Devil inside my head

Sana Shija *

Most often, when people think of obsessive compulsive behaviour, they primarily imagine the most widely known and common form of OCD which is usually characterized by visible form of compulsive rituals which includes chronic hand washing and bathing, repeated checking whether the door is locked or not, excessive cautious and frequent examination to make sure, the cylindrical gas is off, dirt phobia- problem with handshaking with people, extreme cautiousness about the clothing and utensils not to be contaminated or share with others and so forth.

But there is another form of OCD which is rarely known, where the obsession of unwanted thoughts leading to compulsive ritualistic behaviour mostly occur internally in the mind, unseen and invisible physically to the outer world.

Internal Obsession of unwanted, illogical and insignificant thoughts that lead to perform certain compulsive rituals internally in the mind looking for all possible ways to come out of the 'dark long tunnel cave' to see the light outside is one of the key characteristics of Pure obsessional OCD.

Pure OCD is both a monster and a journey of knowledge, if observed closely for those interested in the psychology and philosophy of mind. Pure O is like "trying to grab a multiple number of fruits falling from a tree at one go". In Pure OCD, the thoughts which are extremely hideous with lots of intricacies and violent in nature pop up against the will of the sufferer at one time and naturally the mind is so limited to accommodate all those thoughts and to solve all those problems simultaneously.

These thoughts are extremely distressing and upsetting, and sometime the sufferer may be astonished about herself thinking, "Is it possible for me to think such thoughts". In reality, the thoughts which occurred do not have any connection with the sufferer's own character or personality.

However the obsessions accompanied with fear compels them to think and perform certain rituals, through illusion and identifying the thoughts with themselves. It is completely weird and surprising to the sufferer, how and where those thoughts came from ? And most often the pure O victim repeatedly feels extreme guilt about themselves for having such thoughts.

It is like having two personalities in the same mind; one which drag the sufferer down and act like a monster that compels them to think and perform certain rituals and the other was the logical 'mind' which counter the irrational thoughts.

To cite some cases, one day a student with pure OCD was listening to a lecture in the classroom, and the lecturer was mentioning some violent words related to the topic they discussed like accident, death, sexual assault, diseases, crime etc. Suddenly, a thought just popped up to the student associating those said words with a fear of harm to her loved ones or family.

"What if those said words occur to her family or loved one". The ocd sufferer knew that the thoughts were irrational but the obsession tried to relate and compelled her to think repeatedly about the subject against her conscious will. Whenever the ocd victim try to respond and counter the thoughts, the unwanted obsession increases its volume and size, as if she was feeding the thoughts by reacting more to it.

Though she knew the thoughts were irrational, the obsession compels her to think that 'something will happen to her family' of which she does not know. This doubt, accompanied with fear is one of the key factor intrinsic with Pure O. So, she develops a process of mental ritual or reassurance to protect her family among which, includes counting of certain number repeatedly but the end number should not fall odd etc and she tries to find all possible ways, applying logic and reason to prove herself that the obsession was wrong and should not identify with herself.

When one doubt or ritual was solved or disappeared, another thought just popped up as if the other thought was waiting in the pipeline. The actual experience and reality was harsh, causing tremendous amount of stress, waste of time and sometimes suicidal thoughts to the sufferer.

Stuck in one thought, the pure O victim may take almost 8 to 24 hrs to solve one such thought which ultimately has negative cumulative effects to the overall health and destroying academic life of the student as she could not focus on anything. There was always a background of thoughts running behind the mind though the sufferer tried to control it. Sometime there was a sound of music in the form of melody or a visual music suddenly appearing against the conscious will of the sufferer in the mind during the exam.

At times, the student used to get stuck with some word which are violent like death, rape, brutal etc. and she has to either cut those word repeatedly and replace it by a softer synonym or completely escape it even though, the answer of the question demand those contents and words. The obsession of the thought plays at the level of mind but repetitive mental compulsion and obsession for long hours of time also cause physical pain to the brain.

