I’ve had obsessive-compulsive disorder for thirty-three years, and I’ve been writing about it for the past four.

You probably know the basics. Obsessive-compulsives experience torturously intrusive thoughts and fears – obsessions. These thoughts tempt us to engage in ritual behaviors – compulsions – in order to make the thoughts go away. Doing so, however, only strengthens the cycle.

For me, OCD is the background, the wallpaper, the atmosphere, and the lens – a world that is often so seamless and complete as to be indistinguishable from the real thing. It crops up everywhere – coloring my relationships, toying with my ambitions and desires, and colonizing past, present, and future. That’s why I write and podcast: describing my experience allows me to get some distance from it, to see the distortions that I take for clear sight.

But the psychological tendencies underlying OCD aren’t limited to those of us with diagnoses. In some ways, they’re widespread – a set of cognitive and emotional tendencies that infect our wider culture and politics. On occasion, I try to say something about these arenas as well.

If you’re new here, I recommend reading The First Few Chapters of a Life with OCD and Learning to Fall Apart. If you’re into politics, you might also enjoy I Wrote Speeches For Vice President Biden. Here’s What It Felt Like.

I’ve Written for These Publications…

The Believer
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Dallas News
Huffington Post
3 quarks daily
Y Combinator
Fair Observer


…And These Organizations

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drclas Harvard
  • Retalley

    It probably does not surprise you that i like this page


  • Alliatboy

    Looks like you’ve came a long way since we played little league! Good stuff, bro. :)

  • Matt B.

    Thanks so much, Tommy! Hope everything’s going really well in your zone.

  • Herrlk

    Delighted to find that you are continuing your political life!

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Thanks Lois!

  • Anonymous

    Gee, Matt, I really sympathize with you RE the situation you encountered at the Romney event.  It’s complicated, but what you wrote told me that you did about as well as any American should be expected to do in such a confrontation.  I’m probably 3 times your age, from a time when such things just didn’t happen to us.  Now I wonder if this country will ever recover to a certain goodness it used to have.

    PS:  if you work at Harvard Divinity School, I helped build the Fisk organ back in 1967 – when you probably weren’t even a dream in your parents eyes!

    Kind regards – hope you get this solved.

  • Lindsayholt


    Matt BrotherI posted a comment to the story and I’m posting here again … this is absolutely the most outrageous thing I’ve heard in a long time … well since I was falsely arrested once myself although not at a public campaign event. I think you have a REAL and very IMPORTANT story here which exemplifies many things now converging in this country … somehow your story is a grand synthesis of so many trends we’ve been seeing in the USA, that I sincerely HOPE you will get some serious media attention and demand from Romney himself a public apology and make the cops remove this from your record !When an American citizen with a decent profile cannot attend a campaign event for a presidential candidate as you did without being arrested, then we have LOST the core of what this nation was founded upon and stands for, and this is one sad day.I sure hope you will push this as far as you can in a dignified respectful honest way that will redeem your reputation and get you so well deserved attention. WHY ?Well amongst other things my friend, I do “serious level Astrology” (no new age BS) and I can assure you, that events like this in a person’s life happen for a reason but you MUST take control here and make the reason work out to your benefit by using this event as a catalyst for you to get somewhere with it – because of it – otherwise it has happened “TO YOU” and you need to make it the other way around – alright ?Let me know IF I can help you … first thing is I will do your chart for you to take a serious look at what is going on … trust me, I am very good at this.Let me know … lindsayholt “at” mac “dot” com ok ?Lindsay HoltSanta Fe

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you should try to contact Mr.Romney directly and tell him about what happened.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Thanks very much, jblog! Great to hear from an HDSer.

  • Anonymous

    This is so disconcerting.  You must have felt awful.  This reminds me of the free speech zones of the last few elections.  They wanted to put you in one but could only offer you jail.   It was a public event alright — but only for members of the party.  They decided that you weren’t a member at a public event so, yes, use the ACLU, go on Stewart, Colbert, please.  It’s Media v. Media and you will prevail.  The public will see this and it will go viral.

    In 2004, I canvased for Kerry in NH.  I’ve thought twice about doing that again. When I parked my car, with a MA plate, in front of a suburban house in the leafy suburbs of a small town (it may have been Hudson, I don’t recall)  the police wanted to know who it belonged to, according to my fellow canvassers returning from the circuit that evening.  NH plates park all the time near my house here in MA and I never felt the need to call the police.  Now, I think about it.

    Good luck.

  • http://thewheatandchaff.com Matt Bieber

    Yeah, it wasn’t fun. Thanks very much, Ricky. And don’t lose heart!

  • Matthew Lowe

    Hi Matt– This is Matthew Lowe, a former HDS (’09) student. I found your blog through your recent comment on the NYT “The Stone” article. I am also very interested in enhancing the quality of discourse, though on an interpersonal/philosophical level. I’m currently doing this through a series of classes on the art of productive argument for high school students in Newton. I would love to share some ideas with you– for starters, could you direct me to any posts you’ve written specific to this topic? I tried scanning your table of contents, but that was not helpful. I think it would be best for me to be more familiar with your work before I send my own ideas along. If you want to see my work, you can check it out at http://www.theemptythrone.blogspot.com.