No Rescue Needed- I’ll Teach You to Swim
What you have before you is a unique system. This system has absolutely nothing to do with any of the existing models used to treat checking OCD. It has nothing to do with…
- Exposure and Ritual Prevention
- The Brain Lock Method
- Question Technology
- The Linden Method
This system that I’ve created can trace its origins back to 500 BC. I’ve changed it though, molded it into a unique tool.
(Please Note: Even though this system- The Look, Lock, Label & Leave System is completely unique and has nothing to do with any of the therapies listed above, it can be used in conjunction with all these other methods.)
It will take care of the ‘What if ?’ thought that plagues the OCD mind.“What if I didn’t turn the tap off ?…what If I didn’t turn the oven off ?…what if the heaters still plugged in ?…did I lock the door properly ?…did I leave the electric blanket on ?…what if ?what if ?what if ?…”
It will take care of the compulsive behaviors such as turning off the taps so hard and so often they break. Getting in and out of bed during the night just to make sure we’ve locked the doors and windows.
Touching the elements of the electric stove throughout the day so the house doesn’t burn down, etc…
It will take care of the rituals like counting (at least that was my ritual), odd numbers in odd sets over and over, again and again. It should reduce the anxiety to near zero.
I know that at the time if I didn’t count and check it would have been as if I wanted the catastrophe to unfold.
It would have been like giving permission for bad things to happen. This went on for several years before I told my doctor about it. I was silly to wait so long. I was no stranger to mental illness.
I’ve had a few of them, panic attacks, depression and the worst of the bunch schizophrenia.
I can’t remember exactly when my OCD started. I do remember that as I walked around to my parent’s house I use to play a little game. I would guess the number of steps between the cracks.
If I counted correctly then I would feel rewarded, but for the next count I would always say to myself ‘double or nothing’. If it was incorrect then I would have to get the next count right or else I kept incurring penalties.
The penalty was something bad would happen to me and my family.
Then on the bus rides home from my friend’s house I would always get the urge to check I still had my wallet on me. Making sure all my money and cards were safely tucked inside. Every couple minutes I would check even though I knew that I had it on me and everything was in there.
Eventually, I started to worry about the oven still being on, the appliances still being connected to the power points, taps not being turned off properly, the heater still being connected to the point and the doors not being locked.
Then the counting began. I would feel the elements on my stove and say out loud“123…321…123…12345….54321… 12345… 1234567…7654321…1234567…off, off, off… off, off,off…off, off, off…”
It would be the same as my taps. I would count finishing with an odd number of odd sets, all the while having my hand underneath so I could feel if any water was coming out.
I would put my one bar heater in the bedroom draw (as long as I hadn’t just used it) so I knew for sure it wasn’t plugged in. Still, I had to open and close the drawer and count multiple times just to make sure it was in there.
Same with my doors, I would lock and unlock them just to make sure it was done right.
Luckily I had an understanding landlord and helpful stepfather.
The washers on my taps needed regular replacements. Even though I tried not to turn them off tight I couldn’t help myself.
A few times I turned them so hard that internally they broke and water came gushing out non stop. My stepdad would kindly come round and plug it till the plumber came.
I broke the control in the shower for the same reason. As well as breaking the locks on my door a couple of times.
Once I even broke my steel key in half as I was unlocking and relocking the front door. In the freezing.
Winter I would still get in and out of bed to make sure I had turned the taps off properly, all the while counting.
How Did I Overcome It?
In the OCD mind, we know that the repetitive checking is unnecessary but we do it anyway. There’s a beast that stalks us day and night with two words….” What if? “ Those two words keep us coming back for punishment.
What if I left the tap running and the house floods. What if I didn’t turn the heater off and the house burns to the ground with the kids in it. What if I didn’t lock the door properly, burglars could get in and rob us or worse.
My system takes care of the ‘what if’.
When you apply it you still check but the checking should be dramatically reduced. And within a short space of time, there should be no need for rituals either.
When I leave my house I check everything off just once. I’m usually checking for 5 minutes and that includes a pit stop in the bathroom and putting my shoes on.
In the past, it’s taken me as long as 1 hour to complete a single check of the whole house.
I developed my system by accident really. Or maybe out of necessity is a bit more accurate.
