Many people say they forget what to do when their anxiety is high or the OCD thoughts seem so real.
All you have to do is remember KAPOW! It’s an acronym you need to memorize. In the heat of the moment, use it!
K= Kooky. The quickest remedy for OCD is to respond to its strange thoughts with silliness. Get Kooky!
OCD: What if (that terrible thing happens?)
Kooky: Not only could that possibly happen, but this might too! Go over the top. Be outlandish. To make it even kookier, say it with an accent!
Getting Kooky is a way to tease OCD. “Oh yeah, OCD? You think that bothers me? Hah! Watch this!!!”
Be paradoxical. Lean in when OCD says lean out. If you’re having trouble getting unstuck from a thought or worry, look for a way to get Kooky.
You know what helps in a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way? Get somebody else to be Kooky with you.
OCD: Oh no,this means [some bad thing] is going to happen.
Agree: Maybe. Time will tell.
Don’t waste your time disagreeing with OCD. If you have OCD or are helping someone with OCD, it’s better to not argue with OCD. Nod your head and pretend to agree. “I hear you OCD. You might be right. Time will tell.”
Accepting uncertainty is vital. OCD will always have an opportunity to lead you astray if you don’t play along and say, “Maybe” to OCD.
Trying to ignore OCD does not work! OCD is like a telemarketer that won’t stop calling until you pick up! It’s just that when you pick up say, KAPOW!
OCD: You’re too tired. You don’t have what it takes today.
Punch: I am tired. Let’s see what 10 jumping jacks can do.
Check your body language. Get into a competitive stance. Sit up. Stand up. Use your anxiety as energy to move onward…not downward.
I’m not suggesting that you punch OCD in the face. I haven’t found that hating OCD is very helpful. I’m suggesting that you see your exhaustion as a challenge. Besides, even friends spar in a boxing ring.
Every person with OCD needs Kapow!
OCD: This day is dreadful and best approached with avoidance.
Onward: There’s an action I need to take and I’m taking it.
Think of your anxiety as a Global Positioning System (GPS). Most everyone uses a GPS to reach an unfamiliar destination. You enter the address and the GPS tells you when to turn. If you don’t take the recommended turns your GPS will recalculate.
When your internal GPS recalculates it sends you a signal that feels like anxiety. It’s simply telling you that you’re not taking the path you’re supposed to take. The anxiety is used to get your attention and help you move onward.
Your GPS will keep recalculating until you take the path you’re supposed to take.
If you have anxiety consider which of the following messages it’s trying to give you:
Are you avoiding or neglecting something? Your GPS is sending you a signal to attend to a need or confront a fear. Until you take the necessary action you’re GPS is going to keep recalculating.
Do you feel vulnerable? Your body knows when you don’t have enough energy to deal with everything on your plate. The anxiety is reminding you to stay in the here and now, take one priority at a time and replenish your fuel throughout the day.
Are you tackling something that is above your “pay grade?” Are you trying to do something you don’t know how to do? It’s time to get coached and sharpen your skills. Reach out! Your GPS is telling you to stop and get directions!
If you’re hiding something then you’ll feel guilty which is just adding to your stress. I’m not talking about the guilt you feel from your OCD thoughts. That’s just straightforward inappropriate guilt because nobody can help what they think. I’m talking about guilt caused by a non-OCD thought or event. Are you keeping secrets from your accountability partner? Your GPS will keep recalculating until you tell the truth.
Your attitude needs a front-end alignment. Perhaps you’re having a pity party. “Why is this happening to me? This isn’t fair.” Self-pity sits in the middle of your soul and eats everything nearby, except itself. Your GPS is telling you that whatever you are experiencing it’s a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Remember, it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to what happens that counts. Make this your motto: Change, learn and grow!
