I count. Not all the time, but not infrequently enough for the behaviour to surprise me when I notice.
At least I count in my head most of the time. Doing that type of thing out loud brings questions I prefer not to answer. Ditto to all the oddities I sometimes exhibit – perhaps my grandmother’s dictate that we avoid making personal comments should come back in fashion?
I don’t always notice when I’m getting compulsive; I slide into the automatic actions with the ease of long practice. Even when what I’m doing is destructive. Pain is no guarantee that conscious awareness is coming and compulsive behaviour will stop.
It used to be threes. Three was my number. I’d count to three, or a multiple of three, or in a three-count rhythm. It showed up in the way I’d write lists, subdivide tasks, organize cupboards and drawers, and decorate flat surfaces.
Three cans of soup. Three sets of sit-ups. Three folds in the towel. Three taps of the toe.
And then things changed.
I don’t even know when it happened. Suddenly, I’m all about four.
Maybe it’s the God thing.
It might be connected to the spiritual and cosmological investigating I’ve been doing. Our neuroses are part of us, after all. It would make sense for them to adapt and evolve and change as we do. To learn what we learn.
I’ve been paying a great deal of attention to the number four.
I even made a chart because, as my friends would say, of course, I did. *
Three is a popular number across a multitude of traditions and philosophies, from Christianity to Wicca. I’m fond of it myself; it lends itself nicely to ritual and sets at the gym. But I’ve decided that four is the number of the universe.
Four is the future.
At least that’s what I’m going with right now. And fours and patterns of four are everywhere, supporting my decision. I’m going to ignore the fact that when you look for red cars, you find them.
North, east, south, west.
Earth, air, fire, water.
Winter, spring, summer, fall.
Mass, light, gravity, time.
In some ways, four is an easier number to be compulsive with. It’s easier to synchronize with walking. It’s easier when cutting pizza or pie. It’s not so great for decorating but I’ll figure something out. Two sets of two? Whatever. Four is now the number. Four is what keeps me safe.
That’s the belief, the emotion that hides under the counting. That’s what adhering to the compulsions is about, it’s why you give in to the obsessions at times. You want the safety the behaviour promises.
Don’t bother asking, “safe from what?”. Neuroses don’t like to be challenged. Probably because they have a weak centre and struggle to hold the line when you start asking questions. And yet, even knowing that, I don’t always fight back.
Sometimes, it’s because I’m tired. Sometimes, it’s because I don’t want to. Sometimes, I’d rather have the neurotic security blanket than deal with challenges in a cognitive way.
Strangers at the library can be scary. Is counting to four and multiples thereof sotto voce really such a bad thing?