Episode #223 - Moving Mountains of Doubt

April 07, 2024 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 223
Episode #223 - Moving Mountains of Doubt
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Episode #223 - Moving Mountains of Doubt
Apr 07, 2024 Season 1 Episode 223
Damon Socha

Send us a Text Message.

I hope that you enjoy this episode.  It has always been one of my favorites and perhaps one of the more relevant ones to my life.

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

I hope that you enjoy this episode.  It has always been one of my favorites and perhaps one of the more relevant ones to my life.

Welcome to Episode #223 – Moving Mountains of Doubt. As many of you know who have listened to this podcast, I personally experienced bipolar disorder and serious anxiety from as early as I can remember until I was in my early thirties. I continue to experience mild depression that is very manageable. One part of my experience which will be a part of every person’s experience with mental illness encompasses what could be called a disassociation or disconnectedness with one’s emotions. This occurs as one’s emotions increasingly become controlled by our illness. In my personal experience, as the illness manifests itself the rational mind and emotional consciousness begin to deviate from one another. This disassociation of the two major systems that represent our consciousness causes very serious issues throughout the body including emotional pain, loss of desire, physical symptoms, anxiety, depression and the many emotional symptoms we so often feel. I have spoken much about these symptoms that are truly a misalignment of what is real and what is being felt. Today I want to discuss something that occurs which causes so many to leave the association of the church and religion in general. It is something I have battled my entire life and continue to work through in various ways. It is a battle every person who experiences mental illness will fully understand. As our emotions deviate from reality and our rational senses detect the deviation we can and will begin to disassociate ourselves from our emotions. Meaning we begin to distrust what we feel.  We eventually come to fully distrust what we are feeling all the time. This distrust in our motivational and life directing system embedded so deeply in our mortal life causes a host of perplexing problems for which there exist limited answers. While I like the word distrust our emotional system, what we find is that religiously the experience is described as doubt. With this doubt in our emotional system, we will struggle to find grounding in our life much less solid grounding. When you distrust what you feel, you find that you doubt everything in life. More importantly perhaps you will find it seriously difficult to obtain and maintain a testimony of any part of gospel life. I want to just talk today about this mountain of doubt we all encounter and then how we can face it head on.

One thing we need to understand is that our emotional system establishes our system of beliefs. Belief and its opposite doubt are emotions. Yes they are influenced by the rational mind but our beliefs are recorded, saved and recalled as emotions through our experiences. It is very important that our beliefs live in our emotional system. It is that system that motivates us to action. It is where our testimony and spiritual experiences are stored and recalled. This is how the spirit can motivate and inspire us. The Spirit does not inspire us saying it is rationally important that you visit your grandmother today.  It motivates us to actual by inspiring emotion.  That system is instrumental in all parts of living the gospel. Doubt in a spiritual sense is an emotion. It comes to us in two ways. The first is through our rational system. We can hear or learn something from a trusted source, the trusted source is incredibly important and so is our level of trust. When we hear this information that contradicts our current beliefs and believe that it might be true because of our trust in the source, the emotional system sends us the signal of doubt. This is simply the mind and emotional system evaluating the new information and belief against the established belief. Doubt is that feeling when our mind is deciding what our beliefs system should be and whether it should be altered to include the new knowledge or experience. Remember our mind does not like ambiguity. It abhors the unknown and so doubt can actually bring forth distress and pain until a decision is made and the belief system becomes whole again. The reason for this distress is so that the decision is made quickly.  We rely heavily on this system of beliefs.  Doubt is not a pleasant feeling because it represents the unknown. 

Now what do you think would happen if you disassociate yourself from this system because it has been altered by genetics, life experiences and an emotional illness. When I say disassociate, it does not mean that we have entirely abandoned our belief system.  I don’t believe that we can fully do that and still live our lives.  But we can abandon portions of it.  What would happen if you had to abandon a portion of your system of beliefs because it is causing you serious distress?  The answer is easy for those of who have experienced it.  We will struggle deeply with decisions regarding our beliefs. When we cut off our connection to portions of this system, it is as if we have lost that portion of our emotional memory and connection. I don’t think that it is a large leap of understanding to see how detrimental this is to our faith and testimony. To have faith, to have testimony one must be able to recall spiritual emotional experiences and then to build upon them.  I know a couple of individuals, and I know that there are many who were abused by either family of church members.  In order to remove the distress, suffering and pain of the abuse, these individuals have blocked that portion of their emotional system.  It is a natural coping mechanism and there is no shame or sin when this occurs.  It occurs so that they can continue to move forward.  However, connected with the abuse and residing in the same emotional system is a testimony of the gospel that has now become intertwined with the abuse.  I don’t believe that these individuals lose their testimony.  I believe that they have simply blocked that emotional connection because of serious trauma that occurred during those formative years of testimony.  I believe that when mental illness occurs we block those emotional connections that are causing doubt and distress.  That doubt is telling you something is wrong with the emotional belief system and needs addressed.

