Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) Is Not Enough
I’m a big believer in ERP. But why stop there? Did you know you can beat OCD with your bones! I know, I know you keep hearing ERP is the way to go. Confronting fears changes lives. You even hear it from me. It’ll probably be on my tombstone. “The only way out is in.” But over the years I’ve learned there’s more to beating OCD than just confronting fears and resisting compulsions.
ERP is a slow method of facing fears by taking tiny little baby steps. It takes time to climb a hierarchy and become desensitized. It’s true ERP helps you build skills and gain confidence. But, unless you’re committed and determined it can take too long. Recovery can be spotty–two steps forward and five steps backward.
It’s not good enough to confront fears just so you can white-knuckle your way through life. It’s a complicated therapeutic process because in addition to confronting fears, you have to develop a very specific mindset–Mental Kung fu.
- You have to embrace doubt and hunt down anxiety. “I want this anxiety and I want it to be intense.” That’s easier said than done, Tammy.
- You have to see everything as a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Developing a growth mindset takes time and diligence but also a willingness to fail. That’s a tough pill to swallow, Tammy.
The effects of ERP and Mental Kung-Fu are not immediate. Many people get frustrated and quit. It’s hard to do this kind of therapy when the fear seems real and believable. It’s just easier to avoid and give in to compulsions.
Are you feeling stuck? Do you keep forgetting to use your tools? Then you’re going to like this simple answer.
Your Bones Have the Answer
People who are anxious have tense muscles. They are constricted all of the time. If you can rely on your bones your muscles will relax. If your muscles relax then your frontal lobe goes back online. You gain clarity and insight to the point where your weird thoughts are just that…weird.
The Limbic System Needs to Be Offline
If your muscles are tight your limbic system is online. This is your default system. It’s the part of your brain that sounds alarms…especially false ones. It’s where you live day in and day out. You perceive danger when there is none.
Danger! Danger! Danger! That’s the message tight muscles give to your brain. This puts your limbic system in a frenzy. What kind of day does this give you? Fight, Flight or Freeze. You’re doing whatever you can to avoid pain and get certainty.
The Frontal Lobe Needs to Be Online
Your frontal lobe has to be functioning in order to beat OCD. Why? Because it’s the rational, logical part of your brain. If it’s functioning you will make good choices. You’ll choose to live your life and not feed OCD.
When your frontal lobe is offline your limbic system goes online. You’ll easily fall for OCD’s tricks. All the cool stuff you ever learned goes out the window. No frontal lobe…no choice. You will automatically feed OCD.
Your Bones Can Get Your Frontal Lobe Online
From now on put your trust in your bones. What bones? The video below offers a bit of humor but it’s also shared to remind you of all the bones you have in your body. Nevermind the joints. Look at the bones.
How To Beat OCD With Your Bones
You can beat OCD by being in a relaxed body. A relaxed body keeps your frontal lobe online. How do you get into a relaxed body? By letting your bones do all the work.
This is NOT relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy is something you set aside time to do. It’s guided imagery and tightening and releasing muscles. Relaxation therapy doesn’t teach you to self-regulate anxiety.
This is NOT meditation. Meditation is something you set aside time to practice. It also requires frontal lobe functioning. Many people with OCD have a terrible time meditating. That’s because the limbic system is online which makes you too hypervigilant to meditate.
Using your bones will automatically put you in a “relaxed body.” The effect is immediate. Using your bones is done in real time. It’s not something you stop to do or set aside time to practice. Using your bones is done “on the go.” You do it the same time you are conversing or performing activities of daily living.
This isn’t relaxation therapy, mindfulness or meditation. It’s not any kind of therapy. Learning to rely on your bones is part of normal human development.
I think anxiety exists to help you self-regulate and choose a path that leads you to your higher self. But, seeing one’s anxiety as helpful is a hard sell. Release your muscles and rely on your bones. It can only help to add this to your toolbox.
