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The Power of Saying, “Whatever.”

The Power of Saying, “Whatever.”

Patricia Thornton, PhD

Patricia Thornton, PhD

Patricia Thornton, PhD specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and OCD. She practices in New York City.

 

The Power of Saying, “Whatever.”

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Whatever Patricia Thornton

I’m a psychologist who treats OCD and Anxiety Disorders. When my patients get to a point in treatment when they shrug their shoulders and say to me, “Yeah, I had an intrusive thought, but ‘Whatever”, I know we have hit a home run.

Having OCD and/or anxiety causes folks to question many things that people without OCD seldom, if ever, question: they question if they are moral people; if they might cause or have caused physical harm to themselves or others. They question if life has meaning and even if they exist. They question their sexuality and if they indeed love someone. They question the past for accuracy of memory. So many questions and so much doubt consume their thinking. Round and round they go trying to answer these types of questions that ultimately have no answers. It’s exhausting and yet their intrusive thoughts tell them they must continue to find the answers.

In order for these patients to untangle themselves from these thoughts they must accept that life is uncertain and they need to stop their futile search for answers. One can never have one hundred percent certainty about anything, except that we are going to die. That’s it. Nothing else is certain. When my patients are able to let go and allow the questions to surface without the need to answer them, they often spontaneously say, “Whatever,” in answer to those unanswerable questions. The questions may linger in their minds, but they are able to move on and not get caught up in trying to answer them. 

There’s a carefree nature to saying, “Whatever”. That carefree quality is in stark contrast to the anxious state of mind that initially brings folks to treatment. To get to that carefree stage, I encourage my patients throughout treatment to take risks and embrace uncertainty by saying, “I don’t know,” (often out loud) when a persistent intrusive question or doubt feels as though it must be satisfied. Gradually, as my patients become accustomed to consciously opting for uncertainty, it becomes almost second nature to them, and they eventually say, “whatever” when they are confronted with these thoughts. They have freed themselves from trying to achieve certainty and therefore can live their lives more fully and with less anxiety.

 

 

Patricia Thornton, PhD

Patricia Thornton, PhD

Patricia Thornton, PhD specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders and OCD. She practices in New York City.

 

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