Ep. 285 - Managing Mental Compulsions (With Dr. Jon Grayson)

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By Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT, Kimberley Quinlan, and LMFT. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

SUMMARY: In this weeks podcast, we talk with Dr Jon Grayson about managing mental compulsions. Jon talks about how to use Acceptance to manage strong intrusive thoughts and other obsessions. Jon addressed how to use acceptance with OCD, GAD and other Anxiety disorders.

Covered in This Episode:
  • What is a Mental Compulsion?
  • What is the difference between Mental Rumination and Mental Compulsions?
  • How to use Acceptance for Mental Compulsions
  • How to practice acceptance when the intrusive thoughts are so strong.
Links To Things I Talk About:

Jon’s Book Freedom from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty Jon’s Website https://www.laocdtreatment.com/ ERP School: https://www.cbtschool.com/erp-school-lp

Episode Sponsor: This episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit is brought to you by CBTschool.com. CBTschool.com is a psychoeducation platform that provides courses and other online resources for people with anxiety, OCD, and Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Go to cbtschool.com to learn more.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

This is Your Anxiety Toolkit Episode - 285.

Welcome back, everybody. We are on episode three of the six-part series. And if you have listened to the previous episodes, I am sure you are just full of information, but hopefully ready to hear some more.

Today, we have Dr. Jonathan Grayson. He’s here to talk about his specific way of managing mental compulsions. As you may know, if you’ve listened before, I strongly urge you to start and go in order. So, first, we started with Mental Compulsions 101. That was with yours truly, myself. Then Jon Hershfield came in. He talked about mindfulness and really went in, gave some incredible tools. Shala Nicely, again, gave some lived experience and really the tools that worked for her. And I have just been mind-blown with both of their expertise. And it doesn’t stop there. We have amazing Dr. Jonathan Grayson today talking about all of the ways that he manages mental compulsions and how he brings specific concepts to help a client be motivated and lean into that response prevention and to reduce those mental compulsions. I am again blown away with how amazing and respectful and kind and knowledgeable these experts are. I just am overwhelmed with joy to share this with you.

Again, please remember this should not replace professional mental health care. We are here at CBT School, who is the host of this series. We’re here to provide you skills and tools, and resources specifically if you don’t have access to those resources. That is a huge part of our mission. So, even though we have ERP School – and that is an online course, you can take it from your home – we wanted to offer this freely because so many people are seeming to be misunderstanding mental compulsions, and it’s an area I really have been excited to share with you in this free series.

So, I’m not going to yammer on anymore. I’m going to let you hear the amazing wisdom of Jonathan Grayson. Have a wonderful day.

Kimberley: Welcome. I am so honored to have you here, Jon Grayson.

Jonathan: It is always a pleasure.

Kimberley: Okay. So, I actually am really, really interested to hear your point of view. As we go through a different episode, I actually am learning things. I thought I knew it all, but I’m learning and learning. So, I’m so excited to get your view on managing mental compulsions or how you address them. My first question is, do you call them mental compulsions, mental rituals, rumination? How do you frame it?

Jonathan: I’m never really too big on jargony, but mental compulsions are mental rituals. And I think that’s trying to-- and I think the thing about mental rituals is some people don’t know they have them. I mean, some people know, but some people will describe it as, “I just obsess, I don’t have rituals.” but then when you listen, they do. And the ritual part is trying to reassure themselves or convince themselves that whatever it is they’re worrying about isn’t. So, they have both the fear part like, “Oh my God, what if this is true? But wait, here’s why it’s not true. Now I know that’s not really true. But what if it is true?” So, that is what I would call mental compulsion or rituals.

Kimberley: Right. How do you-- let’s say you’re sitting across from a patient or a client they are doing either predominantly mental compulsions or that’s a huge part of the symptoms that they have. How would you address in your own way, teaching somebody how to manage mental compulsions?

Jonathan: I think there’s two answers to the question because I never have, and one has to do with what is the content, because I believe every set of mental rituals – I believe it for all forms of OCD, whether there’s a very strong behavioral component or it’s all mental – it has its own set of arguments that we’re going to use. Of course, when I talk about arguments, I know this will be a shock to you, but to me, it always has to do with coping with uncertainty, because I think the purpose of mental compulsions is to deny reality. That is, there is something I don’t want to be true and I keep trying to convince myself it’s not true.

Now often it’s a low probability. But low probability is not no probability. Sometimes I have clients a little confused, saying like, “I tell myself it’s low probability,” and they actually feel better. Is that okay? And the answer is, it depends. If I’m trying to convince myself, I don’t have to worry about it because it’s a low probability, no, that’s a ritual. If I’m just saying it’s a low probability, I mean, way actually with OCD, it’s very easy because people don’t mind saying it’s low prob they. They like saying it’s low probability, but they don’t want the last sentence to be “But it might happen.” So, it’s like, as long as you’re answering “It might happen,” then you’re dealing with reality because everything is a low probability, even if it’s really small.

So, one part has to do with the content. And I think for every set of obsessions, there is, what is the content they’re doing? I think in a more general way, the goal of treatment is basically accepting that low probability things might happen. I was recently saying to people that I hope the probability of nuclear war is no worse than that. It was as bad as likely as a worldwide pandemic. Some people would freak out like, “You think there’s going to be a war?” First of all, I know anything, but they were missing the point. It’s like, no, I really mean it’s as likely as a pandemic, which means it’s not likely. However, the thing about the pandemic, low probability things can happen. So yeah, we’re probably okay.

And so, the thing about acceptance that everyone hates is acceptance is second best. We spend so much time talking about how great acceptance is and I really think it’s a disservice in some respects to not point out what acceptance means because it almost always is. Here’s something you don’t want that you might have to live with. If I lose a loved one, we start in denial. And for me, denial is defined as I’m comparing life to a fantasy. I have a woman in a bad relationship and she thinks he really loves the guy, but it’s like, he’d be so good if only he would change X, Y, and Z. And of course, if he changed X, Y, and Z, he would be someone else. So, they’re in love with a fantasy. And when somebody dies, the fantasy is life would be better if they were here. It’s a fantasy because that’s never happening again. So, we have to get them to the point.

And of course, the thing, the reason I mentioned death is it points out a really important thing about acceptance. You don’t get to just decide, “I’m going to accept.” I lose a loved one. I don’t care how or where you are. You’re starting in denial because you’re missing them and you want them there. And after about a year, if you’ve gone through mourning, you accept it. It’s not like you don’t care they’re gone. You can still cry. You can still miss them. But when you’re doing something you’re enjoying and in the present not comparing to what it would be with that person.

So, acceptance, I’m pretty sure, always sucks. However, it’s better than fantasy because the fantasies never happen. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s likely or unlikely. It’s just a matter that this is your fear and the thing that’s hard for people to deal with fear is to cope with it. You’re going to say, “How would I try to live with the worst happening?” And people’s initial response to something is, “Yeah, but I don’t want that.” There are multiple reasons that we need to do acceptance. If I’m correct about denial, that’s comparing reality to fantasy. Well, not acceptance means what I want will never happen. So, for me to want that there’s no possibility something will occur is probably not true. I don’t care if it means that maybe this reality doesn’t exist and I’m going to wake up, and some of the things that discover I’ve created all of reality, there’s nothing. I don’t know that that’s likely, but I can’t prove it’s not likely.

So, I think people go in circles. And you can hear it. The thing about the pandemic, you could hear the regular population denial. Because when I say it’s comparing reality to fantasy, a lot of times that sounds cool. And people don’t quite get what it means, but here are statements of denial early in the pandemic, “Well, this can’t go on more than a few weeks.” Honestly, at the beginning, I was like, “Of course, it’s going on for a few weeks. They have to have a vaccination. They’re telling us that’s two years down the road. This is going on for a long time.”

Kimberley: I was in team two weeks.

Jonathan: Yeah. “It can’t last. I can’t take it.” Saying “I can’t take it,” although you’re expressing the feeling like “I really hate this,” but including in the words “I can’t take it” is a fantasy as if you have a choice. And in a way, luckily, most people who say they can’t take it didn’t kill themselves. It’s proved that they can’t take it. They took it. They kept going on. It’s like, they didn’t want to imagine continuing to live that way. So, acceptance is like, “Yeah, this is going to happen. Yes, it can keep going.” How will you try to cope with the worst? And go on, I’ll shut up. You look like you want to say something.

Kimberley: No, no. I’m following you. I’m really enjoying this. I actually wrote down the word “cope” right at the beginning because I think that that’s such a keyword here. To stay out of the fantasy, would you say that’s true?

