Tag Archives: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsions Can Backfire

I tried to resist compulsions before, and it didn’t work. I felt worse! Why should I try again?

resist compulsive behavior
You can’t choose your thoughts but you can choose your reaction.

Resisting compulsive behavior and mental acts is a long process. The process has a beginning, middle and no end. At any time during the process you can:

  • expect to have setbacks
  • anticipate having POLS (Persistent, On-fire, Lasting, Sinking- feelings)
  • doubt resisting is worth the pain and agony
  • continue to have unwanted, intrusive thoughts even though you’re resisting compulsions

Contemplate this truth: Resisting compulsions is going to be the worst and best thing you’ve ever done.

In the beginning, more times than not you will think, “Resisting compulsions isn’t working.” If you think it’s not working, does that make it real? Does it mean you’re not getting better if you don’t feel better?

Does it mean you’re getting better only if you feel better? Such as when you’re performing a mental act or compulsion. Upon completion, you probably have some relief.  It’s only temporary, but let’s admit it, briefly, you feel better. Does that mean you’re getting better because you’re feeling better?

Not at all. To get better, you’re not going to feel better at first. Is that okay with you? Will you commit to resisting compulsions even though you’re going to have POLS? Besides, when you’re performing compulsions, you still have POLS.

Do this now: Put your hand on your heart and vow to do whatever it takes to get healthy. 

“That’s easier said than done.”

Of course! You’ve performed your rituals and mental acts to the point of automation. In other words, you’ve habituated to your compulsions. You’ve gotten used to them. Breaking a habit is hard! Does that mean you shouldn’t break it?

There is an excellent technique for this kind of automatic compulsive behavior. I call it “recontaminating the scene of the crime.” The crime is the compulsion. So whatever the compulsion “fixed,” your job is to unfix it. Recontaminate the scene by reintroducing the anxiety. For example, if you:

  • counted car door handles before you pulled out of a parking space, pull back into the spot and this time back out without looking at the car door handles.
  • sanitized after touching a doorknob, go back and touch the doorknob and resist washing.
  • rewound and replayed a conversation you had earlier to see if you said something bad, go ahead and say something bad.
  • scanned the environment to see if you dropped identifying information about yourself, drop part of your social security number in the parking lot and walk away.
  • checked the faucet too many times, turn the faucet back on and let it drip. Walk away. Don’t check.

The most critical part of recontaminating the scene is what you say to OCD while you’re doing it. Your words must be tough. Like this, “Oh yeah OCD? You think something bad is going to happen now that I recontaminated? OK OCD. Whatever happens, happens. Time will tell.”

Resisting compulsions is going to be the worst thing you’ve ever done. It’s also going to be the best thing you’ve ever done.

The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire

#1   Did you resist compulsions for the right reason?

The reason to resist compulsions is not to get rid of unwanted thoughts or anxiety. That can be the prize but never the goal. Put your nose to the grindstone—focus heavily on the work not the bonus.

The right reason to resist compulsions is to learn how to be incredibly strong, perceptive and empathic. It’s the exercise of learning that is life-changing. Resist compulsions because you like working hard to learn how to be grateful and optimistic in dark times. Value the challenge, not the reward. 

#2   Did you think Control was all you needed?

“I can control my thoughts” is the same thing as saying “I can control my compulsions.” The name of the game is not CONTROL. Trying to control is what got you into this mess. It’s about surrender. Read on.

Don’t expect to control: Frantic Effort to Avoid Reality

#3   Did you put in an honest day’s work?

You need a strong work ethic. What is a strong work ethic? Stop asking others to help feed OCD with reassurance or safety behaviors. Be more cooperative with your team. Just because you don’t like what they’re telling you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hear them out. 

Compulsive behavior
Dive in. This is no time to wait.

If you don’t put in the time, then the work won’t get done. Get a lot of therapy done each day. Be productive. This is no time to avoid—or be idle. You’re in the fight of your life. Climb your exposure hierarchy with a vengeance. Get to it!

Even after you’ve climbed your hierarchy go back and climb it again. Find some other fears to face. It’s how you keep your brain sharp and your OCD dull. This is a life-style, not a one shot fix.

People who have a strong work ethic are led by values—not fear. They are distinguished from others by their dedication, integrity, and self-discipline. Put your nose to the grindstone and focus heavily on your therapy. Let nothing get in your way of an honest day’s work.

Are you: Finding Excuses And Reasons?

The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire

#4     Was there a pity party goin’ on? 

If you think it’s unfair that you have OCD then your ability to power up and find strength will be quite limited. The sooner you accept you have this neurological condition and do something about it—the sooner you will do something about it!

Asking, “why is this happening to me” is not going to get you anywhere but deeper into the hole. When you’re resisting compulsions, you have to talk tough. “Oh yeah, OCD? You think if I don’t do this compulsion something bad will happen? Well, time will tell. Whatever happens, I’ll deal with it. I’d rather take the risk than live like this.”

You’re in the fight of your life. Stop wishing you weren’t. It is what it is. If you think like a victim, you will feel like a victim and then act like a victim. Wipe “I wish” from your vocabulary. Stop saying “I can’t.” Yes, you can.

Watch out for: Failure Expected And Received

#5   Did you enter the combat zone unwillingly or hesitantly?

