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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Bodies » Religion-related intrusive thoughts (hoping it's okay to ask about this here).

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Author Topic: Religion-related intrusive thoughts (hoping it's okay to ask about this here).
mizchastain
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My intrusive thoughts are much more under control than they used to be, but still crop up occasionally, and tend to vary. I've dealt with the sexual ones and they don't bother me now (still happen sometimes but I can push them away easily). However, I also sometimes get religion-related intrusive thoughts, which have increased in frequency recently, and I'm having difficulty finding anywhere to deal with this which isn't trying to preach to me.

While I believe vaguely in some form of higher power, I do not call myself a member of any religion. The intrusive thoughts consist mostly of fears that I am wrong in this. I also have trouble on the rare occasions I have to enter a church or other religion-related building. A few months ago I attended a memorial service and was unable to clear my head of inappropriate thoughts, which upset me deeply as I felt I was insulting the memory of the deceased, which only made the thoughts worse. I've Googled around, but all the places I can find specifically for dealing with this kind of thing seem to be for people who are already fairly serious in their commitment to a specific faith, almost invariably Christianity, and naturally I don't feel these are entirely suitable for an agnostic like me.

I know Scarleteen is supposed to be a faith-and-culture-neutral space, so I don't think we can discuss it in depth here, but does anyone know of somewhere more appropriate I could ask around about this?

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Heather
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What do you mean by inappropriate thoughts?

I ask that because plenty of religions don't do things like attempt to be the thought police, or dictate what people should be thinking about in a church, temple or other place of worship (when there are such places for a given religion).

I guess I'm not really sure what religion-related intrusive thoughts are, either.

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Kawani3792
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If I'm hearing this right, I might know what you mean...like, sometimes I'd be in church or at church services and an article arguing that God is female, or doesn't exist, or something like that will pop into my head, or a bit from a Chronicles of Narnia book (a series that is very christian-oriented) and it feels uncomfortable that I'm mulling those things over in a church, not to mention I do consider myself a christian and some of the things that pop into my head from books I've read or articles or something, make me feel...I dunno what the word would be. Rude, if nothing else. And awkward.
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mizchastain
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Heather: I was trying not to get too specific for fear of causing offense, but to get into more detail ... normally I'm okay with myself and my faith or lack thereof, but occasionally I'll get it into my head that I'm wrong not to commit to a religion and fear that it's going to result in something bad. As for the memorial service, it was for a favourite writer of mine, and it was because of his work I met a lot of my online friends. During the memorial service, I started thinking about those friends, and then my mind got onto off-colour jokes and fanfics we'd shared. I felt bad for thinking about such things in a church and that I was insulting the writer's memory by not focusing my thoughts on him during the service, and that made them more persistent. Being in churches makes me feel uncomfortable in general because I feel like I'm being looked at and worry that not being a committed Christian means I'm unworthy to be there and will somehow get me in trouble.

I've heard this kind of thing is pretty common, to the point that it has its own name; "scrupulosity". But generally it seems to occur among people who are already fairly devout in whatever faith they're part of (Martin Luther apparently had this problem) and most of the support sites for this specific type of intrusive thoughts seem to be aimed at people who are so.

[ 07-07-2011, 04:38 AM: Message edited by: mizchastain ]

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bump on a log
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During the period when I was a very devout and legalistic Christian I would sometimes wander off onto 'inappropriate' thought tangents during Mass. The only advice I can really offer is just relax; you aren't the only one in the building thinking about something else; quite a few people there are probably thinking about lunch, and aren't even concerned about it.

quote:
Originally posted by mizchastain:
it was for a favourite writer of mine, and it was because of his work I met a lot of my online friends. During the memorial service, I started thinking about those friends, and then my mind got onto off-colour jokes and fanfics we'd shared.

Well, isn't that a kind of tribute to him -- thinking about the fun things you've shared with the people you met because of his work? I'd be very pleased if someone were thinking about that during my memorial service.

quote:
Originally posted by mizchastain:
Being in churches makes me feel uncomfortable in general because I feel like I'm being looked at and worry that not being a committed Christian means I'm unworthy to be there and will somehow get me in trouble.

