In this week's podcast, we talk with Dr. Reid Wilson. Reid discussed how to get the theme out of the way and play the moment-by moment game. Reid shares his specific strategies for managing mental compulsion. You are not going to want to miss one minute of this episode.
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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit - Episode 286.
Welcome back, everybody. I am so excited. You guys, we are on number five of this six-part series, and this six-part series on Managing Mental Compulsions literally has been one of the highlights of my career. I am not just saying that. I’m just flooded with honor and pride and appreciation and excitement for you. All the feedback has been incredible. So many of you have emailed me or reached out to me on social media just to let me know that this is helping you. And to be honest with you, I can’t thank you enough because this has been something I’ve wanted to do for so long and I’ve really felt that it’s so needed. And it’s just been so wonderful to get that feedback from you. So, thank you so much.
The other plus people I want to be so grateful for are the guests. Each person has brought their special magic to how to manage mental compulsions. And you guys, the thing to remember here is managing mental compulsions is hard work, like the hardest of hard work. And I want to just honor that it is so hard and it is so confusing and it’s such a difficult thing to navigate. And so, to have Jon talking about mental compulsions and mindfulness and Shala talking about her lived experience and flooding, and Dr. Jonathan Grayson talking about acceptance last week. And now, we have the amazing Reid Wilson coming on and sharing his amazing strategies and tools that he uses with his patients with mental rumination, mental compulsions, mental rituals. Literally, I can’t even explain it. It’s just joy. It’s just pure joy that I get to do this with you and be on this journey with you.
I’m going to do this quick. So, I’ll just do a quick introduction. We do have Dr. Reid Wilson here. Now we’ve had Reid on before. Every single guest here, I just consider such a dear friend. You’re going to love this episode. He brings the mic drops. I’m not going to lie. And so, I do hope that you squeeze every little bit of juice out of this episode. Bring your notepad, get your pen, you’re going to need it, and enjoy. Again, have a beautiful day. As I always say, it is a beautiful day to do hard things. Let’s get onto the show.
Kimberley: I am thrilled to have you, Dr. Reid Wilson.
Reid: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Kimberley: Oh my goodness. Okay. I have been so excited to ask you these questions. I am just jumping out of my skin. I’m so really quite interested to hear your approach to mental compulsions. Before we get started, do you call them mental compulsions, mental rituals, mental rumination? How do you--
Reid: Sure. All of the above doesn’t matter to me. I just don’t call it “pure obsessions, pure obsessionals” because I think that’s a misnomer, but we can’t seem to get away from that.
Kimberley: Can you maybe quickly share why you don’t think we can get away from that? Do you want to maybe-- we’d love to hear your thoughts on that. We haven’t addressed that yet in the podcast.
Reid: Well, typically, we would call-- people write to me all the time and probably do that too, say, “I’m a pure obsessional.” Well, that’s ridiculous. Nobody’s a pure obsessional. What it really is, is I have obsessions and then I have mental compulsions. And so, it’s such a misnomer to be using that term. But what I mean is, how we can’t get away from it is it’s just gotten so completely in the lexicon that it would take a lot of effort to try to expel the term.
Kimberley: Okay. Thank you for clearing that up, because that’s like not something we’ve actually addressed up until this time. So, I’m so grateful you brought that up. So, I have read a bunch of your staff. I’ve had you on the show already and you’re a very dear friend. I really want to get to all of the main points of your particular work. So, let’s talk first about when we’re managing mental compulsions. We’ll always be talking about that as the main goal, but tell me a little bit about why the theme, we’ve got to get out of the way of that.
Reid: Right. And my opinion is this is one of the most important things for us to do and the most difficult thing to accomplish. It’s really the first thing that needs to be accomplished, which is we have to understand. And you’re going to hear me say this again. This is a mental health disorder and it’s a significant disorder. And if we don’t get our minds straight about what’s required to handle it, we’re going to get beaten down left and right. So, of course, the disorder comes into the mind as something very specific. Focusing on the specific keeps us in the territory of the disorders control. So, we need to understand this is a disorder of uncertainty. This is a disorder of uncertainty that brings distress. So, we have that combination of two things. If we’re going to treat the disorder, we cannot bring our focus on our theme. But the theme is very ingrained in everyone.
I talk about signal versus noise, and this is how I want to help people make that transition, which is of course, for all of us in all humanity, every worry comes into the prefrontal cortex as a signal. And we very quickly go, “Oh yeah, well, that’s not important. I don’t need to pay attention to that.” And we turn it over to noise and let go of it and keep going. With OCD, the theme, the topic, the checking, and all the mental rituals that we do are perceived and locked down as signals. And if we don’t convert them into noise, we are stuck.
What I want the client to do is to treat the theme as nothing, and that is a big ask. And not only do we have to treat the theme as nothing, we have to treat it as nothing while we are uncertain, whether it’s nothing or not. So, in advance of an obsession popping up, we really need to dig down during a no problem time and get clear about this. And then we do want to figure out a way to lock that down, which includes “I’m going to act as though this is nothing,” and it has to be accomplished like that. Go ahead.
Kimberley: No. And would you do the same for people, let’s say if they had social anxiety or health anxiety, generalized anxiety? Would you also take the theme out of it?
Reid: Absolutely. But if the theme is in the way, then we need to problem-solve that. So, if we go to health anxiety, okay, I’ve got a new symptom, some pain in the back of my head that I’ve never had before. I have to decide, am I going to go into the physician and have it checked out or am I not? Or am I going to wait a few days and then do it? With that kind of anxiety and fear around health, we have to get closure around “I don’t need to do anything about this.” Sometimes I use something called “postponing.” So, with social anxiety, it can-- I mean, with health anxiety, it can work really well to go, “Well, I’m having this new symptom, do I have to immediately go in and see the physician and get it checked out? Can I wait 24 hours? Yes, I can. I’ve already been diagnosed with health anxiety. So, I know I get confused about this stuff. So, I’m going to wait 24 hours.” So, what does that give us then? Now I have 24 hours to treat the obsession as nothing because I don’t need to focus on it. I’ve already decided, if I’m still worried tomorrow, I’m making an appointment, we’re going in. That gives me the opportunity to work on this worry as an obsession because I’ve already figured it out. The reason we want to do that so diligently is we have to go up one level of abstraction up to the disorder itself. And that’s why we have to get off of this to come up here and work on this.
Kimberley: This is so good. And you would postpone, use that same skill for all the themes as well? I’m just wanting to make sure so people clarify.
Reid: Well, sure. I mean, postponing is a tactic. I wouldn’t say we can do postponing across the board because some people have-- it really depends on what the obsession is and what the thinking ritual is as to whether we can use it. But it’s one of them that can be used.
Kimberley: Amazing. Tell me about-- I mean, that requires a massive shift in attitude. Can you share a little bit about that?
Reid: Yeah. And if you think about-- I use that term a lot around attitude, but we’ve got some synonyms in attitude. What is my disposition toward this? Have I mentioned mental health disorder? What do I want my orientation to be? How do I want to focus on it? And we want to think about really attitude as technique, as skill set. So, what we know is the disorder wants some very specific things from us. It wants us to be frightened by that topic. It wants us to have that urge to get rid of it and have that urge to get rid of it right now. And so, that begins to give us a sense of what is required to get better. And that again is up here.
So, why do you do mental counting? Why do you do rehearsal mentally? Why do you try to neutralize through praying? When you look at some of those, the functions of some of those or compulsions and urge to do the compulsions, it is to fill my mind so I don’t get distracted again, it is to reassure myself, it is to make sure everything is going to be okay. It is to get certain. And so, when we know that that is the drive of the disorder, we begin to see, what do we need to do broadly in general? And that is, I need to actually operate paradoxically. If it needs me to do this, feel this, think this, I’m going to do everything I can to manipulate that pattern and do the opposite. It wants me to take this theme seriously, I’m going to work on-- and really it has to be said like that. I’m going to work on not taking it seriously. So, that’s the shift. If we can get a sense of the attitude and the principles that go along with all of that, then moment by moment, we’ll know what to do in those moments.
Kimberley: We’ve had guests talking about mindfulness and we will have Lisa Coyne talking about act and Jon Grayson talking about acceptance, and you really talk more about being aggressive. How do you feel about all of those and where do they come together, or where are they separate? How would you apply these different tools for someone with mental compulsions?
Reid: Yeah, sure. Mindfulness is absolutely a skill set that we need to have. Absolutely. We are trying to get perspective. We’re trying to get some distance. We would like to detach. That’s what we’re trying to do. But what are we trying to be mindful of? We’re trying to be mindful of the belief that this topic is important. We’re trying to be mindful of the need to ritualize that is created by the theme. So, the end game is mindfulness and detachment. That’s where we’re going. My opinion is, the opening gambits, the opening moves, it’s very difficult to go from a frightened, terrified, scared, and slide over to neutral and detached. It’s just difficult.
And so, I think initially, we need to be thinking about a more aggressive approach, which is I’m going to go swing in this pendulum from, “I can’t stand this, this is awful.” I’m going to swing over right past mindfulness over to this more aggressive stance of, “I want this, let’s get going. I’m taking this theme on.” The aggressiveness is a determination of my commitment to do the work.
And here’s the paradox of it. I’m going to address on the disorder by sitting back. My action is to go, “I’m okay. This is all right.” And that’s a mindful place to get to. But you have to know we’re going after this big, aggressive bully, and it requires an intense amount of determination and you have to access your determination over and over and over again. You don’t just get determined and it’s steady. So, we just got to keep getting back to that. “No, no, I want to do this work. I want to get my outcome picture. I want to have my mind back. I want to go back to school. I want to be able to connect with my family in a loving way, with having one-third of my mind distracted. I want that back very strongly. And therefore, If I have to go through this work to get there, I want to go through this work.” We can maybe talk more about what that whole message of “I want this” means, but here it is, which is, “I want this” is a kind of determination that’s going to help drive the work.
Kimberley: Yeah. Let’s go there because that is so important. So, tell me about “I want this.” Tell me about why that is so important. So, you’ve talked about “I want to get better and I want to overcome this,” and so forth. Tell me more about the “I want this comfort.”
Reid: Well, let’s think about-- you really only have two choices in terms of your reaction to any present moment, either I want this moment, so I’m present to this moment, or I don’t want this moment. It’s very simple in that way. When I don’t want this moment, I’m now resisting this present moment. And what that means practically speaking is, now I’ve taken part of my consciousness, part of my mind that is available for the treatment and I’ve parked it. I’ve taken it offline and actually provoking myself, sticking myself with, “Are you sure you want to do this? Is this really safe? Don’t you think-- maybe we could do this later and not now.” So, there’s a big drive to resist that we need to be aware of. Have I mentioned this yet? This is a mental health disorder that is very tough to treat. I want 100% of my mental capacities available to do the treatment. I’ll never have all of that because I’m always going to have some form of resistance, but I need to get that resistant part of me on the sideline not messing with me, and then let me go forward all like that.
One of the confusions sometimes people get around this work when I talk about it is it’s not, “Oh, I want to have another obsession right now,” or “I want to have an urge to do my compulsion right now. I want that.” No. What we’re talking about is a present moment. So, if my obsession pops up, if it pops up, I want it. If I’m having that urge to do my compulsion, I want it. And why is that? Because we have to go through it to get to the other side. I have to be present to both the obsessions and the urges to do the compulsions in order to do the treatment. So, that’s the aggressive piece. “Come on, bring it on. Let’s get going. I’m scared of this.” Of course, I don’t want--
Kimberley: I’m just going to ask.
Reid: I don’t want to feel it. I don’t want to, but I’m clear that to do the treatment, it requires me to go through the eye of the needle. If you’re like I am, there’s plenty of days when you don’t want to go to the gym. You don’t really want to work out or sometimes you don’t even want to go to bed as early as you should, but if we want the outcome of that good rest, that workout, then we manifest that in the moment and get moving.
We’re disrupting a pattern. When I talked about postponing, it’s a disruption of this major pattern. If we insert postponing into these obsessions and mental compulsions are impulsive, I have that obsession and I pretty immediately have that urge to do the compulsion. And then I begin doing my mental compulsion. If we slide something in there, that’s what mindfulness does go, “Oh, there it is again. Oh, I’m doing it.” Even if you can’t sustain that, you’ve just modified for a few moments, the pattern that you’ve had no control over. So, that’s where we want to be going. And you know how I sometimes say it is, my job is to-- as the client is to purposely choose voluntarily to go toward what scares the bejesus out of me. I don’t know if you have bejesus over there in California, but in North Carolina, we got bejesus, and you got to go after it.
