OCD and Vulnerability



I’m still at the OCD Conference, so I think it’s an appropriate time to share this older post of mine which touches upon our need to connect with one another……

I recently came across two wonderful TED Talks given by Dr. Brené Brown, who has spent much of her career researching shame and vulnerability. She is a great speaker, and I highly recommend listening to what she has to say.

Dr. Brown talks about our need, as humans, to “be connected” to one another. That’s really what it’s all about. In order for these connections to happen, we have to first believe that we are worthy of belonging, of being loved. We have to embrace our imperfections and let go of shame. Dr. Brown eloquently expands on this topic here.

Also, if our quest to “be connected” is going to be successful, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; be able to “put ourselves out there.”

In other words, we have to embrace living with uncertainty.

Once again, I am reminded how many of the challenges faced by those with obsessive-compulsive disorder are the same that we all confront. It is the severity of the struggle that differs. Who among us could not relate to feeling vulnerable?

Dr. Brown explains that, as a society, we tend to do everything we can to avoid feeling vulnerable. She says, “We numb vulnerability…we are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in US history.” We mask our vulnerability and see it as a shameful weakness.

Really though, being vulnerable is not about being weak. It is exactly the opposite. It is about having courage; the courage to fail, the courage to forge ahead into the realm of uncertainty. It is about taking a risk and exposing yourself to whatever might be. While being vulnerable can be difficult for all of us, it can evoke paralyzing fear in those with OCD.

But if we can learn to embrace our vulnerability, then we will be able to live “wholeheartedly.” What this means to Dr. Brown is not numbing our vulnerability, but feeling what we feel. Whether it is despair, fear, or hopefully joy and gratitude, there will be no more secrecy or pretending.

For those with OCD, this path to wholeheartedness likely involves exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. To me, this therapy is the epitome of vulnerableness (yes, it’s a word 🙂 ). ERP therapy takes courage and resolve, but by engaging in it, those with OCD are working toward what they deserve: a life of authenticity filled with whatever “connections” they desire. Because as Dr. Brown says, that’s what it’s all about.

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10 Responses to OCD and Vulnerability

  1. 71 & Sunny says:

    Oh yes. In ERP treatment, I was probably more vulnerable than at any other time in my life. It was worth it, though. Great seeing you at the conference!

  2. C says:

    I think many of the best and/or most meaningful parts of life are the ones with vulnerabilities. Even just telling someone about specific exposures we do is really an act of openness. I’ve watched this TED talk and it ones probably one of my top two favorites–watching this definitely made me redefine my own version of what the word “shame” means.
    Hope you are having a great summer, Janet.

    • Thanks C, I am having a wonderful summer – hope you are too. This talk really made an impact on me as well, and I agree with you about how making ourselves vulnerable adds meaning to our lives and experiences…..to me, that’s when we are the most real.

  3. Nice post–I never thought about the relationship between the fear of vulnerability and OCD before.

  4. Dr. Brown is such a gem! She really helps me see vulnerability through a strength-based lens. I referenced some of her quotes when I shared with my team at work that I have OCD. It’s nice to see others with OCD drawing upon her wisdom!

    • Thanks for commenting, Melanie. I agree Dr. Brown is a gem and to me there is an obvious connection to her views on vulnerability and OCD. And good for you for sharing at work! One of my goals for this fall is to speak at local schools to explain OCD to teachers, staff, and parents……little by little we are making a difference :)!

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