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There’s Only One Reason For a Compulsion

What Is the True Purpose of a Compulsion?

A compulsive behavior is defined as a compelling need to persistently and repeatedly perform a visible or mental act. If you have OCD then you’ve probably explained to someone that the reason you perform compulsions is to “feel just right” and/or prevent harm.

OCD stories
OCD has quite an imagination

There is usually an elaborate story to explain the compulsion even further:

“My mind tells me to do compulsions or my son might die.” That’s quite a Marvel-ish story! Actually, you’re not a superhero and your mind tells you to do compulsions because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to super charge your anxiety.

“I threw my phone out because my mind told me it was contaminated and I’d spread sickness to others.” Your mind gives you a very expensive way to avoid anxiety. Just throw stuff out! You’ll have lots of $$$$ when you decide to just be anxious.

“My mind tells me I can’t move forward with this task until I have designed a Grand Ole’ Master Plan for the next 10 years of my life.” Your mind tells a very rigid, controlled story because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to experience uncertainty.

“My mind tells me that I am living a fake life. What if I don’t really love this person. Maybe I’m actually gay.” Your mind goes into overdrive to try and protect whatever is precious and sacred to you because you haven’t <<YET>> mastered anxiety.

“My mind tells me I have a health condition. Even though I’ve had negative results from numerous blood tests, x-rays and other procedures I still think I’ve got a serious condition that the doctors are missing.” 

Your mind is right. You probably do have a health condition like the rest of the population. We all die of something! You keep trying to find out what that condition is because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to live with uncertainty.

The True Purpose of A Compulsion Revealed

The only reason you truly perform compulsions is to AVOID:

  • suffering
  • being cast aside or abandoned (which brings us back to suffering)
  • experiencing a catastrophic event that results in irreversible damage (which brings us back to suffering)

Why will you do just about anything to avoid suffering? Because you haven’t taken the time to think it through and realize that you can handle the suffering. No matter what happens you are always capable of growing and changing.

The other day I had a terrible thought on my mind. I’d been told something that freaked me out and my mind became sticky. By 3am I still couldn’t shake the thought. My fear was that this thought would not leave anytime soon and that I would have this very gross unwanted thought stuck in my mind for days on end. 

Finally, I stopped wrestling. I reminded myself of what I tell my clients, “The only way out is in.” I had to lean into this thought. I made my mind deliberately think of the graphic pictures and I agreed with my fear, “Yes, this sideshow could play for days on end.”

The shrug didn’t work. I thought I would get relief from surrendering to the thought but I didn’t. At 5am it occurred to me that I would be starting another day with this horrific haunting unwanted thought. 

I shrugged again and this time said, “It’s going to be a very unpleasant difficult day but I can handle it.” I CAN HANDLE IT. At that point, the movie projector abruptly stopped playing the horrible picture in my mind.

Just typing this to tell you about the unwanted thought I had is triggering the thought. But, this time I am much quicker to say, “Okay. If this picture gets stuck in my mind again it’ll be unpleasant but I can handle it.” ~By the way this story is proof that everybody gets weird disturbing thoughts. Not just people with OCD.

Behind Every OCD Story is an Attempt to Avoid Suffering

The mother with harm-avoidance OCD won’t touch her baby until she has scrubbed in the shower for an hour. She explains, “I have to shower so I don’t get the baby sick.” In other words: “I won’t forgive myself. I’ll feel guilty. (Suffer) I don’t want to be responsible if the baby gets sick. (Blamed, cast aside and suffer) If my baby gets sick she’ll die.” (catastrophic thinking and suffering)

But, all of it is just a story. The story is quite irrelevant. Especially considering the baby needs to get sick. Compulsions just don’t make sense. Besides the baby not building an immune system that reach for a hug has to wait until the shower is over.  Compulsions don’t help. They hurt.

The woman with relationship OCD (ROCD) isn’t sure she truly loves her significant other so she constantly seeks confirmation that she’s in the right relationship. Most of the compulsive behavior is comparing and contrasting. She repeatedly checks to see if he measures up or if she has the right feelings at the right time.

Resist compulsions
Everything is a learning opportunity

She explains, “I just don’t want to make a mistake and waste our lives.” That explanation of not wanting to waste lives or time doesn’t make sense. No matter what happens we are capable of growth and change. 

In every great relationship, there is doubt and imperfection. We never know how anything will turn out. (Anyone who claims to have certainty is afraid of uncertainty.) We must be willing to find out from moment to moment what happens. If what happens includes suffering, you can handle it because you are capable of growth and change.

OCD stories
The story is irrelevant

A compulsion has nothing to do with the storyline or the characters in the story. 

It’s really about learning how to experience anxiety.

Everybody with OCD has a story that incorporates people, places and things of value and importance. OCD thoughts and worries seem to always be overly protective about whatever is precious and sacred to you. 

An OCD story is usually accompanied by an inflated sense of responsibility. The belief that you can and must control an outcome beyond human capability or above what is normally expected of others.

Compulsive Behavior Best Describes…

Peel any OCD story like an onion and at the very core, you’ll find the true reason for compulsions: An aversion to discomfort. Let all of this sink in:

  • If you suffer from sickness what will you feel? Pain. (Discomfort)
  • If you are abandoned what will you feel? Loneliness. (Discomfort)
  • If someone you love is annihilated what will you feel? Heartbroken. (Discomfort)
  • If you keep having bad thoughts how will you feel? Guilty. (Discomfort)
  • If you feel gross what will you feel? Yuck. (Discomfort)
  • If you don’t feel just right, what will you feel? Just wrong. (Discomfort)
  • If you’ve wasted your time or someone else’s time what will you feel? Empty. Guilty. (Discomfort)
  • If you die from a fatal accident or deadly disease what will you feel? Who knows. (Discomfort)
  • If God is disappointed with you what will you feel? God’s supposed wrath. I personally don’t subscribe to this belief but I know there are people who think of God as quick to anger and this causes them pain. (Discomfort) 
A compulsive behavior is defined as an attempt to avoid experiencing discomfort.

