As OCD sufferers, one of the core conflicts that we suffer from is the struggle with control vs. risk. We are driven to compulsive behaviors or thoughts because we, in our exaggerated perception of risk as well as of our own obligation towards it, feel an overwhelming need to carry out those actions because the OCD makes us think that, in doing so, we can exert some control over external events that will prevent danger or “bad things” from happening. To this issue, I, as an OCD sufferer, have found the following quote by Hellen Keller an extremely deep reaching concept for meditating on when I am most in need:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” –Helen Keller, published in 1957 in The Open Door.
We as OCD sufferers really deal with the same conflict that all of humanity faces; the struggle with the fact that bad things might happen and we have little, if any, control over any of it. The only difference is that, because of OCD, we have a mistaken belief that we can superstitiously control these potential bad events through actions and rituals, and because of OCD, we cannot push this conflict into the background of our awareness, like others can, but instead feel it as the most glaring element of our environment, staring us in the face constantly. The fundamental precept to remember is that this idea of security, or that security can be attained, through whatever medium it might be, is just a superstition.
Security cannot be attained by OCD rituals or by excessive amounts of money or friends or knowledge….most events that happen in life are out of our control, and we are not responsible for them. If we stop washing our hands 20 times every half hour and our mother suffers a stroke, it is not because we stopped washing our hands. We sometimes wonder with envy how others that we know are able to so freely go about their lives without the crippling sense of responsibility and guilt that we mistakenly project onto our rituals. The fact is that the same physical laws apply to OCD sufferers as they do to everyone else, and security is mostly a superstition. Knowing this doesn’t solve the other problem presented by OCD which is the lack of ability to let go, but it is a step in the right direction. Until tomorrow….