Tag Archives: OCD symptoms

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?
  • A Case Study on Someone Who Tried to Resist Compulsions
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.

 

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

 

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

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD and Guilt: Your Get Out of Jail Free Card

Breaking free from OCD can be quite troublesome when the obsession is accompanied with guilt or shame.

Hold on though…Not all guilt is bad. Right? Guilt causes people to fall in line and properly behave. We’re socialized to feel guilt so that we learn to control our behavior and emotions. If people feel guilt or shame they’ll be less likely to do anything wrong.

We’ve all experienced real or appropriate guilt.

Today at the grocery store I was using the self check-out. I’m proud to say I’ve memorized lots of produce codes. I entered the code 4011 for regular bananas. I was submitting my payment when it suddenly occurred to me that the bananas were organic and therefore I hadn’t paid enough.

I was in a hurry and shrugged, “Oh who cares. It’s 20 cents. Just go.” But then I thought, “No, if you don’t confess to your underpayment, you’ll get in a car accident.”

This is an example of how guilt stabilizes a society and prevents its citizens from wrongful behavior. If you do something bad then there will be a consequence.

Real or appropriate guilt happens when you’ve mis-behaved.  Guilt is the emotional penalty of misconduct.

The problem with OCD is that it generates inappropriate guilt. Nothing bad has to occur in order for you to be overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt adds a whole other dimension to OCD. 

When Should You Feel Guilt or Shame?

It’d be so much easier to break free from OCD if you weren’t dealing with so much inappropriate guilt.

When it comes to OCD, you’ve got to become defiant. OCD will tell you what rules to follow. These rules are not reasonable and will take you down the rabbit hole. You must disobey OCD.

To do that, it helps to have your own set of rules to follow no matter what OCD says.

To make it easier, what if there was a Code of Conduct for you to follow? No matter what OCD says, if you follow this Code of Conduct, you don’t pay the emotional penalty of guilt. Maybe it would be something like this:

(Draft Copy) Code of Conduct:
DO NO HARM
  • Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
  • Don’t destroy the environment upon which all life depends.
  • Don’t do to yourself what you wouldn’t do to others.
  • Don’t make decisions for people who can make their own.
  • Don’t manipulate and control others.
  • Don’t take care of others when they can take care of themselves.
DO GOOD
  • Do to others what you would like them to do to you.
  • Do practice gratitude and express thankfulness.
  • Do put the oxygen mask on yourself first; your mental health must come first.
  • Do help this needy world through acts of kindness, not fear.
  • Do respect a person’s right to self-determination. (A person controls their own life.)
What do you notice about this Code of Conduct
  • Is there a common theme?
  • Is there anything missing? Something you think people should pay the penalty of guilt for, but not mentioned here?
  • Is there something that doesn’t belong?
  • What do you notice about the transfer of responsibility? What are you essentially responsible for? What are other people responsible for?
  • If you stick to these rules would it be appropriate or necessary to still pay the emotional penalty of guilt or shame?

Please leave your answers, questions, and comments. As always I will post them anonymously.  

This publication is part of a series of posts about OCD and guilt. The next post will be “Guilt Beyond Circumstance: A Different Kind of Guilt.”

If you want me to address a certain question about guilt, be sure to leave me a message.

In addition to your other comments, please share what you hope this series of posts about guilt will accomplish.
Thank you for your comments. They mean so much to me and also help others!

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

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

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

imagesIs OCD a Bully?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Not Think of OCD as a Bully?

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD is Not a Good Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cropped-Boss_It_2.pngOCD is the Opposite of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCD is Clueless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s one more thing to know about OCD. 

8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD Will Soon Be Explained!

160_f_80220645_had2v7yekvlm48vise42a8guoy7f8hifOCD is Only One Part of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

brainworkoutLet’s Make Your Brain a Lean Mean Fighting Machine

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

Download “8 Proven Ways to Outsmart OCD” Here!

My Critique of a Recent Interview on TV About Anxiety

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

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

You’ll find a link to the interview below.

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Critique of the Interview

Missed Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Worried Sick

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this interview Dr. Ferraioli gives a few tips.

