Mindfulness and Compassion practices to support your ERP therapy
OCD can be a debilitating illness. Exposure/Response prevention treatments are the gold standard and finding a qualified OCD therapist is important in recovery. However, I have found that for me, ERP needed to be supported by mindfulness, compassion and other mind/body and lifestyle skills and practices. It’s been these practices that I have been studying intensively for the past 8 years. They have radically changed my life and my experience with OCD.
*Feel free to check out the blog. I wrote many of the posts a while ago so some of my ideas have changed, but there is a lot of good material there and it will give you an idea of how these practices work and can help your recovery.
- I am also starting some support groups to teach these skills and discuss these practices in a safe space, and will be posting more information about these groups on this website. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you are interested.
“Instead of rejecting the problems and emotions, or surrendering to them, we can befriend them, working through them to reach an enduring, authentic experience of our inherent wisdom, confidence, clarity, and joy.” Mingyur Rinpoche
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- My approach to living with and healing from OCD is a little bit different than you may be familiar with. After years, of exploring the mind and doing exposures, I have come to believe that the most helpful way to work with OCD is to view it as a scared little friend. It’s just a part of the mind that’s trying to keep us safe. It’s simply responding to unpleasant sensations of anxiety in the body and trying to do something about it. Unpleasant sensations and experiences are part of life, but the problem comes when we resist the thoughts and body sensations that come with OCD. By making friends with OCD, we start to stop the resistance and learn to relate to our experience with kindness and care. We can also learn with compassion practices to cultivate positive sensations and feelings that make us feel safe and loved. After years of feeling anxiety and fear from OCD, these sensations of love can start to transform the nervous system and help support recovery.
- The point of this website and the support groups for me is to help to remind you that you are already whole. You are already beautiful and your life matters more than you think. This whole OCD journey is about coming back home to your own goodness and your own value. It’s about remembering that you matter no matter how much you are struggling with OCD. These mind/body practices can not only support ERP but help us to remember our goodness. They can help us to remember our unique value, gifts, joys, interests and purposes in the world. They help us start to believe that we matter and that there is something to recovery for. There is something more important than OCD and fear to live for. Together we can remind each other that we are stronger and more beautiful that we know.
- Hey, I’m Ryan!
- I spent the better part of three decades living in the mind
- Things were really bad. I would spend 10-12 hours a day obsessing. I was diagnosed with OCD and ended up getting hundreds and hundreds of hours of therapy.. Therapy helped a lot, but something was missing….
- Then, I learned to meditate
- I learned to meet my difficult emotions and sensations with the RAIN Of self compassion
- I practiced and practiced…..I studied and learned everything I could on meditation, habit change, psychology, healing etc.
- I experienced a really difficult spell of Panic Disorder that lasted for over a year
- It was the worst period of my life. I decided to go all in with these mindfulness practices and trust them. I kept practicing..
My brain started to change…I kept practicing..
I learned about habit loops, and started mapping my mind and my anxiety. I started getting curious about what I was really getting from my behaviors. The Real rewards of anxiety(hint:they are not great!) I learned to ride out the waves of anxiety, Panic, and OCD. More change happened….
I started really practicing informally in the moment when anxiety and other emotions came up… I noticed more change…
Over time, however, I started to notice that just turning towards the OCD and making friends with it wasn’t enough. I needed to cultivate love and other positive emotions. I needed to find purpose and meaning and something to live for. I needed to change some of the underlying beliefs that were under some of my thoughts and emotions. I started to realize that I could be mindful of all these disturbing beliefs, but that that’s not as important as love. Just befriending OCD and doing exposures is meaningless unless there is something on the other side. I started to learn to use the compassion practices I had been studying to actively cultivate love and belonging in my life.
COACHING- I coach people in mindfulness, compassion and values based exposure to develop the courage to turn towards difficult emotions like anxiety, fear and anger. Our resistance of these emotions and other difficult body sensations are at the root of our suffering. They drive us to unconscious behaviors that are often out of touch with our heart’s desires. We want more from life yet we find ourselves engaging in the same emotional eating or habitual anxiety habit loops. For years my life was run by fear and anxiety. I had no idea how to deal with anger and I found myself numbing with food or internet searching, or engaging in endless obsessive ruminations. Years or traditional CBT (exposure and response prevention) therapy helped a lot but I never felt like I was getting to the root of the issue. My life was still being run by the unpleasant sensations in my body. With practice and training compassion actually becomes the body’s natural response to suffering. While not always easy, I now try to lead a life where I aim to befriend my experiences, the pleasant and the unpleasant. And when I find myself getting off track from my values or I experience a rush of fear or panic that seems very strong, I can offer myself compassion and tell myself that life isn’t easy and that I am doing the best I can.
The goal here isn’t to get rid of anxiety or difficult sensations and emotions but to train ourselves to befriend life and be with whatever comes up. This ability to move towards our direct experience with awareness gives us the space to choose how we to want to act. These practices are not about learning something and being done with it. They are fundamental shifts in the ways we relate to the world that we can practice forever. As we become more comfortable turning towards our experiences, both the pleasant and unpleasant, we develop the freedom to live a life of agency and self mastery.
A Short Map of healing:
Anxiety habit loop
Example: Hungry/Seek food/Experience Pleasure
- Pleasure tells brain Remember what we ate and where we found it
Example :Anxiety/danger-act-Do something(think our way to solution)/feel less anxious
anxiety/binge eat/feel less anxious
- Context dependent memory gets laid down
- Brain remembers what we did to feel less anxious so it will try the same strategy again.
- anxious thoughts become new trigger
Example: Anxiety/thinking/Feel less anxious
- Two way cycle: Feel anxious, Have more anxious thoughts;Have more anxious thoughts, feel more anxious
- We step out of habit loop by updating reward value. We do this with mindful curiosity
- Disenchantment with old reward- By investigating we see old behaviors not rewarding (they dont feel good in the body) “We ask what am i getting from this?”
- We need something better. Mindfulness and compassion are more rewarding, especially in the long run (curiosity and care feel better in the body)
- This is the I and N of RAIN- RAIN feels better. RAIN steps us out of habit loop
Step out of the habit loop by getting curious with mindful investigation and offering care
RAIN updates reward value
Training the mind:
- Resource anchors (Grounding and compassion)
- Intro to mindfulness(breath ,body scan, sound)
- The habit loop-A model of how the mind works
- Disenchantment from the anxiety habit loop or “What am I getting from this?”
- Updating the reward value(making friends with mindfulness and compassion as the updated reward)
- RAIN of self compassion (Recognize and Accept/Allow)
- I=Investigate/ get curious/explore/”what’s happening in my body right now?”
- I=Investigate beliefs in the body- What do I not want to feel? What are these beliefs keeping me from feeling? Where do they live in the body?
- N=Nurture /Offer care to unmet needs “What do I need right now?”
- Move towards your values from an embodied place (Exposure as investigate in action)
- Continue to cultivate courage to befriend life with formal and informal practices
Mindfulness, Compassion, Exposure and Value based living
Exposure based living means: intentionally moving towards our values even if it brings up unpleasant sensations. We use mindfulness and compassion to investigate and care for these sensations that come up. This is true courage and confidence
Fully Resourced- We mindfully investigate
In need of safety- We offer compassion and care