Does your lifestyle need a change? If you’re eating sugar, nightshade plants, or drinking too much caffeine, your GPS will signal toxicity and try to flush it out of your system with anxiety pushing through your veins. Ever experience an increase in urinary frequency when anxious? Now you know why. Your GPS is trying to rid you of toxins.
You’re not hanging up on the conversation fast enough. OCD is like a robocall telemarketer. If you don’t answer, it keeps calling. Answer the phone, say something KOOKY with an accent and HANG UP! No more discussion! When you start conversing with OCD you’re headed for a wrong turn and your GPS is yelling at you to find the nearest U-turn!
Think of anxiety as your friend. Your negative evaluation of anxiety is getting in your way. Anxiety is trying to steer you in the right direction.
W= WW__D? What would (the most reasonable person you know) do? Copy them! It’s hard to know for sure whether a thought or worry is OCD. Ask yourself what your BFF would do.
OCD: I don’t think you should do that.
WWTD: OCD, you have zero life experience. Everything scares you. I don’t have to do or avoid anything that ________ (the most reasonable person you know) doesn’t.
If you have OCD, say KAPOW!
Want some help facing uncertainty? Add this book to your toolbox!
I tried to resist compulsions before, and it didn’t work. I felt worse! Why should I try again?
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.
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 ExpectedAnd 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?
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.
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 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 “fingerlickin’ 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.
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:
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, when you were a child being afraid and freezing-up probably kept someone you know or even someone on TV out of harm’s way. This might not even be a memory you can recall. But, now you’re more experienced and know 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:
I asked my client who recently attended a wedding,“Why was everyone celebrating? What’s the accomplishment?”
She paused for a long time. “Hmmm, I guess it’s a celebration of two people finding each other?” I asked, “And you celebrated that?” My client smiled and said, “I know what you’re doing.” She was on to me.
This client, once unable to take three steps without a lengthy ritual, danced the entire night at a wedding reception—completely ritual free! There’ve been so many victories over the last few months. And not once has she ever celebrated. Not one tiny little whoot whoot!
I asked my client, “What? What do you think I’m doing?”
She said, “You’re wondering if I celebrated my own accomplishment. You’re wondering if I did a little happy dance for myself.”
I moved to the edge of my seat in anticipation, “Yes! Yes! I’m wondering if at any point you twirled around on that dance floor and shouted with glee, “I’m free! I’m free!” She replied, “Oh God no. I’m not ever going to do that!”
This woman is doing the hardest thing she’ll ever do in her life. She’s defying OCD. She’s been disobedient and doing the opposite of what OCD tells her to do for months now.
OCD says leave. She stays. OCD says don’t think about this. She thinks about it more. OCD warns, “Do this (ritual) or something bad is going to happen.” She says, “Nah, that’s ok. Whatever happens, happens.”
Time and time again, my client proves to be more powerful than OCD. Everyday she’s winning more and more battles! If OCD kicks it up a notch, she powers right through it. She says, “Oh yeah OCD??? Watch this OCD! You’re not the boss of me anymore!”
And yet she won’t celebrate. 😦
Reasons Why People With OCD Won’t Celebrate Their Victories
No Plan or Intention I forgot all about celebrating. I planned the exposure but didn’t think about what I could do to celebrate. It just slipped my mind.
The Hustle Isn’t it about the climb more than the top of the mountain? No pain—No gain. If I’m not suffering something’s not right. I thought I was supposed to be suffering all the time?
It’s Too Soon I’ll celebrate later. I’m not where I want to be. I haven’t done enough. I’ve got a long way to go before I should start celebrating.
Minimizing the Victory There’s people with far worse problems than me. I’m so ashamed of being self-absorbed by my worries. There’s people starving in this world.
I Don’t Know How to Celebrate I can’t think of anything to reward myself with. There isn’t anything I want or need. I don’t know how to acknowledge what I’ve done. I feel silly.
Self-Deprecating Why would I celebrate doing something that everybody else can easily do? I’m not going to celebrate over some piddly little thing I should have been able to do a long time ago.
