Intrusive Thought: "What if I'm a Pedophile?" (POCD)

When the same thought, image, dream, or motif shows up across cultures and crosses all of our lines of classification (age, gender, geography, race, religion), we call it an archetype. For example, the dreams where you show up at school without your pants on or have forgotten to study for a test are archetypal dreams. The character of the wicked witch or the evil stepmother are archetypal symbols. And the thought, “What if I’m a pedophile?” is one of many archetypal thoughts – alongside “What if I don’t love my partner?” and “What if I have a terminal illness?” – that clients and course members have shared with me over the past two decades. It’s also one of the most highly misunderstood intrusive thoughts and the one that often causes the most anguish. As the Louisville OCD clinic writes:

Although all the many ways that obsessive-compulsive fears manifest themselves can … Click here to continue reading...

Season of the Fallen Flower

It’s the season of the fallen flower. It’s the season of heat when the rising temperatures cause the petals, so vibrant and alive just a few weeks ago, to wilt. It’s the season of paradox: we bask in summer light and longer days yet the hands of darkness are stealing away the light minute by minute; we revel in the heat yet when it reaches a crescendo and breaking point we seek shelter indoors. The winter of summer. The emotional paradox of this season is that when there’s heat there’s an expectation of joy – beer and BBQs, swimming pools and parties – and yet there’s an undercurrent of sadness because we sense, especially the highly sensitive ones, the loss of light that begins after the summer solstice, and we feel in our bones the interplay of life and death.

We live in a culture that desperately seeks to avoid … Click here to continue reading...

A 24-Hour Challenge

In 2008, shortly after we moved from Los Angeles to Denver with our two-year old son, I adopted a weekly ritual in honor of the Jewish sabbath: to shut down my computer for twenty-four hours. This was before the era of smartphones and before I was pouring my energy into my online business daily, but even back then it was a weekly challenge to rip myself from the seductive distraction of the computer and literally shut it down. Now, with my increasing business demands and feeling chained to a second computer (my phone), it’s even more challenging to divest myself of the opportunity to check, scroll, write, text, and search but, with the exception of a few Saturdays a year when I start a new round of a course, I shut down from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. And, without fail, every time I shut down I feel … Click here to continue reading...

What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

Every Moment of Sex

We live in culture that bombards us daily with images and messages that promote negative and unhealthy sexuality. We receive unsolicited emails that contain explicit attempts to lure us into making contact with random strangers. We see images splashed across magazine covers that wouldn’t have been legal forty years ago. We see sexualized youth prancing across stages and boardwalks. Sexuality is quickly devolving from its position as a private part of life to one that is increasingly public, uncontained, and objectified.

The images and messages speak to the belief that underlies most sex anxiety: that we’re inadequate in some way. They also play into what is becoming a highly sex-addicted culture where young people, raised on pornography, are being wired to expect the instant arousal that occurs from watching these images. We’re being inundated with a belief that sexuality can and should be separated from love and relationships, which is … Click here to continue reading...