Category Archives: Boss it Back

Have You Updated Your Brain Lately?

160_F_70573482_bUsLZkY9Erj5IoDagCA7kw9cAX0s74cYExposure & Response Prevention (ERP) is a tried and true therapy. There’s lots of proof it works. You’ve probably heard it works because it desensitizes you to your fears. But did you know the reason you become desensitized is because ERP actually updates the brain. You know all those updates for your PC or MAC that you put off for weeks or months? And then finally you install the updates and well by golly, look at that, everything is working so much better! Well, that’s what ERP does for your brain.

I recently told a story about a boy who was afraid of crickets. What I didn’t tell you is that when he was 11 months old his home was infested with bed bugs. When his mother discovered the bed bugs she could be heard screaming miles away. When I met him he was over 10 years old. He had no recall of the bed bugs. But, it was as if his brain was stuck in time. His brain was never updated. There is a big difference between a cricket and a bed bug. But, a child less than the age of one wouldn’t know the difference. He was a 10 year old stuck in the brain of an 11 month old. He had gained a lot of resources and skills over the years. He had become less dependent on his very anxious mother. But, his brain never got that update either. It was as if his brain kept telling him he was in danger because his mother was too panicked to protect him. His brain didn’t recognize that he didn’t need the same level of protection he needed as an 11 month old.

Some of you can pinpoint the event that occurred in your life that probably got you stuck. I say probably because there’s no way to really prove it. Whether you can pinpoint a specific event or not, you have to do the same thing. Update your brain.

There is just one very simple thing you need to know, YOUR BRAIN NEEDS TO BE UPDATED. The reason for this isn’t important. If you have OCD, until a cure is found, you will always need to update your brain. The quickest, most powerful way to do it is through ERP.

This is day 12 of a 30 day challenge. The challenge is not to try and identify the event that got you stuck. There might not even be an event and if you think there is—you won’t be able to prove it. The challenge is to accept that you MUST update your brain on an ongoing basis. If you are avoiding something it means your brain needs an update. Your brain is stuck somewhere in the past.

Do you accept that you MUST update your brain through ERP?

What’s the Best Way to Talk Back to OCD?

The treatment of OCD involves talking to OCD like it is a separate entity. What is the best way to talk to it?

Sometimes people are really mad at OCD and think of it as the enemy. When I tell kids to give OCD a name, they usually pick names like “poop head” or “jerk.” And they look like this when they’re bossing it back:


OCD is just a 2 year old that knows nothing about life. That’s why it’s asking a lot of unnecessary, ridiculous questions over and over again. “What if?” “What does?” “How come?” Why?”

It’s only two years old, so why yell or get mad at it? Just say, “I don’t know.” “It doesn’t matter.” Here’s what responding to a two year old looks like:


Other clients treat OCD like a two year old. “It doesn’t matter. I”m doing this because I said so.” And then they shift their focus on what does matter. “Do I want to spend my time trying to answer the unanswerable or do I want to have a day with my family with no lost moments?”

I’ve seen clients get so mad and say, “I’ve had enough!” At that moment, they break free. Other clients are more paradoxical and just nod their head and say, “Okay OCD. Whatever. So what? Who cares.” And by shrugging they are set free. 

How do you talk back to OCD? It’s important to decide. Your decision should be based on which way empowers you to move on.

You Don’t Have to Feel Determined to Be Determined

Determination is a mindset, not a feeling. You can’t base your actions on what you “feel” like doing. Base your actions on what you’re determined to do no matter what you’re feeling. You don’t have to feel determined, to be determined.

The way to be determined is to show a strong work ethic. Many people go to work every day not “feeling like it.” Despite their lack of desire to go to work, they do it anyway. That ability to go to work in the absence of any desire is called a strong work ethic.


It’s valuing effort over feelings.

An OCD loop many people don’t recognize they’re having is the Feeling Loop. “Why aren’t I feeling more…” “What does this feeling mean?” “I don’t feel like doing that.” “I’m not feeling afraid of this thought anymore. Does that mean I’m evil?” All of this monitoring of feelings is nothing more than an OCD loop. 

Remember, when you recognize an OCD loop your job is to shrug at it. Not feed it! 

Your feelings aren’t part of the solution, they’re part of the problem. You don’t have to feel (problem) determined to be (solution) determined. 

