Many of us can remember the sense of shock we felt when we learned Bruce Willis was dead at the end of the Sixth Sense. (Andy Samberg remembers. Google it. 😉 ) The end of the Sixth Sense is also a great metaphor for OCD recovery.
Throughout the movie, Haley Joel Osment was hunted by visions of “dead people” that only he could see. He was tormented.
In the end of the movie, nothing really changed. That kid still saw dead people. The only difference was that he reacted to them or interacted with them differently. In some cases, he quietly helped the dead people. In other cases, he just acknowledged that they were there, and that was enough for everyone to have some peace.
For a person who is struggling with OCD, it’s pretty similar. You see envision things that feel very real and menacing. Others can’t see what you see, although they feel for you if you tell them. (Sometimes, they’re quietly horrified if you tell them what you’re thinking or feeling!) Still, you cannot do anything to placate or push away the visions you have. Trying to make them go away irritates them and makes them stronger.
When your goal is OCD recovery, your job is to “be okay” with whatever visions you are having. Being able to say, “Okay, so I’m having that thought” or “Okay, so I’m having this sensation” to whatever OCD thoughts you are having is courageous. It’s courageous to the extent of facing down ghosts.
Of course, this approach to OCD recovery is really challenging, but it yields lasting dividends. This laissez approach rewires your brain in a positive way. When you don’t react to your frightening OCD thoughts, your brain receives no validation for sending you those thoughts–your brain learns that this information is ignored. So with enough repetition, your brain will send fewer erroneous warnings about danger (which is just OCD at work).
Can you be at relative ease with the thoughts and visions that you have?