Welcome back, everybody. Today we are talking about Acceptance Scripts with Dr Jon Grayson.
So happy to be here with you as we tie together our series on imaginals and scripts. Today, we have the amazing Dr. Jon Grayson and he is going to talk about acceptance scripts and the real importance of making sure we use acceptance when we’re talking about scripts and imaginals. I’m so excited to share this episode with you. I think it really does, again, tie together the two other guests that we’ve had on the show in this series.
For those of you who are listening to this and haven’t listened to the other two episodes of the series, go back two weeks. We’ve got the first one with Krista Reed and she’s talking about scripts and the way she uses them. Then we have Shala Nicely and she talks about her own specific way of using scripts. Again, the reason that I didn’t just have one person and leave it at that is I do think for each person, we have to find specific ways in which we do these skills and tools so we can make it specific to your obsessions and your intrusive thoughts. One explanation or one version or variety of this is probably not enough. I want to really deep dive in this series so that you feel, number one, you have a good understanding of what an imaginal and a script is. Number two, you know how to use them, you know the little nuanced pieces of information that you need to help make sure OCD and your OCD-related disorder doesn’t make it a compulsion because it can. I really wanted to get some groundwork so that you feel confident using imaginal and scripts in your own treatment and your own recovery.
Again, for those of you who are a little lost and feel like you need a better understanding of OCD, of how OCD works, how it keeps you stuck, the cycle of OCD and you want to make your own individual OCD and ERP plan, you can go to CBTSchool.com. We have a full seven-hour course that will walk you through exactly how I do it with my patients, and you can do that at your own pace. It’s an on-demand course. It is not therapy, but it will help you if you don’t have access to therapy or if you’re really just wanting to understand and do a deep dive and understand what ERP is and how you can use it. That is there for you. But if you are someone who is just wanting to get to the good stuff, let’s go over to the episode with Dr. Jon Grayson. Thank you, Dr. Jon Grayson, for coming on the show again. Always a pleasure to have such amazing people who really know their stuff. I’ll enjoy this episode with you. Let’s go.
Kimberley: Welcome, Dr. Jon Grayson. I’m so happy to have you back.
Jon: It is always fun to be with you.
Kimberley: Okay. It’s funny that you are number three, because I probably need you to be number one. Almost all of the scripting I ever learned was from your book. I think that even Shala Nicely came on and spoke about how a lot of what she does is through your book as well. Let’s just talk about the way in which you walk people through an imaginal or a script. Now do you call it imaginal or script? Do you think they’re synonymous? Do you have a different way of explaining it?
Jon: I think jargon-wise, they’re synonymous. I think by definition-- I feel weird saying that by definition because we made it up. I came up with the name “script” because originally, imaginal exposure suggested I’m just dealing with all the horrors and person’s just going to think about it. I changed the name to “script” because I was including both. What are you being exposed to? What might happen and why would you take this risk? Because I feel like the script is not only to get used to the material, but we remind the person, why am I doing this? What am I getting out of taking this horrible risk? Why would I want to live with that?
Integral to the Acceptance Script is the whole idea of learning acceptance. Because too often, I think the biggest problem I see in most therapists is they just jump into doing exposure without making sure the person has done level 1 acceptance, which is “I want to live with uncertainty,” because to say “I want to live with uncertainty” is to say, “I am willing to cope if the worst things happen.” It’s not just this general idea, it’s like going to the extreme. “I’m willing to live, even if this happens. I’m willing to drive a car knowing that I might get paralyzed and disfigured in a car crash.” I think that’s acceptance because if you’re telling me you’re never going to crash in a car and you know that’s true, I guess that’s a nice comforting thought that you might be in for a shock. We’re willing to take that risk. I think across the board, it’s always willing to live with the worst possible.
Scripts try to encapsulate that. They’re trying to help bring the person not only to confront their fear but remind them of all the ways they want to cope with it. It is not a reassurance thing because let’s face it, the worst thing happening, saying “I’ll cope with the worst” is not really reassuring in a sense because it’s something you really don’t want to happen. But I guess the goal is, first of all, if it happens, you will do something that’s coping or not.