Today’s challenge is to let a mindset of determination drive your behavior no matter how you feel, what do you stand to lose/gain? If you value effort not feelings, what are the risks? What are the benefits?

This is Day 2 of the 30 day challenge! Do you accept?

Here’s How One OCD Survivor Handles the Storms

160_F_72328507_cXab12fEAK7SeZL1lyQYu6gK5oJuMnIpIf you have OCD, most likely you have experienced a storm or two (or ten). You know that OCD storms come in cycles and they change like the weather. Sometimes OCD is a small cloud, and sometimes it comes spinning into town like a tornado. I’ve had many OCD storms, several that knocked me off my feet, but I’ve learned that even when a storm knocks me down, I still have the choice to get back up, no matter how damaged or broken I feel.

When a storm blows through town you have two choices, lay there and wish it never happened to you, or get up dust off and deal with what is happening around you. Sometimes the clean up takes longer then we want it to. Often it feels like a waiting game, but if we don’t put in the time now, the next storm that comes through will hit even harder. We can’t stop a storm, just like we can’t stop OCD thoughts but we can choose how we react.

I am reminded of this choice everyday, what starts as a tiny cloud can easily take over the entire sky if I let it. There is so much in our lives both with OCD and without OCD that we can’t control, however I’ve learned we can control how we view our circumstances. How we view our circumstances gives us the power back. When we approach life with a grateful heart, we are more positive and kind to ourselves and others.

Maybe life with OCD doesn’t seem ideal. Maybe you’re stuck feeling like it’s not fair that you’re suffering from OCD. Maybe it seems like no one understands the hell you are in. OCD can make you feel like a victim of your own brain, but it doesn’t have to. As strange as it sounds I have found several reasons to be grateful for my OCD.surrender

-Having OCD has given me the opportunity to meet some of the strongest and most compassionate people on earth

-Having OCD has made me a more understanding, less judgmental person

-Having OCD has made me more grateful for the little moments

Can you think of anything you have gained from having OCD?




Is This OCD or ME? How to Find Out in Less Than 10 Minutes

How can I tell if my bad thoughts are caused by OCD? This pounding unstoppable thought that something bad could happen—is that OCD or intuition? Could the bad thoughts be a reflection of who I am and OMG what I really want? These are questions I get asked a lot. 

I listen to my clients and hear the sound of confusion. Even with a diagnosis of OCD people don’t believe their bad thoughts are just a bizarre side effect of a strange neurological condition. There is 160_F_103659112_UGJStekEhKfNymvHV8oJsWCTdfwpMsmgno sound worse than confusion. I’ll take nails on a chalkboard any day over the sound of confusion. I want to scream THIS IS SO OUTRAGEOUS! THIS IS RIDICULOUS! It’s so abundantly clear to me that it’s OCD. Hello!!! Captain Obvious! But someone with OCD has never met Captain Obvious.

But there are ways to put the thoughts to the test and find out if they’re just neurons misfiring, creating false alarms and causing you to be hyper-aware. Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) is the most effective way to do this. I won’t describe that therapy here—another post another time. Instead I want to share two ways to challenge your thoughts and name it OCD.

#1 Let’s Poll the Population

Let’s ask 50-100 people what they think and whatever the majority of them say—that’s how we determine if you’re having a reasonable thought or worry. If it’s not reasonable, we’re going with “It’s OCD.”

I’ve posted questions on Facebook to find out what the majority would worry about. 

These are just some examples of what I’ve asked my Facebook friends: Would you still love a significant other if his or her stomach wasn’t flat.(Yes) Since toilet paper doesn’t come with instructions, what is the average # of wipes after a bowel movement.(3) Recently I asked when is it appropriate to ask a question at work regarding an assignment. (I’ll share these answers in another post—it’s lengthy!) Do you wash your hands after touching a doorknob?(No) Do you knock three times on the ceiling to keep a loved one from harm?(No) Are you hyper vigilant about touching your dog?(No)

Once I’ve collected answers the results are shared with clients who are obsessing about these topics. The majority rules and proves reasonable behavior/worries. If the behavior or worry proves to be unreasonable we call it OCD and boss it back.

Sometimes we can’t poll the population and we just imagine what 100 people would say. In a gymnasium of 100 people how many of them would be worried about being gay? Not the majority!

