I feel like celebrating! For the first time
in my life that I am aware of, I just vanquished my Obsessive-Compulsive
Disorder (OCD) on its own turf. It wanted to spoil a lovely occasion,
and I stopped it, dumbfounded, in its tracks! Let me tell you how I
OCD is not unlike Tourette Syndrome (TS). Just as a
purposeful movement can be wrenched from any sensible context and made
to dance in isolation again and again to oft deleterious ends, the same
is true of OCD. Except now the arena is that of your thoughts. This
is just harder to divorce yourself from because it feels more personal
– both to the afflicted individual and also to those around him
or her. After all, what could be more personal than your own thoughts?!
Particularly if you DID once own them – these thoughts may be
vestiges of who you once were or something you once considered or experienced.
I continue to toss my long bangs out of my eyes, years after I cut my
hair, because this movement fell prey to my TS. Similarly, certain modes
of thought that no longer apply continue to invade my life, but only
because they fall prey to my OCD. I didn’t realize this parallel
until recently though. And that’s precisely what gives OCD its
strength – its ability to pass itself off as your intentional
self. And therein lays the key to beating it.
You may spend a summer hoeing beans. This may give you
arm tics that feign hoeing movements. This doesn’t mean that you
should go back to hoeing beans though. The hoeing movements are mere
remnants. They are obsolete. So are the thoughts in OCD. It is critical
that you not interpret these thoughts as an indicant that you are a
person who wishes to think in those modes. Recognize these ‘bogus
thoughts’ for what they are, don’t allow yourself to be
fooled, and smell the scent of freedom.
Just as a particularly odious tic really entrenches
itself only once it has elicited an emotional response from me, so it
is with obsessions. Fighting the compulsions and rituals is akin to
suppressing tics – it is the wrong battle to wage. It is tiring,
ongoing, and typically fruitless. Target the obsessions instead. Because
these obsessions are merely symptoms and not reflections of yourself,
you can now remove the accompanying fear, loathing, guilt, embarrassment,
or horror. Only then have you extricated its claws from your life.
next time, my friends!
B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D., C.Psych.