Tag Archives: Exposure & Response Prevention

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

Compulsions: Once You Start It’s Hard to Stop

Compulsions Feed OCD

Compulsions might help you avoid discomfort but the price you pay is enormous. Every single compulsion feeds OCD. Anything you feed gets stronger. 

Resist compulsions
The One You Feed

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “Son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. 

One is troubled. It is worry, anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inadequacy, lies, self-loathing, and fear.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, vulnerability, humility, kindness, gratitude, empathy, generosity, truth, self-compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, the one that you feed.” (click for podcast)

Compulsions feed the troubled wolf…the OCD. So of course in order to beat OCD, compulsions must stop.

resist compulsions
If it’s hard to do is it worth pursuing?

Inevitably the client says “I’ll try but that’s easier said than done.”

I respond, “It’s supposed to be hard! Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”

The relief from a compulsion is only temporary!

Yes, compulsions can provide relief. But, for how long? It’s similar to the relief an addict gets from drugs. It’s a vicious cycle. You just end up needing more. It might initially feel good but on the other hand, it makes you feel powerless and stuck in a hamster wheel.

The relief you get from a compulsion is temporary but the effect is long-lasting. What is the effect? Think about it. You started compulsions to:

  • get rid of doubt and now you’re more doubtful than ever
  • feel in control and now you feel out of control most of the time
  • avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than before
  • improve the way you feel and now you feel worse
  • feel “just right” and now you always feel “just wrong”

What If Resisting Compulsions Makes Me Feel Worse?

As an OCD therapist, I can’t give reassurance. I have to shrug and say, “Maybe things will get worse.” 

However, for educational purposes, I say this one time to every new client: “If you provoke your OCD with exposures and resist the urge to do a compulsion, your chances of getting strong and healthy is very high.”

resist compulsions
Compulsions help you to avoid. Avoiding is costly.

Besides, ask yourself if compulsions are sustainable. Is this truly something you want to do for the rest of your life? Once you start it’s hard to stop. 

You get good at what you practice. Are you sure you want to keep practicing compulsions? All compulsions help you do is avoid. Are you sure you want to get good at avoiding?

The Risks Outweigh the Benefits

In what way do you benefit from doing compulsions? If your answers are the ones below, hopefully, you know this is nothing more than trickery.

Are these the reasons you think you benefit from compulsions?

  • My compulsions are protective and keep bad things from happening. You’d be rich and famous if that were true.
  • This compulsion keeps me from feeling gross. No, actually it keeps you from feeling anxious. Gross is just another word for anxious.
  • The only way I can feel “just right” is by doing this compulsion. How many people stop and think, “I can’t leave my house until I feel just right?” To be concerned with feeling “just right” is exactly what drives you to feel “just wrong.” People who don’t think about feeling “just right” typically feel..just right!
  • Until the compulsion is completed I won’t be able to sleep. This just means you’ll have to do compulsions every night for the rest of your life in order to sleep. Is that really what you want?

You’ll discover the only benefit to a compulsion is temporary relief from anxiety. That’s it. There is no other benefit. And is that really a benefit–to avoid anxiety for brief moments of the day? Wouldn’t it make better sense to learn how to experience the anxiety?

Every Compulsion Feeds OCD

The only reason you’re performing compulsions is that you don’t <<yet>> know how to experience anxiety. Any other reason is just a story that your very creative brain has made-up.

A question I get asked often:

I’m prescribed drugs to help me feel better, so why can’t I use a compulsion to feel better?

I’m not a chemical warfare expert but there’s a huge difference between the purpose of taking a medication and performing a compulsive behavior. Prescribed medications like Prozac or Luvox help you to experience your anxiety. Compulsions help you avoid anxiety.

If you are having trouble being with your anxiety talk to the person prescribing your medication. Resisting compulsions might initially make you feel panicky, but if it continues and you’re not having much success saying no to OCD, a medication adjustment might help.

Another question often asked:

It seems like I get rid of one compulsion only to develop a new one. How can I make sure I don’t start a new compulsion?

The answer to this question is twofold. 1.) Evaluate the way you are talking to OCD when you’re resisting compulsions. 2.) Consider the possibility that you haven’t come to terms with your lack of control over what actually happens in life.

Evaluate the Way You Talk to OCD

If new compulsions are popping up, perhaps you haven’t really confronted your core fear. You’ve resisted a compulsion which is the “B” of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You’ve changed a behavior. But without the “C” of CBT, you haven’t grabbed the bull by the horns. 

