If calmness is the opposite of anxiety, what is the opposite of OCD?

Having worked with OCD for many years and managed to (for the most part) rid myself of it – I think it can be useful to reflect upon one of the strategies that induced the most profound change in me.

I think most people would agree that the opposite of anxiety is probably a word like calmness and that state is a clear goal to aim for as part of your recovery.

However, if we were to ask “What is the opposite of OCD?” that is a little tougher to answer.

For me, I would say it is playfulness!

The ability to not worry what others think, the strength to feel vulnerable but still take action and the nerve to break the rules and follow your heart no matter how crazy your dreams – following your heart rather than your head.

Plus, the awareness to completely live in the now, with no ‘stories’ about the future and no self-regulating limitations from your past.

In other words, to be childlike, to play more, have fun and see all new opportunities with awe and positive creativity. To be more selfish about what you want from life, relationships and work and become more optimistic about how you might go about getting them.

To take action and just see what happens, rather than needing a plan and for everything to be safe before you can even start something new.

Whereas, OCD makes people act in ways that are childish (rather than childlike) to control things, to get angry if things don’t go their way and to get nervous and fearful.

When being childlike, you go around prodding things, stirring things up just to see what might happen. You try new things, you go first, you jump in the puddle and get muddy, you embrace the unknown and the thrill of letting go, the excitement of not knowing what will happen next, the thrill of breaking the rules, the excitement of not being in control.

Bear in mind that excitement and anxiety are the same emotion – just with a different story, a rollercoaster ride proves that to be true.

Plus you gain the wisdom which comes from that actual experience – rather than believing the virtual fear stories that OCD proposes to you, which then stop you from taking action.

Seriousness is very overrated in my opinion, needing to know all the details, it makes people boring, stiff and rigid, whereas playfulness makes you smile, become more approachable and raises the energy in most situations.

Playfulness says “Let’s give that a try, what’s the worst that can happen?” When OCD says “That will never work.” Can you see how completely opposing those two approaches are? In addition, I think it is better to do a job badly than not at all (at least it gets done) – which flies in the face of those old OCD stories.

One approach says, “Let’s go and find out, so we will know for sure!” And the other implies “I already know for sure.” (which, of course, is an OCD trap.)

When a person is childlike and playful, they are engaging completely in that moment, feeling the music, lost in creativity and experiencing their emotions rather than their thoughts.

I heard it once said that “Men of trust are childlike and men of faith are childish.” I have found that to be very true – trust is not being sure of an outcome, it is the self bravery to accept what might happen and then to just deal with it as best you can. You might say, “I trust myself, to do my best in any moment and won’t beat myself up regardless of any outcome.”

Another way that OCD stops playfulness is the word ‘responsibility.’ Somehow people with OCD feel responsible for their actions, responsible for how others feel and feel responsible for doing the right thing (whatever that is!)

Be careful about what you feel responsible for and explore how that need for responsibility was trained into you (FYI, it was when you were growing up).

It seems that many people with OCD have an internal conundrum within themselves, a battle between a rebel that wants to break free and a sensible character that never truly learned to play as a child.

We humans biologically are always creating, growing new cells, creating energy from food, life from oxygen – it is intrinsically in our nature to create within ourselves.

This desire to create needs be expressed through our external actions too, for our own happiness and fulfilment we must create; families, relationships, art, writing, music, friends, work, dance, communities, gardens, health, food – whatever works for you.

But to become creative – you must welcome playfulness, vulnerability and uncertainness into your life. These are wonderful values to embrace, the freedom from letting go of negative self-limiting beliefs and invalidating ‘what if’ stories can be life-changing.

The ability to laugh (lovingly) at yourself, with yourself and to accept yourself no matter what – is a game-changer!

So, a task should you wish to engage – is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a trapped rebel within me?
  • Did I ever truly learn to play?
  • If I didn’t have OCD, how could I be more playful?
  • Am I more childish or more childlike?
  • Am I being creative or just reactive?
  • Who do I know who is playful and who I respect?
  • What aspects of my life can I stop feeling responsible for?

Being playful is also a great form of exposure therapy, to just put yourself out there, to let the anxiety rise up – and just learn to become comfortable accepting it!

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