February 17, 2012

OCD and Core Beliefs (Part One)

I’m starting to realize how much my OCD is tied into my Core Beliefs.  That statement might seem obvious to some of you, but as I go further in treatment, and “un-peel the layers” of my OCD, I realize that none of this is going to be a quick fix.  It’s kind of an oxymoron, really.  In some ways it really is just that simple.  Don’t compulse.  Let the thoughts be there.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Do what you want to do, despite the thoughts and your anxiety.  Not for me.  And I suspect, not for many people with OCD. 

You see, my OCD will take ANY and EVERY opportunity to remind me of my fears, and I'm starting to understand why my particular theme of OCD has developed.  Some days I am at the point where I’m less frustrated/upset/depressed about the thoughts, but more frustrated that having OCD just makes dealing with regular life challenges so much more difficult.  (I want to deal with the real problem at hand, NOT all the OCD crap!!) I have some deeply entrenched core beliefs about myself and the world that definitely make my life more difficult, and – I think – become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

As I look back on this last year or so, I have to remind myself to be kinder to myself, considering the difficult times that I have been through (not an easy thing for me!).  I broke up with my boyfriend (who was my partner for four years, and very supportive), my mother became palliative, and then died, and I finally stood up to my father and his intimidating ways.  My mind has been so BUSY with all of this stress.  It’s a lot for a person to handle.  And let’s be honest – my family experience didn’t exactly teach me the healthiest ways of coping with difficult situations.  (Note – I am eating better, getting enough sleep, trying to meditate and trying to get some exercise, so I’m on the right track there.)

What I’m trying to say is that facing these stressful situations has made some of my core beliefs forefront in my mind.  To name a few:
  • I must always be able to control my emotions or I am weak, and there is something wrong with me.
  • I am substantially flawed in some significant way, therefore, I am un-loveable (especially by a man).
  • All men are completely emotionally inept, and not trust-worthy. 
  • I must never make mistakes, because if I do, people will reject me. 

These beliefs cause me to look at the world in a very “black and white” kind of way.  I am trying (TRYING, BELIEVE ME!) to learn how to live in the grey – but WOW – it is a difficult thing to learn.  I am also trying to process difficult emotions around the death of my mother and the way my father has treated me through the years.  I suppose it will take time.  From everything I read, core beliefs are very difficult to change, and that notion is very depressing to me.  How will I ever have what I want in life if I can’t change these core beliefs? 
I long for some peace of mind. 

Update:  My father still has not contacted me.  I have taken a break from “proactive” ERP, but still do my best not to avoid anything that triggers me.  I have another date on Saturday (I guess you’d call that “proactive” ERP!), and I am actually kind of excited about it. 


  1. So glad you're going on dates. It really is active ERP, and you're inspiring me to try again, too.

    You should be kinder to yourself. Everything I've read here makes you seem like a pretty great person.

  2. Ann - I'm so glad I can inspire YOU in some way!!! And thanks for the vote of confidence. :o)

  3. Your core beliefs sound a lot like my core beliefs, that i hope i have changed somewhat. I'm actually surprised i got married, except it is a 'commandment' or 'should do' in my former religion. It did take us 5 yrs and more of knowing each other and writing including the time while he was on a church mission. We had hung out together as friends before we dated. After we got married, i'd ask him each night for a few yrs: do you love me? why? Then one day i realized i wasn't asking it anymore, so i must have integrated it all.

    To help myself get over the "if i make a mistake everyone will hate me' belief, i started watching and more especially listening to others as they talked and noticed that THEY could make mistakes, blunder in their speech and that was ok, so why not me? I tried it out when making phone calls to businesses etc. and found that noone slammed the phone down if i couldn't say it 'right' the first time. I then had to remember those positive experiences for the next time i made a call (i had a hard time speaking up, talking to people i didnt know etc.) it's still not a favourite activity but i can do it now and it came in very handy when i got ocd/contamination-type and didn't want to go to people's business because then i'd have to touch the door etc. Slowly i also realized that if i wasn't good enuf for someone, i didn't need that person's friendship or approval and i managed to live just fine without it.

    When i had finally gained that skill, i then had to be proud of myself for doing so. Noone else congradulates an adult for mastering that sort of skill, so had to do it for myself. This increased my competancy which sort of increased my self esteem. I'm still not there yet, but i'm farther along the path than i used to be. (i'm almost 50 so i hope i get there soon! :P )

    Keeping track of your progress in a journal you can look back on to see your improvements also helps because sometimes our core values are behind our behaviors and adult beliefs and seeing our improvements on paper in black and white makes the progress more real and concrete.

    Meditating also helps.

    Sometimes i think i'm my worst enemy because i was taught it is not 'right' to think highly of yourself, that's prideful and pride is a sin. I know that's not true now, there IS a healthy pride in self and your accomplishments (including fighting ocd ). It is hard to get that to my inner self. Maybe i'm afraid of what i might have to do, if i ever thot i was good enuf.

    Have fun on your date!

  4. Good for you for going on a date. I know how hard that is for you. I hope you have a wonderful time.

    I have long struggled with the idea that if I make a mistake that I will also be rejected. Recently I've made some mistakes as the new leader of a ministry at my church. You know, nothing bad happened because of it! Nobody thought anything about it. I just seem like a normal person who is not perfect. Boy does that take some pressure off of me to not be perfect in the future.

    In the past when I've had to challenge core beliefs, my doc would make me list the troublesome beliefs, and then the "evidence" for those beliefs. The evidence had to be something objective that would stand up in a court of law. Most of the time, the evidence I had was only my feelings and I had no facts to back anything up. When you write out your beliefs and then see there is no real evidence for them, it does tend to change how you feel about them. At least it does for me. I've had to repeat these exercises more than once though, as it's easy to forget this stuff and go back to old beliefs.

  5. Dear Pure-O, I think you're halfway there in just realizing that core beliefs can affect our behaviors and might not be true. I need to do some of that kind of soul-searching too.

    I have had trouble with the belief that I can't make mistakes or people won't like me, and I have to "go along" or people won't like me. Underneath that, I think, is the belief that people have to like me. They don't! I just have to remember that.

    I like the idea of writing things down, like Karin and Sunny. When I write, it clarifies my thinking and gives me something to look at later.

    I'm glad you're making healthy lifestyle choices. Be kind to yourself. You have been through a lot. Be proud that you are still truckin' along and getting better! :-)

    Enjoy your date!

  6. Thanks for the reminder that nothing about OCD is easy....I know my son Dan struggled for a long time with "black & white" thinking and it is a hard thing to overcome.......but you sound like you are on your way,and with lots of good suggestions from other commenters. Enjoy your date!

  7. Pure-O--practicing being kind to myself was one of the hardest things I ever started! But core beliefs can be changed! I know the feeling of being depressed that it takes time--but I also recognize that my OCD wants to know exactly how much time, and pretends to "help" me by focusing on it, figuring out how it will all manifest. Going on a date is an exposure, and perfectionism would have you minimize any steps you are taking, but hang in there, and keep taking the steps.

  8. Thanks everyone!!! My date was great - not sure what will happen, or if a relationshp will develop, but he was a really nice guy.
    Expwoman - your words are always so wise and insightful - thank you. The other day I noticed that - that something about me want to measure my progress - though that might be normal for everyone, in some ways I think some of the great work comes after working with a therapist for a few months....especially now that he knows me and my "ways" better.
    And you're right everyone - going on a date is an exposure for me and I completely minimized that.