My experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD as it is commonly known gave me a totally different perspective on thoughts and feelings. Until then, any thought that surfaced in my mind meant it was I who thought it- A deliberate action on my part. If I felt a feeling, there was a reason to it and I ought to feel that way. I had to also react because the feeling carried merit. If I had to perform some actions in reaction to the feeling, it was required as well.
The simplicity of this inference endeared to me. It was easy to go with that premise. I followed it. Why not! We were not taught anything to the contrary. This went on, until this premise complicated my life, until, certain actions that I began became endless and uncontrollable. Until I felt stuck doing normal activities; until I got anxious for things that did not induce fear till that point in my life.
The recovery path of OCD brought a 180-degree change in my understanding. And then certain revelations dawned on me. One can think he is contaminated, that he is not safe, if he did not clean for hours, or feel extreme disgust even when his hands are spotless and hygienic. One can feel he is the most immoral person when has been his righteous best. One can feel he is an abusive person even when he is most caring for his family member. One can feel he is admonishing God even while he has been an ardent devotee all his life. One can feel he is going to die even when all his health parameters are perfect. One can feel he is inclined to harm his fellow being even when he has not killed an ant in his lifetime. One can feel any of these even he has never paid close attention to take a clear stand on these.
I realized a reason is not required to have these thoughts and feelings. These inner narratives are the games of the neurotransmitters, that they could be the result of parts of the brain that overwork or underwork, that one’s own defense to these thoughts magnifies and reinforces the self-sabotaging beliefs were some valuable learnings that came from therapy. The stark contrast of the brain’s creation as against reality astonished me. But it was this understanding that gave me the boost of courage to do the exposures, the ones that I dreaded doing! A stubborn child that my brain was, gave up its tantrums when I persisted and caressed it with compassion and love. Its readiness to give in, accept eventually and be in harmony with reality also unfolded.
Back in the days that involved interview preparation or my presence on stage, when I was nervous, a lesson from personal development classes that helped me was ‘Fake it till you make it'. The smile I put on initially as if I were confident helped me develop confidence eventually. Crying when Shahrukh Khan was on the death bed in the movie ‘KHNH’ despite knowing that he was only acting made more sense now. I had no idea why my smile enhanced my confidence to perform or why I shed tears for an act then. The psychology of that did not need my deliberation as it did not matter as long as I was getting by. But when it mattered, I delved into it and made an effort to understand.
Our body reacts to unreal thoughts, stories, narratives, and imagination as it reacts to reality. Separating the fallacies of thought and feelings from reality was the greatest realization and take away from psychotherapy. It made 'feeling the feelings' and yet, moving forward without trying to eliminate them, a lot smoother. I found it so helpful to register that I am not my thoughts and feelings. Acceptance to difficult feelings without putting up an unwanted defense became feasible, though the journey was difficult.
It made the recovery a possibility, less of a fight, and the route to that was of a paradox!