Almost all individuals who suffer with mental illness will disassociate themselves from portions or at times all of their emotional belief system as a coping mechanism. This in turn causes serious doubts to occur as we limit our access to that system that contains the foundation of our testimony, spiritual motivation and our faith. This type of coping comes to limit the pain and distress and is often not a conscious decision. If we maintain a deep connection to our emotional belief system the pain and distress is significantly amplified. When that pain becomes too deep and the distress becomes too troubling we entirely cut ourselves off from our belief system.  When we do this, we lose our identity and this leads to losing our desire to live.  It is not difficult for someone to see that if they lost their connection to their belief system because of mental illness how it could eventually lead to suicide.  I have spoken much on suicide but I can tell you in my experience, reaching the point of suicide often comes at this point where you can not live with your emotional belief system and you cannot live without it.  If you feel this way, please get some help.  Fighting suicide cannot be just a personal fight.

The consequences of this dissociation are painfully obvious when considering spiritual beliefs that are contained within our emotional belief system. We will doubt even the very foundations of what we believe and we will struggle to believe anything. We can feel as though we have entirely lost what we once held to be true. However, it is not the case that we have lost anything but that we have limited our access to it for good reasons. Our testimony and experience is still intact and we can still access it but it will take removing or moving that mountain of doubt and the distress and pain that follows.

I have great compassion for anyone who suffers as I understand the difficulties that come with mental illness and the disassociation of our emotional system. This leads to a consistent struggle with the gospel as we have limited access to our spiritual experiences, our foundational beliefs, and our life decision making center.  When doubt comes to us as our illness forges a destructive path through our emotional consciousness, it feels as though the world we have built has come crashing down and we are standing in the rubble not fully understanding why or how it has happened.  I have been there I have walked in the rubble and the ashes wondering what do I do?  How do it move forward?  And ultimately if I build it again will I end up in the same place?  That is the mountain of doubt we face as members of the Lords church with mental illness.  I know that our testimony returns once we have our illness under good management.  I have felt mine return again and again as I have reestablished my emotional connection and my belief system.

There is no easy answer to our mountain of doubt.  Certainly if there were we would find it and rush to it.  But the easy answer does not exist.  However, that is important to know and understand.  We can run around looking for that easy answer and become terribly discouraged when we find nothing exists.  The answer to moving mountains of doubt is actually quite simple.  But it isn’t easy.  We have to reconnect with our emotional belief system where we have severed ties while coping with our distress and pain.  Before you get concerned about needing to reconnect and I can almost feel your anxiety when I say those words.  Understand that you don’t have to do it all at once and you don’t have to do it tomorrow.  It will be a process and if I am honest it is one I continue to learn.  My experiences in my youth and my younger adult life were of such a nature that I severed ties to my emotional system at such a level that I still struggle at times to trust my emotions in certain situations.  It has been more than fifteen years since I received a healing blessing allowing for my illness to subside and for me to begin this emotional healing process and I am not there yet.  That might sound defeating to someone who is struggling but it shouldn’t.  You see the Lord fully understands what is happening and happened to us and he allows for us to heal over time piece by piece until we can fully regain trust in our testimony and belief system.  I can promise you that you cannot fully heal this emotional connectedness without him.

So how do you go about it?  How do you reconnect and begin to trust a system that has caused you serious doubts, pain and distress?  Is there a pattern, a step by step guide?  The answer to the how depends upon the why of your mental illness.  For me, my mental illness was not triggered by a traumatic event.  My mental illness was more of a product of my genetics and certainly life played a role in it as it always does.  For me, because I never had a good connection to my emotional beliefs, I had to learn to establish one.  I had to learn to trust my emotions at the very basic level.  That takes time experience and being able to have a short memory.  In reestablishing connection, I was going to feel things and believe things that were not correct.  The easiest way to explain this is to view it through the perspective of personal revelation.  For the most part, our personal revelation comes through our emotional belief system.  Yes we can hear a voice in our head but even then we need the confirming feelings that nudge us forward.  When we struggle with our system, our personal revelation can feel more like listening to a dozen radio stations at once and trying to pick out just one station.  Even when we pick one out and can hear the voice we don’t know if it is the right one.  When you start to reconnect with this system, you will feel all types of emotional revelation.  Some of it will be correct and others will not but instead of becoming frustrated which you will do at times, we chalk it up to learning how the spirit speaks through our emotions.  I don’t know why or how we come to believe this but somehow we think that personal revelation and learning the emotional connections to the spirit should just come naturally.  They don’t because of our mortal bodies and learning to listen to that emotional system takes time, effort and experience and if you have mental illness it is going to take much more time, effort and experience.  That is the first lesson of reconnecting with your emotional system.  It will take time, effort and experience to begin to trust it again.  Don’t worry about making mistakes.  We learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our success.

The second lesson of learning emotional connectedness is when we approach this problem and begin to connect and search our feelings, all of those issues and beliefs that we left behind that were causing us to doubt are still going to be there.  Shutting ourselves off from the system doesn’t remove the doubt and our need to reconcile it.  You should expect it to be right where you left it and maybe even a little more irritated.  You are going to have to face your struggles head on and with a high level of patience and tolerance.  For you to fully reconnect you will need to work through all those issues causing you to doubt.  For my friends who have been abused, bullied, targeted, laughed at, ridiculed and persecuted in so many ways, we will have to face those issues.  We have to weed through the jungle that has now grown around those issues, cut it down and resolve the doubt that has occurred.  This is probably the most difficult thing you will ever do in your life.  And you will need copious amounts of help.  If your emotional distress has been caused by a traumatic event or series of them, you will need to work through the emotional healing process and that often takes individuals on this earth and at least one in heaven, although I tend to think there are many helping us from that side.  Some individuals will need to see a counselor and talk through the concerns and what has occurred.  The purpose of this talk is not to recount the pain and suffering but to provide a guide to that reconnection.  Counselors are trained to do this and provide a resource and an outside voice to finding that peace and connectedness.  If you decide not to see a counselor, there are often other individuals in your life who will listen and help.  I would strongly recommend that you go to the Savior to ask who should help you.  Sometimes friends, family and even spiritual leaders may not be the best choice.  Ultimately whomever you choose will need the guiding influence of the spirit of the Lord to help.  That is why I recommend a church counselor if possible.  This doesn’t mean other counselors cannot help or be guided by the Lord.  It just means that it is more likely that they will be guided to help you in the right way.  The second lesson in moving mountains of doubt is that we must face them and work through them.

The third lesson is my favorite part of it.  When we know what we must do and the task is far beyond our capacity and is daunting to the point that we quite before we start, then we always have the Savior to turn to in our need.  That can be difficult depending upon which parts of your emotional system you have disconnected.  But even when we have cut ourselves off from him for a long time, our spirit remembers and he is not concerned that you have cut him off for many years.  He is concerned with helping you to work through your mountains of doubt.  He will not chastise you.  Tell you that you should have come sooner.  He will not even remind you of the poor choices you might have made.  He knows why you made the choice to cut yourself off from your belief system.  He knows the pain, the distress and why you used that particular coping mechanism and he is not concerned about the why.  He is concerned how he can help you to reconnect, heal and repair your emotional connection.  Even a simple prayer will provide miracles you never thought were possible and start you on a path that leads to a wonderful place.  The third lesson is that you were never alone and you never are and he is waiting for you to simply ask.

Fourth and finally as you undertake this process, be patient with yourself.  Don’t condemn yourself. Don’t punish yourself.  Mental illness is one of the most challenging trials anyone will face in this life.  I personally believe that it is reserved for only certain individuals with whom the Lord has great love.  For the Lord chastises those he loves the most.  I don’t like the word chastise from the scriptures as it tends to connote punishment.  I prefer the words sanctifying trials, rather than chastise.  You did not come to mental illness as a punishment or as a random experience in this life.  You have come here because the Lord truly loves you and needs to sanctify you so that you can again return to his presence.  I know that mental illness does not feel this way in any sense of the illness.  But that is what it is a sanctifying trial that will prove to be your exalting experience.  

As your face your mountain of doubt and attempt to move it, I hope that you will find the healing and peace you so deserve.  And I fully believe that you deserve that peace and healing and I know that you will find it as you search for it.  That search might take time and effort and more patience than you thought you could ever have but I know that you can be healed and then heal others.  May the Lord bless you and keep you in his arms.  Until next week do your part to face the mountain and the Lord will most certainly do his.

Now for those of you who use the transcript portion of the podcasts I have included some additional insights on the subject about our belief systems.  Hope you will enjoy them.  Again hope to see you next week.

Moving Mountains of Doubt.   All of us during our earthly journey have and will continue to encounter those definitive moments of belief and doubt.  Where we must decide what we believe to be true and what we do not.  Now these moments come to us all the time.  Many of these defining moments don’t even register because we have previously established a belief system and the choice is made before we even get to the fork in the road.  This system of beliefs aids the mind in sifting information and making choices.  While we have a very good processor in our brain, it could not consistently accomplish a thorough evaluation of every choice moral or otherwise.  The brain needs a much quicker method to make decisions and to evaluate the action we are going to take based on our circumstances.  In order to accomplish this, the brain establishes a set of defined rules, standards, likes and dislikes.  Thus when we find ourselves having to make choice after choice everyday, the brain has already established what we will do for most of those choices.  Often it is so established, we don’t even think about it.  We call these habits.  Habits are simply the brains way of economizing the decision making process.  It keeps the mundane everyday choices out of the processor which is needed for more important process.  One of the main ways that the brain does this is by creating a system of beliefs.  This system of beliefs is just that.  A set of rules we believe to be true that guide and influence our decision making process.  For instance, one of the rules that you likely have established is that the world is round not flat.  So when you hear a story from someone who believes the earth is flat, you will quickly discard it.  You won’t even evaluate the story because you have firmly established that the world is round.  You might laugh. Joking talk about the craziness of it but you are not likely to evaluate whether the world is flat or round.  If you have no desire to evaluate it or even refuse to do so then you have established a firm belief in something.  Now you might say that it is a fact not a belief.  I don’t need to believe something that is a fact.  I am going to burst your bubble a little bit about facts and how the mind treats facts and beliefs.  For your mind everything is a belief.  A fact in your mind is simply a very strong belief.  One that is not likely to change even with contrary evidence.  It would take a mountain of evidence for you to even consider it and even then you might not change your mind.

You see we have a problem as human beings.  And it is something incredibly important to our system of beliefs.  We have to trust.  Almost everything we come to know to be true was given to us by a source we trusted or learned to trust.  Trust is the basis of our belief system.  Even if we say, I know that boiling water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, I don’t need to trust anyone to know that, I can measure it with a thermometer.  I can visually see the thermometer reach the temperature.  There is no trusting someone to know it.  That is true you can visually see the reading on the thermometer.  But interestingly enough you would have to trust that the thermometer reads correctly and trust that the person or company who made it, made it accurately.  The problem with nearly everything we learn, know and come to understand requires a level of trust.  

When our minds evaluates the multitude of information that comes to us daily, it evaluates two things.  The first is what is the mind’s already established belief about the subject.  The second is the trustworthiness of the source providing the information.  If we don’t trust the source, then we often don’t even evaluate it, we simply discard the information as inaccurate or untrue if it doesn’t match our current set of beliefs.  Something interesting does occur however if the information does match our beliefs.  The level of trust in the source will increase.  The more the source agrees with our current set of beliefs the more trust we will give to the source.  This is actually how salesmen and women work.  They establish a trust through common beliefs and then proceed to sell the product.  Because they have established trust through shared beliefs, we will be more likely to trust them.  This is how the minds works and individuals in sales simply take advantage of the way the mind works.

We can look at our defined set of beliefs as something akin to a three tiered security system.  The first level of beliefs are those where we have a basic belief and understanding but we are open to increasing that knowledge and even altering our beliefs, depending upon the information and the source.  We often talk about this as an open mind.  We should keep an open mind and we can and do but only for a portion of our beliefs.  We do not place all our beliefs in this open mind space.  In fact, if you were to evaluate your open mind, the beliefs found there would be fairly limited even for someone who says they are open. The open mind concept is simply lowering the level of trust required to evaluate the information.  For someone who does not have this open mind concept, their level of trust is simply much higher and far more limiting.

This leads us to the second level of belief.  This is where we are willing to evaluate information from trusted sources.  The trust required and the number of trusted sources depends upon a variety of things including culture, parental trust, personality, experience and life in general.  We determine who is allowed into the trust circle of level 2 and who is not.  It would be rare for someone we don’t know and with whom we have no relationship to be in this level.  However, someone with whom we have great trust and relationship can bring another person into this level.  This is a friend of a friend.  It is not that we trust the new person, we simply trust the friend in the circle’s word that they are trustworthy.  At this level, we are only willing to evaluate some beliefs based on trusted friendships or authority figures with whom we have a level of trust.  For instance, and apostle or prophet would fall into this category even without any relationship.  We have trust in the position and that the person will honor the trust of the position.  Although these type of authority figures do not always have the same level of trust as an individual with whom we have a deep relationship.  And we are far more likely to cast them out of the level 2 trust than we are someone close to us if they were to violate or contradict our most closely held beliefs.

We then get to the level 3 beliefs.  These are strongly held beliefs where even the trusted individuals of level 2 cannot tread.  We rarely if ever evaluate these beliefs.  These are the beliefs where if we are contradicted we will get angry and refuse to continue the conversation or remove ourselves from the source of information.  We are unwilling to compromise, evaluate or even discuss this level of belief.  These represent our core beliefs and are so much a part of us, that if we were forced to discard them on some level, once the force was removed we would quickly return to them.  These core beliefs dictate every action and motivation.  They represent who we are personally and we identify them as part of our make-up.