Did you enter your OCD recovery program with boots on the ground? If you knew your loved one in the military didn’t go into combat yelling “BOOYAH” and instead was pleading, “No please…” you’d question his or her readiness. Can you afford to have OCD question your readiness?

compulsive behavior
Booyah! Let’s go! Now!

The moment your eyes open—your feet hit the floor, you are in COMBAT.  YOU NEED TO HIT THE FLOOR RUNNING. Resist compulsions and stick to the plan. Feelings don’t matter in combat. Second guessing your mission won’t save your life.

To help you remember BOOTS on the GROUND put a pair of old unused boots near your bed. Look at them when you wake up and remember you’re entering a combat zone. Until you master the skill of resisting compulsions, you’re in the fight of your life.

Drills develop skills. You’ll get good at whatever you practice. You can’t build skills on the run. Stay and fight.

Don’t: Forget Everything [you’ve learned] And Run!

#6   You didn’t surrender during the combat.

Resisting compulsions is not the traditional combat zone. Your combat is different. For you to outwit and outplay OCD, you need to proudly fly a white flag that reveals you’re surrendering.  

resist compulsive behavior
This is not how to resist! OCD is just as stubborn as the donkey!

Whatever OCD says might happen if you resist a compulsion, nod your head and agree. “Yes, maybe that is so. Time will tell. Whatever happens, happens. I will deal with it. It will be horrible, but I will handle it.”

After all, this ain’t your first rodeo. You’ve been through plenty of real-life situations. And you probably dealt with them better than most.

You’re really good in an actual crisis. It’s the things in your imagination that creep you out. But when push comes to shove, you’re the one who holds your head above water while others are drowning.

YOU ‘RE SO FREAKIN’ STRONG! BOOYAH!

Do: Face Everything And Rise!

The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire

#7    Did you stay in the moment?

OCD is the most significant force you will ever be up against. It knows what you fear. It will work very hard to keep you from ever having to feel that fear. OCD is not your enemy. It’s trying to protect you from feeling afraid.

Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean something is wrong. But, OCD doesn’t know this! Just because you’re startled or anxious—it doesn’t mean stop.

If it’s not happening, now…it’s not happening. Stay in the moment. Live one moment to the next. OCD has no clue what this means. Do you?

“In this moment, right here, right now I’m pretty okay.”

Did you: Forget Everything’s [Actually] All Right?

Contemplate this truth until you understand it clearly: OCD doesn’t get the meaning of anxiety or weird thoughts. It can’t differentiate reality from imagination. You can’t count on OCD to lead the way.

#8   Did you give up too soon?

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trodding seems all uphill
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit
Oh, no, don’t you quit
Whoa, no

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint on the clouds of doubt
But you never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far, ooh
Gotta stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
And when things go wrong, oh, you must not quit
Oh, no, don’t you quit

You got to stick to the fight
When you’re hardest hit
And when things go wrong
No, oh, no, don’t you quit

Don’t give up the fight
Don’t give up
You better not give up the fight
Don’t give up
Oh, no, no
  ~Caron Wheeler “Don’t Quit”

No Matter What, Stick To It

It takes a lot of patience, intention, and mindfulness. Arm yourself with inspirational stories of people who persevered and carried on even in the face of difficulty or adversity.

Think of all the famous stories we know about people who had stick-to-it-ness. Your story is no different.

  • Even after failing to land a role and being called too ugly, most Academy Award nominations, Meryl Streep never gave up on acting.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected by the USA film school three times.
  • After his first performance, Elvis Presley was told, “You ought to go back to driving a truck.”
  • Dr. Seuss was turned down by over 25 different publishers.
  • At age 30, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded.
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven’s music teacher said he was hopeless.
  • Oprah Winfrey was told she “wasn’t fit for television.”
The ingredients for success
Inspiration, opportunity, creativity, patience, resilience, vision…All of this equals results.

The Day You Quit Is The Day You Were Going to Win!

  • Thomas Edison’s teacher told him he couldn’t learn anything.
  • Colonel Sanders became a world-known figure by marketing his “finger lickin good” Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). His recipe was rejected over 1,000 times before it was given a chance.
  • Before winning six NBA championships and receiving five Most Valuable Player awards, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. 
  • The Beatles were rejected by a recording studio that said, “They have no future in show business.” 
  • And Albert Einstein’s parents and teachers said he would never amount to much.

The secret ingredient all of the above people had is stick-to-it-ness. This ingredient is available to you too.

Contemplate this truth: A setback is a setup for a breakthrough.

Yes, Face Everything And Rejoice!
Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

If you’re struggling with resisting compulsions, review the above 8 principles and see which ones need improvement. Don’t quit. Keep at it. Resisting compulsions is a marathon comprised of a series of sprints. 

resist compulsions
The storm clears eventually.

You are the blue sky. It may seem cloudy and the thunder may roll, but the blue sky always, always comes back.

This post concludes the series, “The Best Advice on How to Resist Compulsions.” Let me know which one(s) helped you the most. If I overlooked a topic that you have questions about please ltell me in the comment section! Other topics covered in this series:
Forget Compulsions Try This Instead

Is it Okay to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

 

Resist compulsions
Oh! Shiny lights…

Is it okay to use distraction in order to resist a compulsion? If you don’t know the answer to this question, keep reading. If you think you know the answer to this question…keep reading. 