#2 Is Your Brain Super Focused?
Another way to tell if it’s OCD is to ask how long you’ve been focused on one particular thought or worry. How long have you been trying to get certainty? The brain normally has a very short 160_F_20199276_5xlNinnPcFCmYZGypiv3a8TDKgu8zeEu-2attention span. The average brain can only focus intensely for about 5-10 minutes, and then it drifts.

So if you’re wondering if this thought or worry you’re having is OCD, ask yourself if the amount of time you’re focusing on it has increased or decreased. The brain does not naturally expand its capacity to focus! If you’re stuck on a thought and increasingly spending more and more time on it—you’re brain is not functioning normally and this is the very nature of OCD.

Even if you poll the population and discover you’re not behaving like the majority or if you discover your brain is spending an abnormal amount of time focusing on one specific thought—you’re probably still going to question, “Is this OCD or the real me?”

If you have OCD you have the doubting disease and there is no way to get certainty about why you’re having the thoughts you’re having. Your brain will try to keep pulling you into the abyss—a bottomless pit. You’ve got to be strong and say, “The majority of 100 people aren’t worrying about this so I’m not going to either. No matter how much doubt I have, I’m going to act like the majority. It could be risky but if other people aren’t thinking about this past 5 or 10 minutes, then neither am I.”

Leave a comment about your own success with these two tests. Have you tried either one?

Stuck in an OCD Loop? Here’s the #1 Way to Get Out of It

Being stuck in an OCD loop is torture. The thoughts just keep firing and it’s hard to believe they’re ever going to stop. They’re coming so fast it’s hard to be mindful enough to boss it back. There are many ways to deal with an OCD loop but this one seems most effective. It’s called apathy. Apathy is a lack of feeling, interest or concern.

160_F_64832482_JUTQeiwhijNvZTbVBSZijuM7Kfun1AXBI used to have this amazing lamp. It made me happy just to look
at it. But then one day a stranger showed up at my office. He came through the back door. Luckily I didn’t have a client at the time. He threatened me, “Give me $10 or I’m going to break that lamp into tiny pieces.” I thought maybe he was homeless. I gave him $10 and he left. He came back the next day. “Give me $20 or I’m going to break that lamp.” He didn’t seem like a violent person. I thought he was just desperate. I gave him $20. He came back the next day and demanded $50. I gave it to him. But, at this point I’m feeling really apprehensive. Is this ever going to stop? I realized I should have never given in to him the first time. The next day I saw him coming through my back door. I stopped him. I said, “hang on.” I grabbed the lamp and brought it out to the parking lot. I threw it on the pavement and most of it shattered. I told him to go ahead and break the rest of it. I went back into my office and I never saw him again.

You’ve probably guessed this didn’t really happen. It’s a good example of apathy right? It’s also a good example of how OCD operates. If you give in, OCD just wants more and more. But if 160_F_51985811_i7DZ59JpYuQaF8vGbYB41ipJJy1spl9Oyou shrug it knocks the wind right out of OCD. Of course the real moral of the story is “don’t give in the first time.” 

The #1 way to get out of an OCD loop is to get as close as you can to losing what OCD is telling you to desperately hold on to. What are you willing to let go of?

I knew someone who was afraid of losing his sanity. He kept Googling symptoms of psychosis. Then one day he finally decided enough was enough. He said, “I’d just as soon be crazy than live like this.” He went to a grocery store and purposely underpaid the cashier. When the cashier pointed out he owed more money, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m not of sound mind. I’m crazy. I’m clearly too psychotic to be handling money right now.” And that ended his “what if I’m crazy” loop.  Of course he didn’t really lose his sanity. He played a mind game and tricked OCD into thinking his sanity wasn’t precious and sacred anymore. He shrugged and tricked OCD!

Whatever your fear is, think of a way to trick OCD into believing you don’t care. The rule is do no harm. If you’re afraid of getting AIDS you don’t actually expose yourself to blood that is known to be contaminated. But, you could touch a germy doorknob without washing your hands afterwards and say, “I’d rather take the same risk everybody else is taking than live like this.”

If OCD has you worried you might be gay, you’re not going to start a same sex relationship just to trick your OCD into thinking you don’t care. But you could say, “If I end up in a gay relationship I’ll probably be very unhappy. But, so be it. If anything like that happens I’ll just have to deal with it at the time it happens.” With this statement you’re tricking OCD. It no longer has any leverage. You’re not happy about this thing happening but if it does, you’ll deal with it. 