I think non-acceptance-- God bless you. I’m glad we’re live so people can see you were sneezing. I just didn’t go into a religious ecstasy. I think we see non-acceptance insidiously all over the place without realizing it. In the beginning of the pandemic, so many people were going like, “Well, this can’t last all summer. I can’t deal with that.” That is a statement of avoidance and non-acceptance. I was listening to that and in the back of my mind, it’s like, “Let’s see. Everything they’ve told us makes it seem like this is going on for two years because they’re not finding a vaccine.” Seriously, you can’t take it. You’re not going to do it. What are you going to do? In retrospect, everybody would have to admit, “Well, yeah, it was not fun, it was awful, but I lived through it.”
Acceptance would’ve been, “Well, how am I going to try to make the best of this?” Making the best of it isn’t wonderful, which I guess brings us to the first point about acceptance because I think in the Western world, we make everything glossy and pretty and beautiful. Acceptance is just this wonderful land of zen happiness. It’s like I’m accepting everything is so good and, in reality, the best way to describe acceptance is that it sucks in the short run. In the short run, acceptance means “I’m going to be willing to embrace what seems to me the second-best life. This is what I want, I can have it, I will embrace this.”
The prime reason to do acceptance is you don’t have a choice. The other world doesn’t exist. In the beginning of the pandemic, Kathy and I were doing our pandemic walk, my wife Kathy. We were doing our pandemic walk. I remember because you’re terrified of everybody and you’re walking looking around. Kathy says to me, “God, this would be such a great day if all this wasn’t happening.” I said to her, “You’re wrong, Kathy,” which for all the listeners should immediately cue them into the idea that being married to a psychologist is not necessarily fun. I said to her, “It is a beautiful day. We’re with each other. Here we are. We’re holding hands, taking a walk. It’s really pretty. We’re going to be spending the whole day together.” The truth is, it is a great day AND it’s horrible that all of this is happening. I think acceptance is always AND. We always talk about letting stuff be there as if it’s very passively like, “Oh, I can just let it be there and not bother me.” No, it’s really horrible.
Let me tell this really horrible story, which I can’t remember if I’ve told on here, but it’s a more graphic description of what acceptance looks like, if I may. A young girl was brought to me, 17, was really in terrible shape. I mean, she had been hospitalized, she had suicide attempts. So anxious, she couldn’t tolerate being in a counsel’s office for more than one hour when she first came in. Her meds were a mess. Over the next three months, we got her meds in line and she really worked incredibly hard considering where she was. And then in December, they asked, could she be in my support group? I said, “Well, it’s not really for kids.” They talked me into things, “We think she’s mature.” First of all, whenever she spoke up in the group, whatever she said would be brilliantly insightful that would just knock everybody out. She did not look old, but nobody could believe she was only 17.
As the year went on, we were tapering off sessions. The last time I saw her in June, her parents, her and her brother were driving out to the desert outside of LA looking for a vacation getaway place. On their way there, a drunk driver in her third DUI rammed the car and killed my patient Ruby and her 14-year-old brother. I don’t have to tell you how devastated the parents were. I could talk a lot of stories that are amazing about them because I saw them starting about three weeks after their loss. At which point they said, “We want to be more than the parents of dead kids, but we can’t imagine anything else.” I said, “Well, I can tell you what treatment will be like, but it just seems like words.” They agreed it’ll be just words, but it’s just nice to hear there’s something. They coped amazingly well. But the only good thing about coping, in this case, is it’s better than not coping. Maybe that’s true a lot of the time.
After a year and a half, they did buy the place where they were going to that they were looking for that day. They bought it because it made them feel closer to the kids. They didn’t push that away at all. After a year and a half, they were at the place. It was one night where there was a meteor shower. They go, “Oh, we’re going to go out and watch the meteor shower.” They go out at midnight, lay down on their backs and both immediately burst into tears because this 17-year-old, 14-year-old were actually the kind of kids they would’ve happily gone out there with their parents and enjoyed the whole time. I said to the dad, “Was it a pretty meteor shower?” He said, “Yeah.”
“Are you sorry you saw it?”
I said the truth, “It was a beautiful meteor shower AND it’s horrible that your kids were murdered.”
