4-Part Series on Tips for OCD: Part 4

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

This tip is pretty simple, but it has been the most helpful suggestion for people I know. Learning as much as you can is helpful for OCD. It allows the noting thing we talked about in the beginning of this series to be that much easier. Learning more about OCD takes away some of the narrative that what the OCD tells us is true. We never want to invalidate feelings. However, there are some OCD narratives that can be scary and when we don’t know whether it is true or not it can feel scary plus confusing.

With OCD people have obsessions and compulsions, and sometimes both. They wax and wane throughout the month and over the years. Sometimes people will notice them go away or come back in another form. We’ve focused primarily on the obsessions in our four part series, but feel free to let me know if you want more articles on compulsions. There’s several types of OCD thoughts. We know they come up more when someone has too much caffeine and can sometimes be triggered by other substances. OCD is also triggered by less sleep, before someone menstruates, with change, and the media. There’s lots that can be done to lessen or even eliminate some of the triggers and nonetheless OCD can still arise. Education about what is OCD and that it is not your fault can transform life and your treatment approach. There is so much hope to be had with learning about OCD.

When you learn about the different types of OCD that may pick at your relationship, body, or character you can then note them as a thought, and not as truth. It gives us a little needed distance to say “hey, I think I learned about this type of OCD, maybe this is — type of OCD and not a sentence for who I am. Maybe I’m not horrible for thinking this intrusive thought if it’s simply a neurological firing.”

There’s some helpful and unhelpful information out there about OCD so please be mindful about what you take in rather than going down a rabbit hole about rabbit holes or ask your therapist to learn more about OCD. I find the video below to be helpful in addition to the workbook I’ve recommended (http://<p>https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343</p>). Lastly, I recommend folks use their highest coping such as deep belly breathing while delving into OCD info because sometimes people need breaks or to feel as calm as possible learning about OCD. Please be gentle on yourself and let me know if you’d like more on OCD such as family/community support or more on compulsions.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

4-Part Series on Tips for OCD: Part 3

Photo by Michael Burrows on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

In our first part of the series on tips for folx with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) we talked about noting the obsession and using our parasympathetic nervous system to the fullest. We have this built in coping or survival strategy in our breathing and meditation that helps our parasympathetic nervous system bring us back from escalated, intrusive, and obsessive thoughts. In the second article of our series we discussed noting and not getting engaged with the back and forth between the inner critic and inner defender parts.

Now I’d like to discuss more noting. The more awareness folx who I serve with OCD get, the better they feel. This tip has to do with noting OCD corrections. When someone has an obsession or compulsion, much like a burp, they may try to hide it or have it come out in a quieter way. When someone attempts to do an OCD correction, their intrusive or obsessive thought may bounce out some other type of way or come out later. In fact, it may make the loop longer and more charged to try and regulate it. It can help to simply observe when the obsessions arises and note or observe when your attempt to change the obsession arises.

For example, someone may have an obsessive thought that they are going to harm a child or partner. In order to “correct” that thought one may attempt to mitigate through an OCD correction by thinking of kicking in the door. Folx without OCD may misunderstand this as aggression or anger, but this OCD correction may have served to mitigate the person’s fear around their first thought of harming their loved one. This comes from a place of thinking the thoughts are wrong and need to be corrected. You do not need to be corrected and you are innately good as you are. I get that there is no good and bad, but some of us who have felt shame for these intense thoughts need to hear we’re good or okay to heal. You are okay and correct as you are even with the most difficult, hurtful, or scary OCD thoughts. You are not your thoughts and cognitively we cannot control our first thought or our automatic thought.

So the next time a thought that is very bothersome arises and you notice yourself trying to mitigate it, I want you to praise yourself for this noticing. That means you are changing and shifting for more and more healing. Great job for noticing!