When you’re resisting compulsions it’s important to talk tough to OCD. No rationalizing or answering any of OCD’s questions. OCD is trying to convince you that a compulsion will prevent something bad from happening. “If you do this compulsion there will be no harm” or “If you do this you won’t end up abandoned.”

Your response must sound like this, “Yup. You might be right OCD. That might happen. Time will tell.” Just nod your head in agreement and resist the compulsion. You might not feel in agreement with what you’re saying. You’re telling OCD you don’t care but you probably really do. 

It’s okay. Keep talking tough. Answer none of OCD’s questions. Shrug at OCD and say, “whatever.” Sound like a broken record and just keep repeating your “I don’t care” act. Fake it ’til you become it. This is a mental Kung Fu game you must play with OCD. 

Do You Practice Radical Acceptance?

The answer seems to always come back to whether or not you are willing to see what happens next. Be curious to see what happens in this very moment. The only other choice is to try and control what happens. We know where that gets you. It’s better to accept whatever happens happens.

If in this moment you are experiencing anxiety, be curious about it but not analytical. Curiosity is the opposite of fear.

Now is the time to challenge the dysfunctional belief that you have control over what happens in life. This is not true. Practice radical acceptance, “Whatever happens happens. It is what it is.”

If nobody else has to do these compulsive behaviors neither do you.

Stopping compulsions isn’t just about halting the repetitive behavior. Another compulsion will just pop up. OCD morphs into all kinds of things until you finally start to accept the anxiety. First of all, your obsession is just noise. What really needs your attention is your anxiety.

Most importantly, every time you are in the process of performing a compulsion acknowledge the repetitive behavior is just your way of avoiding anxiety. The only time the details of your thoughts and beliefs is of any interest is when you’re trying to figure out how to provoke your anxiety.

Provoke your thoughts. Don’t argue with them. Shrug and say, “time will tell” or “maybe, maybe not.” Step toward the threat and embrace the anxiety. Build an ERP hierarchy and move forward.

Notice the anxiety and be with it. You don’t have to like the anxiety. But be grateful for the opportunity to practice your skills

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Finishing a compulsion might feel good. But, it’s temporary. The anxiety returns. In no time at all, another compulsion is needed. Practice radical acceptance. Whatever happens happens.  Otherwise more compulsions are likely to pop-up like a whack-a-mole.

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

 

When Resisting Compulsions Backfires: Find Out Why 

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section of this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

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

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.

I Used to Be Afraid of Elevators. I Took Steps to Overcome It.

“I took steps to overcome my fear of elevators.” Ha-Ha funny play on words. But, what does it mean?

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You took action steps to work towards being able to ride elevators? Or, you’re being sarcastic and you “overcame” your fear by avoiding elevators and taking the stairs?

Which is true?
  1. Your life will be better if you take action on the things you avoid.
  2. Your life will be better if you avoid unpleasant and seemingly dangerous things.

Are you picturing Captain Obvious right now?captainobviouschooseoption

There’s no way avoidance can make life better. Right? Hmmm…then why do so many people avoid unpleasant things? Why do people procrastinate? Why do people avoid triggers that cause anxiety?

Avoidance must make life better! Otherwise, why do people do it?

I searched the Internet for evidence that avoidance makes life better. It’s what people do so there’s got to be value in doing it. Right?

I Googled: “How Does Avoidance Makes Life Better.” Here are just 6 of the 28,000,000 results. They all say the same thing:

Avoidance Causes Anxiety to Snowball

The More You Avoid, the More Likely You Will Keep Avoiding

Avoidance Simply Produces More Anxiety

The Price You Pay for Temporary Relief

Avoidance Prevents You From Learning the Situations You Fear Aren’t Even Dangerous or Nearly As Unpleasant As You Think

Avoidance Solves One Problem But Creates Another

The list goes on and on. But, I could not find any bit of research to prove avoidance makes life better.

Every shred of evidence pointed to the fact that it makes life worse. Not the anxiety, the avoidance. The avoidance makes life worse.

So what to do? Become AWARE of the truth! 

I saw this acronym for AWARE at Uncommonhelp.me:

Accept the anxiety. It’s here to stay. Live your life with anxiety.

Watch the anxiety. Don’t evaluate it as good or bad. It just is. It’s not dangerous. Only your reaction to anxiety can be dangerous.

Act normally. Act as if you don’t have anxiety.

Repeat the above steps!

