DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #214 - Why We Doubt

February 04, 2024 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 214
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #214 - Why We Doubt
Show Notes Transcript

Doubt in the gospel, doubt in ourselves, doubt in our emotional day to day experience is terribly unnerving.  Doubt is an emotion and when we come to understand how doubt works in our lives, especially in our mental health lives we can better adjust to its consistent companionship in our lives.

Episode #214 – Why We Doubt.  I am your host Damon Socha.

There comes a point in everyone’s life where doubt becomes very real.  I suppose that it is probably more than one point in time.  Doubt for me has been a consistent problem throughout my spiritual journey.  I suppose that is true for anyone who suffers from mental or emotional illness.  Doubt can become one of those difficult obstacles that hinders conversion to the Savior and to his gospel.  Doubt is a natural part of human existence.  It is a natural part of the emotional system of the mortal mind and body and I personally believe that doubt as an emotion is part of the spiritual body.  It plays an important part in our learning process and is integral to our emotional early warning system.  Doubt is used by the body when questions arise about what we believe or would like to believe to be true.  We can have revelation, spiritual experiences, dreams and visions and still have doubt. Doubt can coexist with faith, devotion, testimony and other spiritual experiences if we understand what it is and how to address it in our lives.

The first thing we must come to understand is doubt is an emotion.  We tend to think of it more in the sense of reason and thought.  But when we doubt something, we say to ourselves “something doesn’t feel right about what I am hearing or learning”. What causes that feeling of doubt?  For the most part, that feeling comes when we are learning something contrary or different from what our core emotional belief encompasses.  Doubt is a natural response to hearing something out of harmony with what we believe and who we are in the moment.  It is our body’s way of telling us, this knowledge is not part of your foundational beliefs.

Our mind and emotional memory have a very good sense of what we believe and use as our core morality and foundational knowledge.  You have to remember that to know something is true is more than simple rational understanding.  When we know something is true we believe it and that makes it part of our emotional system.  Beliefs are personal truths that we use to govern our actions, reactions and interactions with life and the people in it.   At a very young age we begin to build a core set of moral agency truths.  Much of this moral understanding comes from our parents and extended family but over time our peers, leaders and educators also influence these core beliefs.  So a part of who we are is learned through mortality.

In addition to these core teaching we learn in mortality, we bring with us a set of core truths and beliefs from the pre-mortal world.  We refer to this as the light of Christ or a conscience.  Many of us have very strong core spiritual emotional memory that feeds into our mortal moral agency.  We have a very determined sense of right and wrong, despite what our parents have taught us.  For some, belief in the truths of the gospel comes very easy and for others it is more difficult.  This is due to these core emotions we brought with us.  Some of us learned greater truths and lived the principles and doctrines of the gospel to a great degree than others and we brought this intensity with us to mortality.

A third influence upon these core emotional beliefs and personal truths is our mortal chemical emotional system.  Mortality brings with it a set of mortal emotional concerns that can at times compete with our pre-mortal knowledge and understanding.  Our survival instinct, our drive to reproduce, our needs for water and food and several other strong emotions come with this mortal chemistry.  In addition to these emotions, we can possess genetic predispositions, experience traumatic events, become physically injured and these inside and outside influences can have dramatic effects upon our mortal emotions and can influence our spiritual core knowledge in troubling ways.  While this influence can too be considered mortal learning in some senses.  It is important to distinguish mental and emotional illness apart from the normal mortal experience.  This is because much of our difficulties surrounding the consistent presence of doubt in our lives emanates from our mental and emotional health challenges.

These three deep seeded influences are the genesis of our doubt.  When mortal emotions conflict with pre-mortal spiritual truth, we can feel deeply confused and we experience the emotion of doubt.  It is incredibly important to listen to our doubts but just as important to fully understand from where the originate.  Why we doubt is perhaps more important than the doubt itself.  We must first really understand if our doubt is a true doubt or just a reaction from our illness or our mortal naturally selfish desires aka the natural man.  Interestingly enough doubt is doubt.  It feels the same when our doubt is caused by conflicting mortal emotions, the dark chemistry of mental and emotional illness or the doubt is something deeper.  When we feel doubt, we feel doubt.  And we rarely if ever say well this doubt is probably caused by my current emotional health episode.  Or maybe this is just my mortal emotions conflicting with my spiritual understanding, mortality and pre-mortality colliding in a sense.

Doubt is simply unnerving to our mind.  Our mind likes doubt about as much as it likes pain and suffering.  It will do anything to get rid of the doubt.  Doubt doesn’t feel good and purposely so.  The mind does not like feeling as though it might be wrong.  We all believe that our truths are “the” truths.  When something comes along that tells our mind that our truth may be wrong doubt surfaces.  This is that feeling of conscience where what we are doing feels criminal in a sense.  When we act against what our spirit knows to be true we often feel a wrongness about it.