There Is Freedom In Surrendering

Contrary to what an individual with OCD thinks, compulsions do NOT prevent suffering, abandonment or annihilation. This is a cover-up story. All things considered, compulsions only temporarily neutralize anxiety while at the same time making your world and self-esteem small.

Radically accept uncertainty in all walks of life and there is no need to perform another compulsion. When you accept, “whatever happens, happens” you are surrendering to feeling uncomfortable and compulsions no longer have a role in your day to day existence. Cross each bridge when you get to it. If you get to it.

In the book Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success authors Feldman and Kravetz explain that giving up is sometimes the only way to move forward. Truly accept the consequences of a potential unwanted event or feeling and there’s no need for compulsions. Let’s just move on.

Most importantly, accept that because of your lack of control over what happens, you may suffer from the uncertainty. It’s okay. You are capable of handling it. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of suffering you feel and the amount of growth you experience.

The more you see an opportunity to grow the less suffering you experience.

News Flash! Compulsions Do Not:

  • Prevent suffering. They cause it.
  • Protect you from abandonment. They actually isolate you and push people away. 
  • Keep you or anyone else alive. They rob you of spending time with loved ones.

It’s a dysfunctional belief that compulsions do something good. First and foremost, compulsions do nothing but gobble you up. With every compulsion, you’re losing a part of you. 

Most of all, it’s a myth that anxiety is debilitating. Your resistance to experiencing anxiety is crippling you. You’ve got to go towards the anxiety. You can do anything with anxiety. You can’t-do much by avoiding.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Lean into the anxiety and you’ll earn your freedom. You don’t need a compulsion if you’re willing to be anxious. Remember, you can handle any consequence. You are always capable of growing and changing. 

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

“Forget Compulsions, Try This Instead”

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

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

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions

Compulsions put the C in OCD.  This seems like “Captain Obvious” but it gets forgotten all the time.

Compulsions
…and I have oCd

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?

Anxiety

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 are unreasonable

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.

Compulsions
No such thing as selflessness

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?

Selfishness
  • 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.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Only Reason For a Compulsion: It’s Not What You Think.”
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

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

Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

Compulsive behavior
Here, my little friend, I know the way out!

You’ve probably discovered OCD can be very convincing. What a brilliant mind OCD must have. What must it take to convince you to buy into doing compulsions? OCD has got to be very perceptive and calculating. Wouldn’t it be something if you could be just as cunning and sly as OCD? 

Well, I’ve found something that might just help. A lot of people write books about OCD but did you know OCD has written books too? They’re very hard to find and that’s why I was so excited when I stumbled upon OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions.

When I read this book I wasn’t surprised to learn that OCD doesn’t play fair and square. In fact, its entire game is one of deceit. I’m reviewing a chapter from OCD’s Playbook and it’s called, “Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions.” 

In this chapter OCD reveals five secrets about compulsions:

#1) You Get Good At What You Practice

At first performing compulsions is awkward and hard to get just right. But with practice, you get really good at them and to not do them takes you out of your comfort zone.

Compulsions Defined
I can see you!

A compulsive behavior can be invisible or observable. Most everyone is familiar with observable compulsions and there’s really no limit to what they entail.

Observable Compulsions Include:

  • Retracing, stepping or walking a certain way
  • Checking locks, appliances, switches or cords
  • Repeating certain words or phrases
  • Blinking, counting, tapping, stretching, touching or doing things in a certain sequence
  • Washing, cleaning or sanitizing
  • Avoiding people, places or things
  • Asking for someone to repeat what they said
  • Using only “safe” numbers or words
  • Arranging objects in a certain order
  • Tattling or confessing
  • Reassurance-seeking by asking the same questions or Googling the same thing over and over (click for more info and video.)

Which compulsions do you tend to perform?

 

OCD Can Be Very Convincing But Also Very Conniving

It is especially important to identify or target mental compulsions. You’ll mistakenly think you have pure “O” if you don’t. Don’t overlook mental acts. Make sure you identify mental compulsions because if you don’t how will you know what to stop doing so that you can recover? 

Mental Compulsions Include:

  • Counting or creating images and shapes in the mind
  • Scanning the body or the environment
  • Checking for intention (Was that thought deliberate? Did I mean it? Is that thought me or OCD?)
  • Mentally going over and over something in hopes of getting certainty
  • Checking for the ability to feel connected to others
  • Making promises to self throughout the day
  • Checking, “Am I feeling what I “should” be feeling?”
  • Repeatedly rewinding & replaying an event or a conversation
  • Replacing a bad thought with a good thought, or a less bad thought
  • Checking to see if the obsessions are still there or similarly, obsessing about obsessing
  • Analyzing a thought to discern real vs. “just OCD”
  • Trying to figure out why a certain thought keeps occurring
  • Repeating the same phrase or word in your mind 

Which mental compulsions do you perform?

 

What OCD Doesn’t Want You To Know About Your Compulsions:

You get good at what you practice. Practice compulsions you’ll get good at doing them. You’ll get so good they’ll come rather easily and eventually turn into a hard habit to break. If you practice feeling uncomfortable, you’ll get good at it. Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear. To get there you’ve got to go through it not around.

#2) Performing A Compulsion Is A Choice

There is no supernatural force making you do compulsions. You choose whether or not to do a compulsion. What you think about is not your choice. You can’t choose your thoughts but you can choose how to react to your thoughts.