Now the pain was not only at the level of mind but manifest itself in the physical realm of the brain too which is completely a disastrous experience to the sufferer. The thoughts were extremely irrational to the client that it was like 'hitting the air' and she has to prove herself that the air feels no pain until which every other activities of daily life are secondary.

Even though there was a rational reason to prove that the thought was wrong, the obsession will stick and remain still, until the thought itself ultimately vanishes or is forgotten by chance. It was a kind of superstition that pops up in the mind that compels us to do both mental and physical rituals at the same time to find a solution for it, without performing which there was always a fear of unknown consequences.

Research has shown that people with Pure O and their incoming thoughts are usually contradictory with their real character or personality. It was out of some chemical imbalance in the brain that compels them to think the way it is and the sufferer knows what they are suffering.

And it is not that people without OCD do not have any bizarre or nonsensical thoughts at times. Studies have revealed that the human brain naturally generates bizarre and inappropriate thoughts and people do have thoughts with common OCD themes like violence, forbidden sexual acts and urges to do inappropriate things in public but the difference is 'how a person without Pure O respond to those thought'. A person with Pure O treats the thought as if it is real or significant while people without OCD do not respond in a way OCD sufferers do.

How to get rid of it?

Pure O and its incoming thoughts may differ from person to person but one thing to make people strong is by consciously exposing them to things that they are afraid of and that make them uncomfortable. It is better to clearly understand what the mind is first, than to deal directly with the problem. The mind is a very subtle entity which is very difficult to define but can be known by the function it performs.

The sufferer should accept and convince herself first that the mind waves or thoughts are not herself but something which is 'out there' objectively different from the first person subjective experience. And this is the biggest Guru mantra for dealing with Pure O. If the sufferer is not convinced with this line of thought, he/she will plague with the disorder for a long time.

The more one identifies and associates the incoming thought with herself, the more she/he will suffer. It should be noted that, though the mind belonging as part of ourself, can provoke or occur thoughts known or unknown in a way against our conscious will and this is an intrinsic quality and nature of the mind as liquid is for water.

And OCD sufferer should be very careful about what she consumes. We should avoid consuming any stuff that weakens our mind. In a weak state of mind, the OCD monster is at ease to overpower the sufferer. Staying indifferent and fearless to the thought is the key to overcome Pure O. The more one reacts or responds to the thought, the more the monster will find comfort and happiness, augmenting the volume of thoughts.

The sufferer should remember that we are feeding the unwanted thought by reacting more and staying afraid of it. One may sometimes get anger and frustrated with the thought, reacting to it with an angry state of mind. But it should be clear that the way out is possible only in a calm state of mind. Responding to the thought, fear of the thought, anger, frustration and going to the dictates of the mind are food for Pure O.

If a person is chased by a dog, the dog will chase until the person stops and remove its fear. Likewise the OCD thought will chase the sufferer until he runs from the thoughts out of fear and the cure lies opposite to that. We should not be the slave of our mind but the mind should be our slave.

"I am the master of my mind, not the mind, my master"- this thought should be penetrated into our bloods and bones first and with iron will, we should fight the monster. Through repeated practice, staying indifferent and cultivating fearlessness to the unwanted thought, the irrational obsessive thought will diminish its strength day by day, finally overcoming the thoughts.

OCD is refer to as one of the severe mental disorder that can last long for 10 to 20 year but if understood properly 'what the mind is, its working process, nature and function, the sufferer can get rid of it through cultivation of certain behaviour pattern that act against the will of the Pure O thought supported by will power.

And for those who are uncomfortable disclosing psychological disorder out of social stigma, shyness and fear, this is my humble suggestion as Nietzche once said " So long as people praise you, you can only be sure that you are not on your own true path but on someone else".

* Sana Shija wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a student of social psychology and he can be reached at empathywheel(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 08 2020 .

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