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The selves we guard.

The selves we guard.
By Beautiful Voyager • Issue #44 • View online
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

Dear fellow BV,
Compulsions always fascinated me. What are we looking for—and what do we get— from engaging in small, private rituals? Why does that certain neighbor sit in the same seat on the bus every day? Why did that former colleague always insist on formatting spreadsheets in exactly that way? The secrecy’s made me curious and hungry for answers.
I’ve had my share of compulsive behavior (shocker). Years ago, when Netflix was still a DVD delivery service, the satisfying sound of the disk tumbling into the mailbox after I was done with it gave me the kind of dopamine hit most people experience on a night on the town.
No baby goat, just a satisfying feeling of completion.
No baby goat, just a satisfying feeling of completion.
Now I have witnesses to my every compulsion. My husband and daughter see, for example, my deep need for the garbage cans to go out like clockwork on Sunday night.
“Why are you so obsessed with taking the garbage out?” they ask.
I’d love to give them an answer, but my hunger for knowing has evaporated over time. I’m not sure there is an answer for why we delight in these private, idiosyncratic rituals.
More importantly, It’s not about why the compulsion affects me; it’s about how my compulsion affects others.
Those closest to us see through us, despite our attempts to hide.
Those closest to us see through us, despite our attempts to hide.
These days, instead of asking why I have a compulsion, I ask:
  1. If I’m unable to do this ritual, how cranky am I (aka how controlling am I about this thing)?
  2. Is there a way for me to enjoy this ritual without needing it?
  3. Does my compulsion separate me from others in a negative way?
Answering these questions helps me get to the root of things and take action when needed. If you’re dealing with compulsions in yourself or others, friend, I hope these questions can be helpful to you too.
Love, Meredith
Love, Meredith
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