Our Compulsive Habits

February 3, 2010

Im sitting here surfing my blog, listening to the music page and wondering what I can tweak and tidy.. I guess Im a neat freak on my blog like I am in my ‘real life’. Which reminds me about some habits I have that to me arent so bad these days compared to previous years.. but they do have a significance in my life: They help me stay in control of myself. So this post is about control and the things we do to maintain it.

What kind of control?

Anything really. When we develop strategies, processes and patterns of thinking sometimes we are forced to do so to be able to comprehend our experiences. If we are dealing with stressful or distressing events, we can develop emotional defenses. For instance, as children if our parents are fighting and we cant stop it, we might develop a cleaning habit because thats something we can control. Or we might develop anorexia or a self harming habit.

Our responses to stress are varied, at any time we may ignore our emotions, lash out in anger, develop anxiety or develop ways to cope which may not be healthy but they make us feel good so we continue the pattern we develop. Alcohol, drugs, overeating, sex addiction are just some of the things we indulge in to cope. Some not so obvious ways of trying to cope can be excessive cleaning, rituals we create to get through the day, maybe even tapping e.g. I’ve seen some people tap themselves in a regulated rhythm before beginning a task they have to do.

And these habits we develop dont seem so bad on the surface, if it works for us then maybe there is no harm. But when these patterns become compulsive , when we start feeling we must do them, they could become a problem.

For myself, people often laugh at me because I cant eat anything more than a day old, I drink all my drinks through a straw (I take my own when Im out) except hot drinks, I rarely touch food, and I rinse all my crockery and cutlery before using them. I dont touch door handles or light switches, money or anything other people might have touched.

And these are only a few things I have to deal with, friends and family say Im weird or fussy or even worse, mentally unwell.

But when you think about how and why we develop our rituals, and what they do for us, its easy to see the comfort and security we get from them.

The need to feel in control of ourselves manifests in the way we develop coping strategies and sometimes we are not even aware of this.

Some healthy coping strategies are:

  • meditation
  • listening to music
  • talking to someone
  • exercise
  • journaling
  • working through the grief or forgiveness process
  • doing a relaxing activity

If we have healthy ways of coping we can handle our stress better and we can be mindful of developing compulsive habits.

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