Jonathan: Well, yes. The worst might-- I mean, I always feel like if I’m doing therapy and if somebody has intolerance of uncertainty, they don’t like uncertainty, I have to treat that problem. And what I mean by that is we have a lot of therapists who impose their own feelings on the client. If I have a therapist that I have somebody who’s socially anxious and saying, “I’m afraid if I go in a room, some people won’t like me.” Almost every therapist is going to say, “Oh, well, that’s the fact, they might not like you.” But that same patient is like, “I’m afraid if I touch the doorknob, I’m going to get sick.” “Oh no, that won’t happen.” Well, that’s not the issue. Now therapist is-- if I have a problem of threat estimation, that’s fine, but that’s not it. I don’t want to know that it’s a low probability, I want no probability. So, we have to deal with the fact that this is what the person’s afraid of. This is what they fear.

Somebody will say, “Well, but they don’t have cancer issue. Why should they worry about it?” But let’s face it. If they did have cancer, the focus would be coping with the fact they’re dying. And if they’re afraid of having cancer, I’d say the treatment is the same. Now, the only great thing is they probably won’t have cancer, so it’s not a fear they will have to probably deal with. They want to have the second part of it like, “And I’m dying.” But to be more prepared-- and I think what you’ve done wisely, like hearing that, yes, what you’ve done wisely is you’re talking about the fact that this is not just a nosy problem. This is a problem for everyone, coping with uncertainty.

I hate to do a plug. It’s okay. It’s a while away. Actually, Liz McIngvale and I, we’re working on a book, talking about-- well, the book is partially-- and we’ll be doing some talks on it. We’re saying that ERP is not the gold standard of treatment for OCD. And we’re going to say that it’s not the gold standard because it’s lacking the gold. It really needs to be ERP plus gold. But that’s awkward because I like to be calling these initials. So, we want to use initials. Do you happen to know the chemical symbol for gold?

Kimberley: F-- no. FE is copper.

Jonathan: No, that’s iron.

Kimberley: Iron.

Jonathan: Yeah. AU.

Kimberley: AU.

Jonathan: The gold standard of treatment--

Kimberley: Like Australia.

Jonathan: Well, no. ERP plus AU. AU as in Accepting Uncertainty.

Kimberley: Oh, my trap.

Jonathan: Yeah. It took me a while to work that around.

Kimberley: Now you sure it’s not Australia.

Jonathan: But our point is what we want to write. We want to write a book that’s not only about helping therapists deal with every presentation of OCD and how you deal with the uncertainty problem, but we’re also arguing that it’s a book for everyone that people can learn from OCD, a disorder that intolerance uncertainty is like the core. Because I always feel that our clients who get better, they’re not normal. They are better than normal because they’re coping with uncertainty, because the average person really doesn’t do that. Well, I mean, in the pandemic, you got to see how bad non-sufferers are. So, I think the core of coping with mental obsessions is this. Well, what if the worst happens? And so many people, “I don’t want to think it,” and that leaves us stuck because we’re not stupid. If you say to somebody-- if you get a phone call from police and they say your spouse has died, your first response is you’re just in this shock and you’re just like frozen. And for a lot of things that are bad, that’s the way people stop thinking. It’s like, “I don’t want to think about it.” The thing is, if the police make that call, something happens next. And life goes on.

And back for clients, I often ask that in a sneaky way. What if this did happen? What would be next? What if he did have-- the doctor says, “Yeah, it can,” so I freak out. What does that look like? “I’d be screaming.” You’re in the doctor’s office, screaming. How long are you going to do that? And then you’re going to go home and you need dinner. What do you do the next day? And even though we’re going through something that sounds terribly scary, people oddly feel better after that. Now, this is first session. It’s not like they’ve done treatment, but they feel better because a statement that is true, you can’t do what you won’t imagine. And I don’t mean this as you would say, in the flowers and unicorns kind of way that you can do anything you can imagine. I do not mean that. But if you won’t even imagine it, you can’t do it. So, what would you do in X situation where it’s like, no. Well, it’s like the world is ending. When we imagine it, it’s not like it’s good. But it’s like, oh, because the feeling that accompanies acceptance is a down, depressing feeling like, “Oh, that could happen.” However, it’s not frantic. Denial is frantic. “That can’t happen. No, no.” Again, everything at least has some low probability. Some things are higher. You could have cancer, yes. Your family could die. Those things are like, they’re there. So, it’s not like I get the choice.

