When you’re doing any kind of personal work on yourself, sometimes it’s easy to forget to give yourself credit for your hard work. Sometimes we look only outside ourselves hoping other people in our lives will notice the work we’re doing and support us for doing it but we fail to see that WE can actually support ourselves. Sounds pointless? Give it a chance!
Here is how it works with any change we’re taking on in our lives. Suppose you’re trying out a new behavior. Let’s say for example you worry a lot about people being angry with you which leads you to check in often with them to make sure you didn’t upset them by frequently asking “ are WE okay? Is everything good between us? “or just trying very hard to figure out if the other person is happy with you.
Maybe over time or with the help of therapy, you learn that this pleasing behavior tires you out and doesn’t allow you to grow in relationships because you can’t be yourself and stay in your own shoes when you want to and feel your OWN feelings.
So you begin to explore what it’s like to NOT check in with your spouse or your parent or child thus starting the journey of trying to tolerate the discomfort that will come up when you hold back. Worries will likely come up such as “ what happens if I upset them that they’re not telling me about?” So how do you live through the discomfort you feel when you don’t indulge your old ritual?
The KEY to success with this new pattern or any new behavior pattern is self support. And what that is – is finding ways to encourage and acknowledge yourself for the effort you’re putting in. It’s also a form of self- compassion (and who DOESN’T need THAT?!!)
So it sounds something like this: “wow. This is so hard for me! I really want to check in with her to see if she’s mad but it’s important for me to learn to bear these feelings. I really want to make space for myself and my feelings. Good for me for having the courage to do this!”
It might sound corny a la a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episode- but hey- Mr. Rogers made a lot of good points! He was very wise. And… supporting yourself through a difficult moment can make all the difference in whether you stick it out to the end or drop out in the middle.
The same tool applies with OCD. When you take on a particular challenge, for example if you’ve decided you want to try something new by not engaging your habitual compulsion of asking for reassurance from someone- see if you can support yourself through it by saying something that affirms your efforts and your courage. “It’s really difficult for me to not ask my wife for reassurance about this situation and if I handled it “correctly” but I want to learn how to trust myself more and this is how I will heal. I’m proud of myself. Good job!” (This is similar to John Grayson’s script technique in his book “Freedom From OCD” which I highly recommend)
It feels really good to take your own side. You’re validating your bravery and you’re also learning to build up the muscle for tolerating discomfort. Over time- you’ll begin to see that your discomfort will fade and your new behavior will become part of your life skills repertoire.
If you try this skill and find yourself getting annoyed or feeling undeserving of your own support- that’s important to allow. Just work with whatever emerges for you by allowing yourself some space to feel into it kindly. You might look at that and wonder for some time why that seems hard/ why you can’t let yourself feel good.You of course, have reasons that may have developed in your earlier life for that view of yourself but see if you can make room for those feelings.
You might also think of ways you can reward yourself after you get through a difficult exposure as an extra support. Having a reward that you promised yourself- in mind -may also help motivate you to get through uncomfortable moments. For example, maybe you can tell yourself that if you’re able to not wash your hands today following touching something that provokes your anxiety, you’ll buy yourself that new book or CD you’ve been itching to buy to credit yourself for your efforts.
Make a list of ways you would like to use the new blocks of time you will have in your life when OCD is gone and you can enjoy your life more. Believe it or not- scientists have discovered that imagining feeling good affects your body just as much as being in that feeling good moment!
You deserve support and especially when you’re making a change. See if you can give yourself that gift.
And just to demonstrate that I try to practice what I preach I want to give myself a hand here for my accomplisment in writing a shorter blog entry! This has been one of my small challenges!