Kimberley: I think in California, it’s more of a non-kind word.
Reid: Ah, yes. Okay. Well, we won’t even spell it.
The Moment By Moment Game
Kimberley: That’s okay. So, I have questions. I have so many. When you’re talking about this moment, are you talking about your way of saying the moment-by-moment game? Is that what you’re talking about? Tell me about the moment-to-moment game.
Reid: Sure. I’m sure people hearing this the first time would go, “Well, don’t be-- you’ve lost rapport with me now because you called it a game.” But I’ve been doing this for 35 years, so it’s not like I am not aware of the suffering that goes on here. The only reason to call it a game is simply to help structure our treatment approach.
Kimberley: That’s interesting, because I think of a game as like you’re out to win. There’s a score. That’s what I think of when I--
Reid: That’s what this is. That is actually what this is.
Kimberley: I don’t think of it as a game like Ring A Rosie kind of stuff. I think of it as like let’s pull our socks up kind of stuff. Is that what you’re referring to?
Reid: We’ve got this mental game that we are-- we’ve been playing this game and always losing. So, we’re already engaged in it. We’re just one down and on the losing end, on the victim end. So, when I talk about it as moment by moment, I want to have, like we’ve been talking about, this understanding of these sets of principles about what needs to happen. It wants me to do this, I’m going to do the opposite, this is paradoxical and so forth. And then we need to manifest it moment by moment. So, how do we do this? I will really talk about six moments and I’ll quickly go through the first three because the first three moments are none of our business. We can’t do anything about them.
So, moment #1 is just an unconscious stimulus of the obsession, and that’s all. That’s all it is. Moment #2 is that obsession popping up. And moment #3 is my fear reaction to the obsession because obsessions are frightening by their construct. And so, now I’ve got those three moments. As I’m saying, we can’t do anything about those three moments. These three moments are unconsciously mediated. They are built right on into the neurology.
Now we’ve got in my view three more moments. So, moment #4 is really the foundation of what we do now, what we do next, which is a mindful response. And it is just stepping back in the moment. Suddenly the obsession comes up and I’m anxious and I’m worried about it and I’m having the urge to do the compulsion. And what I want to train myself to do, which can take a little time sometimes, is when I hear my obsession pop up. The way I just described it right there is already a stepping back. When I recognize that I’ve started to obsess and sometimes it takes a while to even recognize it, I want to step back in that moment and just name it. They have that expression, “Name it to tame it.” So, it’s the start of that. So, I’m stepping back in that moment going, “Oh, I’m doing it again,” or, “Oh, there it is.”
Now, the way I think about it, if I can do that and just step back and name it, I just won that moment because I just inserted myself. I insinuated myself into the pattern. OCD doesn’t want you anywhere near this at this moment. It doesn’t want you to be labeling the obsession an obsession. It wants you to be naming the fearful topic of it. So, I’m going to step back in that moment. And if I can accomplish that, great, I’ve won that moment.
If I can go further in that moment, of course, in the end, we want to be able to do that, moment #5 is taking the position of, “I’m treating this as nothing. There is my obsession. I’m treating it as nothing.” And there’s all kinds of things you can say to yourself that represent that. “This is none of my business. Oh, there it is trying to go after me. Not playing. I’m not playing this game.” Because it really is a game that the disorder has created. And what we’re saying is, “Look, I’m not playing your game anymore. I’m playing my game. And this is what my game looks like.” I’m going to notice it when it pops up, the obsession and the urge to do my compulsion, and I’m going to go, “Not playing,” whatever way I say it.
And then moment #6, and this is a controversial moment for others. Moment #6, I’m going to turn away from it. I’m going to just redirect my attention, because this is nothing, but it’s drawing my attention. I’m going to treat it as nothing by engaging in some other thought or action that I can find. And even if I can refocus my attention for eight seconds, even if it pops right back up again like, “Where are you going? This is important. You need to pay attention to it,” even if I turn away for eight seconds, I’ve won that moment because I’m no longer responding to this over here.
Now, why I say this is controversial for some folks is it sounds like distraction. It sounds like, “Oh, you’re not doing exposure. You’re just telling the person to distract themselves. And that’s opposite of what we want to be doing.” I don’t see it that way.
Kimberley: No, I don’t either. I think it’s healthy to engage in life.
