In this chapter, we shall further understand the importance of acceptance and mindfulness in your recovery journey. Sometimes you may think that your compulsions come without obsessions. Sometimes, the rituals become habits and you do not even remember why you do them anymore. Maybe if you think about them, you may remember what a ritual is supposed to prevent but often, the ritual is performed even without you realizing it, out of habit.

At times, you may not need to do your compulsions but you still do them. Sometimes, it is to make sure that there are no obsessions. You could stop them if you wanted, but you don’t. When you are expected to face your fears, it means getting to a point where you do not do any of your compulsions – the ones you do not realize doing and the ones you do not care to stop. But facing your fears may have at least two types of roadblocks for you.

               Unwillingness Vs Inability to Stop: Often your rituals may seem like you are unable to stop them. Whenever there is an urge, or even a feeling that this is the right time to do a ritual, you may just end up doing it and then believe that you are unable to stop. If you observe your rituals closely, only some of them you may be unable to stop doing, because they may seem automatic. But the other rituals, you may be unwilling to stop. You may realize that there are some rituals to which you may say ‘I can’t stop doing this’ but what you may really mean is, ‘I don’t want to stop doing this’. Those are your unwilling to stop rituals. Those are the rituals that you do realize you do when you do them or even before doing them. For example, confession may fall under unwilling to stop, whereas avoidance may fall under unable to stop.

Unwillingness suggests awareness but reluctance. The state of unwillingness is a more mindful state where we are aware that the ritual needs to be stopped but we don’t stop it, more out of choice rather than inability. The unwilling to stop belief is a more mindful state. The state of inability is a less mindful state where we are not even aware of the rituals we need to stop. The unable to stop belief is a state of not being mindful. The key skill that will help you navigate this puzzle, and will take you from unable to stop to unwilling to stop is mindfulness.

Transfer the compulsions identified in Worksheet 3.14 in the Compulsions column in Worksheet 3.16. Write down UA against all compulsions that you are unable to stop and write down UW against all compulsions that you are unwilling to stop. An example has been provided in table 3.16.1 to make it easier to understand.

Table 3.16.1: The Compulsion Matrix (Step one)

CompulsionsUnwilling / UnableUnpleasant / RiskyAction Point
Monitoring your own feelings and sensationsUA 
Researching and checkingUW 
Reassurance SeekingUA 
Neutralizing your thoughtsUA 
Post facto ruminationUW 

Uncomfortable Vs Risky: The second roadblock that you may encounter in facing your compulsions is that your mind might tell you that it is risky to face them. But when you objectively evaluate the rituals, you may realize that facing some of them is more uncomfortable than risky. For example, watching an action movie may be merely uncomfortable, but using knives may seem risky.

The word uncomfortable suggests that you could stop the rituals if you wanted but do not stop them because of the discomfort. Thus, you are aware that stopping this ritual may not result in harm, that is, you are more accepting of the situation. On the other hand, the word risky suggests that you think stopping the ritual may result in actual physical harm of some kind and may not accept that the ritual can be stopped. Thus, you are less accepting of the situation. If you think a ritual is uncomfortable to stop, you are more accepting of it than if you think it is risky to stop. In this case, the key skill that is important to develop and strengthen is acceptance. Acceptance will help you understand that what seems risky is in fact just uncomfortable and provide you the courage to face it.

Write down R against all compulsions that seem risky, and write down U against all compulsions that are merely uncomfortable in Worksheet 3.16. An example has been provided in table 3.16.2 to make it easier to understand.

Table 3.16.2: The Compulsion Matrix (Step two)

CompulsionsUnwilling / UnableUnpleasant / RiskyAction Point
Monitoring your own feelings and sensationsUAU 
Researching and checkingUWR 
Reassurance SeekingUAR 
Neutralizing your thoughtsUAU 
Post facto ruminationUWU 

Take a look at the inferences in table 3.16.3.

Table 3.16.3: The Inferences and Action Points

CombinationInferenceAction Point
UW+U (Unwilling to Change + Uncomfortable)High mindfulness, high acceptanceHave both acceptance and mindfulness
UA+U (Unable to Change + Uncomfortable)Low mindfulness, high acceptanceBuild mindfulness
UW+R (Unwilling to Change + Risky)Low acceptance, high mindfulnessBuild acceptance
UA+R (Unable to Change + Risky)Low mindfulness, low acceptanceBuild both mindfulness and acceptance

Based on the combination (U+UW, U+UA, R+UW or R+UA), understand the inferences and write down the action points in Worksheet 3.16. An example has been provided in table 3.16.4.

Table 3.16.4: The Compulsion Matrix (Step three)

CompulsionsUnwilling / UnableUnpleasant / RiskyAction Point
Monitoring your own feelings and sensationsUAUBuild mindfulness
Researching and checkingUWRBuild acceptance
Reassurance SeekingUARBuild both
Neutralizing your thoughtsUAUBuild mindfulness
Post facto ruminationUWUHave both
AvoidanceUARBuild both
DistractionUARBuild both
ConfessionUWRBuild acceptance

When you face your compulsions going forward, based on this matrix, you will know which skill to focus on to be able to overcome the fear.

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