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

The Tips

Stay in the Moment

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

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

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

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

160_f_63058634_3qpdnbyhlfaklmxrxveaeja5ndc4x3oqWorst Case Scenario

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

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

Wasted Energy

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

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

Easier Said Than Done

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

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

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

How to Let Go When It’s Hard to Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Develop New Rules to Follow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Do I Like to Torture People Who Have OCD?

If the symptoms of OCD are so painful, why do I want clients to lean into the pain? Tolerate the pain. 160_F_112124725_IAgJplCgrO5mVYTISlvJNNeDama7gUhoDo nothing to get rid of the pain. In fact, seek pain. It sure sounds as if I like to torture people! 

I’m an OCD specialist. My private practice is dedicated to helping people with OCD. So my entire day is spent figuring out ways to make people anxious by confronting fear.

  • “Really, you think that’s contaminated? Oh good. Let’s touch it.”
  • “Hmmmm. You think you might hurt someone? Prove it. Hold this knife to my stomach.”
  • “Oh no! Did you just run somebody over? It sure sounded like it to me!”
  • “I don’t know if you have OCD. Maybe it’s something else.”

If you’re not familiar with Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) then you’ve got to be thinking I’m into torture. My clients would laugh about this and in jest nod their heads at one another…like uh huh. They’ve heard me say many times, “Oh! That makes you anxious? Good! We want that!” 😏 They reply, “Oh no. Why did I ever tell you I’m afraid of that. Oh no.”  

A few clients over the years have dropped out of therapy looking for a gentler approach. While visiting a friend the other day, I saw a former client who was stuck in his driveway, taking the same steps over and over. Sweat was dripping down his face. He’d been stuck awhile. I helped him get unstuck and asked how it was going with his new therapist. He replied, “She’s not as tough as you.”

Be Set Free
Be Set Free

I’m tough because I see the potential in my clients. I want them to be the best they can be. I know there’s a way to be set free. If a client is not open to ERP, I ask “well, how’s your way working out?” Everybody always answers, “not well.”

Once someone told me my “take no prisoner” approach was unpleasant. I wasn’t sure what “take no prisoners” meant so I researched it. If I’m guilty of a “take no prisoner” approach then it means I’m determined and could care less about people’s feelings. I really gave this some thought.

It’s true to say that I’m determined. If you tell me you want to beat OCD then you better believe I’m going to give 110% to help you do it. I’m one of the most laser-focused committed therapists you’ll ever meet. Tell me you want to defy OCD and I’m going to make sure you get what you want.

So yes, to call me determined is an accurate description. But, sometimes my asset is my liability. There are times I start fighting harder than my client and that’s a problem. I work too long with people who don’t fight as hard as me. Who never do any work at all. And yet, I keep trying.

Meanwhile there are people on a waiting list to see me. People who want to do the work. Sometimes my “take no prisoner” determination keeps others from getting my help. I struggle with saying, “I’ve got to give up for now.” There’s a quote, “Do not try my patience I have perilously little of it.” Actually, I have dangerously too much of it.

The other description of “take no prisoners” would mean that I don’t care about feelings. It’s not true that I don’t care about people’s feelings. When I see the pain and agony my client is going through I am deeply affected. In fact, I’m at high risk for becoming preoccupied with someone’s suffering.160_F_7006618_aw6IDdObEjQMy7uY5EuAK9N830oawK3M

This is called, compassion fatigue and like many therapists, I have to take care of myself so I don’t become fatigued. I love rubbing my dog’s belly, watching good vs. evil movies (where the good guy always wins), gardening, competing (hard) in racquetball, cooking without recipes, playing board games, and blowing off steam at karaoke (see video below). These activities help me stay strong and healthy so that I can help someone do the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

I’m also comforted by knowing that my client who is in pain will one day be set free by all their hard work. I’ve witnessed 100’s and 100’s of people get better when they thought they never could.  I rely on this knowledge to help me be strong and stay the course.

ERP works but it doesn’t always provide immediate relief. Anxiety is high and the urge to do a compulsion is strong. When a client does an exposure exercise I don’t get stressed when I see the fear in their eyes. Not because I’m into torture! Because I know ERP is like insulin to a diabetic. 

