Cindy Wallace

To speak to the first question of spirituality that is unhealthy:  I would introduce you to the concept of scrupulosity.  It is OCD with a religious bent.  I have a chaplain who just did a poster presentation on this at APC, I would be glad to send out his research with his permission.  So, from a mental health perspective there is such a thing as toxic spirituality/scrupulosity.  In scrupulosity specifically, the focus is on doing everything right or enough to the point of the thoughts becoming obsessive leading to a compulsion that somehow soothes the obsessive thought.  So, if someone is afraid they are not praying correctly, they would recite a prayer over and over again trying to make sure they get it right.  This could last for hours.  Or some people will not read parts of the Bible they deem negative, because it makes their obsessions worse-thinking if they read a particular verse something bad will happen to them or someone they love, so they create compulsions to go to great lengths to never see anything about that particular verse.  Think of the TV show “Monk” but about religious thoughts and activities specifically. With scrupulosity patients the worse thing we can do is the thing we want to do which is reassure them.  Reassurance takes the anxiety away briefly, but it comes back with a vengeance.  Their thoughts and questions have to be answered, and they have to learn that they can be exposed to their thoughts and fears and live through the anxiety.  It’s an interesting ministry, one that is challenging for me.