So, the statement of denial is frantic. The statement of acceptance is depressing, but it’s not frantic. And so, I don’t care how bad the disaster is. How would you try to cope? Because in most realities, that’s what you’re going to do. And I could pause at this moment because I don’t know if this would be the point where I would then be shifting to, well, what are the mental compulsives we’re talking about here? Because I think again, each one has its own set of arguments. You’ve heard my general thing. In some ways I think I’m reasonably good at applying it to myself. I think there’s some areas I haven’t been tested in. So, that’s nice. I hope I could be-- I know what I want is possible because I’ve seen people do it. Would I be one of those good people? I can only hope. But at least because I know people have done it, I know it’s possible. I like to believe-- go on, you. Yes.

Kimberley: What does that look like? Can you paint me a picture of a client who does well using this strategy at managing mental compulsions?

Jonathan: A client that I-- there’s a podcast on that, the OC stories, he was afraid of going crazy. And he had had this from age 19 to his late forties. And he had ERP, but ERP was always focused likely and we’re going to focus on going crazy and all this stuff. Know whatever explicit just said to him, the goal of treatment is for you to risk going crazy. I told him that the first session and he began to cry because he’s been spending more than 30 years trying to avoid this. And I’m saying, “Oh yeah, this might happen.” And many people really are able to accept. And I never talk about accepting uncertainty. I talk about learning to accept uncertainty. Because really, if I can talk to you-- if it’s just a decision, we’re done the first session. But most people are convinced of recession. It took about three months to help convince him. And he kept going back and forth. And so, convincing him, we went through a number of things to work on it.

So, I’m describing it quickly, so it sounds simple. But remember, three months. The first reason, and this is true of almost all rituals, mental compulsions, regardless, you don’t have a choice. All your rituals do not prevent you from going crazy. He’s avoiding places because you’ve got an anxiety attack there, so I’m not going to go there. It’s like, sorry, it’s a biological process that you’re going crazy. That’s doing nothing. So, one is, your rituals don’t work. Two, for pretty much anything, you don’t have a choice. Uncertainty is the fact of life. We talked about what it would look like and he went crazy. And we were going-- and we talked about, well, what’s going to happen? Where are you going to go? He went through all these things. And because he’s logical, at some point it’s like, it could happen.

And at that point, he’s then able to spend the other work, which is not fun, which is then imagining going crazy and looking at all the things that scare the heck out of him so he could begin to function again. We wanted to treat going crazy, the way most people do this is not their problem. Treat, getting main paralyzed and disfigured in a car crash. We all know it’s possible. Our brilliant plan is generally, I hope it doesn’t happen. I’m not dealing with it until I’m bleeding out, crushed under the metal. To say, “I’m not going to be in a car accident today,” it’s like, really? I can’t say that. So, our goal is to get whatever uncertainties in life there are to be like that. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m afraid of going crazy. I’m afraid that I’m going to be a pedophile. I’m going to slice and dice my wife tonight. I’m going to flunk the test. These people don’t like me. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s still always the same. I mean, we can talk about odds, but not as simply reassurance because, again, it’s reassurance if I want to know it’s low odds, but if I want it to not be possible, it’s not reassuring. It’s like, it’s probably not this, but it might be how we deal with it is that way.

The other thing that we look at is, how does it work for you to fight against this uncertainty? What are you losing? And of course, the more pathological the problem is, the worse it is. So, if I have OCD, it could be destroying my life. I’m not only hurting myself, I’m hurting my family. Let’s go how you’re really torturing everybody. And sometimes I think, in that case, we’re looking for reasons to get better. I always like people to look at all the harm they’re doing to themselves and their family. And I think in a brilliant way, just to plug you, I think your book, your new book really partially addresses that because the self-compassion part isn’t just like, okay, be nice to yourself, stop suffering. It’s like, if you’re going to love yourself, what kind of life do you want to make for yourself? What are your values going to be? Because I think we transform this process of coping into something more than simply confronting fear. It becomes something for myself. And secondarily, not as preferable, but sometimes easier to get to – it becomes not only confronting a fear, it becomes an act of love. Because you know what, I’m going to stop being a pain in the ass to my family. I’m now going to put all of us first.

And so, we’re really going to have-- what are my values, and how does this interfere with my values? And again, it doesn’t have to be as major as I’m dysfunctional, torturing my family with something OCD for any worry. Everybody’s going to be happier if I can cope with my worries better. I mean, my family’s going to be happier because they love me. It’s really nice to see me not freaking out because they don’t have-- because you want to help and there’s no way to help. So, for me to be better and calmer and coping is nice for them. It’s certainly nice for me, and isn’t that what I would prefer in life? And so, when, when my life depends on me having a worry that’s not allowed to happen, I don’t get to enjoy things.