The argument for distracting is twofold. 

1.) First, distraction can be used to delay the compulsion. When the urge to perform a compulsion or mental act arises you shift your attention away.

If you delay the compulsion long enough, it’s believed that you might forget all about the urge to do the compulsion. But, if you give in and perform the compulsion, at least you put it off and found a way to do it by distracting.

2.) The second purpose for using distraction is to avoid anxiety.

The evaluation of anxiety, in this example, is that it’s crippling and therefore should be avoided. Stay busy and try not to have any downtime. If while trying to push through a fear you become overwhelmed and panicky, use a distraction to get relief.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

Authors of “Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts,” Martin Seif and Sally Winston state, “As with all anxiety disorders, avoidance of anxiety is both what maintains and strengthens it.” They advise therapists, “Overcoming the disorder means counterintuitively moving clients toward experiences that increase their distress.”

On the other hand, Fletcher Wortmann, an OCD-Thriver and author of Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  explains: “There is no shame in occasional escapism.”

Resist compulsions
Fight Flight Freeze

At this point, it’s important to note there is plenty of research that proves distraction lessens the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze) response probably more than any other form of emotional regulation.

That’s why many talk therapists encourage clients to distract from their anxiety by hyper-focusing on the minutia of the environment (using the five senses.) Another technique often taught is to hold an ice cube until the anxiety goes away.

However, OCD therapists don’t typically teach distraction because we’ve learned: “You don’t stop OCD by distracting.” Even today I found this on the International OCD Foundation website: “The most common false fear blockers are physical and mental compulsions, distraction, avoidance, and reassurance seeking.”

Yet, studies show that focusing attention away from an unpleasant feeling/thought reduces the intensity of the suffering. Likewise, the innovative people at treatmyocd.com have created an app called nOCD, a free mobilized personal treatment app. One of its features is an “SOS” button to assist with distraction.

I downloaded the app and found it to be an excellent resource for people with OCD, especially for those self-directing their Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) therapy. It’s hard enough to try ERP with a therapist but think about the people who have no access to an OCD therapist.

However, I was concerned about the “SOS” button. Afterall, OCD therapists are discouraged from teaching distraction.  

Consider these possible disadvantages of intentional distraction: 
Resisting compulsions
Is it ok to use a distraction to resist a compulsion?
  • You’re only learning how to avoid or delay the anxiety. New pathways won’t be created. Confidence levels will decrease.
  • Eventually, you’ll find yourself face to face with whatever drove you to distraction in the first place.  At some point, you’ll run out of the ability to distract. What will you do when there’s no way to distract? You’re only good at what you practice.
  • Focusing away from the anxiety means less attention on the opportunity to grow and more attention on living just above the surface.
  • Distracting may slow down the healing process and for some people, they can’t afford to waste any more time. OCD has already taken too much.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

I emailed the people behind the app, who by the way have all personally lived with OCD and know exactly what it feels like to live with it each and every day. Their opinion matters a lot to me.

I want to support the app but I explained I was concerned about the “SOS” feature which is used for distraction. This was the response they gave for me to include in this blog post:

  • I understand your approach and agree that distraction isn’t the answer, but it obviously depends on the person.
  • The SOS feature has really helped people in times of intense suffering and continues to help people get through severe OCD episodes.
  • I really like what you said about teaching the brain that anxiety at all levels is not only tolerable but wanted. In my personal experiences, really encouraging the anxiety and wanting to feel the intense anxiety can actually make the episodes less intense.
  • The app saves/tracks data. Makes it so easy to share evidence-based info with your therapist or others who want to learn more.
  • It’s also important to highlight that each of our team members has personal experience with the current treatment system: it’s very difficult to find a qualified OCD specialist, it’s extremely expensive, insurance doesn’t usually help much for mental health issues, etc.

I think we’re all on the same page.

There are people who haven’t <<yet>> learned to just go ahead and experience the anxiety. Thankfully, nOCD can help people get through intense anxiety with it’s SOS feature. There’s nothing wrong with getting a reprieve from something you don’t know how to manage.

When you push the SOS button it asks if you’re struggling with an anxiety-producing thought or a strong urge to do a compulsion. The app helps you to face your fear or resist a compulsion. But, if the anxiety gets too overwhelming, hit the SOS button and the app will try to help distract you.

nOCD does far more than help with distraction by the way. The app not only teaches you how to use ERP but also takes you through each step. A video lesson is included and step-by-step guidance is given. nOCD collects and saves all your effort and provides a visual of your progress. This app is a great in-between session tool for people in therapy. For people who don’t have a therapist this app can take you through the same steps a therapist would. 

So…Is it OK to Use a Distraction to Resist a Compulsion? 

Resist compulsions
Every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day…Be ready!

Avoiding anxiety isn’t a drill that develops a skill. 

In order to beat OCD, you’ll need to develop the skill of allowing weird thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. You don’t beat OCD by distracting.

But, not all distraction is bad.