Your thingummy says you're from the UK. In this fairly godless nation people are just happy when a young person turns up to church at all, in my experience. If they're looking at you, it's probably because they're pleased to see you there. And not being a committed Christian certainly doesn't mean you are unworthy to be there. That's supposed to be the point of a church -- that everyone is welcome.
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Violet1234
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You are not alone in questioning faith, or as you put it "a lack thereof." Plenty of people wonder the whys of the world, and draw different conclusions from them. I myself have been unsure of what I believe in. Even though I feel relatively concrete now on my beliefs, I feel they are very likely to change in the future.

But as to regulating unwanted thoughts, there's no way to make sure that what goes on in your head is always going to be appropriate to wherever you are or whatever you're doing. I actually really like that nobody can hear what I think sometimes (It would be awfully embarrassing if they could!), and I feel like what goes on in my brain is my business and my business alone.

If you do wish to think certain kinds of thought at certain times, (or not, as the case may be), then it should be because you want to, not because you feel that you "should."

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Angus
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Miz, there's a line from a novel I read once that's always stuck with me in situations like this: "The house of mourning is decorously darkened to the world, but within itself it is also the house of laughing."

It's not abnormal for your mind to wander to "inappropriate" thoughts in a somber situation. It's not even unusual. And it's certainly not an insult to the memory of the deceased.

It's important to behave appropriately in a church or other formal setting, of course, but you can't police your thoughts completely -- nobody can. And as you say, it may be that your worrying and shame around such thoughts is making them more persistent for you.

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Johann7
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As I understand it, Scarleteen's culture/religion-neutral stance applies to the staff and organization i.e. Scarleteen does not take the stance that any particular religion is necessarily "right" or "wrong"; you should feel perfectly free to express your own thoughts and beliefs on religion, as long as you not doing so in a manner that is hateful towards others.

Specifics of religion (or lack thereof) aside, I think it should be clear, especially to those who experience intrusive thoughts, that we cannot consciously control what happens to pop into our heads, only how we respond to the thoughts. As such, feeling guilt, shame, or disruptive discomfort simply for thinking something does not seem like the healthiest response; of course, one cannot necessarily control how one feels in response to the thoughts either, but it might help to remind oneself that one cannot always control what one thinks about, and anyone who has a problem with unbidden thoughts, including any kind of god (especially if that god created people, knowing full well that we can't always control our thoughts), is being pretty unreasonable.

I agree with bump on a log about your thoughts during the funeral - I can't imagine a better way for people to celebrate me when I die than to think of wonderful things in their lives in which I had some part, large or small.

quote:
I've heard this kind of thing is pretty common, to the point that it has its own name; "scrupulosity". But generally it seems to occur among people who are already fairly devout in whatever faith they're part of (Martin Luther apparently had this problem) and most of the support sites for this specific type of intrusive thoughts seem to be aimed at people who are so.
I think this is likely because most of the people who experience intense anxiety over unbidden thoughts (or maybe just most people who think that something can be done about them) are going to be concerned about the thoughts because they believe there's someone/something else that can hear them, most likely a god. Don't worry about it: again, if god, in whatever form, created people with a tendency toward unbidden thoughts and an inability to control them, there's really no way to blame people for that.

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Aela
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Just a quick response to Johann's last post.

"I think it should be clear, especially to those who experience intrusive thoughts, that we cannot consciously control what happens to pop into our heads, only how we respond to the thoughts."

I with what's been said so far and I agree that you shouldn't feel guilty, as others have said.

However, I'm not sure that it's true that we can't "control" our thoughts. Buddhism and other meditation practices relate to calming and stilling the mind, helping to stop the mind from getting distracted with busy, stressful or random thoughts. There's also lots of general advice and wisdom out there, which many agree with, that require us to have "control" over the things we think of; such as to have positive thoughts and avoid negatives ones.

I just watched a film tonight with a man who was constantly stressed and who's mind was always racing(his thoughts were narrated). I spent a lot of the film thinking "he really needs to slow down his thinking", so your comment just jumped out at me Johann. [Smile]

mizchastain, I don't think your thoughts should make you feel guilty or uncomfortable, but having unwanted thoughts isn't fun, even without the guilt. Maybe you could look into ways to take a little more control of your thoughts, where you can be less affected by negative ones and focus on the positive ones that you want to be thinking about.

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