Over-Reactions and OCD

By Esther Veltheim

The nature of the ego is to defend itself at every turn. Most of us have learned during our lives to accept over-reactions as a natural part of life. They are not something we enjoy, but we learn various ways of living with over-reactions.

Self-blame is one method we can use to justify reactionary behavior. Blaming others is an alternative way of justifying our over-reactions. The key concept to remember is that whenever there is an over-reaction it automatically arises hand-in-hand with the compulsion to justify it.

Many of us are aware of the medical term OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder. Most of us think of this disorder as being a description of behaviors such as compulsive hand washing, perfectionism and phobias.

Over-reactions or reactionary behavior is no different to any other form of OCD. The egoís nature is to fixate constantly on self-improvement and/or self-validation. This is phobic behavior and the phobia is the fear of exposure. The exposure we fear relates both to the way in which others perceive us, and the way in which we perceive ourselves.

None of us want to admit that mean, selfish, insensitive behavior is in our makeup, albeit perhaps only in potential. If we are put in certain circumstances any of us might get in touch with these behavioral traits.

If we didnít have deep-seated fears and phobias about behaving in ways that will diminish us in the eyes of others we would not behave defensively. If we didnít have deep-seated beliefs about needing to be approved of we would not fixate on the goal of super-humanness and self-perfecting.

All defenses are manifestations of phobic attitudes with regard our own behavior and how it should and should not be, and how others might perceive us. We are terrified of exposure; of seeing ourselves in an unacceptable light or being seen as bad. Some of us cope with this phobia by deliberately acting out bad behavior as a means of feeling in control.

The need to feel in control is tantamount to the survival of the ego. Our deep-seated, often unconscious, beliefs about self are always both negative and positive. If the negative self-image is very near to the surface and has been sufficiently validated in childhood one of the ways we cope with it is to give in to it and even embellish upon it.
Whether the ego-image is good or bad is irrelevant. The ego is all about having an identity as someone. Ultimately it has no concern for who that somebody is. The ego just wants to be somebody.

To cope with negative self images the person can consciously resort to behaviors that are anti social and aggressive. ìI know I am bad and so, when others reject me for my behavior they are simply validating my belief and my identity.î We might not consciously think this way, but deliberate, negative rebelliousness is always underpinned by these types of deep-seated thoughts and identities.

To understand that the ego IS an obsessive compulsive disorder can be very helpful in transforming robotic living. When over-reactions arise they always appear to be triggered by real events. Perhaps someone accuses us, insults us, or treats us distainfully. The perception of the otherís behavior might have some reality to it, but the other personís behavior is not the problem.

The real problem is that one of our identities has been called into question. When someone dares touch on any of our sensitive buttons a reactionary, defensive response is inevitable. To blame ourselves for this response only perpetuates defensiveness and the over-reaction. We might have stopped blaming the other person, but we have just redirected the compulsion to blame towards our self.

Few of us are aware how deeply obsessive compulsive behavior and thinking permeates our lives. We might believe that we never over-react, or that ìnowadays I simply accept people as they are.î We have a multitude of ways of coping with the compulsion to defend ourselves.

Until we begin understanding that all over-reactions are a symptom of OCD, defensive patterns of behavior will continue. As we age it is very possible that we can learn to control our perception of our own defensiveness through self-righteous labeling of it or some form of false humility with regard it. This is when our defenses become increasingly insidious. We become master copers; master defenders.

In terms of the ego and learning to highlight and re-evaluate defensive behavior it is helpful, first and foremost, to recognize that defensiveness is a physiological, mental, emotional, chemical disorder. The ego is, basically, a disease state or wound that we alternately try to cover up (cope with) or attack.

By means of obsessively and compulsively defending, rather than recognizing that ego-defensiveness and the ego itself is a disease state, we allow it to fester. This festering wound might look like the successful business woman, the rebel everyone wants to be, the altruist. Whatever form the wound takes, we obsessively and compulsively spend our lives trying to make it appear better than it is, instead of realizing that it is a sickness in need to treatment.

