“The Last Time I Tried Resisting Compulsions I Came Undone. How Can I Do This Without Such Debilitating Anxiety?”
Especially important for you to know is that anxiety is nothing more than a physiological sensation. It doesn’t have to be debilitating. It’s not the anxiety itself, but your appraisal of the anxiety that’s causing all the ruckus.
This TENS Unit causes pain to relieve pain. I use one to help heal my elbow injury from racquetball. It uses a low voltage electric current to stimulate the nerve endings. If turned up to the highest level, it packs quite a punch! It’s intense but effective.
I turn the TENS Unit up high and go about my day. I lean into the sensation. If I cringe or resist I’m only creating more tension. I actually forget all about it during the 20 minutes it’s electrocuting me. (It’s not really electrocuting me! Hmmm…at least I don’t think so?)
Whenever possible, instead of avoiding anxiety lean into the discomfort. This doesn’t mean white-knuckle your way through. It just means be willing to experience the discomfort and learn how to handle it. Don’t resist the sensation. Soften into it.
It doesn’t mean you have to like to feel uncomfortable. It means you have to allow the discomfort. Bring some love to yourself for allowing the discomfort.
And as always, be thankful for the opportunity to practice being anxious. Practice makes progress! “I’m anxious. Good. I need the practice.”
How to Practice Just Noticing the Anxiety
This is important: The content of your thought is irrelevant. I know you think thoughts might mean something. You worry if these thoughts are not thwarted somehow they’ll become reality. News Flash: Just because you have a thought doesn’t make it true.
So you avoid triggers and try to push thoughts away. You worry your thoughts define who you are. Compulsions are used to prevent or reverse bad things from happening.
This is what puts the “D” in OCD. It’s what causes the disorder. As one client puts it: It’s placing an emphasis on something (thoughts) that’s not even tangible. Have you ever said, “But, the thoughts feel real?” Think for a minute…How do you feel whether or not a thought is real? How do you feel truth?
You Can’t Feel a Thought
If you have a worry or an unwanted, intrusive thought what you feel is anxiety. You’re not feeling the thought, you’re feeling the anxiety. News Flash: Just because you have anxiety doesn’t mean something is wrong.
When you engage in a compulsion, you feel (temporary) relief from anxiety. Let this sink in: You haven’t “compulsed” your way into truth or certainty. You’ve “compulsed” your way into the absence of a sensation that was there and now gone…gone for only a brief moment.
When you focus on that which is intangible (thought) you’re placing emphasis on something that cannot be defined or understood. You can’t get to the bottom of a thought but you can get to the bottom of anxiety.
Anxiety is tangible and can be located and defined. Notice where you feel the anxiety in your body. Is your stomach queasy? Do any of your muscles twitch? Is your heart racing? Does your skin perspire or ears buzz? What feels tight–shoulders, throat?
Get Curious About What You Are Feeling Not Thinking
- Be curious about the way your body is trying to adapt. “Oh, that’s interesting. In response to my anxiety, I must be releasing adrenaline right now. My body obviously knows I’m distressed and is really going overboard and working very hard to find a balance.”
- Don’t focus on why you’re upset and anxious. Focus on the sensation. How does your body produce this sensation? Fascinating. Not why are you anxious. How?
- Breathe in the suffering. Exhale compassion. You might think you should do the reverse because it’s instinctive to resist and avoid pain and suffering. But, by intentionally breathing in the discomfort and exhaling compassion you are ending the pattern of resistance. Resistance only perpetuates more suffering.
OCD is child-like with no life experience
- Have empathy for your OCD. “May you be filled with loving kindness.” (Remember OCD is a young version of you. Offer your compassion and guidance, not hate.) Put your hand on your heart and say the words: Love. Love. Love. Not that you have to love having OCD. But, bring some love to yourself for allowing whatever it is you are feeling and thinking.
- Relax your belly and brow. Don’t rock or rub. Soften into the tension. If you resist the tension, you’re only making the sensation tighter.
- Hold your hands with palms up and let the energy flow from your body. Crossing your arms or making fists keeps it locked in. It’s energy that doesn’t like being bottled up. Let it out.
- Feel the sensations in your body. Don’t judge. Notice and allow. Say the words: Allow. Allow. Allow.
- Don’t evaluate the thoughts. Don’t dig deep. Just notice how your body reacts.
- Surrender to the experience without trying to understand it. Don’t head down the rabbit hole trying to figure out what it all means. It only means one thing: You’re anxious.
- Be present and like a good neighbor observe the physicality of your anxiety.
Especially relevant and noteworthy is how hard it is to be anxious when you are curious and fascinated. Get curious about the physicality of anxiety!
Anxiety Is Tangible, Thoughts Aren’t
Do thoughts smell? Do they have a flavor that you can taste? Do thoughts have a texture? Think about a chocolate cake. Can you taste it by thinking about it? Smell it? Feel it in your mouth? Hear it? Thoughts aren’t tangible! It’s impossible to feel a thought.
It’s not the thoughts you’re feeling. It’s the anxiety.
Wouldn’t you prefer something more concrete to deal with? Would you rather have a live person to be friends with or someone on Facebook? Do you prefer to eat something that is recognizable through your senses? Or do you want to eat something you can’t smell, touch, taste, or see?
Your anxiety is physical and clear-cut. Thoughts are nothing more than bubbles.
I know, I know…You are drawn and compelled to focus on the story. (Your obsession.) Focusing on your anxiety is much more tangible. You can actually get something accomplished by learning to experience your anxiety.
It will take some practice! Practice makes……..progress! You don’t have to want the anxiety…want the practice of experiencing anxiety. In addition to Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP), this is another way to stop compulsive behavior.
Remember, you get good at what you practice.
The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:
Practice experiencing the physicality of anxiety. It’s a drill that develops a skill.
Compulsions: Do They Really Save Lives?
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…
The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions