The diagnosis Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a fascinating one. In its clinical form, when we have it to the extent it disrupts our lives extensively, it’s pure misery. To live enslaved to appeasing our own fearful thoughts with little, semi-magical actions is no way to live.
Like all of the diagnoses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, however, OCD is only an exaggerated version of something we all have, every single one of us. We can use OCD as a mirror into our own minds, as we all hold all of the diagnoses in us, somewhere.
In OCD patterning, a person’s thoughts are captured by terrible fears combined with insistent commands to take specific actions that the sufferer believes are the only way to relieve the fears. The actions are the compulsions that the OCD-diagnosed person feels bound to.
How Good are we at Disobeying Bad Thoughts?
All humans have anxiety, and it is normal to respond to that inner pressure by engaging in behaviors that help release our anxiety. When this mechanism works correctly, anxiety tells us we have something we should pay attention to that relates to our safety, then effective action is taken to address the danger. Our anxiety and anxiety-driven behaviors help us to have a psychological experience that we are safe and in control.
In the case of a person with OCD, however, they are unable to have any lasting sense of feeling safe. They are driven to repeat behaviors over and over, without being able to feel a sense of relief or true safety.
The suffering of those with OCD helps us inquire of ourselves, too, how good are we really at ignoring the commands of our own negative thoughts? How good are we at refusing to comply with irrational, superstitious, or self-punishing urges that arise in us? How are we doing at discerning which thoughts are positive, which are true, which are life affirming?
One helpful lens is to always ask the body, how does this thought feel. If a thought feels bad to the body, it might not be true. We do have to look out for hearing what we want to, spiritual bypassing, and polyanna-ish thinking, but in general we can trust the gut to assess the quality of our thoughts by sensing their vibrational tone.
Another helpful tip is to personify. Imagine a thought is spoken out loud by a person outside your head. Who is saying it? Who would say this type of thing? What type of person, and why would they say it? How do they look, how do they seem? Do you like them? Are they on your side?
Keeping with this way of assessing, do you want to listen to them? Do you like how they live their lives, do you personally want to live in the same way? If not, perhaps we should say thank you, I hear you, but I’m going to do something else right now.
Powering up Inner Civil Disobedience
The truth is that most of us find it quite hard to disobey the commands of our own thoughts, especially when the thoughts are loud, demanding and negative. Negative thoughts often motivate us to take actions, if only to make the unpleasant message finally go away (we hope).
I believe it is our duty to disobey inner commands if they represent the tyranny of those who are/that which is not in favor of human heart and connection. That force, and those who embody, express and serve it in their choices, are not the boss of me, as the childhood saying goes.
I do not consent to be ruled by those who use fear to corral, command, and control the beautiful, wild, spirited heart of the human being. I say no to being ruled by false authorities for me, and for all of us.
Two Tips for distinguishing Bad Thoughts from the Still, Small Voice
- The Still, Small Voice (the voice of spirit and truth in you) does not use manipulation, bossiness, commands, threats, bribes, sales pitches, or flattery. Truth doesn’t need any of things, and doesn’t require us to comply with it for it to still be so.
If you get the sense that a voice within you is pushing you towards something, find out why. What’s the payoff? What need does this voice express? The need may be valid in the end, but there are ways to do it that don’t involve being enslaved to our own thoughts, run around like a beaten horse hitched to a wagonful of unexamined burdens.
To know why we take the actions we do, is freedom itself. Free will, free choice, requires understanding why we are doing what we are doing.
- Journal on the following: Which of my daily actions are meant as offerings to appease the anxiety created by my fear-based thought system? Do these really work to address the problem at hand, or do they only make me feel safer and better in the moment? Am I superstitious? Am I compulsive? Do I fear punishment for my sins? Do I engage in any symbolic sacrifices or rituals that are actually about harming or punishing myself, hoping this wards off danger? If so, what danger? What does the still small voice have to say about that?