When Harm OCD first hits, we do the compulsions because they seem like the right thing to do to help us out of our misery. Indeed, they seem to relieve the anxiety in the short term. But even when we get to know that the compulsions don’t help us but hold us back, we still continue to do them. By then, we are too habituated to them to be able to stop. At times, we do not even realize that we are engaging in compulsions. At other times, even though we realize it, we are unable to stop them. Why? Why is it so difficult to stop the compulsions? What can we do to stop these compulsions? The solution to some extent lies in the development of the mindfulness-mindfulness-acceptance (MMA) perspective.
Refer to figure 3.17.1. You are the grey dot that needs to travel from A to B. The entire area is a trigger zone for you. Figure 3.17.1 may represent spending time with your child. Travelling from A to B in the figure may represent helping your child with some craft activity – needing to use a pair of scissors in close proximity with your child. You can’t see it very clearly but there is a faint border that you should not cross over because on the other side are some obstacles. The border represents the border between your non-triggered and triggered states and the obstacles are your compulsions.
Figure 3.17.1: The trigger zone
As you keep travelling from A to B, since the border is not very visible, you end up crossing the border as shown in figure 3.17.2. Thus, you get into the triggered zone without consciously realizing it. Since you are not conscious of the crossing over, you engage in your compulsions even before you know it. Only after the trigger has subsided do you realize that once again your Harm OCD has won
Figure 3.17.2: Crossing over to the triggered state
Enter mindfulness. Through the practice of mindfulness, you begin to identify your trigger zones even before you enter the trigger zone. As shown in figure 3.17.3, the light bulb on the bottom-left is your mindfulness (the first M of
the MMA super vision) before you enter the trigger zone. Thus, when you spend time with your partner and think of watching a romantic movie with her, you realize mindfully that you are likely to get triggered. In diagram 3.17.3 as you can see, the border between the non-triggered and triggered states has become more visible.
Figure 3.17.3: The first mindfulness point
However, even though you are mindful at this stage, if you cross over to the triggered state (as you often will) and become unmindful once again, you will not notice when you end up doing your compulsions. As you can see in figure 3.17.4, you are in the triggered zone but the compulsions are not visible to you and you may end up running into them.
Figure 3.17.4: The visible border
At this stage, if you again bring yourself to become mindful (the second M of the MMA perspective), and recognize that you are in the triggered zone, you become more aware of the obstacles in your way, i.e., your compulsions. In figure 3.17.5, the bulb on the top-right is the second M in the MMA perspective. As you can see, the line between the non-triggered and triggered state is also clearer and well-formed and the obstacles (the triangles) are also visible.
However, even at this stage, your Harm OCD may tell you ‘Why bother trying to resist? Just do your compulsions and be done with it’. At this stage, your acceptance (the A of the MMA perspective) of your Harm OCD, of the compulsions it asks you to do, and of the importance of not doing those compulsions will complete the perspective.
If you accept that you do not need to do the compulsions to survive the trigger zone, you can cross over to B without needing to do your compulsions, as shown in figure 3.17.6. You become stronger and your compulsions become weaker and disperse as you power through.
Figure 3.17.6: The point of acceptance
When you do not recognize that you could move into the triggered state, you may end up moving into the triggered zone and doing the compulsions out of unmindfulness. Even if you are mindful before you enter the triggered zone, you could become unmindful after you enter it and may end up doing your compulsions. Only when you are mindful before and after entering the triggered zone and accept that you do not need to do the compulsions to survive, that is, only when you use your MMA perspective, do you achieve mastery over your Harm OCD.