Another coping thing I do that’s smaller is I will ask people to notice what they’re enjoying, no matter how, whatever level, even 5%. I think many times people will say, “Everything sucks, I don’t enjoy anything because of this problem.” Now that’s not entirely true because in the course of interviewing them, there are a few times I’ll get them to laugh for three seconds. And I admit if laughing three seconds were the goal, wow, that’d be great. But three seconds of laughter isn’t much compared to a life of misery. But the thing is, they don’t even notice that ever. The entire experience has been horrible and it’s like-- and to get them to notice not what it should be, but what it was.

I once did this with a guy. I sent him to the movies and I said, “Watch the movie, just tell me whatever you enjoyed. I don’t care how little.” And he came back and he said, “It didn’t work. Everything was horrible.” I’m like, “Okay, now tell me about the movie.” So, he was describing the movie to me, it was a war movie, and it is clear, this guy liked the climax. So, I’m like--

Kimberley: Isn’t that funny? The way our brain works?

Jonathan: Yeah. And I said, “That was pretty cool, that climax. Are you sorry you saw that?” “No.” I said, “Okay, you didn’t do my assignment. Notice whatever you enjoyed. I don’t care that it’s not as good as it should have been. You clearly like that.” And it makes a difference because it means a two-hour experience that he comes away believing he had nothing. It would be a slight change to go like, “I enjoyed a little bit of that.” I try to tell people, think of it as like a little while of enjoyment that you don’t notice exists, and we want to expand those. And most people would recognize that in a way, what we’re talking about is a little bit of mindfulness. Like, okay, it sucks. I’m not arguing it doesn’t suck, but a lot of mindfulness. It isn’t like, I’m going to put you in a happy land. It’s like, we were trying to do AND, not OR.

The beginning of the pandemic, Kathy and I, we’re out on our pandemic walk. And she said to me, “This would be such a great day if all this wasn’t going on.” I said, “You’re wrong, Kathy.” We should let you and your listeners know. You don’t know this, but your husband does. Being married to a psychologist is not necessarily fun.

Kimberley: So true.

Jonathan: It is a beautiful day. We’re walking together, it’s beautiful. We’re together, it is beautiful. It is a beautiful day AND it sucks that there’s a pandemic.

Kimberley: So true.

Jonathan: Not OR, it’s AND. In a sense, mindfulness is teaching us to live in that world of AND. This is awful AND I can still enjoy stuff, as opposed to it’s either or. And again, some people go like, “Well, that’s awful.” And that’s perfectly true, because we’re going back to what is acceptance. Acceptance sucks. It’s the second-best life. However, what’s really great about the second-best life, the first best doesn’t exist. So, it’s like, yeah, it’s second-best, but it’s this or nothing. So, I think those are a lot of the principles of doing it and I think to do it, it’s like, why would I take this risk? It’s not a risk, but essentially, it’s like, why would I accept living like this, whatever this is? And I don’t have a choice. What am I losing by not living like this? Am I hurting my family? What would life be like if I could be okay with this? Depending who you are, that’s an incredibly amazing change or it’s a minor change. I mean, if I’m a very competent worrier and very successful, we’re talking about way more peace. But if I’m competent, I’m interfering with my life and taking up a lot of time, we’re now making major changes in the quality of life. And as you know, I can obsess or worry about anything from like, “I need to be the best.” And I always ask people, what is so good about best? Because God forbid, you should be mediocre. God forbid, you should be a happy mediocre person than the best person. And so, for some--

Kimberley: Well, that’s still a piece of denial, isn’t it? They have this idea that the best is no pain.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Kimberley: There’s no pain at the top.