It’s a dark sense of humor and said, “Well, I thought we’d have at least a few moments. I said, “Yeah, that wasn’t happening.” That’s acceptance. They were living in the present. They could enjoy things and there was a hole in their heart. The alternative to that is comparing life to every second of life to how much better it would be. Whenever I compare life to a fantasy, I ruin the present. I have nothing.
I think the reason for acceptance is to make the best of whatever we can have. I think one of the wonderful things sometimes is that a lot of what we avoid is not something so devastating. It’s maybe more in our head what we’re trying to avoid. But a low probability event is not a no probability event. If that’s what I’m scared of, low odds are comforting because I want no odds. Am I answering your question?
Kimberley: You are. I think it’s a really great opportunity for us to segue. You’ve talked about the first step being to familiarize yourself with uncertainty before doing scripts and acceptance. You’ve beautifully explained this idea. For the listeners, you can also go back. Dr. Grayson has been on the show before. You can listen to it. We’ve talked a lot about that, which is so beautiful and I think very much compliments what you’re saying. Let’s talk about the script that you’re speaking of. Once you’ve done that work of acceptance, how would you--
Jon: I may have to call you Ms. Quinlan since you referred to me as Dr. Grayson.
Kimberley: No, call me Kimberley.
HOW CAN WE ACCEPT UNCERTAINTY USING SCRIPTS/IMAGINALS?
Jon: When considering how to accept uncertainty, that first step, are you willing to learn to live with uncertainty? That step is variable of talking in therapy for the first session. I’ve had some people take three months before they agree like, it’s not like I really have a choice, and that’s really what we’re getting. What are you losing to that? I can’t remember if I just said this before, but one of the biggest things that I end up teaching therapists who have been around the field for years is do not start exposure until the person has actually agreed that they’re willing to learn to do this because obviously, they can just accept uncertainty. Then we’re done with session 1. It takes one session to three months. The loose measure is to accept uncertainty to say if the worst happens, I will try to live with it and I will try to cope with it. If somebody says to me, “If that happens, I’ll kill myself.” No, no. That’s an avoidance. In this scenario, you are condemned to life. You’re going to have to figure out how to cope no matter how awful.
In scripting, the idea of a script is not only to provide the imaginal exposure, which is like this terrible thing might happen. Because a lot of times, people go, if you say X might happen, “I don’t want to think about it.” As I said to you in the beginning of the show, I can get any parent into an immediate statement of denial by saying, “What if your kids die,” the response of almost every parent is, “I don’t want to deal with that. I don’t want to think it through.” But if you’re being tortured by the thought, that normal level of denial, which I don’t think is the ideal way to handle it, but you already can’t do it because you keep going into, “What about no, what about no, what about, no?”
How to write an Acceptance Script
The very first step of how to write an acceptance script is essentially asking the question, “why would I take this risk?” Because within that statement is part of your answer of why I’m going to pursue acceptance. It is not the same as acceptance, but it’s why I’m being motivated to go after this.
Kimberley: What would that look like? How would you word that?
Jon: As to why would I take this risk?
Jon: I’m trying to think of how horrible to go.
Kimberley: Let’s pick an example because I think examples are helpful. Let’s say someone has relationship OCD and they’re afraid they’re making the wrong choice in their partner.
Jon: You picked one, I think, that’s not necessarily the most horribly devastating consequences on one hand compared to like, am I an old child molester?
Kimberley: You go there.
Jon: I have a really wonderful acceptance thing I do with that, so we will go there. But with the ROCD, I want to know, am I making this terrible mistake with my spouse? What we’re asking them to accept is never knowing.
Kimberley: You’d just say that in the script?
Jon: No, because we’ll talk to them and we’ll talk about why like, why am I willing to never know for sure? Because some of it is like they’re looking into a relationship with the thermometer and taking the measure every minute. What’s the temperature now? What’s the temperature now? There’s this fantasy that I should have no questions. I mean, depending on how deep they’re in, I should find no one else attractive, but every moment should be great and I should have no complaints. Well, that is a fantasy marriage.
