I really should take up smoking

March 31, 2009

And then I thought, wait a minute, maybe I don’t have food or body image issues. What I have are compulsive behavior problems. I gave up nail biting and trichotillomania only to replace them with compulsive fasting and lying awake at night digging for my rib bones beneath the layers of flab. Brad Pilon totally called it in this post. A virtual bitch-slap, and I can’t say that I didn’t need it. I mean, I really do feel relieved. So, thanks to him!

It reminds me of that David Sedaris essay about giving up smoking (via going to Tokyo). Smoking was his compulsion of choice because (among other things), it finally gave him something to do with his hands. Once he took up smoking – presto! –his nervous tics just disappeared.

In related news, on mercola.com, there is a proven! remedy for all that ails you that consists of systematically tapping pressure points on your body throughout the day. I’m not saying this doesn’t work – hey, David Sedaris got rid of his twitching and tiny voices through the magic of nicotine – but how is this different from purposefully developing a nervous tic?

So, compulsion…It’s the behavioral equivalent of a ledge to a mountain climber, that thing that urges you forward and narrows your focus to a pinpoint while the winds die away to an urgent, all encompassing whisper that says Just do it. You feel a pressure building up to this point, so when the action hits, it feels like blowing off steam, like poking holes in yourself to let off the pressure along with the bad blood. You’re not necessarily thinking of anything, really. It’s a trance-like state, maybe akin to meditation in a way. The whole world is encompassed in the locked box of your compulsions. And you think to yourself Your mind is bigger than your prison. And then you feel like a chump for thinking anything so trite and Dr. Phil and unpoetic.

From what I’ve read, cognitive therapy presupposes that a (probably inaccurate) thought or belief precedes any such action. But compulsive over-grooming is also seen in animals. I’m not saying they don’t feel pain, but I doubt they have “thoughts” that they can swap out for “more positive thoughts.” So then you’re left with stress reduction and kitty Prozac.