At the root of every symptom is a cause. And if you’re struggling with OCD and perfectionism, the symptoms (the anxiety, obsessions, compulsions) are the products of the things that are fueling the fire.
Take the example of someone struggling with the thought that they might have accidentally hit a person with their car. The thought pops up, and causes anxiety, and so they go through a list of compulsions to “make it better”.
They might turn the car around to go check. They might go through in their head making failed attempts to remember and determine if they did or did not. They might try to reason with themselves, and say that, surely, they would’ve heard something very clearly – all compulsions.
So where does the obsession come from? The obsession (the thought) is also a symptom, and we’re still surface level here. Although the reason you’re having an obsession might now come from habit, previous reactions, and routes you’ve carved in your neural pathway over time, the reason the obsession came about in the first place is because it’s part of a strategy you created to cope with a fear or an uncomfortable feeling.
That’s what I’m talking about when I say there are root causes that create symptoms.
You might feel frustrated that you’re experiencing OCD, perfectionism, and anxiety. You might be pissed off that it’s limiting you in life, and taking so much of your time and energy. It can be especially disheartening and exhausting when you know that the actual thoughts you’re fighting against aren’t a big deal, but they feel like a big deal. You feel trapped.
But consider for a second that it’s also showing you something. You wouldn’t have the symptoms if you didn’t have the core fears and unhelpful beliefs. And if you can dig deep and see what it is you’re actually afraid of, then you can begin to face those root fears head on, and illuminate the unhelpful beliefs that need shifting. This is where we find freedom.
If you’re afraid you might have hit someone with your car, why exactly does that scare you? Does it mean you’ll be in trouble, thrown in jail, and die? Does it mean to you that you’ll have done something unforgivable, and people will no longer love you, and then you’ll be alone? There’s something fueling the fire.
The thing is, in order to recover, we have to begin to develop strength to face that which scares us. Life is FULL of uncertainty. If you allow the need to feel safe and certain to drive your behaviors, you’re going to spend your precious time and energy – your precious life – just coping and surviving. And frankly, the world needs you for more than that.
But, if you can begin to face the thing that scares you and change your relationship to these fears, you start to have your life back.
If you can illuminate the beliefs that no longer serve you, then you can take steps to transform them, and in turn, transform your life.
Here’s one way to illustrate what I’m sharing: Magic tricks aren’t always what they seem. There’s something going on behind the curtain. If the tricks are revealed, will the magic show ever be the same?
The fears and unhelpful beliefs that fuel OCD are like the tricks that make the illusions seem real. Uncover them for what they really are, and you begin to see what actually is real. You’ll no longer be under the their illusions. That’s when you take the power back. Then YOU can decide what you believe. YOU can decide how you’ll respond. YOU can decide to focus on what’s important, more easily, because you understand what’s going on “behind the scenes”.
I’d love to hear from you. What resonates with you here? How can you take some time today to pause and decide how you’ll respond next time that ping of anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness etc. hits you? What are all these symptoms really about?
Cheering you on big time,