Just let me finish, I’m not DONE yet!

Let’s talk about compulsive thoroughness, shall we?

I ask that as if I have a choice.

In that clip, Jack Nicholson is being an asshole but he has a point.

Anyhow, patient readers know that I have my own arena of obsessiveness and that is what I am going to call compulsive thoroughness because that’s its primary operating force, but it actually covers some other, seemingly unrelated things as well.

The basic idea is that once I start something I feel compelled to complete it. That’s led to such things as finishing reading a book I am not enjoying because stopping is not an option for me. I have to finish it. I do not feel like it’s a matter of choice.

It’s like when I start something, I allocate all the energy do doing that thing in advance and that is the energy that keeps me going through the thing, and it’s an energy so strong that is pushes me through the steps without giving me a chance to object.

Perhaps that’s what it takes to get anything done when you are a depressive like myself. Maybe it takes a compulsion so strong that it borders on insanity to overcome my depressive resistance to all action and that if I did not have this compulsion, I would get even less done with my life.

Take this blog, for example. I need to blog. Life without this nightly ritual of self-expression is unthinkable to me. I would have so many thoughts that have nowhere to go.  It would be like not being able to use the bathroom.

Yes, I know that’s a disgusting metaphor, but it’s all that I got.

So to me, this blogging is compulsive. One could argue that it’s the longest running compulsion I have ever had, seeing as I have been writing 1K words since 2011.

Okay, now I have to do the math. That’s roughly 2,550,000 words I have written. Throw in the original million and all the novels I have written and you get four million, easy.

Now if only I had the capacity to call attention to the damned thing.

What this proves is that my compulsions come in all sizes, from the quotidian realities of feeling like I have to finish whatever quest I am on before I can stop playing Skyrim to the mammoth sized challenge of completing my degree at VFS.

I realize now that at the very heart of it, it was compulsion that got me out of bed every day to haul my ass to class. I had started the degree and now I had to keep going until it was done. That’s all there was to it.

That’s why when people commended my perseverance, I of course thanked them and appreciated it, but deep inside it didn’t feel like it was a big deal at all.

Why? Because stopping was literally unthinkable to me. There was never a question in my mind as to whether I would finish. Of course I would finish. There was no other option on the table.

And it’s the power of this compulsion that makes it so hard for me to change plans, and by extention, not be able to do “sudden”. Even if my plan was nothing more than staying in and playing Skyrim (how novel), the energy is still already allocated, and to take it out of its current slot and move it to the new thing is incredibly difficult for me and involves some pretty intense psychological pain and discomfort.

So most of the time, I can’t do it. The new thing would have to promise a very high level of reward for me to consider putting myself through that.

And you could easily say, “What’s the big deal? So you stop doing one thing and go do something else instead. So what?” [1]

But it’s not that simple. People don’t always make sense. A compulsion, like a phobia, is by definition irrational.

If it was rational, it would be called something positive, like “good instincts”.

To me, the definitive moment of compulsion comes when you realize you do not want to do something but that doesn’t matter because the very thought of resisting the compulsion fills you with a mighty and chilling dread so powerful that it overwhelms all reasonable concerns and rewduces you to a primitive state of utter terror.

And you know that this makes no sense.  That’s the worse part of it. You know that the emotional reality of it bears little resemblance to the objective truth of it but you are powerless to resist it

For example, I know that nothing bad will happen if I change plans. The idea that a change of plans would somehow precipitate an unthinkable tragedy is ludicrous on the face of it. By what means would this occur? What would the mechanism be? How can a negligible change in the electrochemical potentials of my mind have any effect whatsoever on the real world, let alone have the power to call the lighting of the gods down upon my head.

But that doesn’t change the terror one bit. It comes from a place far deeper than reason, the place where superstition and phobias live, and this place shrugs aside reason like it was not even there because it has survival priority on its side.

Our reason can only operate at the tolerance of our deeper instincts. The whole process of civilization consists of keeping them happy so we have a chance of being human. When something violates this soothing of our instincts – like, for instance, famine – reason as we know it gives way to the very practical application of our intellect to the problem of staying alive.

And so, when my compulsion comes calling, my reason can pound on the wall it erects as hard as it wants and scream as loud as it pleases, and it will make no difference.

After all, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

Even if he doesn’t even want to,.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. For some reason, I hear that in a Jerry Seinfeld from Seinfeld voice.Now there’s somebody who knows a thing or two about compulsion. 

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