If you have unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm, you don’t actually harm someone to trick OCD into thinking you don’t care. But, you could resist looking for signs of evil in every one of your thoughts and feelings. Instead say, “No one else analyzes their thoughts like this so I’m not going to. If I do the unthinkable it’ll be horrible. And there will be consequences for me. But I’m not paying any consequences until I’ve actually done the act! You’ve taken enough from me OCD. If I’m going to get better, I have to accept my anxiety and I’m going to tolerate this terrible feeling for as long as it takes.” 

The #1 way to get out of a loop is to find a way to shrug at OCD.160_F_65440434_ggnw7zgL8Rz1LBU1lYN1YVNMT5XdPUQw-2  Say, “If that happens it will be horrible but I will deal with it if it actually happens.” This is easier said than done. Because, you really think there is an actual risk. But, performing all your compulsions isn’t easy either. No matter what you do to deal with OCD, it’s going to be very hard. But you’re not afraid of doing something hard! People with OCD are the strongest people I’ve ever met.

Remember, you get good at whatever you practice.  Practice not giving in the first time. But, if you get tricked, practice tricking OCD back with: 160_F_88940492_amQ6XuT4sli6hmIAtS6rbyDwt8ENc9V3-2

You’ve got to find a way to let go–or you’ll be dragged. 



How to Build Your “Boss it Back” Toolbox in One Day: Tool #6 Most Recommended by OCD Experts

In the heat of the moment it’s so easy to forget everything you’ve ever learned about bossing back OCD. Here are 8 essential toolbox must-haves!



Make a collage of what you are fighting for. If you weren’t feeding OCD, what would you be doing? Get pictures from the Internet or magazines that reflect your values, hopes and dreams and make a collage for inspiration. In the heat of the moment, especially when anxiety is at its highest, refer to your collage. Remember what you are fighting for and resist feeding OCD!


Find an object that symbolizes the patience, energy, and time needed to master the ability to defy OCD. Defying OCD doesn’t happen overnight or in one week. A symbol that signifies kungfuiachievement through hard work and long practice is captured in a Chinese term: Kung Fu. Use something like a stone, piece of jewelry or decal to remind you that defying OCD is mental Kung Fu—it takes hard work and time.


Replace compulsions with healthy habits. Many people report a loss of identity and purpose when they stop filling up their time with feeding OCD. You can recreate personal satisfaction and personal meaning by creating healthy habits. Since checking off a habit each day and keeping a log of progress improves motivation consider using an app to keep you on track. Siri will gladly remind you about the healthy habits you are working on. If you want to get more in depth coaching, get an online or smartphone habit App. Some of the best apps include: Nozbe, LifeTick, Strides, Coach.Me, Habit List, irunurun, Goals on Track and Daily Goals. I also offer Healthy Habits private Facebook groups and personal recordings.

Tool #4

Create “Boss it Back” statements that address your cognitive errors.

“If I’m not 100% sure of safety, then there is absolutely 100% certainty of danger.” “I’d rather take the risk than live like this.”
“If I think bad thoughts, bad things will happen.” “If something bad happens, I will pay the consequences.”
“I’ve got to do everything perfectly.” “I’d rather be imperfect than live like this.”

Tool #5

Get some juggling balls or coloring books and practice focusing at least 5 minutes every day. This will help restructure your brain and activate other parts of your brain besides the amygdala. Meditating or focusing exercises will help you develop the ability to focus on what you choose to focus on. We can’t stop obsessions from happening, but can certainly learn how to simply notice these obsessions without analyzing them and focus rather, on the task at hand.

Tool #6


Write down a hierarchy of your fears and prepare to gradually climb that hierarchy from easiest to hardest. This is widely recognized by OCD exerts and researchers as the most effective way to boss OCD back. Click Here for a description of Exposure & Response Prevention and ideas for building your hierarchy. This self-help book will also help you build a hierarchy.

Tool #7

Celebrate! So that you always have an idea how to recognize your hard work, put a list of ways to celebrate your victories in your Toolbox. OCD hates it when you celebrate and will try to tell you not to do it after you win a battle. Strike a Superman pose, fire up some happy music, do a happy dance or do something nice for someone. Celebrate the fact that you just took a step in the right direction.

