Category Archives: Motivation

Forget Compulsions, Try This Instead!

Resisting compulsive behavior is one of the hardest parts of your recovery.

Finding the willpower to say, “No!” to OCD

Finding the willpower to resist compulsions requires energy you don’t think you have. But, it’s no mystery where that energy can be found. 

You’ll find the willpower to resist compulsions eagerly awaiting you in two places: Your mindset and your body.

What Kind of Mindset Do You Have 

Here are a few questions to test your mindset. Do you want to:

  • be all better or getting better?
  • stay in the comfort zone or be challenged?
  • succeed or grow?
  • be all-knowing or always learning?
  • avoid anxiety or seek it out?
  • have certainty or live with uncertainty?
Resisting compulsions
A love for learning is better than a fear of failing

Success Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the blue then you have a Success Mindset.

  • Your agenda or plan for daily life is fixed and rigid.
  • You care deeply about failure, inadequacies, and outcomes.
  • The capability of taking an action can’t occur until an emotion is felt first. (e.g. “I can’t do anything until I feel ready and right about it.”)
  • What people think of you matters very much.
  • You tend to be self-loathing and easily frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.
  • Everything is seen in all or nothing terms. 
  • The path you’re on always needs to be definite, clear and unmistakable.
  • Effortless is preferred over effortfulA student with school anxiety who makes it to school five out of five days is pleased with meeting the goal of attendance. (Focuses on outcome) Had she attended four out of five days she’d have felt like a failure because everything is either all or nothing. (Values perfection.) 

Finding the Willpower to Resist Compulsive Behavior

Growth Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the green then you have a growth mindset.

  • You’re curious and flexible about daily life.
  • If something doesn’t go as planned you easily adjust.
  • Your focus is on finding hard challenges and opportunities for personal development.
  • The process of getting from A to B is more important to you than the outcome.
  • Celebrating your victories is not something you do enough.
  • Practicing gratitude and counting your blessings is something you do often.
  • You prefer daily tasks and life experiences to be effortful–full of variety and challenges. A person who deletes 24,000 emails out of 26,000 (egads something I need to do!!!) focuses on the effort it took to sit there and do that! She doesn’t become discouraged that the inbox is still full.

A student with school anxiety who makes it to school each day of the week is pleased with how incredibly hard she worked to get there each day. (Focuses on effort) Had she attended four out of five days she would be proud of her effort and look forward to working harder next week. A setback is a setup for a breakthrough. (Values experience.)

It’s harder to find the willpower to resist compulsive behavior if you have a success mindset.

Here’s how to get out of the success (or fixed) mindset and shift into a growth mindset:

  1. Focus on your incredibly hard work and effort. Remember, “If you had fun you won?” That’s an example of focusing on effort, not outcome.  To use a growth mindset to resist compulsions here’s another cheer: “If you had anxiety and abstained you won.” (i.e., abstained from compulsive behavior.)
  2. Drills develop skills.  Appreciate the value of experiencing anxiety. It gives you an opportunity to practice your skills. You get good at what you practice. If you’re avoiding anxiety, you won’t get good at experiencing it. Hunt down anxiety. Go find it and experience it.
  3. Be curious about your anxiety. “Hmmm, it’s so fascinating how my body can put butterflies in my stomach. I wonder how my body does that.” Focus on the experience of anxiety, not the story about why the butterflies are there. How not why.
  4. Ask, “what does anxiety make possible?” One young man told me that his anxiety makes him a better football player. “How’s that?” I asked. He explained, “I’ve got some big guys I have to block. They’re a lot bigger than me. My anxiety gives me the energy to do it.”
  5. Do your values need a realignment? What is it that you value? A sense of security or experiencing something new? What do you care deeply about? Being with loved ones or avoiding anxiety? Values drive behavior. Make sure your priorities represent your values.
  6. Don’t get caught up in OCD’s story about something bad happening. To focus on the story is nothing but a trick! This is about your anxiety. Stay focused on the true issue. You don’t need compulsions. You need experience.

Resisting Compulsive Behavior and Mental Acts

The Physicality of Anxiety

You can use your body to resist compulsions.

Super Pose
You aren’t the boss of me!

Stand up like a superhero. Look OCD in the eyes with your hands on your hips. Chin up. Shoulders back. 

Don’t contain all the energy from anxiety inside one area of the body. If you clutch your chest, cover your head with your hands or make fists where can the anxiety go? 

Experience the Anxiety

Notice where you experience anxiety and stay with the sensation. Don’t go into the sensation. Notice it like a bystander. Think of it like a neighbor who is visiting. “Oh, passing through again?”

Oh no…did you just ask, “But, what if I don’t want the neighbor to visit?” This question reflects your mindset. It’s not a growth mindset. You’re not valuing learning and developing. You need the “neighbor” to visit so that you can gain experience. Keep working on your mindset until you can welcome the “neighbor.”

Stay with the experience of anxiety and away from the story about something bad happening.

The Physicality of Anxiety: Discover where the sensation of anxiety is located in your body. 
  • Ask your body, “What part of you wants my attention right now?
  • Say hello to the bodily sensation of anxiety. “Ah ha, there you are.”
  • Where in your body do you feel the anxiety? Perhaps it’s unclear. Maybe it’s puzzling, numb or fuzzy. Stay focused on finding the sensation. Keep hunting down the anxiety in your body. 
  • Your OCD story is irrelevant. We’re not doing exposure exercises right now. This exercise is not about your story. It’s about anxiety. 

    Resist Compulsive Behavior by Finding the Anxiety In Your Body

  • Describe the sensation of anxiety in great detail as if trying to get someone else to understand what it feels like.
  • Just notice it. “I feel it here.” Describe it in great detail. Are any of these descriptive words a good fit: 

-Is there any tightness or pressure? Where do you feel it?

-Does your skin have any pain, tingling, prickling, twitching, itching? Where on your body is this occurring? 

-What is the temperature of the sensation?

-Is there any motion and if so what is the speed at which it is traveling? 

-Can you taste or smell anything?

-Does this sensation have any particular size, shape, weight, texture, or color? 

-Can you hear any sounds in your ears like buzzing or ringing? 

  • Once you’ve described the sensation, get curious about how your body creates these sensations. Don’t ask why. Ask how. Curiosity is the opposite of anxiety. 
  • When your mind tries to wander to an OCD story, keep bringing your focus back to the physicality of your anxiety. Focus. Notice. Focus. Notice. Experience it fully by describing it and getting fascinated.
Let this sink in: Just because you’re anxious when you resist a compulsion doesn’t mean something is wrong.

Experiencing anxiety is (unfortunately) not what you’ll usually be told to do. But truly, the only way out is in. You can’t master anxiety by avoiding it! 

Resist Compulsions
Get into position!
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsive Behavior:

You can’t be limp when it’s time to resist a compulsion. Rise up like you mean it! Be firm. Stay with the anxiety not the story. Experience the physicality of anxiety.

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


“If resisting compulsions is the right thing to do then why does it feel so horrible to resist them?”

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

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

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

48 Questions Most Frequently Asked By People with OCD

If you have OCD then at some point in your life, you’ve probably asked over half of these questions.

These Questions About OCD Are Very Reasonable to Ask

These questions will be answered in some form…in some manner…at some point… 

Questions About Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

Why am I having these specific thoughts? Who cares? You’ll never figure it out.

Why am I obsessed about this and not something else? Your brain is on overdrive trying to protect something that is precious and sacred to you.

What do these thoughts say about me? They say that you’re thinking like the rest of us.

Shouldn’t I be able to control these thoughts and stop them? I’m sorry I didn’t know you had a power that no one else has.

Am I going to act on these thoughts? Time will tell. Meanwhile live your life.

Why do they seem so very, very real to me? Hmmm…Maybe thoughts are connected to the central NERVOUS system.

 Questions About “Why Me?”

What if I’m having these thoughts because they’re premonitions or it’s my intuition? Time to play the lottery then.

How do I know this is OCD? What if it’s not? Time will tell.

Did something happen in my past that gave me OCD? Whatever the case, when you’re ready to confront OCD you’ll have to suspend analysis.

It’s bad enough everything else I’m dealing with, and now this? It’s better to figure out what all of this makes possible. A positive mindset is like kryptonite to OCD. It deprives OCD of its powers. A negative mindset and a positive mindset can’t coexist. Only one can be the master.

What kind of God gives people OCD? It’s nothing more than an assumption that God is the cause of suffering. You can find no evidence of this. 

“I lift mine eyes to the hills; from where does my help come?” (Psalms 121:1-2) The psalmist isn’t saying his pain comes from God. He’s saying my help comes from God. 

For a life-changing read, get the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.

Shouldn’t everyone be worried about this? Follow the majority. In a room full of 100 people, how many would be worried. Not many? Then this is unreasonable worry.

Questions About Telling People

Should I tell people I have OCD? If you disclose do it gladly and don’t complain if people don’t give you the response you hoped for.

When do I let the person I’m dating know that I have OCD? What is the purpose of telling them? I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m asking what do you hope to achieve by telling them? I ask this question of my clients and my favorite answer is, “I think it’s time to tell them so that they understand I don’t need their protection. I want them to help me to confront, not avoid.”

My spouse doesn’t know what I obsess about. Should s/he? The content of your obsession is irrelevant. It’s more important that your significant other understand the nature of OCD and how he or she can help without feeding OCD.

Should I tell my job I have OCD? There’s no blanket answer for this. If you need reasonable accommodations then you’ll tell them. 

Questions About Medication

Has anyone ever tried [this] medication? Yup. Did it help? Nope. Yup. Not sure.

When can I stop taking this drug? If you stop the drug then you’ve got to make sure there is PLENTY of exercise, adequate sleep, juggling, meditation, comedy, affection, thrills and adventure, healthy eating, self-compassion and tree hugging in your life.

Is there a drug that works better than others? Every BODY is different.

How long does it take for this drug to work? It varies.

Can I get healthy without medication? You’ve got to make sure there is PLENTY of reasonable exercise, adequate sleep, juggling, meditation, comedy, affection, thrills, adventure, healthy eating, self-compassion and tree hugging in your life. If you can’t put that combo together, take the medication.

Questions About How to Respond to Thoughts

What does it mean to “sit” with the thoughts? They’re unwanted. I don’t want them! How am I supposed to just let them be there? I just spoke with someone on the telephone who’s never had therapy for her OCD. She asked me the same question.  She said the chatter is 24/7. She repeatedly said, “I don’t want these thoughts.” The more you don’t want them the more they’ll keep coming.

As long as I’m busy I can try to avoid the thoughts. Stay busy, that’s good, right? Nope. Welcome the thoughts. Provoke the thoughts but don’t try to avoid them. It’s not about staying busy. It’s about living your life. Doing what you WANT to to and NEED to do.

Can’t I replace a bad thought with a good thought? Yikes.

I’d never act on these thoughts, right? It’s just OCD. Right? Time will tell.

Have you ever heard of anyone else who has these thoughts? If you have OCD and I’m an OCD specialist…what are the chances?

Questions About OCD Morphing

Why did I have two completely OCD-free days and then boom, it’s ba-a-a-ack??? A setback is a setup for a breakthrough.

Can the obsession change? How often can it change? Nothing has meaning except the meaning you give it.

Even if I get unstuck about [this] won’t I just get stuck on the next thing? Nothing has meaning except the meaning you give it.

I shrugged this one off years ago. But, now it’s back and I can’t seem to get past it like I did once before. Why? Nothing has meaning except the meaning you give it.

Questions about Anger

Why am I so angry? You’re feeling like a victim? You’re not being assertive? You’re doing something, but not gladly?

I don’t seem to have any patience. Why? This isn’t who I used to be. You’re trying to answer something that isn’t answerable?

Why do I always feel like a volcano about to explode? You’re not being assertive? You’re not stepping out of your comfort zone?

I used to be passionate. Now I’m just angry. Why? Anger is a form of passion!

Questions About Concentrating

Is my brain fried or something? I can’t focus! Start juggling.

Why do I have to reread everything? I feel like I can’t comprehend anything I read! Start juggling.

Why can’t I be present? I feel like I can’t listen to anybody. I feel disconnected. Practice being in the here and now. Use all of your senses and stay in this moment. Right here, right now, you’re pretty ok. You can’t feel certain emotions until you’re out of this storm.

I can’t get anything done. My mind is racing. Should I take time off? To do what? Race more?

Questions About Journaling

Would it help if I journal about things that make me anxious every day? It’s good to make a list of your triggers so you can eventually confront them.

Should I write down all my thoughts. Keep track of them? It’s good to make a list of your thoughts so that you can rank them in terms of easiest to hardest and then begin to confront them starting with the easiest.

Should I journal about my feelings? Maybe it would help to get my feelings out. Feelings are the problem not the solution. Focus on action. Life rewards action.

Questions about ERP


What if I’m in the small percentage of people who can’t be helped by ERP? Time will tell.

What if I haven’t told you everything you need to know? Oh well.

Can you guarantee it will work? Can you guarantee I don’t have cancer?

Won’t ERP make my OCD worse? Since when does stepping out of your comfort zone the first time feel better!

This whole idea about doing exposures feels too overwhelming. Don’t you think we should wait until I feel ready for this? You might wait a very long time and meanwhile life passes you by.

What other kinds of therapy can treat OCD besides ERP? CBT is more than ERP.

I tried this once before and my anxiety didn’t come down. What if my anxiety doesn’t come down? You can do anything feeling anxious. You can’t do much avoiding.

Ready for the answers to all of these questions?


Of course I have an answer for every question!

But, I think YOUR answers would be VERY interesting.

In fact, I’m so confident about how interesting your answers will be, that I’m going to gift my recent book, “The OCD Coloring Book Journal” to the five people who answer these questions, in a manner that reflects the most effective way to Boss OCD Back.

You don’t have to answer every question!

This contest will end 2/4/17. 
Enter your anonymous answers in the comment section of this post. I can’t wait!!!

The Secret Sauce to Defying OCD

160_f_88598986_7n3re0kng1ddhl9awxrpqetdbxqmpiom“OCD is telling me I can’t.             It’s telling me I’m gonna feel like this forever. It’s telling me to      give up trying.”

She isn’t giving up.                                                             She’s posting her journey on Facebook:

Day 1:  I’m not going to let OCD rob me.
Day 2:  I’m getting up and fighting. Gonna work out.
Day 3:  It’s up to me to live my life. Even if that little monster says I can’t or don’t deserve it…I’m getting up, showering, and going to town.
Day 4:  I woke up feeling down. Letting whatever thoughts I have come and however I feel is just a feeling. Going on a date with my hubby…

How is she doing this? She’s depressed. Just 4 days ago she was hopeless. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. And then she’d had enough. She made a decision. 

She’s only posted her first four days and…  

She’s giving away the secret sauce to defying OCD.

5 Ways You CAN Beat OCD

748fdeb36b5be4bd2107f9beddf1bdf7#1 Think You Can

Even if you think, “Well, maybe I can.” That works too! You don’t even have to say it out loud. Even if you think you can’t, act like you can.

            ” I Think I Can.”


160_f_68804740_askoxuf41fa0chht4srllzitpreuqadr#2 Do It Now

Life rewards action. The longer you hesitate or procrastinate, the less likely you’ll take the action needed to defy OCD.


 img_1496#3 What Are You Fighting For?

Sometimes your own freedom isn’t enough. The cold ugly truth is that OCD doesn’t easily let you love yourself. Who or what else can you fight for?

160_f_114356982_yvm1q4cshrhronjwai8ucszphvr4xgcv#4 There’s Nothing oCd Gives. It Only Takes.

Avoiding or performing a compulsion (or mental act) might give you temporary relief, but it’s sole purpose is to make a junkie out of you. 

160_f_114590332_yltylhvotpnnee3logxjxv6rheeoghlf#5 Fake It ’til You Become It

Your thoughts don’t matter. What you do and what you say…that’s what matters. No matter how you feel, do the next right thing.

More to come. I’ll keep you posted of her journey.

In the meantime, Which one of these “5 Ways to Defy OCD” have you tried? How’d it go?

Can you suggest other ways? I’m sure she’d love your input. Please leave your anonymous comment for her and all those reading.

How to Break Free When OCD Has Such a Strong Hold

You’re going along just fine and then all of a sudden, OCD is coming on strong. The anxiety is high and you don’t know what to do.

It can come out of nowhere. A thought that won’t go away. A feeling of impending doom. With every passing moment it seems to get worse. You wake up in the morning with dread—knowing it’s going to happen all over again.

pablo-41OCD is relentless. It’s like an itch that just has to be scratched. You can’t think of anything else until you scratch it. You know if you do scratch it—the itch will become a rash. And the rash will become inflamed like wild fire. The consequence of itching—of feeding OCD—is like poison ivy in the way that it’s relieving to itch it, but then it spreads.

The desire for relief is so strong. Just itch it. That urge is more powerful than the known consequence of itching. The need for temporary relief outweighs any other thought. Logic has no place in this moment. The need for relief is all that matters.

How do you endure the itch without scratching? How do you break free from OCD’s trance when it’s got such a hold on you?

Breaking Free of OCD

Try Being More Proactive

Waiting to be attacked by OCD and then trying to properly respond to it is very hard. It’s better to make something happen before it happens.

Conduct Exposure Exercises Daily

The best way to make something happen before it happens is to engage in exposure exercises. Every single day show OCD who’s the boss. No matter how good you feel or how bad you feel, plan exposure exercises every single day for the rest of your life. Do it gladly.

Here is helpful information on ERP:

The Purpose of ERP

ERP: The #1 Mistake People Make

ERP: 5 (More) Mistakes Commonly Made

10 Ideas for Adding Variety to Exposure Exercises

160_f_120691301_2bl2t1u5cvzixbl9iqwukwyogjyxvqaoDon’t EVER Be Surprised

Never let OCD catch you off guard. Since there is no cure for OCD, you can expect it to pop up out of nowhere. You can be practically free of OCD for weeks and then boom! There it is. You can get through one obsession and then bam! There’s a new one.

Instead of saying, “Oh no. What are you doing here?” Say, “Hi. Where’ve you been? Welcome back!”

I know you’re not actually happy to see OCD! But if you downloaded the guide, “How to Outsmart OCD” then you know how important it is to lie to OCD and to not think like a victim. If you missed this guide on “How to Outsmart OCD” go HERE and scroll to the very bottom of the post to get your free guide.

160_f_79915157_qbpuhrvijisvxivk1xynhgt1yqyfafsq Limit Your Vocabulary to Positives

There are certain phrases and words you must avoid saying. Never say them out loud. Wipe these from your vocabulary:

  • Why is this happening?
  • This is unfair.
  • Why me? 
  • I can’t do it.
  • I’m not ready.
  • Don’t do this to me OCD.
Change Your Mindset160_f_95020663_et0nuzgzbeoclwvrrpuwlpjxlkm8o3ws

Gratitude is the the great sanitizer. When OCD is coming at you hard and fast try to be thankful for the opportunity to practice your skills.

I know it’s hard to be grateful when you are in pain. But, lean into the pain. This is how people with physical pain carry on. It’s the same for emotional pain.

To learn how one OCD Thriver gets through the worst times with gratitude, go HERE.

Put Your Tools In One Place

OCD is a big force to deal with. Your anxiety is high and your brain feels like mashed potatoes. It hard to think clearly in this state of mind. 

If you’re crafty you can make a box and put all of your tools in it. Or, the word TOOLBOX can just be a metaphor and you can have all your tools noted in your phone. Which has an extra benefit because it’s portable and can go wherever you go. 

If you’re in a fog, you know exactly what to do. LOOK IN YOUR TOOLBOX. Check out this post about TOOLBOXES.

Finally, here is one more post to help you remember what to do when you’re not sure what to do in order to beat OCD: 


The Ultimate Guide to Stop Worrying About What People Think of You

One of the easiest ways for OCD to achieve extreme control over your mind is to get you to fertilize a thought that other people don’t like you or are saying bad things about you.


You notice two people talking across the room. Their facial expressions seem disgusted and even though you can’t hear them, you’re sure they’re talking about you.

160_f_67199198_7xsfyvc9pydwhzjvblqicig55ctef48cNow they’re pointing at you. You go to another room and everybody suddenly stops talking when you walk into the room. When you turn your back to walk out of the room you feel someone is making a vulgar gesture.

It seems like people have something against you. You’ve got to find out if it’s true. So you turn on your charm and approach a few people. You try to make them laugh or even smile. They do! Whew! They must like me, they smiled. You say hello to someone passing by. They don’t say hello back. Oh no! They must not like me.

People have never said to your face, “I don’t like you” or “You’re a bad person.” Yet, it seems like Captain Obvious to you that that’s how people feel. This worry grows into paranoia like crabgrass. It spreads fast and it ferociously takes over your mind. The feeling of being unwanted and lonely is heavy and hopelessly thickening.

What Do People Think of You? How to Stop Worrying About It

Maybe some of it is actually true. Certain people really don’t like you. They’ve even told you right to your face that you’ve done something unlikeable. Chances are what they don’t like about you is exactly what they see in themselves. But, they only see it in you. They’re forever unfriendly and cold towards you. You try to talk and they ignore you like you don’t even exist.

160_f_101162955_s5u0iyuabkv4b5aavf7kprc6sazgzfjhWorse, they walk away from you the second you walk towards them. You know it’s not your deodorant. It’s not a laughing matter. They really don’t like you. You know this is a fact because they’ve told you how they feel about you. And you can’t stop thinking about it. The path to happiness seems hopeless—forever out of reach if everybody doesn’t like you.

Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Stop Worrying About What People Think of You

Stop Thinking You Can’t Hack It

If you have OCD then chances are it’s hard for you to accept that people might dislike you or disapprove of you. You’re holding on to a limiting belief that confines you—you think you’re too weak to handle not being liked. You think you can’t bear it if someone disapproves of you.

You think of yourself as too fragile to handle the consequences of doing something unlikeable. If someone tells you they don’t like you because of something you did or said, you beat yourself up to a pulp. You’re worried you’ll never get over this.

160_f_44483777_38fkyn9ns8kjoqd739nj2s0n74uonhsgIf you’re upset that someone doesn’t like you or disapproves of you, it activates your body’s stress response. 

The body’s stress response shuts off your brain’s full capacity. It’s hard to be reflective and learn anything new when you’re in stress response. When you’re brain is shut down, you can’t learn so you default to old patterns of thinking and behaving. These patterns can be rooted as far back as your toddler years.

Now you’e stuck in a loop. Wasting energy. Avoiding. Checking. Trying to read minds. Refusing to deal with uncertainty. Outbursts of crying or yelling. Thinking this will never get better. 

If this sounds like you then you might be wondering:

  • How can I can stop thinking it’s a catastrophe if somebody doesn’t like what I’ve done?
  • If somebody thinks badly of me how do I shrug at that?
  • Why can’t I just stop worrying whether or not people like me?
  • How can I stop being so paranoid?
  • Why can’t I just make mistakes and move on?

If This Is You, Then This Is the Right Guide for You!

Don’t Feed the Weed

You do understand that YOU are fertilizing this fear of being unlikeable, right? This fear is nothing more than a weed. If you don’t feed it, it won’t grow. If you feed it, you’ll be miserable.160_f_58461022_rkrs1nlhv8m9md6fzljbpb9kz0eakrk1

You are your worst enemy. Not the people who talk about you or seem to disapprove of you. Your first step is to not blame other people if you are feeling miserably obsessed about this. It’s not because of what other people are doing or saying. It’s what you’re doing that’s making you miserable.

You’re Not a Mind Reader

160_f_9275500_v3mrj7msgb2ip4vhyr1upd4sscnfoqrjOne of the ways you feed your misery is by trying to read people’s minds. Nobody has told you they don’t like you or you’ve done anything wrong. You’re feeling insecure and trying to find out what they think by analyzing their facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice.

Haven’t you ever smiled at someone even when you weren’t happy? So just because someone smiles at you, that doesn’t mean they like you. That’s a false assumption. If you could actually read minds, you’d be rich and famous. All crime would come to an end. Because you’d always be one step ahead of the criminal. 

Until someone actually tells you they don’t like you or disapprove of something you did, it’s none of your business!

All or Nothing Thinking

And if you agree that you’ve done something unlikeable take responsibility and learn from it. Would you tell a loved one that because they’ve done something unlikeable that makes them unlikeable? Of course not! You’d tell them a certain behavior is unpleasing but there’s still so much else to like.

pablo-148It’s impossible to be liked by everybody. No matter how wonderful you are, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like you. And it has nothing to do with you at all! What they think of you is based on something going on in their mind. It might look like it has something to do with you but it really doesn’t.


It’s also possible you’re the kindest most likable person alive and you’re just being paranoid. That’s what the doubting disease can do for you. Make you paranoid. Nobody is persecuting you except you.

But, you are bound and determined to find out just what people think. You seek reassurance. You try to read their minds. You keep checking, “is everything alright?” You lean to the left. You lean to the right. Trying to see like X-Ray vision their every thought.

Seeking reassurance is only feeding the weed. Accept the fact that you can never know what anyone thinks about you. Even if they tell you they like you, that might not actually be the truth. Haven’t you ever told a little white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings? 

160_f_58461022_rkrs1nlhv8m9md6fzljbpb9kz0eakrk1There’s no truth to be found in reassurance. The Mommy who tells her 5 year old son he’s not going to fall on the stage is lying. She has no idea if he’s going to fall. It’d be better to say “possibly and if you do, you’ll just have to get up.” Keep seeking reassurance and you are making the weed grow out of control.

How do you resist seeking reassurance?

It’s counterintuitive but say something like, “It’s very possible that these people disapprove of me, that I’ve done something unlikeable. I may never know but until they tell me to my face there’s nothing I’m going to do about it. I know that I’m imperfect and have a lot of growing to do. Whatever consequences occur because of my mistakes and poor decisions I will gladly pay. I’m not afraid of being accountable.”

Your Support System

Your family, BFF, and therapist will tell you if there’s something to improve upon. They’ll also tell you about your successes. They’ll celebrate your victories and offer you encouraging affirmations. But, they will equally hold you accountable. These are the people who know you!

These are the people you listen to and use their feedback to find your higher person. Your higher person will calmly observe hardship and adversity and lean into it. In your higher person you will ask, “What does this make possible? How can I grow from this?”

These relationships will help you to work on finding your higher person just as you will help them work on finding theirs. But, even people who don’t know you can help you work on it too.

These people who barely know you are speaking out of turn. They don’t even know your backstory. But, you can still seriously consider their grievances. “This person called me selfish. No one else has ever called me that. But, I can open-mindedly hear their concern and will gladly monitor for signs of selfishness and adjust my behavior accordingly.”

Accept Responsibility

  • Manage difficult feelings without catastrophizing. No matter what people are thinking or even saying, it’s not the end of the world. Show OCD to the door! Put it in the corner! Just because somebody doesn’t like you doesn’t mean you’re not AWESOME!
  • Don’t complain, problem-solve. Be the solution not the problem. The solution lies within you, not with other people.
  • Communicate in an assertive, respectful manner.
  • Don’t let toxic people get close enough to take your power.
  • Take ownership. Don’t blame anyone else for your energy or your mood. You don’t choose what happens but you do choose how you react to it.
  • Ask, “what does this make possible?” Take a learning approach to life. Find the silver lining. There is one to be found and it starts with acceptance.
  • Be curious and identify skills that need sharpening or limiting beliefs that need to be disposed of. A limiting belief is anything that you say to yourself or about yourself that is demeaning, shameful, or undignified, or deflates every ounce of your confidence. If you wouldn’t say it to your BFF, don’t say it to yourself.
  • Be changeable and flexible. Life isn’t going to go smooth. Be ready to ride the wave.
  • Don’t get into an obsessional tug of war of finding the answer or knowing for certain. Let go or be dragged. It’s all unanswerable anyway!
  • Tolerate discomfort. It’s unpleasant but not dangerous.
  • Resist all or nothing thinking. If you’re using words like, EVERY TIME. NEVER. ALWAYS. You can be bad at something and good at something! Imagine that!
  • Don’t think like a victim, “This isn’t fair.” This mentality will feed the weed like Miracle Grow. Which by the way is miraculously poisonous! 
  • Don’t be a reassurance-junkie. Sure, you might get temporary relief that you are liked but how long before the doubt returns? Seconds? Minutes?
  • Remind yourself that you can hack it. If people talk about you so what! They don’t even know your backstory. This has to do with them and what’s in their mind. If you need instructional help with this concept go HERE and explore this website. Take the course! Read the book! This is an important concept!
  • Be thankful for the people close and afar who are trying to help you to find your higher person. (Even the Dahlia Lama says he’s not enlightened so if he keeps at it, so can we.)

You Can Avoid Becoming Obsessed and Compulsive About What People Think Of You

Here’s a really important tip. Are you ready? EARLY INTERVENTION. You can avoid all of this by QUICKLY recognizing when you start to:

  • Focus more on other people’s wrongdoings than your own. Take responsibility! (Before you point out the sawdust in someone else’s eye, look at the beam in your own. Mathew 7:3 Bible verse.)
  • Start seeking reassurance that people like you. You’re really starting to feed the weed now. Don’t do it again!
  • Worry that if someone thinks you’re bad, a catastrophic ending will occur. The world is not going to end just because someone doesn’t like you. YOU CAN HANDLE THIS!
  • If you are being mistreated, immediately assert yourself. If you don’t you will stuff all your feelings until you implode or explode. Go HERE for a description of how to be a peaceful warrior, not a doormat.

For those of you worrying about what people think…I hope this guide has been helpful. You’ve got a life to live. You’re on this earth for a reason. You, like the rest of us, might not figure out what it is, but if you’re still alive…there’s a reason.

And the reason can’t possibly be to curl up in the fetal position or to not advocate for something you believe in because you’re afraid of what people will think.

I told my Siena college students that if they don’t get fired at least once, they’re not doing something right. You must stand up for what you believe in. No matter what people think of you. No matter if you lose your job. Be willing to fight for what you believe in.

pablo-119You must not let people rob you of your life, your job, your time with family and friends, all because you’re so consumed with whether someone out there, outside of your circle of love, thinks you’ve done something bad. There’s nothing more important than the hand you are holding. Nothing. Hold this hand now and you’ll know what I mean.

You’re here on this earth…alive for a purpose that no one else can fulfill. You’re the only one that can fulfill this mission. Don’t waste anymore time, even if you don’t know what the mission is.

Is there someone you know who worries too much about what people think? Share this post. Are you someone who worries too much about what people think? I hope you comment. Let me know what helped you decide to hold a hand instead of a worry.

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! 

An Open Letter From Parents with OCD

One night I went to the hospital to be with a client and her family as they welcomed their tiny tiny baby boy into the world. I visited him over the next few weeks in the NICU and almost fainted when the nurse pulled out a tube or snipped the umbilaca cord or something. I don’t even remember, what it was. I just know I was seeing stars. The parents, both with a long history of anxiety, were a lot steadier at the helm than me, that’s for sure.

img_1496Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many Moms and Dads with OCD. The added bonus of that is I’ve held many newborns in my arms, and watched them grow before my eyes.

Beautiful, happy babies being taught life lessons by parents with OCD. If there is ever any doubt about the human capacity for strength and courage, all you need to do is be part of the journey of a parent who has OCD. Yes, you’ll find astonishing bravery. But, what stands out in my mind is a love so pure it can pulverize OCD.

I asked a few parents who have OCD how they stay so focused and strong. They provided a lot of good insight into what makes them tick. You’ll find they all have something in common:

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eKeep On Keepin’ On and Be Positive

I’m a wife and stay at home mom of two children. I was diagnosed with severe Postpartum OCD after the birth of my first child. I’ve learned over time to:

-Look for the bits of strength you have to reach a few goals each day starting with self care, for example taking a shower, eating small meals, staying hydrated.

– Be kind to yourself and expect to make mistakes along the way. Focus on the bits of light in the darkness without trying to evaluate the bad days.

– This experience is temporary, celebrate the victories you have each day no matter how “small” because each step brings you closer to relief.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eFirst Time Mom: You’re Not Going to Rob Me of All My First Times OCD!

Hi! I am a wife, toddler mama, and homemaker. I like to have fun! Cooking interesting healthful food, reading fiction, and hanging out in nature, are my favorite ways to decompress. In past lives I have been a Starbucks barista and owned my own massage business.

OCD has been a struggle for me since preadolescence. Coming to terms with my OCD has been a slow process, and I am grateful to be in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy now as it is helping me to overcome OCD in far greater ways than I could without it. Despite experiencing setbacks sometimes, I can see improvement in my life.

I have tried other kinds of therapy and a lot of self-help books but nothing compares to CBT for OCD treatment, in my experience. Here are a few CBT tips that have been especially helpful to me as a mom who deals with OCD.

Tip #1: Have a Mantra such as: “Embrace Whatever”

“Embrace whatever” became my mantra, when in December of this past year I was faced with the prospect of a family road trip to go to a friends’ wedding. I was feeling severely frightened to go on this trip and was obsessing about it. Our son was around 11 months old at the time. I just couldn’t conceive of taking this long road trip with the baby, my in-laws and my husband all in the same vehicle. “What if this happens? What if that happens? What if someone says something that makes me feel bad?” If you have OCD, you know the drill.

Offhandedly, during a session, Tammy mentioned the phrase “embrace whatever” to me, and it just clicked. For me, “embrace whatever” means that come what may, good or bad, I am choosing to go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens.

It means that I will survive and it will all be fine! Even if the baby doesn’t get his nap, even if I have no idea what the trip will go down like, it will all be OK. Even if …. WHATEVER! And it was all ok, and even more than that it was a successful trip where our son bonded with his grandparents and we had some good conversation because we were all cozy driving to Lancaster, PA together.

If I had obeyed my fear we would have taken separate vehicles, so that my husband and I would have control of rest-stops etc. Instead, I chose to “embrace whatever”, by and large, throughout the trip. I said “Embrace whatever!” to myself, and probably out loud sometimes too, whenever I got clenched up inside, obsessing over details of how things may or may not work out. I have used this mantra many times since then.

Tip#2: Ask for What You Need

This concept of asking for what you need has been hard for me to remember. I think I should be able to do it all without help, but I absolutely can’t. I need help! It has been said that it “takes a village to raise a child” and I kind of agree with that.

Moms need time off too just for their own well-being. One example of asking for what I need was last year when the baby was really little, I asked my husband to be in charge of the baby monitor at night, and to help me in the middle of the night too, when the baby was waking up to feed.

This night-time partnership gave me a greater degree of sanity during the day because I got a little more sleep (and mental rest) than I would have without that help. Asking for help when I feel like I am burning the candle at both ends is essential for my well-being, and something I need to remember to do.

Tip #3: Take Every Thought Captive

This is a verse from the Bible but goes along great with cognitive behavioral therapy. Don’t let your thoughts dictate anything. Thoughts are just thoughts. Identify them, deal with them and move on.

For whatever reason (maybe “mom brain?”) this concept has been exceptionally difficult for me to grasp. Just recently (like last week) it began to click for me: Thoughts are not truths, they are just thoughts. They don’t define or dictate anything! I can talk to them and treat them like the bullying words that they are and doing this disempowers them.

I have dumb, negative thoughts going through my head all the time. Here’s a few recent ones: “You need to try harder as a mom“ or “You will sound so dumb if you have baby music playing really loud with your car windows open—who DOES that?”, “You haven’t gotten back to that person yet? You are such a bad friend”…

Pretty obnoxious stuff, right? Well, if I take every thought captive, I can put these thoughts in their place—the garbage! Lately I have just been agreeing with the negative thoughts. For example if I have the thought “You are a bad friend” I would say “You’re right I am a bad friend”.

Agreeing with a bullying thought is a way to trick OCD. It seems to have a significant disabling effect on the intense feeling of guilt or shame I was experiencing. I think this is what Tammy means when she talks about “mental kung fu”.   ac41290798310afdf52eccaaf1ba73af

Thanks for reading! I wish all of you my best on this journey we share of overcoming OCD! 

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eJoyful Mama Warrior

I am a mom of 3 kids (2 boys, 1 girl). I had my first son in May 2008- I was on Zoloft (50 mg) for depression/anxiety and was able to wean off about a month or so before he was born and able to go back on without issue; did not have any issues OCD wise, some baby blues and I would say normal new Mom anxiety. 

My second son (surprise pregnancy) was born in November 2010- I was again able to wean off Zoloft and actually did so sooner than my first (approximately 2-3 months), feeling fine up until 1-2 weeks before his birth- then weird thoughts/anxiety that I had not experienced before but brushed it off as I was under a lot of stress.

I had a somewhat traumatic birth as his cord was wrapped around his neck and he wasn’t crying right away. The next day I was having intrusive thoughts that just got worse.  I didn’t really understand what was going on, crying uncontrollably. The hospital staff I don’t believe knew how to help me properly, placed me on a bunch of heavy antipsychotic meds and I was sent to my parents without my baby (CPS got involved when I told staff I was having scary thoughts.)

I found Tammy who taught me about OCDs mechanism and how to do exposures and found a psychiatrist to help with meds (had to increase Zoloft for awhile).  It was at least 2-3 months of constant intrusive thoughts and I slowly improved.

After a year and a half or so I felt I had returned to a good place where my husband and I felt we were open to having another baby– unfortunately lost 2 babies in 2013 and then had our daughter August of 2014- able to wean off Zoloft again and felt good soon after birth.

Then had issues with breastfeeding and became highly anxious and intrusive thoughts dominated my mind (different than last time) again.  I seemed to recover quicker overall however had more mini storms than with my second son. 
Tips that have helped me I can break down into different categories:

  • Regular exercise/eating well (Physical)
  • Prayer/practicing my faith (Spiritual)
  • Spending time with family and friends/helping others (Social emotional)
  • Focus exercises/ exposures (although I do not do these enough especially when I am in a good place) (Mental)

And one of the biggest reminders I have to give myself is that OCD is a trickster and it can sneak back in when I am doing really good and it can wreak havoc. So I need to most especially confront it at those times; also taking things day by day especially when I am in a storm.  

The thing is although having my kids, most especially my second son and daughter, seemed to heighten my intrusive thoughts, my kids bring more joy and purpose than I could imagine- I fight OCD so it doesn’t get to rob me of that.   

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eDad Keeps an Open Mind

I have had OCD for 55 years based on what I remember of my behavior, thoughts and actions during that time.  I am currently 60.

Open to Being Reasonable

What helped me the most in parenting while dealing with OCD was listening to my spouse when we discussed how to parent.  Not for reassurance but for her non tunnel vision approach.  She would not think black and white like I did.  I knew my thinking wasn’t considerate of the whole picture of the circumstances.   So essentially listen to spouse, listen to the children and then take some deep breaths and just give parenting a try.  

Open to Spending Time Together

Having fun with the family by doing things together was a great help.  In later years as my daughters reached teenage years I would take each one out to lunch separately and just talk about anything and sometimes nothing. That helped me to understand where they were in life and helped me to be more effective at parenting.

Trusting each one until they proved with solid evidence that they had been untrustworthy.  Even then giving them some slack for being human was helpful.  

Open to Imperfection

With OCD you may feel like you should be this or that to be a perfect parent, but the kids won’t notice if you don’t buy into that self image yourself.  They just want to know you’re proud of them and love them unconditionally.

Remember it is not what you advise that matters but what you do what they remember. I learned that later on.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eGive Yourself a Break!

Be Open With Your Kids

There are going to be situations where you have to do things differently, and your kids will notice. When they are old enough, explain that you have OCD the same way you would explain if you had a broken arm. Later, you’ll appreciate how much easier it is to just say you’re having anxiety about something instead of making an excuse to your child. In my experience, they’re actually pretty cool about it.

Try Not to Talk Yourself Down

Kids soak up everything we do in front of them. You’ll notice your young children will mimic your movements and talk like you. The other day, I was doing yoga and my 2-year-old niece randomly walked over and went into downward dog next to my mat. Kids are the great imitators. A lot of those of us who have OCD and related disorders aren’t happy with ourselves. We’ll say things like “I can’t do that,” “I’m such a burden,” “I’m weak,” and other statements in the same vein. You’ll teach your kid that having a mental illness is weakness. It makes a person a burden. Try to refer to your illness as something that happens to you, not something you are and see if that makes an impact on how your child feels about his or her own mental health.

Take a Break

You want to be the best mom in the world? Tough. That distinction does not exist. Everyone has different standards, and some amazing moms wind up with terrible kids and vice versa. You can’t be on all the time. You can’t do every bake sale, swim meet, football booster and parent conference. Sometimes you have to say no and just take that time for yourself. Give yourself a break, both figuratively and literally.

Contributed byMichelle at: Living With Intrusive Thoughts.

160_f_69380413_annrnbjcopjefn3uuykjjpsjwqvjek2eMom of Five: I Ain’t Got No Time for That (Shame)

It wasn’t long after my baby was born, that I started developing fears….Not just fears over things that you would expect somebody to be afraid of, like dogs or spiders or airplanes…… although there were plenty of those…

For the rest of this story go to:  


By now you’ve probably noticed what these six people have in common. I can’t wait to hear what you think it is! Leave a comment!


How to Enjoy Life Now. Hint: This is Not a Rehearsal

We all take a lot for granted. We live in yesterday or tomorrow. It’s hard to be present, in this moment…we’re pretty OK. If we let ourselves, we could worry all day long. Mostly over things that will never even happen. And if they did happen, it wouldn’t be the catastrophe our mind-gone-wild tells us. How is it possible to enjoy life with so much worry?

This week I visited a Butterfly Conservatory in Massachusetts called Magic Wings. IMG_2157

okay I did squirm when it crawled on my neck!
okay I did squirm when it crawled on my neck!

Given my bug phobia you’d think that’d be the last place I’d want to go! Especially when they land on you! But I boss it back now!

It was very relaxing and I found myself taking deep breaths. I was in the moment. There are no predators in the conservatory. These butterflies seemed so happy. Over 3,000 butterflies zooming all around, stopping for bananas or nectar. I felt so happy for them and pondered the miracle of their creation and mysterious life cycle. 

There was a sad moment though. I teared up when I learned about the Atlas Moth.IMG_1575 She has no mouth and therefore can only live about 7 days. And much of that time is spent sleeping, waiting for her mate to find her.

Another Just Hatched
Another Just Hatched

Statistically, if we live 75 years, at 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, we will have slept about 25 of those 75 years. The Atlas Moth sleeps about 6 of her 7 days of life!

My friends and I wondered, with no way to thrive why has this species been created? What is the purpose of the Atlas Moth’s existence?

We came to an agreement that she’s here to give us an important message. One of us thought of Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” But since this moth sleeps all the time, it seemed like her message had to be something else. But, one could argue the point, “Exactly, don’t sleep your life away. This isn’t a dress rehearsal.”

I’ve since learned that these moths are cultivated in India for the durable silk it secretes which is used to make purses. But, it doesn’t answer the question of, “Why can’t it have a mouth? Why was it created to only live 7 days?” I can’t come up with any better answer than its message to live life to its fullest because we don’t get a dress rehearsal.

How can we do that? We get bogged down with responsibilities. Exhaustion is a constant battle. There’s so much to worry about. How can we live life to its fullest? How can we enjoy life but not obsess about doing it!

For the answers, I visited other people’s blogs. Here are some excerpts from those blogs:

Learn to Make the Most of Your Time160_F_20199276_5xlNinnPcFCmYZGypiv3a8TDKgu8zeEu-2

“We only get so much time, and to make the most of our lives we need to fully utilize this limited amount of time to make this life amazing. To ensure that we’re making the most of our time, it’s important to be conscious of how we are using it, what we are using it for, and if we’re using it wisely to make us happy. Are you really making the most out of your time? Are you enjoying the things you do in your current routine? Are you being productive? Plan in advance and create a checklist of everything you’d like to achieve and then tick off each achievement as you go along.”

Happiness Doesn’t Just Happen

“Everyone has the right to happiness although unfortunately it seems to be innately programmed into us that we feel guilty when we get it. Another human trait that goes hand-in-hand with this, however, is that we tend to sit around waiting for happiness to descend on us one day when, in reality, this doesn’t happen. We need to stop feeling guilty about happiness and stop expecting that happiness is just going to happen to us like magic. Instead, it’s time to start putting in the effort today. Outline your goals and decide what you want to do; think way beyond your comfort zone. To make your life amazing, you need to be proactive, so go out there today and start achieving your dreams.”

How to Make the Best of It160_F_71267059_mrswxnfs7P5YnpSTJ7iTBjih1iou0Ukd

“When living in the moment, full of gratitude for it, there is no question about what happened, what might happen or what could have been. Living in the moment means to accept the past as what it is: a bygone and not changeable experience that will only have an influence on your present life if you allow it to.”

How to Make the Best of Life, Without Fearing Failure160_F_112124725_IAgJplCgrO5mVYTISlvJNNeDama7gUho

“Fear is a major aspect that keeps people from living their life to the fullest. No matter if it’s the fear of failure, or the fear to disappoint your beloved ones. In the end, you will have to ask yourself if you want to allow fear from preventing you of doing the things you would really like to do. Regret can be a lot more painful than fear itself.”

How to Stay in the Moment

“There’s a one-in-two chance your mind is on something else as you read this sentence. A study by Harvard psychologists in 2010 asked people to track their thoughts, feelings and activities at random intervals, and discovered that they spend 46.9% of their time doing one thing while thinking about another. They also found this daydreaming makes them more unhappy than if they were paying attention to the present moment, even when it’s unpleasant.”

160_F_61978411_WH1ljyTm5Au9EccRXTLYhIq7AU278gmU3 Steps to Take:
• Pay attention to your breathing. Find a quiet space and concentrate on the flow of your breath, in and out. When your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to noticing your breathing.
• Bring awareness to sensations of touch. Our bodies are always in the present moment. Consciously feeling your feet on the floor, your bottom on a chair, or your clothes against your skin can bring your mind back too.
• Watch your speed. Three times a day, for one minute, simply stop what you’re doing and notice what’s happening in your mind and body. Becoming more familiar with your mind’s habitual patterns can help you to work with them much more skillfully.

The Steps Can Be Small

“Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to make drastic changes in order to notice an improvement in the quality of your life. At the same time, you don’t need to wait a long time in order to see the measurable results that come from taking positive action. All you have to do is take small steps, and take them consistently, for a period of 100 days.”

surrenderIt’s Hard to Be Happy When I Compare Myself to Others.

“If I look at my dreams, desires, and hopes for the future as coming from a place of limited supply, it will constantly feed the notion that someone else’s success is a threat to mine. So what do we do? The very opposite of what feeds unhealthy comparison and competition.

We ask God to bless others. We look for ways to help others succeed. We come alongside our fellow dream chasers and assure them this world needs more of what they uniquely have to offer.”

Signs that Happiness Exists Even if You Don’t Feel It:

What if you can’t tell if you’re enjoying life? What if OCD makes you doubt or obsess about your happiness?  Look for these signs and go with it:

“People praise you for your inner strength. The trick here is to listen to what others are saying and allow yourself to believe it too.

Even though you may still feel sad inside, you are not crying much anymore and you generally feel a little better. Embrace that you are doing better, even if it’s only little things that you can see at the moment.

You are getting more done. As you get back to your old self, you can take pride in your productivity and enjoy the process more than you have.

You are rethinking your life path. This may propel you into a new direction, perhaps toward your life’s dream.160_F_69325513_kjUZc2oxEDA2PThOUDQUBt6kdGE8okMP

You have fewer negatives in your life. 

Sometimes you can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but you’re still concerned it’s an oncoming train. Again, this is part of the normal emotional healing process. As time passes, the light gets bigger and you can see the world beyond.

Life has become a little more social. 

Your physical body is responding better. You don’t have that unbalanced feeling in your stomach, your energy is better, and you are feeling stronger. 

You are feeling that your life matters. Feeling that you matter to others is a very important part of many people’s lives. The only thing that’s required is your desire to be a good person.”

How Does Happiness Happen?

If you want to discover the science behind happiness there’s a free course you can take HERE. Hint: It’s not a feeling. It’s an action. This course starts September 6th so don’t procrastinate! Discover research-backed tools to happiness!


Pay attention to the experience you’re creating. Since this life isn’t a dress rehearsal, make the best of your time. Be conscious of how you spend it.

Don’t wait for happiness to happen. Look for it. Learn about it. Hunt it down through action not feeling.

Live in the present; not the past or future.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Just put one foot in front of the other and take small steps.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, wish them an abundance of love and light.

Even if you feel like you’re not enjoying life, it might not be true! If you’ve got the doubting disease, feelings can’t be trusted. Look for signs of happiness.

Here are a couple of videos from the Butterfly Conservatory: (Turn down the volume for a more peaceful effect.)


Do I Like to Torture People Who Have OCD?

If the symptoms of OCD are so painful, why do I want clients to lean into the pain? Tolerate the pain. 160_F_112124725_IAgJplCgrO5mVYTISlvJNNeDama7gUhoDo nothing to get rid of the pain. In fact, seek pain. It sure sounds as if I like to torture people! 

I’m an OCD specialist. My private practice is dedicated to helping people with OCD. So my entire day is spent figuring out ways to make people anxious by confronting fear.

  • “Really, you think that’s contaminated? Oh good. Let’s touch it.”
  • “Hmmmm. You think you might hurt someone? Prove it. Hold this knife to my stomach.”
  • “Oh no! Did you just run somebody over? It sure sounded like it to me!”
  • “I don’t know if you have OCD. Maybe it’s something else.”

If you’re not familiar with Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) then you’ve got to be thinking I’m into torture. My clients would laugh about this and in jest nod their heads at one another…like uh huh. They’ve heard me say many times, “Oh! That makes you anxious? Good! We want that!” 😏 They reply, “Oh no. Why did I ever tell you I’m afraid of that. Oh no.”  

A few clients over the years have dropped out of therapy looking for a gentler approach. While visiting a friend the other day, I saw a former client who was stuck in his driveway, taking the same steps over and over. Sweat was dripping down his face. He’d been stuck awhile. I helped him get unstuck and asked how it was going with his new therapist. He replied, “She’s not as tough as you.”

Be Set Free
Be Set Free

I’m tough because I see the potential in my clients. I want them to be the best they can be. I know there’s a way to be set free. If a client is not open to ERP, I ask “well, how’s your way working out?” Everybody always answers, “not well.”

Once someone told me my “take no prisoner” approach was unpleasant. I wasn’t sure what “take no prisoners” meant so I researched it. If I’m guilty of a “take no prisoner” approach then it means I’m determined and could care less about people’s feelings. I really gave this some thought.

It’s true to say that I’m determined. If you tell me you want to beat OCD then you better believe I’m going to give 110% to help you do it. I’m one of the most laser-focused committed therapists you’ll ever meet. Tell me you want to defy OCD and I’m going to make sure you get what you want.

So yes, to call me determined is an accurate description. But, sometimes my asset is my liability. There are times I start fighting harder than my client and that’s a problem. I work too long with people who don’t fight as hard as me. Who never do any work at all. And yet, I keep trying.

Meanwhile there are people on a waiting list to see me. People who want to do the work. Sometimes my “take no prisoner” determination keeps others from getting my help. I struggle with saying, “I’ve got to give up for now.” There’s a quote, “Do not try my patience I have perilously little of it.” Actually, I have dangerously too much of it.

The other description of “take no prisoners” would mean that I don’t care about feelings. It’s not true that I don’t care about people’s feelings. When I see the pain and agony my client is going through I am deeply affected. In fact, I’m at high risk for becoming preoccupied with someone’s suffering.160_F_7006618_aw6IDdObEjQMy7uY5EuAK9N830oawK3M

This is called, compassion fatigue and like many therapists, I have to take care of myself so I don’t become fatigued. I love rubbing my dog’s belly, watching good vs. evil movies (where the good guy always wins), gardening, competing (hard) in racquetball, cooking without recipes, playing board games, and blowing off steam at karaoke (see video below). These activities help me stay strong and healthy so that I can help someone do the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

I’m also comforted by knowing that my client who is in pain will one day be set free by all their hard work. I’ve witnessed 100’s and 100’s of people get better when they thought they never could.  I rely on this knowledge to help me be strong and stay the course.

ERP works but it doesn’t always provide immediate relief. Anxiety is high and the urge to do a compulsion is strong. When a client does an exposure exercise I don’t get stressed when I see the fear in their eyes. Not because I’m into torture! Because I know ERP is like insulin to a diabetic. 

It’s when they won’t do ERP and play mental Kung Fu–those are the times I’m stressed and at risk for burn out. OCD manipulates people into avoidance and even paralysis. It’s only weapon is to make you focus on obtaining a certain feeling. Like the young man stuck in his drive way. I helped him “just wrong it.” Who cares you don’t feel complete or “just right!” Is this how you want to live? Do what you want to do.

Some people will do anything to not be uncomfortable when that is the only thing they need to do! Be uncomfortable! It’s not dangerous, it’s unpleasant! SO WHAT!!!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Perhaps the confusion about whether or not I care about people’s feelings comes from telling clients thoughts and feelings aren’t facts. Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean there really is 160_F_90271366_AWiT1etcHqY7nKFyqF8W8oeIPsiUYNWYdanger. People with OCD will spend hours trying to get a certain feeling. This is why I tell them feelings aren’t the solution, they’re the problem.

I’m rephrasing a Martin Luther King quote here a bit: “We will wear <OCD> down by our capacity to suffer, to face suffering, and do what’s necessary to make the change.”

I’m not into torturing. I’m into wearing OCD down with a willingness to be uncomfortable.

ERP will feel like torture if you don’t do it enough. You’ve got to hit it hard with repetition and frequency. Don’t swing to miss. Swing to hit.

You can wear down OCD.  My motto: Find a way when there seems to be no way.

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. Have you discovered it takes twice as much energy to swing and miss as it does to swing and hit? Or that the only way out is in? 

Here’s the video I promised of me blowing off steam. As you can see, I’ve got a lot of it.

How to Stop Being Manipulated by OCD

OCD only has one weapon. Manipulation. That’s its only weapon. Do you know how it manipulates you? Think about this before you read any further. Try looking at this picture until you have an answer, then read on. What does OCD manipulate? What does it control? What does it play upon?


If you said thoughts…You were wrong. OCD doesn’t control what you think. Here’s a typical conversation I have with clients about OCD the manipulator:

Client:  But, Tammy doesn’t OCD make me think what I think?

Tammy: No. Everybody has weird thoughts. I have many of them throughout the day. Especially since I hear weird thoughts all day at my job. There’s probably nothing you can tell me I haven’t heard or thought before. I am interrupted by weird thoughts all the time. Some of them are pretty gross. And I don’t have OCD.

Client: Well that scares me. Because if OCD isn’t making me think these horrible thoughts then why am I thinking them? OMG! OMG! OMG!

Tammy: Everybody has weird thoughts. They just don’t get scared by them.

Client: But, Tammy you always say that OCD is a faulty alarm system. It makes me think there is danger when there isn’t really anything wrong.

Tammy: True, I say that your brain is scanning for potential danger. It’s like a two year old asking a lot of who, what, where, when, and why questions. Since it doesn’t know anything about life, it points to something and asks, “Could something bad happen here?” It’s just a question.

Client: But, that question is, after all, a thought.

Tammy: True, but it’s not a unique thought. Everybody is scanning to survive. And in this heightened state of terrorism, we’re probably all scanning a little bit more than we used to.

Client: You mean like what’s on the CDTA buses, “If you see something say something.”

Tammy: Right, but not everybody who is looking for something has OCD.

Client: I’m confused. When I have a bad or troubling thought, I’ve read in books that I should say, “It’s just OCD. It’s not me.”

Tammy: That won’t get you very far. You can say that early on when first diagnosed and learning about OCD. But, if you keep saying “it’s just OCD” every time your brain sounds off an alarm, then you’re just reassuring yourself all day long and your brain is learning nothing new. Saying repeatedly, “it’s just OCD” becomes a compulsion.

Client: Okay, still confused. If OCD isn’t manipulating my thoughts—making me think things. Controlling what I think…Well then what is OCD manipulating?

Tammy: OCD is manipulating your emotions. It plays upon your need for certainty. It alters and controls what you care about. OCD manipulates you into doing whatever it takes to feel just right. Everybody has weird thoughts. But, how you react to your thoughts, how you feel about your thoughts…there lies the beating heart of OCD.

Client: How do I know if I’m being manipulated?

Tammy: If you have OCD then you’re being emotionally manipulated. It’s not a mystery.

How an Emotional Manipulator Like OCD Works

An emotional manipulator will put you down all the time. They make fun of you and get away with it by saying, “Haha just joking.” They never compliment you or let you celebrate your victories. They say, “Anybody can do that!” They never let you experience the moment. In the midst of happiness they whisper, “Just wait for the other shoe to drop.” Does any of this sound like the voice of OCD?

If you tripped over a backpack in the middle of the floor an emotional manipulator wouldn’t say, “Sorry I shouldn’t have left that there.” They’d say, “You should watch where you’re going.” Emotional manipulators are really good at blaming you and making you feel in the wrong. It’s why you develop an inflated sense of responsibility. If you wonder where all your inappropriate guilt comes from you can thank an emotional manipulator. You can thank OCD.

An emotional manipulator can make you doubt your memory. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you can’t trust your memory.160_F_41168140_QTGHYMVX3lOhuM4d6EWDzBr59GQkwskC Emotional manipulators lie and say, “Don’t you remember I told you last week we were going here” even though they didn’t. You have no memory of being told about it, but you’re quick to doubt yourself. Have you found yourself doubting your memory? Did I lock that door? Did I touch that when I walked by it? Did I turn the stove off? Did I leave my kid in the car? Did I do something bad but don’t remember it? You’re being manipulated!

Emotional manipulators tell you how to dress, what to eat, how you should behave, how to complete tasks, who to be friends with, what’s good for you, what’s bad for you…the list is endless. Emotional manipulators coerce you into things that don’t make sense and even go against your values.

All your compulsions, physical and mental, have no connection to anything good. When would you ever say that being manipulated is a GOOD thing? 

OCD is emotionally manipulating you. It doesn’t have control of your thoughts. It has control of your emotions. It alters the way you feel about your thoughts. It doesn’t have the ability to make you think. It has the ability to make you afraid. The more afraid you are, the more you lack confidence, and the less likely you’ll stand up to the manipulator.

If You Decided to Stand Up to OCD What Would You Say?

I ask my clients all the time what they would do if they knew they160_F_91930308_TJO6Nuq5eGgkjKbab1NKsRmGJZRr2xTL were being manipulated by someone. They always say, “I wouldn’t put up with it.” I give them various scenarios like the ones above and they know exactly what to say and do. Your situation with OCD is NO DIFFERENT. Show OCD the door just like you would any other emotional manipulator.

When speaking to an emotional manipulator like OCD, you’ve got to be assertive and say things like:

“I know you don’t like it but that’s the way it is.” No need to discuss it any further.

“I prefer it this way. I don’t care if you don’t think it’s right.” No need to justify your preferences.

160_F_92023970_KnGBXHHt1RjkIJwhMko7hRWu1ve0BeBMJust agree. “You’re absolutely right” and drop the subject. No need to argue with a manipulator. It’s gasoline to the fire.

“Think whatever you want. Who cares!” No need to try and change the way an emotional manipulator thinks. It’s a waste of time. 

What Do You Need to Remember When Standing Up to An Emotional Manipulator Like OCD?

Besides being assertive with an emotional manipulator, what else can you do?

Act on YOUR hopes and dreams. YOUR desires. OCD manipulates you into desiring nothing but safety and certainty. Neither of which can ever be guaranteed.  And yet, it has the power to manipulate you into spending a lifetime trying to get something you can never have. Nobody in the world can have certainty, why oh why should you?

Do what YOU want to do. Live your life no matter how you feel. Stay firm in your own values and beliefs. Emotional manipulators try to get you to waste your time caring about nonsense. The more confused you are about what truly matters, the easier you are to manipulate.

You’re addicted to achieving a certain feeling and OCD knows it. It’s created and fed this addiction! Be willing to be uncomfortable and OCD has nothing to manipulate you with. Shrug! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

An emotional manipulator should not be privy to your thoughts and feelings. Fake it ’til you make it. Even if you are bothered by a thought, image or urge, feign that you aren’t bothered…fake it. You must use deception against OCD. Don’t be honest with an emotional manipulator. They’ll use it against you.

Accept responsibility for what has happened not what could happen. Otherwise OCD will stir up a pot of guilt and shame and serve it to you in heaping spoonfuls.

Emotional manipulators mislead. If you know you’re being misled why do you follow? Is this what you would tell a friend to do? Wouldn’t you tell your friend, your daughter, your son to face the emotional manipulator and rise up?

The world is not as scary as you are being led to believe. OCD is lying to you. Stick to the facts and never defend or justify yourself to an emotional manipulator. Thoughts aren’t true. Feelings aren’t facts. Face Everything and Rise.

If you’re not sure how to stop being manipulated by OCD, leave an anonymous question and I’m sure you’ll get some great answers from our Boss it Back® community. If you have a trick up your sleeve that you use to stop being manipulated by OCD, please share in the comments.