1

Shalom,

Well to start off, since a very young age I have suffered from quite severe and crushing OCD (as the title would suggest). Now of course I am used to having such a wicked condition interfere with my life in many aspects, I have been since childhood.

However, one aspect of my condition is having to deal with intrusive thoughts. Most often these are the most unpleasant and uncomfortable thoughts the mind can torment someone with, and will continue to do so.

Please understand that these thoughts do not represent someone's character, rather they are often in direct opposition to it and quite distressing most of the time. I've often nicknamed my condition "Satan" for this among many other reasons.

Now I also have a habit of rambling on so I'll get more to the point. Lately these intrusive thoughts have been disturbing me during prayer more than any other time. Now this is nothing new, but prayer has often been somewhat a safe haven from this, but now the floodgates have opened and I'm struggling to shut them back up.

Basically the thoughts are getting so bad that I struggle to even pray sometimes, and doing so has became distressing in itself because of it. In particular (and as I asked please do not judge, as these thoughts are in opposition to myself and character) I keep getting images stuck in my mind of idols, sexual acts and sights, gruesome images and even outright blasphemy against HaShem (may he forgive and have mercy upon me).

It has gotten to the point where I have even started to worry that my prayer is invalid because of this, worthless even. Perhaps I'm being irrational, but aside from constantly breaking my Kavanah, I feel like my words and actions are ruined and defiled by these thoughts, to the point where I wonder if I should even bother. My joy has become my sorrow.

Anyway apologies for the lack of any actual question yet, so what I would like to ask is basically what should I do? I understand these thoughts are out of my control and that surely HaShem knows and understands this also, but I still can't shake that feeling of worthlessness, shame and even wrongdoing because of them.

My intent and thoughts are obviously not one and the same, but how can one maintain Kavanah with such evil plaguing his mind? I can barely even focus on the words at times.

I'm sorry if this is not the most clear or appropriate question, but I didn't know where else I should ask. My condition is quite embarrassing for me, and I do feel great shame in having it never mind talking about it, especially this.

Thank you for any help and/or advice, it's greatly appreciated!

  • 1
    Apologies if this is not appropriate. Have you looked in to "mindfulness". Try here: verywellmind.com/mindfulness-meditation-88369 – Avrohom Yitzchok Oct 27 '20 at 9:14
  • 4
    I suppose the best would be to consult a local rabbi you trust and some professional help to help you to overcome this situation. – Kazi bácsi Oct 27 '20 at 10:37
  • 1
    I would possibly edit the question to be non-personal, otherwise the question may get closed down. – Dov Oct 27 '20 at 10:40
  • 1
    Do these intrusive thoughts pop up during prayer with other people around or when you're on your own or in both cases? Are you married? – Ilja Oct 27 '20 at 16:20
  • 1
    Prayer is about connecting to yourself and connecting to God. However you approach this, don't fight with yourself. Allow yourself to be yourself while you pray, and use your prayer time to learn about yourself. In the short term its probably best to just let it flow, and over time you can develop a healthy pattern which lets you express yourself in prayer in your own way. – simyou Oct 27 '20 at 16:47
4

Firstly, I wish you strength to get through this ordeal. I am certain that Hashem knows your intentions are good and He only gives tests to those who He knows can pass them.

There is quite a dearth of material online that can help provide an effective approach to dealing with this situation. I have taken a couple of these and tried to weave them into an effective response.

By way of introduction, it is worth noting that what you are experiencing is not inhuman, it is the Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination) taking an active role. As these thoughts become ever more pervasive, the more you dwell on them, the more the thoughts will take a stronghold in your mind.

To quote an excerpt from an article on Chabad here:

When you fight against your own thoughts, you only engrave them deeper in your neurons. It's something like struggling against quicksand, which serves only to dig you in deeper and deeper.

So as long as you are chastising yourself for your thoughts, trying to determine where they come from, trying to convince yourself more and more how bad they are for you and even just remarking to yourself "why is this happening now?"--all you are doing is burning those thoughts further into the woodwork of your mind.

So the question is, how best to combat them?

The Aish website writes here:

How do we allow negative thoughts to leave our mind?

One of the great Jewish leaders in Israel, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky, provided an answer in a letter to one of his students.

He wrote, "There is only one solution to this issue: distract yourself. The more you focus on preventing those thoughts, the more frequently they will invade your mind…it is a well known fact that a person can only concentrate on one thought at a time. Therefore, distract yourself with another thought and the dark, provocative thought will disappear…"

So with this in mind (excuse the pun!), if you are struggling during your davening, you might want to work on making tefilla truly meaningful. For example, if you take some time to learn the translation of the words and the inner meanings of what you say, if you concentrate on this when you daven, it will help to focus your thought process as you can only think about one thing at one time. Therefore, if we fill our minds with alternative thoughts there is less room for the destructive ones to enter.

Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:51 shows us the mechanics of the thought process and Hashem's resulting response:

I have shown you that the intellect which emanates from G-d unto us is the link that joins us to G-d. You have it in your power to strengthen that bond, if you choose to do so, or to weaken it gradually, till it breaks if you prefer this. It will only become strong when you employ it in the love of G-d, and seek that love: it will be weakened when you direct your thoughts to other things. You must know that even if you were the wisest man in respect to the true knowledge of G-d, you break the bond between you and G-d whenever you turn entirely your thoughts to the necessary food or any necessary business; you are then not with G-d, and He is not with you: for that relation between you and Him is actually interrupted in those moments.

Thus, if you make tefillah something that you can really relate to, such that you can focus on it thoroughly when praying, you can be rest assured that Hashem will be there to help you.

Additionally, you could try arriving before davening begins and try and relax your mind so that you feel in a state of calm to begin davening in the right frame of mind. This is something that Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tefillah 4:16) advises:

What is to be understood by concentration of the mind? The mind should be freed from all extraneous thoughts and the one who prays should realize that he is standing before the Divine Presence. He should therefore sit awhile before beginning his prayers, so as to concentrate his mind, and then pray in gentle tones, beseechingly, and not regard the service as a burden which he is carrying and which he will cast off and proceed on his way. He should, accordingly, also sit awhile, after concluding the prayers, and then leave. The ancient saints were wont to pause and meditate one hour before the service, one hour after the service and take one hour in its recital.

All I can say is that I wish you much hatzlocho and the inner strength to get through it all. You are already half way there by acknowledging that it needs to be helped.

2

As far as how to maintain kavanah, that is tricky to answer. It would be easy to throw out some cliches and sources as advice but OCD is not an easy thing and to downplay it is not right.

What might help is to know that there are many sources who say that the reward for a mitzvah is weighed by the amount of effort is needed to do it. Here is one such source. Sorry, it is in Hebrew.

So for what it is worth, your attempt to pray in the best way you can, given your challenge, is very admirable and there is no doubt that the One who gave your your challenge is much aware of it and takes it heavily into consideration.

Even if you manage to pray properly for a short moment, it is a great accomplishment and hopefully should only cause joy.

BTW, it is safe to say that most experience inappropriate thoughts of all kinds during prayer at one time or another, we're all human, how we deal with it is what can make us great.

Good luck

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .