Sunday, May 1, 2022

OCD Pure-O - An alternative to flooding.

 Everyone has heard of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), in which a person suffers from obsessive compulsive behaviours. For example, obsessive hand cleaning, obsessively checking that you have locked the door, (i.e., checking it again and again), being obsessed with a particular type of orderliness, and so on.

 But there is another type of OCD, called OCD Pure-O. (The Pure-O stands for 'purely obsessional.')

This type of OCD exists entirely in the mind, where the person experiences obsessive intrusive thoughts without having any external physical compulsions.

 There two main types or aspects of OCD Pure-O (that I'm aware of). One is unwanted repulsive/repugnant thoughts. The other is irrational fearful thoughts which are triggered by an unwanted fearful thought (called a spike) which then leads to hours or days of fearful obsessive thinking (called rumination) as the person argues with/tries to escape from the fearful thought and/or what it threatens/insinuates.

 

In this article I would like to talk about the unwanted repulsive/repugnant thoughts. Without going into much detail, they could be of unwanted sexual thoughts, unwanted violent thoughts, unwanted thoughts of spiders, etc. These thoughts tend to pop suddenly into our mind, causing us to flinch internally (if not also externally) as we do not want to think such thoughts. The thoughts are so repulsive that we:

a) tend to worry where the thought came from. Is it from our mind? Or from our heart? In either case, what does it reveal about me?

b) tend to be so afraid that these repulsive thoughts might return that it causes us to be more anxious, which of course makes us more prone to the return of those thoughts.

 

In most cases and for most people, we do not need to fear where these repulsive thoughts are coming from. We don't need to do an internal witch hunt, we don’t need to spend hours searching our hearts and desires to see if there is something wrong in our inner self. Thousands of thoughts flow through our minds every day, and everyone occasionally has such unwanted thoughts.

A person with a healthy mind just dismisses such a thought out of hand without giving it the time of day. But a person with an anxiety disorder or depression has a tired mind that is already stuck in a rut of thinking fearful thoughts. So such a person tends to latch onto these thoughts, think they mean something about their inner selves, and then go on an inner witch hunt. But this is not necessary. If such thoughts occur to us, we need to tell ourselves, "These thoughts are not from my heart, they're just random fearful thoughts passing through my mind."

                It is very important that we do not fear the return of the repulse thoughts. The more we fear their return, the more they will return. We also must not get angry at the thoughts and fight them. We need to accept that for the time being, those repulsive thoughts will come, and without focusing on them, let them fall to the back of our mind like background music.

 

I have heard that one method psychologists use to counter this type of OCD Pure-O is called flooding. Which as the name suggests, involves deliberately exposing/immersing the OCD Pure-O sufferer to the repulsive thing/topic, and in doing so, desensitize them to it.

                Although this obviously works in some situations and with some people, it can also cause problems. I heard of a person suffering from repulsive sexual thoughts who was flooded with porn (made to watch copious amounts of porn) in order to desensitize them. The result was that the person was watching huge amounts of porn, which was in itself extremely destructive. They wanted to stop the repulsive thoughts coming, not be immersed so deeply into it that it becomes a significant a part of their life. Not to mention all the warnings that the Bible gives us regarding how sexual immortality such as porn damages us, and how porn so horrifically warps that persons perspective of the opposite sex, and so on.

 

An Alternative to OCD Pure-O Flooding

 We can't make ourselves stop thinking repulsive thoughts by telling ourselves to stop thinking them. The Christian counselor that I was seeing said to me, 'Think of an elephant,' which I did. Then she said, 'Stop thinking about the elephant.' And then asked, 'What were you just thinking about?' My answer, 'Still the elephant.' Then she ran me through the exercise again, where I thought of an elephant, but then she told me to ‘Think of an orange, imagine its texture and what it smells like.” And of course, I was no longer thinking of the elephant.

               So an alternative to flooding, and this is the method I used to be set free from repulsive thoughts, is to create new associations/pathways in the mind, by thinking of something else that totally engrosses the mind and senses, if only long enough for the intensity of the repulsive thought to fade to the back of the mind.

                After asking Jesus to set me free from such thoughts, one day I found to a picture online of a huge wave rolling towards the prow of a battleship. The wave was so huge that I found myself wondering what would happen when that wave hit the boat. After that, whenever a repulsive thought popped into my mind, I immediately pictured that wave rolling through the choppy sea towards the powerful, thick steel prow of the battleship and then crashing into the side of the battleship with an extremely loud 'clang' or 'boom', causing the sound to reverberate right through the ship. I visualized the sight, sound and feel of that wave hitting the boat.

                It took around a year, but by thinking of that wave hitting the boat every time a repulse thought came, it distracted me from the thought, broke its power, and sent it to the back of my mind. The thoughts occurred with less and less frequency until they pretty much stopped. Since then, odd occasion that such a thought pops into my mind, I now just think "Stop!" or "Jesus, help me!" and then turn my thoughts to anything else and it's gone without actually triggering.

 

Unfortunately, I can't find that picture again, but I suggest you find something that interests you, that you have to concentrate to visualize what it looks like, sounds like and feels like (if not all 5 senses!)

 We do not want to be lumbered with repulsive thoughts. As Christians, we want to think wholesome thoughts that honour and please God. We want to have the mind of Christ in us.

 By creating new associations/pathways in our minds, is one way of taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to the mind of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)





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