How I Gained Insight to Defeat My Fear-of-Failure Obsession
Reading time: 3 min 46 sec
I didn’t tell anyone that intrusive thoughts had started to creep in again. It was while I was writing a complex chapter for my book “Desire-Intrusive Thoughts”. Suddenly, I had a fear of failing. Thoughts of people mocking my desire-aversion theory came into my mind without my will. I had intrusive images of specific individuals laughing at my seemingly “non-academic” hypothesis. And at night, intrusive visions of their bad comments via Amazon reviews troubled me.
I knew something had to change because the thoughts in my head were getting louder. When I started to respond with one or two rituals, I knew a full-blown relapse could occur.
Let me tell you what I did.
I decided to swap my emotional reactions for clearheaded responses. I wanted to gain better insight into this fear-of-failure obsession to see just how OCD was starting to affect me again. To do this, I calmly separated my compulsions (the emotional reactions) from self. It was then that I saw, for the past few weeks, how I’d depended on OCD to protect me from my fear. The absurdity is that, once again, I was becoming reliant on OCD to survive its paradox.
In other words, by separating the rituals from my sense of self, I recognised something crucial. That is, after gaining reassurance and subsequent anxiety relief, I realised how I immediately began to ruminate about the person who reassured me. My thinking was on the lines of, “Did s/he really mean what she said about my writing? S/he probably just tried to make me feel better. I need to ask someone else’s opinion.” When I asked someone else, it eased my mind, but only for a short while.
Ruminating is a mental compulsion, reinforced by the last one, and I knew this. But I was falling into the trap of underestimating my abilities to be the author I wanted to be. Somehow, I let OCD get a grip on my passion. It made me believe its judgement of me versus having conviction in my ability to write about my topic. As a consequence, by yielding to compulsions, the fear is that I would continue to depend on OCD to make things better.
That is to say, I was inadvertently allowing myself to preserve an image of some good in OCD. By gaining reassurance to prove that I could be a competent writer and being subsequently rewarded with anxiety relief, made me trust my irrational thinking even more.
Emotionally, I thought the reassurances and thinking rituals were helping me make sense of my fear-of-failure obsession. For example, by ruminating, I figured I could find clues to see where I was going wrong with my writing. But the rituals blinded my rational view, hiding OCD’s cunning ways that made me believe its lies, although deep down, I knew what was happening. I knew that anxiety relief didn’t really mean there was good in the disorder. But I avoided the idea. I didn’t want to think that ruminating would lead to nowhere. It’s because I couldn’t tolerate thinking my writing career was under threat.
Of course, when I decided to sever the rituals from self, I was able to stand back and see objectively that there was no real fear to prove or disprove. Therefore, when I looked at the compulsions without emotion, it helped me grasp (in the way it did before the return of symptoms) how resisting them would keep me in remission. It helped me process a different image of OCD.
It was then that I realised I no longer wanted to assist in defending OCD’s intrusive lies about my capabilities. I didn’t need its false reassurances or hamster wheel solutions. I reminded myself that all compulsions are pointless because the obsession is empty of meaning. And because it isn’t even valid, you can never reason with it, anyway.
And so I continued writing the book I nearly ditched. I even put in one or two grammatical mistakes. I did it on purpose. In the OCD community, making deliberate mistakes looks at probability and having the confidence to live with uncertainty. It means the likelihood of people spotting a minor error in my book is close to zero, and I can live with that. I told myself too that the world won’t fall apart if, by chance, some of my readers find the mistakes. I think it’s more of a relief to live with this rational concept than it is to double-check for errors. Putting irrational energy into rituals only leads to increased emotional suffering.
Besides, I wasn’t going to allow this fear-of-failure obsession to creep in after twelve-years remission and spoil my goal. I nipped the obsession in the bud and completed “Desire-Intrusive Thoughts” and had it published with AuthorHouse. Later, Jeremiah Rood at Clarion gave it a good review.
There are some great books out there, but they’re not everyone’s preferred genre. And so it’s essential for any writer who has fears similar to mine to concentrate on a targeted audience. For example, my book has a distinctive quality to explain unwanted desire in sexual, religious and harm obsessions. Some parts of the book draw on personal accounts of living with OCD and combines with technical information to explain the biology of my topic. It also dedicates a whole chapter to exposure-response prevention and how to apply it.
Not everyone in my targeted audience will agree with my desire-aversion hypothesis, and, away from OCD, I can accept that. Nevertheless, given half a chance, and OCD would have snatched my dream and closed my mind to it. As a result, “Desire-Intrusive Thoughts” might have remained an unexplored theory.