Compulsive behavior
Nothing happens unless I say it can happen!

You choose compulsions to feel more in control.

The urge to perform a compulsion is usually prompted with relentless and persistent warnings: “If you don’t do this you’ll be sorry. Things will get out of control and bad things will happen.” It can be seductive and promising, “You’ll feel more in control, just do it this one last time.” 

Although some compulsions were started so long ago that they’ve become more of a habit than an urge, you’re still choosing to do them. When I put the cap on the toothpaste there’s not a lot of thought behind the behavior.  It’s really a habit.  But, I still have a choice whether or not to put the cap on the toothpaste.

We are always in control of the choices we make. Sometimes we’re just not being mindful enough to choose wisely.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel a sense of control and now you have less control than ever.

#3) Every Compulsion Is Done to Avoid Discomfort

You might proclaim that you perform compulsions to save yourself or somebody from harm. But, that’s just a story. Like any OCD story, it’s irrelevant. What it all boils down to is that you don’t want to feel uncomfortable.  

Follow any OCD story to its end and apparently, the result is catastrophic as you will either be destroyed or abandoned. 

  • If I get a cold or flu, I’ll miss out. I have to sanitize. If I miss out I’ll get behind. If I get behind I’ll fail miserably (destroyed) and end up alone (abandoned). 
  • These horrible thoughts make me feel like a bad person. I’ve got to stay away. If I act on these thoughts I’ll feel guilty and won’t be able to live with myself (destroyed) and no one will ever love me again (abandoned).
  • I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m so inadequate. I have to double triple check everything. If I make a mistake I’ll be held responsible. I could lose everything (destroyed) or be laughed at (abandoned).
Compulsions
Baaa hahaha…

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is a cartoon of OCD basically boasting from underneath a bed, “Baaa hahaha…if you were willing to be uncomfortable there would be no need for a compulsion.”

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than ever. 

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is another chapter called, “How to Manipulate the Reward Center of the Brain.” It goes into great detail about how OCD manages to get you addicted to compulsions. 

For now, we’ll have to save that chapter for another time. (Unless OCD finds out I have the Playbook and breaks into my house and steals it back.) But OCD also briefly mentions the “reward center” in the current chapter we are reviewing: 

Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

#4) Performing a Compulsion Only Gives Temporary Relief

In a nut shell, the reward center in the brain reinforces the compulsive behavior by releasing a happy juice called, Dopamine.  Pleasure becomes associated with the compulsion. You become addicted to the compulsive behavior.

You become addicted because the dopamine doesn’t last long and you crave more of it. How to get it? Perform the compulsion again. C’mon, repeat it. Once more, repeat it. Last time, repeat it. The relief doesn’t last long. That’s how you get hooked.

OCD is like a drug dealer and entices you with its promises of feeling good. The idea is to get you to buy without even thinking about it. Once you’re hooked the price just keeps increasing.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel good and now you’ve never felt worse.

#5) The More Compulsions You Perform, the Less Confident You’ll Be

Compulsions are performed to gain a sense of certainty. Except OCD is a fraud and can’t give you certainty. Nobody on this earth has certainty.

Did I turn off the faucet? If you check you won’t feel very confident the next time you use the faucet. When you check you give your brain the message that you can’t be trusted.

Compulsive behavior
My memory is horrible!

If you take a picture of the iron unplugged and bring it to work with you the picture tells you that you left the house with the iron unplugged. Unless of course OCD messes with you and makes you doubt what day you took the picture. 

You’ll need to take a picture every time you use the iron because you’re giving your brain the message you can’t be trusted. In fact, you’ll start to doubt whether you turned other appliances off and take pictures of them too. Soon you’ll be dragging photo albums to work.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started the compulsion to get rid of doubt and now you have more doubt than ever. 

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Everything you think a compulsion will do for you–expect the opposite to occur. If you are willing to experience uncertainty and doubt (discomfort) there is no need for a compulsion. There is no need to avoid.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Cold Ugly Hard Truth About Compulsions”
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

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

Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s More to Being Compulsion-Free Than Just Stopping

How to stop excessive hand washing.
I’ll be done soon…

Have you ever been in the middle of a compulsion and someone said: “Just knock it off!” And you replied, “If it was that easy don’t you think I would just stop?” The best advice on how to resist compulsions doesn’t include to, “just knock it off.”

Very, very few people with OCD can go cold turkey and “just knock it off.” So many times people have said to me, “I’m just going to stop all of it. Right now. No more compulsions.” They mean it with all their heart. And then they walk to their car performing compulsions.

Going Cold Turkey Has Little to Do With Staying Compulsion-Free

If you want to know what it feels like to just knock it off and go cold turkey, it’s like dumping all kinds of poison in a sess pool and sitting in it. Taking your hands and putting the slop all over your face and body. Breathing it in and doing nothing to save yourself.

If you sat there long enough, believe it or not, you’d become desensitized. But, just like any kind of sobriety, the urge will return. You’ll still want to perform a compulsion. 

There’s more to being compulsion-free than just stopping.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Put an end to your compulsions by applying these seven principles:

  1. It’s “whatever” therapy! Talk to your OCD in a nonargumentative manner. “Yup, maybe that will happen. Time will tell.”  Don’t reassure OCD. Instead, shrug and say “This could be unpleasant. I’ll just have to find out.” It’s all about the “whatever.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  If you can trick your brain into thinking you’re smiling with a pen sideways in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking “whatever” with a shrug!
  2. Build a hierarchy. Resist the easiest compulsion first and keep resisting until it no longer bothers you to resist. Then, like climbing a ladder, resist the next hardest compulsion and the next hardest and so forth.
  3. Set your intentions to provoke OCD. Confront a trigger you’ve been avoiding. While confronting the trigger refuse to do a compulsion. Talk to OCD as described in #1. Once this trigger no longer bothers you, move onto the next more difficult trigger. 
    Apply These Principles to End Compulsions
  4. Easiest first, then hard. If you give in and perform a compulsion, go back and confront the same trigger again and again until there is no compulsive behavior. If you’re stuck, maybe there’s an easier trigger that you skipped or need to go back to.
  5. Don’t stop ’til you reach the top. Build momentum. Keep moving up the ladder of challenges. When it gets easier, ask yourself, “How can I make this harder?” Remember, climb the ladder while always refusing to do a compulsion. 
  6. Shift into challenge mode. Wishing you did not have OCD or have certain thoughts is of no use to you. Wishing causes more suffering. It’s important to see your anxiety and thoughts as a challenge–an opportunity to practice your skills. This is no time to play the role of a victim. You don’t have to like anxiety but you do have to want it.
  7. Accept responsibility. If you give into a compulsive behavior, admit what you are doing. No excuses. Own it. Name it. Keep away from the “story” of why your OCD tells you to do the compulsion. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now. I know this will make OCD stronger. I’m avoiding discomfort and that’s the only reason why I’m choosing to do this compulsion.” Get this message to your brain every single time you do a compulsion!
Resist compulsions
Creating new pathways takes time

Applying these principles will keep you compulsion-free. It’s a slow and difficult place to start, but once you pick up some momentum it gets easier and therefore, goes faster. Rather than shocking your brain, you are rewiring it. This takes time!

It takes time because you are training your brain how to experience anxiety.

I don’t tell my clients to “knock it off!”  And, I hope those who love someone with OCD don’t say it either! There’s more to beating OCD than just “knocking it off.”

Resist Compulsions by Making Little Changes Over Time

People with OCD benefit from the very effective systematic method of resisting compulsions. Set reachable goals and make little changes over a period of time. With each success, you will grow more confident and more tolerant of anxiety.

It may take time and patience, (click for video) but it’s how you win the battle. At the suggestion of resisting compulsions, do you take a big gulp and say, “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.” My response to more anxiety? “Great! You need the practice!”

It’s time to learn how to experience anxiety without a compulsion.

You can get started today! The first step, of course, is to identify each compulsion. You’ve got to know what you’re resisting, in order to resist!

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

For a long-term effect, commit to a systematic plan to stop compulsions. Include all of the above seven principles in your plan. Going cold turkey has little to do with staying compulsion-free. 

Check back for the next post which will explain the difference between an observable compulsion and a mental compulsion. It’s important to know the difference because mental compulsions can be very sneaky!

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

The next several posts on resisting compulsions will include:

  • What Is a Compulsion?
  • The True Purpose of a Compulsion
  • If a Compulsion Makes Me Feel Better, Why Would I Stop?
  • I Already Tried Resisting and It Didn’t Help
  • Can You Promise If I Resist It Will Help?
  • I’ve Got Way Too Much Anxiety to Resist Compulsions
  • It’s Too Risky to Stop My Compulsions, Someone Else Could Be Hurt
  • Is it Okay If I Use Distraction to Resist Compulsions?
  • Resisting Compulsions Just Doesn’t Feel Right
  • My Compulsions Are Out of Habit Not Fear
  • If I Stop One Compulsion Another One Will Just Pop Up
  • How Do I Find the Strength and Willpower to Resist Compulsions When I Don’t Have the Energy?
  • A Case Study on Someone Who Tried to Resist Compulsions
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Does Your Mind Feel Like Space Junk? What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Has OCD Made You Forget Who You Are?The thing about OCD is that it comes and goes. It rolls in from the sea and eventually goes back out. When the storm arrives though, it’s brutal. You forget who you are. And it feels permanent.

It’s such a desperate feeling and can easily make you forget about everything else that matters. You become disconnected from the core of who you are. Your sense of self is ruptured. The only thing you feel attached to is your worst fear.

In an OCD storm, you can’t stop thinking about something very troubling. The thought can’t be controlled, and yet, with all your might you try with compulsions or by avoiding. This only turns the storm into several hurricanes.

You lose sight of the “big picture.” You’ve lost your compass and can’t see your way out. There’s more to this storm than what meets the eye. But the eye of the storm has swallowed you up.

Without the “big picture” view, you forget that it gets better. Your mind can’t seem to hold on to anything other than fear. Everything else in your mind is space junk. It feels like you’ve regressed to the mind of a child.

Your inner voice becomes catastrophic and self-critical. You know the compulsions are useless, but you can’t seem to resist. You know that avoiding isn’t going to change anything, but you do it anyway.

You’re so frustrated with yourself. The choices you keep making over and over don’t reflect your wisdom and life experience. It feels like your brain’s been hijacked by a younger version of you.

You hold your head in your hand…exhausted. Overwhelmed. And you whisper, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

You feel disconnected. Hyper-alert. Terrified. Ready to run. Ready to freeze. Angry with no will to fight. Hopeless. Helpless. Shameful. Compulsive.

You Can find Yourself By Letting Go of Old Ways of Coping

All of these feelings and behaviors helped you survive something in the past. We must honor the fact that they served you well once upon a time. A time when you were younger and less experienced.

For example, being afraid and unable to move or fight probably kept you out of harm’s way once when you were a child. But, now you’re more experienced and it’s safe to assert yourself and take action.

Maybe you experienced a traumatic event in your younger years and felt guilty about it. It was a useful feeling then because it kept you out of a deep depression. But, now you’re older and wiser and guilt is no longer age-appropriate. But, because you used it so much when you were younger, you’re still using it now.