“But, Tammy this is very unlike you to talk about relaxing. Whenever I tell you I’m anxious you always say, “Good. You need the practice. You’re always telling me to go find ways to be anxious.” True. But how many of you agree with me? How many of you want to practice being anxious and hunt down triggers?
I’m not opposed to anything if it sets you free and changes your life for the better! A person who knows everything learns nothing. I’m not going to stop learning how to beat OCD. I will spend my life offering you hope. Besides, using your bones isn’t about relaxing. It’s simply about letting your bones do all the work.
Look, you either see anxiety as a perpetrator or a friend. If you see anxiety as a friend then you use KAPOW. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then I need to ask you something.
“How much longer do you want this perpetrator in your body?”
Have you had enough??? If you’ve suffered enough you’ll start using your bones. It’s simple. Every single time you use your bones the quality of your life improves. It’s impossible to experience stress when you use bones instead of muscles.
Every time you use your bones you’re restoring frontal lobe functioning. You immediately gain confidence and insight. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then why wouldn’t you use your bones to eject it from your body? You can’t possibly be suffering enough to NOT try this!
How to Beat OCD With Your Bones
All you have to do is set your intentions to rely on your bones, not your muscles. It’s simple but hard. It’s hard because over the years you’ve put all of your weight and all of your stress on your muscles. It’s time to interrupt your default system. Let’s give your bones the job of carrying the burden, not your muscles.
How to Do It
Tell yourself, “My muscles aren’t needed. My bones do the work.” Find your “sit” bones. Place your hands, palm up on your bottom and rock side to side until you find your sit bones. (Once you’ve found them you won’t need to keep touching them. You’ve created an anchor in your memory.)
Whether you are standing or sitting imagine that your “sit” bones are holding you up. If you’re standing your knees might get wobbly. It’s ok just adjust a little. If you’re sitting you might feel a bit floppy–like a wet noodle. It’s okay just adjust a little.
Do this in real time. While you are listening or talking to someone put all your weight on your sit bones. Whatever activity you’re engaged in trust your bones not your muscles to help you complete the task.
But, Tammy doesn’t this require frontal lobe functioning? How will I remember to do this if my frontal lobe is offline? This takes no more than 5 seconds each time you do it. There’s not a lot of thought put into using your bones. In fact, there’s just enough space between a trigger and your response to remembering to use your bones. This does not require deep thinking or full body attention.
Trigger <<Space>> Response (no compulsion)
In the space shift your weight to your bones. Even if you forget after you’re triggered, you’ll probably notice how tight you feel. Do it then…shift responsibility to your bones.
It’s also possible to use your bones in the space before a trigger.
<<Space>> Trigger <<Space>> Response (no compulsion)
But, Tammy if I use my bones before or after a trigger, which interrupts the anxiety, am I not neutralizing the anxiety which you always tell us not to do? If you’re not confronting your fears and not embracing anxiety AND still avoiding and using compulsions AND white-knuckling your way through it’s because YOU’RE MAKING YOUR MUSCLES DO ALL THE WORK.
Soldiers with PTSD tried Exposure Therapy with terrible effect. When they learned to trust their bones and release the muscles from such a heavy burden…they got better!
I’m not telling you to use your bones to neutralize anxiety. This is just normal human development. It’s what the rest of the population without an anxiety disorder does! You can be on the same playing field as everybody else!
I’m still telling you to confront your fears. I’m still telling you not to feel sorry for yourself because you have unwanted intrusive thoughts. I’m still telling you to not argue with OCD. I still don’t think OCD or anxiety is a perpetrator…But, I think you do.
Even if you use your bones you’ll still have weird thoughts. You can’t control what you think. You can’t control what triggers you. But, you can put your attention and energy where you do have control…You can shift your weight to your bones. This is something you control! Take control all day long!
- It’s simple.
- It takes no more than 5 seconds.
- It’s done in real time, on the go.
- Every time you do it your life improves. So do it all day!
- The effect is immediate.