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Thinking something doesn’t make it real

March 11, 2011

This time about a year ago I was going to weekly group therapy sessions for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Don’t ask me why – I just had to do it. This particular week, quite early on in the process, we were being told about how you could use thought experiments to try and help break the OCD belief that thinking or having a mental image of something is enough to make that thing actually happen.

I’m no expert, but part of the crippling grip of OCD is based in the idea that unless you do something particular in a particular way then a “bad thing” you’ve imagined will happen. Or, for example, unless you walk in and out of the lounge in a specific and “right” way ten times, your family will be murdered in a horrific nocturnal axe-based attack.

I know how this sounds. OCD is inconsistent and ridiculous. Of course, if people with OCD had the power of making thoughts flesh, then most of them would not be sat in a peeling Victorian wing of a local hospital talking about how they have to use their jumper sleeve to press the button on a paedestrian crossing, but absent-mindedly drowsing on the deck of their 100-foot yacht. But that’s not how OCD rolls. Basically, our powers extend only to protecting people or preventing awful things occurring, not making good things happen. It’s a lazy, reactive kind of influence – like standing by the bouncy castle at a kids’ party with the rubber gloves and mop ready to go, rather than foregoing the lame inflatable and taking everyone to Disneyland ParisĀ instead.

So, this week one of the two psychotherapists leading the group invited us to muster all the evil mental ju-ju we could, and aim it at her in a mass, I-hope-she-falls-under-the-7.18-to-Waterloo experiment. The idea being, of course, that despite our unshaken (and oddly arrogant) belief that our thoughts had the power to materalise into real shit, this pouring of negative thinking would have no effect on her. ‘I will see you next week,’ she said chirpily as we filed out.

Next week arrived. She didn’t. A nervous ripple of giggles went around the circle, we began to look around the room to see if she was hiding somewhere waiting to jump out and rub her vitality in OCD’s face. The other therapist looked confused and then suddenly remembered to tell us that her colleague wasn’t dead, just at home looking after her poorly baby. Did I detect a little wave of disappointment from the group? Inside my head – which, at that point remained untouched by the Surrey and Borders Community Mental Health Team – I gloated at the thought that the ju-ju had simply skipped a generation. OCD 1 – psychology 0.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jessiepeace permalink
    March 14, 2011 12:50 pm

    Come visit my blog sometime. Interesting blog yourself.
    Jessie.

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