We honor these feelings that helped your younger self-survive difficult times. But they’re holding you back now. These emotions aren’t congruent with who you are today. You’re an adult with life experience. Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Everything you face opens up a possibility for you to find your higher self.

You Can Find Yourself By Letting the Older Part of You Take Charge

Since then you’ve grown older and wiser. You’ve gained a lot of life experience. It’s no longer age-appropriate to handle anxiety the way you did as a child. In your heart of hearts, you know this and that’s why you don’t feel like yourself.

Can you bring the older, wiser part of you forward to deal with the anxiety and weird thoughts?

We can’t let a child drive the boat through this storm. There’s an older, more experienced version of you who knows a lot more about riding the waves and maneuvering all the twists and turns. Let’s get the right “wo/man” behind the wheel. After all, which part of you is better equipped for the job?

Can you bring that older part of you forward–that part that has dealt with real life problems before? You know, the part of you that holds it together while everyone else is drowning. (I know you have a memory like this because people with OCD actually handle real life problems better than most people. It’s the problems of the imagination that are utterly challenging.)

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

Remember a time or situation when you were in charge, taking care of business like a pro. What did that feel like? What are the positive thoughts that go with that part of you? What does that feel like in your body? How are you standing? Where are your arms? Is your head up during these times you are most proud? 

How can this part of you take the wheel away from the child? What would you say to the child? “I know that you’re afraid, but you can’t drive this boat. You’re still in diapers and have no life skills.”

How would you set limits? “I know you want what you want when you want it, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Get out of the driver’s seat.”

What happens to the child when you take the wheel? Naturally, the child stays on the boat. No part of you can be disowned or thrown overboard. Remember, this is a child who doesn’t even know how to doggie paddle yet.

Kindly, but firmly take the child under your wing. “I know how to move us forward. Sit back there. Watch and learn. And if you get too noisy, I’m going to tickle you until you pee in your diaper.” No, wait. That’s firm, but not very kind. 😉

How about, “I know you’re afraid so you’ll probably get noisy. I’ll hear you, but I can’t reassure you. I’ll be busy. I know you’ll get upset that I won’t let you steer the boat. You’ve had your way for awhile so I completely understand that you won’t like this and will probably have a temper tantrum.”

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.

 

  • Look at your hands. In one of your hands is the terrified, inexperienced child. Imagine how this child feels. Small, terrified, vulnerable, lost. In your other hand is your older, wiser stronger self. Feel how much bigger and stronger this hand is? Bring the older wiser hand over the younger hand. Hold that child. Let the child feel surrounded by your strength and wisdom. Tell the child you’ve got this. “I’ve got this. I’m driving now.”

 

  • Name all the other parts to you besides OCD. Using props (such as ducks), put these parts in the order you want them to be. Who’s in charge most of the time to least of the time? Here in this picture, we see there is a loving part taking the lead. Then we see a wise part and an all around good guy, who likes to help others, sharing the leadership role. Not far behind is a curious part who likes to learn and grow. In the back is OCD. Lots of people would keep OCD away from the rest of the Team. But, he’s too young to be on his own. That’ll only scare him more if you try to get rid of him. The Team keeps him close by and kindly but firmly says, “I know you’re afraid, but, I’ve got this.”

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

The “big picture” older version of you says life is bigger than this storm. Big picture thinking allows you to be hazy and uncertain around the edges. It’s a growth mindset. “I’m willing to find out what this storm makes possible for me.”

Whatever is causing the storm, whatever the storm is about–doesn’t matter. If you were truly at sea and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a storm, would you be trying to figure out what it means? What caused it? Why it’s happening? Did you do something wrong? Did you overlook something?

No! You’d be focused on doing your best to weather the storm–how to withstand it. You’d be focused on outlasting the storm. And, the child would not be allowed to steer the boat. Do you want a scared child steering in a storm or an experienced, wise “sailor” who has ridden huge waves before?

An OCD storm comes down to one thing: The storm will be an experience you can draw from in the future.

No matter how bad it feels, an OCD storm comes down to one thing. It’s about the opportunity and challenge of weathering the anxiety and resisting the young child’s urge to avoid or do a compulsion.

An OCD storm is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t look or feel like a gift but give permission to learn from the storm and you’ll soon discover something amazing about yourself.  The next storm will be easier because you’ve gained experience from the last one.

If you liked this post, you might also like a cheat sheet for quick reference. It’s only one page–quick read! Click on the image below to get your printable cheat sheet:

“Has Anyone Else Taken This Medication for OCD and Has It Helped?”

Something that you want very much but is very hard to get or achieve.

You probably think I’m talking about the Holy Grail.

An object or goal that is sought after for its great significance.

Still think I’m talking about the Holy Grail?

Well…I’m not talking about thee Holy Grail–the Cup that is said to have been used by Jesus Christ. I’m talking about a different holy grail. It seems to be highly sought after by many who have OCD.

I’m talking about the holy grail of medication for OCD sufferers.

“Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?”

I’m asked this question a lot about medication. At OCD conferences people line-up to ask the experts questions about medication. I can predict the answers will sound a lot like this:

  1. Be patient. It takes time to reach a therapeutic level.
  2. The needed dosage for SSRI’s is higher for OCD than it is for depression.
  3. No one drug stands out as the front runner. 
  4. It’s chemical warfare. Be willing to try this. Try that. Watch for side effects. 
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use a combination of CBT and meds.

The holy grail of medication…Something you want very much but is hard to get or achieve. An object that is sought after for its great significance. 

Therein lies the problem. Its significance is not that great. It’s part of the solution. Not the main solution. I’m not making this up. It’s in the literature. Authors, speakers, and researchers say it all the time.

Despite all the many warnings to not become preoccupied with medication, it happens. As evidenced in Facebook posts and the long line of people at the mic at the OCD conference waiting to ask the experts a medication question.

Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?

Yes, other people have taken that medication. Has it helped? Sometimes.

Even if the answer is: Most of the time ~or~ a lot of the time, the answer will NOT be all of the time. Even if the answer was, “9 out of 10 times that medication helps,” there still will be room for doubt. Even if I say every single client I know who has taken this drug has been helped, it might not help you.

There’s no way to feel comfortable with a medication until you take it and see what happens.

If you have been prescribed medication for the first time, it’s reasonable to have doubts and even worry. In a room of 100 people, how many of them would be concerned about taking a medication they’ve never taken before? Probably the majority, especially since we’ve been influenced by the commercials suing drug companies.

If you are suffering from OCD you’re desperate for relief. It’s understandable you’re looking for a medication to reduce your symptoms. And it’s very possible to find such a medication. It’s very possible to get relief.

Having hope that a pill can provide relief isn’t the problem.

The problem? Analyzing by comparing and contrasting people’s experiences, repeatedly seeking reassurance from googling or talking with numerous pharmacists. Questioning for hours and days, “should I take it?” Thinking about all the “what ifs” over and over. Searching for something new and looking for hours to find someone with the same symptoms and finding out what they take.

This is the problem…the preoccupation with it. The compulsive checking and analyzing.

Get off the fence as soon as possible. If it takes you two hours to take the first pill, then it could take months to get up to a therapeutic dose. Commit. Don’t waste time and energy deciding. Stay in close contact with the doctor who prescribed it and in the meantime here’s where you’ll find the holy grail of beating OCD:

Channel all that beautiful energy on self-care and therapy.

  • Work on flipping your mindset from negative to positive. Write 10 positives day if positivity is hard for you.
  • Look for your blessings. Seek and ye shall find. They’re there!
  • Ask “What does my anxiety make possible for me?” If you’re not sure what this means, go HERE.
  • Help make your own serotonin by being just as kind and loving to yourself as you are to your best friend. (Until you practice self-compassion, OCD will have a hold on you, even with the perfect medication.)
  • Remember what you’re fighting for! Super pose like a superhero if your brain needs a little extra jolt! KAPOW!
  • Help make your own dopamine by developing one new healthy habit, solving puzzles, learning something new or doing something adventurous.
  • Help make your own oxytocin by hugging friends and family, your pets and even trees!
  • Eat well…lots of berries and green vegetables.

And when you’re ready to face your fears, start Exposure & Response Prevention. Maybe you won’t feel ready, but your mind will begin to tell you it’s time.

A life of avoidance is a life not lived.

Feel free to leave an anonymous comment if you want to add to the holy grail of beating OCD!

How to Embrace Doubt and Attain True Faith

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.  ~Matthew 17:20

Faith as small as a mustard seed…If you have the smallest or weakest of faith, you can perform even the most difficult undertaking. The greatest and most seemingly impossible difficulty can be overcome by the tiniest bit of faith.

When I ask my clients if I could wave a magic wand that could not take away OCD, but could give them something, what would they want…many many clients will say, “faith.” Faith in God. Faith in themselves.

  • I need to have faith that I turned the stove off. I don’t want to keep checking. I need to have more faith in myself.
  • I feel frightened by this thought. I need to have faith that I am not my thoughts.
  • When I pray I don’t feel anything.  How do I have a relationship with God if I can’t feel it? I shouldn’t have these doubts. My faith needs to be stronger.
  • Facebook is depressing. I read all these posts from people who have such a strong faith. They know without a doubt that their foundation is unshakable. I need that kind of faith.
  • I just have to have faith that nothing bad will happen.
  • I need to have faith that this is OCD.

It’s not really faith they’re looking for. Because faith happens mostly in a swamp of uncertainty. People with OCD are not looking for a swamp of sticky icky doubt, unless they’ve had really good therapy.

Most people resisting OCD desire a sense of peacefulness to flow through their veins. This is what they think of when they define “faith.” In their opinion, faith is free of doubt. It’s knowing something with such certainty that you can just feel it.

That’s Not Faith

Faith has nothing to do with peacefulness or a sense of certainty.

Faith is not a physical sensation. This is very hard for people with OCD to grasp. If you have OCD you believe a certain feeling can convert you from the doubt.

Faith doesn’t involve a physical sense. We can’t touch it. Can’t hear it. Can’t smell it. Can’t taste it. Can’t see it. Can’t feel it. 

You can’t be converted from doubt. And you don’t need to be in order to have true faith.

By embracing doubt you will attain true faith. And when you have truth faith, you end up surrendering.

Faith is a POWER that results in surrendering. 

  • What if I’m on the wrong path?
  • What if I do something that is unpleasing or harmful?
  • What if I didn’t protect or prevent harm when I could have?
  • What if I regress and can’t handle it?
  • What if this is permanent?
  • What if I’m never truly happy again?

Time Will Tell

Be willing to find out. This is surrendering. This is the power of true faith. 

You don’t need to be completely willing to find out. That would be experiencing a doubt-free journey. That’s not what we’re going for! We’re not looking for a sense of certainty. It can’t be found!

Your willingness to find out what happens only needs to be the size of a mustard seed. Because like any seed…it will grow. 

What is faith?

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.~ Hebrews 11:1

Hope for the best but embrace the doubt.

Live with it. Take action despite the doubt.

Hope for the best. Time will tell.

Be willing to find out what happens.

This is true faith. Surrender and you can move mountains.

Has Your Brain Been Hijacked by OCD?

OCD infiltrates. It worms its way into the brain and hijacks it. You begin to forget who you are.  This makes OCD sound like a monster.

It’s not.

There is not a shred of evidence that OCD is a monster out to get you. It feels that way, but there really isn’t some kind of wicked creature persecuting you. When you say, “I hate OCD.” You’re hating on yourself. 