Life itself is a distraction. There are people to see, things to do and places to go. Living your life to the fullest may very well distract you from your thoughts and anxiety. Here’s a Mom who explains this concept very well: Proactive vs. Reactive Distractions

Unintended Distraction

I’ve created a Puzzle Book that is in Beta testing. I designed it to be a mild exposure exercise so that people with the doubting disease can confront their dislike for uncertainty. Some of the people testing it for me have already commented that time flies when they work on the puzzles.

Resist compulsions
Face it with a puzzle

The puzzlers expected an exposure exercise with a bit of anxiety. Although this puzzle book is by far the least anxiety-provoking of the 10, I didn’t anticipate it would be such a pleasant distraction!  

The point is there was no intention to be distracted. Sometimes an exposure exercise ends up being easier than thought. It makes it easier to go on to the next exposure. Always build momentum.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Deliberately hitting the “distraction” button when you feel overwhelmed needs to be seen as a stepping stone, not a crutch. If you intentionally distract to avoid and continue this strategy…well, read the disadvantages above again. 

If you hit the “distraction” button, learn from it. Maybe you tried something too hard. Find an exposure exercise that challenges you–but doesn’t cause panic.

Be self-reflective about your motive for distracting. If you choose to distract, be mindful of what you’re doing. 

If life distracts you…if there are moments you forget you even have OCD…that sounds wonderful to me.

Please feel free to add your thoughts about distraction in the comments. As always, I’ll keep your name anonymous.

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

 

Are you addicted to compulsions?

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions 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

Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s More to Being Compulsion-Free Than Just Stopping

How to stop excessive hand washing.
I’ll be done soon…

Have you ever been in the middle of a compulsion and someone said: “Just knock it off!” And you replied, “If it was that easy don’t you think I would just stop?” The best advice on how to resist compulsions doesn’t include to, “just knock it off.”

Very, very few people with OCD can go cold turkey and “just knock it off.” So many times people have said to me, “I’m just going to stop all of it. Right now. No more compulsions.” They mean it with all their heart. And then they walk to their car performing compulsions.

Going Cold Turkey Has Little to Do With Staying Compulsion-Free

If you want to know what it feels like to just knock it off and go cold turkey, it’s like dumping all kinds of poison in a sess pool and sitting in it. Taking your hands and putting the slop all over your face and body. Breathing it in and doing nothing to save yourself.

If you sat there long enough, believe it or not, you’d become desensitized. But, just like any kind of sobriety, the urge will return. You’ll still want to perform a compulsion. 

There’s more to being compulsion-free than just stopping.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Put an end to your compulsions by applying these seven principles:

  1. It’s “whatever” therapy! Talk to your OCD in a nonargumentative manner. “Yup, maybe that will happen. Time will tell.”  Don’t reassure OCD. Instead, shrug and say “This could be unpleasant. I’ll just have to find out.” It’s all about the “whatever.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  If you can trick your brain into thinking you’re smiling with a pen sideways in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking “whatever” with a shrug!
  2. Build a hierarchy. Resist the easiest compulsion first and keep resisting until it no longer bothers you to resist. Then, like climbing a ladder, resist the next hardest compulsion and the next hardest and so forth.
  3. Set your intentions to provoke OCD. Confront a trigger you’ve been avoiding. While confronting the trigger refuse to do a compulsion. Talk to OCD as described in #1. Once this trigger no longer bothers you, move onto the next more difficult trigger. 
    Apply These Principles to End Compulsions
  4. Easiest first, then hard. If you give in and perform a compulsion, go back and confront the same trigger again and again until there is no compulsive behavior. If you’re stuck, maybe there’s an easier trigger that you skipped or need to go back to.
  5. Don’t stop ’til you reach the top. Build momentum. Keep moving up the ladder of challenges. When it gets easier, ask yourself, “How can I make this harder?” Remember, climb the ladder while always refusing to do a compulsion. 
  6. Shift into challenge mode. Wishing you did not have OCD or have certain thoughts is of no use to you. Wishing causes more suffering. It’s important to see your anxiety and thoughts as a challenge–an opportunity to practice your skills. This is no time to play the role of a victim. You don’t have to like anxiety but you do have to want it.
  7. Accept responsibility. If you give into a compulsive behavior, admit what you are doing. No excuses. Own it. Name it. Keep away from the “story” of why your OCD tells you to do the compulsion. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now. I know this will make OCD stronger. I’m avoiding discomfort and that’s the only reason why I’m choosing to do this compulsion.” Get this message to your brain every single time you do a compulsion!
Resist compulsions
Creating new pathways takes time

Applying these principles will keep you compulsion-free. It’s a slow and difficult place to start, but once you pick up some momentum it gets easier and therefore, goes faster. Rather than shocking your brain, you are rewiring it. This takes time!

It takes time because you are training your brain how to experience anxiety.

I don’t tell my clients to “knock it off!”  And, I hope those who love someone with OCD don’t say it either! There’s more to beating OCD than just “knocking it off.”

Resist Compulsions by Making Little Changes Over Time

People with OCD benefit from the very effective systematic method of resisting compulsions. Set reachable goals and make little changes over a period of time. With each success, you will grow more confident and more tolerant of anxiety.

It may take time and patience, (click for video) but it’s how you win the battle. At the suggestion of resisting compulsions, do you take a big gulp and say, “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.” My response to more anxiety? “Great! You need the practice!”

