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What I CAN control and what I CAN’T?


One thing that has proven really helpful, if not instrumental, in my own OCD Recovery journey has been learning what is actually in my control and what is not!


What shows up underneath the skin- thoughts, feeling, memories, urges & sensations are generally not in our control! They generally just show up, whether we like them or not! They are very much like the weather. Sometimes it’s sunny, warm & beautiful. At other times, it’s cold and wet. The weather can change frequently- even during the course of a day.

No matter what we do, or how much we wish it were different- we will never be able to control the weather! However, we can ‘control’ how we respond to it.






If it is sunny outside, we can apply the sun lotion, put on the shorts & t-shirt and try to accomplish our daily tasks as best as we can. Similarly, if its raining heavily and generally miserable outside- we can still put on appropriate clothing, put the umbrella up, and as best as we can- try and do a more wholesome task as opposed to wishing for the rain to go away! It will go away, in its own time! No force of will- will make it change to our tune!



This is very similar to our own thoughts and feelings. We have very little control over them! We didn’t ask for the intrusive thought, the knot in our stomach, or urge to do a non-sensical behaviour. They just showed up. However, similar to going out in the rain with our umbrella and suitable clothing- we can still ‘choose’ how to respond to these uncomfortable things that show up inside of us.


We ‘can’ have the scary thought that my anxiety will not reduce without doing a compulsion and still ‘choose’ to do something more life-enhancing than doing a compulsion! We can have the ‘urge’ to repeat a phrase over in our heads until we ‘feel right’, and still ‘choose’ to do something of ‘our choosing’.


This has been a real game changer in my everyday life and my clients really resonate with this also!


How freeing it is to know, that we aren’t ‘responsible’ for those intrusive thoughts or urges to do ‘compulsions’ and that we don’t have to follow their every command! We can’t stop the stuff from showing up inside of us- but we don’t have to let it derail us from living a life which is meaningful and purposeful.


Paul Mc Carroll

Therapist| Trainer| Blogger

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