OCD rituals

Daniel asks…

“I’m doing my best to stop my unwanted thoughts and habits, but I just can’t get rid of them. I automatically think about them and make up actions I can do to stop my thoughts from happening, such as touching something a certain amount of times or running up stairs to turn the TV on in less then 20 seconds. I’ve had these thoughts for a couple of years now and it feels like it’s starting to take over my life.”

OCD ritual hand washing
© Stephanie Schupska

Habits are subtle and powerful. And you’ve been doing this for a few years, so you can’t retrain them overnight. It will take a few weeks at most though, if you do it right.

You need to see this behavior for what it is… instinctual behavior that is operating in a dysfunctional way and has morphed into something strange…

We are wired a certain way when we FEAR something, whether that is a LION or a THOUGHT. The way we react is the same.

So you need LOGIC and reason to see that this is simply dysfunctional, it serves no purpose. Once you can reason it, then you can let go because you can see it has no meaning at all… it’s just faulty wiring…

So, now you’re clear that the best outcome is for the whole thing not to be there. Great, now we are in a great situation to get rid because now all it takes is the consistent ignoring of it and that means SEEING the thought as not important, and distracting away…

Do you know how to ignore? You do, I’m sure.

So… SEE that all this is meaningless, valueless and then simply ignore every thought to do with it.

NOW… habits are subtle and powerful so it takes PERSISTENCE. Simply persist in telling your mind by your attitude and attention “This is meaningless, stop telling me about this.”

It’s  the QUALITY we attach to IDEAS that determines what happens. If the quality is FEAR, then as I said, instinctive behavior begins to operate that is supposed to protect you from “danger.”

So, right now, you are consistently telling your mind there is danger on the one hand, and on the other trying to fight the very mechanism designed to protect you.

Over time, this leads to strange behavior in order to get some sense of control, like saying “If I can turn the TV on in less than 20 seconds, I’ll be safe.”

As you feel out of control, anxiety can easily enter and put you into “fight or flight” mode. This puts your body in the best state to deal with real danger like lions. Unfortunately this state is unpleasant and does not lead to clear rational thinking, and tends to deepen and worsen the whole dysfunction.

SO… SEE what you are doing as dysfunctional. DECIDE to drop the WHOLE thing. And then consistently view any thought that pops into your head as meaningless and distract calmly away. Do this CONSISTENTLY, and the quantity and intensity of these unwanted thoughts will gradually die away, soon enough disappearing altogether… you will have FORGOTTEN.

Forgetting is what we want Daniel. And how is that possible if you keep giving MEANING and ATTENTION to the unwanted thing?

Be consistent or you confuse your own mind… one minute you don’t care, the next you care again, a lot! This won’t work.

Be consistent…

No importance, distract (ignore), every single time, WITHOUT FAIL.

So this is how to stop unwanted thoughts and re-train your thought habits “in the moment.” But it’s also important to “zoom out” and get the big picture about unwanted thoughts.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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