Just Say Yes!

There was an article in the NY Times today about Obsessive compulsive behavior and how it plays out in places like a restaurant. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/dining/06obsess.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
Here's an excerpt:
"Many of the situations that unsettle people with obsessive-compulsive disorder — driving, for instance — provoke at least some level of anxiety in just about everyone. But restaurants are designed to be calming and relaxing. That is one of the main reasons people like to eat out.
To many of us with obsessive-compulsive disorder, those pleasures are invisible. We walk into a calm and civilized dining room and see things we won’t be able to control. This feeds directly into one of the unifying themes of the disorder: an often crushing inability to handle the unknown. 'The common thread, I think, has something to do with certainty,' said Dr. Michael Jenike, medical director of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Institute at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. 'If you have'O.C.D., whatever form, there seems to be some problem with being certain about things - whether they’re safe or whether they’ve been done right.”

I do agree with Dr. Jenike that many obsessive types have major fears about the "unknown" and tend to prize the illusion of control above all else. The question is: why are so many people this way? Those who are aware of my thinking know that I obviously don't let myself get away with a simple "medical" explanation, which of course would lead to drugs as a solution and lots of profits all around for everyone except the patient. No, obsessive-compulsive disorders are first and foremost about the word "no." That's right - "NO!"
Here's a quote from the famous developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson: "Too much shaming does not result in a sense of propriety, but in a secret determination to try and get away with things."

Ah-ha! Getting away with things. Yes, the OCD person is acting against something forbidden, but what? Here's a quote from Dr. Freud: "Many obsessional acts turn out to be measures of precaution and security against sexual experiences."

I wholeheartedly agree with the great master. I would add, however, that anger and inner aggression are almost as equally feared as sexual feelings in the obsessive person.

Here's a description I put together for a class I taught on the subject listing some of the main characteristic of many people with this disorder:

- Intense anxiety and shame about sexual and/or aggressive impulses and feelings with irresistible urges, expressed in repetitive behaviors, to undo imagined damage to the self or others “caused” by the impulses; most commonly the compulsive behaviors are cleaning, avoiding, repeating or checking;
- Ruminating, worrying, procrastinating and indecision occupying an inordinate amount of daily life (for fear that the forbidden impulses will create some imagined disaster or “mess”); perfectionism serves the purpose of preventing action, while simultaneously bolstering a false sense of superiority;
- Preoccupation with rules, lists, schedules and order in general is so intense that it goes far beyond any practical considerations and prevents opportunities for pleasure, or ruins pleasurable experiences after the fact with anxiety, shame, doubt and/or guilt;
- Leisure and social activities tend to be avoided as “wasting time;” spending money is also thought of as wasteful, so belongings, food and artifacts are kept and collected even though they are outgrown, spoiled or worn out; in some cases this may be accompanied by compulsive spending binges that are extreme and appear to reinforce the concern of wastefulness;
- The person is aware of the irrationality and extreme nature of the obsessions and compulsions, but feels unable to resist either.

Whew! That's a lot of pressure, isn't it? Especially when one could be having hot sex and telling off a few rude cashiers or contractors instead! Ha! Just kidding! If only it were that easy. What really needs to be addressed is one's inner prohibitions against hot sex and aggression. Acting out sexually, or blowing off steam at somebody, just like binge eating, doesn't solve the problem. Discovering why you think your thoughts and feeings are unacceptable when they are, after all, just thoughts and feelings, is the real solution, but that requires a fair amount of uninhibited excavating.
Full Permission Living, which is what I call the process that I practice and teach, is the based on the understanding that human beings are, by first nature, sane, loving, cooperative, creative, humorous, intelligent, productive and naturally self-regulating. It follows then that the inner judgements and prohibitions that we develop against our inner lives are exactly what cause us to act out dysfunctionally.
Just say no? Sorry, Nancy Reagan, but saying no actually is the problem. Learning how to say "YES!" to our human feelings and healthy desires is the real inner solution to self-destructive behavior.

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