I’ve always loved reading books on the power of the mind and the possibilities of human potential. This led me to read books on memory enhancement.
That’s where I first heard about that Greek guy surviving ‘The God’s’ wrath and in the next section, I’m going to let you know why he’s important for our type of OCD.
HOW IT WORKS
As you know from the end of the last section I developed this system from learning mnemonic techniques that were created hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.
I have used two primary techniques but I’ve molded them into a totally different set of tools.
The first memory technique I use is called ‘The Loci System’. (I’ll talk more about its history later). This mnemonic involves using locations (loci) to put information on you’d like to remember.
For instance, say you had a list of items to get from the store. Milk, bread, coffee, shaving gel, and soap.
I could use five locations in my bedroom and combine them with images of the shopping list to help me remember.
When I walk into my bedroom on my left the first loci would be my chest of draws. The first item on the list is milk so if I want to attach it to this location in my mind I would imagine opening my top draw and pouring a bottle of milk into it. Just having a bottle of milk sitting on top of the chest of draws would not work as the mental images need to be unusual in some way.
If you can exaggerate it and use bizarre imagery then this helps the mind to remember. The next item is bread and the next loci is my chair.
I could visualize the cushioned seat of my chair being made of bread. Unfortunately, it’s so old there’s green mold all over it and it smells putrid.
I would do the same with the rest of the items. When I got to the store I would simply mentally walk my way through my bedroom remembering each item I had attached to each location
This is all well and fine you say but how does this help my OCD?
Instead of using the loci around your house to remember random information. Why don’t we use the locations that trigger your OCD and put mental pictures on them to remind you that you’ve checked them.
For instance, say you’re on your way out of your house and the last thing to check is that the door is locked properly. What I do is turn the key once then give the doorknob a gentle pull just to make sure.
Then use the image of a giant lock being bolted to the outside of the door. However, there’s still the problem of not being sure if I have locked it properly as the image of the giant bolt is left at the front door of my house.
So this is the real beauty of the system.
After I’ve attached the image of the bolt to the door of my house I also attach it to my body. Imagine a small bolt lock being suddenly pierced through your nose with a piercing gun.
Then imagine that bolt lock being bent in half and pushed up inside your nose tearing the tissue as blood starts to trickle down into your mouth.
If later I happen to be at the mall and I start to worry that I’ve left the door unlocked then all I do is remember the bolt embedded in my nose.
I can see it (in my imagination), smell it, and feel and taste the blood streaming into my mouth. This is an unusual, vivid image which why the system works.
Now if you did this when you leave your house do you think you could remember if you’ve locked the door?
Origins of the System
Before we go into more details about the Look, Lock, Label and Leave system it’s best to learn about some of its histories.
The greater your understanding of this system the better you’ll be able to apply it. The deeper the foundation the taller the building.
But there’s also another reason I want you to have a strong foundation.
With this system, your checking anxiety should be well under control. But there are other forms of checking OCD it doesn’t work for.
So I want you to evolve it into a set of tools that may work in other areas it doesn’t work in presently.
Say if your OCD involves (or someone you know) worrying about accidentally running over somebody in your car, you may be able to adapt this system in some way to reduce the need to retrace your journey and rechecking.
I don’t want this system to remain static. Build upon it to suit your own needs.
Don’t piss off the God’s
Two and a half thousand years ago there’s a tale about a Greek noble named Scopas who threw a banquet.
He hired the poet Simonides to offer a poem of praise for the celebration. However, Scopas was jealous of the fawning remarks to the gods. So he only paid the poet half of the agreed fee.
Simonides (the poet) was approached by a messenger and asked to step outside.
It was then that the angry gods unleashed their fury upon the banquet hall killing everyone inside. The bodies of the guests were mutilated and unrecognizable.
However Simonides the poet knew the loci system. So he was able to identify the dead since he had memorized the seating position of each of the guests around the banquet tables.
The Body List
The other mnemonic technique we’ll be using is the body list. This is essentially the same as the loci system except we use parts of the body to hang things on that we want to remember. Next, we’ll look at just how the brain remembers.
This is vital to remembering what we check is safely off, locked and closed since if this memory information is attached to our body then we carry it wherever we go.
MIND THE PICTURES
The Mind remembers in Pictures.
