Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz at UCLA has developed an effective behavioral treatment for OCD. People learn to re-label their obsessions and compulsions as what they are. They’re not rational. They’re symptoms of some bad wiring or chemistry in the brain and can be ignored. “I don’t think or feel that my hands are dirty,” they’re taught to say. “I’m having an obsession that my hands are dirty. It’s not me; it’s my OCD.”
Schwartz says “OCD thoughts and urges are not meaningful; they are false messages from the brain.” After re-labeling, people learn to substitute other behaviors for their compulsion. Over time, as they resist their impulses, their brain chemistry actually changes so that the OCD has less power, even though the repetitive thoughts don’t go away. They just don’t believe them anymore.
They also learn to reduce stress, the fuel that feeds the OCD fire. Thousands of people have stopped their compulsive behaviors and reduced their obsessive thoughts with Schwartz’s method, or something like it. You can see the whole program here.
The essence of Schwartz’s teaching is to “maintain your awareness of the ‘Impartial Spectator,’ the observing power within us that enables each person to recognize what’s real.” People with OCD can step back from the talking part of their brain, what Jill Taylor calls “the peanut gallery” (because it’s a cluster of cells about the size of a peanut,) and evaluate whether their thoughts/obsessions really make sense for them.
Even some schizophrenics can learn to disbelieve the terrible voices telling them how disgusting they are, or how much danger they’re in. People have overcome lifetimes of madness by learning to disbelieve their thoughts. You can read the amazing story of one man who does this successfully by clicking here.