Jonathan: Yeah. Right. And generally, there’s some other assumption that-- I don’t know. Somehow, I’m deficient of, I’m not best. So, it’s like the only way I can know. It’s another set of issues. What is it that I fear that I have to cope with? Not being best. Okay, I get you want to be best. Why? Well, best is best. I mean, it’s nice, I guess. When I think about being well-known, I generally think of being well-known as icing. That is, what makes my life great? For me, I love what I’m doing, and what I’m doing is, besides talking a lot because I love talking, but I like working with people, and I just really enjoy it. I have no plans on retiring because I like this too much. That’s almost all year round. Being famous and well-known, that’s about six days a year when I go to conventions. And I say, it’s like icing to indicate I am weak enough. I’ll admit I’m weak enough to really enjoy it. But I also recognize it is nothing. It doesn’t have any substance. And the thing about fame, you’re always going to lose it. You’re never famous enough. And there’s a poem by Shelly that I think really characterizes it. It describes a traveler in an ancient land. It’s come across a huge fallen monument and it’s describing the magnificence of what this had been. And he comes to the base of the statue where these words are written: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” That’s fame. It’s empty I can gorge, but it doesn’t mean anything because what I enjoy is what I actually do. It’d be sad if my life was like, it’s good six days a year when I can feel it.

Kimberley: Right. And I think what’s important, particularly for the sufferer, is you still have uncertainty in your life.

Jonathan: I don’t know any way to be certain, so I know nothing.

Kimberley: Right. You know what I was reflecting on, and this is just me reflecting, is last year, maybe it was the beginning of this year, I gave myself the exercise to catch the mini toddler tantrums that showed up in my mind.

Jonathan: I love that term. Great. Did you make that up?

Kimberley: I think I did because it--

Jonathan: Take credit. It’s great. Love it.

Kimberley: It feels like a toddler tantrum in my mind.

Jonathan: It’s perfect. It’s that “But I don’t want that.” I love it. Oh, I love it. Go on.

Kimberley: Yeah. I did a whole podcast about it last year because I was just noticing toddler tantrum after toddler tantrum, and I regulate myself really well. But it was showing up. And then as you’re talking, I’m thinking about how that was me resisting acceptance. That toddler tantrum is probably where I have the option to pull out of rumination and be present when I can catch it and be like, “Okay, you’re totally in denial. You’re in a fantasy land.” And so, that really speaks to me as a way to catch when you’re up in that place of rumination.

Jonathan: That’s perfect.

Kimberley: Yeah. For me, that was really powerful. I love that you brought that up because I think that is the bridge. I’m totally out of acceptance when I’m in a toddler tantrum.

Jonathan: Right. Because when you get better, as you’re describing, you can deal that pull of like, “This is what it is. No, no, no.” You can feel that pull back and forth because you don’t get completely lost and it’s like, ah.

Kimberley: Yeah. It was such a visual. I could see it tantruming out. “No, no, no.” And so, I love that you brought that in particularly in this way, like I said, of catching the compulsion. So, thank you. That actually consolidated--

Jonathan: I’m just now obsessing about how I’m going to work this in. We’ll give you credit.

Kimberley: You do. The Kimberly Quinlan “toddler tantrum,” I’m very well-known for it now. No, I am so thankful for you for bringing all this up. Is there-- because I want to be respectful of your time, is there anything else that you want to address when it comes to conceptualizing or managing mental compulsions?

Jonathan: I think that I’m afraid I have to be patient. Again, thinking about death, I don’t get to accept just because I want to. You have some people who try to accept like, “I’m accepting and I’m accepting it.” It’s like, yeah, sorry. I can be working towards learning it. I think sometimes people have an insight. An insight is not like you suddenly know some new piece of information. Insight is something that you basically knew, suddenly it’s true. I had somebody have that the other day when that’s hurting and they felt like it was trivial trying to explain to me what happened, but I already had this concept. I said, “I know. It’s like, you’ve always known you feel like going wrong.” “No, you don’t get it. It’s really true.” So, it was very cool.

And so, I think it’s a gradual process where I get better at it. And because life is completely uncertain in every which way, there’s always opportunities to practice it, better personal. And you may scare other people. And one client who was very scared of a lot of things, especially of one of their pets dying. As they got uncertain and told, and then they could talk about it pretty calmly with people, “Oh yeah, I think she’s going to die at some point.” And people would be horrified. She could sound so calm, but she was like, not that she likes it and she really doesn’t want it to happen, but she could also think about it and think about life after that. And I think some people mistakenly will say something like, “Oh my God, you’re making life complete miserable. All you’re thinking about is all these nightmares that can happen all the time. That’s terrible.” That’s crazy because-- I thought I’d use a clinical term. Because what happens when I accept uncertainty?

