I recently came across this wonderful article on values by Dr. Jonathan Horowitz. He defines values as “the things that are deeply meaningful for us,” such as important people in our lives, activities, experiences, and guiding principles. We all have our own unique set of values, and Dr. Horowitz has a lot to say about them and why we should pay attention to our own.
I’ve always believed that one of the reasons my son Dan never dealt with recovery avoidance is because his values were crystal clear to him, and he was determined to not let OCD get in his way. In an article I wrote over two years ago, I discussed two main roadblocks to recovery: fear and lack of incentive. When the incentive to recover outweighs the fear of treatment or recovery (yes, there are those with OCD who are afraid to recover), OCD sufferers can successfully battle their disorder. Here is what I specifically said about Dan:
Dan is an artist and has been passionate about becoming an animator for years. His hard work paid off when he was accepted into one of the best colleges in the world for animation. When OCD struck with a vengeance toward the end of his freshman year, there was no way he was going to give up his dream. Pursuing this dream was his main incentive to get better. In fact, he wanted help so badly that he couldn’t wait to spend his summer at a world-renowned residential treatment program for OCD.
We are fortunate that Dan found his passion at such a young age, as it served as such a powerful incentive for him to recover. Also, before severe OCD struck, Dan was a happy child with a lot of joy in his life. I think this knowledge of how wonderful life could be was also a strong incentive for Dan. He had a great life and he wanted it back. For those OCD sufferers who have struggled at length with depression or have never known happiness, the incentive to recover from OCD may not outweigh their fears.
So two of Dan’s values, art and joy, helped propel him toward recovery.
But when it comes to OCD, nothing is simple. As many with the disorder will attest, OCD tries to steal from you the very things that matter the most. Yup, your values. Is a loving relationship the most important thing in your life? OCD will make you question it. Working toward the career of your dreams? OCD might tell you it’s not for you or there’s no way you’ll be successful. Wouldn’t hurt a fly? OCD will try to convince you you’re a danger to others. In Dan’s case, OCD stole his joy, his art, and everything else that mattered to him. But thankfully, not for long. I am truly grateful that his incentive to get better outweighed his fears.
Once again, we see how complicated OCD can be, and for those who are struggling with recovery, perhaps identifying your values might be a good start. Certainly a good therapist can help you with that. If OCD has already stolen your values, maybe this realization might be enough to motivate you to fight back. And if everything that matters to you is still intact, please don’t let OCD control you any longer. Attack it with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, and all your values, the things you hold dear, will remain unscathed.