Category Archives: How To Free Your Mind

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.

Why I Don’t Write Down Your Obsession

There are many OCD Facebook Groups. Quite often people will post about their therapy sessions.

They’ll share what the therapist said. And then they’ll post a question to the group, “Does this sound right to you? Should I continue with this therapist? She writes everything down. It’s intimidating. I don’t know what to do. Please advise.”

Hint: If your therapy session looks anything like this

you’re not in the right place!

I don’t write down a client’s obsession. Find out why.

But first, let’s talk about the goal of therapy. What is the purpose of therapy for OCD? Let’s take a poll and see what everybody thinks. Before you read this post any further, answer this poll first.

In last week’s blog post I asked what ya’ll thought about the questions asked during a therapy session. There were 14 questions and I asked which of the 14 questions had the best chance of helping this man break free from OCD.

Some people left comments on the blog, and others brought it up in their own therapy session with me.

Many people liked the questions that led the man to think about probability. What’s the probability that this or that will actually happen?

You’d think that once he realizes how slight the chances are of anything bad happening, he’ll come to his senses. But, that’s not how OCD works. OCD isn’t logical and will always exaggerate probability.

The problem with this “probability” thought process is that it focuses on the content of the obsession. (“If I don’t check this someone could get hurt.”) As if the OCD “story” is important. 

A few of the 14 questions helped the man see that his compulsions weren’t really as effective as he thought. His safety behaviors weren’t full proof or nearly comprehensive enough.

He was missing too many other safety hazards and was only fooling himself into thinking he was making the world a safer place.

While many of you thought it was very anxiety provoking to point out the futility of his efforts, you still felt it was a good way to get through to him. Once he saw how futile his efforts were he’d see no reason to continue these behaviors. 

But, that’s not how OCD works. It’s like a whack-a-mole. It’ll give you something else to worry about.

The problem with taking the time to reveal the futility of his safety behaviors is that it focuses heavily on the content of his obsession. The whole conversation focuses on the electrical cords. 

When it’s not at all about the electrical cords. It’s about not wanting to feel emotionally contaminated.

This is everyone’s OCD story. You might think you’re avoiding something to protect someone. You might think you’re performing a compulsion to prevent something bad from happening.

But, the only reason you’re really doing what you’re doing is to not feel emotionally contaminated with anxiety, guilt, depression, or fear…

These are just stories:

  • “I shower the second I get home even before I hug my baby. I don’t want to get my baby sick.”

Actually, you don’t want to feel the guilt of getting your baby sick. Your husband doesn’t shower when he comes home from work. He hugs the baby before he washes up.

“Well, that’s fine because if the baby gets sick, it will be his responsibility, not mine.”

  • “I circle back and check the road because I don’t want to leave the scene of a crime. If I hit someone, I should pay the consequences.”  

Actually, this isn’t about hitting someone at all. This is the story you tell. But, it’s really about not wanting to feel anxiety.

“I don’t want to be wondering all night if the sound I heard was me running over someone. If I check it out, it’s off my mind and I won’t be anxious.”

  • “I’m not afraid of anyone getting hurt. I do this hop, skip and jump until it feels right. I’m not worried about anybody getting hurt if I don’t do it right. I’m just doing it because it helps me feel calm.”

Right, you’re doing it to avoid feeling bad. You’re not willing to feel “just wrong” or ill at ease. Now this is everyone’s truth. This is not just a story.

The only content that matters, is the story about not wanting to feel uncomfortable. It’s not about germs, harming someone or the world being fake. It’s not about the unwanted, intrusive thought. 

You’ve got a sticky mind and the “stories” are just trying to explain why. There’s nothing to explain. You don’t like feeling uncomfortable. End of story. Nothing else matters.

The only story that matters is the one about not wanting to feel ill at ease. That’s the one story that can cause the “dis-ease.”

But, what if you see anxiety or discomfort as a challenge?

There are always two choices. Shrink from the discomfort and get caught up in a story that never ends…or seize the opportunity to practice your skills and become a lean mean fighting machine.

“Ah…there’s my worry. There’s my discomfort. Good. I want it. This is how I get stronger. It’s not about the story. It’s about my emotions. The content of my obsession is irrelevant. It’s always about being afraid of emotions.”

You can’t heal, what you won’t feel.

Maybe now you know why I don’t write down your obsession. I just don’t care what it is. It’s irrelevant.

Now, let’s take that poll again:

 

 

Who Else Feels Guilty About Their Thoughts?

Do You Feel Guilty for Having  Certain Thoughts?

Is this dog guilty for thinking what he’s thinking? Should he be experiencing shame?

We mostly agree that if I steal a banana I should probably pay a penalty of some sort, even if it’s just guilt and shame.

But what if I only think about stealing a banana? Should I pay a penalty for thinking? And what if I didn’t deliberately think about stealing banana. What if it just popped into my head out of nowhere?

I certainly won’t be arrested for thinking about stealing a banana, right? Okay, but what about an emotional penalty for thinking about it? I should pay penance with guilt and shame, right?

For how long should I pay this penance? A lifetime? For every next time I think about stealing a banana? Maybe I should give my banana away in an attempt to resolve my guilt feelings? Or should I just accept that since I thought about stealing a banana, I deserve to feel guilty

This kind of guilt doesn’t even come from mis-behaving. No action required. It was just a thought but shame on me. 

All I know is that I had a thought about doing something that would have violated my Code of Conduct. “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” I wouldn’t want someone to steal my bananas. So it’s wrong for me to steal someone else’s.

But wait! I didn’t even steal anything! I didn’t actually do anything wrong! Why should I feel so guilty about something I didn’t even do???

Guilt Beyond Circumstance:                  A Different Kind of Guilt

Let’s talk about (Harm Avoidance) OCD; a kind of OCD that involves unwanted, intrusive thoughts about harming self or others.

Nobody’s lifted a finger. They’re just thoughts. They come with a punch in the stomach and a ton of guilt.

It’s guilt beyond circumstance. No event or circumstance has occurred other than in the mind.

You’re not walking on eggshells, you’re “thinking” on eggshells.

When you’re walking on eggshells you’re trying very hard to not upset someone who is hypersensitive and easily agitated.

When you’re “thinking” on eggshells you’re tiptoeing around your mind. Your mind is hyper-responsible. Hyper-aware. Hyper-sensitive. And easily agitated. You try to tiptoe around these thoughts. 

Thought Action Fusion: When Thinking Is Considered to be the Same as Doing.

A person with OCD gets confused. They falsely believe a thought is just as bad as an action. This is a cognitive error called, Thought Fusion Action. This cognitive error interrupts lives. 

If thoughts are felt to be equivalent to action then you can understand why people with (Harm Avoidance) OCD experience so much guilt. They haven’t done anything, but in their minds thinking about it is just as bad as doing it.

When it comes to a thought vs. an action, a person with OCD says there is no line in the sand. Thought = action = responsibility = guilt. The guilt is the emotional penalty for the wrongdoing of the mind.

People with OCD have an inflated sense of responsibility. Thought Action Fusion is a type of hyper-responsibility, of feeling responsible when you’re not.

The Emotional Penalty of Being Hyper-Responsible is Guilt and Shame

Another example of hyper-responsibility is to believe that you ought to be able to stop what you’re thinking.

The guilt is the emotional penalty for not controlling the mind. 

In a room full of 100 people, not many of them are worrying about why they can’t stop having certain thoughts. They don’t have OCD.

Geez, I don’t even know if it’s possible to “be” and not think? Descartes wrote, “I think therefore I am.” In other words, “I know I exist when I am thinking.” 

To believe you ought to be able to control what you think about is a false belief. It’s a cognitive error that’s interrupting your life. If you had the power of mind control you’d be rich and famous. Because, you’d be the only one out of 7 billion people who have such control.

We all get weird taboo thoughts. This is a proven fact. You don’t have to have OCD to get weird thoughts. But, if you have OCD then you’re at risk for spending way too much time analyzing these thoughts.

I thought about not reporting that I underpaid for a banana. I didn’t violate my Code of Conduct. Whatever unwanted, intrusive thought you’re having is absolutely no different than my thought.

Nothing has meaning except the meaning you attach to it.

No thought has meaning except the meaning you attach to it.

Tips:

  1. Stand up for yourself. You can’t just let OCD push you around with cognitive errors.  Recognize them and bulldoze through them. 
  2. You don’t have to pay penance for thoughts unless you want to.
  3. Be as kind to yourself as you would to your best friend. (Code of Conduct: Don’t do to yourself what you wouldn’t do to others.)
  4. Trying to control your mind is impossible. If 7 billion other people can’t help what they’re thinking how can you?
  5. Notice your thoughts and do nothing to get rid of them. They mean nothing unless you attach meaning to them.

This publication is part of a series of posts about OCD and guilt. The next one will have to do with how guilt can cause compulsive behavior.

OCD and Guilt: Your Get Out of Jail Free Card

Breaking free from OCD can be quite troublesome when the obsession is accompanied with guilt or shame.

Hold on though…Not all guilt is bad. Right? Guilt causes people to fall in line and properly behave. We’re socialized to feel guilt so that we learn to control our behavior and emotions. If people feel guilt or shame they’ll be less likely to do anything wrong.

We’ve all experienced real or appropriate guilt.

Today at the grocery store I was using the self check-out. I’m proud to say I’ve memorized lots of produce codes. I entered the code 4011 for regular bananas. I was submitting my payment when it suddenly occurred to me that the bananas were organic and therefore I hadn’t paid enough.

I was in a hurry and shrugged, “Oh who cares. It’s 20 cents. Just go.” But then I thought, “No, if you don’t confess to your underpayment, you’ll get in a car accident.”

This is an example of how guilt stabilizes a society and prevents its citizens from wrongful behavior. If you do something bad then there will be a consequence.

Real or appropriate guilt happens when you’ve mis-behaved.  Guilt is the emotional penalty of misconduct.

The problem with OCD is that it generates inappropriate guilt. Nothing bad has to occur in order for you to be overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt adds a whole other dimension to OCD. 

When Should You Feel Guilt or Shame?

It’d be so much easier to break free from OCD if you weren’t dealing with so much inappropriate guilt.

When it comes to OCD, you’ve got to become defiant. OCD will tell you what rules to follow. These rules are not reasonable and will take you down the rabbit hole. You must disobey OCD.

To do that, it helps to have your own set of rules to follow no matter what OCD says.

To make it easier, what if there was a Code of Conduct for you to follow? No matter what OCD says, if you follow this Code of Conduct, you don’t pay the emotional penalty of guilt. Maybe it would be something like this:

(Draft Copy) Code of Conduct:
DO NO HARM
  • Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
  • Don’t destroy the environment upon which all life depends.
  • Don’t do to yourself what you wouldn’t do to others.
  • Don’t make decisions for people who can make their own.
  • Don’t manipulate and control others.
  • Don’t take care of others when they can take care of themselves.
DO GOOD
  • Do to others what you would like them to do to you.
  • Do practice gratitude and express thankfulness.
  • Do put the oxygen mask on yourself first; your mental health must come first.
  • Do help this needy world through acts of kindness, not fear.
  • Do respect a person’s right to self-determination. (A person controls their own life.)
What do you notice about this Code of Conduct
  • Is there a common theme?
  • Is there anything missing? Something you think people should pay the penalty of guilt for, but not mentioned here?
  • Is there something that doesn’t belong?
  • What do you notice about the transfer of responsibility? What are you essentially responsible for? What are other people responsible for?
  • If you stick to these rules would it be appropriate or necessary to still pay the emotional penalty of guilt or shame?

Please leave your answers, questions, and comments. As always I will post them anonymously.  

This publication is part of a series of posts about OCD and guilt. The next post will be “Guilt Beyond Circumstance: A Different Kind of Guilt.”

If you want me to address a certain question about guilt, be sure to leave me a message.

In addition to your other comments, please share what you hope this series of posts about guilt will accomplish.
Thank you for your comments. They mean so much to me and also help others!

What if Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) Makes Me Worse?

“Can My OCD Get Worse With ERP? 

On Facebook and in my own practice, that question gets asked a lot. It sounds very similar to the question children ask before getting an injection, “Is this going to hurt?”

The doctor tells the truth, “Yes, it’s going to hurt! But, not for long.”

Engaging in ERP is not something your brain will immediately register as a good thing. You’re going out of your comfort zone and all the bells and whistles in your amygdala will be sounding off! “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!”

That’s why many people choose not to do ERP. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel good. Your brain will tell you to turn back.

It’s hard to find a pace that is “just enough.” It’s scary to move forward with exposure exercises. You won’t want to provoke your anxiety. You’ll worry it’s too much.

But, how else can you become desensitized? How else can you disprove OCD and throw it under the bus for being such a liar?

“Just enough” is the sweet spot. Some people flood and go for the big guns. “Let’s just get this over with” and they take on their worst nightmare. For them, that’s “just enough.”

Not everybody can confront their fears that way. 

Find a pace that challenges you and then build momentum. Do one thing that scares you and hit it with repetition. Then do something else that scares you, “just enough” and repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep building.

You’ll discover you can tolerate a lot more than you thought you could. And…your confidence will grow.

Growing Means Ouch

In 1979, Open Heart surgery was practically barbaric. The scar I have is 100 times wider and longer than people who have the surgery nowadays. Sometimes I feel like Frankenstein.

I’ll never forget that tube down my throat and having to be suctioned. The tears rolled down my face the first few times. Then I got used to it. Nowadays people have the breathing tube removed and leave ICU within 18 to 24 hours of surgery. I was kept on life support for over 72 hours.

 

I was in my late teens and didn’t want the surgery. At first I denied I had the problem and tried to negotiate with my doctor. But, he told me I had a hole in my heart the size of a quarter. The surgery had to be done or I’d be dead before age 40.

My life depended on this barbaric surgery. They sawed through my bones and wired them back together.

After the first day of surgery I refused pain medicine. I leaned into the pain. I wanted to get out of that hell hole. Every time I so much as sneezed, I thought I was tearing the stitches that held my heart repair together.

I mustered through. I wanted out of that place. I wanted to live my life. Within 10 days of surgery I was playing tennis.

My Strangely Wrapped Gift

A few months after surgery I went on a date with a young man who came highly recommended by my co-workers. He picked me up at the store and my co-workers said, “have fun!”

Against my wishes he drove me to his house. His parents weren’t home. He brought out an astrology book and told me the stars indicated we would make good sexual partners. I told him no. He said yes.

I thought quickly. I told him I just had open heart surgery. He saw the red, swollen scar. I told him I would die if I was traumatized. He was angry. “You should have told me about this.” He brought me back to the store. I was safe.

Doesn’t look or feel like a gift

In so many ways, open heart surgery was my strangely wrapped gift. 

Just because something hurts or scares you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. When deciding whether or not to do ERP, consider the track record of people who have done it.

It’s a mighty fine track record.

And, I hope those of you who have done it will leave a comment and encourage those who are on the fence about it. There are people who need to hear from you. How bad was it before ERP? How terrifying was ERP? How’d you make out? Please leave your anonymous comment.

Remember this, wherever you are, it’s where you’re supposed to be. We will always be given opportunities to grow and learn. Lean into it.

OCD is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t feel like it at first. Neither did open heart surgery. 

Stop Reassurance-Seeking and Break Free From OCD

A person with OCD seeks one thing.

160_f_65315155_7vwgyjigwiujdbsmawjy00devygrmqej  CERTAINTY 160_f_65315155_7vwgyjigwiujdbsmawjy00devygrmqej 

 It’s your kryptonite. 160_f_54907399_wuafmp2ourzuib6z6zirtarbdu54cduy

Trying to Get It Deprives You of All Your Power 

If you’ve got OCD then seeking certainty is how you’re wired. It’s your automatic solution for doubt and anxiety.

OCD lies: “Get certainty and you’ll feel much better.” Unless you’ve learned how to shrug  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you’ll do whatever it takes to feel better. It’s odd, but actually shrugging feels better than seeking certainty. That’s because you’ll always end up empty handed.

The problem is, it can’t be gotten. Certainty isn’t possible. There’s a possibility you’ll (falsely) feel certain for a brief moment. But, in a matter of minutes or even seconds, the doubt and anxiety will return. It’s a vicious cycle.

The Most Frequent Way People Try to Get Certainty Is By Seeking Reassurance

Reassurance is your kryptonite. As long as you’re seeking reassurance you’ll be forever vulnerable. OCD will be your boss until you learn to shrug.

You’ll have no confidence in just about anything you do. Like an addict, you’ll be thinking about your next fix, and the next one, and the next one, all day long.

Reassurance can be sought in many ways:

It Starts With a Question and Then the Analyzing Begins

  • Am I okay? Is this okay?
  • What does this say about me? What does it mean?
  • Is this wrong? Is this bad? Am I a bad person?
  • What if I lose control? What if I make a mistake?
  • Am I going to act on this thought?
  • What if something bad happens? Won’t I be responsible? 
  • What if I get overwhelmed? What if I can’t relax?
  • Did I do something wrong? Am I making the right decision?
  • Is this OCD? It’s just my OCD. Right?

The Checking Begins and Never Ends

  • I don’t remember if I did that. Go back and check.
  • Do they know what I’m thinking? Let’s see if I can get them to smile. If they do, we must be okay.
  • Did I leave something behind? Look behind and check.
  • Did I touch that? Ask. Wash to be sure. 
  • Say it again. Make sure they heard it.
  • Give all the details one more time. Make sure they understand.
  • Do it one more time until it feels right.

Avoidance is Reassuring Too

  • The way to feel safe is to stay away. 
  • Don’t touch it. Don’t look at it. Then there’s no risk.
  • Don’t think about it. Then it can’t happen.
  • Replace that bad thought with a good thought.

You can spend hours reassuring yourself through compulsions and mental acts. You can involve others by asking for reassurance. But, it’s not going to lead to freedom. 

You can’t free your mind this way. There is no breaking free of OCD in seeking reassurance. Resisting reassurance will increase your level of anxiety and doubt. It’s not dangerous. It’s unpleasant. Be tenacious. Keep resisting. Shrug. Stick with it. Tolerate it. 

If you want to be set free, there is no other choice. You can start doing it now or do it years down the road. But, if you don’t start now…OCD will only rob you of more and more. 

Resisting reassurance is what you’re going to have to do eventually. Why not just get it over with? Lean in to the pain and break free.

Watch this cool video I made for you!

 

How to Outsmart OCD (Hint: It’s Weird and Wonderful)

There is a weird and wonderful way to outsmart OCD. Weird because it’s uncanny and counterintuitive. Wonderful because it’s so amazingly effective.

In order to outsmart OCD it’s important to first understand it. It helps to know what makes OCD tick. So before we jump into ways to outsmart it, let’s reveal its true nature. 

imagesIs OCD a Bully?

OCD isn’t a bully. A bully would try to humiliate you. OCD is obsessed about protecting you from humiliation. A bully would try to make a fool of you in public. OCD doesn’t want you to look like a fool in public.

Unlike a bully, the last thing OCD wants is for you to feel humiliated.

Bullies want to make you uncomfortable. OCD wants you to find comfort. That’s why OCD hates uncertainty, because it makes you uncomfortable. OCD persuades you to do compulsions or mental acts to get rid of discomfort. Unlike a bully, the last thing OCD wants is for you to experience anxiety.

Bullies try to physically and emotionally hurt you. On the contrary, OCD is like a bodyguard, constantly scanning the environment making sure nothing bad can happen or hurt you. A bully pokes and pokes until you bleed. OCD is scared of you bleeding.

Bullies enjoy picking on people. It brings them joy. OCD doesn’t ever experience joy. Everything is doom and gloom according to OCD. Bullies get sadistic pleasure out of putting people down. OCD puts you down not to inflict pain but to keep your expectations low so that you don’t ever feel the pain of disappointment.

OCD isn’t a bully. It’s a bodyguard on steroids.

Why Not Think of OCD as a Bully?

160_f_99747725_ccjio6av1pfpgso73m4bos6nsx2pr83uWhat does it matter if you think of OCD as a bully or a bodyguard?

Because, if you think of OCD as a bully, you’re feeding a victim mentality. If you think like a victim, you’ll feel like a victim and then you’ll act like a victim. 

What kind of people have bodyguards? Powerful people. People worth a lot. People with influence.

Is it better to think of yourself as someone who is important enough to be guarded or someone who is a victim and being bullied? Which mentality is going to put more oomph in your punch?

OCD is overly protective. Knowing this and using this weakness will be part of our strategy to outsmart it. Another personality trait of OCD’s is that it’s extremely competitive.

The More You Know About OCD, the Better You Can Outsmart It

OCD is Not a Good Sport

OCD doesn’t play fair. It doesn’t accept defeat. It won’t congratulate you on your victories. Your tendency towards negative self-talk plays right into OCD’s hands.

OCD is extremely competitive. The game never ends. Just when the game is tied, it scores again and keeps you in overtime. It wants to wear you down.  It pumps its fist when you cry out, “give me a break!” Think about this for a minute. Why does it want you to lose?

OCD wants you to lose more than it wants to win. Why?

It doesn’t think your loss is harmful to you. On the contrary, it sees your loss as helpful to you. As long as you keep losing (giving in to OCD) then you will continue to see it as an authority. As long as you see it as an authority you will defer to it and by the grace of OCD supposedly be kept safe from harm or ill-will.

160_F_22448988_AeAszQACa4W74iTlgpGB0SdgLVAAykJzOCD doesn’t have much strategy in its game because, it can’t use logic or reason. It’s very reptilian in nature. Fight, Flight or Freeze. That’s all it can do, which isn’t much of a strategy. the only strategy it has is to cheat and lie. It tells you that if you do what it says, you will find peace of mind. That’s the lie.

It cheats by asking you unanswerable questions. The questions it asks cannot be answered with certainty. But, it lies to you and tells you that you can get to the bottom of it if you search hard and long enough. Cheater! You might as well be counting the grains of sand on a beach.

OCD doesn’t give up easily. It’s too competitive. All it wants is to make sure you lose. But, remember this, it can’t win unless you play. It can’t win unless you lose. 

OCD is a bodyguard on steroids. It’s highly competitive and a poor loser. But, here’s something else about OCD that we can use in our strategy to outsmart it. It’s nothing like you.

cropped-Boss_It_2.pngOCD is the Opposite of You

OCD is not a mirror reflection of you. In this instance OCD sounds like a bully. Because, bullies always pick on people who are nothing like them. e.g., The jock picks on the nerd. You are the exact opposite of your OCD.

But, again, OCD isn’t picking on you. It’s trying really hard to think of all the things you’re not normally aware of. Why? Because it’s trying to prevent something bad from happening. It thinks about topics you don’t normally think about. It’s like having a second pair of eyes with a mind of its own.

OCD leaves no stone unturned. It brings up random questions that at first seem so bizarre. OCD actually searches for unusual questions and situations. But, it’s particularly fond of asking questions about whatever is precious and sacred to you.

It’s constantly scanning and searching so that you are never caught off guard. Because if you are caught off guard you will be uncomfortable. And OCD doesn’t want you to be uncomfortable.

OCD is hyper. It’s overly protective. It hates to lose. It’s constantly on guard and tries to think of everything. But, here’s something fascinating about OCD. It can’t learn anything new.

Figure Out What Makes OCD Tick and You’ll Practically Stop the Ticking

OCD is Clueless

OCD asks a lot of questions because it’s trying to protect you. And, it’s trying to protect you because it’s void of any information. It doesn’t know anything. It knows nothing. And worse, it can’t be taught anything.

Even if its questions are answered it will keep asking the same question over and over. Because it can’t absorb or hold on to information. It’s incapable of learning anything new. It can’t retain anything

For example, for those of you who have unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm, I just told you up above that you are nothing like your OCD. You probably got some temporary relief from reading that.

But, you won’t be able to retain that piece of good news. You might return to this blog everyday to read the above paragraph, “OCD is the Opposite of You.” It doesn’t matter how many times you read that paragraph.

In just a matter of seconds you’re going to go back to worrying that you are your thoughts. You’re going to think that because you think it, you’ll do it. Even though you’ve been reassured many times that you are not your thoughts.

160_f_109258768_fx1jn3w0cu3h1bemw6xp075dpbkanb3tOCD can’t hold on to information. So you can be reassured all day long and the good news won’t stick. OCD is not like fly paper. OCD is clueless because it’s glue-less. Nothing sticks.

OCD is on guard because it’s clueless. It can’t retain information. It can’t use reason or logic. It won’t leave any stone unturned because it can’t learn anything new. But, it won’t stop trying because it’s competitive and doesn’t give up. It’s on a mission to supposedly save you.

There’s one more thing to know about OCD. 

8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD Will Soon Be Explained!

160_f_80220645_had2v7yekvlm48vise42a8guoy7f8hifOCD is Only One Part of You

OCD is part of your brain. Which part of your brain? It’s not really fully understood. Is it an imbalance of glutamate, dopamine or serotonin? Is the amygdala enlarged? Too much white matter in the brain? Some kind of miscommunication going on in the prefrontal cortex or the basal ganglia? Researchers can’t say with certainty.

We’re dealing with a faulty alarm system—that we can say with confidence. Something in the brain wrongfully sounds off alarms and the body needlessly goes into fight, flight or freeze. The fear seems so real.

The toothpick on the sidewalk might cause someone to trip. Pick it up. You pick it up and throw it in the lawn. Wait. A baby could crawl on the lawn and pick up the toothpick and die from choking on it. Pick it up. Put it in your pocket and when you get home, break it into tiny tiny pieces and bury it in 12 inches of dirt. 

That whole conversation is a true story of someone with OCD. This chatterbox in his head occurs because of some kind of abnormality or imbalance in the brain. But, listen carefully: Not everything is malfunctioning in the brain. 

I’ve been healing from an elbow injury. (Racquetball is tough on the body!) For awhile it was all I complained about—all I thought about. Finally somebody said to me, “You’re not just an elbow. Your elbow is only one part of you.” Thank you dear friend. I needed that! 

OCD is only part of a whole. There’s so much more to you. There are other beautiful parts of the brain that can function just fine. Your brain can be a lean mean fighting machine despite having OCD. 

brainworkoutLet’s Make Your Brain a Lean Mean Fighting Machine

Now that we understand what makes OCD tick, how can you outsmart it?

Download “8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD” Here!

My Critique of a Recent Interview on TV About Anxiety

Benita Zahn recently interviewed psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Ferraioli on News Channel 13 (WNYT.) The title of the interview, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety.” 

However, if I were to title the interview it would be “The Worried Well and the Worried Sick.” Terms they both used frequently and Benita and Dr. Ferraioli chuckled while identifying themselves as the Worried Well.

You’ll find a link to the interview below.

The Interview

160_f_107247391_v4mwqtf0fkb4reusuyicexjoc47kgoqcDr. Ferraioli reported that most problems never come to fruition. All the worry is useless. He indicated that you could get rid of 90% of worries by asking these two questions:

  1. Is this problem real at all?
  2. What’s the worst that could happen?

Benita understood that could be done for imaginary problems but wondered what could be done about real worry? Dr. Ferraioli offered three suggestions.

  1. Can I do something about it right now? If so, take the action immediately rather than waste time uselessly worrying.
  2. Can’t take the action right now? No problem. Schedule the action for another time. When can you take the action? In an hour, next week? Schedule the action in your calendar and then let it go until the scheduled time rolls around.
  3. Can’t do anything at all, ever about this real problem? Then let go. Just let it go.

160_f_105122628_d6w3uqm2ynfxl6secdpjdexcjxhym7jqBenita said that for some, letting go is the tough part. Dr. Ferraioli agreed and suggested a person who can’t let go might have serious psychological problems and should see a doctor. This sort of person he calls, “the worried sick.”

The Worried Sick spend more time worrying than not. Their worry affects their functioning and interferes with relationships. This person, Dr. Ferraioli suggested, needs to see a doctor.

Benita asked if learning to put worry aside—deal with it another time—if that was something that could be practiced. Dr. Ferraioli replied, “It’s a skill like any other skill…gotta practice.”

At the end of the interview the two joked around hahaha let’s “Not worry about anything for the next 10 minutes.”

A Critique of the Interview

Missed Opportunity

160_f_63078737_5v3mkgmxt8zbbgnxn700ffwgbdcm2jbxThis interview was held 9/26/16, just days before October 9th, which kicks off National OCD Awareness Week. Benita’s interview with Dr. Ferraioli produced a brilliant moment to segue into talking about OCD.

Instead a nonclinical degrading term was used: The Worried Sick. Sadly, the opportunity to raise awareness about OCD was missed yet again. Every year I see this opportunity missed in the news.

I met Benita Zahn when she introduced me to the 2014 YWCA Resourceful Women’s Luncheon. As she handed me an award she told the audience I was fighting for a population of people who suffer from an obsessive compulsive disorder.

So I know she is aware of the disorder and if only she had thought more deeply about the gift she has to influence and make a great impact for those, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety.”

I assume a psychiatrist is familiar with the symptoms of OCD. Although I’ve heard many stories over the years of people being misdiagnosed and treated instead with medication for Psychosis, ADHD or a Bipolar Disorder. I’ve had several clients say they weren’t diagnosed with OCD because the doctor said, “You don’t excessively wash your hands.”

Maybe I’ve unfairly held Dr. Ferraioli to a higher standard than I should. But, I think this would have been a great opportunity for him to educate the public about OCD. Especially nearing OCD Awareness Week.

The Worried Sick

160_f_59059956_rxqkb5vnyjcctqjh2ruex4y3jh9zqnsyBenita and Dr. Ferraioli referred to themselves as the Worried Well. The Worried Well apparently can let go. Those who can’t let go are apparently called, the Worried Sick. Maybe this is just semantics, but I don’t refer to any client or anyone feeling distressed as sick. I might suggest someone is misinterpreting stimuli or lacking resources, but not sick!

The fact that someone has trouble letting go of worry doesn’t mean they’re sick. People who are riddled with worry and anxiety can play competitive sports, work long days, take care of children, get a 4.0 GPA and help take care of a needy world. Despite all the worrying, they’re strong and competent.

The background noise in Benita and Dr. Ferraioli’s interview seems based on a medical model that sees people as having faulty chemistry that makes them “sick.” That’s disempowering and misleadingly suggests a pill is the answer.

No matter how much anxiety a person has, they can nurture what is best within themselves. Living with anxiety is not about weakness and damage. It’s about strength and living a value-driven life.

When you see the title, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety” you think, “oh there’s going to be some good tips about how to cope!” Yet, the focus of the interview was mainly speaking to the Worried Well and only offered one tip for those who chronically suffer from anxiety: go see a doctor.

Chronic anxiety is no laughing matter but the two of them were lighthearted and had a few laughs over their Worried Well selves. I suppose I sound a little mad. I’m not feeling angry, just disappointed. The interview is not correctly titled. 

In this interview Dr. Ferraioli gives a few tips.

The tips are good and sound familiar to me, and probably will to you too.

The Tips

Stay in the Moment

The tips Dr. Ferraioli talked about were good ideas. They sounded a little like the “3 Door” technique I talk to clients about. It’s a systematic way of properly compartmentalizing and prioritizing thoughts and worries.

The first door is Yesterday’s Door. Does your thought come from the past? Are you rewinding and replaying something that already happened? Nothing can be done about what has already happened. Put it through Yesterday’s Door and close the door. Walk away and move on to Today’s Door.

Your thought belongs in Today’s Door if there is an action that needs to be taken TODAY. You’ll work this worry through by taking action today. Make a to-do list and start checking off the steps to take,TODAY. If there is no action to take TODAY, then the worry goes in Tomorrow’s Door. This worry will be looked at again tomorrow.

And when tomorrow rolls around, you’ll ask, “Is there any action I’m going to take about this problem TODAY?” If not, it goes back into Tomorrow’s Door. When tomorrow rolls around, you’ll handle it the same way. “I don’t need to think about this TODAY unless there is some action I’m going to take today.”

160_f_63058634_3qpdnbyhlfaklmxrxveaeja5ndc4x3oqWorst Case Scenario

Dr. Ferraioli also mentioned taking a worry and walking it through to the worst case scenario. I agree wholeheartedly that when people actually do this, they discover they would actually be able to handle whatever happens.

Worst case scenarios are unpleasant but endurable. The most liberating statement I’ve ever heard a client say is this: I’d rather have my worst fear happen than live in constant fear of it happening. Just give me the bad news and let me deal with it.

Wasted Energy

Dr. Ferraioli said that worry is useless. Absolutely! All the worry in the world can’t prevent something from happening. You can try all all kinds of safety behaviors (compulsions) to keep something bad from happening but none of it truly controls outcomes.

We simply don’t have control over what does or doesn’t happen. Control is nothing more than an illusion. Life is not about what happens to us but how we handle what happens to us.

Easier Said Than Done

And Benita’s right, letting go is easier said than done. Letting go is hard to do! Especially when the worry seems so real and catastrophic. Even harder, when the person has OCD which is like being led around by a chaperone on steroids.

Calling people the Worried Sick is not exactly inspiring. It’s not a strength-based approach and is not likely to empower or motivate someone to do something as hard as letting go.

The word “sick” swallows up strength and courage. And it probably creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’m considered sick so I can’t act well.”

How to Let Go When It’s Hard to Do

This is the question that needed to be answered in a more hopeful, inspiring manner in the interview. Instead we heard that if you can’t let go you have serious psychological problems and need to see a doctor.

How is it possible to let go when your brain is telling you that your fear is so real and likely to happen? And the thought of this terrible thing happening feels overwhelming and impossible to endure. How is it possible to let go of such intense frequent worry?

This is the pain point of people with chronic anxiety. Whether it’s a phobia, generalized anxiety, OCD or panic attacks…how is it possible to let go?

No Matter What You Do It’s Going to Be Hard

Last week I posted in this blog on the topic of letting go. Using a shrug and saying, “Whatever happens, happens.” A few days later this comment was posted in response: “This [post] is very helpful. It is hard, however to shrug off the thought and not do the compulsion when your mind tells you to. But, that is the nature of ocd and the nature of bad habits.”

My response is that no matter what you do it’s going to be hard. Worrying is hard. Trying to control something you can’t is hard. Engaging in safety behaviors (compulsions, reassurance-seeking, avoidance) is hard. Doing something until it feels “just right” is hard.

160_f_113915283_usrc1mr5oepxvhdspuadulvpktbp8pbsLetting go is hard. It’s all very hard. But, if you don’t let go you’ll be dragged. And being dragged is the worst possible hard you can go through. You’re strong enough to let go. Yes, it’s hard but not as hard as being dragged.

Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You have to choose your poison. Face your fears and free your mind. That’s going to be hard. Avoid your fears and be held hostage by your mind. That’s hard too. You choose.

The sort of thoughts you have–that’s not a choice. How you react to those thoughts–that is a choice. Your brain is lying if it tells you that you have no choice. You can’t choose your thoughts. Nobody can. But we all choose how we respond to our thoughts.

You’re strong enough to do HARD. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.

Develop New Rules to Follow

OCD is a rule monger. It defies all common sense and tries to get you to follow ridiculous rules. In order to let go, you’ve got to create a new set of rules you follow no matter what OCD says.

If you’re worrying about what people think about you. Follow this rule: Until someone gives you negative feedback to your face, it’s none of your business what people are thinking.

Obsessing about possibly being terminally ill? Follow this rule: As long as I can stand up straight, I’m not bleeding profusely, can take deep breaths and there is no pain unrelieved by medication, I’m not going to stop what I’m doing and rush to the emergency room. My doctor will follow me at a frequency s/he determines to be medically necessary.

Do you have harm avoidance OCD? Do you question your intentions and doubt your goodness or beliefs? Follow this rule: Actions speak louder than words. I can think bad things. I can feel bad. My behavior, the actions I take define me. Not my thoughts or feelings. I focus on my actions.

Letting go is not easy. True. But you’ve got to say, “so what.” I can do hard. I’d rather take the risk, than live like this.

Dr. Ferraioli mentioned the importance of practicing skills. There is no way to cope with anxiety without practicing. What you practice you get good at. So make sure you’re practicing skills that pulverize anxiety. If you fall, get back up.

It’s not the fall that counts. It’s the getting up. You’re not sick You’re strong. You’re in the fight of your life. You have every right to be hopeful. Everything you need is inside of you.

There’s a good wolf and a bad wolf. Which one wins? The one you feed. Nurture what is best…within you.

We kick off OCD Awareness Week October 9th at 2:00pm at the Calvary Methodist Church in Latham, NY. Our topic is:

“Owning Our Story and Loving Ourselves Through It: Embracing Who We Are.” 

Here, you will not find the Worried Sick. You will find people coping with anxiety who are everything you would ever want to be:  Strong, Compassionate, Empathic, and Conquering.

I’m not sure how long the interview link will work but here it is: The Interview. I’d love your thoughts! 

Creating Wow Moments and A+ Days

A Guide to Embracing Whatever              ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

How can you get your mind to surrender and embrace “whatever?” If you could figure that out WOW you would be having A+ days! Embracing, “whatever happens, happens” is a life lesson everyone needs to learn, but for those with the doubting disease (OCD) embracing “whatever” is no easy task.

I Was a Little Tricky This Week, Sorry

160_f_88145130_h0gurcx1l12shmcqbea0u6k8d7vlginnI always send a notification to my email subscribers when I’ve posted on this blog. This week instead of one email, “Hey go HERE to read all about…” I sent two emails. Neither email had any content. I was testing out the titles, trying to determine which had more appeal. To be honest I was hoping one of the emails would be very enticing and the other, nobody would open at all.

The first email was titled: “How to Build Absolute Certainty.” The second email arrived about 3 minutes later and was titled, “How to Embrace Whatever.” “How to Embrace Whatever” got a little edge because it would show in the inbox first followed by “How to Build Absolute Certainty.” But, alas…the edge didn’t matter.

More people opened “How to Build Absolute Certainty” than “How to Embrace Whatever.” A few people emailed me back and said, “I’m eager for you to send the content for how to get certainty.” 10% of those who opened “How to Build Absolute Certainty” never opened “How to Embrace Whatever.” 

There could be a number of reasons for not opening “Embrace Whatever.” Maybe they didn’t think there’d be any content like the one they just opened. Or, maybe embracing whatever doesn’t sound nearly as compelling and wonderful as learning how to get certainty.

My hope was that most people would not fall for the trap and not even open “How to Build Absolute Certainty.” I thought, if they’ve been reading my blog, or they work with me, they’ll know that trying to get certainty is what takes them down the rabbit hole and so they won’t bother opening that email.

Less than 5% skipped the “How to Build Absolute Certainty” email and only opened “Embrace Whatever.” There could be a number of reasons for not opening “How to Build Certainty.” I like to think it’s because they knew there’s no such thing.

OCD Can Be Painful, But What Causes the Suffering? 

Peace of mind is thought to be obtained from getting certainty. Yet, the very opposite is true. Peace of mind comes from the acceptance of not knowing for certain.

The more certain you try to be, the more anxious you become. Our minds were never created to be certain of anything. Other than the certainty of death, the only certainty in life, is… uncertainty.

Certainty is not a fact. It’s a mental sensation. In other words, certainty is a feeling. I can think I’m going to win the lottery. I can feel very excited about it. Yes! Yes! Yes! It feels like it’s really going to happen. The feeling that I’m going to be rich soon—does that make it true? No! Thoughts AND feelings aren’t facts.

160_f_62249125_9le5kjsulyijurexgwfoj69njnnrgi6gRealizing a few things about certainty will create a lot of WOW moments in your day. Learn to live life with uncertainty and you’ll get those A+ days.

How to Create WOW! Moments

Build Confidence in the Absence of Certainty

The degree to which one feels uncertain depends on one’s level of confidence. The more confident you are, the less uncertainty you will experience. Uncertainty is always there but you won’t think about it so much if you have confidence.

Of course, confidence is also a mental sensation—a feeling. The point is that if you have OCD your thirst for certainty is really a hunger for confidence. And you need it! You don’t need certainty, but you sure could use more confidence!

Understanding How Confidence is Built

Although I can’t say my car will absolutely start when I turn the key, I’m very confident it will. I’m 95% certain it will start. That’s not the truth. It’s just a strong feeling I have.

My degree of confidence is based on three factors:

160_f_106329739_sxc5bckqjsg5i6kiiohsug3eyqspi2tq1. Consensus

Are most people confident their car will start? It doesn’t seem to be a frequent problem I hear about very often. If the majority of people I knew were complaining about their car not starting then I might be doubting my own car’s reliability. “If it’s happening to everyone else, it’s bound to happen to me.” My level of confidence goes up or down depending on the number of people experiencing it.

Wow! Moment: Odd. OCD works in the opposite way. It doesn’t care about consensus. “Even though it’s not happening to everyone else, it could happen to me.”

Create an A+ Day: In a room full of 100 people how many of them would worry about this? Not many? Then trust the consensus. Shrug and say, “whatever happens, happens” and the feeling of confidence will gradually come over you.

160_f_104124148_51i3lrcyjzgmkc7nltowjmnbyvmrbft72. Repetition

How many times has my car started for me? This car and the three before have always started 100% of the time. The fact that cars repeatedly start for me has built my confidence level to a high degree of certainty. Through all this repetition, I’ve experienced a lot of success.

Wow! Moment! Odd. OCD works in the opposite way. Rituals are very repetitive but they are not successful. When practicing rituals, you’re actually practicing failure over and over.

What is the purpose of a ritual? You’re probably going to say, “To prevent harm or to feel just right.” But, that’s just the story OCD has made up. That’s not at all why you perform rituals or mental acts. You perform rituals to get rid of anxiety. You seek reassurance to get rid of anxiety. You avoid triggers to get rid of anxiety.

How long does all of that rid you of anxiety? Not long. It could be minutes if not seconds before you have to perform another ritual or seek reassurance. That’s called a failure! If it was a success you’d never have to do another ritual your entire life! Rituals, avoidance and reassurance seeking don’t build confidence levels. They shred confidence.

Create an A+ Day: Resist compulsive behavior fueled by a need to know. If you don’t resist, you’ll only be practicing failure after failure. Failure breeds more doubt. More uncertainty. Shrug and say, “whatever happens, happens” and the feeling of confidence will gradually come over you.

160_f_84705977_gmq3jewwnhrsmr6oppqxivwprgwhplcm3. Ease

The easier something is, or the less time I have to think about it, the higher my confidence level will be. How much effort do I have to put into making my car start? Almost none. I turn the key and the car starts. When something is this easy, I feel pretty confident.

Wow! Moment: Odd. OCD works in the opposite way. OCD makes everything hard. OCD can take something as simple as starting a car and make it into a complicated procedure. Are the tires kind of flat? What if water got into the gas line? Should the brake fluid be checked? What if the engine dies before I get to the store? What if I hit that person when I back out? All of this chatter before the key is even turned!

OCD makes you overthink the easiest things. It dissects almost anything into a million “What Ifs.” Something that’s meant to be done with ease, is suddenly very complicated. There goes your confidence level.

Create an A+ Day: Don’t overthink. Don’t analyze. Don’t try to figure it out. Our minds are meant to question. But, we’re not meant to stop and answer every question. Learn to shrug away the need to know. Say, “whatever happens, happens” and the feeling of confidence will gradually come over you.

Certainty is Over-Rated

Wow! Moment: Certainty isn’t an attractive trait.

Who do you trust more? Someone who is certain about everything to the point of arrogance? Or, someone who is uncertain to the point of humility?

160_f_71023231_cnhjmpwifwzcmuo3n3ikbtekbktksjrvWhy thirst for something that is truly unattractive? A person who is certain believes s/he’s learned all there is to know. There is no room for curiosity in certainty. Confidence allows for curiosity and certainty shuts it down.

Who is a better listener? Someone who is certain or someone who is confident? We’ve all seen someone be certain of something that is obviously wrong or unlikely. You know that person who is seldom in doubt but frequently wrong? Nobody likes being around that person who is always so certain because they never listen to others.

Certainty breeds rigidity. Confidence allows for flexibility. There’s no spontaneity or adventure in certainty. You’ve got to live in a very small little world to remain certain. Who wants that! Everything you want is on the other side of certainty!

Create an A+ Day: Dispel the notion of certainty as being attractive. It’s repulsive and restrictive. Boycott certainty! Let your value, to live life to its fullest, drive your behavior. Say, “whatever happens, happens” and the feeling of confidence will gradually come over you.

160_f_99201599_r49nsiveikhj5stne5vr2qokqinsrrjjI hope you have more and more A+ Days by embracing “whatever happens, happens.” There is peace of mind in surrendering. And your confidence will build as you surrender. As your confidence builds you begin to realize you can handle whatever. You’re stronger than you think.

Would you like to receive additional resource materials? Click Here to download a free quick guide to “Embracing Whatever?” p.s. at the end of the guide find out how you can get access to some custom made recordings of how to shrug at OCD.

A Skill Everyone with OCD Needs: Sitting

What does it mean to “sit with unwanted, intrusive thoughts” and how does someone with OCD do it? Especially when the thoughts are frequent and intense.

If you’re like most people you’ve got weird, sometimes scary thoughts. If you’ve got OCD, how you experience those thoughts can get very complicated and time-consuming. 

An OCD therapist won’t analyze your thoughts. Instead you’ll be shown how to “sit” with your thoughts. “Sitting” with your thoughts doesn’t necessarily involve a chair. It means “experiencing” your thoughts in an accepting way.

No matter how ugly or bad, just allow the thoughts to be in your mind. Do nothing compulsive to get rid of the thoughts. Do nothing to get rid of the anxiety that comes with the thoughts.

What follows is a conversation I often have with clients about how to sit with thoughts. Warning: This conversation may increase your anxiety. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)160_F_88915066_1sYtf7AaBRW7oQrfnvqHd9DFguwdyQSq

Client: My mind is a constant chatterbox. I’m not getting a break from my thoughts.

Me: What are the thoughts about?

Client: I’m worried I might hurt people. I know I never would in a million years. But, it’s the kind of OCD I have. I’m worried something bad will happen.

Me: Are those thoughts wanted?

Client: No! They’re totally unwanted!

Me: Are they intrusive?

Client: Believe me these thoughts interfere with my life. I can’t even concentrate.

Me: So they’re pushy. 160_F_51672290_vN6Fz6qCSl8iTh08mMoAOhndpJwF4ymp

While you’re trying to do other things the thoughts hammer away at you. Like a sideshow playing in your head?

Client: Yeah. It’s a sideshow and it’s not fun. I’m frightened by these thoughts. Sometimes it’s not just a show playing off to the side. It’s the only show playing in my head!

Me: So sometimes you aren’t doing anything else but having the thoughts.

Client: Yeah there are days I’m in an OCD trance.

Me: What are you trying to accomplish when you’re in this trance?

Client: I’m trying to feel certain that nothing bad happened or is going to happen. 160_F_74848595_0ay6BB5CpNyM7DvZTAC3IEuWKpSm3LEt

Me: You’ve spent 100’s of hours trying to get certainty?

Client: Probably 1000’s of hours.

Me: How’s it going? Have you achieved certainty about this yet?

Client: Not yet. Why? Is there another way to get rid of the sideshow?

Me: You can get rid of the sideshow by playing the sideshow.

Client: I don’t get it. You want me to voluntarily play the sideshow? This sideshow isn’t fun!160_F_2992219_D7LMNPunABCDj7qrFGQZa6UdABT0sF

Me: Yeah, gladly let the sideshow play. In fact, invite the thoughts.

Client: You want me to welcome the thoughts that scare me?

Me: It’s not the thoughts that scare you. It’s your interpretation of the thoughts that scare you. It’s the way you experience the thoughts. Lots of people get the same weird thoughts as you, but don’t get scared by them. OCD makes you experience the thoughts as if they’re real. You can change the way you experience the thoughts.

Client: Well, my OCD makes me think about hurting people. Don’t you think that’s pretty scary?

Me: Your OCD doesn’t make you think about hurting people. That sort of thought crosses everybody’s mind at one time or another. The way you experience such a thought…your opinion of that thought…that’s OCD.

Client: Well, I don’t like these thoughts and I’m trying to get rid of them. That’s what I want.

Me: That’s what I mean by changing the way you experience the thoughts. In all your efforts to get rid of the thoughts…using compulsions and mental acts…the reassurance-seeking…has the sideshow ever stopped?

Client: It might take a while to get the compulsion to work but, yes…I can stop the sideshow and get relief by using a compulsion.

Me: For how long do you feel relief? How long before you’ve got to do another compulsion or mental act? How long before you need more reassurance?

Client: It could be minutes.

