Think of doubt like a poisonous gas.
Some poisonous gases have no smell or no taste to alarm our senses to danger. We ignorantly breath in the toxic fumes.
Doubt has the same insidious and poisonous nature. Like poisonous gas most of the time we are unaware when or how this toxic mental state creates ill-being.
Do not minimize the insidious nature of doubt. The Buddha, we might say, recognized five mental health disorders. In Buddhist text, said mental health disorders are referred to as the Five Hindrances and include sensual desires, ill will, restlessness and worry, laziness, and doubt.
When a topic as complex as mental illness can be distilled into five simple categories, this points to a deep understanding and provides clarity. Contrast the Five Hindrances with Western Psychotherapy, which recognizes over 200 classifications of mental health disorders. The point is, if the Buddha narrowed down his list to only five “disorders” and doubt made the cut, it is significant to consider how doubt creates suffering and pain.
Doubt – Mental and Emotional Aspects
Doubt will impact both mental and emotional activities. From a thinking perspective when we are doubtful, we don’t know, or lack conviction. Our mind is confused when we do not recognize the truth. When we do not know the truth, we feel a discomfort, unsettled, or perhaps annoyed. In an attempt to alleviate discomfort we cling to wrong beliefs, perceptions, or points of view. It feels better to hang on to a belief that is wrong than admit we have no idea.
If we have doubt in our mind, perhaps we do not have enough information. Life is very complicated. So are our problems. Sometimes, I experience, the transition of doubt to knowing over a period of time. Some answers to complex problems are revealed as the process of time reveals new information.
The opposite may also be true. We have enough information but refuse to see it. If the truth of a situation is not congruent with our thoughts, beliefs, and other aspects of the ego, we can easily ignore, minimize, or deny the truth. If the ego is very vested in not knowing, we may get angry and defensive, even when the truth begins to reveal itself.
Doubt may feel uncomfortable, but the discomfort is good to examine. If we have doubt, perhaps it is because we know wrongly. If we know wrongly, perhaps to know rightly, is to release part of our identification with the self or ego, which is the same and includes our thoughts, beliefs and identifications.
Ross had a particularly loud and cruel inner voice. Like every other human being on the planet, Ross had made some mistakes. At his core, he was a kind and gentle man. But, over the years he had acted selfishly and unethically in his career. What he wanted to be, and what he sometimes did, created a subconscious mental discomfort, or doubt. Ross had doubt because he knew he was not, at his core, a terrible person. The question of Who Am I Really resonated in his core.
Freedom from doubt, demanded that Ross embrace his true nature. That nature, the one at his core, was a loving and loveable flawed human being. Like all of us, he usually did the best he could but sometimes he failed. At various times during his life when faced with the pressure of taking an easy path, or a principled path, he made things easy on himself and acted unethical.
If Ross were going to be liberated from doubt, he had to start by having the courage to strip away a significant portion of his ego. Specifically, the part that was self-abusive, critical, and condemning.
Once the self-destroying part of the ego is destroyed, then what? Once we stop identifying with the parts of ourselves that we want to destroy and reject, we experience doubt. What is left? Who are you really?
Perhaps this is where spiritual teachings can help. Christians are told you are made in the image of your maker and that the Kingdom of Heave is Within. Buddhist are told you have a Buddha nature. New agers believe that we are perfect and unique aspects of a universal cosmic field. If you cannot exists, it is not possible that I exist.
Herein, lied the crux for Ross. Herein lies the crux for all of us.
If the doubt of his true nature were to evaporate, and he could understand, without any doubt the true nature, he would have to make some significant changes. Maybe most challenging to Ross, he would begin loving himself and acknowledge the sacredness that he is. He would also have to forgive himself and understand with true insights, how past regrets were manifested.
If we truly have no doubt, we will internalize and know the sacredness of self. How do you treat something that is sacred? Is it cared for or ignored? Is it loved or hated? Do you accept the flaws of the sacred object or feel repulsion towards them?
Do not doubt. Know your sacredness! Act accordingly. Love accordingly.
May peace be with you