Exposure and response prevention therapy. ERP.
The hardest thing I have ever chosen to do in my life.
And one of the best.
But that’s not actually the paradox I’m talking about. The paradox of ERP that fascinates me most centers around uncertainty.
The whole point of ERP therapy is to teach someone to learn to live with, accept, even embrace uncertainty. ERP actually re-wires the brain to help the OCD sufferer with this. Before I went through ERP, I wanted to know everything with 100% certainty. Anything less would cause intense havoc in my mind, heart, and body. Because of this intense desire to know everything with certainty, I so often felt gobsmacked by uncertainty. I lived as if, without total certainty, I could barely know anything. Doubt pummeled me like a linebacker. My life was ravaged by uncertainty.
But once I went through ERP therapy and learned to accept uncertainty, the bizarre thing is that my confidence returned. I suddenly felt surety and certainty again– after I realized I didn’t need it.
When I demanded 100% certainty, what I ended up with was often something in the 25-40% range. Or lower.
When I abandoned the need for 100% certainty, I ended up in the 90-99% range. Sometimes less, but usually way, way up there.
That’s weird math. Backward logic. A paradox.
One I love.
P.S. If the need to know for sure is ruining your life, you need ERP. Read more about it at jackieleasommers.com/OCD.
P.P.S. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can’t help but be struck by the similarity of this to “Lose your life to gain it.”
Image credit: Nicu Buculei, modified by me
Well said, Jackie. Thanks for continuing to tout all the benefits of ERP……..I’m sure people are listening (I mean, reading :))!
I hope so, Janet! I still think that people want an easier answer than ERP … but I try to understand that too. I tell myself that when things get bad enough, ERP will be there.
Wonderful description of a true paradox, Jackie. I, too, was a “have to know 100 percent for sure,” and I still struggle with it. But I can now easily (usually) tell myself, nope, can’t know for sure, and that’s OK. When I pray, I even tell God that I can’t be sure He’s there and listening, but I talk anyway 🙂
Yes, yes, yes– to all of this!
I like that last line Tina. That’s. Where I am
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Hi Jackie! Your blog is very helpful to me. I have a question I tried posting before, but never shows up: I have Pure O and attempting ERP on my own. Any suggestions on what to do when I don’t have just one phrase or thing that keeps popping up? I have new words popping up all the time sometimes old ones, but mostly terrible new words left and right against God. Any ideas on how to do ERP when your “masterlist” of words is as much as your vocab in English? I’ve never even heard of anyone having new words popping up all the time- as if I was looking for bad words on purpose.
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Thank you for your insight. My OCD is latched on to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because of something I said. The memory haunts me and it is definitely a “sticky” thought. I am now doing ERP and ACTS. It is so so so hard but I have learned that reassurance and research has gotten me nowhere just more confusion and anxiety. I am having the hardest time living with uncertainty. It’s so painful especially when it affects the most important relationship in my life. My relationship with Jesus!
I found so much freedom and joy on the other side of ERP!