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Challenges are certainly part of life, and expecting to be free of it all is not realistic, unless you are a kid. For example, one afternoon, my grandkids were doing art projects at my house. One of them decided to create something that was a little too ambitious for his age. When I realized he was no longer working on it, I asked: “What happened to your project?” He answered, “I quit. It was too hard.” I said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”
His older sister quickly chimed in: “When things get tough; what do you do? Here are two steps: You quit and then forget about it!”
She likes to tease and be mischievous sometimes. Her parents often talk about doing hard things and to keep trying instead of quitting. So I said, “Sweetie, you cannot forget about it because we don’t have a ‘delete’ button in our brains.”
She responded sassily, “Well If you are as awesome as me, you can do it because I have a brain washing machine at my house!”
Life would be amazing if we all could have a brain washing machine at our house, wouldn’t it? And if you struggle with OCD, your mind may insist that if you work hard enough, you can get rid of your unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
You may be working hard to get rid of your unwanted thoughts and feelings and only catching a few seconds of peace. You might feel overwhelmed by guilt and shame when your hard work doesn’t provide the desired results. Please remember that we simply cannot get rid of our thoughts and feelings like we do external things. There is no delete button in our nervous system.
AND as you engage in treatment for OCD you might at times feel like you just want “to quit and forget about it.” Instead, try following these five steps:
- Slow down. No need to rush the process. During treatment you will learn to respond to your thoughts and feelings differently (response prevention). By changing your unhelpful habits to helpful ones, you will allow your brain to create new neural pathways. Be patient and remember, “slow and steady wins the race.”
- Don’t give up when your mind insists that treatment is too hard. Remember that your mind’s main job is to protect you. So it will come to the rescue when treatment gets tough. Notice and acknowledge what your mind says, AND focus on what you can control – how you respond to internal and external experiences.
- Focus on taking small steps. Don’t forget that as Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” You can accomplish a lot as you are willing to take one step at a time.
- When things just get rough, keep going. Remember WHO and WHAT matters most in your life. When your mind says you need to quit, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this hard thing? Oh yeah, I want to enjoy my loved ones. I want to live with vitality and purpose. I can do this because it’s worth it!”
- Practice self-kindness and self-forgiveness every day. Treatment for OCD is difficult. When you feel like you are not making enough progress, your mind might start blaming it on you. Give yourself some slack. Let others show you kindness as well.
Recognize that you would not experience your current pain if you didn’t care about what’s on the other side of that pain. Stay connected to the here and now and what you value in your life. You don’t have to be a servant to the rules from your OCD mind.
You can be brave even when you feel afraid. You’ve got this!