In this article I am going to introduce a concept I’ve only touched on—but really is core to my OCD: stasis. And what better way to discuss this than the world of technology.
On this site I explore the fringes of OCD, through my own experiences of course1. Some of the characteristics one may not associate with OCD—even those in medicine may not. There are some things that OCD is—or at least, causes—that are well beyond the static definition of obsessive compulsive disorder, that do have their roots in the standard symptoms and ways of the disorder.
One of those things is the obsession for things to stay the same. This characteristic (which I have) is important to explore on its own, not just as one of many obsessions—stopping at the “obsession” part. No, the need for things to stay the same itself can be a major part of OCD. In fact, I would place this need very close to the root of my own OCD.
It is well beyond fear of change. We all have that, probably to a degree defined as “more than a little bit.” That is the human condition. As well, some people love change. Or, better put to sum up all normality—people have mechanisms to deal with change and see it as a good scary, with all of the potential good outcomes being paramount in their minds. All actions are change, and actions are the only way to bring success. That thought process, that is normality.
To me, that which is new is uncomfortable and I obsess over keeping things exactly the same. This is because I think of every eventuality to change and must focus on the negative possibilities. I therefore know—and cannot not know—change as being a bad thing. As the harbinger of the dreadful. Ironically my life is not a happy one, at its root, yet I do not want it to change. If I knew nothing would change, I can see a pathway to happiness. I want stasis. I need stasis.
Predictability is happiness for me, and I am obsessed with making the world around be predictable—to the annoyance of those around me at times. They want action, which means change, because they want to move forward in life and experience the unknown. This all makes sense, but my brain doesn’t want that. I don’t control that part of my brain.
Now, to real life. I work in technology. I run tech businesses. Yes, my life is fairly the opposite of what you would expect from someone with extreme OCD and anxiety! It surprises my therapists and psychiatrists. I don’t fully understand it—I just know how to be successful in the technology space.
The world of technology is unequivocally defined, at its core, by change. Constant new iterations and versions of things. Constant change, leaving the old behind. As well, it moves faster and faster every passing year. Even month! Change, all the time. The old world was two years ago.
Would you believe that even though I am a tech entrepreneur, and have been one for twenty years now, that I despise new technologies almost always? It is true. Maybe not one-hundred percent of them—which I will explain—but at least at first I do not like that which is new. Most often I don’t see a need for it. I will say that part is not always my disorder speaking—most new technology does suck and will not be around for long. I need to be assured of a technology being around for a long time for me to dive into learning it, embracing it, and making it part of my business and then life.
An example—I program computers and for the internet. I know most new languages, at least as I need them. Truth is, if you know languages (unlike the languages you speak), you can probably pick up new ones pretty easily. But not instantly—you do need to go through a learning curve, and that learning is uncomfortable. That part is very much like learning a new language—you are reduced to a lesser intelligent part of yourself as you navigate a learning process similar to one you undertook decades ago when you were a figurative baby.
The newer languages—many of them are useless to me, as I see them doing nothing different than I already do with old languages. I can argue this with people in tech all day long, but what it often comes down to—outside the scope of this article, probably—is that I program in an unconventional way anyway. I am a hack, I get by with what I know and move forward not being imperfect—but being perfect for my own needs alone.
Many new languages and the software behind them offer great benefits to people like me who can utilize them as tools. Yet, in my daily life, I program most everything for myself using a language now old enough to drink2! Just think about everything that has happened in the world of computers (your smartphone being one) in the past twenty-one years. And this language addresses none of that. But I am both extremely comfortable with it, so much so that I can write it almost as easily as I speak English. So, for my own programs—of which I have 50 or 60 I run to automate my life every day—I use that decades-old system.
Where does OCD come into all of this? I know I should be using the latest technology, I know it would get me over hurdles I have to hack at like crazy in a few simple steps. But I am obsessed with comfort, and things staying the same. The extreme comfort I get from the old language is an obsession. It brings happiness, and happiness only comes from an obsession realized in full.
A newer language would not bring that—I would not be able to be perfect in it, I would not have an environment build around it and with it that is perfectly to my specifications—because it is new, and I would be doing things while I learn. While I love book learning, the confluence of learning new technologies and having a comfortable technological environment being opposites creates a dissonance I just abhor. My brain does that, I do not want to think that way.
I am a bright person. I am not the greatest at what I do, but I can figure out how to keep technology comfortable for me as well as exist well in a high-tech world I live and work in3.
I only recently upgraded my four-year old smartphone. Four years in the smartphone world is—as you must know—an extremely long time. So they tell me. The OCD episodes that went into prying away my old phone were pretty epic4. My phone was my environment, set up precisely how I wanted it. Yeah, the phone was slowing down. Yeah, it didn’t have nearly the power necessary for what I wanted it to do. But it was my environment. With OCD environment and stasis are so important.
That is a key word which I always put at the root of any charts, diagrams, or notes I make about my life—as a key to happiness for me:
So going back to the phone example—which is exemplary of my obsession with stasis—things staying the same—I found myself setting up the new phone not with its new widgets and gadgets and all that fun stuff. No, I frantically set up the phone exactly as I had my old phone5.
I am deep into technology. It dissents from my OCD, it creates dissonance. I work around it by being a hack at technology. I can live my life in a high-tech world, even for my business life—and I can still find a way to hold on—grasping and clawing at times—to stasis.
1 I can’t get into anyone else’s head, and quite frankly couldn’t bear it—not that I don’t want to know, it is just mine is already full of obsessions ongoing and compulsions unrealized. [BACK]
2 Ok, I promised myself I would shy away from cliché, yet the second I realized something specific is twenty-one years old, I needed to use that friggin’ cliché. I’m leaving it. The language is twenty-one years old, that is all that matters. I can’t sit here and edit every sentence to perfection, this site would go nowhere! [BACK]
3 You should see some of the amazing (to me) things I have done merging ancient technology with new technology. I promised myself I would not geek out in this article—leaving your eyes rolling. But ask me, I’ll tell you some interesting things I’ve done that should never be done with technology and programming. [BACK]
4 Not to mention a purchase above $800, or really any purchase above $50… ok, really most any purchase at all—brings about an OCD episode. But especially those over $800. [BACK]
5 Well, with a bigger screen. That part is nice. [BACK]