As someone who has a scrupulous conscience, I realized that my action depends on what I think is right and morally accepted. I have this set of rules that if I deviate from it, I would automatically be guilty and consider myself a sinner that needs confession and absolution from a priest. It becomes a cycle. A cycle that should be followed because if not, a temporary heavy feeling would replace a rigid mood.
It took quite some time before I figured out that this is a disorder. Searching on the internet, scrupulosity is not rare. One by one, I checked all the forums to find out how can I stop my obsession and compulsions. The answers were consistently posted, “find a spiritual director.”
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction is an interactive relationship between two individuals, one being the Spiritual Director who will guide the other, the Spiritual Directee, to grow in spirituality. It involves the director giving spiritual advice for the directee to live by.
Who can be a Spiritual Director?
Spiritual Director can be a Priest, Religious Brother, or Sister, or anyone you know who can bring you closer to God and strengthen your faith more with proper guidance.
Why do you need Spiritual Direction?
Aside from regularly receiving the Sacraments, reading spiritual books, or serving the Parish, spiritual direction can assist you in knowing your purpose and guide you to what is right or wrong. The following are the reasons why you need a spiritual direction.
As Catholics, whether scrupulous or not, to grow in faith, we need a person to accompany us in our faith. Scrupulous individuals rely on themselves about various topics on moral standards. They tend to become rigid and stiff on their stand to the point that every decision seems life and death situation. The role of the Spiritual Director is to give advice, our role is to follow. At first, it will be uncomfortable but as the session goes on, it will be a lot easier. Accountability removes the distraction in reaching the goal which is to manage the OCD. It promotes motivation to continue on the journey of holiness with a balanced take on morality.
In striving to be holy, we need someone who can be our inspiration. A person who we can emulate in living a saintly life. Somebody who can push us to be the best version of ourselves for our family and our community. This could be our Spiritual Director. It always feels good to have a friend who you can lean on through thick and thin. Someone who assures you that you are not alone in this earthly pilgrimage. We are most of the time swayed by our emotions especially when we think about our progress because admit it or not, we will experience trials along the way but having a spiritual director could help us bounce back stronger.
As a scrupulous, who is blinded by my perception of different moral issues, it is a substantial help to have a benchmark. Confusion is usual for the sufferers. Is it good? Is it bad? Or Is it a sin? Is it not a sin? Then, the mind gets clogged by random contrasting suggestions that make things worse. One great tip I had that I applied until now was to follow what religious people do. If they do it unbothered, you can imitate it rest assured that it is not bad. Spiritual Directors can be our model in deciding on gray areas since they are more experienced and knowledgeable. Just like our professors in specific fields, spirituality and morality are their specialties. All we have to do is to let them teach and lead us. Fear takes away our freedom but with proper guidance, we can gain it back.
Based on scrupulous anonymous, scrupulous conscience is related to pride. Sufferers choose to believe in what they think of themselves than what God thinks of them. To make this right, we need to recognize that we need help, and approaching people who can help us is the smartest move.
RELATED– Prayer Journal for Scrupulous
How to find a Spiritual Director?
To look for one, start approaching your Parish Priest or any religious near you. Priests and religious are experts on matters of morality and spirituality. They are fit to propose actions that can aid your issues on faith. Some are also knowledgeable in Psychology. These particular priests and religious can facilitate spiritual direction with pragmatic bits of advice on the field of psychology which the scrupulous can absolutely benefit from.
How I found my Spiritual Director?
Immediately, I contacted Parishes and Religious Congregations to find a Priest that could help me solve my catholic guilt. I tried to reach out to them through Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, they could not entertain me at that time due to the loaded schedule. I had to wait until 2020.
Apart from my religious OCD, I also have an obsession with orders, patterns, and numbers. My scrupulosity took off in 2019 because of the desire to receive Communion every Sunday. And so I had to make sure I was guilt-free thus confessing my sins and accepting the Eucharist weekly until the year ended.
Beginning in 2020, I tried to break all my obsessions and compulsions from last year. I prayed the Rosary and Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help just once without repeating until I got them right. I stopped washing my hands before saying the night prayer. Also, I changed my schedule for cleaning our Home Altar. I limited my confession to just once a week unlike thrice or even five times a week in the previous year.
All these, I eradicated in my system completely but one thing I was having difficulty correcting was distinguishing my sin if it was mortal or venial.
I had this fear of watching shows and listening to music featuring celebrities and singers who support abortion and homosexuality. I also shunned interacting with people of a different faith. When participating in the online Mass, I had to pray the Act of Contrition followed by these sins. I knew this would be a form of obsession again, so despite the pandemic, I continued to look for a Spiritual Director which I thought I would not need anymore.
Eventually, after seven months, I found one. An Augustinian of the Assumption Priest. I opened up my concerns and told him about my doubting disease. I, then, enumerated my worries. He gave me practical pieces of advice that I consistently apply until now for me to be exposed.
How to prepare for spiritual direction?
Pause. Quietly, remember all the concerns you are having difficulty in solving starting from your past. Memorize or list them down. Prepare questions for your director for issues that need immediate attention and solution.
What to talk about in Spiritual Direction?
For first-timers, you can tell your Spiritual Director everything you are feeling. Your fears, frustrations, challenges, and victories. You can express whatever you want to express because that is what spiritual direction is all about, to be guided and accompanied accordingly, and that requires honesty. You will mislead your Spiritual Director if you are lying or hiding something thus, you may receive tips that are unsuitable to your case. It is normal to feel awkward at first but you will get used to it eventually.
Because of the pandemic, I had an online spiritual direction. On my first meeting with my Spiritual Director, he asked me about my profile. So, I introduced myself. I began with my name, nickname, address, age, profession, and family background. After giving my personal information, I continued with how my scrupulosity started. He absorbed everything and gave me unfiltered recommendations at the end of the session. In our second meeting, I specified my concerns regarding my scrupulosity. I opened up each fear I had and he put each into closure when he told me what would he do if he were myself. Both conversations lasted for an hour.
Just be honest so that you are given proper advice. Feel free to open up related topics to make the most of the spiritual direction.
How long is the Spiritual Direction per session?
It depends on the concerns and the agreement between you and your Spiritual Director, but everything can be covered in an hour. In my case, my Spiritual Director set the time limit which is 1 hour per session.
How often you should meet your Spiritual Director?
Ideally, once a month. But it varies depending on the availability of the spiritual director. Same with the scrupulous, once a month is enough. You have a month to track your progress. Again, in my case, it is monthly. If I have fewer questions, I just ask him through a personal message which is much more efficient for both of us instead of setting one full session.
Spiritual Direction for scrupulous might be uncomfortable for some because of the obligation to divulge weaknesses. Sharing our fears takes an enormous amount of courage. Being afraid of judgment can be terrifying but despite all these, know that honesty and authenticity will result in good and effective counsel.
Lastly, Spiritual Direction is an interpersonal relationship. It requires cooperation between the two parties. To be fruitful, both must work together. As indicated above, scrupulosity can cause pride, and the virtue that would defeat pride is humility. In spiritual direction, one must listen, one must obey. Obedience is a form of humility. Obeying and trusting your spiritual director is essential to a complete recovery.