It’s when they won’t do ERP and play mental Kung Fu–those are the times I’m stressed and at risk for burn out. OCD manipulates people into avoidance and even paralysis. It’s only weapon is to make you focus on obtaining a certain feeling. Like the young man stuck in his drive way. I helped him “just wrong it.” Who cares you don’t feel complete or “just right!” Is this how you want to live? Do what you want to do.

Some people will do anything to not be uncomfortable when that is the only thing they need to do! Be uncomfortable! It’s not dangerous, it’s unpleasant! SO WHAT!!!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Perhaps the confusion about whether or not I care about people’s feelings comes from telling clients thoughts and feelings aren’t facts. Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean there really is 160_F_90271366_AWiT1etcHqY7nKFyqF8W8oeIPsiUYNWYdanger. People with OCD will spend hours trying to get a certain feeling. This is why I tell them feelings aren’t the solution, they’re the problem.

I’m rephrasing a Martin Luther King quote here a bit: “We will wear <OCD> down by our capacity to suffer, to face suffering, and do what’s necessary to make the change.”

I’m not into torturing. I’m into wearing OCD down with a willingness to be uncomfortable.

ERP will feel like torture if you don’t do it enough. You’ve got to hit it hard with repetition and frequency. Don’t swing to miss. Swing to hit.

You can wear down OCD.  My motto: Find a way when there seems to be no way.

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. Have you discovered it takes twice as much energy to swing and miss as it does to swing and hit? Or that the only way out is in? 

Here’s the video I promised of me blowing off steam. As you can see, I’ve got a lot of it.

Want to Optimize Your Anxiety? (Hint: You Should)

160_F_93609793_S7obJTCdPle86qulV7DbCfJWrO90aw0tIf you have anxiety then you know what it’s like to worry about health, relationships, responsibilities, saying or doing something embarrassing, or some other dreaded circumstance. Occasionally or maybe all of the time, these worries have caused social withdrawal and sleep irregularities.

The anxiety takes over your body. It can cause heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, twitching muscles, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, trembling, shakiness, nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue. These symptoms have interfered with functioning at home, work, and socially. Your body feels like a lead balloon. It’s hard to move.

160_F_36556341_eXoHL69HOja4GfK6Bi3u23IqvhB4u2VOThere are times your mind has gone blank. It’s hard to concentrate and focus. You’ve even had feelings of unreality or being detached. You’ve been hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. These symptoms have interfered with work performance and relationships. It takes too long to get anything done and you don’t feel connected to anyone.

Knowing how distressing and awful it is to have anxiety why would I suggest optimizing anxiety? Well, let’s look at what I mean by optimize.

What It Means to Optimize

If you look in a dictionary you’ll find that to “optimize” means to make the best or most effective use of something. 

Examples of how we already optimize: We optimize our computer by removing unnecessary software or files and downloading updates. We optimize our work environment by removing distractions and using ergonomic furniture. We optimize our body’s limited fuel by eating super seeds like chia, flax and sunflower. We optimize our workout by wearing ankle weights.

What does it mean then, to optimize anxiety? It means using anxiety to improve your life. To make the best or most effective use of anxiety and use it to your advantage. Using anxiety. Not getting rid of it.

Optimize Your Anxiety With These Four Mindsets

Mindset #1    It’s a State of Mind and a Way of Being.

Optimizing anxiety isn’t a five-step action plan. It’s a way of life—a lifestyle. It’s a life long commitment to use anxiety as an advantage. To do everything in your power to not only accept anxiety but embrace it for the rest of your life.

Ask yourself, “What does this anxiety make possible?” Once you understand the advantages of anxiety you can use them to rise up and conquer.

Mindset #2    Change the Way You Think About Anxiety

Anxiety is in your life to motivate not paralyze. Let the anxiety give you the spirit to rise up and make positive change. If you are constrained by your anxiety it’s because you’re treating anxiety as an obstacle.160_F_82457787_cvnBa9dK5gtm0wFZCChnhdJfjAWEcyA4

You’ve convinced yourself you can’t function with anxiety, fear, or worry. That’s not true.

