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The ARCH-HIVE: I Am Bound upon a Wheel of Fire

“Thou art a soul in bliss, but I am bound

Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears

Do scald like molten lead.”

—King Lear, Act 4, Scene 7

Guest curated by Camilla Stark

December 2nd - December 22, 2022






All of us—the participants of this art show—have had our lives deeply affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is not a quirky preference for alignment or symmetry. This is a debilitating disease of fear, doubt, and spiraling terror.

 

OCD is an overactive survival instinct that demands certainty that our worst fears won’t come true. We are bombarded by intensely convincing thoughts about our fears, followed by strong desires to perform compulsive actions that will prevent the things we fear. But this is a lie. Performing a compulsion does not prevent the fear from coming true. It only makes the intrusive thoughts come back stronger. And then the compulsions come back stronger. And thus, we are bound upon a wheel of fire.

 

Scrupulosity, or religious OCD, is a flavor of obsessive-compulsive disorder specifically focused on religious and spiritual fears. Fears of breaking commandments, of not being worthy, of displeasing God, of being cast down to Hell. The compulsions can be rigid adherence to commandments, excessive praying, repeated confession to spiritual leaders, repeating scriptures or hymns to “cleanse” impure thoughts, and more. We never feel clean “enough”, worthy “enough”, or righteous “enough” when we perform these compulsions. We may suffer in silence for years, certain we are damned. We may reach a breaking point and leave religion entirely.

 

The only way to break free from the wheel of fire is to stop performing compulsions. In the moment, it feels like allowing our fears to come true. To invite death and hell to take us. But then our brains learn that the worst didn’t happen. We learn to accept uncertainty. We begin to heal.

 

In this art show, more than 25 artists and poets depict their experience with OCD and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormon religion. Some suffer from scrupulosity. Others explore how other OCD themes interact with their religious beliefs. A few have a family member with OCD. All of us want to share with you what it’s like.

 

Welcome to our wheel of fire. 

If you suspect you or a loved one suffers from OCD, please seek out an OCD specialist. You can find a list of qualified therapists on the International OCD Foundation website (iocdf.org) or on the NOCD app. You are not alone. We love you.

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