The mind wants the problem resolved quickly.  Is what we are feel true or not.  The mind will naturally assume that the new information may be wrong.  Meaning our mind doubts the doubt. Our mind does not like to change our mortal core beliefs.  It requires that we come to a self observation that who we are is not accurate or real.  It also means making changes to defined habits and ways of thinking.  The mind and especially the emotional mind does not like to think about reworking ways of thinking or habits.  And so it automatically assumes anything contrary or different to what we currently believe is not true.  However, when knowledge comes to the mind and heart or our spiritual center that may feel right to the emotions of the spirit but is perhaps different from what we believe personally, doubt always enters.  When that doubt is resistant to truth, real truth, we refer to that as pride in the church.  Pride is simply our emotional resistance to truth.  This comes naturally to the mortal mind and our mortal emotional center.  We are wired in a sense to be prideful and to resist change.  We are not necessarily resisting truth but the changes we would need to make in our lives.

In this sense we find that church culture tends to frown upon doubt in any form because it leads us to pride and resistance of the truth.  But the same doubtful feeling also accompanies resistance to knowledge that is not true or a half-truth.  The key to understanding our doubt and how we should respond is the Spirit of the Lord.  It is the spirit that can temper our resistance to doubt and help our mind and body absorb the truth and make it become a part of us.  The same is truth for knowledge that is incorrect.  The spirit can use our pride to keep us from knowledge that is not true.  So in a sense our pride or our acceptance of doubt can also be a good thing when used correctly.  The key to doubt is to allow for the Spirit of the Lord to dictate how we should respond to the truth we are hearing.

Now let’s speak of doubt in the sense of emotional and mental illness.  Our illness complicates the doubt problem.  Because our bodies have altered our chemistry and given us false indicators and emotions, doubt comes far easier to us.  When you doubt your emotions, you doubt even your current reality.  Doubt becomes a significant obstacle to everything in our lives.  We will doubt the love of our spouse.  We will doubt the truth of the church doctrine and principles.  We will doubt even our core ideology.  This is not because we have somehow lost our love for our spouse or we have lost forever our testimony.  Because of our anxieties or our depressive symptoms and the chemistry that comes with it, we cannot feel the truth as we did before.  When we cannot access our core beliefs and emotions, then we will doubt becomes our constant companion.  

I have spent much of my life trying to understand why I have doubted so much and continue at times to feel it.  Doubt has been the absolute stumbling block in my spiritual progression and conversion.  And I have found this is true for almost everyone who suffers from mental health.  We suffer so often and feel the emotion so consistently that we can begin to feel constant confusion in our lives.  I admit this is where we will lean upon others testimonies for a time to help us through the darkness.  There is nothing wrong with leaning upon others testimony, especially when we suffer.

This doesn’t mean that we give up and only lean upon another.  What we must come to realize is why we doubt in our heart and minds.  We must see the doubt for what it is.  It is not a loss of testimony.  The loss of love of a spouse or children.  It is a response to our illness and our inability to feel the truth we know.  Now I speak of doubt almost in a binary sense.  As if it completely blocks the love we feel and the truth we know.  That isn’t exactly true.  Like almost every emotion, doubt exists on a continuum.  Meaning we will feel love and testimony at times very clearly and at times not at all.  But for the most part we will always be somewhere in between.  This means we are likely to feel a portion of our testimony and a portion of doubt.  For many this can be terribly confusing and problematic and as I see it one of the reasons many individuals who suffer don’t attend church or feel they have a testimony.  The mixture of doubt and testimony or doubt and love or any other positive emotion can be difficult for most people to bear.  The acrid mixture causes confusion and emotional pain.  Because or our illness we cannot seem to reduce the doubt but we can reduce the feeling of love or testimony and many choose this path.  Divorce among those who suffer from mental health issues is much higher than the average.  And as a consequence, church attendance and activity tends also to be significantly reduced in the lives of those who suffer.

When we suffer, we are going to feel doubt.  It is a part of both anxiety and depression.  I have found it to be a great difficulty in my life.  Over the years I have come to live with doubt as my companion, in the sense that I classify my doubts as the result of my illness.  I see doubt as a symptom rather than what a typical person would perceive.  This takes time to do and adjust to living with doubt as a symptom of my illness rather than a true emotion.  The real fact of the matter is that doubt in the sense of mental and emotional illness is a false emotion with no real concern attached to it.  The same is true for many emotions we feel during our episodes.  We live with false emotional indicators of which doubt is most definitely one of them.  Learning to see doubt as a symptom rather than a true indicator can help with testimony, relationships and life in general.

It is not easy to retrain the mind to view doubt in this manner.  But it is possible.  For the most part, doubt has not been an obstacle to me over the last few years as I have worked to better understand my illness.  The Lord has most certainly been involved in my evolving understanding of who I am beneath my symptoms.  And for that I am forever grateful.  I know that he can help us when we are in doubt and are struggling deeply to find our footing in the spiritual realm.  Doubt may be a symptom we have to live with but it doesn’t have to be a derailing experience when it comes to conversion or spiritual development.  When we come to understand and work to know how to live with doubt in our lives, we will find much greater joy and happiness amidst our trials, temptations and struggles to become truly converted to the truths of the gospel.  May the Lord bless you to see the emotion of doubt as a symptom rather than the problem.  Until next week do your part so that the Lord can do his.