The Spirit Of Therapy Blog
The Emerald Cockroach Wasp, featured on an episode of Radio Lab, is able to essentially turn a cockroach into a zombie by stinging it in the brain with her venom. Once stung, the cockroach is under the wasp’s control. It is no longer master of itself, no longer what it once was. The cockroach is at the mercy of the parasite.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Perfectionism and Anxiety can feel like parasites. Stress has shown again and again to be a leading cause of heart disease and other unpleasant physical ailments. There is no denying that these “disorders” and “problems” afflict many people and cause much damage. I see this every week in my counseling office. People worn down by worry, stress, and anxiety. I have even been that person. Feeling tired, scattered, confused and “not myself.”
What lies hidden behind these pervasive symptoms is sometimes difficult to uncover. Like a garden weed, stress has a sneaky way of winding itself around the flowers in our lives, the things that truly matter to us. Our thoughts, expectations and values become compromised. It is only by unraveling the weed from the flower that you can ensure a bed full of beautiful, life-giving growth.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) helps us identify the thoughts and expectations that lie at the heart of our responses. We must slow ourselves down to catch these racing revelations. They speed through our heads day in and day out, leaving ideas implanted in our beings, swaying our actions, causing emotions to well up and make us feel out of control. I call them the “speed demons.” How crafty are our thoughts. Silently and stealthily informing our world when we don’t even consciously grasp that they are there.
Yet, there is hope! We all have the ability to recognize their presence. If we slow ourselves down enough to practice getting to know them, we will begin to recognize these thoughts. We will begin to catch them like butterflies in a net. Examine them. Decide which ones to act on and let the others go. This is where our control as human beings lies. In the catching, examining and letting go. Our power lies in the ability to decide whether or not to act on the thoughts, expectations, perceptions and values that we find hanging around in our minds.
OCD, Perfectionism and Anxiety “trick” us into having unrealistic and rigid expectations for ourselves, others and the world around us. They keep us stuck in ineffective ways of thinking, caught up in the “shoulds” and “should nots.” They numb us from acting on our true values and desires. Like the zombie cockroach, we become lost to our true selves, restricted and controlled by our minds.
This week, ask yourself what distressing thoughts, expectations and perceptions seem to have a hold on you. Try to catch these thoughts as they come to you during the day. Become familiar with their presence. And, perhaps, choose to let go of them in the moment.
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.