View original article published in Psych Central–
If you experience pedophilia OCD, you are someone who loves children. You may also struggle with unwanted sexual thoughts. Before OCD began to trigger you with this type of thoughts, you may have believed such thoughts would never cross your mind. And when they did, you felt ashamed, guilty, and confused. Trying to suppress and fight those thoughts appeared to be the most logical solution.
The idea of not doing anything about intrusive thoughts seems despicable. Your mind may say, “If I let those thoughts happen without doing anything, it probably means I enjoy them!” You may respond, “Of course not! But what if I do? Oh no!” Then you begin the circular fighting tour in your mind again.
Consider the following questions:
- When I have an intrusive thought and I try to suppress, ignore, stop, run, hide, or fight it: does it work effectively?
- Is my fight with these thoughts getting in the way of my values and what matters most to me?
- Am I able to arrive at a 100% certainty that I am not what my thoughts say I am?
- If I don’t do anything, does it mean I want those thoughts?
You may already know that the strategies to fight your thoughts are not helpful. Yet, not doing anything is horrifying. This is where the conundrum and entanglement begins. Your thoughts are nothing but thoughts coming out of your mind. However, having them leads you to extreme uncertainty and anxiety. You end up reacting to them as if they were real monsters coming at you to destroy your life. You might respond, “Yes, they are destroying my life!”
Your mind takes you for a ride each and every time you believe that you have to do something to make them disappear. We could say the mind “hooks” you. When you fall for the mind’s tricks, you get stuck in a merry-go-round unable to obtain a final and guaranteed answer. The logical way out of the entangling mess is to keep going because “one of these days, you’ll have it all figured out!” This is your OCD mind’s false promise.
Not doing anything about the horrendous thoughts is illogical. You may conclude this goes against your principles. You may feel sickened when you don’t try to fight them. That decision makes sense on the surface. However, you know is not working.
The scientific and well-researched solution is to let go of the fight –- meaning to allow the thoughts to come and go without you intervening at all. Undoubtedly, this sounds counterintuitive and alarming. But remember, as long as you keep doing the same thing, you will continue yielding the same results.
If you wish to do something different to help change your neural pathways and increase your psychological flexibility, you can begin by practicing the following exercise.
Learning to Watch Your Thoughts
When you feel overwhelmed by your OCD thoughts and feelings, your default reaction will be to fight them out of principle. Instead, try to watch them even though it will be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Set your alarm for 5 minutes and find a quiet place. Then begin to focus on your breathing. It is best if you close your eyes. Notice the way you are breathing. This will be your anchor as your attention drifts to other thoughts. Every time you notice a thought, gently tap your knee. This is a tangible way to increase awareness of your thoughts.
Chances are you will be tapping your knee every second because you will notice your thoughts showing up fast. Your mind may go blank for a few seconds. Your mind may also produce thoughts such as, “I don’t understand.” “I’m not sure what I am supposed to be thinking.”Hopefully, you will tap your knee when you notice those thoughts. Keep watching as the mind keeps blasting out thoughts. Just notice and acknowledge them by tapping on your knee. Beware that the tapping does not become a compulsion. It is only to highlight your experience.
At one point, you may start ruminating. You may even forget you were doing this exercise. That’s the human mind. This is what it does. When you realize this has happened, tap your knee and gently refocus on your breathing and keep watching and tapping accordingly. The main goal is to become aware of the thoughts and when your mind begins to string you along.
You will increase your understanding of how your mind works and the benefits of taking the time to watch your thoughts. As you do, you will also become more comfortable practicing this exercise anywhere and anytime. Remember that as with any learning, it requires practice and patience.
Are you ready to let go of the fight with OCD?