Most of the time when OCD tries to bother me, I put my Shoulders Back and ignore it. As I’ve discussed in a previous post, I’ve found that acting like what OCD says is irrelevant to be the most powerful way to deal with intrusive thoughts.
However, when life throws curveballs (as it’s been doing to all of us lately!), sometimes I need to either proactively or reactively remind my OCD that I can use scary content as a weapon just as easily as it can. This is when I do an exposure and response prevention (ERP) exercise I call shower scripting.
The components of a shower ERP script
Shower scripting is when I stand in the shower for however long my shower lasts (probably 5-10 minutes) and say out loud the following types of statements:
- May or may not (MOMN) statements that allow me to be in the presence of scary thoughts without interacting with them compulsively (aka mental rituals).
- Statements reminding OCD of the rituals I’m choosing not to do.
- Statements highlighting that life can be uncontrollable, uncertain, and uncomfortable, no matter what OCD says to the contrary.
- Empowering statements that remind me that I’m stronger and more powerful than OCD.
An example ERP script
I got rear-ended recently, so here’s an example of a script about many aspects of this situation that my OCD could worry about:
The body shop may or may not (MOMN) ever fix my car correctly. The rental car I dropped off at the body shop when I picked up my car MOMN have been stolen before the car company picked it up and I MOMN have to buy them a new car. The people at the body shop MOMN think I’m a horrible person for pointing out things that still aren’t fixed. My neck and shoulders MOMN ever stop hurting, and the insurance company MOMN reimburse me for the rental car and my medical bills. I MOMN get COVID from having to go out and deal with car repairs and physical therapy. I MOMN get into another accident at any time.
OCD, I’m not going to try to figure out how things will go and/or pre-plan how I’m going to deal with various scenarios because that’s pointless and will just make you stronger. Life is uncertain, and things are going to be what they will be. I’m strong and can handle all this anxiety and uncertainty so well that I’m going to just keep repeating these statements out loud over and over while I shower to make both of us even more anxious, because that’s how I keep my life my own.
The paradoxical freedom of letting go
I make these scripts up on the fly while I’m in the shower, going after whatever I think will bother my OCD most. Sometimes I’ll also add off the wall statements, such as “Martians MOMN land on my house and crush me and my entire family.” These help me keep the perspective that even though I’m using scary content to fight back against OCD, this isn’t about the content. This is about uncertainty, and I don’t have control over the fact that almost anything could happen at any time to anyone. And if that’s the truth, then why would I let my OCD try to micro-manage things to “ensure” we get a certain outcome when there is no certainty? I wouldn’t, and that’s where I find the paradoxical freedom that comes from letting go.
For more about how I first discovered ERP scripting and then used it in my recovery, see pages 181-184 of 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!
Love this idea! Thank you! I’m going to try it out and then share it with others in my group therapy this week!