Kathy and I took a trip to France and it was an incredible trip. Of course, when you say going to Paris, everybody’s eyes glaze over. We ate at a patisserie every morning, but let’s face it, it’s just a damn croissant. One place had the best café au lait. We were there for two days, but it was great. We saw the Catacombs where we had to wait in line for three hours in the hot sun. Went to a really fine restaurant, but we’re not super foodies, so we’re not necessarily going to like it. The experience can’t just depend on, “This was great food,” or “This is terrible, we just spent a lot of money for what.” We go in knowing that. It was a great vacation. A great vacation. It’s not like every second is great. Three hours in a hot sun, five-hour bus ride to go see the site, but it was still a great vacation. I think a relationship is like that, so I can’t look at that now.
I think for the person with ROCD, we’re going to say they are not perfect. Like any relationship, we want a hundred things and we’re only getting 70 of them. It should be more than 20, but we’re only getting 70. Are you making a mistake? Now, most people with ROCD can say they don’t want to leave right now or sometimes they want to leave because of the anxiety. It’s like, then you have to stay. I don’t want you talking about all your fears and confessing because if you are wrong, you’re just making this person feel bad for no reason.
My thought is, you can leave this relationship when you know for two weeks solid you want to leave with no question. No question. You know it is, sure, as you know you’re sitting there because they generally accept that. We have to point out what are the realities of a relationship. Everyone on their wedding day thinks they’re going to be married forever, but that’s wrong 50% of the time. Whomever we marry, my spouse being an exception, 40 years later, they don’t look as good as you did the day you married them. Technically, you were accepting second best in looks 40 years later.
Kimberley: Did you know the rate of divorce is higher in therapists?
Jon: Wow. So, Kathy and I are really against the odds. This is a little scary to you probably. We started dating in 1970 and this year, it’ll be our 50th anniversary.
Kimberley: Wow. Congratulations.
Jon: Having met at the age of two and started dating then, we don’t really have much significant history before that. You will get angry and there are going to be things they don’t want to do. Yes, you’re going to have to learn to live not knowing that. That’s going to be part of the script, that you don’t get to know. What if you’re making a mistake? Even if you fell wildly happily in love now and you had no question, really nice feeling. If the relationship seems good, no reason to question it. Now of course, if you have ROCD, you’re checking all these reasons. It’s like you’re not ready to leave yet. Yes, when you’re answering your questions, it’s maybe. Even if I feel wonderfully in love with you, it might be that next year or after 20 years ago, I discover you’ve been having a seven-year illicit affair. I discover, “Oh hey, guess what? You’re leaving me.” There are all kinds of things that could go wrong. Or I’ll ask the person in this relationship, if this relationship was good and you felt constant passion affair and next year your spouse suddenly gets a dread disease that’s going to make them really messed up and crippled and sick for the next years, I guess you’re leaving them. Of course, everybody goes like, “No.” But the bottom line is, that’s good, but that’s not going to be what you signed up for.
How do we make the best of it? I did this one thing with one couple that worked like magic. I’m saying that worked like magic because I’d do it with everyone across the board, but usually, it doesn’t work like this. This was the low probability. Oh my god, this was the killer intervention as opposed to, this is a start for most people. It was such a cute couple, but I’d given him the thing. “This weekend, when you’re spending time with her, I want you to notice whenever you’re having fun, and although part of you wants to compare it to what it should be, I want you to consciously just notice whatever it is, like if it’s 5%.” Because a lot of times, you’re comparing your current feeling to what it should be. There could be good things happening and you don’t even notice because it’s like, “I was just thinking about this, I was just thinking about this.” He had that assignment to notice it, whatever. He came back and he was like, “We had a great weekend. I still don’t know if I love her or not, but if it could be like this forever, I’m good.” Now, that was a rarity, but that was the beginning of acceptance for most people, just noticing, oh, I’m not miserable every second. I agree a two-minute 20% joy isn’t like, oh wow, that makes it all worth it. But it’s stuff that you don’t notice all along. We’re trying to notice the good and the other stuff.
Acceptance is not a decision; trying to learn it is. But when I talk about that couple who lost two kids, when I say it was more than a year for them to get to acceptance and what acceptance means for them is they didn’t compare every moment to what it would be like if their kids were still alive. In fact, I didn’t know this at the time when I told them that everything goes well after a year. You’ll still have a hole in your heart, but you’ll stop comparing every moment to if they were still alive. They just listened. But the dad wrote a book about mourning and he also did a one-man show called Grief, which I wish I could show everyone. But in one of those places, he said that when I told them that, in his mind, he was saying, “F you! I am never going to stop wishing my kids were alive.” And then he wrote that two years later, he’s come to realize it doesn’t do him or his kids any good to wish they were alive.” He’s in acceptance. He still misses them greatly. He can still cry at them, but he’s no longer making that comparison. I’m mentioning it because that takes time. No one expects a couple, three weeks after their kids are murdered, to be in acceptance. The same with anything I have to accept.
The person with OCD, they have this goal, but getting to that great state where “I’m living with this and it’s okay, I embrace this life” is hard. Luckily, most of the time what they have to accept isn’t devastating in the sense that nobody dies of AIDS. Am I with the wrong person forever? Well, maybe it’s the second-best life, but that’s the life I’m asking you to live for now, because all of us have no choice.
Kimberley: Right. Let’s break it down.
Jon: I’m sorry.
Kimberley: No, you’re great.
Jon: Okay. You’re good at being back on target.
Kimberley: I’m a real visual person too. I don’t know if you know that about me, like if I need to see it visually--
Jon: By the way, that’s fantastic because to say something and show it visually just makes it easier for everyone else around you that you’re talking to. I appreciate what you’re going to do.
Kimberley: Okay. Walk me through the visual here. The first step is what?
Jon: Why would you take this risk?
Kimberley: Okay, what’s the second?
THE SECOND STEP OF ACCEPTANCE SCRIPTS
Jon: The second step of acceptance scripts is, if I do X, here’s a list of the things I’m actually scared might happen. I say actually scared because I want to go, what’s their fear? I can always go beyond even more horrible things, but I need to know what is their actual worst fear.
Kimberley: Right. Let’s say for two if it was relationship OCD, it would be, “I find out I’m in a terrible relationship and I’m stuck with them.” Or if they were having harm obsessions, it would be, “I harm and kill my wife or my grandparent or so forth.” You would write that down.
Jon: Yeah. “Here’s what might happen.”
Kimberley: Okay. What’s step number three?
Jon: If this happens, how would I try to cope with this in a positive way?
Kimberley: That’s key, isn’t it? How would I cope in a positive way?
Jon: Right. And that will often be second best.
Kimberley: Which is acceptance.
Jon: Well, it’s the road to acceptance. Remember, acceptance is not just this logical thing; it’s this emotional thing. I have clients and they appreciate it. It’s like, if we were just doing a therapy test, like say all the right stuff, they could ace therapy right away. They know how to say everything, they can do it. But feeling it takes time and behavior. I not only have to know it; I have to do the work of getting there. I have to go through all this pain. Now, I say, I think going through ERP is as painful as doing rituals. One is just an end of rituals versus endless rituals. I hate to keep going back to this couple, but what I said initially, the only good thing about coping is it was better than not coping. I had told them how well they were coping somewhere in the middle. Again, the dad said, “Wow, I hate to see the other poor bastards,” which was cute. I said, “Yes, but you’ve been in support groups, you’ve seen them.” He suddenly realized, “Whoa, we are coping even though this really sucks.”
Kimberley: In this script—and maybe I’m wrong here, please tell me—I always think of the research around athletes and when they have an injury, there’s research to show that while they’re in the hospital bed with their new hip replacement and whatnot, the sports psychologists are coaching them through visual, imaginal, imagery of them doing the layup again and dunking the ball or turning the corner of the sprinting track or whatever. They’re doing that imagery work to help them play out how they would cope, how they would handle the pain, how they would return. Is that what this process is in step 3?
Jon: No. Well, that guy or a woman who’s imagining that, does their injury permit that possibility?
Kimberley: Tell me more.
Jon: Are they so injured that they will never be able to do a layup?
Kimberley: No. In this example--
Jon: Or maybe somebody could say the odds are against them, so here’s what you can try to do, and here’s what to expect of how horrible it is to try.” But they might have to say, “You might not get there.” In a marriage, I don’t care how good the marriage is, I cannot say it will definitely work out. I can’t say you will definitely work out your problems. If I’m married for 20 great years, and then we have these three years at hell and I find out that you’ve been cheating on me the last two years, did I make a mistake? Or should I have left you four years ago, how would I know four years ago and should I have not tried, and all these questions that don’t have an answer. All I know is where I am now.