Expect to handle whatever. Whatever happens, happens. You’ll handle it.

160_f_54867862_hlxe0hmehr89ftlthjyx5yfp6n4jh6fpI know what you’re thinking. It’s easier to avoid than confront. It’s too hard to “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”

 

If you’ve been avoiding for awhile, of course it seems easier to avoid than confront. Hello Captain Obvious!

But, if you could remember the first days you avoided, it was hell. You beat yourself up. You lost sleep over it. You were torn up over what to do. It was so hard to get it perfected. It was hell!

Try this challenge:

Walk through your house for 72 hours touching nothing and nobody. Nobody can be be in the same room you’re in at the same time. Be very careful not to brush up against anything. If you think you brushed up against anything, go back out of the room and come back in. Don’t sit down. You can only squat. You can only eat Cheerios using chopsticks. When you sleep the only way you can be in bed is if you first wash the bottom of your feet while sitting on the edge of your bed. And you can only sleep, no matter how cold you are, on top of the covers looking up at the ceiling, with your hands folded behind your head.

The first 24 hours you do this, you’ll be agitated and stressed. The second day, it’ll still be hard but you’re getting better at it. By the third day, everyone around you is properly trained to stay away. You’ve figured out a few tricks to make it easier to avoid. You’re tolerating this kind of life better than you were the first 24 hours. Imagine in two weeks how much easier it will be.

Avoiding is only easy because it’s what you’ve been doing. It didn’t used to be this easy! You’re tolerating avoidance better now, than you did in the beginning. 

The same can be said about confronting. At first it’s anxiety provoking. You’ll feel indecisive and lose sleep. But, in time, it’ll get easier and you’ll tolerate the anxiety. 

You get good at what you practice. You can teach yourself to tolerate anything over time.

Don’t say, “Confronting my fears is easier said than done.” Once upon a time avoiding was hard. But you did it anyway. 

Your Life Will Be Better If You Take Action on the Things You Avoid 

Is Anger Making Your OCD Worse or Better?

What Role Does Anger Play in the Symptoms of OCD?

160_f_121600541_s7oznmb25f5zvuhyjaojxxwtqhzxsb7b

As a therapist who specializes in the treatment of OCD, I notice a trend. Clients struggle with feelings of anger. The anger is directed outward and/or inward. 

If the anger is directed outwards there could be verbal outbursts and even aggression towards property or people. There are heated arguments at home, holes punched in walls and sometimes the police are called.

Anger directed inwards is usually manifested by self-loathing and depression. People hit themselves and/or say horrible things about themselves. They often say, “I don’t deserve this kindness, or to feel good or be loved.”

For some the anger only surfaces when compulsions are being resisted. If they increase their compulsions, their anger significantly decreases. If compulsions are prevented, anger rises.

Anger As a Defense Mechanism

Initially, having OCD can result in the development of maladaptive defense mechanisms. A common one is to detach emotionally. This is a common reaction to repeated trauma, which is exactly what an untreated OCD can be. Trauma and torture.

Having OCD can be very traumatic. The anxiety can be overwhelming. To be protected from the unbearable fear and pounding negativity the brain fragments, compartmentalizes and encodes in a way that causes emotional numbness.

Feelings are essentially sealed off. However, one emotion presides. ANGER. That’s because anger creates heat where there is no life. When a client is detached from their feelings, they don’t even experience anxiety during exposure exercises. They get mad, but not anxious. I say, “Thank goodness you’re alive and kicking!”

Being detached from all emotion except anger can be very disconcerting to someone with OCD who has intrusive thoughts of harm. “Why am I having these horrible thoughts without anxiety. I’m angry. What does this mean? I’m having violent thoughts but I have no remorse. What’s wrong with me. Am I going to act on these thoughts?”

Compulsions Are Used to Alleviate Anxiety and/or Anger. 

When a ritual is interrupted a person with OCD will react with either anxiety or anger. If they’re anxious, they’ll likely be drawn to some form of reassurance. If they’re angry over the ritual being interrupted, they might yell. A door might be slammed. “Thanks a lot. Now I have to start this all over again.”

A person with OCD manages their anxiety with compulsions. There might be a story attached to the compulsion. “I shower like this to protect my child from getting sick.” But, that’s just the story behind the compulsion. The real reason for the compulsion is to alleviate anxiety.

Likewise, a person with OCD manages their anger with compulsions. Anger doesn’t seem like an acceptable, or safe emotion to have. There might be a story attached to the compulsion. “I stay away from knives to protect my family.” But, that’s just the story behind the compulsion. The real reason for the compulsion is to alleviate anger.  