Next week we’ll discuss one more helpful tip on how to approach this tough OCD. We’ll focus on support/connection for more and more healing, acceptance, and feeling better overall.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

4-Part Series on Tips for OCD: Part 2

Photo by Cristyan Bohn on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

This week we’ll discuss how to let that OCD thought or urge arise as the inner critic instead of resisting or battling it. The inner defender may tell the inner critic kind things, but the inner critic-inner defender battle will continue without the quiet, calm, centered part of ourselves. So much of Western, colonialized psychology tells us to challenge and invalidate ourselves. The inner defender may defend shouting things like “no, I’m not going cra$y, I’m going to therapy, talking more with friends about what’s up inside, and trying my best.” Essentially, the inner defender may reassure and defend with evidence, much like Western/colonialized psychology promotes. While this may serve some folx at certain times, the inner critic-inner defender battle is often only a temporary fix. What is more helpful is outlined below and summarized from my experience as a psychologist who serves several folx with OCD and also from the workbook recommended last week (can be purchased at this link: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343).

  1. Note it. Okay so this can be difficult when the OCD voice tells people what it says is reality. It can be difficult to note the intrusive thoughts, but when you start to work on noting or observing the thoughts without judgment of the content of the thoughts you are rewiring your neuropathways and letting the thoughts arise without giving them more momentum to keep looping. We like to say something like this to the thoughts that arise, “oh there’s the thoughts, I see you, okay.” It has the person not engaging in a back and forth with the inner critic and inner defender. I’d also check out meditations such as on Insight Timer for noting and observing thoughts.
  2. Accept it. Listen, OCD thoughts can be so difficult. I don’t say this lightly. These thoughts can be so difficult folx may even think of hurting themselves to rid themselves of the painful OCD (if that’s the case for you, please reach out for safe help as soon as possible, because you are not alone). Internal family systems (IFS) says all parts are welcome and the workbook we’ve been talking about also states that acceptance that intrusive thoughts will arise from time to time. It’s not great or bad or okay, it just is. These thoughts will arise like hunger will arise. It is a simple fact. You may wonder, “how can Dr. Joharchi tell me to accept intrusive thoughts that tell me I’m evil or that I may hurt children or people I love,” or how can she tell me to accept thoughts that make me cry and feel like I’m spiraling?” You’re right, I don’t accept the content, nor do I believe it defines you. I simply accept that this is the way your brain is right now. I recommend you learn what you can about OCD to accept that these thoughts and urges will arise and that says nothing about who you are. We do not have to identify with the thoughts or wonder when they will go away. We can simply accept that the thoughts are here in this moment. That will help with reducing the internal resistance, which as we’ve discussed eventually makes it worse. One tip that helps with acceptance is fostering a deep feeling of self-compassion by talking to ourselves like we’d talk to a little one who has these thoughts or urges. We’d be kind, gentle and understanding.

I’m so proud of you for even reading these articles on OCD because that in itself can be triggering. Good job and we’ll see you for part three of this series soon!

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

4-Part Series on Tips for OCD: Part 1

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

What is OCD?

In decolonializing care with the folx I serve and debunking a narrow-minded, Eurocentric field of psychology I’ve come to find trauma and grief show up in a number of different ways, including through obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is neurological and sometimes genetically linked. Sometimes it serves as a protection to keep someone from great grief or protects as control over one’s environment in some way. Whatever OCD is or wherever OCD comes from, folx who I serve who have OCD have experienced it on a heavier level lately and it is NOT THEIR FAULT. These thoughts can feel scary, dooming, and are often DEEPLY UNWANTED. I’m releasing a series of tips for adolescents and young adults regarding their OCD over the next few weeks.

OCD shows up in a number of different forms and can whack a mole into other forms from Relationship OCD (ROCD) to intrusive thoughts and magical thinking. OCD can also go hand in hand with things such as confessing or doing things to try and lessen the OCD. The more we learn it is neurological and ways to tend to it the more we can take away self-blame and a disappointing illusion of control. However, I will warn that sometimes simply reading about or watching information about OCD can be activating so please read this article with tenderness to any parts of you that may feel activated.

