Reading time: 2 min 16 sec
This post comes with a trigger warning.
Ben sits on the edge of his daughter’s bed. He turns the page of her favourite book “The Three Little Pigs”. He reads mindlessly. It’s because his thoughts are on his groin. The thoughts disturb him, and he gives his daughter a worried smile.
He loathes himself.
She wants him to re-tell the story.
He conflicts. ‘I’d like to, sweetheart, but it’s time to sleep now.’
He stands, gazes down on her, she’s so tiny, so vulnerable.
His heart sinks.
He leaves the room, but she calls him back.
‘Hug, daddy?!” she says, arms outstretched.
He struggles with the thoughts pushing full force into his head as he crosses the floor. He leans over, his arms longing to hold her. But inappropriate images cross his mind, blending with the sexual-intrusive thoughts, and he stumbles back. ‘Damn it,’ he says under his breath. ‘You know the thoughts are false. You know the images aren’t real. You know this stupid groinal response is fake.’
‘Hug daddy?!,’ she whispers, interrupting his thinking.
The familiar conflict between his thoughts and the intrusive ones overwhelms him.
‘I love you, daddy.’
He’s resolute now.
Almost a year has passed since he cradled her. Nearly 365 days of avoidance to protect her, or so he thought.
He recognises the absurdity and scoffs.
Tears sting his eyes, and he cries silently. He hesitates but kisses the top of his child’s head, breathes in the scent from her hair, the baby-powder perfume on her skin. Gently, he brings her to his chest. It doesn’t matter anymore―the evil thoughts battering his mind. What matters is the hug his child needs, the love she’s craved for so long, and for him.
He’s ready for the fight, prepares to win.
‘I love you too, sweetheart,’ he says, resisting escape compulsions.
There are two elements to this 300-word story—non-concordance and relevance.
First, understanding relevance in OCD is essential. It’s when something creates a response. For example, Ben’s genital movement is relevant to danger. Consequently, he wants to escape his child’s room (the compulsion). But what he doesn’t realise yet is that the movement in his pants neither exists in his mind nor his groin.
For example, and referring to non-concordance, now, the experience of genital arousal is authentic in a non-OCD situation. However, the arousal does not necessarily mean an individual responds to that arousal mentally. It can work the other way too. For instance, a person might think consciously about becoming aroused, but their genitals do not reciprocate their thinking. In short, a non-OCD situation shows that non-concordance is logical.
However, in OCD, non-concordance is illogical. In other words, Ben’s groinal response does not reciprocate his thoughts. Likewise, his thoughts do not reciprocate the genital movement. The whole scene is a false alarm. It’s because there cannot be any real interchange with invalid information coming into his consciousness whether it causes physical movement or not. The other point is that while something is relevant to danger, it does not mean a person is dangerous. Ben’s groinal response, for example, is associated with risk, but it does not make him a paedophile. As a further example, knives are relevant to danger, but the response ‘I could just stab my partner with this knife’ does not make the individual a killer.
More about relevance and paradoxical situations are explained in my book “Desire-Intrusive Thoughts: What to Do When Sexual, Religious, and Harm Obsessions Carry Unwanted Arousal.”