Too Focused On What’s Wrong or Not Working Sure I pulled that off. So what! What good did it do? Even though I did the exposure I’m still anxious and the thought is still there.
There’s No Point Why should I celebrate? Sure, today was a victory but tomorrow that’s another story. Tomorrow everything could go back to the way OCD wants it. Who’s to say all my success today will be repeated tomorrow?
Don’t Want to Jinx It I don’t want to let my guard down by celebrating. As soon as I acknowledge that I’m doing pretty good, OCD will throw a bomb at me. I don’t think it’s smart to say anything positive right now. I’ll jinx myself.
What’s Your Reason?Have I missed yours? When you are victorious over OCD, what keeps you from celebrating? Is it mentioned above or do you have one to add? Please let us know! You can add it anonymously in the comment section.
The cold, hard/ugly truth is that without acknowledging your victories it can take twice as long to be healthy and free!
If your child or best friend gave you any of the above reasons for not celebrating a victory would you say, “Yeah, you’re right. You can’t celebrate.”
Why Celebrate? People with OCD often ask, “How can I stop all this chatter in my head?” “I’m feeling like this will never get better.” If you really want to influence your thoughts and feelings, then celebrate your victories!
Celebrate to generate motivation. Feel better. Release the happy juice: dopamine. Celebrating is the foundation to success!
No matter how tiny or small you think your victory is, CELEBRATE! Cultivate a positive mindset with a happy dance! This is scientifically proven so why not try it out!
When to Celebrate
OCD told you to leave and you stayed
OCD told you to stay and you left
OCD told you to stop think a thought less and you thought it more
OCD told you to sanitize and you got dirty
OCD told you to go back and check and you shrugged ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and kept going
OCD told you something bad could happen and you said, “Whatever happens, happens. I’ll deal with it if and when it happens.”
OCD questioned your morals or intentions and you said, “We’ll just never know. Oh well.”
OCD questioned your health and you said, “I don’t want to live in a small little bubble.”
OCD suggested other people are more adequate than you and you said, “I’d rather just go ahead and be inadequate than agonize over whether or not I’m adequate.”
OCD tells you to keep doing it (ritual) until you feel just right and you say, “I’d rather feel just wrong.”
OCD tells you that you’re going to end up all alone you say, “Then I can leave the dishes in the sink as long as I want!”
Whenever you do the opposite of what OCD tells you to do, it’s time to CELEBRATE!
How to Celebrate Here’s the thing about celebrating. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate. What matters is that you consistently do something that tells your brain you are pleased or even happy about something you did. It doesn’t have to be a glamorous affair. But it can be! 😜
Let us know in the comment section how you like to celebrate!
Think of all the rituals and compulsions you’re willing to use to cultivate a mindset of fear and avoidance. You’ve been etching this groove in your brain long enough! It’s time to flip it and cultivate a positive mindset! Put some thought and muscle into celebrating!!!
And for those of you who don’t celebrate because you don’t feel like it—do it anyway. It can help. Check out this link: Go Here From the book, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
If you aren’t celebrating, you can’t blame it on OCD. You’re getting in your own way of freeing your mind. Freeing your life.
What are you going to celebrate today and how are you going to do it?
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OCD is quite a chatter box. During the course of therapy a client will inevitably ask me, “When is this chatter going to stop?” Even though the client is doing everything they need to be doing, OCD just won’t shut up!
I reply with blazing hope. Be patient. You can bear all things during therapy with patience. When the going gets rough hang in there. Don’t quit! I’ve seen 100’s of clients get better, just when they thought they never would.
It’s as if there’s a switch in the brain and it suddenly gets flipped on. When this happens it’s visible on the clients face. After many weeks, sometimes months the client is transformed. And I say, “It’s nice to finally meet you.” And we laugh. It feels so good.
