‘Toc Toc’ is a lighthearted take on the serious issue of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). While offering humour, it also offers much needed hope. A band of strangers scheduled for group therapy decide to ‘make the group the doctor’ when their doctor fails to show up — since they are already there. The idea was that others cannot be expected to tolerate them if they cannot even respect each other with their various OCD traits. It was a case of collective wisdom working out.
One is obsessed with counting, another with not stepping on lines, another with gesturing and checking stuff, another with washing, and another with repeating words. They tried an exercise, that attempted to tempt each in turn to resume their habits. The challenge was to resist doing so – for just three minutes, for a start, despite their habits of many years. Well, we have to start somewhere to better ourselves, and it makes sense to first take smaller and thus more realistic steps.
Even breaking a negative habit for a second is a breakthrough, to break the loop. In a sense, one needs to have OCD about one’s OCD to maintain it. This is continual reinforcement and choice to be powerless, to keep giving in to force of habit. A strong negative habit can and has to be gradually weakened by a stronger positive habit. There must be will to break free, and practice does makes perfect. Either that, or we doom ourselves to be trapped in eternal recurrence of endless rebirths.
During the exercise, there were anxious moments that needed one another’s physical help and good advice. This led the counter to forget counting, the line avoider to forget lines, the gesturer to forget gesturing, the washer to forget washing… They had become so focused on what was going on, that they broke free of their habits for a while. Mindfulness that there is choice of attention is the cure. Learning to think less about ourselves, so as to help others, is to let go of our own obsessions.
As a Zen dialogue goes, a student asks the master, ‘I need help! What should I do?’ The master replies, ‘Help others!’ In a way, us being in Samsara can be seen as an opportunity for group therapy, for us to help one another out. Yet, some wise guides within are needed, or there might be greater collective confusion instead. Next is the spoiler… The doctor was within the group all along! Like a skilful Bodhisattva, he most subtly guided them to guide one another!
Are You Sure You Closed The Window?