Many of my skydiving friends will recognize the phrase "brain lock" because it is often used to explain what sometimes happens to us in freefall when we cannot remember what we are supposed to do next. It also is used to describe the brain process that doesn't allow us to move on to the next thing, such as continuous hand washing, or as Doidge says, doesn't allow us to turn our mental page. This is what happens: you make a mistake (or get exposed to germs), and you get a nagging sense that something is wrong, and then you get anxious about it and try to correct the mistake. When you have corrected the mistake, your brain moves onto the next thought or activity, and the mistaken feeling and the anxiety disappear.
But in OCD, even though you have corrected the mistake (washed the germs off your hands, for instance), the anxiety doesn't stop, so part of the brain mechanism stays in the "on" position and you get brain lock. I distinctly remember (with a good deal of embarrassment) a skydive where I was supposed to take a particular position after the initial formation, and I could not remember what it was, although we had rehearsed the skydive numerous times on the ground. Two of the people on the skydive helpfully tried to point to my position, but I was at a total loss, and we could not complete the formation. On the ground, afterwards, we discussed what had happened, but it was definitely brain lock and nothing could move my mind past that spot.
The reason all this is so fascinating to me is that I and most of my siblings seem to have some form of OCD in our basic behavior. We all tend to be good at our jobs because we are detail oriented and scrupulous in our lives. Just take a look at the definition for the word:
scrupulous (of a person or process): diligent, thorough, and extremely attentive to details. Very concerned to avoid doing wrong.Uh-huh. I recognize that, and I see it in every one of my siblings. I know that scrupulosity (isn't that a great word?) can become OCD if the brain becomes stuck in any part of the process. The good thing, and the reason I wanted to put all this down in the blog, is that now there is a recognized treatment for it. It's a four-step process, and works with great success if a person is motivated.
The book I'm reading now is probably the last of these self-help books about the brain that I'll be reading for a while. Although it's all incredibly fascinating, I need to integrate and process what I've learned. I know my ability to reach saturation is very high, but then so much of it doesn't stick in my memory. And if I put the book down to come back to it later, I don't do that. I just move on, and one day I'll see the book with all those bookmarks sticking out of it, and maybe I'll pick it up, wondering why I ever put it down.
Psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, author of Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior, offers the following four steps for dealing with OCD:
- RELABEL – Recognize that the intrusive obsessive thoughts and urges are the result of OCD.
- REATTRIBUTE – Realize that the intensity and intrusiveness of the thought or urge is caused by OCD; it is probably related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
- REFOCUS – Work around the OCD thoughts by focusing your attention on something else, at least for a few minutes: DO ANOTHER BEHAVIOR.
- REVALUE – Do not take the OCD thought at face value. It Is not significant in itself.
Ah yes, the plastic brain. My brother says he has a silly putty brain, not a plastic one. His status update on Facebook the other day:
Buz Stewart would not be just a nothin' his head all full of stuffin' his heart all full of pain, he would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry, if he only had a brain.And I can't even LOOK at those words without the tune coming into my head. I sure do love my siblings!