But it wasn’t easy getting there. Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) is the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Believe me, OCD will tell you not to do it! Every nerve ending in your body will tell you to stop.
Acceptance and Commitment(ACT) therapy is mental Kung Fu. Reverse psychology. Letting the thoughts be there and doing nothing to “fix” them. Agreeing with the thoughts and letting your core values drive your behavior no matter how you feel.
Practicing ERP and ACT is tedious work. There’s a lot of repetition. Things aren’t clear right away. It’s uninspiring at first. Once you disprove OCD it gets a little more inspiring and empowering. But in the beginning and middle it’s slow, tiresome and the symptoms are often unrelieved.
Patience is the hero. It’s magical. It will protect you while you slowly plod forward. It’s the capacity to accept or tolerate suffering. It’s the ability to continue moving forward despite the lack of relief.
I made a video for you (see below) and when I finished I had a craving for something sweet. I don’t eat much sugar so I found a bag of very old fortune cookies. I grabbed one and cracked it open to read the fortune. I couldn’t believe the message! Unbelievable!
The other day I was reading a Q & A Website where people with OCD post their questions. Here’s one that was very popular and had several hundred views:
“Hello I was wondering if it’s normal for someone with OCD to have to say some of their intrusive thoughts out loud for them to go away?”
In April I wrote a blog post every day and my favorite part was not writing the blog (although I enjoyed it very much). It was reading everybody’s comments and cultivating an ongoing discussion. Since I miss that part, for today I decided to post the above question and encourage ya’ll to comment and check back through the week to keep the discussion going.
I’d like to do this every once in awhile so if you have a question you want me to ask in a future post tell me!
I’m looking forward to hearing from you! As always I’ll make sure your response is anonymous!
Hi! Last week I posted the above question. We had some great comments. Please be sure to read them! Today, I replied to each comment for this week’s post. I also included a “Reassurance Quiz” below:
I just can’t believe what a liar OCD is and how much it gets away with. Listen to these lies that OCD has people believing:
It’d be better to be sedated and drooling if it means stopping these horrible thoughts.
Use this cancer-causing hand sanitizer excessively and get rid of all the good bacteria. At least you’ll feel clean and safe right now (for a few seconds.)
Starvation is better. Seriously. You might look sick and frail but at least people won’t be thinking you’re overweight.
Skip your five year old’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s so that you don’t get sick. When he gets home he can immediately take a shower and put his clothes in the trash. Then you can hug him and ask him about his party.
Stay at work 16 hours to triple check your work. You’ll miss your niece’s play if that’s what you have to do. You’ll have to go into the dark parking lot and hopefully not get mugged. But you can’t leave work until you’re 100% sure there’s no mistakes.
Do this over and over until it feels just right. Miss your son’s wedding if you have to. But, if you don’t do this until it feels just right, something bad will happen to him.
It’s better to fail every class. Don’t touch that backpack with books in it from that filthy school. It’d be better to fail than to get sick.
Even if you have to sell your house to pay for all the medically unnecessary emergency room visits it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take your chances of getting cancer from all the X-rays. It’s better to get some relief and be able to sleep tonight. Get another X-ray or you’ll be up all night worrying.
Jump down these stairs and skip nine steps. You could break a leg but it’s the only way to keep something bad from happening to your Mom.
Do you see what all of these stories have in common? They’re all lies, yes. OCD really knows how to pull the wool over eyes. But, there’s something worse about these lies. It’s the terrible risks being taken as a result of the lies. The reason you should stop letting OCD lie to you is that the lies are actually dangerous!
No matter what the obsession is—it all boils down to one thing. Risk. Whatever you’re afraid of is not nearly as risky as the path OCD wants you to take. It may feel less risky to be led by OCD but clearly by reading the above lies, it’s dangerous to follow OCD.
There are two paths. One is overgrown and hard to get through. You’ll need a machete and you’ll have to work hard. The other path is clear and well-traveled by you. It’s easier to be on the path you travel most often. But, the best path is not necessarily the one most traveled or the one that feels familiar.
