How can I use journalling to cope with OCD?

Coping is a tricky business. Many OCD compulsions are about coping–you feel all sorts of things you don’t like and then you try to avoid those feelings and replace them through “coping”. But those are compulsions. They’re behaviors you use to not feel things. That only cause more of the feelings you don’t like.

With OCD, the compulsions seem like they relieve the pain but they actually cause more of it. The pain, however, is not the problem. Instead of trying to relieve the pain, it helps to deal with the source of the pain. If you were getting hit in the face every day with a hammer, that would cause lots of pain. You could journal about that and it might help provide an outlet for expressing frustration about what you’re experiencing. There might be some catharsis through processing that experience. That might relieve some of the pain. You might get a different perspective on it. But relief from the pain doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting hit in the face with a hammer every day. In fact, getting relief from the pain might not be such a great idea if it convinces you that getting hit in the face with a hammer isn’t so bad. Whether you feel the pain or not, the more you get hit, the more damage there’ll be. The real solution is to stop getting hit in the face with a hammer. And the reality is that you’ll likely discover you’re the person hitting you in the face with a hammer.

So journalling as pain relief isn’t necessarily something I would expect to help with long-term recovery. If you’re trying it as a way to avoid doing the hard work of cutting out compulsions, then it’s only an exercise in procrastination and distraction. We know how to get over OCD so it can help to get started on cutting out compulsions as soon as possible.

But if you’re journalling or blogging as a way to express yourself and have a creative outlet and even help others on their journey of recovery, then you might find it quite enjoyable. Journalling for the sake of journalling, as a practice that’s about feeling more instead of trying to feel less, can be very fulfilling.

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