Tool #8

Identify an Accountability Partner and put the contact information in your Toolbox so that you always remember this is a tool. Include the reasons why you chose this person as your accountability partner. Share the contents of your Toolbox with your Accountability Partner. When you are struggling go to your Accountability Partner to remind you to use one or all of your tools. Don’t go to some random friend or family member who knows nothing about your Boss it Back Toolbox. They’ll most likely end up reassuring you and feeding your OCD.

There are many other tools for your toolbox but these are some of the top ways to Boss it Back. Get proactive and make your Boss it Back Toolbox today! Don’t waste time! OCD has robbed you of enough!

5 Mistakes People Make When Having Bad OCD Thoughts

dreamPeople with OCD aren’t the only ones thinking the worst thoughts at the most inappropriate times. Everybody gets weird scary bad thoughts. One time while petting my dog Bella, I thought, “She’s so muscular; she’d make a good stew.” I was shocked! But, I wasn’t appalled. I said, “Okay, that was weird.” Everybody gets weird thoughts but not everybody experiences shame or guilt from those thoughts. Here are five mistakes people with OCD make when they have weird scary bad thoughts:

Mistake #1 Keep It a Secret

freddykIf Freddy Krueger was living in your basement would you keep it a secret? No! You would get someone to help you outwit Freddy Krueger! Would you feel ashamed that Freddy Krueger picked your house to hide out in? No! That wouldn’t even cross your mind. You’ve got this bad dude living in your mind and it’s not your fault! The only time you shouldn’t tell someone (e.g., therapist, parent, best friend, and family member) is if you’re just trying to get reassurance that you’re a good person.

Mistake #2 Getting Reassurance ok

If you have OCD then you know you’re not supposed to seek reassurance. If you have a bad thought, you can’t ask someone to reassure you and say, “It’s just OCD. You are not your thoughts. You’d never do that.” That’s ok if you’re newly diagnosed but if you’ve been dealing with OCD for a while, you need something more than relabeling OCD. Too much relabeling ends up turning into reassurance. And reassurance feeds OCD. It’s like alcohol to an alcoholic—there’s never enough. junkie

But, you can get help to outwit OCD. In fact it’s great to get people to help you to boss it back: “Hey, I’m having a really bad thought about _______. I don’t want you to reassure me but can you remind me of something I have in my toolbox to help me boss it back?”

Mistake #3 Trying to Rationalize Why You’re Thinking What You’re Thinking

If you try to explain, excuse or justify your thoughts you’re spending way too much time on the thought. When I had the thought about chopping Bella up for stew, I didn’t try to figure out why I had that thought or what it meant. I shrugged and said, “Weird” and kept petting her belly. Get to the shrug as fast as possible. Say: “Whatever, So What, Who Cares.” As soon as you analyze the thought or associated feelings you’re inviting OCD to take you deeper into this obsession. OCD robs you of enough. Don’t go down the rabbit hole with OCD. It’s not worth it. If you’ve been down the rabbit hole you know it’s a very long horrible journey.

If you can’t shrug at the thought get help from someone who knows what’s in your “Boss it Back” toolbox. If you don’t have a “Boss it Back” toolbox be sure to read next week’s blog.

Mistake#4 Not Shrugging at the Thoughts

A shrug shows that you are committed to “let go or be dragged.” Shrugging is not avoiding. It’s not suppressing or hiding either. Shrugging is giving your brain a clear message that you don’t care about the thought or worry. Your brain’s alarm system (the amygdala) is misfiring and when you shrug, it stops firing. shrug

It’s not easy to shrug if you’re already caught up in evaluating the thought or feelings. Shrugging is your first line of defense. If it isn’t the anxiety worsens and you’re going to start trying to avoid your triggers.

Mistake#5 Avoiding Triggers

If you don’t face whatever it is that is triggering the bad thoughts then the thoughts will become intense and frequent, and the anxiety will take over. You’ve got to get as close as you can to your triggers. That’s why exposure and response prevention is very effective in treating OCD. The more you face your triggers the more desensitized you become.

Never put your life on hold because of bad thoughts. Keep doing everything you want to do or need to do, even if the thoughts follow you. Better yet, go on the offensive and invite OCD to bother you when you know you are going to be around a trigger.