To believe anxiety is keeping you from performing and achieving is a self-imposed limiting belief. You’re limiting yourself by believing anxiety is not only useless but paralyzing.

This is a belief that is reinforced by pharmaceutical advertising and self-help books proclaiming there’s a way to get rid of anxiety. Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to be anxious, we’re taught we ought to be able to get rid of it. That message is wrong! It’s a message that slows you down and robs you of life.

Why do we love to feel anxiety on a rollercoaster ride? It’s because we’ve been socialized to think it’s fun and people raise eyebrows if we don’t ride them. So we’re more likely to try it. We ride the rollercoaster and are scared! Then we turn right around and get back in line to ride it again. In this case we have learned to interpret anxiety as not only wanted, but of benefit. See the power of a mindset?

Mindset #3    Out of the Box Thinking

160_F_6932992_kKTfOCsXca8YZD22bJpMCDXy2paURYZ2Embracing anxiety is an unexpected, out of the ordinary way of thinking. Optimizing anxiety means looking for “rollercoasters” in daily life. Look for ways to get uncomfortable.

Step out of your comfort zone and feel the fear. Do one thing every day that scares you. Get creative and re-train your brain that anxiety is invigorating not debilitating. Facing fears makes you strong not weak.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. You do the same thing as you wait in a rollercoaster line. Your anxiety increases when you hear the previous riders getting off exclaiming how scary it was. You read the warning signs and feel more anxiety. There is doubt in the air. There is worry because there is danger. But, you along with everybody else say, “Ah whatever.” 

Mindset #4    Life Rewards Action

Focus on the action not the anxiety. Let your core values drive your life, not fear. Let the anxiety be there. Despite the anxiety, do what you want to do. Do what you need to do. 

If you’re anxious, say good. This gives me a chance to practice my skills. Then focus on the task at hand and despite the anxiety, keep your attention on what you value…on what truly matters.

Put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps. No matter how you feel keep moving. Life rewards action.

The more you do this the less white-knuckling you’ll have to do. But, be patient. It’s hard at first to embrace anxiety. It’s just not how we’re socialized. But over time you can re-train your brain to soften into the anxiety.

What You Will Discover

  • It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious.
  • When you soften into the anxiety it softens too.
  • The byproduct of learning to tolerate anxiety is less anxiety. It’s not the goal, it’s the bonus.

Where You Might Get Stuck

It’s unpleasant to accept anxiety. You won’t like it. But, how’s resisting anxiety working out? Either way you’ll be anxious. But, only one way will set you free.

You’ll get frustrated when you don’t get an immediate result. You might give up the day before you were just about to get better.

It takes time to practice facing fears and shrugging at worry. You might say you’re too busy to find the time to practice. Remember,160_F_46203522_dc9Hr2qrpFfyHcVf4ZNNfxSolptQc0c5 there is always someone busier than you finding the time.

It doesn’t feel right. “Good there’s my worry. There’s my anxiety. I want this.” This is out-of-the-box thinking and doesn’t come naturally. Except on rollercoasters.

How to Make it Real and Take Action

Increase your positivity. Keep a journal of your victories and blessings. Ask yourself, “What does this anxiety make possible?” Don’t expect to free your mind until you figure this out. 

Identify 2 or 3 values that will support you in your acceptance of anxiety. Instead of valuing safety and certainty, value adventure and mystery. “This is a situation I can either value finding answers and obtaining certainty, or I can value the mystery and accept not knowing.” It’s a choice. “It’s my choice.”

Remind yourself why you are fighting hard. What are your goals, hopes and dreams? Who will benefit if you fight this fight? If you’re not held back by your anxiety, what could happen? Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Commit to optimizing anxiety for 3 months. Do one thing every day that scares you. Say, “Good there’s my anxiety. I want this. It’s a great opportunity to practice acceptance.”

Don’t allow frustration to set in. Be ready for the long haul. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Say, “So what. It’ll be hard. I can handle it.”

What does it mean then, to optimize anxiety? It means using anxiety to improve your life. Using anxiety. Not getting rid of it.

How to Break Free From the OCD Chatter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this video I made for you!