help with intrusive thoughts? Maybe they can tweak one of your existing meds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My current meds are supposed to help with OCD. I don’t want to make a huge think out of it, whether with my doctor or rabbi, as it’s not really a serious thing right now, I’m just worried it might escalate.

      I’m sorry you have similar thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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