On Scrupulosity

So, obviously, I’m super religious.

But piety is not my issue. I know a lot of people have weird baggage with the idea of piety, but piety just means understanding the gods are bigger than you, and acting accordingly. It does me no harm to recognize the gods as having authority over me, and most of them warrant vigilance but can ultimately be trusted. It’s a non-issue.

Scrupulosity, though?

Scrupulosity is more like a weird kind of arrogance. Scrupulosity is meticulously counting what you did or didn’t do correctly and flipping out about the ensuing consequences, which is marked by anxiety and distrust. It’s a tedious and backwards way of trying to take control of a situation, while pretending to submit to it.

And it’s terrible for your well-being. Especially if you’re like me, with raging obsessive-compulsive tendencies to begin with.

My scrupulosity is mostly moral at this point, not religious. But it used to be. I used to constantly worry that the gods would monitor every little thing I do and lash out at me if it didn’t please them. It wasn’t even a Christian baggage thing, because I wasn’t Christian for very long before my first crisis of faith. It’s just a really unfortunate and exhausting part of who I am as a person–high strung, self-loathing and terrified of screwing up because I know how unreasonable and terrible people can be.

Even something as ultimately meaningless and inconsequential as looking at weird stuff on the internet (which is what the internet is for) would fill me with dread. I’d catch myself tilting my screen away from my altars, as if that would achieve anything. I was terrified by the idea that gods potentially had access to me all the time, let alone any hint that they’d be omnipresent, if not omnipotent.

And this is what I mean when I say scrupulosity is a weird kind of arrogance. What makes me so important that Loki is going to take the time to, like, kinkshame me or something? And why would he? He got up to all kinds of weird nonsense in the lore, and now works based on that are all over the internet.

lower than expected
That’s far fewer results than I expected, actually.

He knows! He knows there’s weird stuff on the internet, and that humans are curious about all kinds of things. Especially weird things! Looking at weird stuff on the internet is how I even ended up working with Loki. But my glitchy little brain didn’t care about that, because anxiety is fundamentally irrational. If simple logic was going to help me not be terrified of tiny dents in cans, or letting my dog out of my sight for two whole seconds, or saying something stupid to someone and spending two weeks trying to figure out if they hate me, I wouldn’t have these problems at all.

It took my runaway fit, and being coaxed back into service, to realize Loki maybe doesn’t hate me and might actually, like, love me or at least want me around. Being nudged into doing shadow work was vital to breaking my ridiculous fixation on divine punishment.

The moral part of my scrupulosity is still debilitating, and going to moots and rituals becomes exhausting. It takes an astonishing amount of energy to reassure yourself that, no, you’re not gonna start blurting out weird, socially unacceptable shit, and the fact that you’re concerned is actually proof of that. Part of me suspects that this is why Loki is nudging me to go out into the community and deal with people. I have a long history of people disappointing and harming me, and of doing the same in return because I just didn’t know better and assumed that this is just how People-ing works. (It does not.) And the anxieties I picked up from that really awful pattern are something I desperately have to work through, if I want to have a fighting chance at succeeding in life. Especially if I want to work in, and for, the Heathen community at large.

It is disappointing that so much of the psychological resources for scrupulosity are focused on anxiety-afflicted Christians, and especially Catholics. I’ve seen it manifest in entirely secular contexts. And I think, for all people of faith, we’re all at risk of paranoia about our gods and our spiritual health, and the subsequent damage to our mental health. I see new pagans have this struggle all the time, and it’s bizarrely lonely even though it’s so common.

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