People with OCD are often weighed down by heavy feelings of shame and guilt. This can lead to retreating from society, hiding away and feeling unworthy of love.
While the best treatment for OCD is ERP & CBT. As a former OCD sufferer, I found I wasn’t able to engage in treatment until I’d worked on dealing with my internalised shame.
While there’s much debate on the cause of OCD, many including the NHS acknowledge it may be more common in people who have been bullied, abused or neglected.
Well, I certainly ticked all three of those boxs, bullied at school, abused by my alcoholic father who left when I was seven. It was this trauma that stopped me from progressing with my OCD recovery.
While I consciously wanted to heal, I unconsciously wanted to remain helpless to punish myself for what I subconsciously believed to be my fault.
At the start of my recovery journey, I noticed that the emotional pain I felt would generally stay the same but the thoughts behind the pain would change. For example, I would feel a sense of dread and despair if I didn’t lock my door seven times before leaving the house. I would then feel that exact same emotion if I developed a cold sore around other people, for fear of infecting them.
I learned that the thoughts almost became irrelevant, they were triggers for an unconscious decision I had made about myself during imprint period (ages 0 – 8).
I realised I was running away from what I really needed to do, which was confront my trauma.
I switched my focus away from my intrusive thoughts and for the first time I stopped repressing my feelings. I threw myself into my emotions and allowed myself to feel.
The process of discovering unconscious beliefs has its roots in psychotherapy. I discovered a lot of things, namely that I’d been given an unhealthy amount of responsibility as a child. After my Father had left, my mother was unable to cope with looking after us so I took on most of the caring duties at the age of seven. This helped strengthen my internal critic and I spent the rest of my life fearing anything other than perfection.
So what are the first steps in healing trauma?
Identify your earliest memory of the emotions you are feeling. Ask yourself what it was about that moment that leads to core beliefs being formed.
When you have highlighted this, ask yourself how the event impacted you emotionally and how it shaped your view of others and the world.
Now visualise your adult self entering the event/memory and approach your past self.
Finally, engage in a conversation with your past self. Validating their emotions and expressing that this does not define them or suggest that all other life events will be this damaging.
This exercise is an extremely helpful Inner Child visualisation practise and offers the subconscious mind compassion and acknowledgement. This really helped me to break the cycle of inner self criticism.
It’s also important to mention that these techniques are not for short term relief but instead are practices that over time create powerful mental changes. Recovery is a journey and takes time but is so worth it.
After doing this inner child work it prepared me to heal the rest of my OCD with tried and tested techniques such as ERP.