If we just can't get it out of our mind that something is dirty (even if it isn't really) – we will clean it
incessantly no matter how clean it actually is.
In the early 16th century, 'obsession' referred to a siege or 'laying siege to' and that's just what our
intrusive thoughts do to us. They besiege us. Constantly intruding into our mind against our will, we cannot prevent them, change them or
make them go away and it can be extremely distressing.
Common obsessions include: blasphemous thoughts, harming a loved one, obscene thoughts and exaggerated fears over such things as
contamination and dirt, aggression and violence or religion and sex.
The thoughts themselves can make us feel bad but we also feel really bad because we cannot control them.
Often the obsessive thoughts lead to compulsive behaviours and again, as with the obsessions, we feel a total lack of control while
performing the compulsive act. We know that what we are doing is wrong and that we're blowing the fear out of all proportion but we cannot
We cannot stop even though our actions may be hurting us and feel compelled to continue with the behaviour at all cost, because if we
stop doing it the thing that we dread happening may just happen.
Bad thoughts, in themselves, are normal; we all have bad, horrible, disgusting thoughts to some degree at various times
in our lives.
No sane parent would hurt their child but we all suppress rage occasionally when driven to extremes of frustration and anger
by our children.
Virtually everyone has occasional intense thoughts relating to aggression or sex for these drives underpin our existence.
In one study, fully 80% of the 'normal' (OCD free) people questioned, reported having obsessive thoughts.
Compulsions, too, reflect human nature:-
• Our brain works by categorising and ordering information – watch children lining up toys, stamp collectors
organising stamps and office workers putting files in order.
• Checking switches and doors is a normal safety precaution.
• Cleaning protects us from disease and germs that could actually kill us.
Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours are, in themselves, normal. The problem lies in why they become so exessive and
uncontrollable. (See: Obsessions and
The current worldview of obsessive/compulsive problems is based on the medical model, which views such problems as mental illnesses, 'disordered behaviour',
caused by something going wrong in the brain and the answer lies in 'fixing' the thing that has gone wrong – often with medication.
Take the teenage girl, brought up by overly strict religious parents that have so drummed the fear of God into her that all she can do to
obtain relief (from destruction by the Lord) is turn to rituals. Are her obsessive, fearful thoughts and compulsive behaviours really due to mental illness?
Or is there a better explanation?
And a better solution?