The following three questions about happiness were proposed to me in an email by the OCD Center of L.A. as it relates to skin picking and hair pulling. This type of coping behavior can be very embarrassing, but this is something that I have and do struggle with. It seems to be in reaction to anxieties, known and unknown, that I carry in my life. I have decided to fill out the answers to the questions to see if it sheds any light on why I do what I do. Maybe you have some compulsive behaviors that have broken into your life that you could use to answer these questions also.
What behaviors do you do when you feel unhappy that provide short term gratification, but ultimately lead to more distress?
What behaviors could you choose to do instead that might be more likely to lead to long-term happiness?
- What types of messages do you tell yourself about happiness in day to day life?
- If I can have smooth skin and not see or know about the imperfections on and under my skin, I will be happier. I will feel more pure and like there is not poison inside of me.
- I don't feel as good when I am overweight, so that makes me unhappy. I feel like people are looking down on me and thinking that I have no control over myself and the temptations that come my way. I think that they think I am a bad person. Also, I feel ugly and want to hide myself. I get sad because my clothes do not fit, then I feel guilty if I spend any money to buy clothing that is bigger.
- If I can get everything that I believe is helpful from my life experience written down, then more people will be helped. When people are helped my life will be worth something. I will find happiness from hearing how other people who are struggling are helped by what I have gone through. If I cannot get what is in my head down in words, then people will not be encouraged.
- I pull the few whiskers on my chin and tweeze my eyebrows. I pick at the marks I see on my legs and arms and face. Then I get embarrassed because these spots get worse and get infected, which means that I have to deal with them even more. Picking makes me feel like I am getting rid of the bad that is under my skin. It makes me think that I will heal, and things will be better than before.
- I eat one more cookie or piece of cake when it is put in front of me. I finish the entire unhealthy meal at a restaurant or catered event. I think, at least if I am feeling heavy and bad about myself, I will enjoy this moment of enjoyable sugary and fattening food. I put more garbage on the inside hoping that somehow it will make the outside clean and beautiful. I try not to think about what I am eating because I don't want to become obsessed about it.
- Sometimes there are too many thoughts running through my head. I write one sentence down, and then all the thoughts come rushing in as a crowd all at once. It is like having a massive amount of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers running haphazardly all around me. They all keep bumping into me until I become dizzy. This is when I tell myself it is useless to try to think straight. Inwardly I tell myself I am stupid and useless and leave that first sentence alone so that I feel guilty.
- Instead of picking my skin, I could put pretty smelling lotion on my skin. By doing this I am giving my skin the moisture it needs to heal, rather than making it harder to heal. I could also turn from gazing at myself in the mirror where I focus on any tiny flaw, and I could look down at the wedding ring on my finger. Looking at this beautiful ring that was given to me as a symbol of the covenant that my husband and I made to each other reminds me of his love for me. Through his eyes, he sees a beautiful woman that is perfect for him. He loves me with all my flaws. When I am accepting of this, I allow him in even closer to my inner self, and we see even more of the beauty of each other.
- The issue of food is a difficult one for me to think of alternative behaviors to. I do have to eat, and I don't want to have to be obsessed and thinking about bad and good food at every moment. So instead of behaviors to do with food, I will switch to behaviors to do with the idea of putting garbage on the inside hoping it will make me clean and beautiful on the outside. I am a whole person, not just a body. I have a mind and a soul. I want goodness and truth going to the center of me so that what comes out of my life is clean and beautiful for all to see. The behavior that I want to do is to read the Word of God and to listen to people's stories of salvation and rescue from sin through the blood of Jesus. This, I believe, will make me more joyful knowing the truth, the hope I have, and the hope that is there for others. More joy will fill my life, and I will delight in sharing it with others.
- Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts running and swirling through my head. Instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking that I need to deal with every thought that comes or instead give up, I can breath and calm my mind. One way I do this is through mindfulness meditation. I choose one thought or object or subject and sit quietly, only focussing my mind on that. It is like being in a crowd and being overwhelmed and deciding to grab one friend's hand and just focus on them. This makes the craziness in and around me slowly move back from view, and a calmness can come. This may help me to be able to write an email or blog entry or just calm my mind, but even if I am still unable to calm my mind, I can trust the fact that God does not think any less of me for not writing that email or not putting up that one more blog post. Yes, God delights to use me with writing, but that is for him to do through me. I cannot force God. It is not my power that I can use for God. It is God's power that works through my weakness. So instead of feeling stupid when I cannot do something, I will praise God for my weakness, that when I am able to write, it will be because of Him alone. Amen.