Whenever fear and uncertainty strike, your “problem-solving” mind is ready to offer solutions, though they might not be effective in the long run. The uncertainty (whether God loves you, whether you are a good enough parent, whether you are perfectly honest) that prevails in the areas you care about may lead you to feel overwhelmed.
Looking for certainty can feel like facing a bunch of closed doors inviting you to open them so you can find certainty and move on with your life. The OCD mind seems to say, “If you give in to the urge and engage in the private or public compulsion this one time (open that next door), you’ll find certainty once and for all.”
You know the feeling. You also know what happens when you open that door. There will be another doubt. The more doors you open, the more doubts you’ll experience.
No one likes uncertainty but it is part of our human experience. Unfortunately, when you struggle with OCD, doubts will abound and the compulsions will lead you right into the OCD trap.
You don’t need to keep opening doors to find the answers to your doubts. You can start changing the way you respond to them (response prevention) by taking the following steps:
- Notice how old those doubts are. The doubts that show up most likely are not new, though they might feel like it. Consider keeping a log of the compulsions (private and public) you give in to each day. This will help you recognize that they are old doubts disguised as new. Notice that!
- Acknowledge the doubts. Instead of pushing and ignoring them, acknowledge their presence. (“There is that old doubt. I’m not surprised.”)
- Give them a name. When you name the doubt, (“I’m noticing the old harming doubt. I’m not surprised. Thanks Mind!”), you can start creating some space between you, the doubts, and other internal experiences (more thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges) that accompany them.
- Let them be. All internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, sensations, including doubts) come and go on their own. When you start ruminating or trying to push them away by distracting yourself, that’s when they stay longer.
- Do what matters most each day! At the end of the day, what truly matters is the actions we take each day of our lives. You can learn psychological flexibility (ACT) skills and start living the life you want to have despite the OCD and its doubts.
It is possible!You can change your relationship with uncertainty and change the the way you respond to your doubts.