One of the most important parts of ERP is to make it a game—one with new rules that make it hard for OCD to win. And the more you can treat doing ERP exercises as a fun game where you get to take your turn torturing the disorder that’s been torturing you for so long, the better. To that end, an exercise that can really irk your OCD is the invisible ink game. Here’s how to play!
- Set rules for the game that make it easier for you to win: you want to be anxious and embrace uncertainty because that’s how you get better!
- Buy some invisible ink pens
- Using them, write one or more things your OCD is afraid of in invisible ink on a piece of paper. For instance: blood, illness, death, cheating, bacteria, red, rabies, kill, harm, devil, assault, irresponsible, bad…the possibilities are endless.
- Already your OCD is upset because you “shouldn’t be” writing these things, right? But it’s probably also going to be upset that it doesn’t know exactly what you wrote because neither of you can see it. Yay anxiety! Remember to resist the temptation to check what you wrote using the pen’s UV light, as that would be a compulsion..and doing exposure (E) without response prevention (RP) makes OCD worse!
- Knowing that you want your anxiety, now up the invisible ink game ante! Put the piece of paper in your pocket and carry it around. Throw it away and leave it in the trash. Use it for taking notes that day, or write your grocery list on it. Wrap a present with it! Use your creativity (which all of us with OCD have in spades) to come up with new ways to poke your OCD using what you wrote.
- If you’re having trouble with rumination while doing this exercise, you can try the “may or may not” scripting technique. But if you’re not, you can put your Shoulders Back and enjoy watching your OCD sweat as you face your fears so that you can reclaim your life!
For more examples of how turn the tables on OCD by making ERP a game, see Chapter 12, “Playing a New Game,” in Is Fred in the Refrigerator? Taming OCD and Reclaiming My Life.
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FredTalks are not a replacement for therapy, and I encourage all readers who have obsessive compulsive disorder to find a competent ERP therapist. See the IOCDF treatment provider database for a provider near you. And never give up hope, because you can tame OCD and reclaim your life!
Original photo credit © Can Stock Photo / sunnychicka
I started ERP about 7 weeks ago in a group, and our therapist introduced us to a podcast where you were talking. I’m so glad I found this site. This is a great idea! Even just reading about carrying that list around in my pocket or (gasp) writing groceries on it?! made me feel anxious. But in this way where I felt really seen and not insane. Reading this and going “oh ya, of course, that makes sense”…and happy you addressed it just made total sense to me… because it doesn’t make sense to people without OCD and it’s just so nice to be reading something from someone who gets it. Thanks for the tips!