The Exposure Lifestyle Day Four: Not Checking

I cycled into work and locked my bike up. When I walked to the building elevator, going up to work, a thought crossed my mind.

Thought: “Did I actually lock my bike?”

Me: “I’m not sure, I don’t remember it at all.”

Thought: “Remember that time you actually didn’t lock your bike? You should probably go back and check, just to be sure.”

Me: “Right. But what would I expect my patients to do? I have to tolerate the uncertainty. Maybe my bike will be gone by the time I’m finished with work.”

I went up to my office and hoped that it would be ok. I forgot about it after about 10 minutes. When I went back at the end of the day, it turned out that it was locked. Had I gone back earlier, I would never have had the chance to know that it would have been just fine.

Why Didn’t I Just Go Back?

It seems simple, right? Just go back, check that I’ve locked my bike (especially since I’ve forgotten in the past), and rest assured that my bike is safe. Except for someone with OCD related to checking, it’s not that simple. Looking at the lock wouldn’t be enough. If I had OCD, by the time I’d turned around again it would be on my mind even though I’d just looked. Even if I took photos of the locked bike, I’d be thinking I could know for certain if I checked again. And again. And again. Except that’s impossible to keep up, or practically not worth it. Instead, to successfully keep that OCD at bay, I have to learn to live with not knowing things for certain and taking the risk that I will have made some costly error that could have been avoided by just rechecking.

Next time you have an urge to recheck something, consider what you would do to live the exposure lifestyle.

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