Part One

For the first OCD article in our series I’d like us to focus on the body. Sometimes uncertainty like the uncertainty we are experiencing in the world right now can be a trigger. Sometimes hormonal changes such as pre-menstrual cycle can trigger OCD quite a bit. Sometimes nothing in particular seems to trigger OCD. Some triggers for OCD can be addressed in the body. Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Seif and Winston discusses how caffeine, media, and other substances can worsen the racing, charged, looping thoughts.

You can note the charged thought or compulsion. You can observe and witness it without blaming yourself. We cannot cognitively control our first automatic thought. It is not your fault. Now that you’ve noted the thought or compulsion you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. In the blog from last week I briefly explain how this parachutes us down to a grounded, safe space. Rather than trying to figure out what’s up in our minds or why it is there or how to make it stop, focus on the bottom of your belly filling up with air by breathing in slowly through the nose, hold the breath at the top for an extra second, and slowly release the air like you’re blowing out birthday candles, emptying all the air from the bottom of your belly. Do this for a few minutes. Do this daily throughout the day. You can ask a parent or set up reminders. It’s crucial to practice belly breathing daily throughout the day to get the parasympathetic nervous system to a place where when there is a trigger then you can breath big and slowly. Focus on your breath. When you can’t that’s okay too because the body will parachute itself if you keep doing these slow breaths. There are also some great meditations on Insight Timer such as a meditation by Dr. LaTrice Dowtin titled “Allowing Distance From Thoughts”.

This workbook in combination with parasympathetic nervous system soothing activities can be helpful. This workbook can be purchased at this link: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343

There are OCD specialists too.

Sneak Peak into Part Two

Our next article in this series will be on how to kindly quiet the inner critic versus the inner defender battle within. The inner defender may tell the inner critic kind, affirming things, but this battle will go on and on without some interruption from the quiet, calm, centered part of ourselves.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

How to Attune to the Body When Triggered

Photo by PNW Production on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

What do you do when your reaction feels huge in comparison to what just happened? It is totally understandable if your reaction to seeing, hearing, remembering, or smelling something feels like it doesn’t fit the situation. So many practices in psychology tell folks to think rationally, logically and actually invalidate themselves. This Eurocentric approach to feelings can be invalidating and in my experience as a psychologist it is better in most situations to validate and tune into the body. How does being triggered feel in your body?

Rather than argue with unwanted big feelings, what would it be like to simply note the big feeling and say “I see you” or simply observe the feeling. This can be done more so in the body than in the mind. Unfortunately in the mind affirmations that fight the experience or cognitive challenging can actually trigger more back and forth ping pong thinking. (Some affirmations can be great but they can’t used for challenging, such as “I am who I am” over “my body is perfect.”) For example, sometimes we’ll have our inner defender explain why we are okay to our inner critic. The inner defender may “win” for now, but the only true “win-win” resolution here is to ground ourselves in our bodies in the moment.

We can take note of the land we are on. Where are you right now? We can note what and where a feeling arises in our body. You may feel tightness in your chest, high and tense shoulders, or a twisty tummy. Breath into those areas. As scary and hard as it might be you can let yourself feel. Please follow your inner guidance. It’s actually best to practice this feeling your feelings in your body approach when things aren’t intense inside. It is also most helpful to practice it daily. When big feelings arise, your body will know what to do and the parasympathetic nervous system will parachute you down from being in fight, flight or freeze to being grounded in the now. Thank you land and universe for the privilege to breath in this moment. Please reach out to someone for therapy if you want help validating what comes up for you and addressing it in a different way moving forward.

Wishing you a moment of ease in your weekend.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Getting Yourself Back

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

I have the pleasure of serving so many wonderful people who have this kindness to them that can sometimes be a “blessing and a curse.” Sometimes folks will come to me because they are traumatized from work as a fellow healer, or because they overextend themselves with codependency or people pleasing, or perhaps because they lose themselves in giving to others. How can you be there for others and still for yourself? One prayer I adapted from a friend is to please help me be kind to all (all includes myself without being individualistic).