There are all kinds of therapies that help us to begin the process of self-reflection and gaining a clearer perspective on detrimental behavior. There are medications that help adjust our chemistry that can help us cope with defensiveness. Such medications are addictive because they are supporting obsessive, compulsive behavior by numbing us to its affects on us.

There are also medications available nowadays that are specifically designed to help the brain deal with the chemical imbalances that are manifestations of defensiveness. Such, instead of masking the disorder, provide the brain with the necessary biochemical support that allows us to do the work of self-reflection and re-contextualizing our life experiences.

Meditation is another way in which the brains chemistry can be greatly assisted. When the body is still, the brain calms and even if unwelcomed thoughts intrude the compulsion to defend against them is witnessed objectively.

There are various beneficial therapies and practices that help us to gain perspective on defensive behavior and the suffering it causes. BodyTalk works in a very direct way to address all aspects of the physical, mental and emotional symptomatology of ego-defensiveness.

Freefall works directly to give insight into the physical holdings and defenses relating to image. By means of Freefall some of our primary and most toxic defenses are unmasked, namely gender, the body image and sexuality. This process of unmasking is a very crucial one because it provides us with the capacity to function from the perspective of a less rigid physical armoring.

BreakThrough and Mindscape are particularly helpful in dealing with defensive behavior. BreakThrough investigates the cause of over-reactions and provides Steps processes which directly address and deal with the makeup of defensiveness. Mindscape provides a tool (the mental Workshop) with which we can deeply access and enhance brain potential.

With these various therapies available to us we can find support in transforming reactionary, defensive behavior. Another way, or adjunct to these therapies, is a self-help method that is very simple and has far reaching effects.

A very helpful renaming of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) might be obsessive compulsive defensiveness. This renaming of a disorder which normally pigeon holes a specific gamut of behavioral symptoms gives us a very different way of looking at and dealing with the process of unmasking the ego and realizing human potential.

When over-reactions are witnessed in ourselves there are four simple steps that can help us to gain perspective on what is happening. We will call these Steps the five ëRís.

1) Re-labelling the over-reaction: ìThis is OCD (obsessive compulsive defensiveness) which is an illness, a wound, and a chemical imbalance.

Recontextualizing the circumstance which catalyzed the over-reaction:

The circumstance, however real it might seem, has catalyzed OCD (obsessive compulsive defensiveness).

This means that our OCD has found a hook upon which to hang itself. It has also found a framework within which to display and validate itself. The story about the conflict is being seen through the filters of OCD which already existed, before this conflict got underway.

The object of conflict giving rise to my OCD behavior is nothing but a reflection of the inner conflict that this disorder is causing within me.

3) Relating:

As our over-reaction escalates, or continues to re-play itelf, it compounds the compulsion to control both the inner and outer experience of conflict.

Trying to control the over-reaction by justifying it, through blame and victim consciousness, is also compounding the obsessive compulsive defensiveness disorder.

There is no benefit to trying to controlling my defensiveness because it is the symptom of a disorder that I did not create. If I had had the control to create this symptom then I would have the control to destroy it, but I donít.

Now we can relate to both the conflict and the over-reaction in a very different way. Both are exposing the OCD disorder which now allows me to address it.

This step transforms our perspective on the conflict and our over-reaction to it. We have begun relating to both in a very different way. We are seeing that the mind is trying to heal itself by highlighting the problem. And we see that the external object of conflict is reflecting the mindís impulse towards healing.

Now we are no longer in controlling mode, trying to mask the behavior, but have begun to give the ego-wound constructive attention. We see a relatedness between the mindís natural impulse towards healing, our OCD symptom, and the inner and outer conflict. The relationship of protagonist, defensiveness, and the need to control the mind has is transforming into a relatedness. The protagonist, the OCD and the need to control are all seen to be related to our healing process.

