It is now well documented that negative thinking habits affect people’s ability to deal with mental challenges. Multiple studies in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy show that OCD symptoms can improve by working on appraisals and adaptive thinking.
However, it is sometimes unclear what is the cause and what’s the effect: does OCD fuel negative thinking? or does negative thinking fuel OCD?
Common belief looks at OCD as some kind of an entity with its own mind. Trying to battle and control this entity is tiring and often fruitless.
One approach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests is to look at OCD from a different angle – by dividing the cognitive process to two: controllable and uncontrollable thoughts.
When dealing with OCD, we can have all kinds of thoughts – some disturbing or annoying. One useful approach is letting these uncontrollable thoughts go by, without trying to control or change them.
There are two parts to this approach though: following these uncontrollable thoughts, we can have additional thoughts – that continue and build upon the negative story and strengthen it. These thoughts are actually something that we can control.
To give an example: I had a disturbing thought about me doing something bad. This thought was uncontrollable. I’d better just let is go and forget all about it.
Immediately after it, pop additional thoughts: maybe I’m a bad person? What if I did something bad? These thoughts seem as a logical progression from the original uncontrollable thought, but they are actually part of the story I’m telling myself.
So how do I avoid getting into the story?
Here we can use another technique. We give the story a name. Let’s name this story – “The story of me thinking disturbing thoughts and getting freaked out about being a bad person”. From now on, when I will have these thoughts, I will ask myself – “Do I want to tell myself the story of me thinking disturbing thoughts and getting freaked out about being a bad person?”
Is the answer yes? then maybe I do actually want to get into this story. But I have to now know that this was my choice. It is not some kind of external or uncontrollable entity that caused me to get into the story. It was me!
Is the answer no? Great, let’s try to not get into this story then. This was just a thought, and while it was disturbing and hard taking it in, I can cope with it.
Obviously, these are just suggestions. There are many techniques. For example, by using our OCD app, we can learn to let go of negative thoughts, and offer alternative, more adaptive thoughts that can come instead and replace the negative thoughts.
The main conclusion? Focus on the controllable, and make your new year helpful and supportive.