When I wanted to start walking to stay fit, I decided on a goal of 6000 steps every day to begin with. But every day, I would find some excuse or the other to not do it. Sometimes I am too tired, at other times, I don’t have socks, or I have some other work, or some other smokescreen to fool myself. Then, not by my conscious doing, but somehow a switch flipped inside my brain and I began to look at walking as a non-negotiable exercise. When this happened, I began to seek opportunities to walk. I would walk where I would have otherwise used transportation. If I am busy in the morning, I would find time to walk in the evening and vice versa. I began to walk as much as 10 km (14000 steps) a day for at least five days a week. The important point in this anecdote is that when I wanted to walk, I found ways to do it. I did not let objections by my brain stop me from doing what I had set out to do.
The Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon seems like a major disadvantage for people with OCD but in reality, if you want to get better, it is a phenomenon that you can use to your advantage. When the frequency illusion is felt in Harm OCD, you begin to see things that trigger you. You may notice more potential weapons to cause harm than others do. You may notice more sharp objects than others do. You may notice more heavy objects than other do. You may notice large water bodies. You may notice where hazardous chemicals are kept. You may be more aware of heights. All these and more stimuli can be anxiety-inducing because they are all avenues for you to be able to cause harm, based on your Harm OCD urges.
But this can be turned into an advantage, much as it may be triggering for you to even read this. If you set out to recover and exposures become a non-negotiable exercise for you, you can use all the awareness you have about your triggers and convert them into an exposure obstacle course. Every time you come across a trigger, you have the opportunity to do an exposure and response prevention cycle. If you have watched any episode of the popular program Wipeout, you may know how the contestants navigate through one obstacle after another.
Once you have become comfortable with some exposures and want to change gears in your recovery process, you can begin to look at your day as an obstacle course and keep decimating any triggers that come your way by doing the exposures and response prevention. So, if you have to use the knife and fork for breakfast and you would usually avoid sitting with family, choose to do so. If you have to sit with your son for his craft work and have to use a cutter and some scissors, and you would have avoided that in the past, stop avoiding. If you have to bathe your dog and the urge of drowning him stopped you in the past, go right ahead and give your dog a bath. And of course, do not do any compulsions while doing these exposures.
Is that going to be difficult? Oh yes, for sure. But it can be equally rewarding when something that earlier caused discomfort stops feeling like anything to even consider important.