I don’t want to prescribe self-care where people abandon the people and communities they love. I don’t want to shatter parts of people that may have helped them survive. For example, if you grew up in a home where your siblings had special needs you may have had to people please and help a ton to get love and attention.

When people come to me with people pleasing or codependency I honor those parts for all they did to help themselves and others. We then acknowledge how it no longer serves them. Is listening to others making it hard to sleep? Do you feel sore in your heart space or tightness in your shoulders or forehead from carrying stress? Do you feel overly protective of someone in your gut? What and where does it impact you? Or perhaps it is more concrete and impacting your money or time.

Once we thank the behavior for what it did bring we can take note of what it doesn’t give now. Then we can work to add more of what the person truly needs in their life. Perhaps they desire to attend a dance class or walk through a nature spot alone. Maybe they want new shoes instead of buying everyone else new shoes. Or maybe the person desires to silence their phone automatically past 8 pm every night. Whatever the person needs to get back to their authentic self is okay. Our authentic selves don’t need things like self-harm behaviors so it is okay to explore what you authentically want without fear it’ll put you into debt or destroy your body or spirit. The quiet, calm authentic self is waiting for you, patiently.

In summary:

  1. Why do you have this people pleasing thing in the first place?
  2. Thank it.
  3. Give yourself what you need. Your oxygen for the community’s oxygen.

For all you reforming people pleasers, the cool thing is that when we get more back to ourselves we actually have more energies left for ourself and others! I know it’s cliche, but as a psychologist I find time and time again that our own oxygen mask must be on to help others get their oxygen too.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Getting Yourself Back

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

I have the pleasure of serving so many wonderful people who have this kindness to them that can sometimes be a “blessing and a curse.” Sometimes folks will come to me because they are traumatized from work as a fellow healer, or because they overextend themselves with codependency or people pleasing, or perhaps because they lose themselves in giving to others. How can you be there for others and still for yourself? One prayer I adapted from a friend is to please help me be kind to all (all includes myself without being individualistic).

I don’t want to prescribe self-care where people abandon the people and communities they love. I don’t want to shatter parts of people that may have helped them survive. For example, if you grew up in a home where your siblings had special needs you may have had to people please and help a ton to get love and attention.

When people come to me with people pleasing or codependency I honor those parts for all they did to help themselves and others. We then acknowledge how it no longer serves them. Is listening to others making it hard to sleep? Do you feel sore in your heart space or tightness in your shoulders or forehead from carrying stress? Do you feel overly protective of someone in your gut? What and where does it impact you? Or perhaps it is more concrete and impacting your money or time.

Once we thank the behavior for what it did bring we can take note of what it doesn’t give now. Then we can work to add more of what the person truly needs in their life. Perhaps they desire to attend a dance class or walk through a nature spot alone. Maybe they want new shoes instead of buying everyone else new shoes. Or maybe the person desires to silence their phone automatically past 8 pm every night. Whatever the person needs to get back to their authentic self is okay. Our authentic selves don’t need things like self-harm behaviors so it is okay to explore what you authentically want without fear it’ll put you into debt or destroy your body or spirit. The quiet, calm authentic self is waiting for you, patiently.

In summary:

  1. Why do you have this people pleasing thing in the first place?
  2. Thank it.
  3. Give yourself what you need. Your oxygen for the community’s oxygen.

For all you reforming people pleasers, the cool thing is that when we get more back to ourselves we actually have more energies left for ourself and others! I know it’s cliche, but as a psychologist I find time and time again that our own oxygen mask must be on to help others get their oxygen too.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Transformative Goodbyes

Photo by Tim Samuel on Pexels.com

Dear soft hearted loves,

I’m leaving a clinic I love and goodbyes are hard. This one is especially hard because I love so many of the patients I serve and coworkers. I’ve created bonds and relationships with one of my dearest friends at the clinic and developed trusting, therapuetic alliances with those I serve. Leaving this job does not mean I’m leaving the patients, but rather transferring to something I can sustain as a highly sensitive healer.