There is no scientific study that shows there is an organism eating your brain.  

There is however, plenty of evidence that cells are still growing and neuroplasticity can happen… with skills & drills.

Translation: You can teach an OCD brain new tricks.

There is also a lot of evidence that self-loathing is detrimental and never brings about positive change. When you hate OCD you only hate yourself.

It feels like OCD is out to get you because the brain is misfiring messages and the central nervous system is responding with body parts. It’s a physiological experience complicated by thoughts.

The key to managing OCD is to stop thinking of OCD as a monster. Think of OCD with empathy. Compassion. And, you’re on your way to freedom.

A young boy was anxious just before his first concert. He was worried he might fall on the stage. What could be said to him that would help the most? What should he do? I took a poll to see what people thought.

Here are the results:

Poll Results

It is no coincidence that people suffering from OCD are self-loathing. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend and you will notice a change. 

Commit to this and start today.

You are love. “Love can only love” a very wise 12 year old told me.

Talk to your OCD firmly, but with loving kindness. OCD is not a monster. Just a lonely, lost and confused child in the terrible two’s.

Are You Brewing Anxiety in Your Kitchen?

“The most important decisions that determine the brain’s health happen in the kitchen, not at the pharmacy.”

~ David Perlmutter, Author of Grain Brain

Last night I made a healthy soup for dinner. It was made of avocado, swiss chard, spinach, kale, cilantro, sweet potato and onions with vegetable broth. It was very tasty and when I make it again, I’ll probably add white organic beans. 

I was so sleepy after I ate it that I went to bed early. Very unlike me! I didn’t even make it through the weekly Voice results! I thought I was just tired from Tai Chi.

Today, I read the recipe (I don’t usually read recipes–I just throw stuff together) and discovered the soup is intended to be a sleep aid! It’s very high in chlorophyll. The recipe actually says this: “The fat in the soup aids the absorption of the minerals from the greens and aids in sleep.”

Wow! Good thing I didn’t eat that at lunch!!! If any of you have trouble falling asleep, or need to calm your nervous system, email me (tammy@bossitback.com) and I’ll send you the recipe. It seemed very soothing, but who knows, maybe it was a combination of factors.

While I was waiting for new brakes (ugh) to be put on my car today, I thought about the soup’s effect on me, and found the above quote by Dr. Perlmutter. 

I always ask my clients if they eat a lot of carbs and 7 out of 10 people confess, “I crave carbs and sugar and eat a lot of both.” Yup! Jackpot!

Sugar Doesn’t Make You Healthy

It’s no coincidence my clients have a lot of anxiety. These foods are addicting and hype up the nervous system. They cause inflammation, overstimulate neurons in the brain and destabilize blood sugar, all of which creates mood changes.

One key to managing anxiety is to eat foods that provide grounding energy and relax the nervous system. What does it mean to feel grounded? Have you hugged a tree lately? Isn’t it amazing!!! Certain foods can help you feel that way too!

No matter how healthy you eat, you’ll still be anxious. But, why not give yourself a fighting chance? Why eat something that increases the anxiety? Well, if you need to learn to accept anxiety, then let me tell you, eat a lot of carbs and sugar and practice gladly accepting how you feel. Eating carbs and sugar certainly create a great exposure exercise.

But, if you want to put your mental health first and make your two brains the best lean, mean, fighting machines they can be, then put these brain healthy ingredients into your diet! (Two brains? Yes! Don’t forget about your stomach! More on that later…)

Brain Health from the Kitchen

Matcha Green Tea is really great for focus because it’s high in theanine, which produces alpha brain waves and also offsets the caffeine in the tea. Focus is important because you’ve got to be able to focus on your values. Otherwise OCD will take you on a purpose-less driven life.

B vitamins are important for the production of serotonin. Get tested to see what your levels are and be sure to read this article about what to do.

Coconut water is an excellent source of B Vitamins. Mackerel too, but certain kinds must be avoided due to the high levels of mercury. Red meat is a good source of B12 as well as eggs, milk and cheese. But, many people don’t eat meat and dairy is known to cause inflammation. 

You might have to acquire a taste for this but Miso provides healthy bacteria which boosts GABA, a much needed neurotransmitter that especially hangs out in the gut. Besides the first paragraph of this article, which claims unwanted intrusive thoughts can be ended by GABA, (not true!) this is a post that explains GABA

 

The Guts of Anxiety

The gut has its own independent nervous system and it’s obvious that the gut plays a critical role in anxiety and other mood states. After all, 95% of of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the 2nd brain–the gut!

So taking probiotics and eating fermented foods (healthy bacteria) is a must for brain health promotion! One of my favorites is Kimchi and of course adding Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar to your water.

Having OCD is exhausting. You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taxing to work so hard and you burn through your fuel before day’s end. So replenishing is critical and this can be done with food and exercise. For ideas about this go back to my blog, HERE.

Want to Make Your Kitchen Brain Healthy?

Get the Brain Warrior’s Way by Dr. Amen

I’ve only touched the surface about promoting brain health in the kitchen. I encourage you to do your own research and share anything you find helpful in the comments. And as always, look at benefits and side effects.

Basically eat foods that are grounding and stay away from foods that are stimulating. (Sugar and spice aren’t grounding!)

I had hoped to finish this post last night but I had more of that soup for dinner and once again I fell asleep early. So I don’t think it was Tai Chi. Definitely the soup. I don’t think I’m going to make that again! I ain’t got no time for sleep!!!

How to Control Anxiety: Should You?

The harder I tried to stop thinking about it…………..the faster I thought about it.

Don’t think about the pink elephant.

The harder I tried not to feel it….the stronger I felt it.

