One of my favourite quotes about recovery is “you can’t put out a fire with gasoline” and this applies to both thoughts/obsessions and compulsions. It basically says if you want to beat OCD, you cannot continue to fuel it and then expect it to go away, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t keep giving into the urges and the fears and then think things will change. It’s all simply reinforcing those beliefs and patterns in your mind, digging yourself deeper into the clutches of OCD.
In terms of thoughts, the more we ignore them, the faster and more efficiently they’ll start to fade away and disappear. It’s simply taking away the attention, focus and importance from them. Simple – yes, but not easy. Thoughts are like a persistent excitable puppy or a baby crying. If you stop giving it attention and what it wants, it’ll eventually get bored and stop bothering you. The same applies to OCD thoughts and even just thoughts in a general sense. It’s the way the human brain works. Cells that fire together, wire together. The more you enforce that line of thinking, the more engrained it becomes. But you stop firing them, stop giving into them and those neuro pathways cannot remain, they will break away. The same way as a habit breaks.
When it comes to compulsions, the same concept applies. Giving into the addiction of repeating behaviours just reenforces those irrational beliefs that you need to do them in order to be okay or to stop something bad happening. That’s wrong. This is where therapy and participating in ERP comes into play. In order to gradually see a reduction in anxiety and the feeling of a “need” to do compulsions, we must resist that pattern of doing. It’ll be extremely difficult at first, one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. To go against something you’ve given into for so long, to sit with the anxiety and fear being at phenomenal heights.
But it’s all necessary and important to remove the gasoline and to prove to yourself that nothing bad will happen. Doing things differently. Doing the complete opposite. Each bit of resistance is a small bucket of water that contributes to the eradication of this enormous fire that is OCD.