Understanding Morality as a Source of Anxiety and how to overcome it
- Dr. Sudipta Roy and Harsh Pherwani,
Edited by Psy Lens Team
Mental health and morality have deep connections. Morality can be described as a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct or from a particular philosophy, religion or culture. On the other hand , Mental health refers to a state of cognitive, emotional and social well-being. You may wonder what place does morality hold in mental health? In truth many disorders such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Antisocial Personality disorder, Conduct disorder and Sado-masochistic personality types are intrinsically related to moral development. Morality is what you think is the right thing to do by a situation, the correct thing, the good thing. Contrary to popular beliefs, there is in fact, no right or wrong. Morality is not bifurcated, it is multiple and an entire spectrum ranging from different circumstances to different consequences. Historically, morality has been unleashed on society from various religions, teachers, books and imperial choice. However, a modern morality, the idea of good or evil, is very personal, and individually defined.
The societal and cultural norms of morality help to keep people’s behaviors grounded, in control and civilized. This control is exercised by inducing fear of doing wrong which is linked in our mind with harmful consequences such as “facing the wrath of GOD” “ burning in hell’, “ “carrying over the effects of bad karma to another life”. Unexpectedly, many introspective, scrupulous or conscientious people who are more likely to follow a path of right over wrong, spend a lot of time evaluating their actions. They may question something they did ? Was it right? Was it wrong? Was it evil ? This questioning helps people choose the right over wrong and prevents stepping into the other side of law. However, for some others it becomes a source of self-doubt and tremendous anxiety. The extent of this anxiety is sometimes overwhelming beyond manageable limits and therefore needs to be contained.
HOW CAN THIS ANXIETY BE TAMED?
- Counteracting the irrational belief
To begin an attack on the anxiety brought about by moralistic self doubt, we need to remind ourselves of a few facts. This means that we need to break down the fallacy of “ Me and Evil”. Bear in mind that an evil or bad person will never submit him or herself to questioning him or herself. Therefore, it is useful to start taking a pen and paper and re-construct a view of yourself through drawings and words . You will find that you may have very few or no past intentional acts of harm or hate showing that you are a person taking pains to work on yourself, to succeed over your demons, and are careful not to violate the rights of others. It takes courage and a lot of pain to work on yourself, especially when it’s questioning your morality!
- Self Acceptance:
One way to rid yourself of debilitating anxiety related to morality is to move towards self-acceptance. In the Bhagavad Gita we find a scene where Lord Krishna shows the faltering Arjuna his true form and Arjun is shocked to see Krishna’s image in each form around him. This experience is captured in the phrase “ Aham Brahmasmi” Meaning-” I am all creation”. The reality of this phrase is simple and profound. “WE ARE” the good and the evil that we see or encounter in others. This means humans have both good and evil aspects within them and the rejection of the evil inside us leads to the anxiety we experience. Once you’re not in conflict with your own self and understand the person that you are, owning the struggle you’ve been through to be better and what you’ve achieved despite opportunities to be worse or different, you are in a position to acknowledge the huge feat you have accomplished in remaining on track. That is the testament to a life lived morally.
Acceptance is a very powerful tool, and it comes with objective understanding of a situation, consideration of others, empathy and compassion towards one’s own self as well as others. The other part of Self -Acceptance is to accept the actions of the past and circumstances within which you lived in the past and the present. Once you find a way to make peace with yourself, your actions and experiences, everything starts falling into place and you begin to transcend the anxiety through a freshly gained perspective. With this, acceptance seeps in, paths to recovery opens up and you’re founded with power to walk that path.
In conclusion, in your weakest moments, when anxiety strikes hard and self doubt is the strongest, there are two ways to help yourself out of it-
1. Remember that not every thought or action needs to be evaluated on the morality scale and thoughts are not equivalent to actions 2.You may also use a checklist to run through whether you are trying to practice these universal morals namely. bravery, kindness, love for family, staying honest, respecting others property, helping ,following authority, returning favors.
If you do practice some of these regularly, you can give yourself a five star rating on the morality report card!!!