I often write about my friend who has “OCD” — obsessive compulsive disorder. Because the issues he faces are the same ones we all face.
His are just more extreme, more obsessive but they’re the same. Just two days after giving his full effort to just one simple technique he called me…
“I’m cured,” he said.
This was after months of severe anxiety states. He was shaking a lot of the time, sweating heavily at night. His thoughts were racing constantly and he couldn’t control them.
He had to stop work several times and his life was grinding to a halt as he avoided as much as he could and withdrew into his private world of pain.
The reason I’m telling you all this is to show you the amazing power of attention. The technique is simple — distraction…
Attention is where your power is. Attention is the volume control for thoughts — as I’ve told him a thousand times.
The “cure” lasted ten days. Ten days of almost complete normality with no sign of OCD. And it took only two days to go from gibbering wreck to happy and enthusiastic using only distraction. Amazing!
Old habits die hard
And his cure would have been permanent but for the fact that ten days later after burning the candle at both ends, he had some little twinges of anxiety that triggered the old way of thinking. Slowly for a further 4 days, he ramped the whole thing back up again.
Again, this has powerful lessons for all of us. “Old habits die hard” as the saying goes. After making changes, we need to be sure to bed them in well.
It’s like riding a bike
“This OCD” I tell him, “is just like riding a bike. You’ll always be able to do it. Just DON’T GET ON THE BIKE.” Unfortunately he did — despite the most severe warnings. I talk to him for hours and hours and hours. “I can’t do this without you,” he says.
The truth is that all this talking is really unnecessary in the sense that it has only one purpose. To convince him that distraction IS the answer — to explain to him that his way can never work, and to get him to commit 100% to the simple method of distraction. Once he commits; two days. He is normal after two days. Twenty years of OCD gone.
If you stick your hand in the fire… it ALWAYS burns
So… round and round we go. As I speak he’s fallen back into the old way. Now he needs me to talk him out because it’s very foggy in there. He can’t see his own way out. I hope and pray that this time he’s learned and he won’t need to stick his hand in the fire one more time to realize… IT ALWAYS BURNS!
Thoughts are… just thoughts
The lesson for you and me is that thoughts aren’t us. They are for the most part conditioned reactions that we believe in and identify with. Once you can see thoughts as just thoughts, you have the power to remove your attention from unwanted ones.
Now you have a choice — to pay attention or not. Whether it’s because you want to stop a bad habit or stop a thought loop about a girlfriend that just dumped you, the process is the same. Distract from thoughts you don’t want (ie. ignore them) and their power is gone.
The amazing power of attention
Once you know this simple process, you’ll find a thousand ways it can serve you. Someone says something hurtful? Distract. Worried about tomorrow? Distract. Craving unhealthy food? Distract.
This one simple technique ALONE can have a massive impact on your health and happiness because you always have choice. There is always a choice of where to put your attention. You can stop reacting to everything in the same old conditioned way — the way everyone else reacts — predictably.
Master the process
Now you make your decisions consciously. You are in charge — not old habits, old ways and the same old reactions. If distraction can end 20 years of misery in only 2 days, what can it do for you?
Learn and master the incredible power of attention and you’re going to get happier and happier.
It’s been 8 years I am searching for a cure. Just to tell you thank you so much, I started the attention (distraction) method and my OCD is fading away. Many thanks!!— Jad, Canada
Update: I received this feedback from the friend I talked about in the article:
Sometimes there’s things you don’t want but it’s a reality. But I now know thinking can bring nothing but more suffering. I don’t do OCD anymore. Thanks to you. Love you brother x— Paul Attwell, UK