Category Archives: Motivation

How to Break Free From the OCD Chatter

OCD is quite a chatter box.  During the course of therapy a client will inevitably ask me, “When is this chatter going to stop?” Even 160_F_73837678_GpTq1pfrh5UXtP7jBB5lScBNsXTMPfjVthough the client is doing everything they need to be doing, OCD just won’t shut up! 

I reply with blazing hope. Be patient. You can bear all things during therapy with patience. When the going gets rough hang in there. Don’t quit! I’ve seen 100’s of clients get better, just when they thought they never would.

It’s as if there’s a switch in the brain and it suddenly gets flipped on. When this happens it’s visible on the clients face. After many weeks, sometimes months the client is transformed. And I say, “It’s nice to finally meet you.” And we laugh. It feels so good. 

But it wasn’t easy getting there. Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) is the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Believe me, pablo-118OCD will tell you not to do it! Every nerve ending in your body will tell you to stop.

Acceptance and Commitment(ACT) therapy is mental Kung Fu. Reverse psychology. Letting the thoughts be there and doing nothing to “fix” them. Agreeing with the thoughts and letting your core values drive your behavior no matter how you feel.

Practicing ERP and ACT is tedious work. There’s a lot of repetition. Things aren’t clear right away. It’s uninspiring at first. Once you disprove OCD it gets a little more inspiring and empowering. But in the beginning and middle it’s slow, tiresome and the symptoms are often unrelieved. 

Patience is the hero. It’s magical. It will protect you while you slowly plod forward. It’s the capacity to accept or tolerate suffering. It’s the ability to continue moving forward despite the lack of relief. 

I made a video for you (see below) and when I finished I had a craving for something sweet. I don’t eat much sugar so I found a bag of very old fortune cookies. I grabbed one and cracked it open to read the fortune. I couldn’t believe the message! Unbelievable!

I can't believe the timing of this message!
I can’t believe the timing of this message!

Check out this video I made for you!



Why You Should Stop Letting OCD Lie to You

160_F_22448988_AeAszQACa4W74iTlgpGB0SdgLVAAykJzI just can’t believe what a liar OCD is and how much it gets away with. Listen to these lies that OCD has people believing:

It’d be better to be sedated and drooling if it means stopping these horrible thoughts. 

Use this cancer-causing hand sanitizer excessively and get rid of all the good bacteria. At least you’ll feel clean and safe right now (for a few seconds.)

Starvation is better. Seriously. You might look sick and frail but at least people won’t be thinking you’re overweight.

Skip your five year old’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s so that you don’t get sick. When he gets home he can immediately take a shower and put his clothes in the trash. Then you can hug him and ask him about his party.

Stay at work 16 hours to triple check your work. You’ll miss your niece’s play if that’s what you have to do. You’ll have to go into the dark parking lot and hopefully not get mugged. But you can’t leave work until you’re 100% sure there’s no mistakes.

Do this over and over until it feels just right. Miss your son’s wedding if you have to. But, if you don’t do this until it feels just right, something bad will happen to him.

It’s better to fail every class. Don’t touch that backpack with books in it from that filthy school. It’d be better to fail than to get sick.

Even if you have to sell your house to pay for all the medically unnecessary emergency room visits it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take your chances of getting cancer from all the X-rays. It’s better to get some relief and be able to sleep tonight. Get another X-ray or you’ll be up all night worrying.

Jump down these stairs and skip nine steps. You could break a leg but it’s the only way to keep something bad from happening to your Mom.

Do you see what all of these stories have in common? They’re all lies, yes. OCD really knows how to pull the wool over eyes. But, there’s something worse about these lies. It’s the terrible risks being taken as a result of the lies. The reason you should stop letting OCD lie to you is that the lies are actually dangerous!

No matter what the obsession is—it all boils down to one thing. Risk. Whatever you’re afraid of is not nearly as risky as the path OCD wants you to take. It may feel less risky to be led by OCD but clearly by reading the above lies, it’s dangerous to follow OCD.

There are two paths. One is overgrown and hard to get through. 160_F_83290911_WoWhtSPYFpifOypCXA6fLq1Jry0yLcmi160_F_85759585_cjg5y6wODUTDtcQycIopZH7AH9ccFYohYou’ll need a machete and you’ll have to work hard. The other path is clear and well-traveled by you. It’s easier to be on the path you travel most often. But, the best path is not necessarily the one most traveled or the one that feels familiar. 

OCD has a crooked little finger enticing you to take the path that feels better. The relief is only temporary and meanwhile you’ve done something harmful to yourself or someone else. Sometimes you’ve just got to get mad at OCD and say enough of the lies. It’s time for truth. The truth is that OCD is always causing harm in some way.

If you have OCD you’re being lied to. Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes. Say, “I know you OCD. I see you. The risk I’m going to take is the same risk I see other people taking. I don’t need to take special precautions.”

Today I’m not picturing OCD (as I often do) as the two year old just asking a lot of nonsense questions. Today I’m taking punches at the liar.  

Jab, jab, RIGHT HOOK. Are you with me?

Defy OCD: Never Forget How Again

After you’ve been tricked by OCD have you ever said, “I forgot to use my tools. I forgot I even had tools!” Well, never forget again! Here’s an amazing “To DO List” to help you remember what to do! 

Diverse Hands Holding the Words To Do List

Be Super Better Every Day
When you wake up in the morning, do you have a plan? Make sure you set a daily goal to DEFY OCD. Everyday is April Fool’s Day with OCD. You must be prepared for the tricks! You can’t afford to drift. As soon as your feet hit the floor know what you’ll do today to defy OCD. 

Don’t Have to Feel Determined to Be Determined
It’s hard work to get better every day. How will you muster all your effort? Put one foot in front of the other whether you want to or not. Get mad at OCD if you have to. Enough is enough!!! Be strong, motivated and optimistic even when facing obstacles. Stick to the plan no matter what! The quality of your life is only as good as your stick-to-it-ive-ness.

 Keep Score
How are you doing with Exposures? Are you resisting compulsions? Keep track of your progress. Are you building momentum and taking on harder challenges each day? Who’s getting the most points: You or OCD? Tally up the score at the end of the day. You don’t have to win every battle but you do have to win the day.

Positivity & Gratitude
Are you doing a good job of managing your emotions from negative to positive? In the face of adversity, ask “What does this make possible?” This means focusing on blessings and appreciating others. Gratitude is the great sanitizer!

Fuel and Fitness
Are you making your brain a lean mean fighting machine through exercise, rest and healthy eating? Are you pushing yourself but making sure you properly recharge? Sleeping too much is too much recovery. Always seek a balance between chaos and rigidity when it comes to eating, sleeping and exercising.

Focus is a Choice
What are you paying attention to? Are you laser focused on what you’re fighting for or what you’re afraid of? Are you exercising your focus muscles with meditation or mindfulness exercises? Have you tried juggling, playing an instrument or coloring?

Are you driven by your values?
What are you fighting for? How do you remind yourself of why you’re working so hard to defy OCD. Have you made a collage or written a script that reflects your hopes and dreams? Are you going to let OCD rob you of “first times?” What’s more important—family or OCD? What is it that you value and let those values drive your behavior.

Do you accept the anxiety and agree the goal is to tolerate anxiety not get rid of it? When you’re triggered and getting anxious do you say, “Good. There’s my anxiety. I want this so I can practice tolerating it.” -OR- When you get triggered do you start analyzing the content until you’re blue in the face? Let go or be dragged.

Put OCD in the Corner!
Don’t have a back-n-forth conversation with OCD. Don’t answer one more question. As soon as you ask “WHY” or “WHAT” STOP!!! You’re about to go down the rabbit hole. “What if…” “What does this thought mean?” “What if I’m a bad person?” “Why does this feel like…” IT’S OCD! Don’t converse with it! The first question you answer will lead to months of never-ending questions. You’ll get stuck in the hamster wheel. Say, “It’s not up for discussion!” “End of discussion OCD!” “You’re in the corner. I see you but I’m not discussing this with you!”

Here and Now
There are three doors: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Which door does your thought belong behind? Rewinding and replaying memories belong in yesterday’s door. Whatever happened has already happened. There’s nothing to do about it today. If it’s a worry about what could happen, it hasn’t happened yet so it goes behind tomorrow’s door. When tomorrow comes, ask again what door does that worry go behind. The only thought that needs your attention is a thought that requires action in the next 30-60 minutes. Action meaning tasks to be completed. Tasks that are constructive and healthy.

Stop Wishing and Cancel the Pity Party
“It’s not fair. Why me?” “Nobody understands.” “I’m different.” “I wish I didn’t have OCD.” “I just wish I could be normal—like everybody else.” The more you wish the more you suffer.

Stay connected
The smaller your world becomes the bigger OCD gets. Don’t isolate. Don’t call in sick. Don’t cancel plans with friends. Keep on keeping on. Create plenty of space between you and OCD. Alone in your home is very close quarters for you and OCD. Take OCD out into the world with you—invite it to join you! But, be in the world.

Don’t give up your power ever again. Use this “To DO List” on a daily basis to be proactive and stay one step ahead of OCD.  It truly is possible to outwit, outsmart and outplay OCD. Stay alert and use this “To DO List!”

Defying OCD: What It Takes Isn’t What You Think

If you really want to defy OCD, and need to do it because it’s interfering with your life, and you have the skills to do it—is that enough? Will you be able to defy OCD if you’ve got all three working in harmony? No! It’s not enough.


My sister who’s in her 50’s entered an Ironman last summer at Lake Placid. On this enormous day she had a stomach bug and blisters on her feet. An runner’s worst fears. Being a spectator at the Ironman is very stressful. You see people quit throughout the day because of blisters or cramping. As a spectator, hours pass between checkpoints so you have no idea how your loved one is doing. There’s an app that tells us when a mile marker has been crossed. But that doesn’t tell us much. Only that she’s behind. We were worried most of the 16 hours. My sister swam, bicycled and ran for a total of 16 hours that day. At different check points we cheered her on. Early in the day she looked like she wasn’t going to make it. Later in the day she didn’t even notice us at the check points. She was in some kind of trance, repeating the word “BELIEVE” over and over. With just minutes to spare, around 11:45pm she crossed the finish line. 

It only took a couple of days to get the Ironman tattoo
It only took a couple of days to get the Ironman tattoo

I asked her how she worked 16 straight hours like that with a stomach bug and blisters. She told me that she yielded and shrugged a lot. “This having to stop at the Porta Potty all the timeis not fun. It’s destroying my time. <shrug> So what, nobody said this would be fun.” “I’m so tired. <shrug> Well, who isn’t?” “I’ve got blisters on my feet. <shrug> So what’s new?” She wasn’t thinking like a victim, feeling like a victim or acting like a victim. She shrugged at every possible obstacle.

Here’s why I know determination is a mindset. I asked her if she felt determined to finish no matter what. She replied, “No I didn’t feel determined but I was determined.” You don’t have to feel determined to be determined. I told her I noticed she kept repeating the word, “believe” and asked her what she meant by it. She said, “I don’t know I just kept saying it. I was having a hard time believing I was going to finish. I just kept repeating it to stay focused.”

My sister wanted to complete this Ironman badly, she needed the success because she didn’t want to train for another, and she had the skill to do it since she trained for over one year. Her body was a lean mean fighting machine. But, focused attention and determination is what made my sister an Ironman. All the training certainly helped and the desire and need helped to motivate. But, what got her to cross the finish line was shrugging at anything that tried to steal her attention away from being determined.

This is day 28 of a 30 day challenge. Now that you’ve looked at your wants, needs and skills do you think it’s enough? Is it all you need to defy OCD? Can you accept the challenge to work on focusing your attention on defying OCD. Staying so focused that nothing distracts you from being determined? Let us know what you decide!

Do You Want to Defy OCD or Do You Need To?

Defying OCD takes focus. You have to be focused on your needs, skills and wants. One without the other is of no value. 160_F_69325513_kjUZc2oxEDA2PThOUDQUBt6kdGE8okMP

Need: What you have to do
Skill:   What you can do
Want: What you desire to do—based on purpose, and all your hopes and dreams

Need Without Want
I’m thinking of a young woman who has a contamination fear. There is very, very little that she can touch or use in her home. Her OCD has convinced her that if she touches anything inside the house she will contract an unpleasant, long-lasting virus. She is particularly aversive to anything her sister touches and maintains a 3 foot distance from her at all times.

Yet, she uses the same toilet her sister uses. She allows her skin to come in to contact with the same surface her sister’s skin touches. When asked how she manages this she answers, “Well, I don’t have a choice. I need to be able to use a toilet. But, I don’t have to use anything else in the house.”

This woman is focused only on meeting a basic need. It‘s a good example of how you can only get so far by doing what you need or have to do. If you’re not focused on your wants then your actions are based on needs not wants. Doing only what you need to do is not going to take you very far.

Skill Without Want
A lot of times when a person with OCD is stuck they’ll be reminded to use their skills. They’ve spent time in therapy and know how to defy OCD. But, they stopped paying attention, went on automatic pilot and got tricked by OCD. They’ve regressed and are neglecting important needs. A worried, but frustrated loved one says, “C’mon, Boss it Back! Use your skills!” And the person who’s stuck responds, “I don’t care about my skills. Nothing works. I don’t want to fight this fight anymore. OCD is too strong.”

Want Without Skill
It’s not enough to have the desire to Boss it Back. Just the other day a woman said to me, “I want to Boss it Back. I really want to. I don’t want to live like this. I want to be free. I want all my hopes and dreams to come true. I want it so bad. But, I just can’t do Exposure Therapy. I can’t do it. I want to do it. But, it’s too scary to even think about.”

Wanting, Needing and Having the Skills will take you all the way. All three work in harmony 160_F_61978411_WH1ljyTm5Au9EccRXTLYhIq7AU278gmUand need your attention. One without the other isn’t enough.

This is day 27 of a 30 day challenge. It’s important to focus on all three areas: Want, Need and Skill. Conduct an assessment of where you stand in all three areas. Does one area need more of your attention? Are you focusing on all three areas?

12 Ways to Make Your Brain a Lean Mean Fighting Machine

brainworkoutIn order to defy OCD the brain needs to be a lean mean fighting machine. There’s a lot of white matter that needs to be obliterated. The OCD brain has more than the average amount of white matter. White matter interferes with concentration and prevents the making of new memories. That’s one of the reasons the brain gets stuck. In order to get rid of white matter, you’ve got to take your brain to the neurogym.

It’s not easy to go to the neurogym every day but the pay off is undeniable.  Here’s how to obliterate white matter:

  1. Be determined to go to the neurogym every day. Remember, you don’t have to feel determined to be determined. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of going.
  2. Visualize what will happen if you go everyday. Make a collage of what you’re fighting for. Write out your cost/benefit analysis. What will you gain if you go to the neurogym and what will you lose if you don’t go.
  3. Make time for it in your busy day. You need about 20 minutes per day. (This doesn’t replace Exposure & Response Prevention. You need both!) Schedule when you are going to go to the neurogym. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. When people say they don’t have time for all of this it’s not true. If you’ve got time for compulsions, you’ve got time for this! And remember, there is always someone busier than you finding the time.
  4. Stick to the plan. When you do what you say you’re going to do your quality of life improves. When you don’t meet your commitments you will think less of yourself. OCD is a big force to go up against so you need all the self worth you can muster. A simple way to stay positive about yourself is to do what you said you were going to do.
  5. When you are at the neurogym choose from any of the following 10 minute exercises:
    1. Juggle with bean bags, scarves, or any size ball. Start with one and work your way up to 3. It doesn’t matter how good you are at it. It’s the practice of it that helps. Watch YouTube videos for how-to instructions.
    2. Memorize a poem or song. Get a memory game app on your smart phone. Play memory games with your kids. Practice memorizing something.
    3. Take your trigger words and think of a neutral word that rhymes. Then think of a word that is associated with the rhyming word. Like this: germ: term: paper.
    4. Listen to a podcast or documentary and learn something new. Listen to Ted Talks.
    5. Learn to play an instrument. If you already know how to play an instrument, learn a new song. If you don’t have an instrument get the app Smule or Garbage Band.
    6. Meditate. Meditate. Meditate.
    7. Color. Get a coloring book or use an app like Colorfy.
    8. Read a Lateral Thinking puzzle book or use a Sudoku book or app.

This is day 22 of a 30 day challenge. Which of the above will you commit to doing every day to obliterate white matter and make your brain a lean mean fighting machine?

Do You Have Trouble Getting Out of Bed?

The importance of managing physical energy seems obvious right? But, if you are working on defying OCD and bossing it back, then you’re probably focused on Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) and barely thinking about your physical energy. Yet, without physical energy it’s difficult to think clearly, focus on the task at hand, or have enough wherewithal to face fears.

One of the keys to bossing it back is having enough physical energy—enough fuel. A car can’t run without enough fuel and neither can the human body.

Simply put, physical energy comes from a balance of glucose levels. The amount of energy we have depends on what we eat, what time we eat and how we breathe and sleep.

Are you someone who has no energy in the morning? When you wake up how long has it been since your last meal or snack? Possibly 12-16 hours! And the snack was probably sugar, like a bowl of ice cream!

Do you skip breakfast or grab a quick carb as you’re heading out the door? It’s actually recommended that to balance glucose levels we “graze” by eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day.

Ask a “go-getter” about his or her diet and they’ll tell you they avoid carbs and sugar and eat plenty of almonds, apples, avocados, bananas, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cashews, cherries, eggs, wild-caught fish, kale, and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Foods that are low glycemic or high in L-Tryosine slowly release glucose. Slow release prevents the crash and burn you get from sugar spikes.

Do you overeat? Recently I was on a cruise and one of the waiters at dinner asked if he could surprise my table with a 12-course IMG_1295-1meal. We felt adventurous and said sure! We had no idea what he would bring us. I must say it was glorious! So yummy. But, by 7:30pm we were all ready for bed! We were unable to enjoy any of the night time activities. This is an example of too much fuel!!!

This is day 20 of a 30 day challenge. Consider your diet. Accept the challenge of being mindful of what you eat and when you eat.

11 Ways to Resist Compulsions

OCD is a trickster. That’s why every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day. Even if you conduct exposure exercises every single day of your life (which I highly recommend) you still can be fooled by OCD. It’s sneaky and will try everything up its sleeve to trick you into a compulsion or ritual.

OCD is scheming and manipulative—just like a drug pusher. All it needs to do is get you to buy one compulsion and you’re on your way to becoming a junkie. 160_F_78158575_49KcyvYHDAccjysVb1Lexz48ZSRh8V52The life of a junkie is a life of emptiness. All hopes and dreams vanish and the only thing you care about is your next fix. Your next compulsion.

Here’s how to tell the scheming manipulative trickster-drug pusher “NO THANKS”

  1. Recognize what OCD looks like. It’s the drug pusher offering you relief at no cost. “Just this one time. You’ll feel better.” In a room full of 100 people how many of them are worrying about what you’re worrying about? If the answer is not many then it’s OCD! Would you tell your friend to do what you’re doing? Would you take the piece of candy from the clown in the dark van? You’ve got to say, “I know you OCD. I see you. I know what you’re doing.”
  2. Make sure you’re doing exposures every day of your life. This isn’t optional. If the drug pusher sees you facing your fears you’ve got no weakness to be exploited. You have no problem that needs solving.
  3. You can’t talk your way out of buying a compulsion. As long as you’re talking to the drug pusher, you’re showing an interest in becoming a buyer. Don’t explain anything to OCD. Don’t answer any questions. Shrug at whatever OCD is selling. Would you really stop to explain to a drug pusher why you don’t think you need drugs?
  4. Practice focusing your attention for 10 minutes every day. Juggle or focus on something that is quite boring. You want your mind to wander. When your mind wanders, notice it and bring your focus back. Every time you bring your focus back you’re improving your mindfulness. The more mindful and aware you become the less likely you go on automatic pilot and act out of habit.
  5. Know what you’re fighting for. If you can’t figure that out because it’s been so long since you fought for anything, let your values drive your behavior. Write a script that basically says, “I’d rather take the risks (name them) than live like this (describe).”
  6. If you get a strong urge to do a compulsion—delay. Act like someone else for 15 seconds. Read your script. Think about what you have to lose if you give in. If you create enough space between the urge and the act, you can win.
  7. Give yourself permission to be anxious and uncomfortable. “This is unpleasant but I can handle it. I don’t need to fix this.”
  8. If you’re worried about something happening, remind yourself of the 100 people in the room. If they don’t have to do this compulsion, why should you? You might be unique but you’re not special! You don’t have some kind of special power! Stay in touch with reality! 
  9. Play mental Kung Fu. “Okay if that terrible thing happens so be it. I will gladly pay the consequence if it ever happens.”
  10. If you do get tricked, “recontaminate.” In other words, undo the compulsion by triggering yourself again and sitting with the discomfort.
  11. Make sure you’re eating enough protein, exercising and drinking plenty of water. This helps your brain to be a lean mean fighting machine.

This is day 15 of a 30 day challenge. Which of the above 11 ways to say “NO” will you work on? Choose and commit!

The Indomitable Spirit of You

To know where you’re going, it sure helps to know where you’ve been. You’ve come a long way baby! You sound determined. You look determined. You know how to fake it ’til you become it.

You’ve been building your life one step at a time. Just when you take 3 steps backward you turn it around and take 4 steps forward. You’re getting closer to the person you want to be every day.

You’ve proven you’re made of true grit. As you look back over all your hard work, you can see it right—your courage and unsinkable spirit? Time and time again you’ve overcome huge obstacles like fatigue, depression, and fear.

Sure, there’ve been times you said you were drowning. You really believed it and saw no hope. You even sunk to the bottom but to your complete surprise came up for air again. Again, and again and again. And each time you said you couldn’t—you wouldn’t.

You’re always surprising yourself. You always think this is the one time you’ll never rise up. But, surprise, surprise, you just aren’t sinkable!160_F_101557789_i00dQ7e9QM0xVjfcABD1OpMNBlp9SN60

I see you. I know who you’re becoming. I’m not alarmed when you take 3 steps backward. You’re stronger than you know. I’m honored to be on this journey with you. You are loved, special and important. You remember that…

Who are you becoming today? Sometimes you just gotta say I’ve had enough. I want to live my life. And if it’s just not that easy…Fake it ’til you become it.

How to Look Determined Even if You Don’t Feel Determined

Being determined is a mindset, not a feeling. There’s a way to look determined even when you’re not feeling determined. It’s called Power Posing. Can you tell which of these poses are more powerful than others?160_F_88508281_Dk33yAbjlirfL8Vxop7HELiXYXs7O7KS

The arms up in the V with the chin lifted. Feet apart with hands on hips. Making self big, stretching out, taking up space. These are all nonverbal expressions of determination.

What do you look like when you’re not feeling determined? Small. Slumped. 160_F_1061146_ozbbt9DHg2bapfC5QTNcacEcSHCtjaThis posture won’t create determination but it will create fatigue and avoidance.

Even if you’re not feeling determined, can you fake it till you make it? Yes! When you pretend to be determined you will start to feel determined. Listen to the proof in this video.

The body can change the mind. The body is not just a vehicle for the head. Power posing literally increases testosterone (the power hormone) and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone.) Because of this, YES, you can fake it ’til you become it.

The next time I play racquetball I’m going to go into the stairwell and strike a pose before I see the mob that’s been bullying me. I’m not going to strike a pose at them. Power posing isn’t something you do to people. It’s not a way to talk to people. It’s a way to talk to yourself.

This is day 7 of the 30 day challenge. Many of the challenges this week have been about developing a mindset of determination. Here is your challenge: Before you go into a situation that triggers your anxiety or OCD strike a pose. Hold the pose for 2 minutes.

Try it right now. Let us know how it goes in the comment section!