THE THIRD STEP OF ACCEPTANCE SCRIPTS
I like to say success is not making the right decision. It’s coping with the consequences of whatever decision you have made. I feel regret is cheating because regret is, again, I’m going into denial as soon as I have a regret. I should have done X. X would’ve been different. I don’t know if it would’ve been better. This failed. X being better is one possibility, but there are a whole lot of other ones where maybe it wouldn’t have been as good. All I can ever do is, what is next? That person in the relationship with ROCD, what do I need to do next? What have I learned? Somebody with ROCD did get divorced and gets into a relationship where they have the ROCD, but it’s such a better relationship. It’s not like you should have gotten out sooner because you know what, maybe if you didn’t go into that other relationship, maybe you wouldn’t have been ready for this one. Maybe you needed to go through your ROCD and go through all the crap to have this good one. Dumping that person sooner and getting into another relationship might have been better, or maybe you would’ve picked worse. We don’t get to know. All we know is what is from this moment on.
Part of the exposure is, okay, X might happen. What are the possibilities of coping? Again, I think I said, in my scenarios, the person can’t do suicide. They’re condemned to life and say, why I kill myself? That’s just a way of not thinking in the present. I want you to be stuck thinking about how you would try to cope with this. A lot of times, people have been so distant from it that it just seems like a screaming wall. It is like getting a phone call that somebody you love died. The whole world stops, and that’s where people stop thinking. But in the real world, something happens after you get that information.
Part of the exposure is to go through what happened next, what are some possibilities? I always say to somebody, “I don’t know if I can cope with the worst things that could happen to me, but I know that there are brave people who have. I don’t know if I can be like them, but they’re a model that I hope I will do that.” What if you don’t cope? Well, then I’ll be in deep trouble. My current plan is, the best I can do is I hope I will cope. I don’t want to be paralyzed and disfigured in a car crash. I hope I would cope. I don’t have to know that I’d cope because I’m going to wait till I get there to try to find out. But I might try to imagine it.
We’re going to imagine what would you actually do. In this relationship, how will I live never knowing? I’m taking the ROCD, how will I live? What if this is wrong? It might be wrong. What’s decent right now? What do you like? Because again, no person is perfect. How do I get into the state of that? Do I ever send people to marital counseling? If I see actual problems, I will, but I am not sending them to marital counseling to get rid of the ROCD. I’m sending them to get rid of actual problems. With or without those problems, they still have ROCD. I’m just eliminating, okay, here’s some definite reasons to get out. But once they’re resolved, then you’re still stuck with the ROCD.
THE FORTH STEP OF ACCEPTANCE SCRIPTS
Kimberley: Is there a fourth step of acceptance scripts?
Jon: Kind of. It’s embedded in it, which is part of why I would take this risk, is what’s resulting from not taking this risk? What are the graphic horrible things that keep happening to you because you keep avoiding, including the torture you feel, the hours loss, humiliation from doing things? How are you actually hurting the people you think you love? Because a lot of times in ROCD, they can say they care about the person. I’ll always ask somebody, do you love your kids or love your spouse?” They’ll say, “Yeah.” “Will you do anything for them?” They’ll say yes. I’ll say, “I’m sorry, you’re a liar.” How do you hurt your family and loved ones with your ROCD? Not being present, yelling at them because they didn’t do something, and all the other ways that one might, asking for reassurance endlessly being in pain in the neck. I will point out, you have a choice in your relationship. I’m going beyond ROCD. But you get to pick between, are you going to serve your fear or your love? You keep choosing fear over love.
Part of acceptance does have to do with what my values are. Who is the person I want to be? Here’s another reason I need to do acceptance, because here’s life without acceptance. Most people who we see, we can say, the idea of trying to not accept and do avoid, I think you’ve done an amazing experiment of checking out that method. I think the results are clear, it sucks, so it’s time to try this other method. It’s like, why am I doing acceptance? Because I think, again, in our society we just make acceptance sounds so wonderful. But that’s just an idea. Why would acceptance actually be worth it? I have to think about why would it actually be worth it. I have to be motivated to do it. And then I’m stuck with this in-between thing that a lot of the time I’m doing a separate, recognizing I am not there yet, which by the way, there’s this great book that this wonderful person wrote on self-compassion, because I need self-compassion during treatment because I’m not where I want to be. It’s like I’m doing this really hard work and it’s not there yet. The best I get to say is, I’m working hard, I see some improvement, but yes, I’m not there yet and mourning.
