“reasonable doubt”

I read an interesting article today called “Casey Anthony, Reasonable Doubt, and OCD” by Stacy Kuhl-Wochner at the OCD Center of Los Angeles — you can read the entire article here.

Just wanted to quote a little bit of it for all you blog readers to consider, especially after having an interesting phone conversation along these same lines with my college roomie Megs.

Being a therapist who specializes in treating those with OCD, I can only imagine what an especially difficult task quantifying reasonable doubt would be for many of my clients.  People with OCD and related OC Spectrum Disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Hypochondria (Health Anxiety), and Social Anxietyare on a constant quest for answers to unanswerable questions.  They seek to quantify that which cannot be quantified, to gain certainty when it is only possible to be “pretty sure.”  These are questions that most people who do not have OCD can accept despite their inevitable doubts.  But for many people who experience OCD or a related spectrum condition, “reasonable” doubt often feels unbearable.

Doubt is such an intrinsic part of OCD that the condition has often been referred to as “the doubting disease. Some common doubts seen in OCD and related OC Spectrum Disorders include:

  • Are my hands clean enough to ensure that I won’t accidentally make someone sick through casual contact?
  • Am I straight enough to to be certain that I am not actually gay?
  • How do I know if I really love my spouse?
  • What level of pain is a enough that I should visit a doctor to see if I have a serious medical condition?
  • What is the right amount of eye contact to avoid being seen as socially inappropriate?
  • How do I know whether I am a good person or a bad person?
  • If I become angry at my child, does this mean that I do not love them enough, and that I am close to mentally snapping and harming them?

The only realistic answer to these and similar questions is to accept that nobody has 100% certainty on these issues*, and to stop the mental checking.  The goal is to make decisions based on what is “most likely”, given all the evidence.  For people with OCD, it may feel terrifying** to make that leap and take that chance because their brain is telling them that absolute certainty is required.

*JLS adds: That is why the point of cognitive-behavioral therapy is not to remove uncertainty but to make one okay with uncertainty.

**”Terrifying” doesn’t even touch it.

Thoughts?  What’s the most basic thing you know that you have doubted before?  (I have sometimes wondered if all of life that I’ve “experienced” so far is only a dream.)

today

… was a hard/stressful day and I agreed to see a therapist (but this time NOT for OCD– wow!).

BUT today was also really good in a couple of ways:

1) I re-took the MMPI last week (read here for my past blog about this test), and I went over the results at the doctor’s office today, and they were saying how HEALTHY my results were. I teared up there in his office and said, “You don’t know. I was a MESS. Praise God.” He said, “Good for you for working so hard and coming so far,” which showed me he completely missed my point. It wasn’t me. That’s for sure.

2) My writing group has a write-up on the NWC English department’s blog. Check it out!

One thing that would really be meaningful for me would be for you to post a comment saying that you read my blog.  I can see the analytics, and I know people are stopping by, but it all feels so anonymous, and I need some names and faces please.  I wish I could sit down and have hot cocoa with you blog readers.  With marshmallows.  Lots of them.

I have a friend who is struggling with depression right now.  She has plans to see a therapist soon, but today, she told me that she feels ashamed.  “Like if Jesus is the savior of my life, why am I like this?” she asked me.

My poor, dear friend.  I’ve been there.  All the questions, most notably: why doesn’t it seem like Jesus is enough?  I am definitely that cheeky pot that sassed back to the Potter, “WHY did you make me like THIS?”  There was no answer for a long time.  But now that I’ve been sharing my story– in chapels, youth groups, online, in personal conversations, and in my novel– and I see the way that God is using it … well, I get it now.

My friend feels ashamed.  I told her not to feel that way.  But as I sat at my office desk and thought about it some more, it settled over me that as sinners, our shame is natural– but Christ has redeemed His people, has lifted up our heads.  Do the two cancel each other out?

And to my mind came this quote from Aslan, “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve.  And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

I am not saying that we should be happy for mental illness. 

But I am confident that God knows what He is doing.  He has His reasons. 

God, give us faith to trust You.

 

MMPI

That is, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

It’s 567 true-or-false questions, and I had to take it when I started meeting with my first therapist (whom I disliked and called “Shrinkie” behind her back).

567 questions takes a long time.

567 questions for an obsessive-compulsive takes even longer.

I kept running into statements and BEATING THEM TO DEATH WITH MY BRAIN.

For example, I believe one of the questions was similar to the following:
I believe God hears me when I pray to Him.

Thought process:
I am a Christian– I should put yes.  But then again, I have committed the unforgivable sin, so He probably doesn’t hear my prayers.  But do I really believe I’ve committed that sin?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Probably.  I should just put yes.  They want me to put yes because it will help the test to identify my beliefs.  But what if that is inconsistent with my beliefs?  On the other hand, maybe I should put no, because then it will identify that as an issue for me.  It’s definitely an issue for me.  But could I really, honestly say that I don’t believe God hears me when I pray?  I’m just being silly when I think that, right?  As a Christian, I should put yes.  I believe yes.  But then again, maybe I’m not a Christian.  If I’ve committed the unforgivable sin, then how can I still call myself a Christian?  I should just put my gut reaction.  Which is yes.  But why put a gut reaction down instead of a thought-out answer?  If I really think it through, then I don’t believe it.  Well, I think I do actually believe it– TODAY– but it could very well be a concern for me tomorrow or every day next week.  Should I put down how I feel right now in this moment, or should I put down how I usually feel, which is no?  I guess that’s not how I usually feel– maybe one-third of the time.  But most so-called “Christians” would think that one-third of the time is huge, in which case, it’s a bigger deal, and I should put down no.  Really– one-third?  Seems like a lot more.  If I think about it again, it’s probably more than one-third.  It’s maybe one-third of the time really BOLD– time when I’m terrified.  But even those other two-thirds I’m still doubtful of my salvation.  It’s just quieter.  So how do I interpret that?  One-third TERROR, two-thirds doubt.  Compared to the normal, which is little to no questioning of one’s salvation, that is a LOT.  So I should put no, so that the test correctly interprets that I have major issues with this particular scenario.

Right?

I’ll come back to it later.

You get the point. 🙂