OCD has a crooked little finger enticing you to take the path that feels better. The relief is only temporary and meanwhile you’ve done something harmful to yourself or someone else. Sometimes you’ve just got to get mad at OCD and say enough of the lies. It’s time for truth. The truth is that OCD is always causing harm in some way.
If you have OCD you’re being lied to. Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes. Say, “I know you OCD. I see you. The risk I’m going to take is the same risk I see other people taking. I don’t need to take special precautions.”
Today I’m not picturing OCD (as I often do) as the two year old just asking a lot of nonsense questions. Today I’m taking punches at the liar.
Early this week at 6:30am I noticed high school students were parking on my lawn. This has never happened before and I had no idea what was going on. I live in a quiet neighborhood where there is very little traffic. These students were about to turn my lawn into a parking lot. I spent the morning making students move their car.
I approached one student as he was exiting his BMW convertible. In a very matter-of-fact tone I said, “You can’t park here.” He continued to get his backpack out of the car seat. I repeated, “You can’t park here.” He demanded, “Says who?” I shrugged and said, “You need to move your car.” He slung his backpack over his shoulder and said, “What’s your problem? This street is on the list.” I thought, “What list? What’s he talking about?” I began to doubt myself. But, I calmly repeated, “You can’t park here.” He looked exasperated and glared at me. A few explicit words escaped his mouth. My affect remained flat or unfazed. “You need to move your car.” He threw his backpack in his car, flipped me the bird, and squealed away.
I called the high school and was told that students were no longer allowed to park on the street they’d been parking on all year. She said, “I knew it. I predicted they would go to your street. They’re cutting through people’s lawns to access the back of the school. These kids are bad news. They’ll trash your lawn. Call the police.” I asked about “The List.” She said there is no list. “You better call the police. These kids will make your life miserable.”
I called the police and an officer came to hear my complaint. He told me school was almost out for the year. “Be patient, it’ll only be for a couple more weeks.” He warned me, “They might get nasty. There could be vandalism.” I shrugged. “Vandalism could happen anytime. I’ve been through it before. It was unpleasant but I got through it.” I told him that if I let them park on the street the risk would be far worse than vandalism. “Clearly a fire engine would not be able to get through if these students park here.” He looked down the street and saw no car was impeding a fire engine’s passage. (I wanted to argue: That’s because I made them all move! But, I resisted getting into a back and forth exchange with him.) He said, “I don’t see an issue here.” I repeated, “I’m not going to let them park here. I value the safe passageway of a fire engine too much. I also value the solitude of my neighborhood.”
He glared at me. Once again I told the officer I had no intention of letting them park on the street today, tomorrow or next year. He tried to appease me, “Just allow this for two more weeks. We’ll have no-parking signs next year.” I repeated, “I’m not going to allow them to park here. I will tell them to move.” He looked exasperated, “You have no authority. One foot of your property belongs to the town. Technically they can have their wheels on one foot of your property.” I repeated, “I will not allow them to park on this street. I will be here every morning at 6:30am. I invite you to join me.”
I have all the names of the students and even the police officer. I’m going to post their names in this blog right now for all to see. Their names are…OCD.
OCD can act like a know-it-all and zap you of all your power. Like the student who challenged, “Says who?”
It can make you think you’re in the wrong or that you don’t know enough to make a good decision. OCD lies all the time! Like the student who said there was a LIST I didn’t know about.
OCD can be intimidating and forceful. Like the student and the officer that glared at me.
Before you know it, you’re second guessing yourself. OCD can convince you, “Just this one time. Just do this compulsion for now. You won’t always have to do this. But to be safe, do it for now.” Like the officer who threatened there could be vandalism if I didn’t do as he said.