Why Does it Matter?

What difference does it make if compulsions are done to alleviate anxiety or anger? In either case compulsions have to be resisted in order to be set free. So what does it matter if there’s anxiety or anger underneath the compulsion.

Everybody aways talks about the anxiety attached to OCD. “I do this ritual because I’m afraid something bad will happen.” “I do this because I won’t sleep if I don’t do it.” This is just talking in code. What’s really being said is, “I do what I do to alleviate anxiety.” 

In this case, I would help the person with OCD learn to tolerate anxiety. Much of my blog is about this. Can the same be said for anger? Should anger be tolerated?

Experiencing anxiety is not a health hazard. But, resisting anxiety is. Resisting anxiety is detrimental to one’s heart, immune and digestive system, and hormone production. Resisting only causes stress levels to rise. The same can be said about anger. 

What to Do About Anger?

 

Practice Mindfulness Exercises

Notice anger the same way anxiety is noticed. 

  • Notice the angry thoughts without judging.
  • What is the speed of your thoughts?
  • What is the anger saying?
  • What is the anger seeing?
  • How does the anger feel?
  • Do I feel hot or cold?
  • What body sensations am I feeling?
  • What is the speed of my heart?
  • Am I experiencing any muscle tightness? 
  • What is my breath like?
  • What position are my eyes in?
  • What is my facial expression?

Talk to anger with loving attention.160_f_118764193_rvbtrzf2f0wveh4bctpacdsnzevmd9hv

  • “Wow, that feels like anger. OK, I can handle it. This is a good opportunity to practice noticing without judging or acting.”
  • Ask, “Do I have a desire to remain angry?”
  • “What are my options?”
  • “Can I assert myself with kindness?”
  • “If I engage in a compulsion to alleviate this anger, will it be conducive to my well-being?”
  • “I wish to take responsibility for my actions rather than blame others.”
  • “I accept that life is unfair and bad things happen. It’s ok. I can handle it.”
  • “I have a right to be angry. It’s okay. I can work through it in a healthy way.” 

Feeling and Acting Are Not the Same

160_f_117123901_l3wbln8gaasor1gcaaclumz22wiczfhaThere is a difference between accepting anxiety and acting anxious. Feeling anxious must be accepted.

Acting anxious is engaging in compulsive behavior and/or mental rituals. Acting anxious looks like avoidance and reassurance-seeking. Acting anxious, like rocking back-n-forth, or rubbing hands feeds anxiety. It’s okay to feel anxious, but it’s of no benefit to act anxious.

There is a difference between accepting anger and acting angry. Having OCD is not an excuse for lashing out or mistreating self or others. You can say what you mean, but you don’t have to say it mean.

Fueling anger triggers the amygdala and kicks you into “danger” mode. Fueling anger can shut down logic and cloud judgment which leads to irrational and unreasonable thinking, which leads to regret and hurtful decisions. Anger is an acceptable emotion but fueling it is of no benefit to a brain that is already sounding false alarms.

Be aware when you’re experiencing anger. If you don’t pay attention to it, you’re building a fire. The anger is uncomfortable and you’re naturally going to worry about it or want to get rid of it.

Instead of channeling your energy towards avoiding or getting rid of anger, acknowledge it. Notice it. Recognize your urge to do a compulsion is an effort to alleviate anger.

Turn towards the anger and practice mindfulness exercises.

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!

Creating Wow Moments and A+ Days

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

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

I Was a Little Tricky This Week, Sorry

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD Can Be Painful, But What Causes the Suffering? 

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

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

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

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

How to Create WOW! Moments

Build Confidence in the Absence of Certainty

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

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

Understanding How Confidence is Built

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

My degree of confidence is based on three factors:

160_f_106329739_sxc5bckqjsg5i6kiiohsug3eyqspi2tq1. Consensus

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

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

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

160_f_104124148_51i3lrcyjzgmkc7nltowjmnbyvmrbft72. Repetition

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

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

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

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

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

160_f_84705977_gmq3jewwnhrsmr6oppqxivwprgwhplcm3. Ease

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

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

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

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

Certainty is Over-Rated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should You White Knuckle Your Way Through ERP?

Do you “white knuckle” it when confronting OCD? How stressful should it be when you’re defying OCD?

