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

assertive

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

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

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

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

comfortzone

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

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

I Statements

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

Repeat and Don’t Attack

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

Be Absurd and Over the Top

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

Rehearse Being Assertive

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

Meditation

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

Dr.Spock

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

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

Imagine Saying No and Loving Every Minute of It

temper tantrum

If you have OCD then you know how hard it is to say “no” to OCD. When told “no” OCD is just like a two year old; it throws a temper tantrum and screams until it gets its way.  Of course, if you give in to OCD you can expect a temper tantrum when you try to say “no” again. OCD is a strong force to be reckoned with. That’s why it’s good to practice saying “no” to people. If you can’t say “no” to people, how will you say “no” to OCD?

exhausted

People who have a hard time saying “no” to OCD often have a hard time saying “no” to people. Sometimes a person with OCD will forfeit their own mental health in order to support a person in need. They say “yes” to oodles of invitations and projects even when everything is occurring at the same time. Even though they aren’t keeping up with their own responsibilities, they run everybody else’s errands. Instead of going to bed and getting much needed sleep they stay up late listening to a distant friend talk about their troubles. People who can’t say “no” are good people. They are very loving and make the world a better place for everybody else–except themselves.

say no

The more difficulty you have in saying no the more stressed and depleted you’ll feel. Saying “no” to people will make saying “no” to OCD easier. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be hard. Once you master the art of saying “no” you’ll love how much more energy you have to do the things you love to do. You’ll love how much more resourceful you are at bossing OCD back. Read these four tips.

happyfaceThere’s no point in trying to figure out why you have such a hard time saying “no.” In the battle against OCD it’s not good to spend time analyzing. You won’t ever know for certain what definitely makes it hard for you to say “no.” Maybe you like chaos because it gets you “buzzy” and makes you feel alive. It’s possible you can’t say no because you fear rejection, loneliness or don’t want to miss out. Maybe you can’t say “no” because you like the distraction. It’s possible you can’t say “no” because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Whatever the reason, it’s fear-based. Knowing it’s fear-based you know what you have to do. Action: Feel the fear and say NO anyway. Put your mental health first.

happyfaceBe a big-picture thinker. Weigh the consequences of saying “yes.” You’ll get stressed and depleted. In the battle against OCD you need all of the focus and energy you can muster. Is it worth losing ground against OCD to support another person who could easily get help elsewhere? Maybe you are only enabling someone and keeping them from growing up. It doesn’t have to be you to save the day. Identify your priorities and guard them with your life. It’s better to be there consistently for one or two people than half-there for 10 people. Action: Get your priorities straight and be mindful of them.

happyfaceOffer alternatives. I have to turn people away all the time from my therapy practice because of my schedule. I apologize and say, “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful but try calling these people to see if they are available.” Keep it simple. Don’t go into long explanations. You’re defeating the purpose of saying “no” when you spend forever explaining yourself. Action: In one sentence say “no” and offer a suggestion.

happyfaceDon’t be so accessible. Get into the habit of delaying the “yes.” Say, “I doubt that I can do it but let me get back to you tomorrow.” By then the person will probably already have another plan in place. Put a greeting on your voice mail that says you only listen to voice mail at 4pm [once a day.] Use an auto responder to reply to text messages or emails that states you are busy and will try to respond within 24 hours. Action: Delay. Don’t respond immediately.

As you get better at saying “no” to people you get better at saying “no” to OCD. It’s nice to be supportive of others but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own mental health. It can be unsettling to be so quiet and still, but running around like a chicken without a head isn’t healthy either. Life is always going to be about finding balance. Say “no” and love every minute of it because it’s leading you to freedom.

If you know someone who has trouble saying “no” and you think this post would be helpful, please feel free to share by using any of the share buttons. e.g., Facebook or email.

Do You Struggle With Getting Back On Track?

When life gets busy or something unexpected comes up, do you lose momentum and get easily derailed from your healthy habits? Do all your plans for betterment go out the window? I’ve got a winning strategy to share with you about how to get your momentum back every time.

juror (2)

I’ve been on Jury Duty for 10 long grueling days and after 3 days of intense deliberation, we finally reached a verdict. All of the jurors, including myself, talked about how something like this really turns life upside down. But, really, truth be told I let my life be influenced by the circumstances. I had other choices. I chose not to play any racquetball or go to the gym. I chose to eat fattening “comfort” food. For two weeks I didn’t do anything that made me feel vital. (Some would argue I made a difference during jury deliberations, but that’s not the kind of impact that I find satisfying.) I started the New Year with lots of zest and tons of action. But, now…I’ve lost my momentum. The good news is that this has happened to me before. So I know exactly what to do. Plus, I’ve done a lot of research about getting motivated.

Have you ever been derailed and struggled with getting back on track? Do you recall thinking there was no point in getting back on track? Perhaps you thought you should wait until [such and such] event finished. Maybe you put yourself down, “You’re too inconsistent and incapable of everlasting change.” It’s important to be conscious of these kinds of thoughts and feelings. These kind of thoughts limit your beliefs. Look for them!

Once you recognize these limiting beliefs, realize they’re doing nothing but paralyzing you. You don’t need to believe them. These kinds of thoughts have been in your brain since you were 8 or 10 years old! They are just old messages from childhood. Consciously and deliberately take charge of these negative thoughts and feelings that hinder your motivation. It’s not a lack of intention that keeps us from getting back on track. We get stuck because our unconscious thoughts run us into a brick wall.

What is the action you intend or want to take? Is it a healthy habit, resisting a compulsion or facing a fear? Your brain is going to tell you not to bother for numerous reasons. Make sure you are consciously aware of those messages and use the winning strategy below.

Here’s the Winning Strategy to Get Back on Track:

  • Become fully conscious and aware of any limiting beliefs
  • Recognize all your choices besides just doing nothing
  • Release the limiting beliefs and replace them with new positive affirmations
  • Prime your brain for success by visualizing it happening
  • Take a tiny step within minutes or seconds of completing the chart below.

Goal: e.g., I’m going to resist the compulsion of comparing myself to others. Use this format to write down what it looks like to reset and recalibrate your brain:

Limiting Belief Choices + Affirmation Visualize it
I won’t be able to resist because the urge will be too powerful. I’m not that strong.

 

I can give in to the urge to compare and feel miserable with the results or I can resist the urge to compare and feel anxious. Maybe I can do this. I know I can at least try. I’ve resisted other compulsions in the past with success. This seems hard but I can do hard. I like the way it feels to see myself free of this compulsion. I can see how my world would become so much bigger. I see much happiness all around me.

I took my first action to get back on track and wrote this blog. I’m on a roll! It’s good to be back!

How Dreams Can Help You Live a Better Life (Become a Dream Hacker in 10 Minutes.)

nightmare

Upsetting dreams, believe it or not, are a strangely wrapped gift. Scary, vivid dreams don’t look like a gift or feel like a gift…but they are! They’re just strangely wrapped. You’d think sleeping would give you a break from OCD, but that’s not the case for many. If you’re having upsetting dreams that’s great news! They can guide you to peace! Here are three clever strategies to turn your worst nightmares into bliss.

  1. Unpleasant dreams could be a sign that in your wakeful life you’re avoiding something. For example, I have this recurring dream about a gang of teenagers breaking into my house. They never harm me and I’m not afraid of them. I’m frustrated that they’re violating my personal space. This sort of dream makes me think about who I need to set a boundary with in my wakeful life. The content of your dream may or may not have anything to do with what you need to confront. So, don’t spend too much time analyzing your dream. OCD already has you analyzing way too much, so don’t add something new! Remember, the idea is to get out of your head and into your life! For quick ideas you can use an online dream interpreter. Action: Figure out what you need to face and begin to confront it. Once you do you will feel empowered by your victory and relieved of catastrophic thinking. hacking
  2. You may be able to get out of a nightmare by hacking into the dream. People who are self-reflective during waking hours have a greater ability to change the course of a bad or frustrating dream. This means while dreaming you can tell yourself “it’s just a dream” or you can even stand up to who or whatever is causing you angst in the dream. In fact, people who self-reflect have a greater ability to shake off a bad dream upon awakening. Here’s why: Self-reflection helps grow gray matter in the brain. That can come in pretty handy for people with OCD who have gray matter deficiencies! Why do you need gray matter? Because it helps control your perception of what is happening around you, including in a dream state. Be more self-reflective and you will be better able to hack into a bad dream or squelch a bad dream hangover. Action: Take 10 minutes every day to reflect. Here are 3 powerful reflections to help grow gray matter so that you can change the course of a bad dream, and especially the direction of your life:
    • Am I letting my core values drive my behavior?
    • Am I taking care of my body and making it a lean, mean fighting machine against OCD?
    • Am I thinking about my blessings and expressing my gratitude enough?surrender
  3. But, what if you can’t control your thoughts when you’re asleep any better than you can when you’re awake? Your dreams can be extremely vivid as a result of the side effects of medication or other brain chemistry changes. If you’re dreading going to bed because you are worried about having more bad dreams, it’s probably better to surrender and say, “And so it will be.” Be willing to go for the ride. Be willing to have unpleasant dreams the same way you must be willing to have unwanted, intrusive thoughts when you are awake. Metaphorical Action: Instead of trying to push the beach ball down to the bottom of the swimming pool, let it surface. Let the ball float around you and do nothing about it. This takes less energy and frees up your arms. Treat your bad dreams in the same manner. In fact, treat your unwanted intrusive thoughts this way. It’s much more peaceful to accept than resist.

So in summary here are the three actionable steps you can take to turn your worst nightmares into bliss:

  1. Make sure you are facing your fears during times you are awake.
  2. Be more self-reflective.
  3. Surrender.

Three Habits You Should Ditch in the New Year

Around this time of year we tend to think about what to change in 2016. And what I know for sure is that many people with OCD are thinking about bossing it back faster and smarter than ever before. But, some people with OCD aren’t really thinking about bossing it back. They’re thinking about how to make unwanted intrusive thoughts stop.

baby girl crying from ear ache

Bossing it back means letting those unwanted intrusive thoughts exist in your mind without doing anything to get rid of them. (Like performing physical or mental compulsions, seeking reassurance or avoiding triggers.) Think of bossing it back like this: You’re on a plane with a screaming baby sitting right next to you. You don’t try to make the baby stop screaming because that only makes her scream more. You don’t talk to her. You don’t play with her. You don’t yell at her. You don’t judge her. You don’t try to figure out what’s wrong. You don’t ask the mother any questions. There is nothing you can do to stop the baby from screaming. You pick up your book, shrug and read just as you intended before you met the screaming baby. The screaming baby has no effect on your ability to read. That’s bossing it back! The screaming baby is your OCD. Let it scream!

But, OCD is a trickster and can talk you into bad habits to try and stop the screaming. Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?

  1. Thinking a compulsion is no big deal

Well I hate to break it to you but it is. Compulsions keep OCD alive. When you perform a compulsion it’s like paying attention to the screaming baby. She only screams louder. There is no such thing as a good compulsion. They are all a big deal. Don’t get tricked into a compulsion when OCD says, “Just this one time.” Or “Do it and get it over with.” “You won’t be able to get this off your mind unless you do this compulsion.” You know these are lies. I know you fear harm will come if you don’t do what OCD says. Your fear is not the greatest fear ever experienced. There is always someone with OCD who fears harm much more than you. And that person with more fear than you has bossed it back. Don’t use fear as an excuse.

Break the old habit of thinking compulsions are no big deal. They rob you of your life and waste so much time. People who boss it back realize compulsions are a huge deal. No matter how afraid they are, they resist the urge to do a compulsion. They reach a point where they’ve had enough of the lies. They know that one compulsion leads to another. In many cases, their fear is more intense than yours, and the risk feels far more real than your risk, yet they take the risk anyway and boss it back. Remember this;  there is always someone more afraid than you, who is bossing it back.

  1. Not scheduling time to boss it back

If you don’t set your intentions to boss it back, you won’t. When you’re caught in the OCD trance, you’re on automatic pilot and doing whatever OCD tells you to do. To boss it back faster and smarter than ever, put your plan in writing and use notifications to remind you to execute your plan. There are many user-friendly apps for your smart phone or PC to help you schedule your boss it back plan and you’ll even get daily reminders. Apps that I have used and like are: HabitBull, HabitList and GoalsOnTrack.

Break the old habit of winging it and flying by the seat of your pants. Start a new habit by scheduling time each day to boss it back. Maybe this means setting aside time to conduct exposure experiments and doing at least one thing every day that scares your OCD. I’ve included a link that will give you worksheets to help you formulate your exposures. How about scheduling time each day to listen to your loop tape for a week?  Read more about loop tapes here. If you need additional help let me know! There are also detailed scripts for loop tapes in the back of Jonathan Grayson’s book. (See my Resource page @ bossitback.com.)

  1. Not celebrating your victories

How can you rewire your brain if you don’t let it know when something great just happened? No matter how little you think the victory is, celebrate it. If your brain exaggerates threats it can also exaggerate victories! Happiness can be taught! OCD can be fought! If you resist a compulsion or face something you’ve been avoiding, CELEBRATE!!! Be proactive and make a list of all the many ways you could celebrate. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, how would you tell a friend to celebrate? Ask a friend for ideas. Make it fun and put each different way to celebrate on a separate slip of paper. Put all the slips in a jar and pick one when it’s time to celebrate. Check out this playlist of celebratory songs here.

Break the old habit of failing to recognize your victories. Your brain needs positive feedback when you break bad habits. If you give it negative feedback, “Oh I’m not celebrating something I should have been able to do a long time ago,” then you’re brain can’t rewire! Sing, dance, laugh…Here’s that video of me dancercising that I promised you. Sorry it’s kind of blurry!

 

Why Accountability is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

accountability

One of the most effective ways to gain power over OCD and get super determined to “Boss it Back” is to get an Accountability Partner. Accountability breeds determination!

First figure out who you want to be, and what it is you want to change or achieve. In 2016, I’m going to try out something new. Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, that I end up drifting from, I’m going to use this blueprint and review it every 90 days with my Accountability Partners:

DESIGN YOUR LIFE BLUEPRINT

  1. The Purpose of my life is…
  2. My outer mission is…
  3. My inner mission is…
  4. The highest values I live and make decisions by are…
  5. My top goals for the next 90 days concerning health, spirituality, relationships, business and adventure….
  6. Books or podcasts I will use to enrich my life…
  7. Morning and evening habits I will stop or start.
  8. Daily routines will include…(e.g., Gratitude exercise, meditation, physical exercise.)

SHARE WITH AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

Once you have the details of your blueprint it’s important to share it with someone. That person is called an Accountability Partner. When choosing a partner or partners:

  1. Look for someone who will challenge you but not condemn you. Accountability is not forced but chosen.
  2. Pick someone who is emotionally resilient and positive. You want someone who won’t accept excuses, will ask hard questions but won’t belittle or give up on you.
  3. It’s helpful to pick someone who has had some success in the areas you are working on. You want someone who can help problem-solve.
  4. It’s actually a good idea to find more than one partner.
  5. As a team or individually talk at least online weekly and meet every 90 days.
  6. When you talk with your Accountability Partner, BE HONEST!

Cheers to “Bossing it Back” stronger and faster than ever before!

Where to Go to Free Your Mind

It’s not necessary to suffer from OCD. There are places you can go to free your mind! It’s possible to find a place where you can focus on what truly matters. Places I’m going to share a couple of places that surprised me during this busy shopping season.

 

A few days ago I visited the Apple store at Crossgates Mall. A young woman, Sarah, was assigned to me and we had a brief conversation about how she used her MacBook in Paris and why the Apple store had been moved to such a small tiny little room in the mall. Truthfully, my mind was not focused on Sarah or the MacBook. I was telling myself to keep my hands in my pockets because people were sneezing everywhere and the tiny little store smelled like germs.  (This is what I get for hanging around so many people with OCD!)

Sarah went on to the next customer while I cautiously lingered a bit longer. I was eavesdropping on what other people were asking and learning. But, believe me, I was on the lookout for people who seemed sickly. Then a young man named Benny approached me. He said, “I’m so excited to show you something!” “Me?” I asked. “Yes, look at what you can do with this MacBook!”

I was there for another hour and I never even heard another cough or sneeze again. My mind was set free by talking with Benny. And, it’s not because of what he was teaching me about the MacBook. Benny is the happiest person I’ve ever met.  No circumstance or worry got in his way. Even when his supervisor came over and said, “Benny’s new so I’m just observing him,” Benny did not stop smiling. And I just kept smiling back. Talking to him made me want to be happy, not worried. I’d rather be happy and sick than healthy but worried all the time.