Learning to live the second-best life takes time. I keep saying second-best life. I don’t actually mean it in some sense, but that is the feeling that when I’m working towards acceptance, that it is. I think in some cases, it’s not really a second-best life. I think a lot of times, if I overcome a fear, it’s like, this is great. Other times it is. I’ve had some people with a moral OCD about something they’ve done in the past and they’re going through all these contortions to try to convince themself that it’s not really bad even though they actually think it’s bad, but maybe here’s why it’s not bad. Part of the acceptance is, oh yeah, that was a bad shitty thing. You feel guilty about that. What is forgiving yourself mean? Shockingly, almost nobody knows what forgiving yourself means. How are you going to get to that point? But I have to accept, yeah, that was bad. That hurt people or whatever it is by whatever standards. Again, depending on who we’re talking about, it’s like, “Oh, I guess we have to have you accept being as bad as everyone else.” In some other cases, no, that was really bad.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I REFUSE TO ACCEPT?
Kimberley: It’s great. The last part of the question is, what happens when I refuse to accept? What is the result of not taking this risk or even not accepting this, which is you have additional pain, right? The pain just keeps going and going and going.
Jon: Right. That’s right. End of pain. Endless pain.
Kimberley: Yeah. If they’ve used these somewhat prompts and people can go to your book and work through a lot of them, I know on your website there are a lot of worksheets as well. Once they’re writing these prompts, is there anything else you feel is important for them to know about this process or to be aware of or be prepared for in this process?
Jon: I am pausing. The next revision of the book might be your inspiration. Well, because I know that it is way, way, way, way easier said than done. The core treatment for all OCD is the same. However, I have a completely different set of things I say depending on the presentation, because they each have their own set of things that the individual has to be focused on working to accept and live with. Although I think in my book I attempt. When I talk about each presentation, I do try to go over those and I’ve seen that for many people as helpful. But I also see for many people who’ve read the book, and even though they’ve read it, it ends up different for them to actually have to discuss it out loud. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t been able to think about it without realizing they avoid thinking about it. Sometimes because I think not all the connections are obvious, which I know is a really vague statement. I think I can go on, but I have to wait for you to ask a question.
Kimberley: Okay. We’re running out of time, so I want to make sure I’m respecting your time.
Jon: Don’t respect my time, by the way. I set aside way extra time. This is on you if we end.
Kimberley: Once you do those questions, you would then walk them through the four steps that you went through with scripting as well.
Jon: Yes, and some other horrible things because the horrible show, that should have been illegal. Actually, it’s not on anymore. I think you can still find that on YouTube. Toddlers & Tiaras and the crazy mothers who make their little girls try to be in beauty pageants. You know what, if you look at the pictures of the kids, it’s like, oh my God, they’re sexualizing this eight-year-old. But when you say that word, that means you can see what they have done. You recognize the sexual aspect. You know what, if I go and take this picture apart, this horrifies people when I say it. It’s like, if you look at their legs, it’s like, yeah, they have good legs. Now, nobody wants to say that, and it’s like, “Oh.” That’s our first response. But if I have POCD, I see that, “Oh my god, what’s wrong with me?” It’s an acceptance that we can see something and recognize a piece of it.
I think the most difficult POCD is the people who “I don’t want to be attracted to a 15-year-old.” I can say, if I show you this picture and tell you they’re 18, oh, that’s okay. If I show you the same picture and tell you they’re 15, no, that’s okay. It’s like somehow magically, I find that the picture, the attractive is the picture is right or wrong if I tell you the age, which of course makes no sense. The picture is attractive or not independent of that. It’s accepting, yes, I might find a whole lot of things. Again, what we think makes us accept or not do we act on it.
Kimberley: It’s interesting because as you know, we just got a new puppy. It’s taking over all of the Quinlan family and our lives. I had a moment where our puppy loves his belly to be scratched and right there is his genitals. I can see the projection of my mind of like, “What if you just touched that? Or what if you pulled that back?” The imagery, I could see myself doing it. Thankfully I have all these skills where I’m able to go, “Oh, there’s a thought.” I did feel that hot, sticky anxiety flow going through.