It’s time to learn how to experience anxiety without a compulsion.

You can get started today! The first step, of course, is to identify each compulsion. You’ve got to know what you’re resisting, in order to resist!

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

For a long-term effect, commit to a systematic plan to stop compulsions. Include all of the above seven principles in your plan. Going cold turkey has little to do with staying compulsion-free. 

Check back for the next post which will explain the difference between an observable compulsion and a mental compulsion. It’s important to know the difference because mental compulsions can be very sneaky!

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

The next several posts on resisting compulsions will include:

  • What Is a Compulsion?
  • The True Purpose of a Compulsion
  • If a Compulsion Makes Me Feel Better, Why Would I Stop?
  • I Already Tried Resisting and It Didn’t Help
  • Can You Promise If I Resist It Will Help?
  • I’ve Got Way Too Much Anxiety to Resist Compulsions
  • It’s Too Risky to Stop My Compulsions, Someone Else Could Be Hurt
  • Is it Okay If I Use Distraction to Resist Compulsions?
  • Resisting Compulsions Just Doesn’t Feel Right
  • My Compulsions Are Out of Habit Not Fear
  • If I Stop One Compulsion Another One Will Just Pop Up
  • How Do I Find the Strength and Willpower to Resist Compulsions When I Don’t Have the Energy?
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. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Does Your Mind Feel Like Space Junk? What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Has OCD Made You Forget Who You Are?The thing about OCD is that it comes and goes. It rolls in from the sea and eventually goes back out. When the storm arrives though, it’s brutal. You forget who you are. And it feels permanent.

It’s such a desperate feeling and can easily make you forget about everything else that matters. You become disconnected from the core of who you are. Your sense of self is ruptured. The only thing you feel attached to is your worst fear.

In an OCD storm, you can’t stop thinking about something very troubling. The thought can’t be controlled, and yet, with all your might you try with compulsions or by avoiding. This only turns the storm into several hurricanes.

You lose sight of the “big picture.” You’ve lost your compass and can’t see your way out. There’s more to this storm than what meets the eye. But the eye of the storm has swallowed you up.

Without the “big picture” view, you forget that it gets better. Your mind can’t seem to hold on to anything other than fear. Everything else in your mind is space junk. It feels like you’ve regressed to the mind of a child.

Your inner voice becomes catastrophic and self-critical. You know the compulsions are useless, but you can’t seem to resist. You know that avoiding isn’t going to change anything, but you do it anyway.

You’re so frustrated with yourself. The choices you keep making over and over don’t reflect your wisdom and life experience. It feels like your brain’s been hijacked by a younger version of you.

You hold your head in your hand…exhausted. Overwhelmed. And you whisper, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

You feel disconnected. Hyper-alert. Terrified. Ready to run. Ready to freeze. Angry with no will to fight. Hopeless. Helpless. Shameful. Compulsive.

You Can find Yourself By Letting Go of Old Ways of Coping

All of these feelings and behaviors helped you survive something in the past. We must honor the fact that they served you well once upon a time. A time when you were younger and less experienced.

For example, being afraid and unable to move or fight probably kept you out of harm’s way once when you were a child. But, now you’re more experienced and it’s safe to assert yourself and take action.

Maybe you experienced a traumatic event in your younger years and felt guilty about it. It was a useful feeling then because it kept you out of a deep depression. But, now you’re older and wiser and guilt is no longer age-appropriate. But, because you used it so much when you were younger, you’re still using it now.

We honor these feelings that helped your younger self-survive difficult times. But they’re holding you back now. These emotions aren’t congruent with who you are today. You’re an adult with life experience. Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Everything you face opens up a possibility for you to find your higher self.

You Can Find Yourself By Letting the Older Part of You Take Charge

Since then you’ve grown older and wiser. You’ve gained a lot of life experience. It’s no longer age-appropriate to handle anxiety the way you did as a child. In your heart of hearts, you know this and that’s why you don’t feel like yourself.

Can you bring the older, wiser part of you forward to deal with the anxiety and weird thoughts?

We can’t let a child drive the boat through this storm. There’s an older, more experienced version of you who knows a lot more about riding the waves and maneuvering all the twists and turns. Let’s get the right “wo/man” behind the wheel. After all, which part of you is better equipped for the job?

Can you bring that older part of you forward–that part that has dealt with real life problems before? You know, the part of you that holds it together while everyone else is drowning. (I know you have a memory like this because people with OCD actually handle real life problems better than most people. It’s the problems of the imagination that are utterly challenging.)

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

Remember a time or situation when you were in charge, taking care of business like a pro. What did that feel like? What are the positive thoughts that go with that part of you? What does that feel like in your body? How are you standing? Where are your arms? Is your head up during these times you are most proud? 

How can this part of you take the wheel away from the child? What would you say to the child? “I know that you’re afraid, but you can’t drive this boat. You’re still in diapers and have no life skills.”

How would you set limits? “I know you want what you want when you want it, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Get out of the driver’s seat.”

What happens to the child when you take the wheel? Naturally, the child stays on the boat. No part of you can be disowned or thrown overboard. Remember, this is a child who doesn’t even know how to doggie paddle yet.

