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Practice 6: Create a Recording of Extended Obsessions

So, Worry Time is the first structured practice and the short repeating recording is the second structured practice for worries. Here's the third.

If your worries come in the form as an extended story, with details of all the catastrophic outcomes, you can also practice using a recording of your detailed obsessions. This time, however, the recording will be longer, describing all of your fears.

Here's how to do it. Write out a detailed story of the feared event in the following way: Imagine you're in the middle of a spontaneous obsession. Just put yourself in that place. Write a moment-by-moment description of the exact words and pictures that come into your mind. And right it in the present tense. "I'm now standing in front of my house and I can see that the door is open." Like that. Give as many details as possible about the setting, your actions, the response of others, and especially what you're feeling. Because that's what we're going to go toward, your emotional response to the story.

Now, read your story several times, rehearse it, and then record your story on an digital recorder or smartphone with as much drama as you can. Put the emotion in your words because you've got to listen to it repeatedly, and each time you listen you are going to try to become as distressed as possible. So you want the drama of the event to come through in your voice.

Each day listen repeatedly to this recording for forty-five minutes. As you listen to the recording, imagine that the story is actually happening, and let yourself experience the distress inside you that the story evokes. The more you are in touch with your feelings while you listen, the more benefits you will gain from your practice.

Continue daily practice, focusing on one specific worry or obsession, until you no longer feel highly distressed. If you follow these directions in your practice, you should notice that your distress is gradually lowering within five to seven days.

Then make new recordings about other worries or obsessions that bother you, and follow the same process again. As with the brief recordings, your progress will be slower if you allow your mind to wander while you listen.

If you are not noticing improvement, make sure you are doing all you can to respond to the recorded story as intensely as you would to an actual obsession.

Let me give you a sample from our book Stop Obsessing! of what such a script might sound like. Here's a woman who is a washer and feels contaminated by her mother.

"I'm sitting here in the chair, the door opens and my mother comes in. She enters the room. She sees me and she says, 'I'm glad to see you. It's been a long time.' She comes to me and she touches me. She wants to hug me. My mother is astonished that I let her hug me and she says, 'I can't believe that I'm allowed to hug my daughter again!' Now I feel the contamination spreading all over me. I can feel her hands on my back and I begin to feel that it's never going to go away...can never be washed off. I would like my mother to leave and I want to take a shower, a bath, so I can get clean again. I can't say anything. I can't move. I'm overwhelmed by the feeling of being contaminated. My mother is standing beside me and she's holding my hand, and I can feel how she becomes even more contaminating. I would like her to take her hand off of me. She's asking me, 'Are you afraid of me?' I would like to explain to her just how afraid I am of her, but I don't say anything. I just let her hold my hand and then it goes on, so at the end I feel trapped. She'll never go away, she'll go on contaminating me forever, more and more contamination. I'll never feel free again. I have the urge to leave the room and forget everything about my mother, but her touch is everywhere on my body.'"

That's the kind of drama that you should put in your voice. And that's the kind of moment-by-moment detail needed.

Now we've covered two ways to handle obsessions in the moment: postponing and changing the ways you obsess. And we've reviewed three structured practices: Daily Worry Time, a short repeated recording and a recording of your extended obsession.