In this article I am going to go over the problem of compulsive acts of verification. Even though it is a very broad concept, most verifications are usually related to doors, windows, and the switches of white-line products, electronics, domestic gas or kitchen-tops, as well as placement of objects only in a determined manner, and rituals of different kinds of verifications, especially before going to bed.
In my personal case, I used to have compulsive acts of verification of doors and car lights, of windows and blinds in my home being closed, as well as the domestic gas switch, doors of fridge and freezer, and the disposition of certain objects within my room. Shoes had necessarily to be placed in a pre-determined tile, and with a certain orientation, each thing on my studio table, in a concrete and precise place. In my case, with the passage of time, new verifications appeared, especially before going to bed. Progressively, I adopted procedures for doing them, and I had to think certain things at the moment of verification. If at the instant of verification I had a negative thought, I had to repeat that same verification several times, until I found a positive thought to do it with, and only then could I pass to the next one.
If you do not suffer from an OCD, you may be thinking that this is insane, that it does not have any kind of sense, but sadly, compulsive acts of verification affect millions of people all over the World. If on the other hand such is your case, it is very likely that you have noticed that the verifications manifest themselves usually at night before going to bed, and that they get magnified during periods of stress, tension, work loads and weighs, economic and financial problems, family issues, etc.
What happens when someone resists the impulse to verify things and does not go through each verification? That they will be uneasy and restless, they may, time and time again, over and over, go over the fact that they should have done the verification. They may even come to think something wrong can happen to them, some sort of bad luck superstition, which may lead them to enter into states of strong anguish and despair, with fierce related anxiety. Here is the “thousand-dollars question”:
Why do we have such urges, and why does our mind push us towards necessarily having to hopelessly verify each and every one of those things, even when we have the knowledge that the door (or the switch or the window-blind, etc) is well-closed? The most exact answer would be, because it has become a habit in our lives, things we have incorporated into our realities, into our every-day way of doing things, and also into our psyche. Oftentimes they are projections of control needs and impulses. People that suffer from OCD have great needs to assess and regulate all the aspects of their lives; sadly though, that is impossible to achieve. Living means also accepting the possibility of things not happening the way we want them to, that some times our capacities and capabilities of handling situations and solving problems may be overcome and subdued by absolutely unexpected events, with negative, irrevocable consequences.
So, as we unconsciously know that we cannot control it all, we tend to develop a sort of psychological addiction to controlling the few things that we know we are actually able to control, such as doors being well-closed, or things in our rooms being located in an exact way. This is a process known as projection, and to totally understand it it would be necessary to go deeper into Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis. Nonetheless, such studies would allow us greater understanding of the psychological mechanisms behind these compulsive acts of verification, but it would not necessarily imply a reduction or a cure of said acts.
Please, be completely honest about this question: Have you noticed that your need to go over compulsive acts of verification diminishes when you travel on vacations? If the answer is yes, then this is clear indicative that these compulsive acts of verification can be cured, and can be made to vanish and go away. Some individuals experience a diminishment of these urges and needs of verification when a holiday approaches and they do not have to go to work the next day, or if they are falling in love with someone; also when they go on student exchanges abroad, or when they are going through periods of absolute absence of responsibilities (as for instance when unemployed but without economic rushes or urgencies towards work.) When going through rougher periods, such as parcial or final exams, work overload, laboral or financial pressures, etc., the compulsive acts of verification surge distinctively. Why does this happen? Because in these situations of stress and tension, the urges and needs to control each and every one of those situations is greater, which is translated through projection into these kinds of compulsive acts of verification.