Recovery Nation said consider a particular compulsive ritual, and identity the elements of it.
First, I have to identify what, for purposes of this exercise, is a relevant compulsive ritual. I have a few rituals today that I’d like to stop: picking at my cuticles, scratching inside my ears, and scratching my butt during the night. I’m not sure those are topics for this exercise. They don’t really address the greater problem: my long history of adultery and lies.
Alternatively, I could go back in time, five years ago, and consider my previous compulsive rituals: viewing porn, masturbating, and having sex with prostitutes or other abnormally available women. I am skeptical that those behaviors would be relevant for this exercise because I have not engaged in any of those behaviors for over 50 months. I believe I have extinguished those behaviors.
Just to be thorough, did I derive pleasure from those behaviors according to any of the nine common elements of sexually compulsive behavior suggested by Jon Marsh? How about sensory stimulation, orgasm, power, or accomplishment? Yes, sadly, I did enjoy stimulation of all the senses, as well as the orgasm, sense of power or control of the situation, and feeling of accomplishment. Was I motivated by my past? Yes, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, I did use my feelings about my religious upbringing and perceived lack of experience to justify my adultery.
Was I motivated by poly-addictions? No. Did I derive pleasure from the fantasy? Maybe. I was leading a double-life, and that seems to me to be an example of being motivated by fantasy. What about danger or suspense? I did not consciously seek nor enjoy those aspects of the experience. Did I seek them subconsciously? Possibly.
Finally, it makes more sense to me to examine the compulsive behavior that was at the root of the problem for me, and the one that has haunted me more recently than 50 months ago: self-pity. Is that a compulsive behavior, for purposes of this exercise? At the very least, it was a self-destructive habit. My past was clearly the prime motivator for that behavior in me, as I thought, wrongly, that God owed me a life with more freedom and experience than what I had.
What other elements of compulsion might have been involved? Did I get any sensory stimulation or orgasm from self-pity? Definitely not. Did it give me a sense of accomplishment or address a desire for danger or suspense? No. Was it aimed at fantasy? Maybe. It was a form of escape into an alternate world, a world where wishes and beliefs were the coin of the realm, as opposed to goals, plans, commitment, and responsibility.
Was it related to any poly-addictions? At first, it was not. As I got older, I think it may have paired up with compulsive use of porn and masturbation. I eventually paired it with compulsive use of prostitutes and other abnormally available women, as soon as they became available. After D-day, I struggled for one year with compulsive smoking. I lied to hide it, perhaps because I knew it was an unhealthy compulsion. Looking back on that, I think perhaps I can say that the smoking became a poly-addiction paired with self-pity.
Did self-pity satisfy a desire for power, perhaps meaning control? Maybe. Perhaps it’s a method of self-soothing, in the absence of better habits that should build resilience. One counselor said maybe I used the self-pity to rationalize adultery and smoking. Perhaps so. But, in the context of this exercise, what did I want from self-pity? Why did I seek it, or create it? What did I think it would do for me?
It allowed me to blame something for my unhappiness or dissatisfaction, something other than my own inaction, hesitation, cowardice, and unwillingness to exert effort. In a way, I perceived self-pity as the easy way out, the path of least resistance. Why put effort and commitment into fitness and self-improvement when I could just tell myself those goals were unobtainable and that fantasy, anger, and adultery were acceptable? Why, before marriage, bravely and patiently get to know a girl, or, after marriage, make my wife a real priority as a person, when I could just give up and turn to self-pity? Why push myself to be more flexible and more persevering, when I could just blame God for life’s challenges and wallow in self-pity. Self-pity was my teddy bear, my blanket. It also became my weight, dragging me down and stopping me from reaching my full potential, giving me an excuse not to try.
Too often in life, I’ve been too lazy, afraid, or inflexible to try. So, perseverance, bravery, and flexibility may be my best antidotes to self-pity