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How My OCD Makes Me Obsessed With Hoarding ‘Karma’


Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

I believe heavily in karma. I believe in it mostly because I want to be a good person and doing good things for people makes me feel good. I’m not a perfectly nice person, as I am often consumed with my obsessions which causes social rifts, at times. But at my core, I think I’d classify myself as a good person who tries his best to give without asking for anything in return.

However, karma has a classic problem when measured against the architecture of selflessness. Are we — am I — doing things merely to gain more karma? Is karma a currency one can actively seek to gain more of?

When I begin to think with complete honesty about why I act in a good way, I begin to see that a lot of it is not selfless. Now, that is not to say I actively seek tangible or intangible things back from others I do good things for. I’ve got that covered; I know not to do that. That is a different situation I find others in, and while I don’t really care to judge, I do know that directly seeking something back from another person in exchange for good deeds is… a thing.

This is where my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) comes into play. I believe in things like omens and other magical entities that are not part of the sum of exchanges between myself and others. I’ve used the term “karma” here because that is the simplest way to describe it without moving into areas such as religion, belief, God and any of that stuff which is far more complex in my mind than needed for that which I am explaining. 

“Karma,” as I see it, is something good (most often intangible, but it can be tangible, which I’ll get to) one receives from the universe for doing good. This isn’t necessarily something from the person or people you do good for.

The intangible manifests itself in feeling good, or more aptly: better. Lifting your mood because you did something good. The tangible gets a little stickier. “Tangible” can refer to not just physical stuff, but just in receiving anything I value in return for doing good. I could be talking about something strictly real like money coming my way seemingly out of nowhere. But also things like protection from bad things happening, ensuring fewer problems in life. All these things are not necessarily things that can be collected. Necessarily.

My OCD believes in hoarding. I don’t really want much physical stuff (though my relationship with money and saving is for another article.) However, I relate to karma in a way that part of my brain feels like such can indeed be collected like currency. And really, the word “savings” seems to be better here, as “currency” suggests a flow and I want to hoard.

Why do I want to hoard karma? Because with my OCD, I feel the world is a series of bad things that can and should happen lest you pay attention to every detail, perform every ritual and do everything in your power to not have those bad things happen. Bad things happening is the default result.

Enter karma. Here, somehow (this is indeed magical thinking, but I can’t not think) I can do enough random (and maybe not-so-random) good that I collect enough karma that it offsets the bad stuff from happening.

This is how my brain works. I am not sure what level of control I have over it, but I know my level of control is not to be described as “complete.” However, at the same time, I’m not going to use my OCD as a crutch in terms of my relationship with the world — even that which exists only in my head.

So, the circle comes back around as a feeling that everything good I do is insincere. Thus a very real dichotomy. I know when I do good, but I feel I’m not able to — at the base level — actually do selfless good.

My brain spins on this circle. That is OCD — a brain on a spinning wheel. Looking at “good” as “not good” and worrying about doing that which is “not good” and having it come back at me in a negative way when all I wanted to do was “good.” But for reasons. And having reasons… not good.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash