OCD and Other Misleading Labels

I was asked a question on Quora today which is far too convoluted and long to quote but which amounts to: What can I do about my obsession re aging?

Here’s my reply: Thanks for entrusting your question to me. I’ll do my best to give you at least what I see as useful here.

Firstly, whenever we are dealing with conditions that are labelled by psychologists and psychiatrists – in this case OCD, Autism and other similar labels – we must remember that these labels don’t describe a discrete and unique condition like Mumps or Bronchitis. The difference here is that once the doctor knows that it is Mumps, then that diagnosis leads to a cure. Diagnosis should lead to an undoing of the condition. If it doesn’t, it’s not a true diagnosis but merely an APPROXIMATION OF SYMPTOMS.

The vast majority of so-called psychological diagnoses DO NOT cure anything – they simply point to what drugs to take to suppress the worst symptoms observed. In other words, the goal is not to cure, but to control.

So labels like OCD aren’t names that precisely reflect reality, they are simply category names for certain types of symptoms that can be affected by drugs in a similar manner.

In my opinion, these labels often do more harm than good. They give people the mistaken idea that their condition is understood by the experts. The only person who really understands a mental condition is the one who knows how to cure it so it is no longer present. Which means the vast majority of the psychological world are trained drug dispensers, not genuine mental therapists. (They may have started off in their careers wanting to cure, but they have taken their eye off the ball and settled for imperfect control instead.)

So when you say you don’t have OCD, but do have an obsession, the distinction is meaningless. Let’s forget about what the psychologists pretend to know from this point on and just look at what you know about what your mind is doing.

The broad thing you are telling me is that you have an obsession regarding the relationship between aging and certain numbers that makes you think along certain lines. I don’t mean to be rude in brushing away most of what you’ve explained to me, but the important thing to know here is the fact of obsession, not what the obsession is about. It’s like describing the pattern of bubbles that underlying rust is causing on your car’s paint job: it’s not the pattern that is important, but the fact of the rust.

Any obsession is a self-weakening mental condition which sucks your available attention away from other parts of life you could be attending to. To the degree that you don’t have power of choice over where you place your attention at any given moment of your waking hours, that is an undesirable and debilitating condition.

So the way to improve your mental wellbeing and improve your ability to live life as you’d like to is to increase your ability to PLACE your attention wherever you want to and reduce how much your attention is TAKEN by this aging/number obsession.

Deliberately and regularly performing a Mindfulness or Meditation technique is like “pumping iron” mentally: it gradually and inevitably increases your ability to focus when and where you want to. So I thoroughly recommend that you find such a technique you can stick with if possible. The Mindfulness technique I use regularly is here.

When a person has an obsession like the one you describe, it feels like the best way to deal with is to get to the bottom of it, to answer the questions it raises. This intuitive feeling is false: it is an illusion or even a delusion. The obsessed person is basically ADDICTED to chasing the resolution.

The way to conquer an addiction is to say NO to it: to refuse to respond to its demands. It may seem as though this is impossible, that the addiction’s ability to command your thoughts is far greater than your ability to resist: but this also is an illusion. You CAN be stronger than your desire to resolve the issues you have with these numbers.

Like an AA member repeatedly affirming their commitment to resisting their alcoholism, you must develop an ironclad resolve not to surrender to the temptation of this obsession ever again.

There are far more interesting and productive and joyful things to be doing with your life that don’t involve thinking about aging or the number 2000 in any way – and the better you get at directing your attention where YOU really want it to go – and the better you get at saying NO to yourself whenever you feel tempted to go down that rabbit hole again, the better your life will get.

In closing, I will also add that IT DOESN’T MATTER how you got this obsession in the first place or how it might be an example of a logical response to life’s circumstances being displaced into inappropriate circumstances (which is the subject of my Quora answer). None of that needs to be understood at all in order to give you greater control over your life. Just keep on working on placing your attention where you really want to place it – and NOT where you don’t want to place it – and things will get better and better.

I hope you find this useful. I’m not saying it will be easy, but that is in fact the answer you have been looking for, even though it may not at first look like it to you.

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Posted December 4, 2019 at 3:16 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink
In: Misc