Last winter coming home from Rochester, I hit some very scary weather. I was in a state of great fear and tension. I didn’t want to be in this risky situation. It was bumper to bumper traffic on the thruway with tractor trailer trucks barreling through on either side. My hands were clutched so tightly on the steering wheel my knuckles were white.IMG_1153

At the OCD Conference last week, I was hit with the 2nd worst migraine of my life.  It’d been so long since I had one, it didn’t 160_F_103214808_6fDrzTjfFWbLIVFFbOHCbCoZqTKcCrW9occur to me that it was a migraine. I thought it must be a brain aneurysm or a stroke. I was in the middle of a case presentation when my head started to pound.

I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. I kept nodding my head as if I was part of the conversation. Surely they must see something’s wrong. How embarrassing. I kept willing the headache away. It got worse. The lights seemed so intense. I became nauseous. It was like trying to give birth through the top of my head. 

Finally, in the middle of my presentation I admitted I wasn’t feeling well and excused myself. I said some kind of joke and everybody laughed. I needed to get to my room. Maybe I had some medicine there. I had to take one elevator to get to the other elevator. I had quite a distance to go. I “white knuckled” it all the way to the 26th floor.

I was alone in Chicago and terrified thinking somebody was going to find me dead in the elevator. I worried it would be someone with OCD who, as an exposure exercise, had just told their therapist, “I hope with all my might you die.” I wanted to write a note: “This isn’t your fault. There’s no such thing as Thought Action Fusion. This is a coincidence.” 

I practically crawled into my room and called home. I was reminded what I had done that caused the migraine. I had walked from the hotel to the beach through Toxic Lane. I even wrote about it in my blog the day before. I was paying the price as I’m sensitive to certain odors. The last time this happened was when I lifted the hood of my car and was exposed to radiator fluid.

After an hour and a half, with my head still throbbing, I went back and finished my presentation. I said, “If this is just a migraine, I 160_F_13025714_W1xclkZQdL1neclkC3uj7vn0ZRMtCvxYcan do this.” Again, I “white knuckled” through it. It went well and nobody seemed to see the 12# baby coming out of my head.

I’m sure all of you have experienced a time when you “white knuckled” it.  Hopefully, you’ll share your example in the comment section.

But whether or not you should white knuckle your way through ERP was the conundrum at the OCD Conference this year. I’ve attended this conference many times and there’s always been two or three different philosophies floating around from one workshop to the next. 

This year seemed different. At the end of each workshop there’s usually enough time left for speakers to take questions.  As I listened to their questions I could hear more than confusion in the audience. I could hear panic. 

I heard one father say, “I just want to do the right thing for my kid. I’m confused. In one workshop I hear it’s never good to white knuckle your way through exposure work. If you’re anxiety is higher than a 5 you’re doing the exposure wrong. In another workshop I hear it’s all about peaking anxiety and pushing through, no matter how hard. Please, I just want to do the right thing for my son.” 

Therapists who gathered for lunch were talking about it. “Well, I don’t follow a hierarchy. I just let them face what they are comfortable with at the time.” “Yeah, I don’t push anybody past 10 minutes if the exposure is really hard.” “I don’t do any ERP, it’s too much like torture.” “Oh, I fire my patient if after the 8th session they’re not climbing their hierarchy of fears.”

In one session, a young man with OCD was asked by a speaker to explain “white knuckling.” He explained: “It’s like being pressured by friends to go on a terrifying rollercoaster ride. I buckle in against my will. I tell myself soon it will be over. Just do it. In one minute this hell will end. I grab the hand rail as tight as I can and wait for it all to be over. When the ride ends I don’t feel any braver. I’m just glad it’s over. I hope they don’t make me do it again.”

Then he was asked to explain what the rollercoaster ride would be like if he wasn’t “white knuckling” it.  The young man answered, “I would not accept the rollercoaster challenge from my friends until I was ready. I’d do it for the experience of it. I’d be curious about my response and everybody else’s. If I was nervous I’d notice it and find where I felt it in my body…feeling the edges of my anxiety. Noticing where it starts. Where it ends. I’d ask what else I was feeling besides anxiety.”

So now I ask which approach is the correct approach to ERP? Don’t do it until you’re ready? Do an exposure exercise only if your anxiety is 5 or below? Experience the anxiety with curiosity, not judgment? Do it just to get the exposure over with? Do you sit with it until the anxiety recedes or do you go about life and desired activities even though your anxiety is still high?

Before I give my two cents, I’d love to hear your ideas. Please leave an anonymous comment!