Building our own rOCD prison
It is said that we are the makers of our own prisons. It could not be truer for people that suffer from rOCD. Without knowing we slowly build the walls of our mental prisons by using different “bricks”. I will talk about two particular bricks: unrealistic expectations and comparisons. I am sure there are a lot more but these two seem the ones that are used the most.
Every time we want to feel a certain way when we are with our partners, we are building unrealistic expectations. If we expect to feel love all the time whenever we are in their presence, it will likely not happen. If we expect the same feelings of infatuation and discovery that we had in the beginning of the relationship to be present all the time or continue throughout the relationship, they are also likely not to happen.
The truth is that we have no power or control about the way we want to feel in a particular moment. The only power or control we have is to put ourselves in a situation where the desired outcomes or feelings will happen “naturally” or over time. And this is more likely to happen when we forget about them.
Confusing? Let me put this into context. You have rOCD. You had intense feelings for your partner in the beginning of your relationship. You do not feel those feelings anymore. That makes you spike badly. You CONSTANTLY check to see if you can have those feelings back. You even put yourself in situation deliberately to feel certain things to see how you will feel. But nothing seems to work.Living with anxiety constantly can make you emotionally numb and exhausted, so do not feel surprised if it is hard to feel again during your anxiety period.
What do I mean by comparisons? I mean benchmarking your relationship against other relationships. Sometimes in rOCD, we look for clues that our relationship is the right relationship. Of course, that for our broken brains, that standard is perfection. Problems start when we do not realise some things:
- Every relationship is different.
- When we observe others, we only see the tip of the iceberg.
- Good and strong relationships are built over time and take effort from both sides, not the result of “soul mating”.
- Being loved up, infatuated or in love is not the same as loving someone.
- That our ability to love our partners is not dependant on how we feel at the moment.
- We need to decide beforehand what we want in a relationship – this is best done by what we are willing to give. We cannot expect to receive something that we are not willing to give.
It is true that every relationship should have a foundation. My favourite building blocks for this foundation are: trust, respect, friendship, commitment, patience, flexibility and love. If we start here, instead of focusing on comparisons with other relationships our chances of being successful in the long term are far greater.
Mistakes to avoid on the recovery road
Some mistakes seem to be common among rOCD sufferers trying to start their recovery journey. I will list the four most common mistakes:
No.1 – Thinking that you can solve the “rOCD problem” in your mind.
“If I could just figure out if I love my partner then I would be out of this situation. I need to think about this some more”. We end up trapped in an endless cycle of analysing feelings or the lack thereof. Weeks go by, months go by and even years.
No.2 – Not understanding the difference between treating “r” vs. “OCD”
There is no magic solution to beat rOCD. In fact, the worst thing you can do is to try and solve the “r” instead of the “OCD”. EVERYONE has “r” doubts, problems and questions. Happy and good moments. You are trying to solve the part of you that is NORMAL. Not everyone has OCD. This is what you should be trying to solve. This is the side that has drained your emotions, left you anxious, numb and feeling negative about life. The “r” WAS the side that brought happiness, joy and fulfilment to your life.
No.3 – Not challenging yourself enough and thinking that there is a magic “aha” moment and all will be all right.
There is no magic solution to relationship OCD. It will take a lot of daily work either in the form of medication or talk therapy (including mindfulness). Sometimes you will need both and sometimes you will not.
No.4 – Neglecting other disorders
It is not uncommon for those suffering from rOCD to also be battling with anxiety or depression or even both. For any rOCD recovery to be effective, these other disorders will also have to be tackled. By tackling anxiety and depression (or any other disorder) the chances for success in OCD recovery increase.
Is googling a good thing or bad thing?
The short answer is that it is only a good thing as long as it helps you progress and not ruminate. Google is often used to feed the two “bad r’s” in OCD recovery: Rumination and reassurance seeking.
A good example of using google is looking for mindfulness exercises to incorporate in your daily practice. A bad example of using google is googling for symptoms to see if you truly have rOCD. This might have helped in the beginning to guide your initial decisions but once it becomes a source of rumination or a temporary escape from anxiety, you then know that you are not on the right path. I can also see the benefit of getting together with other rOCD sufferers and sharing coping strategies, positive behaviours and positive experiences with OCD treatments. If you are going to share something share positive things. Use the 1/99 rule. Spend 1% of the time talking about the problem and 99% of the time talking about solutions. Don’t feed your own reassurance monster or other people’s reassurance monster.
A lot of people are exposed to a lot of different psychological techniques but for some reason they decide (consciously or unconsciously) to take what I call – negative action. Negative action is expressed in some of the following behaviours:
1) Focusing on the problem rather than solution.
2) Giving up too easily and wanting results quickly or in their own way.
3) Not willing to give it a try and experience some discomfort.
4) Indulging in self-destructive behaviours e.g. drinking, drugs, short-lived physical-based relationships, etc
4) Adopting self-pity as a best friend…and many others…
The direct result of this negative action is that they bury the problem deeper. Or ignore it, hoping it will go away. The sad truth is that it is impossible to get better by doing this.