If you find yourself stressed out about bad thoughts, identify which mistake you’re making and take corrective action. Get someone to help you remember what’s in your Boss it Back Toolbox. toolboxIf you don’t know what’s in your toolbox make sure you read next week’s blog.

If you want to comment or add to this list of mistakes please feel free to do so.


5 Ways These Willpower Workouts Will Increase Your Motivation

brainworkoutWant bigger, better biceps? Then just do barbell workouts. You don’t build muscle by talking about it. You go to the gym. That’s exactly what you do to build willpower! You build willpower by taking your brain to the (neuro) gym. Willpower happens in your brain. Just behind your eyebrows and to the left and right—that’s where willpower lives or dies.

There are 3 kinds of WILLPOWER:

  • I WANT power lives behind the gap between the eye brows. It’s where the brain keeps track of your goals. It’s watching and monitoring.
  • I WON’T power lives behind the right eye and controls your attention.
  • I WILL power lives behind the left eye. It gives you the willingness to face anything.

Is it fair to say you can’t build biceps unless you know where they’re located? If you know where your biceps are, you can target them with specific exercises. That’s why it’s important to know where willpower is located in your brain. By knowing where willpower lives you can work on strengthening these parts of the brain, which not only builds willpower, but also helps deactivate the amygdala.

You might recall the amygdala is the troublemaker when it comes to defying OCD. It’s a broken alarm system that sends false alarms. The amygdala is responsible for quick emotions and quick decisions. It’s all about getting immediate gratification. Have you ever been tricked into a compulsion, “Just this one last time…” The amygdala is a trickster. It gets you to make decisions that seem good at the time, but actually lead you away from who you truly want to be. By targeting and strengthening willpower muscles in your brain the amygdala gets deactivated.

Willpower is something you can train for—just like any other muscle of the body. Get started on 5 quick and easy Willpower Workouts:

Workout #1

The first Willpower Workout is to use the pointer and middle finger of your dominant hand and tap (3 or 4 times) the inside of each eyebrow–one eyebrow at a time. State what you want: “This freedom. Even though it’s so hard to just let go, I love and forgive myself.” Then with your right hand repeatedly tap where the right eyebrow ends. State what you won’t do: “This compulsion. Even though it’s so hard to let go I love and forgive myself.” Finally with your left hand tap where the left eyebrow ends. State what you will accept: “This anxiety. Even though it’s so hard to let go I love and accept myself.” This is an authoritative workout because you are acknowledging you know where willpower lives in your body. The second benefit of tapping is that is self-healing. You are practicing self-compassion which shuts down the amygdala.  For a much broader example and explanation of tapping watch this 4 minute video.

Workout #2

The second Willpower Workout is a focus exercise. For 5 minutes pick something to focus on. You need your mind to wander for this to work. You have to find yourself getting sleepy or fidgety or otherwise you won’t be working out.  Notice what your mind is doing and then bring it back to the task at hand. Perhaps you’re coloring, concentrating on your breath, or reading a text book. As long as your mind is likely to wander, it’s the right task!

Workout #3

Eat a Willpower food. This exercise is to keep your blood sugar level so you don’t have highs and lows. Read last week’s blog for more information about how to do this. If you don’t fuel your brain in a steady way, you won’t have willpower because you’ll be constantly crashing and burning. In a nutshell…eat nuts, seeds, blueberries and Greek yogurt, not carbs and sugar.

Workout #4

Exercise daily. Again read last week’s blog for more information about this. But, basically, this is what’s known as the Willpower miracle cure. Out of anything you can do to increase willpower-EXERCISE-is a must. People who change this one thing find instant willpower in other areas of their life. For proof, watch this 3.5 minute video.

Workout #5

This Willpower workout is called Pause and Calculate. Take 10 seconds and calculate the probability of the proposed reward coming to fruition. Recognize when the amygdala is promising you something and see it as a trickster. The amygdala will promise you relief and happiness, but think back to how many times this promise was broken. Pausing will lead you to making the right decision. Letting go of empty promises gives you the willpower to forge ahead and face a fear.

You are just minutes away from building WILLPOWER. More willpower leads to more motivation! Tap where willpower lives in your brain.  Practice focusing. Eat nuts! Exercise. Pause. Try any of these workouts on a consistent basis and let us know how you’re doing with “Bossing it Back.” Post a comment! We’re building a bossy pants community!