OCD can talk you into ignoring your values or convince you to take a bigger risk just to avoid a minimal risk. Like the officer who tried to get me to believe vandalism would be worse than a house burning down.
My strategy is the same strategy to use with OCD:
1. I mostly repeated myself over and over. No matter what I was asked or told, I sounded like a broken record. In essence it was as if I was saying, “It’s not up for discussion. This is what I’m doing no matter what you say. End of discussion.”
2. I shrugged a lot. Even though I was nervous and angry, I kept a matter-of-fact tone of voice. I offered no explanations.
3. The only time I did anything other than repeat myself was when I told the officer I would not compromise my values and if the going got rough as he warned, it’d be unpleasant but I’d handle it.
4. I invited the officer to come along as I faced each morning. Instead of always being surprised by OCD, invite it to show up.
Use this same strategy with OCD. There is no better way to respond to OCD.
As I promised, every day of this week I’ve been in my front yard from 6:30am-8:00am. Students drove down my street, slowed as if ready to park, and saw me. I acknowledged them with a nod and they quietly moved on. The police showed up a couple of times but had no interaction with me other than to ask if I saw which way a car went. Actually today not one student even drove down my street.
Finally, I want to say that when facing hardship ask “What does this make possible?” What did this parking fiasco make possible for me? At first I considered charging students $35 a day to park on my lawn. LOL! I could’ve made at least $280 a day! But, what it truly made possible is that I got a lot of yard work done!
OCD loves to get you to rewind and replay. It can trick you into analyzing something for hours. When resisting a compulsion or repetitive mental act tell OCD “NO. End of discussion.”
Have you told OCD it’s not up for discussion? Do you sound like a broken record?
After you’ve been tricked by OCD have you ever said, “I forgot to use my tools. I forgot I even had tools!” Well, never forget again! Here’s an amazing “To DO List” to help you remember what to do!
√Be Super Better Every Day When you wake up in the morning, do you have a plan? Make sure you set a daily goal to DEFY OCD. Everyday is April Fool’s Day with OCD. You must be prepared for the tricks! You can’t afford to drift. As soon as your feet hit the floor know what you’ll do today to defy OCD.
√Don’t Have to Feel Determined to Be Determined It’s hard work to get better every day. How will you muster all your effort? Put one foot in front of the other whether you want to or not. Get mad at OCD if you have to. Enough is enough!!! Be strong, motivated and optimistic even when facing obstacles. Stick to the plan no matter what! The quality of your life is only as good as your stick-to-it-ive-ness.
√Keep Score How are you doing with Exposures? Are you resisting compulsions? Keep track of your progress. Are you building momentum and taking on harder challenges each day? Who’s getting the most points: You or OCD? Tally up the score at the end of the day. You don’t have to win every battle but you do have to win the day.
√Positivity & Gratitude Are you doing a good job of managing your emotions from negative to positive? In the face of adversity, ask “What does this make possible?” This means focusing on blessings and appreciating others. Gratitude is the great sanitizer!
√Fuel and Fitness Are you making your brain a lean mean fighting machine through exercise, rest and healthy eating? Are you pushing yourself but making sure you properly recharge? Sleeping too much is too much recovery. Always seek a balance between chaos and rigidity when it comes to eating, sleeping and exercising.
√Focus is a Choice What are you paying attention to? Are you laser focused on what you’re fighting for or what you’re afraid of? Are you exercising your focus muscles with meditation or mindfulness exercises? Have you tried juggling, playing an instrument or coloring?
√Are you driven by your values? What are you fighting for? How do you remind yourself of why you’re working so hard to defy OCD. Have you made a collage or written a script that reflects your hopes and dreams? Are you going to let OCD rob you of “first times?” What’s more important—family or OCD? What is it that you value and let those values drive your behavior.
√Yield Do you accept the anxiety and agree the goal is to tolerate anxiety not get rid of it? When you’re triggered and getting anxious do you say, “Good. There’s my anxiety. I want this so I can practice tolerating it.” -OR- When you get triggered do you start analyzing the content until you’re blue in the face? Let go or be dragged.