Hopefully you can visit Benny, but maybe he’s not accessible from where you live. No problem! There are happy people all around the world. I tested this out. I went to Barnes & Noble and asked to speak to the happiest person working. I was introduced to a young gal not cheerful like Benny, but very warm and tranquil. Happy people are in many places and I hope when you find one, you decide to smile back and free your mind!

You’re off to great places…so get on your way. Oh the places you’ll go.

What Everyone With OCD Needs To Remember

If you’re like most people with OCD you can get pretty exhausted and overwhelmed. OCD can send you in never-ending circles while you try to feel certain about something. And no matter how hard you work to get that sense of certainty, it’s impossible to feel it for any length of time. There are lots of steps you can take to beat OCD. But first, let’s make sure you know and practice the first step. This step can’t be skipped!

The first step in beating OCD is to shrug.shrug

A shrug communicates “Whatever happens, happens.” How does it work out when you try to control the uncontrollable? Being attached to a certain outcome is exactly how OCD grabs hold of you. For example, perhaps OCD has you paranoid about what people think of you. If you are attached to everybody liking you then maybe you’ll try to control what people think about you by being the funniest person in the room. But, people will think what they want to think whether you are funny or not. And you know this! You can’t control what people think! So no matter how funny you are, there is no relief because you’ll never feel 100% certain you are liked.

Remember, OCD is the doubting disease! You can either keep trying to get certainty-to no avail. Or you can end this vicious cycle and shrug at the worry. Maybe you worry, “What if they think I am boring?” Instead of trying hard to make them think otherwise and only failing because you’re trying too hard, SHRUG and say, “Whatever! Maybe they think I’m boring, maybe they don’t. Until someone says I’m boring to my face…I don’t care.”

I know that shrugging won’t always work. OCD can feel very intense at times and the urge to do whatever it takes to get rid of the anxiety can feel very strong. But before wasting all that time and energy, just try to always make shrugging your first attempt to “boss it back.” If you put any time or energy into trying to control the worry, you’ll end up suffering. Even if you get some relief, it won’t last.

Shrugging will raise your personal threshold–you’re ability to handle anxiety. If you are willing to be anxious, OCD has no power over you.
threshold
The higher your threshold the less time you’ll spend trying to control the uncontrollable. I’m not saying it’s easy to just shrug at what can be intense anxiety. Just make it the first thing you try when “bossing it back!”

 

 

Use These 10 Superpowers to Cripple OCD

If you’re like most people you probably have a “Life is Good” T-Shirt. The brand features a character named Jake and he seems like he’s always having fun. I never realized what the “Life is Good” saying really means! Bert and John Jacobs are the developers of this brand and recently came out with a book. It’s called, “Life is Good: The Book.” In this book they talk about their hardships and even tragedies. So it’s not as if life has always been good to them. Bert asks, “How could anyone wear one of our shirts after 9/11 happened?” But, it was shortly after 9/11 that their company experienced a huge growth spurt. It’s because “Life is Good” is really about optimism. In their book they talk about 10 superpowers that we all possess to help us be optimistic, no matter what adversity we face.

Here are the superpowers you already possess that can cripple OCD:

  1. Openness (to learning a different way of handling OCD.)
  2. Courage (to be anxious without fixing it).
  3. Simplicity (shed the complicated compulsions.)
  4. Humor (OCD crumbles with laughter.)
  5. Gratitude for the many things in life that are good and working well.
  6. Compassion towards others and oneself. (Don’t be a self-hater!)
  7. Fun-seeking. (It gets you out of “threat and protect” mode.)
  8. Creativity (allows you to outsmart OCD.)
  9. Authenticity is being who you really want to be. Do what you love and love what you do! (That’s the Life is Good tagline.)
  10. Love (is so powerful and it’s impossible to be in threat and protect mode when you are truly appreciating someone.)

I encourage you to get the “Life is Good” book because it shows you how to be optimistic in the face of adversity.  But, even if you don’t get the book you can still access your 10 SUPERPOWERS to help you BOSS it BACK!

I send out weekly tips to help you Boss OCD Back! The above is based on the tip sent this past week. If you’d like to receive weekly tips send me your email and I’ll help you be a lean mean fighting machine against OCD!

 

 

Free Your Mind. Free Your Life. Defying OCD