A surprisingly common theme of OCD is the fear of losing control. In this article I take a look at what causes this theme and some steps you can take to help you overcome it.
What If I Lose Control?
People who struggle with OCD often ask, why do I get such disturbing thoughts about hurting the people I love? or why am I always so worried that I will lose control of myself and something terrible will happen.
The answer lies within the rigid and unmoving necessity for certainty that so many people with OCD suffer with. To have OCD is to want to move heaven and earth to avoid uncertainty. If there is any doubt, no matter how small it may be, it will not be tolerated.
For most people, losing control of yourself is one of the most awful things they could possibly imagine. However if they are not someone who struggles with OCD, then they are simply not going to spend much time thinking about it.
Whether you struggle with OCD or not, the thought of hurting someone or hurting yourself is horrififc. Where the two groups do differ is the way in which they are able to tolerate doubt. For example, a non OCD person may experience an intrusive thought and respond to it in a logical and flexible way.
They may not like the thought, but they recognise from a rational perspective, that they are unlikely to lose control. They don’t demand 100% certainty from themselves and therefore have the mental flexibility to disengage from thoughts without having to come to conclusions about them. To them, OCD and the fear of losing control is not an issue.
You May Know It’s Not Rational
Whereas for the OCD person, a question like ‘What if I lost control of this car right now?’ is terrifying as despite being able to rationalise it in the same way as the non OCD person, the tiny ammount of doubt, the 0.0001% chance that they could actually lose control of the car in that situation is unbearable and must be rationalised to the nth degree (a degree that OCD people are very familiar with).
On top of this, many people who struggle with OCD are quite sensitive. I spoke recently in a previous podcast about the connection between creativity and OCD. Creativity is one of those things that needs to be balanced. On the one hand it can be joyous thrilling and fun to be wrapped up in a creative project, but when creativity is not guided in a positive way, that same energy can easily turn on ourselves.
To be creative is to be sensitive. You are tuning into the subtlety’s of life and expressing what you find through your chosen medium. This sensitivity is a gift, it can help you to connect with people in a deep way and to experience emotions strong emotions. This isn’t to say that having OCD is all the special, or that other people don’t experience these things to. I’m just saying that many people with OCD seem to feel the emotions on a very deep level.
So when a worry or concern pops up into the mind. What if this happened? What if I lost control? The idea of hurting someone they love is so painful that people feel this huge responsibility to prove definitively that it could never ever happen.
The ironic thing is that most people with OCD are incredibly kind and well meaning people, they would never knowingly hurt someone and are actually probably some of the safest people to be around, but this doesn’t satisfy because it’s not 100% certainty.
So how can you start to let go of this debilitating fear so that you can start to take back some control? Well as with so many things OCD, the answer is acceptance. We need to start trusting in ourselves on a deeper level, but in order to do that we have to start accepting doubt.
Find Tools That Work For You
The best tools I have found to do that are exposure work, meditation, breathwork, self compassion and even learning about the Wim Hof method. These approaches allow you to start learning bout how OCD works.
How the initial spike of anxiety is caused not because there is actually a danger of something happening, but because the idea of it happening is so awful that it creates a strong emotional reaction, which leads to people wanting to perform a compulsion to deal with it.
These approaches work by helping you to create some space between the intense anxiety and the urge to perform the compulsion. Learning to overcome OCD is all about being able to observe the anxiety and observe the urge to push it away. To allow the emotions to come and go at their own speed without doing anything to get rid of them.
These Skills Will Help You In All Areas Of Life
The positive thing about this is that this learning isn’t just something that is helpful in terms of you getting over OCD. These are skills that will help you in all areas of life. When we learn to recognise and accept all our emotions, good and bad and give up on the war against ourselves, life begins to unfold in new and intriguing ways. Things that we perhaps thought not possible, suddenly very much appear to be possible.
We become more intune with the person we were meant to be and are more able to get out in the world and make a positive difference. When learning to get over OCD it’s helpful if you can to see the journey from this perspective, rather than focusing on just trying to ‘get rid’ of the OCD, which invariably is a non acceptance mindset.