Me: Seconds?160_F_102006633_DhS9SMhx1UmDC5y3ahKUlAlxHh709e3D

Client: Yes, sometimes.

Me: How’s this technique of yours working out? Is your brain resetting and learning anything new about fear when you do a compulsion. Haven’t you become a reassurance-junkie?

Client: Okay, I get it. It’s not working well. I waste a lot of time and it hurts my relationships. I avoid anything that triggers my thoughts.

Me: So let’s turn up the volume on the sideshow!

Client: You want me turn up the volume? I thought you’d show me how to turn down the volume!

Me: I am!

Client: By turning up the volume, I’m turning down the volume?160_F_11335624_tjRrHVDwRVuxDQjCHBdg6c13z1BUD2lx

Me: Maybe! (No reassurance from this therapist!) Wanna try it?

Client: Oh wow. I don’t know. How do I just let the thoughts be there?

Me: It all comes down to one thing. It’s not about the content of your thoughts. What you’re thinking really doesn’t matter. It’s about your opinion of your thoughts. Right now you’re opinion of the thoughts are that they’re unwanted and intrusive. Yes?

Client: Absolutely.

Me: What if you experience these thoughts in a different way? Stop thinking of them as interfering and disruptive? Just keep doing whatever you need or want to do even though there are horrific thoughts playing in your mind.

Client: I do that most of the time. I go on about my business but the thoughts are still there! I don’t want these thoughts!

Me: What if you weren’t resisting these thoughts? Would you be in such pain and agony?

Client: How can I not resist such frightening thoughts? These thoughts feel real to me. I’ve got to resist them. I’ve got to prove I’m not a danger to anyone.

Me: What if you welcome and invite the thoughts?

Client: If I invite the thoughts I’ll become my thought. I’ll do bad things.

Me: Well, let’s test that out. If you think the thought, “Tammy I’m going to kill you.” Let’s see if that happens.

Client: No, I don’t want to kill you. I don’t want to think that.

Me: So you if you think it, it will happen? Okay, don’t think about killing me. Don’t do it. Stop thinking about killing me.

Client: Oh man…I can’t help it. You put it in my mind. I’m thinking it now.160_F_77155475_bfmBcVI52k9CtRFmpr1IFveKMKfUVZTw

Me: Great let’s see if you kill me. Here, let’s give you a knife.

Client: OMG.

Me: So you’re holding a knife and thinking about killing me. Have you become your thoughts?

Client: No. I haven’t killed you.

Me: Thanks I appreciate that. Does your thought about killing me end up being dangerous or unpleasant?

Client: Unpleasant.

Me: Is that something to be afraid of—an unpleasant feeling?

Client: No. I don’t need to be afraid of something unpleasant. I can handle discomfort.

Me: Instead of saying these thoughts are unwanted and intrusive say, “These thoughts are fine to have. They’re unpleasant but I can tolerate them. In fact, I invite them to stay in my mind.”

Client: That’s easier said than done.

Me: C’mon you can’t convince me trying to obtain certainty about anything is easy. No matter which way you go…it’s hard. You’re willing to work hard to get certainty. How about working just as hard to live with uncertainty?

Client: No, you’re right. I spend hours trying to get certainty with a compulsion. What do you mean by inviting these ugly thoughts?

Me: Hint…stop calling them ugly. Call them fascinating. It’s a PARADOXICAL approach. It contradicts logic. It’s absurd but that’s how you defy OCD. It’s using REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY on OCD.

Client: Will this get rid of the thoughts?

Me: OMG! Stop trying to get rid of the thoughts!!! The thoughts need to be experienced. Just change the way you experience them.

I used to hate math class. I would excessively hum so that I’d get kicked out of the classroom. That wasn’t working out too well when it was time to take a test. My brain hadn’t learned anything by being in the hallway. So I decided I better stop humming and start listening. I stopped resisting having to be there. I changed the way I experienced math class. I willingly attended the class. My brain got updated and my grades improved.

Awesome Life Changing Tip: Don’t resist your thoughts. Don’t try to think about them less. Think about them more. “I am open and willing to experience these thoughts and feelings.”

Warning: If you have “Hit and Run” OCD the following two paragraphs may increase your anxiety. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

A person with “Hit and Run” OCD will do everything they can to get certainty that they haven’t hit anybody. They try not to go anywhere that involves driving. If they do drive, they’ll spend hours circling back looking for bodies, watching the news, checking their car or just waiting until no one is around before they move their car. 

Here’s a script using a paradoxical approach: Even though there are pedestrians walking around I’m just going to drive away and not look back. I’m not going to go back and check to see if I hit someone. I’m not going to check the news. I might have hit 160_F_56537437_h6tWFtsEYVOzg8QxmU4h05fORKqEP6txsomeone. There’s probably body parts dangling form the grill of my bumper. But I’m not going to check. There might be a trail of blood leading from the scene of the accident right to my house. The police are going to follow the blood and put me in jail. My family will disown me. I’ll be shunned forever. I don’t know if I ran anybody over. But, I’m not going to go back and check. I want to live my life. I’ve got to move on.”

True, using “Reverse Psychology” or a “Paradoxical Approach” is counterintuitive. It doesn’t feel right. Your emotions will tell you this is wrong and to stop it. But, as wrong as it feels, it’s the next right thing to do. 

What You Will Discover

It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious. When you soften into the anxiety it softens too. The byproduct of learning to tolerate anxiety is less anxiety. It’s not the goal, it’s the bonus. Keep your focus on the tedious process, not the result.

Where You Might Get Stuck

It’s unpleasant to accept weird, scary thoughts. You won’t like it. But, how’s resisting thoughts working out? Either way you’ll be anxious. But, only one way will set you free.

You’ll get frustrated because even when you start to accept the thoughts, they’ll keep coming. It takes time for your brain to make the adjustment. But, because you have stepped out side of your comfort zone, you’ll want to quit letting the thoughts be there. You’ll have to fight a strong urge to give in to compulsions for the quick fix. Don’t quit the day before you were going to feel better!

It doesn’t feel right to think about the thoughts more. Your anxiety tells you to think about them less. It’s counterintuitive to bring on unpleasant thoughts. It’s not logical. But neither is OCD. You’ve got to fight irrational with irrational. Illogical with illogical. I know, I know, it’s backwards!

How to Make it Real and Take Action

  1. Click above on the words PARADOXICAL and REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY to follow the links. Try to gain a clear understanding of what it means to be paradoxical. (If anyone wants to leave an anonymous comment about an example please do!)
  2. Write a script that is applicable to your own fear. Similar to the one above regarding “Hit and Run” OCD. One of the most awesome books with pre-written scripts is: Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Johnathan Grayson.
  3. Practice saying,“Good there’s my thought. How fascinating. I can’t wait for the next one.” 
  4. Focus on the process of being paradoxical, not the result of being paradoxical.
  5. Keep on keepin’ on no matter how counterintuitive (wrong) it feels.
  6. Use your dry sense of humor when you’re being paradoxical.
  7. Be kind to yourself. Courage lives within your kindness.

You can change the way you experience your thoughts! You can’t control your thoughts but you can control how you react to them!