Reid: And if we think about, what we’re really trying to do is to sit with a generic sense of uncertainty, then this allows us to do it because, in essence, the obsession is a kind of question that is urging you to answer. And when you turn away, engage in something else, you are leaving that question on the table. And that is exposure to pure uncertainty. I just feel like in our field, in exposure, we’re doing so much to ask people to expose themselves to the specifics and drill down about that as a way to change neurology. And we know that’s really the gold standard based on all the research that has been done. But I think it really adds a degree of distress focusing on that specific that maybe we can circumvent.
Kimberley: Do you see a place for the exposure in some settings? I mean, you’re talking about being aggressive with it. Does that ever involve, like you said, staring your fear in the face purposely?
Reid: Well, yeah. And how do you do that? Well, what you do is you either structure or spontaneously step into circumstances that would tend to provoke the obsession. So, do something that I’ve been avoiding for fear that thought is going to come up or anything that I have been blocking or avoiding out of fear of having the obsession or anything that tends to provoke the obsession. I want to step into those scenes. So, step into the scene, but the next move isn’t like, “Okay, come on obsessions. I need to have an obsession now.” No. If you step into the scene that typically you have an obsession with and you don’t have the obsession, well, that’s cool. That’s fine. That’s progress. That’s great. Now you got to find something else to step into it with. However, most people with thinking rituals, it goes on most of the day anyway. So, we’re going to have a naturalistic exposure just living the day.
Kimberley: The day is the exposure.
Reid: And for people who are structuring it and you know you’re about to step into a scene where you have the obsession, you can, in that way, be prepared to remind yourself, cue yourself ahead of time what your intention is. The more difficult practice is moving through your day and then getting caught by it. So, you get caught by it and then you start digging to fix the content and it takes a little more time to go, “Oh, I’m doing it again.” We’re doing exposure. This is exposure. You have to do exposure. I’m just saying that there’s a different way to do it instead of sitting down and conjuring up the obsession in order to sit with the distress of the specific.
Kimberley: I’m going to ask you a question that I haven’t asked the others, just because it’s coming up specifically for me. Some clients or some of my therapist clients have reported, “Okay, we’re doing good. We’re doing good. We’re not doing the mental compulsion.” And the obsession keeps popping up. “Come on, just a little. Come on, let’s just work it out.” And they go, “No, no, no, not engaging in you.” And then it comes back up. “No, no, no, not engaging in you.” And much of the time is spent saying, “Not today, not today,” or whatever terminology. And then they become concerned that instead of doing mental compulsions, they’re just spending the whole time saying, “Not today, not today.” And they’re getting concerned. That’s becoming compulsive as well. So, what would you say? Are you feeling like that’s a great technique? Where would you intervene if not?
Reid: Well, I think it’s fine if it is working like we’re describing it, which is not today, turning away, engaging in something else. So, we’ve got to be careful around this “not today” thing if you forget to do--
Kimberley: The thing
Reid: Moment #6, which is find something else to be engaged in. Then you’re going to be-- it’s almost, again, you’re trying to neutralize, “Oh, this is nothing.” So, we want to make sure that we really complete the whole process around that. And the other way that we-- again, mindfulness and acceptance, the way we can get to it is we have the expression of front burner and back burner. So, we want to take the obsessiveness and the urges and just move them to the back burner, which means they can sit there, they can try to distract you, they can try to pull your attention. So, here you are at work and you’re really trying to do right by the disorder, but you’re trying to work, and it’s still coming over here trying to get to you. You’re going to be a little distracted. You’re not going to be performing your work quite as well as you would if your mind were clear. And that is the risk that you need to take. That is the price that you need to pay. And that’s why you need to have that determination and that perspective to be able to say, “Geez, this is hard. This is what I need to be doing.” You have to talk to yourself. You have to. We talk to ourselves all day long. This is thinking, thinking, thinking. So, we know people with thinking rituals are talking about the urges and so forth. And we’ve got to redirect how we talk about it in the moment.
Kimberley: Okay. So good. What I really want to hear about is your ideas around rules.
