After a fellow photographer on Instagram made a comment regarding a compulsion to take pictures of red barns, I’ve been spending the morning compulsively thinking about compulsion.
We normally associate compulsive behavior with negative behavior, as illustrated by how often the word is used in the mental health field. A compulsion normally drives you toward behavior that brings you pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that. Problems relating to the behavior arrive when a person isn’t capable of recognizing that the time has come to put a temporary end to the enjoyable activity. Seeking out enjoyment and pleasure is essential to leading a good life, but a sense of self-restraint is equally important.
My love of books arises from a compulsion to let go of my own reality and temporarily inhabit the world of a good story. The very visceral feeling of being fully immersed in the Hogwarts experience is something I will never forget. The world of magic and wonder is essential to living a life of imagination and passion.
That world of magic and wonder doesn’t just exist in books. It’s all around us. All the time. Photographers know it’s there and are always working to capture it. Artists and writers know it’s there. Movie lovers know it’s there. Everyone with happy childhood memories knows it’s there. Compulsions drive us toward experiences that push us to see more, learn more, understand more. Quite simply, to experience more. Compulsions drive us to set up shop in the zone.
The pleasures of life should arrive as small and colorful explosions, that blink in and out of existence. If it was possible to live an entire lifetime at the very pinnacle of the pleasurable experience, would it be pleasurable? I think it would seem unendingly boring. Our normal day-to-day responsibilities serve as our anchors. They provide our lives with structure and needed practice in self-denial and self-control.
Enjoy your compulsions, but view them as mini-vacations. You always need to know when it’s time to return home.