Jon: If you don’t change diapers regularly, I’m sorry, it’s a weird experience and I don’t care who you are, you’re going to think about that. If you’re changing a little person and there you are, you’re pumping their genitals because you got to clean it up and wipe it, you know what you’re doing and the healthy thing is like, “Okay, weird thoughts. This is normal.” If I have OCD, it’s like, “Why would I even think that?” Well, it’s normal.
Kimberley: It’s funny because I was noticing myself going through some of these imaginal scripting steps myself. Instead of going, “No, no, no, no, no, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t, you couldn’t. That’s terrible.” It was like, “All right.” This is the last question I want because you’ve given some great examples. As I was having this thought, I noticed the choice—I used the word “choice” on purpose—to get really edgy with it and try not to have it. My body language is all tight and I was gritting my teeth, or I was like, “Kimberley, just let it flow. Let the thoughts come.” As you’re doing this with your patients, is there any piece of you where you are bringing their attention to whether their shoulders are all tight and their jaw is all tight and their hands are all tight, or does that not matter?
Jon: Nothing not matters, maybe, but that’s not always true. I thought you’d enjoy that. I think it depends on how much that’s part of their conscious fear response. I mean, I think if they’re doing their dog and it’s like, “Oh my God, am I excited by this,” the answer I would be working on is, “I’m not really sure. Maybe I am in some deep way. I’m not going to play with the genitals now and that’s the best I get to know.”
Kimberley: Yeah. Agreed. I love this. Thank you. Again, I want you to say, where are the resources that people can go to get your concrete workbooks and your worksheets?
Jon: I love how you make me have so many more books and worksheets. All the paperwork that appears in my book appears for free for anybody on the site FreedomFromOCD.com. In the Kindle and audio version, they couldn’t have those, so I was obsessed to have the Kindle version so I made that available. My book has most of my repertoire except about 20 minutes. Those are the main places. I hate to do this, but most of the time, when it comes to OCD books, I will say to people, there are a bunch of books that I would recommend, I think, that are roughly equal. But I think the one that most agrees with me happens to be mine, so I mention a few of the other good books. There is only one other book seriously that I tell people to get because I think it’s different, and that is your book, which is amazing because generally, I hate books that label themselves “self-compassion” because it’s just a version of be nice to yourself in a lot of words. I feel your book gives these not easy-to-do steps that make it work. Although as I said to you last time, it is just you used too many exclamation points.
Kimberley: I will forever decline your opinion on my exclamation points and my emojis. If you ever text with me, you’ll know that I over emoji and I over exclamation points.
Jon: I’m okay with that in text.
Kimberley: Thank you for that wonderful compliment. I do agree, yes, I have been blamed for the exclamation mark issue before, but I stand up and I stand with it.
Jon: I like to warn people because I want them to know, oh no, don’t worry. This isn’t as you would put it all flowers and unicorns. It’s a great book with too many exclamation points.
Kimberley: No, it’s funny because my mom helped me edit it while I was in a 14-day quarantine in a Sydney hotel for COVID. She would go through and she would add exclamation marks. She was adding e emojis and hearts and smiley faces and I was like, “Oh, we are going crazy here.”
Jon: Now I know where you got it from.
Kimberley: We’re all love. Thank you for that. It’s a very huge compliment. Thank you so much for being here and talking about this. Again, I love having you on talking just a little deeper into the topic and a bit more abstract, which I think is helpful too. Is there anything else you want to conclude on here?
Jon: I would love to have some really cool, all-summarizing conclusion. The truth is, I can just talk endlessly. I’m just going to thank you for having me on and I am always willing to come talk with you.
Kimberley: I would say, the point that I love that you made today, which I will add for you, is the word AND. The word AND is so important in this conversation.
Jon: That’s a great summary because I think so many of our ideas, it’s not like they’re new, they get refined with time. In a way, something we’ve been saying all along and suddenly there’s this very slightly different way of saying it, but it summarizes it in a way that makes it more understandable, and AND I think does that for a lot of understanding mindfulness and acceptance.
Kimberley: Yeah. Thank you so much.Jon: You take care.