Reid: Sure. And again, nobody seems to talk about rules. I’m a very big component or a proponent of rules. And here’s one reason. What are thinking rituals all about? It’s all about thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking. What do we need to do in the treatment strategy? Well, first off, the disorder is compelling me to fill my mind with thoughts in order to feel safe. I need to come up with a strategy and tactics that reduce my thinking. Then if I don’t reduce my thinking, I’m not going to get stronger. One of the ways to reduce my thinking is to say, “I don’t need to think about this anymore. I’ve already figured out what I need to do.” So, during no problem times, during therapeutic times, whether you’re sitting with your therapist or figuring this out on your own, you come up with literally what we’ve been talking about, “What I need to do when an obsession takes place? And then here’s what I’m going to do next.”
Kimberley: So, you’re making decision--
Reid: I’m going to turn my attention. I’m sorry, go ahead.
Kimberley: Sorry. You’re making decisions ahead of time. Is that what you mean?
Reid: Absolutely. You’re making decisions. This is rules of engagement. So, we’re not talking about having to get really specific moment by moment. We’re talking about thinking rituals. So, it’s rules of engagement. Well, simply put, initially, the rule of engagement has to do with those six moments we talked about, which is, okay, when this pops up, this is how I’m going to respond to it. So, we want to have that. All that we’ve talked about decide that ahead of time. And then as I would say, lock it down, lock it down. And now the part of you who is victim to the disorder, when the obsessiveness starts again, when the urge to do the compulsion starts again, I want to have all of me stand behind the rules, because if we don’t have predetermined rules, what is going to run the day? What’s going to win the day? What’s going to win the day in the moment is the disorder shows up. The victim side, the victim to the disorder is also going to show up and it’s going to say, those rules that I was talking about before, “This seems like a bad idea. I don’t think in this circumstance that’s the right thing to do.” So, if we don’t lock it down and we don’t have a hierarchy, which is, what I was saying, we’re not killing off the side of us that gets obsessive and is being controlled by the disorder. But we are elevating the therapeutic voice, “I’ll do that again with my hands.”
This is a zero-sum game. So, if I bring my attention to what I’ve declared what I need to do now, then by default, my attention toward that messages of my threatened self are going to diminish. And this is what I’ve been talking about with you around determination. You have to be so determined, because it’s so tantalizing. Even if they say this isn’t going to take me very long to complete this mental ritual, and then it’ll be off my plate, and I won’t have to be scared about the outcome of not doing this, why wouldn’t I do that? So, that’s what we’re really competing against in those moments of engagement.
Kimberley: Right. So good. I’m so grateful for what you’re sharing. Okay. I want to really quickly touch on, and I think you have, but I want to make sure I’m really clear in terms of thinking strategically. It sounds like everything you just said is a part of that thinking strategic model. I love the idea that you come into the day, having made your decisions upfront with the rules. You’ve got a plan, you know the steps in the moment. Thinking strategically, tell me if that’s what that is or if there’s something we’ve got to add to it.
Reid: Yeah. So, yes, all that you just said is that, that we’re understanding the principles of treatment based on the principles of what the disorder has intended for us. And then we’re trying to manifest those principles in, how do we act in the moment? How do we engage in that in the moment? The other thing we want to think about in terms of how I think about strategic treatment is we’re looking for the pattern and messing with the pattern. So, I talked earlier about postponing. We insert postponing into the pattern. It’s much easier to add something to a pattern than to try to pull something away. So, if we add postponing or add that beat where I go, “Oh, there’s my obsession,” now we’re starting to mess with the pattern. I’ll give you a couple of-- these are really tactics. Let me tell you about a couple of others and these seem surprisingly ridiculous. Okay, maybe not surprisingly ridiculous.
Kimberley: Appropriately ridiculous.
Reid: I’m sure you experience this. I experience a lot where people go, “Look, I’d love to do what you’re saying, but these obsessions are just pounding away at me all day long. I can’t interrupt them. I can’t do it.” What I would like people to be focused on is, what can we do to make keeping the ritual, keeping the obsession more difficult than letting it go? So, we talked about postponing. That doesn’t quite do what I’m saying right now. One of the things I’ll have people do is to sing it. I know, and I’m not going to demonstrate.
Kimberley: Please. I will.
