Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review: When in Doubt, Make Belief: An OCD-Inspired Approach To Living With Uncertainty

By Jeff Bell.

Jeff begins his book by discussing 2 kinds of doubt: Intellect-based doubt and Fear-based doubt.  Intellectual doubt is the realistic doubt that helps keep us safe (do i REALLY have enough time to get across the street before the light changes)  or challenges traditions (is that really the BEST use of the world's resources?). It is rational, logical and serves humanity well.The great scientists, philosophers and revolutionaries used it to challenge the accepted view of their cultures and changed the world for the better. 

Fear-based doubt, OTOH, is the result of catastrophic, emotional or black & white thinking.  It keeps the questioner stuck in uncertainty and doing or not doing things in an excessive way to try to reduce or eliminate  the anxiety.

He explains how we can tell the difference between the 2 kinds of doubt: Does it spike our anxiety instead of promoting curiosity or caution?  Does it cause ever-more disturbing 'what-if' scenerios?  If so, it is fear-based doubt.

Once stuck within uncertainty  Bell discusses the 6 'trap doors' that people use to try to eliminate this fear-based doubt that instead only lead the doubter further down into the fear. These are checking, seeking reassurance,  ruminating, protecting, fixing and avoiding.  Doing one or more of these, in an effort to reduce uncertainty, only gives a minimal relief, while taking up lots of time and effort.  These make up the compulsions and rituals a person with ocd may perform.

The 'correct' [ocd joke] way to eliminate fear-based doubt is to use the 10 steps to MAKE BELIEF. Standing up to the doubt bullies is done by  believing in yourself and in believing in the goodness of life and in the goodness of other people.  The 10 steps are as follows:

Choose to see the universe as friendly.
Embrase the possibility in every moment.  Live in the present moment (ocd wants us to live in the past or future ) and find meaning in your life.
Affirm your own potential.  You are more than your ocd. Use Mindfulness to observe your thoughts.

Put your committments ahead of your comfort.  Learn to live with uncertainty in life. Want to be free of ocd more than you want comfort.
Keep sight of the bigger picture and the greater good. Have a sense of humour . Don't take life so seriously. Find a positive reason or purpose to help motivate yourself to NOT give in to ocd compulsions and rituals.

Exercise your freedom to choose Use your independent will to CHOOSE not to obey the ocd bully. Willfully choose to sit with your anxiety. Choose to actively practice ERPs . Delibrately expose yourself to whatever you fear just for the practise of choosing not to do the compulsions.
Picture possibility and direct your attention  Choose which thoughts and ideas you want to give attention to and which you will just acknowledge  with detachment as having crossed your mind.
Act in ways that empower.     Act, believing in the abundance of the universe, rather than the scarcity ocd wants you to feel. Believe there will always be opportunities for you. Ask yourself if you are acting out of a sense of purpose and service to empower yourself or others or out of fear and doubt to relieve anxiety.  Fake it til you make it' if necessary.

Accept and let go of what you cannot control Use your free will to accept what you can't control so you can act on what you can control. Uncertainty is inevitable (out of our control) as is the anxiety we feel at times. You suffer when you try to control the uncertainty and fall into one of the 6 trap doors (doing compulsions).Give up your obsessions to the universe and let it (Him, Her, God) take care of the results of you not doing your compulsions.
Allow for bigger plans than your own.  Don't get attached to your plan's outcome.  There may be something better in store.

Once you've used the 10 steps to stay away from the trapdoors, use the 'greater good perspective shift' Bell describes to keep you on the path to making belief.  This greater good perspective (GGP) means making decisions based on service and purpose rather than on doubt and fear  (D&F).  It means  making choices that give you the chance to serve others or bring out the best in yourself.

 The D&F framework involves deciding between a 'good' and a 'bad' choice.  For example, washing up after touching a door knob would be the 'good' choice because it would reduce the risk of making someone sick and  your anxiety will go down.  The 'bad' choice would be to not scrub because you 'might' make someone else sick and you must sit with your anxiety.

Using the GGP,  your decision would be between: 'good'- wash up to keep someone from getting sick and ' greater good'  - don't scrub because you will be on time to xyz function, you will be 'in charge' of your actions.   Bell believes that purpose and service are better motivators than fear and doubt. 

Making believe is not something you do once and then receive the benefits of forever after.  [oh, rats.]You must practice these steps over and over again.The more you work on these steps the easier they become. And when you make a mistake, you also know your way out of the traps.

Bell believes that as students of life, you, not your doubt (ocd) bully is in charge of your decisions and therefore your life.  At the end of the day ask yourself 3 qu: In what ways did I demonstrate a passion for life, kindness to others and kindness to myself. By choosing to make believe you will continue to move forward in life, not staying stuck in fear and doubt.

I really enjoyed the book.  He writes in a way that is clear and helpful.  I, too, found that it is more motivating to have a positive reason to not do a compulsion.  His view of having a higher purpose- even if it is only empowering myself, gave me more ideas to use when i must decide whether to enter one of the 6 trapdoors or not.

 In fact i used it last night.  I went to V.V. (used clothes store) again yest. but didn't change when i got home. I just put a sweatshirt on over my shirt.  When my daughter went to bed last night i debated whether to cuddle her in bed or not ( in case I contaminated the bed.)  I realized that cuddling with my dd was a 'greater good' than a 'cleaner' bed, and so i did that instead.

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