Around this time of year we tend to think about what to change in the New Year. And what I know for sure is that many people with OCD are thinking about bossing it back faster and smarter than ever before. But, some people with OCD aren’t really thinking about bossing it back. They’re thinking about how to make unwanted intrusive thoughts stop.
Bossing it back means letting those unwanted intrusive thoughts exist in your mind without doing anything to get rid of them. (Like performing physical or mental compulsions, seeking reassurance or avoiding triggers.) Think of bossing it back like this: You’re on a plane with a screaming baby sitting right next to you. You don’t try to make the baby stop screaming because that only makes her scream more. You don’t talk to her. You don’t play with her. You don’t yell at her. You don’t judge her. You don’t try to figure out what’s wrong. You don’t ask the mother any questions. There is nothing you can do to stop the baby from screaming. You pick up your book, shrug and read just as you intended before you met the screaming baby. The screaming baby has no effect on your ability to read. That’s bossing it back! The screaming baby is your OCD. Let it scream!
But, OCD is a trickster and can talk you into bad habits to try and stop the screaming. Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?
- Thinking a compulsion is no big deal
Well I hate to break it to you but it is. Compulsions keep OCD alive. When you perform a compulsion it’s like paying attention to the screaming baby. She only screams louder. There is no such thing as a good compulsion. They are all a big deal. Don’t get tricked into a compulsion when OCD says, “Just this one time.” Or “Do it and get it over with.” “You won’t be able to get this off your mind unless you do this compulsion.” You know these are lies. I know you fear harm will come if you don’t do what OCD says. Your fear is not the greatest fear ever experienced. There is always someone with OCD who fears harm much more than you. And that person with more fear than you has bossed it back. Don’t use fear as an excuse.
Break the old habit of thinking compulsions are no big deal. They rob you of your life and waste so much time. People who boss it back realize compulsions are a huge deal. No matter how afraid they are, they resist the urge to do a compulsion. They reach a point where they’ve had enough of the lies. They know that one compulsion leads to another. In many cases, their fear is more intense than yours, and the risk feels far more real than your risk, yet they take the risk anyway and boss it back. Remember this; there is always someone more afraid than you, who is bossing it back.
- Not scheduling time to boss it back
If you don’t set your intentions to boss it back, you won’t. When you’re caught in the OCD trance, you’re on automatic pilot and doing whatever OCD tells you to do. To boss it back faster and smarter than ever, put your plan in writing and use notifications to remind you to execute your plan. There are many user-friendly apps for your smart phone or PC to help you schedule your boss it back plan and you’ll even get daily reminders. Apps that I have used and like are: HabitBull, HabitList, and GoalsOnTrack.
Break the old habit of winging it and flying by the seat of your pants. Start a new habit by scheduling time each day to boss it back. Maybe this means setting aside time to conduct exposure experiments and doing at least one thing every day that scares your OCD. I’ve included a link that will give you worksheets to help you formulate your exposures. How about scheduling time each day to listen to your loop tape for a week? Read more about loop tapes here. If you need additional help let me know! There are also detailed scripts for loop tapes in the back of Jonathan Grayson’s book. (See my Resource page @ bossitback.com.)
- Not celebrating your victories
How can you rewire your brain if you don’t let it know when something great just happened? No matter how little you think the victory is, celebrate it. If your brain exaggerates threats it can also exaggerate victories! Happiness can be taught! OCD can be fought! If you resist a compulsion or face something you’ve been avoiding, CELEBRATE!!! Be proactive and make a list of all the many ways you could celebrate. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, how would you tell a friend to celebrate? Ask a friend for ideas. Make it fun and put each different way to celebrate on a separate slip of paper. Put all the slips in a jar and pick one when it’s time to celebrate. Check out this playlist of celebratory songs here.
Break the old habit of failing to recognize your victories. Your brain needs positive feedback when you break bad habits. If you give it negative feedback, “Oh I’m not celebrating something I should have been able to do a long time ago,” then you’re brain can’t rewire! Sing, dance, laugh…Here’s that video of me dancercising that I promised you. Sorry, it’s kind of blurry!