Reid: And here’s what you do. If I can’t stop my obsessions, I can’t park them, then when I notice – there’s moment #4 – when I notice my obsessions-- and we can do this in a time-limited-- I’m a cognitive therapist, so we do behavioral experiment. So, we can just do an experiment. We can go, “Okay, for the next three days, three weeks, three hours, whatever we decide, anytime I notice the obsession coming up, instead of saying it urgently and anxiously in my mind, I must sing it.” It just means lilting my voice. “Oh my gosh, how am I ever going to get through this? I don’t count the tiles on the ceiling. I’m not sure I can really handle what’s going to happen next. Oh my gosh, I feel so anxious about--” you see why I don’t demonstrate.
Kimberley: Encore, encore.
Reid: SO, it’s just lilting the voice like that. A couple of things are going on. One is obviously we’re disrupting the pattern. But just as important, who in their right mind, having a thought that is threatening, would sing it? So, simply by singing my obsession instead of stating it, I’m degrading the content, I’m degrading the topic. And so, that’s why I would do it. And again, that’s what we were saying. You got to lock it down. You got to go signal versus noise. This is noise. It’s acceptable to me to be doing this. This is very difficult. With such a short period of time, I don’t drill that home as much as I might. This is really, really hard, but it is an intervention.
So, singing it is one thing that I will sometimes have some people do. And the other one is to write it down. And this means literally carrying a notepad with you and a pen throughout your day. And anytime your obsession starts to pop up, you pull that notepad out and you start writing your obsession. And I’m not saying put it in an organized paragraph fashion or a bulleted list or anything like that. We’re talking about stenographer in the courtroom. I want to, in that moment, when I start obsessing, to step back, pull out my notepad, because I said for the next three days, I’m going to do this, and then I’m going to write every single thing that’s popping up in my mind.
Kimberley: So, it’d be like, “What if you want to kill her? You might want to kill her. There’s a knife. I noticed a knife. Do I want to kill her with a knife? Am I a bad person?”
Reid: Oh, it’s harder than that. It’s harder than that, Kimberley, because you’re not only saying, “Do I want to kill her? There’s the knife. Oh, what did I just say?” Now I got to write, “Oh, what did I just say? Oh, the knife. Oh, the knife. Do I want to kill her with the knife?” So, every utterance, we’re not saying every utterance. And so, there’s going to be a message of, “Did I just say that right? Now I can’t remember what I said. Damn it, damn it.” All of that. Now, again, a couple of things are happening. I’m changing modes of communication. The disorder wants me to do this by thinking. You and I know, you can have an obsessive thought a thousand times in a day. You can’t write it a thousand times. So, now we’re switching from the mode of communication that serves the disorder to a mode of communication that disrupts it. And if I really commit myself to writing this, after a while, now I’m at a choice point. Now when obsession pops up later and I go, “Oh, I’m obsessing again. Well, I can either start writing it,” or “Maybe I can just let it go right now because I don’t want to write it. It’s just so much work. Okay, let me go distract myself.” So, all of a sudden, we’ve done exposure and response prevention without the struggle, because I don’t want to do what I have agreed to do locked down, which is write this.
So, it empowers. Writing it, just like singing it, empowers me to release it, especially people with thinking rituals. The whole idea of using postponing around the rituals, singing the obsession if I need to, writing down the obsession as tactics to help break things up, and then just keep coming back to what’s our intention here. This is a mental health disorder. I keep getting sucked into the topic. I don’t think I can-- here’s I guess the last thing I would say on my end is, this is it, which is, I don’t know if this is going to work. I don’t know how painful whatever is coming next is going to be by not doing my ritual. I am going to have faith. I mean, this is what happens. You have to have faith and a belief in something and someone outside of your mind, because your mind is contaminated and controlled by the disorder. You can’t keep going up into your thinking and try to figure out how to get out of this wet paper bag. You’re just not-- you can’t. So, you got to have faith and trust. And that’s a giant leap too. Because initially, when we do treatment with people, however we do it, they’ve got to be doing something they don’t know is going to be helpful.
When people start doing the singing thing or the writing down thing, for instance, after a while, they go, “Wow, that really worked. Okay, I’m going to do that some more.” And that’s what we need. Initially, you just have to have faith and experiment. That’s why we like to do short experiments. I don’t say, “Hey, do this over the next 12 weeks and you’ll get better.” I go, “Look, I know you think this over here, I’m thinking it’s this over here. How about we structure something for the next X number of minutes, hours, days, and just see what you notice if you can feel like you can afford to do that.”