Anything and everything can be remembered if it’s made into a picture. Names, dates, foreign languages, decks of cards and even the long digits of numbers.
But not just any old picture will work. It has to stand out and made bizarre, exaggerated, unusual, interactive, or even sexual.
Remember when I gave you a shopping list and we used the locations in my bedroom to hang them on.
The first item was milk and we imagined pouring a carton of it into my top drawer. That was unusual enough to engage the memory. I could have also used the image of a cow standing next to my clothes draws, with its udders attached to milking pipes and my draws acting as the vat. Or my entire clothes drawers could be made out of milk cartons. The pictures need to be unusual to be remembered.
The second item was bread and we attached it to the next loci which was my chair.
We imagined the cushion seat is made of bread. Also, the bread had gone moldy with a visible coating of green mildew. There was also a putrid smell emanating from it.
This is important as the more senses you use the more likely you are to remember. Also if the image is disgusting or repulsive let yourself engage in that feeling.
The mental images we used were my pictures. However with the Look, Lock, Label and Leave system feel free to use your own images if you wish. Replace my ones with your own if it feels right for you.
This may make it an even more powerful tool for your use.
As I said before I also want you to adapt if possible to help with other forms of checking OCD.
In fact, feel free to use adapt it to any form of OCD if it helps. Use the website to post any new uses you have for this system in the comments area.
Then we could all learn from one another.
I reckon we’ve done enough theory into mnemonic techniques so in the next section we are going to do an exercise. In the space of a few minutes, you’ll be learning how to memorize a list of twenty random items.
THE LINK METHOD
Let us see how this works Linking is the basis of most mnemonic techniques.
In the loci method, you link what you want to remember to a stationary object.
With the body list, you link it to parts of your body.
In your first exercise, we are simply going to link random objects to each other in a sequential list. We’ll use the first item to link to the second, the second will link to the third, third to the fourth, etc…until all twenty items are remembered. I’ll be making the items up as we go, so here they are:
- Bob Marley
So here’s the list. Before we use the mnemonics I want you to get out a piece of paper right now, go to another room and try to write out as many as you can from memory. Don’t just read this. Actually put your tablet or laptop away and do the exercise.
How many did you get?
Now stay where you are and try to write the list backward starting from twenty all the way back to number one. Unless you know mnemonic techniques I’m guessing you didn’t remember more the four or five.
Remembering them all backward should be virtually impossible.
LET’S GET VISUAL
When Weird Works
Now we’re going to link each item on the list to the next one.
The pictures in our minds, however, must be unusual, exaggerated, bizarre, interactive and even sexual for the brain to remember.
Visualize the following example…
cigarette/butter there’s a new addiction for ex-smokers. We miss the good ol’ cigarette so much we mix dog ends with butter and spread it on our toast.
butter/Bob Marley- we’re such big fans of reggae that an artist friend of ours is carving a life-size version of Bob from butter.
Bob Marley/key-Bob Marley gets so sick of the dreads he decides to shave them off. In their place, he has chains surgically implanted to his skull with giant keys on the ends.
key/Amazon-those Amazonian women are carrying a giant key through the jungle so they can take it home and melt it to forge into weapons.
Amazon/deer-also in the jungle is a mythical beast that from the waist up is a woman but her bottom half is that of a deer. As you can imagine getting dates is a real hassle.
deer/arrow-we’re at an archery range except instead of people practicing its deer standing on their hind legs shooting at the targets.
arrow/pilot-in an attempt for NASA to save money, they sat the pilot on a giant arrow and tried to propel him into space with the help of the world’s largest crossbow.
pilot/drunk-the pilot of a commercial airline was called in as a replacement for the sick captain. Unfortunately, it was his wife’s fortieth birthday today. He had a few celebratory drinks and stumbles as he boards. He also pukes up on a passenger the remnants of the dinner.
drunk/eggs-a a new alcoholic drink. Crack a dozen raw eggs into a blender with a hip flask of rum. Now scull this mixture as you feel those eggs slide down your throat.
eggs/painting-you’re at a gallery where a well known local artist is having his opening night. Unimpressed with his work you pull out a carton of eggs and decide to throw it against the pieces you dislike the most. painting/shepherd-a bored shepherd looking after his flock starts experimenting with spray paint cans. Each sheep is sprayed with a variety of colors.
