When I talk to people and mention acceptance to them, sometimes the skepticism is so palpable, I can almost touch it. The apprehension is ‘What if my acceptance of my thoughts leads to its manifestation due to the law of attraction as laid out in Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret? What if I actually cause my thoughts to come real by accepting them?’ You may feel that even the thought of committing an action increases the possibility of committing it, a belief observed in people with OCD (Butchler et al., 2013). I am going to try and address that ‘what if’ in this chapter.
First and foremost, this thought itself is a Meta OCD thought. It starts with a ‘what-if’ and it causes anxiety. If you try to accept your Harm OCD thoughts, this worry about the law of attraction becomes dominant and sticky. You may feel an urgent need to do something about it and dispel it. Hence, it is a Meta OCD thought and needs to be handled like any other obsessive thought.
Second, the law of attraction propounds that we attract only when we desire and expect the same thing together. When the desire and expectation do not match, the law of attraction does not come true. In the context of your Harm OCD, your desire may be to accept the thoughts but you may be expecting them to come true (and hence the fear). So, if the law of attraction has to truly work, your thoughts in Harm OCD cannot come true because of the difference between your desire (to get better) and your expectation (that you won’t get better).
Third, consider this example. Let us say you want to attract career success. When you say you are expecting to succeed and you desire to succeed, everything you do, becomes goal directed. If you want to succeed but your efforts are missing, you do not desire to succeed enough. On the other hand, if you keep putting in efforts recklessly, you probably do not expect to succeed and hence keep the excessive effort.
Since one of the elements is missing, success becomes elusive. However, if you put both of them in the right measure, success is inevitable. So, the law of attraction is not magic. It is goal directed effort. You will not attract a million dollars out of nowhere. Similarly, you will not attract your obsessions to come true simply if you accept them. On the contrary, you will attract recovery if you desire to recover and expect to recover through acceptance. With this understanding, the law of attraction can be actively used to aid in the recovery process through complete acceptance.
One of the common questions on acceptance is – does that mean I should accept my suffering? The answer is a loud no. As the Dalai Lama has said, ‘Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional’. The pain is to be accepted. Your non-acceptance of pain will not make it go away anyway. So, you have to accept that the pain is there to stay, at least for the time being. Your response to the pain however, needs to change. If you are suffering and you sulk, cry, and lament that your Harm OCD is bad, you are accepting the suffering, without doing anything to change it. If you decide to work on your Harm OCD, despite the pain, you will learn to accept the pain and put in active efforts to not accept the suffering. You feel more empowered as a result. Hence, when we refer to acceptance, we refer to accepting the pain and working to change the suffering.