I’ve consulted with trauma recovery experts and developed a plan to say goodbye over the course of three months. I began recording inner child healing meditations and upping my blog game to create a connection between them and myself even when we can no longer work together in treatment. I have worked tirelessly the last three months to let them know they are seen and that our thread of connection can continue within themselves if that’s what serves them. Still, goodbyes are hard. Sometimes goodbyes can bring up memories from losing a loved one or perhaps they bring up the abandonment of a friend leaving or choosing another friend. For some they can bring up a profound sense of aloneness. For some folx goodbyes can feel angry, irritable, or confusing. All feelings are welcome here.

Please send compassionate understanding and validation around feelings that arise. Whether you are saying goodbye to a chapter in your life, an old business, or a lover, please please please be gentle with yourself. Let’s send even more gentleness to these healing parts of you.

In this goodbye where I’m transitioning from a clinic to something else I am creating special transitional items to symbolize the goodbye with anyone who would like it. For some this can be a special journal and for others it can be a simple picture together. What has made a goodbye better for you?

We can also highlight the gratitudes from our time together. For example, there are people I have yet to meet in person but who did such transformative inner work in our time together. Wow! Can we just sit with that for a minute. We can acknowledge the feelings that arise with goodbyes, because they sure are hard, and we can invite thanks to whatever it did for us in that time together.

A friend and trauma recovery genius once told me that when someone comes to mind after a goodbye she likes to think they are thinking of her at that same very time. May you cross my mind and I cross yours.

Goodbye to those where our work has come to an end. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey and for being a part of mine.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) on Pexels.com

Love Yourself

Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

How would you feed yourself if you fed yourself like you feed your lover? Where would you work if you paid yourself like you’d pay a friend? How would you talk to yourself if there was an infant within rather than the adult you?

You’ll notice several of our blogs are how to’s. Not this one! There is not much on how to love yourself since it’s already in there and we just have to get out of the way of blocking ourselves from our own innermost kindness. Easier said than done as these inner defenses (and sometimes even external defenses) have been with us for centuries and across cultures. You can access the inner love in this moment. The Power of Now discusses accessing the inner loving presence over and over (the book can be found here: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781577314806).

If we talked to ourselves like we talk to a pet, baby, or close friend I think we’d be in a lot more of a cohesive, kind environment. There are several articles on how to love yourself. Whatever that looks like for you I’m grateful you’re taking a chance today to give another article a try.

You have what you need within. I’m not going to tell you to start therapy with me and then you’ll feel better or use this oil to love yourself more or do this worksheet to like yourself more. I’m not going to recommend walking or sun or antidepressants to love yourself more. I’m not going to suggest you do better and then you’ll be more worthy of loving yourself. All I’m going to say is that the love you want and need is already right in there. Maybe even put your hand on it. My love within feels like it is in my tummy and chest. We already have everything we need inside to love on ourselves more.

Some of us may have to work hard around those toxic thoughts or noting obsessions rather than arguing with the thoughts and having them loop back around. Some of us may even have to work hard to affirm or praise ourselves. Some may work to recover from the social traumas or other traumas. You may be thinking a valid thought, how can this “easy for this White lady to say all this.” That thought is perfectly valid. There are so many aspects to my privileges I must acknowledge.

If the old ways of dreaming no longer serve you then we can thank them. Old ways of workaholism and then life will be good or depression until we acquire that romantic relationship or attainment of quieter thoughts and then we’ll be happy are fantasies that may have helped us achieve and survive. I thank these hard work narratives so much. And we can now spot the joy and love that’s already there within. It’s best accessed with quiet. Sometimes it can be accessed by thanking the protective parts of you that worked so hard to survive traumas and imagine infant you. Sometimes our compassion and quiet is more easily accessed by loving on baby us or imagining how we’d talk to a lover. We can access the love and ease within. When we rewire our neuropathways for noting, affirming, and praising we are changing the intergenerational programming. This sort of reparenting can help us to access all the love within that’s been there all along.

With kindness,

Dr. Hannah Alia Joharchi

How to Handle Tossing and Turning

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

There are so many articles out there on how we’ve got to disconnect from screens about a half an hour before bed to get good rest and I’ll be honest, I haven’t been doing this. This article is not to shame us into better sleep hygiene. We’ve got gazillions of helpful articles recommending a bed time routine and I practice and recommend this too. I get it, no lights, and do gentle reparenting before bed to help with sleep. But what happens when you’re tossing and turning? A majority of people in the U.S. experienced sleep issues during this pandemic and I wonder if it is related to trauma. As such I’d like to address sleep interruption with a gentle trauma-focused approach. Keep reading for a few recommendations on how to address the toss and the turn the next time you’re awake in the middle of the night.

  1. Note/observe. Noting and observing have been one of the most helpful tools in my toolkit to not judging or criticizing thoughts as much. Noting what arises in thought or feeling can be helpful because it doesn’t say pick it up, analyze it, and see why you thought it in the first place. Noting what thoughts arise is like observing a child playing. We just note, “oh that child is skipping” or “she’s crying.” We don’t have to assign all sorts of meaning or judgment to what we observe. It is great to find out if a pattern of thoughts or feelings is leading us to or from something, but sometimes this can be difficult to discern when we can’t get back to sleep and often isn’t helpful at 2 am. Observing a thought without judgment or even observing the judgment of the initial thought can help us to note it and just watch it rather than get stuck in the intrusive thoughts loop with no exit in sight. Also, it is okay if it’s really, really hard to note too. We can even observe it’s difficult to detach and pause a thought loop. In fact, it may be very difficult to unhook from an intrusive thought loop late at night and that’s understandable, especially if our neural pathways have had years of practice at holding on tight to looping thoughts. Please reach out to me if you’d like to talk more about meditation practice to help with noting during any time, not just when it is hard to sleep. If you’d like an inner child sleep meditation let me know and I can post one on InsightTimer.
  2. Promise to revisit tomorrow. You can promise your inner parts that you’ll revisit whatever is on your mind the next day. For example, if something said something that hurt and you didn’t realize it until 4 am you can process after you get some more sleep and awake to start the new day. You can set a gentle internal boundary. It doesn’t mean arguing with your inner critic or battling other parts of yourself. In fact, I’d recommend pouring on loads of validation. For example, “I see how painful these thoughts are for you right now and I promise we’ll look at it more or address it tomorrow at lunch break.” This is just one example of many of how to acknowledge while practicing some helpful reparenting of promising to revisit another time. Over time the inner parts often develop more trust that we’ll come back to hear them out rather than stuffing our feelings or experiences deep down.
  3. Gentleness. Take it easy on yourself with whatever internal debates, pains, wounds or fatigues are taking from sleep. Take it easy on yourself no matter what. Easier said than done, but please practice your most compassionate voice here. You can even use a mindfulness self compassion exercise where you talk to yourself like you’d talk to your dear friend on your best day. You can even pet your own arm like you would your beloved pet. Hopefully you’d send someone suffering understanding and love without blame. Hopefully you’d send them gentleness no matter what. It’s easier said than done, but practicing this with yourself too is possible. It’s also helpful to take it easy on yourself the next day. Is there an appointment you can be flexible with, time for a walk in the sun, or can you do one less chore by any chance? Love on little you like you would if you had a child who struggled to sleep the night before.

Thank you for taking a moment to learn how we can note, commit to revisit, and be gentle with ourselves when we want to sleep and cannot. One last thought is that sometimes the day is so filled with doing what we do (such as nursing, therapizing, parenting, or something else) that we didn’t experience any play or relaxation. Sometimes our inner parts may be up and about because they are forcing their way out since we didn’t let them out to play while we were helping others or working very hard all day. If that’s the case, this awakening in the middle of the night thing can be addressed by some tender, loving reparenting throughout your day by sprinkling or squeezing in relaxation and play. This is also so much easier said than done. Is there something small you need in this moment that you can acknowledge?

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

%d bloggers like this: