יום שני, 21 בנובמבר 2011

Existential View of OCD

In his 1917 essay, "Art as Device" about the dialectic dynamic that drives the development of artistic form, Vicror Shklovsky quotes a passage from the great Tolstoy's journal from 1897 in which Tolstoy reports that he cannot remember whether he dusted the sofa or not. Tolstoy is horrified that habit has consumed so much of his conscious life: "...if the whole conscious life of many people passes by unconsciously, then it is as if that life has never been... So life disappears, turning into nothing. Automatization consumes things, clothes, furniture, one's wife and fear of war," and Tolstoy vows never to lose life to a habitualized loss of consciousness. 

Shklovsky holds that art's function is revitalization of consciousness, to cancel the habituation of our consciousness to things, make them new and unfamiliar so we can experience them as they happen, making the stone we pass in the garden stony again. Art does so by showing reality in an unfamiliar way. Art becomes reality as we habituate to it, and then art evolves again, to show reality in an unfamiliar way. That is the driving force and the governing logic for the development of new art forms.

It was in class last year, in Prof Dar's seminar on OCD as a meta cognitive disorder, that I suggested to look at OCD as an attempt to defamiliarize reality. More specifically, we discussed the updating nature of OCD rituals, and the fact that rituals are only helpful as long as they keep the OC person unhabituated to his or her action. Once a ritual becomes automatic, it no longer serves the OC person, and it must be developed further. I told the class of Shklovsky's idea of defamiliarization, and suggested that the same could apply to OCD rituals.

The comparison of OCD rituals evolution to art evolution could lead us to the following ideas:
1) Suggest an existential explanation to OCD, a lack in the sense of being in the world, similar to Tolstoy's concern. This would lead us to treat OCD with existential means, such as the fear from freedom, and the search for meaning.
2) Suggest OC people art as a ritual. Locking the door in multiples of 13 is meaningless and maladaptive (makes you miss the bus). Writing a haiku (a very strict short poetic form) about locking the door is quite cool. Yes, cool. We do many great things that could be considered meaningless and maladaptive, but are rather considered cool, many of these are art. 

I would like to test the following questions:
1) Do OC people have a different relation to art than non OCs?
2) Does art help reduce OC distress?
3) Is OC related to a sense of being in the world?
4) Do therapy methods that focus on sense of being in the world help OCD?

I would appreciate any ideas on how to test this, and of any mediating variables I didn't take into account.








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