If You Had A Chance To Be Assertive Today-Would You Be Ready? (Hint: How Spock Did It Every Time.)


If you have OCD then you know it’s an enormous force to come up against. There are moments of clarity when you know it’s nothing more than a neurological condition. “I know that’s ridiculous” and you give OCD a disinterested shrug. But, then there’re times when you’re flooded with fear and you totally forget to boss it back. In these moments OCD seems like a merciless bully and you don’t dare assert yourself.

Chances are you have an equally difficult time asserting yourself with people. That’s because a person with OCD detects, perceives and labels situations as threatening when they aren’t. “If I tell this person what I want then I’ll sound mean.” So what? Work on your tone! Say what you mean but don’t say it mean. True, sometimes there really is danger, but not to the catastrophic degree that OCD has you believing. “If I say no to him I’ll be a lonely old maid the rest of my life.” The OCD brain impairs your ability to reason. It keeps you in fight, flight or freeze mode. So when you encounter a situation that requires you to be assertive, you either:

  • Come on too strong to force the unpleasantries to stop
  • Hide and avoid the unpleasant situation or person
  • Freeze and regret not standing up for yourself

While most people have a hard time being assertive, a person with OCD has an even more difficult time. You have deeply embedded neurocircuitry that tells you to do the same thing over and over and over. This circuitry is deeply embedded but has no deep meaning. That’s where the tragedy lies; you think it does have deep meaning. Brain circuitry is nothing more than patterns like on a flannel shirt. Patterns develop based on usage. Your circuitry tells you to fight flight or freeze when there is uncertainty. Asserting yourself can result in any number of possibilities—that’s a lot of uncertainty! Fight flight or freeze is your default circuitry.


To be assertive you must step outside of your comfort zone, assume whatever risk you think is there and accept uncertainty. In order to become assertive you have to break the deeply embedded code in your neurocircuitry that wrongfully cries out: “Don’t Do It!” If you break this code and practice being assertive with people, you’ll be bossing your OCD around like a pro. You get good at what you practice.

circuitryThe question is how to break the deeply embedded code that makes you nonassertive with people and OCD. Here is the strategy for breaking the code and becoming assertive with people and OCD:

I Statements

Being assertive is stating what you want. It sounds like this: “I want…I need…It’s important to me.” Use a matter-of-fact tone of voice. There is no need for emotion and if you remain calm you will actually remove 70% of the other person’s urge be dramatic. You’re taking ownership of what you want, using direct eye contact and your posture is energetic, not slouched or aggressive. “I” statements work with OCD too. If you truly don’t want to be doing compulsions, then you have to stand up for what it is that you do want! “What’s important to me, OCD, is that I spend time with my family. Lying in bed all day—that’s not what I want.”

Repeat and Don’t Attack

After you communicate what you want you are likely to get a “yeah, but” response. You acknowledge the rebuttal (“hmmm that’s interesting…”) and then repeat your point of view again; what it is you want. Don’t attack back by trying to be logical. The same goes for OCD. Do not try to reason with OCD. Just repeat what it is you want. Don’t engage in any lengthy explaining or defensive argument.

Be Absurd and Over the Top

If a peer is being rude to you take it to an absurd level. If someone calls you an idiot because you made a mistake exaggerate your mistake to absurdity. “Oh you’re right this mistake is serious. I can’t seem to stop making mistakes. One of these days my mistake is going to end all mankind.” This by the way is exactly how to talk to OCD. Agree with it to the point of absurdity.

Rehearse Being Assertive

I’ve attached a video of 10 scenarios of people struggling with being assertive. Watch all 10 clips every day for 7-14 days. This is called a computer-aided exposure exercise. Studies show that people who experience Exposure Therapy vicariously improve more than someone who doesn’t.


Another way to break the code of fight flight freeze is to imagine being relaxed in uptight situations. Listen to this Assertive Meditation.


Finally, we have some good advice from Dr. Spock. He responded to most things with nothing more than curiosity and intrigue. Nothing kills a bully’s buzz more than fascination. Same goes with OCD. It’s hard to be afraid when you act fascinated.

Please consider sharing this post with anyone you know that needs to be more assertive. Also at the top of the post click on “Leave a Comment.” Feel free to ask questions, tell a short story or share an idea! We’re building a community of bossy pants!