Kimberley: So good. I’ve just got one question and then I’m going to let you go. I’m going to first ask my question and then I want you to explain, tell us about your course. When you sing the song, I usually have my staff sing it to a song they know, like Happy Birthday or Auld Lang Syne, whatever it may be. You are saying just up and down, “No, no, no,” that kind of thing. Is there a reason for that?
Reid: Well, I don’t want people to have to make a rhyme. I don’t want them to have to--
Kimberley: It’s just for the sake of it.
Reid: I’m totally fine with what you’re saying. Okay, I’m going to-- you can figure it out. It’s like going, “Okay, anytime I hear my obsession come up, I’m going to make my obsession the voice of Minnie Mouse. So, I’m going to degrade it by having to be a little mouse on my shoulder, anything to degrade it.” If you’ve got to set little songs or you ask your client what they would put it to, then yeah. And then in the session, we’re talking about the therapist, demonstrate it and have them practice it with you in order to get it.
Kimberley: Right. I’ve even had clients who are good at accents, like do it in different accents. They bring out--
Reid: You’ve got a good one. You’re really practicing that Australian accent.
Kimberley: Very. I practiced for many years to get this one. All right. You talk about the six-moment game. I’ve had the joy of having taken that course. Can you tell us if that’s what you want to tell us about, about where people can hear about you and all the good stuff you’ve got?
Reid: Sure. Well, I would start with just saying anxieties.com. It’s anxieties, plural, .com. And that’s my website, a free website. It’s got every anxiety disorder and OCD. You’ve got written instruction around how to do some of the work that we’re talking about. And then I’ve got tons of free video clips that people can watch and learn a bunch of stuff. I laid out, in the last two years, a four-hour course, and I filmed it. And so, it is online now. I take people all the way through what I call OCD & the 6-Moment Game: Strategies and Tactics, because I want to empower people in that way. So, I talk about all the stuff that you and I are rushing over right now. It’s got a full written transcript as an eBook, a PDF eBook. I’ve got a workbook that lets people figure out how to do these practices on their own. All of that. In fact, you can get-- I can’t say how to get it at this moment. Maybe you can post something, I don’t know. But I will give anybody the workbook, that’s 37 pages, and it takes you through a bunch of stuff. No cost to you, send it to anybody else you want.
So, I feel like that, first off, we don’t have enough mental health professionals to treat the people with mental health disorders in this world today. And so, we need to find delivery systems. That will help reach more people. And I believe in Stepped Care. And Stepped Care is a protocol, both in physical medicine and in mental health, which says that first step of Stepped Care and treatment is self-help. And I call it self-help treatment, because the first step is relatively inexpensive, empowering the patient or the client, and giving them directions about how to get stronger. And a certain percentage of people, that will be enough for them. And so, all of us who have written self-help books and so forth, that’s our intention. And now, I’m trying to go one step beyond self-help books to be able to have video that gives people more in-depth.
What I want is for that first step, the principles that are in that first step, go up to the next step. So, if a self-help course or a book or whatever is not sufficient to finish the work, then you go up one level to maybe a self-help group or a therapeutic group and work further there. And if you can’t complete your work, then go up the next step, which is individual treatment, the next step, which is intensive outpatient treatment, the next step, mixture medications, and so forth. And so, if we can carry a set of principles up, then everybody’s on the same page and you’re not starting all over again. So, I focus on step one. I’m a simple guy.
Kimberley: I’m focused on step one too, which is what you’re doing with me right now, which makes me so happy. I’m so grateful for you for so many reasons.
Reid: Well, I’m happy to be doing this, spending time with you. It’s great. And trying to figure out how to deliver the information concisely. It’s still a work in progress. Thank you for giving me an opportunity.
Kimberley: No, thank you. I’ve loved hearing about all of these major points of your work. I’m so grateful for you. So, thank you so much for coming on again. I didn’t have a coughing fit during this episode like I did the last one.
Reid: Nothing to make fun of you about.
Kimberley: Thank you so much, Reid. You’re just the best.
Reid: Well, great constructing this whole thing. This is what I’m talking about too, is to have a series of us that eventually everybody will see and work their way down and get all these different positions and opinions from people who already do this work. And so, that’s great. You have a choice, so that’s great.
Kimberley: Love it. Thank you.
Reid: Okay. Talk again sometime.