Don’t feel the couch on your back.

If you’ve been properly treated for OCD then you know the answer will never be to stop. You can’t stop thoughts. You can’t stop anxiety. And you shouldn’t try! What then should you be doing? 

Want the thoughts. Want the anxiety. The only way out is in, not out.

If someone is telling you to just “knock it off” send them this blog. If you’re telling yourself to knock if off…keep reading!

Let’s assume your OCD is a little you. A three or four year-old version of you. If this is true, and I think it is…telling such a young worrying child to “KNOCK it OFF” is not really teaching any kind of life lesson. 

A young boy is about to take the stage for the first time in his life and sing with the chorus. His brain is asking, “What’s wrong? How come my legs feel funny?” The brain MUST search for and provide an explanation. “Why are my legs wobbly???” The brain must explain. It’s human nature. If there’s an explanation there’s got to be a solution.

Searching for an explanation can occur below the threshold of consciousness. You don’t even know you’re doing it. The attempt to explain physiological sensations can be too subtle for the conscious mind.

Only one or two seconds have passed. Ah-Ha!!! The brain has found a reason for the wobbly legs!!!! “Mommy, what if I fall in front of everyone? I feel like I’m going to fall!”

What do you think most Mommies say? I hope you take the poll before reading any further! We’ll have lots of fun if you do!

 

The problem isn’t the wobbly legs. Agreed? The wobbly legs are a symptom of the problem. If we only talk about the wobbly legs, then we address the symptom but not the cause.

“You’re not going to fall. Your legs are very strong.” In this response the focus is on the legs. But, what’s causing the wobbly legs?  

“Here, drink some water and think about the pizza we’re eating after this.” The focus is on trying to stop worrying about the wobbly legs. Distract. Reassure. “You’ll be just fine.” Don’t think about the pink elephant. Don’t feel the couch against your back.

“The chances of you falling are very low. It’s possible but not probable. So far no one else on that stage has fallen. So you’re not likely to fall either. And I bet they’ve got wobbly legs too.”

Again, the focus is on the wobbly legs not being likely to cause a fall. Why won’t this work? Because that little brain of his quickly calculated that he could be the one and only kid that falls.


In this precious moment, this boy has an opportunity to learn a life lesson. This is the kind of lesson that will carry him through many rough times in his life.

The answer to his question, “Mommy, what if I fall” has the power to rewrite the script playing in his mind.

The way you answer your question also has the power to rewrite your inner thinking patterns. Even though your thought patterns are automatic due to practice and repetition you can retrain your brain.

Let’s talk about the little boy’s wobbly legs for a minute. We all agree that the problem isn’t his wobbly legs. Right? It’s his anxiety.

Anxiety is felt physically. In nerve endings. In muscles-tense or weak. Aches. Pains. Twitches. In breath-fast or slow. In the skin-clammy or itchy. The racing heart. Upset stomach. Tremors. Saliva.

There’s nerve endings everywhere so anxiety can be felt anywhere! 

The brain doesn’t like unexplained things. It will notice the physical sensation, create a story to explain the physical sensation, and it will build control mechanisms into the story.

When the brain explains the physical sensation, it won’t automatically consider that it’s just ANXIETY!!! And it certainly won’t conclude that the anxiety is okay. (That part has to be learned.)

Instead the brain will focus on finding a way to stop the discomfort. It will focus on the story, not the anxiety.

How can it be stopped. Hmmmmm, lets think of a story that has control mechanisms. How might this look for the little boy afraid to take the stage?

“If I skip three times and jump up once, I won’t fall.” Does that sound like OCD? The focus is on controlling the situation. The brain created a story that explains the physical sensation and now he has something he can do about it.

He probably won’t fall. So what will the brain conclude? “You didn’t fall because of that skip and jump thing you did. Good job buddy! See! Anytime your legs are wobbly, skip and jump and you won’t fall.” Liar, liar pants on fire!!!

The compulsion has been reinforced in the inner thinking-below the threshold of consciousness. And now the subconscious will run the show. This will easily grow into a habit and soon he won’t even remember why he does what he does.

This little boy has anxiety. Your OCD is young, like him. A three or four year-old part of your mind. It’s only a part of your mind. There are so many other beautiful parts to your mind. But, this part has the potential to run the entire show.

What is the life lesson this little boy has an opportunity to learn? What will make his brain a lean, mean fighting machine? Choose as many answers as you think will be most helpful:

 

The actionable steps for YOU to take are:

  1. Stay focused on the anxiety-not the story that is trying to control the anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t need to be fixed. Notice it, name it and move on. Steer away from the story and go towards the anxiety.
  2. Want the anxiety. Want the thoughts generating the anxiety. “Good, there you are. I need the practice.”
  3. Seek the anxiety. “Let’s see if I can make myself anxious right now and learn to experience it as something making me stronger.”

The anxiety comes from a very young part of you that truly doesn’t know very much about life at all. But, you have all these other beautiful parts of your brain that are very rationale and fun-loving.

Let those parts talk to the little you, who really shouldn’t be leading the way.  

I’ll lead the way now.

“I know you’re afraid and uncomfortable, but I know how to move forward. You can trust me.”

One other actionable step you can take:

To work on rewriting your inner thinking patterns, let’s rewire the messages that are exposed to the mind, but are too subtle for the conscious mind to know about.

Using post-it notes or reminders on your phone, or messages that flash on your computer while you work, write messages like these:

  • I can meet any challenge even though I’m anxious.
  • I’m ready for anything because I don’t mind anxiety.
  • I go after what I want in life even though I’m anxious.
  • Everyday my confidence grows stronger because I’m okay being anxious.

You don’t even have to read them. They’ll be picked up by your subconscious mind.