shepherd/tree-a giant tree comes alive walking into a paddock herding wayward sheep into a small group. tree/mouse-the world’s biggest mouse lives in a treehouse. He’s quite content playing x-box on his 50-inch television.
mouse/neighbor-unfortunately the neighbor is short of cash and is eating rodents to fill his belly. On his plate a roasted mouse fresh of the spit. Mmm, delicious.
neighbor/bag-the same neighbor’s wife can afford makeup or shampoo. She feels so bad that she puts a bag over her face when she leaves home. This draws more attention to her as people point and laugh as she stumbles her way down the street.
bag/toilet-I’m at the gym and last night’s curry is playing havoc with my bowels. Some genius has locked all the toilets and as I’m the only one there I decide to drop my trou and take a dump in my bag.
toilet/rain-it’s the end of the world so as a joke God decides to let millions of toilets rain on the world. They come smashing into houses and buildings leaving a trail broken porcelain. Funny thing is some of those in developing nations think it’s Christmas come early.
rain/Christmas-when Christmas does actually arrive Santa has to get Comet and the rest of the crew above the clouds. As it’s pouring down with rain and he doesn’t want the bicycles to get rusty.
Christmas/stereo-you suddenly awaken on Xmas day to the sounds of ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’. As you walk into your lounge you find a stereo with six-foot-high speakers blasting the tune out. It’s also covered in soot as there are black footprints all over the cream carpet. This is strange as you don’t even have a chimney.
Don’t just read this. If you haven’t already go through them again and visualize each item on the list. The first will lead you to the second. The second to the third. Third to the fourth, etc…
The reason I want you to do this exercise is to show you that
- everyone has the ability to visualize
- visualization (using pictures) is the basis of the Lock, Lock, Label and Leave.
By the way, you can impress your friends with the link method by getting you them to write down a random list of twenty items as you memorize it.
Get them to call out the list one by one as they write. And as they call them out memorize each link. Then after they’ve completed the list takes a 4-second look at it and just remember the first item. (This makes them think you’ve memorized the whole list in 4 seconds).
Then one by one call off each item. That’s enough showing off.
From now on we’re going to be focusing on the system. When we check we need to look at the object of our anxiety like the oven or powerpoint, etc…then we lock in a picture. But not just any picture. For me, I use ice, bolts, drills, and screws….
The Look, Lock, Label and Leave System is based on two ancient memory techniques.
- The Loci System- you use stationary objects (like furniture in your house) to attach mental images to
- The Body List- you attach mental images to parts of your body
Anything can be remembered if it’s made into a picture/mental image
It helps the memory to remember if these mental images are unusual, interactive, bizarre, exaggerated or even sexual in some way
If the mental image is disgusting or repulsive then let your emotions engage in that feeling as this also helps us to remember
The Link Method is the foundation of most memory systems. It involves linking the first item to the second one, the second item to the third, etc…
I have given a brief introduction to the mechanics of this system.
The Look, Lock, Label and Leave System is a four-part system that helps us to remember what we’ve checked has been checked properly.
We use specially coded images that I have refined over the past 12 years that are vivid, unusual and yet logical at the same time.
Also by engaging as many senses as possible, we make the images stick when we are labeling them to our bodies.
The main rule is that we only apply this system when we are physically checking what needs to be checked.
If we ‘tag’ or label this memory information when we aren’t actually checking with our eyes then we will doubt ourselves.
Here’s How it Works
LOOK Look at the object that’s causing your anxiety- for example, the kitchen taps and check to see they’re turned off properly.
LOCK Lock in an image to remind you that you’ve checked it- in the kitchen taps example imagine a power drill inside the sink facing upwards. Imagine it drilling a big screw (that just fits into the nozzle) to block the water from coming out.
LABEL Now label that image to your body. Imagine a giant screw being drilled into your shin.
LEAVE The final step is to ‘put on the armor’. After the screw has drilled right through your shin, imagine a piece of metal wrapping around the shin that has the screw. (Much like you see in the Transformer movies. I’ll talk more about putting on the armor later.
They say that no system is perfect. There may be inherent flaws that I may not be aware of that could be helpful for me to iron out.
So if you don’t think this system would be a good idea to use then please let me know why in the comments section below and I’ll be grateful for the assistance,
Your Checking Friend, Chris.