All I know is this — if you are obsessing and engaging in compulsions, it will fail to bring about certainty. So what is denial? Denial is actively choosing to behave in a way that directly opposes your values or beliefs without being aware of or acknowledging it.
An excellent example of this is the character Milton in the film Office Space. He stops getting paid, loses his office, is completely rejected by everyone, yet shows up for work, and continues to clock in and out on time. He gets his revenge in the end, but the character is mostly portrayed as a deranged idiot. Somewhere at the core of HOCD is a fear that society at large will view you this way, as a deranged idiot who should have known what was going on.
It is not simply the behavior many people of one orientation enjoy experiences of other-orientation , but the refusal to acknowledge the behavior that makes it denial. A man who sneaks off from his wife in the middle of the night to have sex with other men is not necessarily in denial.
He may be fully aware of what he is doing and simply making a choice to do so. Still, there remains some problems with attempting to define denial. First, the term is laden with connotations popularized by psychoanalysts, springing from a theory of psychology that hinges on the idea that people suddenly discover who they are after relieving themselves of repressed thoughts and feelings. What does genuine mean? How can we be certain that the thought about an act is different from the desire to engage in the act?
An easier exercise would be to identify what denial is not: Choosing to disregard thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with another sexual orientation Pursuing relationships of meaning and value despite thoughts and feelings whose content seems incompatible with this pursuit Committing to relationships you are invested in despite the presence of doubtful thoughts about sexual orientation Accepting the presence without guilt, disgust or fear of sexual fantasies outside of your historically preferred orientation Letting go of seeking reassurance about your orientation Accepting uncertainty regarding your sexual orientation and the label that goes with it Love and HOCD One common concern among HOCD sufferers is that if they choose to accept uncertainty and stop doing rituals, they may discover that they are gay and that discovery will result in a revelation to their loved ones that they have been lying about their orientation.
So in addition to imaginal scripting exposures in which the sufferer could write out the feared consequences of persisting in gay denial in a relationship, the sufferer should also do exposures to strengthening their relationship. By investing more fully and more completely in their love for their significant other despite sexual dysfunction that may have occurred due to OCD anxiety , they are getting both exposure to the fear of destroying a loved one and, as an interesting side effect, a better, more meaningful relationship.
In short, invest in your relationships in such a way that if they fail, it will be the most devastating. Loving Your Friends People often write to me about their confusing feelings for their platonic friends this is especially common in younger people it seems. Much of the hallmarks of romantic relationships are congruent with platonic ones: What if I lose my friend?
This makes them an easy target for OCD. Anxious butterflies in your stomach when you get a call from or see your friend Desiring physical closeness with a friend Having intrusive sexual thoughts about a friend note: Testing means seeking out emotional or genital stimulation for the purpose of attaining certainty about your sexual orientation. This often comes disguised as exposure with response prevention ERP but is actually a wolf in gay clothing.
Watching gay pornography and masturbating to it for the purpose of checking to see how easy it was, then analyzing how easy it was in an attempt to prove to yourself that you are definitely straight or gay is just a convoluted compulsion and has no chance of benefit.
Exposure without response prevention is not OCD treatment. It is just responding to unwanted thoughts with self-reassurance and mental review again. Compulsively masturbating to different material, gay or straight, with the intention of proving something, will always backfire in the end.
People who get stuck on this compulsion create a feedback loop of gradually conditioning themselves to become more and more stimulated by their fears, but, sadly, without getting to really enjoy any of it. But compulsive testing often leads to hours and hours of desperately trying to feel aroused by something and then studying the minutia of your response to it, killing any chance of it being genuine sexual exploration.
Was my orgasm as big as it is to my preferred orientation? Did my penis swell the exact amount, less, or more? Did my vagina respond the way it would to my husband? These are bait laid out by the OCD for you to do more and more compulsions. Only now they come with their own evidence, a mountain of gay porn and shaming sexual manipulation.
If it came without the shame and without the analysis, it could be a beautiful thing. Exploring your sexual mind is as much an act of mindfulness as any.
But like all forms of mindfulness, the value exists only in non-judgmental, non-shaming exploration, curiosity about what you find, not desperation. Evidence collected during the course of a compulsion is no more evidence than a confession derived by torture is a reliable source of the truth. This is not a challenge unique to HOCD, though it often feels that way. People with contamination OCD eventually need to expose to the uncertainty over whether they are just trying to get away with being irresponsible or disgusting.
People with Harm OCD still have to expose to the idea that they are just trying to blend in and not get caught being psychopaths. The obsession with sexual orientation and labeling it correctly may go on for years, decades, coming and going throughout your life, being addressed with and without therapy, lurking in the shadows, then pouncing with the threat of gay denial when you least expect it.
Until you do exposure to denial, you are only scratching the surface. ERP specifically targeted at denial fears may be more nuanced or abstract than ERP to a fear of being gay. Typical exposures for HOCD fears may involve looking at triggering materials, listening to triggering music, and being around triggering people all without doing compulsions of course.
But for the specific fear of being denial, life itself is the trigger and exposure means committing to that life. This may mean following through on your plan to propose to your girlfriend, letting yourself enjoy a gay fantasy while having sex with your boyfriend, letting yourself really be moved by a homosexually-themed film, and so forth.
In other words, be yourself in the moment and really commit to that self even when it seems disingenuous. No matter what level of mastery you develop, obsessions are going to show up sometimes and your instinct will be to engage in compulsions on some level.
What this means is remembering all along that the bigger picture is tolerance of uncertainty and acceptance of the presence of unwanted thoughts. It is not the eradication of unwanted thoughts. If you are actively in treatment, use it to confront your fear of denial head on. Consider this — we may define denial as running from the truth. If this is the case, then it is far worse to be in denial of your OCD and not committing seriously to treating it with CBT than it is to be in denial of whatever your OCD is talking about.
While the consequences of your fears coming true are quite unknowable, to deny yourself OCD treatment has clear and predictable consequences.