Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #262) and blog, I talk about how to Neurocycle to break the cycles of OCD (obsessive-compulsive thinking) and avoid getting stuck in toxic thinking patterns and rumination.
Let’s start with getting stuck in our thoughts. OCD is often defined as an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and ritualized, repetitive behaviors someone feels compelled to perform. If you battle with OCD, you probably recognize that many of your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.
I see OCD-type thinking as a way of coping with an underlying unresolved issue. It’s not always the most effective or sustainable way to deal with pain or trauma, but it’s a coping mechanism—a type of distraction you use to try to manage or keep the source of your pain bearable. It’s not “brain damage”; it is a pattern that is set up to help you cope in a situation that is threatening your safety or survival in some way, which can develop into a toxic habit that takes over your life.
With OCD-type thinking, there is an underlying cause that needs to be identified and reconceptualized, as I discuss in my most recent book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. You can’t just condition yourself to stop because the automatized driving force is still there—you must get to the root of this type of thinking using self-regulation and mind-management techniques, as I talk about in my book.
You need to observe the pattern of your thoughts and behaviors, discover what the activator is and reconceptualize this using what I call the Neurocycle, which is a 5 step, scientifically-based process that helps you manage your mind and change your thinking. Over a period of at least 63 days, you can perform the Neurocycle steps to find and address the root cause(s) of this type of thinking:
- Gather awareness of what you are feeling emotionally and physically and your perceptions as you work on your OCD thinking.
- Reflect on why you feel and act the way you do—be as specific as possible.
- Write this down—this is way to help organize your thinking and gain clarity into your thought patterns and behaviors.
- Recheck what you have written. Look for patterns and triggers (or activators) in your work life, your relationships, your responses, your attitudes and so on.
- Take action. I call this step an “active reach”. It is essentially an action you take to reinforce the new, reconceptualized pattern of thinking and behaving you want in your life (which is replacing the old, toxic OCD cycle).