I’ve turned off the light in the laundry area, but I want to turn around and check and make sure it’s off.
I’ve turned off the ceiling fan, but I want to check one more time to make sure the blades aren’t moving anymore.
|Are those blades moving?|
I want to pray again for forgiveness, for the safety of Larry and the cats and my relatives and the whole world. And again. And again.
I want to drive back and make sure the pothole in the parking lot that I see everyday really isn’t a person that I just hit with my car.
The role of “Brain Lock”
These all are daily, or almost daily, compulsions that I feel the urge to do. Slowly, but surely, I’m following through with the urge to do the compulsions less and less.
The steps that Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz outlines in his book “Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” is helping me to do that.
When I started cognitive behavioral therapy, I wrote about how my therapist uses a form of the four steps Schwartz advocates in fighting OCD: Relabel, reattribute, refocus and revalue.
Basically, to relabel is to recognize obsessions and compulsions and call them what they are, OCD.
To reattribute is to name the cause of the obsessions and compulsions: a medical condition.
To refocus is to do something else instead of giving in to the compulsion. It’s learning to shift the attention elsewhere and tolerate the anxiety until it goes down on its own, without doing the compulsion.
To revalue is to place a lower value on the obsessions and compulsions because you know what is causing them.
My therapist taught me to combine relabeling and reattributing and then move on to refocusing.
How I do it
Here’s an example of how I do that.
|Is the water turned off?|
Another example: I turn off the light in the laundry area in the basement. I see the darkness. I turn around and start walking up the basement steps. I really want to turn back and look again. I feel anxious, and I think I won’t be able to relax or forget the light unless I do.
But I keep moving and don’t allow myself to look back. I get to the top of the steps, turn off another light and close the basement door behind me. Then I go off to do something else.
What I’ve learned
What I’ve discovered is that the anxiety doesn’t last very long and I actually forget about the obsession pretty quickly.
If I do give in and perform the compulsion, I still try to tell myself that it was the OCD that wanted me to do it, not me. That’s something that Schwartz recommends.
If I give in to the compulsive urge, I have also discovered that I get more anxious and it’s harder to turn away from it. It’s just not good for me to give in.
I’ve learned the following:
*I can tolerate more anxiety than I thought I could.
*Uncertainty is not fatal.
*I don’t have to have an in-depth thought session on every obsession and compulsive urge. I don’t have to resolve anything about it. I just have to move on.
*The anxiety will eventually go away if I don’t perform the compulsion.
*Focusing on something else is the key to my forgetting about the obsessions and compulsions.
*It’s not the end of the world if I give in and do a compulsion. It just means that I will learn better for the next test.
Have you tried the “Brain Lock” steps? If so, how did it go? How have you learned to tolerate and deal with anxiety that is a part of everyone’s life?