Power to the Pain!

A while back I saw a television special on OCD, an anxiety disorder that causes people to suffer repeated obsessions and compulsions. Dr. Jonathon Grayson (along with Dr. Mehmet Oz) took a group of OCD sufferers to an “OCD Boot Camp” where Dr. Grayson uses a therapy called “exposure and response prevention.”  Basically, he exposes them to their worst fears in extreme ways and then helps them create a new response to that exposure.  It is extremely dramatic and clearly frightening for the people involved.

I noticed that every time the people would start to panic and say something like, “I just CAN’T touch that garbage can”, Dr. Grayson would engage in a very simple strategy to motivate them to do the thing they feared:  He reminded them of what they told him on their first meeting.

Early on he had asked each one of them to describe in detail, what they had LOST as a result of their OCD and to describe the PAIN that they experienced daily because of the disorder.  He asked them to relate what it had COST them, and the people they love (like their children) because they had OCD.

He got the pain, the cost and the loss up very consciously in their minds such that whenever they wanted to back down from an exercise, all Dr. Grayson had to do was remind them of that pain.  He would ask them things like, “Is it worth it to hold on to this fear if it means that your children will suffer for all their lives?”  He would say, “Which is worse – drinking from this glass right now or knowing that you are destined to be alone for the rest of your life in solitude and loneliness?”

And from what I witnessed, in the moment that the person was confronted with that question, they would actually do the thing they so feared.

It was a very dramatic example of a principle that I have been talking about for a long time. We are basically motivated by two things:  To avoid pain or achieve pleasure.  And, psychologists tell us, the greater of the two is the avoidance of pain.

If you really want to lose that weight, or quit smoking, or achieve any goal, then you have to get the cost up really high.  Not only list all the costs involved in continuing to do what you are doing, but (and here’s the real kicker) also paint a vivid picture of what your life will be like (in terms of your health, your finances, your relationships, your happiness) TWENTY YEARS from now!  That one will astound and shock you!

I did this in 1995 when I was alone, scared, overweight, had no job or prospects and was wallowing in misery.  I looked at what my life would be like 20 years from then (when I would be well into my 60’s) if I did nothing to change things. I saw:

  • I was on welfare, since I never was never motivated to get a job that would pay more than minimum wage.
  • I was REALLY overweight, since I never changed my eating and exercising habits.
  • I had a plethora of health issues because of the increased weight and poor eating and exercise habits, including:  fatigue, depression, skin problems, trouble breathing, joint pain…..
  • I was pretty much alone, except for the few friends I had who were JUST LIKE ME – miserable and lonely.
  • My family was embarrassed by me. Especially my son.
  • I lived in a trailer in a scary part of town because it was the only thing I  could afford….
  • Get the picture?  And can you see why all I had to do was to play that movie of what my life would be like in 20 years if I didn’t change – and I would immediately FLY INTO ACTION?

I don’t have to wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t taken action to change things in 1995.  I have a full length, Technicolor, Dolby sound, Oscar winning movie of it that I can play at any time.  And DO, when I start to waver.

Power to the Pain.

From your motivational speaker, Linda Larsen, at the movies again


Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. This is golden, Linda, and explains why you are such a life-changing motivational speaker!  Because if people take the time to read this and apply it (that’s really the key) it will change their lives in so many ways! Thank you for sharing. What a blessing you are!

  2. Linda, one of my favorite blogs you’ve written to date. And I have my list as well from my late 20’s when I was alone and 50 lbs overweight. Actually, made two. One like you described if I didn’t change. And one if I did. Powerful exercise that is effective if you’re willing to get honest, vulnerable and speak your truth. I second the Power of the Pain. You certainly changed your movie and are living an Oscar worthy performance. Big hugs.

    • Thanks Colette & Kelly!  And Colette – I have two lists too!!  I LOVE my other list, and it does indeed motivate me to take action.  But I think (and I could be wrong here) that most psychologists would say that we are MORE motivated by the avoidance of pain than by the pursuit of a pleasure.  At least it did it for me.  
      Thanks again! 

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