Having OCD can be likened to having a ‘dictator within’. A dictator is harsh, inconsiderate, and loud and ‘their’ opinion is the ‘only’ opinion that matters!
This is very much what OCD can be like. This ‘bully’ doesn’t care about your wants, needs and desires; all it is concerned with is that you follow its every command!
However, when you follow the demands of OCD, when you do the compulsions, when you ask for the reassurance, when you check Google just ‘one more time’- you may get momentary relief- but in the long term, you are just making the inner dictator stronger and louder!
So what can we do about this? How can we loosen OCDs grip?
While OCD recovery can take time and may require support from a therapist, here are 3 tried and tested methods below to start you on your recovery journey:
1.Recognize that the dictator within is a liar!
While any dictator in the history of mankind can be incredibly powerful and they will try to convince you that ‘their’ way is the ‘right way’ and that their message is true, when it comes to OCD the dictator within is a liar!
The intrusive thoughts (mum could die if I don’t walk on that crack 3 times, I need to wash my hands 10 times so I don’t get HIV or I need to replace that negative thought with a more positive one) are all lies!! They are false alarms coming from the brain! But OCD will shout back- but what if they are true? What if the bad thing really will happen if I don’t do the ritual?
2. Deep down YOU know these thoughts aren’t FACTS
How do you know that the bad thing really wont’ happen? Deep down YOU know these thoughts aren’t FACTS!
One unique characteristic that all OCD sufferers have in common is that they ‘know’ their intrusive thoughts aren’t a true reflection of who they are! When in the midst of a difficult period, it can be hard to see and remember that, but a huge part of recovering from OCD lies in listening to your true inner voice, that voice of reason and logic. The part of you which really knows that the intrusive thoughts and compulsive urges make no sense and are illogical! Knowing this, won’t magically stop OCD but it can definitely begin to loosen its grip!
3. Give the thought a name and the choose not to engage with it
When an intrusive thought shows up, it can be hard not to pay attention to it and engage with it. However, with practice we can learn to disentangle from it and put our attention onto what matters!
So, maybe you have thoughts about potentially losing control and harming someone. When those thoughts show up, they can be really scary and anxiety provoking IF we believe them to be true!
However, as mentioned earlier, when we see the intrusive thought as a ‘false alarm’ we can then, quite literally, give the thought a name! This won’t get rid of the thought, but it will give you a bit of distance from it- so it doesn’t have to dictate what you do!
So the next time, when the thought shows up- ‘I could just stab this person if I was left alone with them”-
see it as a false alarm, and say to yourself- “thanks sally(whatever name suits you) for that thought, I’ve got better things to do than listen to you”,
Then place your attention on to something more wholesome! That could be going for a walk, playing with your kids, hoovering the car, whatever is meaningful to you in that moment.
You may only be able to do this momentarily, but over time, if you practice this, you will actually improve how your brain functions, learning to spend less time listening to Sally and more time living your life!
Paul Mc Carroll
Therapist| Trainer| Blogger