i love to watch what i call “recovery porn” – hoarders, intervention, stuff like that. which brings me to obsessed. which brings me to the parable of the el camino.
obsessed is a documentary reality show that follows the treatment of people who have anxiety disorders. the folks on the show are treated using cognitive behavioral therapy. according to wikipedia, “the premise of CBT is that changing maladaptive thinking leads to change in affect and in behavior.” i’ve watched this particular episode of obsessed (“chad & nicole” if you want to watch it on netflix instant) twice recently with friends who are going through big changes in their lives.
chad is a guy who has obsessive-compulsive disorder. he has routines for brushing his teeth, setting things on tables, stuff like that. a lot of his “OCD brain” stuff is about avoiding bad luck – in his mind even directions can be bad luck (“northwest – good, very good.”). when he encounters potential bad luck, he compulses. he does a hand thing that to him wipes off the bad luck. he says that he’s done this for up to 10 hours in a day.
chad says, “everything that i do in my life right now is a sort of OCD ritual.” tops on his list of bad luck are his older brother and el caminos. dr. shana doronn treats chad with a series of “exposures” designed to prove to chad that his anxiety about things he considers to be bad luck will peak and eventually go down.
during the exposures, dr. shana asks chad to give her a number from one to ten, rating the level of his anxiety. after “sitting with” the object of his anxiety for a few minutes, she asks for a one to ten again, to reinforce that his anxiety goes down. these exposures include looking at pictures of el caminos, going to a used car lot and looking at an el camino, touching an el camino, and lying in the bed of an el camino. after several weeks of treatment, dr. shana arrives at chad’s apartment in an el camino, which he proceeds to drive to visit his brother.
so the parable of the el camino is that if you take a good look at something that causes you anxiety, it will eventually cause you less anxiety.
i gave a friend a framed picture of an el camino for a housewarming present (her life situation changed a lot and she moved into her own place after never having lived by herself). i carried a picture of an el camino in my purse and set it on the table during an uncomfortable situation to remind myself that the situation would eventually end. i brought that picture to north carolina with me a few weeks back and gave it to my friend, who kept it on the dashboard of her car. with all of this, the el camino has now become a symbol of good luck (there’s a lesson in there about the power of reframing things).