Somebody else has said this. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it up. I become, in a positive way, hopeless future. And what I mean by hopeless is the way most people who aren’t scared of the car crash, or it’s not like, I’m okay with a car crash. It’s like, what can I do? And when I become hopeless about control, that is when I get to live in the present because I’m no longer in the past or the future. Let’s face it. The truth is that’s all we have. The past of great memories or terrible memories, the future’s hopes, all we have is the present, this moment, my entire life and your entire life with each other. Everything else we like might not be there at this moment. So, I get to have the only thing there is, which is the present. And again, I can’t just decide because you see people do this, “I’m going to live in the present. I’m going to enjoy the present now. Enjoy the present.” It’s like, I have to learn to give things up.

To steal from this woman who wrote this book of compassion: “To be kind to myself, to let myself learn, to not expect it all at once.” Again, if we were talking OCD, I don’t know why we were talking about that. If we were talking about OCD, every particular variation has its own uncertainties to cope with. Scrupulosity, how do I learn to believe in a God and simultaneously admit I might be wrong? How do I live in a world where probably I’m not going to slice and dice Kathy tonight? But if I do, how would I try to-- what would I do the next step?

When my son was 16 and going out on dates. And of course, he would never be home on time. And Kathy always wanted to call him. And I wouldn’t let her call him not to be nice to him, but I knew as she knew, his cell phone would be on. So, calling somebody you’re worried about in their cell phone on is not going to be comforting. So, she’d go like, “Well, when can I call him?” So, I’d make this mental calculation. Okay, he should be home now. I think he’ll be home in these many minutes. And let me add another half hour and say, you can call him dead. And she could for some reason, which is unusual, she would then go to sleep. And I would go there and I think, “Huh, he’s probably okay. He’s probably not doing anything terrible. Probably nothing terrible is happening to him. But tonight could be the night that our lives change and everything is screwed up forever.” And then I would go to sleep. That’s just the truth.

Kimberley: Yeah. It’s powerful. I’ll be calling you, and my kids are teenagers, saying “Coach me, coach me.”

Jonathan: Yeah. And I will give you the following advice. It gets so much easier when they’re 23.

Kimberley: Yes, I know.

Jonathan: Until your acceptance is, “Oh yeah,” you’re screwed till then.

Kimberley: It’s true. I’m so grateful for you and your time and all your wisdom. I feel like I’m sitting and just absorbing it all for myself, which I’m loving.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Kimberley: Tell us, I know you’ve been on the podcast before, but tell us where people can hear more about you and your work. You obviously have a new book, which I did not know about.

Jonathan: Well, we are working on it and we’re at the stage of working it, not procrastinating. We’re at the stage of doing a bunch of presentations on the idea, because I’ve just seen so many treatments fail because it didn’t address uncertainty. Although I always focus on certainty, it really is-- the bottom part of dealing with that is coping with life. It transcends OCD. So, I don’t know. What would you like to know about me?

Kimberley: Where can people find you?

Jonathan: Where can people find me? Easily on the internet. Website is a laocdtreatment.com. But I think my name plus OCD tends to come up a lot.

Kimberley: Your book?

Jonathan: I have a book. It’s Freedom From OCD. I think there are a lot of good OCD books. Of course, I like mine because I agree with it most. But it’s a little scary when people read it before they see me because it is almost my entire repertoire minus maybe about 40 minutes. I feel like I’m going to be repeating myself, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Apparently, hearing it out loud is different than reading it.

Kimberley: Well, and that’s the whole point, right? I have the same situation as people need to hear it more than once too, in some cases. Not as a form of reassurance, but I think we all need to hear it. Even me today having a little light bulb moment I think is really cool, even though I’ve heard that before. So, I will have your website and your work in the show notes.

Jonathan: Very kind.

Kimberley: Thank you so much for being here and sharing.

Jonathan: I don’t know if you figured it out yet. I know I’ve told you this, but I’ll just repeat it. Probably if you asked me to come on, the answer will always be yes. So, thank you.

Kimberley: I’m so happy. No, I remember you saying that last time. Like I said to you, before we started recording, I have wanted to do this series for quite a while. And I had you right there going. I already put you on the list because I already knew. You told me you would say yes.

Jonathan: And so, apparently, I’m not dishonest or not that dishonest.

Kimberley: Not at all. When I texted to ask you, I actually already had you on the list and scheduled you in.

Jonathan: It was a confidence that you could well have.

Kimberley: Yeah. I’m so grateful. And yes, we will definitely have you on. It’s always a pleasure.

Jonathan: All right. Okay. Take care. Thank you very much.

254 episodes