Compulsions put the C in OCD. This seems like “Captain Obvious” but it gets forgotten all the time.
People don’t connect their compulsive behavior to having OCD. The diagnosis of OCD gets lost in the sea of anxiety. Even though they intellectually know the behavior stems from a neurological condition, people get all tangled up in their OCD story.
What Drives Compulsive Behavior?
The urge to do a compulsion is purely anxiety-driven. During the performance of a compulsion, anxiety is outsmarting and outplaying the intellect. Compulsions are performed to avoid anxiety.
Clients often disagree, “But, I don’t have anxiety.” That’s because compulsions temporarily mask anxiety.
Let this sink in: If you are willing to be uncomfortable there is no need for a compulsion.
Delusion of Grandeur
Many people with OCD, believe they might possibly have the gift of intuition or premonitions. “I do these compulsions because I have good instincts.” Intellectually they know they have OCD, and that they don’t have a super power. But on the slim chance that their obsessions foreshadow the future, they’re going to keep up the compulsive behavior…just in case.
If they really could know what’s coming and stop something bad from happening, they’d be rich and famous. This idea of being gifted is nothing more than a story to help manage anxiety.
Let this sink in: If you are willing to surrender and find out what happens from moment to moment, there is no need for a compulsion.
What Drives Compulsive Behavior?
A Lack of Insight
Compulsions lack common sense. For example, what does counting car door handles have anything to do with pulling out of a parking spot? In fact, it doesn’t make any sense because mirrors help you see what’s around you; not door handles. But, you can see how anxiety, not intellect is driving this behavior.
Compulsive behaviors go beyond the limits of social acceptability and lack good sense. You can tell it’s a compulsion by applying the “reasonable person” test. In a room full of 100 people, how many of them are doing what you’re doing? “Not many!” That’s how you know this behavior is not reasonable and is purely driven by OCD.
Another way to know if your behavior is reasonable is to answer this question: Would you recommend that a young child or your best friend copy your compulsive behaviors? Are you so confident that your compulsions are truly magical that you would recommend them to anyone else? Would you go on TV or write a book urging people to do them?
If your compulsions are so effective, why aren’t you teaching them to others? Because compulsions put the C in oCd and you know it! That’s why.
You never used to have to do these compulsions, why now? Nobody else has to do these behaviors, why do you? The answer is because you haven’t learned <<YET>> how to master your anxiety.
Let this sink in: If you are willing to put your trust in someone you consider to be reasonable and copy their behavior, even when it doesn’t feel right, there is no need for a compulsion.
The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions
You may think that your compulsions derive out of compassion and concern for others. But, they really are rooted in selfishness. Before you get offended with this idea let me be the first to say I am a very selfish person. I wholeheartedly and sincerely admit it.
I give everything I have to help people. Since 1983 I’ve been in the helping profession. Over the years I’ve left numerous positions when the job stopped making me feel good. I’m not an OCD therapist because I’m selfless. On the contrary, I’m a therapist because I’m selfish.
I’ve been told I need to start putting myself first. I reply, “I put myself first every single day of my life.” Because everything I do for others I’m really doing for myself. It makes ME feel good to help people. If I’m not making a difference in someone’s life, I don’t feel good about myself. I’m not altruistic. I’m selfish.
The same can be said about compulsive behavior. People perform compulsions to feel good. The story might be, “I do what I do to prevent harm.” But, that’s just the story. The truth is that every compulsion is performed in an effort to feel better. Every compulsion is selfish.
What Drives Compulsive Behavior?
- Can you take responsibility if something you do or don’t do results in harm? Whatever the consequences, are you willing to pay them? “Yes, but I will feel horrible guilt.” Okay, so you’re doing all these compulsions to avoid feeling horrible.
- If you get sick and spread it to everyone you live with, can you say you’re sorry and help everybody get well with home-made chicken soup? “Yes, but I’ll feel bad.” Okay, so you’re excessively cleaning and sanitizing so that you don’t feel bad.
- Can you make corrections and apologize for the inconvenience if you make a mistake? “Yes, but I’ll feel stupid.” Okay, so you’re double triple checking your work so that you don’t feel stupid.
- Are you willing to take responsibility and apologize if you say something displeasing to someone? “Yes, but I’ll feel like a jerk.” Okay, so you’re constantly making sure people aren’t mad at you so that you don’t feel like a jerk.
Whether feeding OCD or helping to starve OCD, both of these missions are done for selfish reasons. But, only one of these callings is truly helping others.
Let this sink in: No matter how much good we do for someone, it is for selfish reasons. If you truly want to help others there is no need for compulsions.
An Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility
Do you think it’s possible that you perform compulsions to avoid harm because you don’t want to feel responsible?
Maybe the plastic bag on the road could fly up onto the windshield and block the driver’s vision. It’s possible you should have gone back and picked it up. But, are you 100% sure this is something other people would do? Or, could the urge to remove the bag be nothing more than the “c” in oCd?
Are you considering picking up that bag because you can’t bear feeling responsible? Not that you would even know if anything happened, it’s just that you don’t want to have to worry about the possibility of being responsible.
The bottom line is that thinking about being responsible for something makes you terribly anxious. And you haven’t learned <<YET >> how to experience anxiety.
Just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean something’s wrong.
Let this sink in: If the time should come that you are rightfully blamed for something bad happening, will you accept the consequences? If you are willing to take responsibility for your honest mistakes, wrongdoings, mishaps or lack of attention, there is no need for a compulsion.
Feeling anxious? Getting an urge to perform a compulsion? Consider the following before trying to thwart the anxiety:
- Is this something dangerous or just unpleasant that you are avoiding?
- If you don’t know what happens next (like the rest of us) is that okay?
- Are you 100% sure that a reasonable person is thinking or acting like this?
- Are you being selfish in order to feel “just right?”
- If something were to actually happen, are you willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility for any role you played in it?
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsions
It’s important to call compulsive behavior what it is. If you’re going to do a compulsion, at least get rid of the story and admit what you’re really doing. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now so that I can get temporary relief.” It’s that plain and simple. The story behind the compulsion is FAKE NEWS.
“The Only Reason For a Compulsion: It’s Not What You Think.”
If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…