Ritual Starvation

by maximusaurus

Between my OCD and my autism, I have more rituals than your average cult. “Rituals” are basically behaviours that are compulsively performed as a way of minimizing stress; for example, hand washing, or eating only certain foods at certain times. In a world that’s often frightening chaotic, these rituals can give people a comforting sense of control and stability.

Thing is, they can also be a colossal pain in the gluteus maximus. I hate feeling like I have to conduct extensive rituals like checking all my windows and doors before going to bed. It feels like an exhausting, annoying chore. I waste a lot of my time and energy on such rituals, and as a result I’m constantly trying to wean myself off them.

One method is to consciously go out of my way to defy them. For example, to combat my hand-washing, I began a habit of licking my fingers sometimes after touching something, as if to say, “oh look, it’s been in my mouth, there’s no point washing them now!” Unfortunately, this particular behaviour has become a bad habit in its own right that I am now trying to de-program!

Another very helpful technique though, is going cold turkey by putting myself in an environment where I can’t conduct my rituals; not taking anti-septic handwash when I go camping to force myself to cope without it, for instance. Breaking the habit this way has been very effective for me. It’s almost like going to rehab for an addiction; you learn to get along without your rituals out of necessity. It basically forces my brain to confront the fact that if I don’t do them, the world won’t end.

As always, I’d caution against pushing yourself too far too fast; trying to break more than one habit at once or putting yourself in a foreign environment where you don’t have the tools or the support you need to cope can be a recipe for disaster. But by taking it slow, and “detoxing” from my compulsions in a safe and supported way, I’ve been able to eliminate several rituals which were disrupting my day-to-day life.