Lesson #1: Act. Don’t react.
It’s unfortunate that cartoons are geared towards kids because cartoons are full of lessons that most adults haven’t learned.
Today’s useful lesson comes from a series called Bleach. Bleach is about a guy named Ichigo trying save his friend Rukia, who is going to be executed for giving him some of her powers (Rukia is a Soul Reaper and she makes snow come out of her sword—it’s all very complicated so don’t worry about that stuff). Ichigo needs to beat all of the other Soul Reapers in the afterlife and save Rukia. In the clip linked below, Ichigo has just arrived in Soul Society and is in the midst of his first fight with a Soul Reaper named Renji. Ichigo is losing badly. But in the midst of getting chopped up by Renji’s sword, Ichigo remembers back to his training, when his teacher taught him to stop doing everything because of fear. Ichigo realizes that when he was thinking about protecting Rukia, really he was only trying to get rid of his fear of being responsible for her death. He wasn’t resolved to save her. He was resolved to get rid of that fear by saving her. Saving her was only a means by which he could avoid an unpleasant feeling. Here’s the clip: http://youtu.be/XCO4sqcqM4Y?t=1m32s
I’ve heard people struggling with OCD say that they have OCD because they’re too nice, they care too much about other people, they can’t stand pain in the world, they don’t want others to get physically or emotionally hurt, etc. I used to think that, too. I thought I was really focused on other people. But really, OCD is an incredibly selfish experience. I felt like I was fighting for other people, but really I was fighting to not experience the anxiety and other negative emotions I’d experience if something bad happened to somebody else. It wasn’t about them. It was about me avoiding an experience. It was about me being motivated by fear. Like Ichigo, I wasn’t fighting to save somebody, I was fighting because I WAS AFRAID of what would happen to them. It’s a totally selfish motivation: to get rid of that fear. It was all about how I felt. OCD is actually a very selfish experience and the worse it gets, the more totalizing that selfishness becomes.
When you do something as a reaction to anxiety because you want to feel safe or certain or right, it’s always selfish, even if it involves other people—the purpose is to make you feel a certain way. Getting over your OCD or any other anxiety disorder is all about learning to act according to your values instead of reacting to your fears. And that’s the switch that Ichigo makes in that clip. So I’d so Ichigo is doing the right things to keep his mental health on track.
Learning to act for things instead of because of things is a change that really helped me get over OCD and it’s probably a useful one for anyone who is dealing with an anxiety disorder or any other mental health issue.
Act. Don’t react.