√Put OCD in the Corner! Don’t have a back-n-forth conversation with OCD. Don’t answer one more question. As soon as you ask “WHY” or “WHAT” STOP!!! You’re about to go down the rabbit hole. “What if…” “What does this thought mean?” “What if I’m a bad person?” “Why does this feel like…” IT’S OCD! Don’t converse with it! The first question you answer will lead to months of never-ending questions. You’ll get stuck in the hamster wheel. Say, “It’s not up for discussion!” “End of discussion OCD!” “You’re in the corner. I see you but I’m not discussing this with you!”
√Here and Now There are three doors: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Which door does your thought belong behind? Rewinding and replaying memories belong in yesterday’s door. Whatever happened has already happened. There’s nothing to do about it today. If it’s a worry about what could happen, it hasn’t happened yet so it goes behind tomorrow’s door. When tomorrow comes, ask again what door does that worry go behind. The only thought that needs your attention is a thought that requires action in the next 30-60 minutes. Action meaning tasks to be completed. Tasks that are constructive and healthy.
√Stop Wishing and Cancel the Pity Party “It’s not fair. Why me?” “Nobody understands.” “I’m different.” “I wish I didn’t have OCD.” “I just wish I could be normal—like everybody else.” The more you wish the more you suffer.
√Stay connected The smaller your world becomes the bigger OCD gets. Don’t isolate. Don’t call in sick. Don’t cancel plans with friends. Keep on keeping on. Create plenty of space between you and OCD. Alone in your home is very close quarters for you and OCD. Take OCD out into the world with you—invite it to join you! But, be in the world.
Don’t give up your power ever again. Use this “To DO List” on a daily basis to be proactive and stay one step ahead of OCD. It truly is possible to outwit, outsmart and outplay OCD. Stay alert and use this “To DO List!”
Without a plan to defy OCD you’re operating on automatic pilot. Which means you’re not paying attention to what you really want in life and going for it. You might be getting through the day—but barely.
If you have unwanted intrusive thoughts and you’re on automatic pilot, then you’re spending a lot of time in your head trying to analyze whether or not you’re a good person or bad person. You’re seeking reassurance asking people over and over, “Is this really OCD?” You’re spending a lot of time doing “magical” compulsions. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you’re so hyper-vigilant, looking for signs of danger.
If you’re on automatic pilot and have contamination fears, then your day centers around avoiding people, objects, surfaces. Almost every move you make requires a scan of the environment. You’re seeking a lot of reassurance, “is this safe?” or getting people to touch things for you. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you’re having to be so hyper-vigilant.
If you’re on automatic pilot and have “just right” OCD then you’re spending a lot of time thinking and doing repeated compulsions until you feel just right. Your life is driven by feelings not values. You’re constantly trying to fix a bad feeling. People around you are affected because all activity must stop until you feel just right. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you can’t do much of anything until you feel right.
If you have no plan to defy OCD you’re drifting. And if you’re drifting you’re going nowhere fast. It’s a life of desperation filled with guilt and avoidance. OCD is in charge and it’s running you ragged. Without a plan all your hopes and dream pass you by.
You can beat and defy OCD if you take yourself off automatic pilot. Make a plan. Stick to the plan no matter what. If you stick to the plan you’ll have a life of joy and purpose.
During the month of April I’ve posted on my blog every day about the sort of plan you need to defy OCD. The plan consists of four proven components that spell out the word DEFY:
Determination Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) Fitness: Mental & Physical Yielding with a shrug
While it was sometimes challenging to find the time to do it, I’ve enjoyed writing about all of these components for the last 30 days. Thank you to all of you who have posted comments. Those were my favorite part of this challenge!
If you haven’t had the time to read them, please do because all of them will be removed from “Blog it Back” by May 4th.