Exposure Therapy. Do y’all know what that is? It’s what it sounds like. It’s when you’re forced to do something, face something, experience something, to be able to move past it.
You move past it by exposing yourself to it, then realizing nothing really comes of it as you had imagined might. *poof* It’s like “I told you so. ” therapy.
“I can’t do that, something terrible will happen.”
“No, it won’t. “
“Yes, it will! I’m terrified. If I do that, [Insert horrible thing here.] will happen. “
“Do it anyway. “
*painfully does the thing *
*nothing you feared happened*
“See…I told you so. “
Exposure Therapy takes time, perhaps repeated exposure, but it can work. As part of my daughter’s OCD, she would not stand from a chair and take off with her right foot. Her therapist made her do it. It was a terribly painful thing to watch as she fought back tears and her brain loudly screamed to her that she SHOULD NOT do it. She did it, over and over. Now she doesn’t care, or even notice, which foot she steps on first.
Another instance? Her OCD told her that our clear glass bowls were dirty. She would not use one and reached only for a white bowl. Nope. Exposure Therapy forced her to eat out of the clear bowls, much to her initial discontent. She still makes a face sometimes, but she eats much more easily from a clear bowl and won’t fight us if we hand her one.
Thinking Exposure Therapy might be right for me, I set about giving it a try.
My overachiever brain tells me to go all out, decorate excessively, show up for everything, make miracles and magic, coordinate events, facilitate experiences… and on and on…whew! So here’s what I did…
I didn’t decorate my mirrors at the studio as usual. It looked bare.
My lobby tree had no lights, and I let it go.
I didn’t decorate my fireplace mantle. Very plain.
I used last year’s rather ratty-looking (to me) garland in my kitchen window. Hmmph.
I decorated my house outside, yet there was no wreath where a wreath is usually placed. I let that go, too.
I didn’t cut clever, creative gift tags out with my Cricut. I wrote on tags with a pen. Basic.
I didn’t host “Who Hair Week” or “Christmas Bun Week” at the studio in December.
I haven’t demanded that the fam stop everything and load up to go look at Christmas lights.
I didn’t take 4,793 pictures.
I didn’t buy holiday outfits or Christmas pajamas.
I let so much go. I said “it’ll do” instead of making it perfect. I didn’t kill myself. It was soooooo hard.
And look at me, look at all of us, LIVING!
Here’s the thing…I did a lot, don’t get me wrong. And I’m so proud of the beauty I created and joy I facilitated. For the love of Santa Claus, I put up 5 trees in my house, hosted 2 events, and coordinated my wrapping paper.
But I’m more proud of what I didn’t do.
I let myself be exposed to feel the fear, the anxiety, the perceived failure and fallout that was to come, and I resisted the urge to overachieve, to be extra, to overextended myself.
I replaced hurrying with leisurely coffee drinking. I replaced late night work with reading books and sitting with my husband. I had help (which is unheard of and completely new for me) preparing everything at the studio. I felt an almost constant twinge of guilt, of fear, and I replaced it with a “just keep swimming” approach hoping to Jesus it would all work out fine.
It all did. In true “I told you so.” fashion, nothing happened. Our Christmas was wonderful. My studio was still festive and joyful. Nobody was disappointed. Not a soul thought less of me.
If your brain misleads you…if your brain is a con artist… if your brain manipulates you with self-imposed deadlines and ridiculous high standards…expose yourself. Stand up to the demands of your own brain. Do the opposite, resist the urge, fight through the gnawing, relentless self evaluation and criticism.
Exposure Therapy works. You need to prove to yourself that it’s ok, you’re ok, it will all be ok. Try it. I’m a work in progress, but it sure helped this time.
Click here for specific and much more scientific info about Exposure Therapy…