4) Relegating:

Until we began this Steps process, our obsessive compulsive defensiveness disorder dictated a string of lifelong conflicting experiences. The effort to control, through blame and victim consciousness, has as its goal relegating the deep-seated beliefs, symptomatic of OCD, back into the unconscious.

In this Step we give our obsessive compulsive defensiveness disorder a place in the conscious mind. We are able to do this, without trying to control it, because we have put it into a new perspective. We now acknowledge that our over-reaction is a disease process, a disorder, that can only be exacerbated if we try to control it.

If you work with Mindscape you can use the Workshop, as is already done, to represent the mind. If you donít have knowledge of Mindscape you can create a place in the corner of the mind. You can decorate it, make it into a room, a garden, whatever works for you.

Now you relegate the OCD and the reactionary thinking patterns that are playing out into this corner of the mind. You donít put it under lock and key, but you give it a rightful place in the mind. The thinking patterns, which have now been re-contextualized as symptom of OCD, are playing a role in your healing process.

Trying to mask or control obsessive compulsive defensiveness is no longer the focus. You now relate to this symptom as something needing to be addressed in a practical, gentle way. So you give it a place in the mind.

Now the conflict and the OCD reaction are no longer overwhelming and filling the mind. They have been given a small corner of the mind in which to play out. In this way, the rest of the mind is allowed to stay clear and do the job of behaving gently towards the wound rather than trying to cover it with bandaids and masks.

Next time an over-reaction occurs, at some point, perhaps when you are alone, you go through this Steps process. It will be easier each time, because during the over-reaction you will be able to maintain more objectivity on what is happening. This is because you now know that the conflict and the playing out of OCD is happening only in a specific, small area of the mind.


The usual compulsion when an over-reaction is underway is to deflect the experience outside of ourselves. We might also try and deflect the experience towards the mind, making it to blame for our behavior. Once we see that the compulsion to deflect bears sour fruits, we try in every way we can to suppress the experience.

Step 3 is not about suppression or deflection. In this Step we refocus our attention. We donít do this necessarily during the over-reaction, but as soon as this Steps process is underway our attention is already beginning to shift.

To give the previous Steps time to sink in and the reactionary behavior to stabilize, we must redirect our focus to an alternative behavior. This behavior cannot be OCD, such as getting drunk, obsessively excercizing, obsessively eating etc. The redirected behavior has to be something that is pleasurable to us and absorbs our focus healthily, such as doing a jigsaw puzzle, gardening, walking etc. We have to be careful with this Step not to allow insidious OCD to instate itself.

This is a simple but highly effective technique of self-help. Over time and with consistent practice we often find that the tiny area in the mind where OCD has been given a place begins to change. Keeping a regular journal, noting ONLY the positive changes that take place helps to keep us on track when OCD kicks in. We then have documentation of the benefits of Re-labelling, recontextualizing, relating, relegating, redirecting.

The five R?s

  • Relabelling/redefining:

    • I can stop using justified blame to define my experience.

    • My pain has nothing to do with this particular story.

    • I am experiencing obsessive compulsive defensiveness disorder and it is this illness that is causing me to hurt.

  • Recontextualizing:

    • This story of conflict is trying to serve me by making me see that internal conflict (obsessive compulsive defensiveness disorder) was present long before this story began.

  • Relating:

    • This situation is not controlling me. It is the need to give into obsessive compulsive defensiveness that is disempowering me.

  • By means of this over-reaction the mind is shedding light on obsessive compulsive defensiveness so that it can bring about healing. This conflict is offering me the possibility of healing.

  • Relegating:

    • I am giving you (the defensive identities) a small corner of the clear mind in which you can take refuge and have time to heal.

  • Redirecting:

    • I am grateful for the message that you (the defensive identities) are giving me; that healing is taking place through conflict. Now I am going to do something that is nurturing and pleasurable, so that the mind can take a rest.

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