Kindly, but firmly take the child under your wing. “I know how to move us forward. Sit back there. Watch and learn. And if you get too noisy, I’m going to tickle you until you pee in your diaper.” No, wait. That’s firm, but not very kind. 😉

How about, “I know you’re afraid so you’ll probably get noisy. I’ll hear you, but I can’t reassure you. I’ll be busy. I know you’ll get upset that I won’t let you steer the boat. You’ve had your way for awhile so I completely understand that you won’t like this and will probably have a temper tantrum.”

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.

 

  • Look at your hands. In one of your hands is the terrified, inexperienced child. Imagine how this child feels. Small, terrified, vulnerable, lost. In your other hand is your older, wiser stronger self. Feel how much bigger and stronger this hand is? Bring the older wiser hand over the younger hand. Hold that child. Let the child feel surrounded by your strength and wisdom. Tell the child you’ve got this. “I’ve got this. I’m driving now.”

 

  • Name all the other parts to you besides OCD. Using props (such as ducks), put these parts in the order you want them to be. Who’s in charge most of the time to least of the time? Here in this picture, we see there is a loving part taking the lead. Then we see a wise part and an all around good guy, who likes to help others, sharing the leadership role. Not far behind is a curious part who likes to learn and grow. In the back is OCD. Lots of people would keep OCD away from the rest of the Team. But, he’s too young to be on his own. That’ll only scare him more if you try to get rid of him. The Team keeps him close by and kindly but firmly says, “I know you’re afraid, but, I’ve got this.”

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

The “big picture” older version of you says life is bigger than this storm. Big picture thinking allows you to be hazy and uncertain around the edges. It’s a growth mindset. “I’m willing to find out what this storm makes possible for me.”

Whatever is causing the storm, whatever the storm is about–doesn’t matter. If you were truly at sea and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a storm, would you be trying to figure out what it means? What caused it? Why it’s happening? Did you do something wrong? Did you overlook something?

No! You’d be focused on doing your best to weather the storm–how to withstand it. You’d be focused on outlasting the storm. And, the child would not be allowed to steer the boat. Do you want a scared child steering in a storm or an experienced, wise “sailor” who has ridden huge waves before?

An OCD storm comes down to one thing: The storm will be an experience you can draw from in the future.

No matter how bad it feels, an OCD storm comes down to one thing. It’s about the opportunity and challenge of weathering the anxiety and resisting the young child’s urge to avoid or do a compulsion.

An OCD storm is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t look or feel like a gift but give permission to learn from the storm and you’ll soon discover something amazing about yourself.  The next storm will be easier because you’ve gained experience from the last one.

If you liked this post, you might also like a cheat sheet for quick reference. It’s only one page–quick read! Click on the image below to get your printable cheat sheet:

Has Your Brain Been Hijacked by OCD?

OCD infiltrates. It worms its way into the brain and hijacks it. You begin to forget who you are.  This makes OCD sound like a monster.

It’s not.

There is not a shred of evidence that OCD is a monster out to get you. It feels that way, but there really isn’t some kind of wicked creature persecuting you. When you say, “I hate OCD.” You’re hating on yourself. 

There is no scientific study that shows there is an organism eating your brain.  

There is however, plenty of evidence that cells are still growing and neuroplasticity can happen… with skills & drills.

Translation: You can teach an OCD brain new tricks.

There is also a lot of evidence that self-loathing is detrimental and never brings about positive change. When you hate OCD you only hate yourself.

It feels like OCD is out to get you because the brain is misfiring messages and the central nervous system is responding with body parts. It’s a physiological experience complicated by thoughts.

The key to managing OCD is to stop thinking of OCD as a monster. Think of OCD with empathy. Compassion. And, you’re on your way to freedom.

A young boy was anxious just before his first concert. He was worried he might fall on the stage. What could be said to him that would help the most? What should he do? I took a poll to see what people thought.

Here are the results:

Poll Results

It is no coincidence that people suffering from OCD are self-loathing. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend and you will notice a change. 

Commit to this and start today.

You are love. “Love can only love” a very wise 12 year old told me.

Talk to your OCD firmly, but with loving kindness. OCD is not a monster. Just a lonely, lost and confused child in the terrible two’s.

Are You Brewing Anxiety in Your Kitchen?

“The most important decisions that determine the brain’s health happen in the kitchen, not at the pharmacy.”

~ David Perlmutter, Author of Grain Brain

Last night I made a healthy soup for dinner. It was made of avocado, swiss chard, spinach, kale, cilantro, sweet potato and onions with vegetable broth. It was very tasty and when I make it again, I’ll probably add white organic beans. 

I was so sleepy after I ate it that I went to bed early. Very unlike me! I didn’t even make it through the weekly Voice results! I thought I was just tired from Tai Chi.

Today, I read the recipe (I don’t usually read recipes–I just throw stuff together) and discovered the soup is intended to be a sleep aid! It’s very high in chlorophyll. The recipe actually says this: “The fat in the soup aids the absorption of the minerals from the greens and aids in sleep.”

Wow! Good thing I didn’t eat that at lunch!!! If any of you have trouble falling asleep, or need to calm your nervous system, email me (tammy@bossitback.com) and I’ll send you the recipe. It seemed very soothing, but who knows, maybe it was a combination of factors.

While I was waiting for new brakes (ugh) to be put on my car today, I thought about the soup’s effect on me, and found the above quote by Dr. Perlmutter. 

I always ask my clients if they eat a lot of carbs and 7 out of 10 people confess, “I crave carbs and sugar and eat a lot of both.” Yup! Jackpot!

Sugar Doesn’t Make You Healthy

It’s no coincidence my clients have a lot of anxiety. These foods are addicting and hype up the nervous system. They cause inflammation, overstimulate neurons in the brain and destabilize blood sugar, all of which creates mood changes.

One key to managing anxiety is to eat foods that provide grounding energy and relax the nervous system. What does it mean to feel grounded? Have you hugged a tree lately? Isn’t it amazing!!! Certain foods can help you feel that way too!

No matter how healthy you eat, you’ll still be anxious. But, why not give yourself a fighting chance? Why eat something that increases the anxiety? Well, if you need to learn to accept anxiety, then let me tell you, eat a lot of carbs and sugar and practice gladly accepting how you feel. Eating carbs and sugar certainly create a great exposure exercise.

But, if you want to put your mental health first and make your two brains the best lean, mean, fighting machines they can be, then put these brain healthy ingredients into your diet! (Two brains? Yes! Don’t forget about your stomach! More on that later…)

Brain Health from the Kitchen

Matcha Green Tea is really great for focus because it’s high in theanine, which produces alpha brain waves and also offsets the caffeine in the tea. Focus is important because you’ve got to be able to focus on your values. Otherwise OCD will take you on a purpose-less driven life.

B vitamins are important for the production of serotonin. Get tested to see what your levels are and be sure to read this article about what to do.

Coconut water is an excellent source of B Vitamins. Mackerel too, but certain kinds must be avoided due to the high levels of mercury. Red meat is a good source of B12 as well as eggs, milk and cheese. But, many people don’t eat meat and dairy is known to cause inflammation. 

You might have to acquire a taste for this but Miso provides healthy bacteria which boosts GABA, a much needed neurotransmitter that especially hangs out in the gut. Besides the first paragraph of this article, which claims unwanted intrusive thoughts can be ended by GABA, (not true!) this is a post that explains GABA

 

The Guts of Anxiety

The gut has its own independent nervous system and it’s obvious that the gut plays a critical role in anxiety and other mood states. After all, 95% of of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the 2nd brain–the gut!

So taking probiotics and eating fermented foods (healthy bacteria) is a must for brain health promotion! One of my favorites is Kimchi and of course adding Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar to your water.

Having OCD is exhausting. You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taxing to work so hard and you burn through your fuel before day’s end. So replenishing is critical and this can be done with food and exercise. For ideas about this go back to my blog, HERE.

Want to Make Your Kitchen Brain Healthy?

Get the Brain Warrior’s Way by Dr. Amen

I’ve only touched the surface about promoting brain health in the kitchen. I encourage you to do your own research and share anything you find helpful in the comments. And as always, look at benefits and side effects.

Basically eat foods that are grounding and stay away from foods that are stimulating. (Sugar and spice aren’t grounding!)

I had hoped to finish this post last night but I had more of that soup for dinner and once again I fell asleep early. So I don’t think it was Tai Chi. Definitely the soup. I don’t think I’m going to make that again! I ain’t got no time for sleep!!!

How to Control Anxiety: Should You?

The harder I tried to stop thinking about it…………..the faster I thought about it.

Don’t think about the pink elephant.

The harder I tried not to feel it….the stronger I felt it.

Don’t feel the couch on your back.

If you’ve been properly treated for OCD then you know the answer will never be to stop. You can’t stop thoughts. You can’t stop anxiety. And you shouldn’t try! What then should you be doing? 

Want the thoughts. Want the anxiety. The only way out is in, not out.

If someone is telling you to just “knock it off” send them this blog. If you’re telling yourself to knock if off…keep reading!

Let’s assume your OCD is a little you. A three or four year-old version of you. If this is true, and I think it is…telling such a young worrying child to “KNOCK it OFF” is not really teaching any kind of life lesson. 

A young boy is about to take the stage for the first time in his life and sing with the chorus. His brain is asking, “What’s wrong? How come my legs feel funny?” The brain MUST search for and provide an explanation. “Why are my legs wobbly???” The brain must explain. It’s human nature. If there’s an explanation there’s got to be a solution.

Searching for an explanation can occur below the threshold of consciousness. You don’t even know you’re doing it. The attempt to explain physiological sensations can be too subtle for the conscious mind.

Only one or two seconds have passed. Ah-Ha!!! The brain has found a reason for the wobbly legs!!!! “Mommy, what if I fall in front of everyone? I feel like I’m going to fall!”

What do you think most Mommies say? I hope you take the poll before reading any further! We’ll have lots of fun if you do!

 

The problem isn’t the wobbly legs. Agreed? The wobbly legs are a symptom of the problem. If we only talk about the wobbly legs, then we address the symptom but not the cause.

“You’re not going to fall. Your legs are very strong.” In this response the focus is on the legs. But, what’s causing the wobbly legs?  

“Here, drink some water and think about the pizza we’re eating after this.” The focus is on trying to stop worrying about the wobbly legs. Distract. Reassure. “You’ll be just fine.” Don’t think about the pink elephant. Don’t feel the couch against your back.

“The chances of you falling are very low. It’s possible but not probable. So far no one else on that stage has fallen. So you’re not likely to fall either. And I bet they’ve got wobbly legs too.”

Again, the focus is on the wobbly legs not being likely to cause a fall. Why won’t this work? Because that little brain of his quickly calculated that he could be the one and only kid that falls.


In this precious moment, this boy has an opportunity to learn a life lesson. This is the kind of lesson that will carry him through many rough times in his life.

The answer to his question, “Mommy, what if I fall” has the power to rewrite the script playing in his mind.

The way you answer your question also has the power to rewrite your inner thinking patterns. Even though your thought patterns are automatic due to practice and repetition you can retrain your brain.

Let’s talk about the little boy’s wobbly legs for a minute. We all agree that the problem isn’t his wobbly legs. Right? It’s his anxiety.

Anxiety is felt physically. In nerve endings. In muscles-tense or weak. Aches. Pains. Twitches. In breath-fast or slow. In the skin-clammy or itchy. The racing heart. Upset stomach. Tremors. Saliva.

There’s nerve endings everywhere so anxiety can be felt anywhere! 

The brain doesn’t like unexplained things. It will notice the physical sensation, create a story to explain the physical sensation, and it will build control mechanisms into the story.

When the brain explains the physical sensation, it won’t automatically consider that it’s just ANXIETY!!! And it certainly won’t conclude that the anxiety is okay. (That part has to be learned.)

Instead the brain will focus on finding a way to stop the discomfort. It will focus on the story, not the anxiety.

How can it be stopped. Hmmmmm, lets think of a story that has control mechanisms. How might this look for the little boy afraid to take the stage?

“If I skip three times and jump up once, I won’t fall.” Does that sound like OCD? The focus is on controlling the situation. The brain created a story that explains the physical sensation and now he has something he can do about it.

He probably won’t fall. So what will the brain conclude? “You didn’t fall because of that skip and jump thing you did. Good job buddy! See! Anytime your legs are wobbly, skip and jump and you won’t fall.” Liar, liar pants on fire!!!

The compulsion has been reinforced in the inner thinking-below the threshold of consciousness. And now the subconscious will run the show. This will easily grow into a habit and soon he won’t even remember why he does what he does.

This little boy has anxiety. Your OCD is young, like him. A three or four year-old part of your mind. It’s only a part of your mind. There are so many other beautiful parts to your mind. But, this part has the potential to run the entire show.

What is the life lesson this little boy has an opportunity to learn? What will make his brain a lean, mean fighting machine? Choose as many answers as you think will be most helpful:

 

The actionable steps for YOU to take are:

  1. Stay focused on the anxiety-not the story that is trying to control the anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t need to be fixed. Notice it, name it and move on. Steer away from the story and go towards the anxiety.
  2. Want the anxiety. Want the thoughts generating the anxiety. “Good, there you are. I need the practice.”
  3. Seek the anxiety. “Let’s see if I can make myself anxious right now and learn to experience it as something making me stronger.”

The anxiety comes from a very young part of you that truly doesn’t know very much about life at all. But, you have all these other beautiful parts of your brain that are very rationale and fun-loving.

Let those parts talk to the little you, who really shouldn’t be leading the way.  

I’ll lead the way now.

“I know you’re afraid and uncomfortable, but I know how to move forward. You can trust me.”

One other actionable step you can take:

To work on rewriting your inner thinking patterns, let’s rewire the messages that are exposed to the mind, but are too subtle for the conscious mind to know about.

Using post-it notes or reminders on your phone, or messages that flash on your computer while you work, write messages like these:

  • I can meet any challenge even though I’m anxious.
  • I’m ready for anything because I don’t mind anxiety.
  • I go after what I want in life even though I’m anxious.
  • Everyday my confidence grows stronger because I’m okay being anxious.

You don’t even have to read them. They’ll be picked up by your subconscious mind.

Why I Don’t Write Down Your Obsession

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

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

Hint: If your therapy session looks anything like this

you’re not in the right place!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are just stories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t heal, what you won’t feel.

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

Now, let’s take that poll again:

 

 

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

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

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

imagesIs OCD a Bully?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Not Think of OCD as a Bully?

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD is Not a Good Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cropped-Boss_It_2.pngOCD is the Opposite of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD is Clueless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s one more thing to know about OCD. 

8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD Will Soon Be Explained!

160_f_80220645_had2v7yekvlm48vise42a8guoy7f8hifOCD is Only One Part of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

brainworkoutLet’s Make Your Brain a Lean Mean Fighting Machine

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

Download “8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD” Here!

My Critique of a Recent Interview on TV About Anxiety

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

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

You’ll find a link to the interview below.

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Critique of the Interview

Missed Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Worried Sick

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this interview Dr. Ferraioli gives a few tips.

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

The Tips

Stay in the Moment

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

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

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

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

160_f_63058634_3qpdnbyhlfaklmxrxveaeja5ndc4x3oqWorst Case Scenario

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

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

Wasted Energy

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

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

Easier Said Than Done

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

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

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

How to Let Go When It’s Hard to Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop New Rules to Follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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