Today I decided to add a theme to my Firefox browser, and I choose one based on Japanese tattoos. I then decided to put “Japanese tattoos” into Google, which led me to reading the Wikipedia article on the Yakuza and then reading about the presence of women in Western mafias on a Canadian website. I noticed two things: one, my Internet habits are a reflection of my thought patterns and two, organized crime groups require members to adhere to various traditions and rituals that apply to more than criminal behavior.
I also remembered a brief article I read on anorexia mirabilis (full text here), which led me to think further on how rituals are things humans seem to do regardless of who they are, what they believe, and where they live. Ritual is a framework and brings comfort, it can make things otherwise nonsensical legitimate. Once learned it is difficult and rattling and possible to unlearn. Ritual can be bedded into sense of self, or be viewed as a hassle, or viewed as menacing, or all of the above.
Ritualistic does not morality make. Mob codes of conduct do not negate murder. Extreme food restriction isn’t about spirituality. Structure does not make things moral. Intention matters in the case of morality – if one’s intention is entirely self-serving, there is a chance it isn’t entirely moral.
I had a song stuck in my head the other evening. A couple snippets of circa 1992 Swedish pop that had bore into a space meant for a therapy manual I was trying to read. I tried to ignore it. I tried to mindfully observe it. I tried to purge it by listening to it. I tried to listen to a different pop song. Finally, I picked out something from a different genre and was able to get some work done.
Earworms are the common name for the “I have a song stuck in my head” phenomenon. They’re also known as intrusive musical imagery (IMI). Most people experience it and don’t find it particularly bothersome. A small number of people find them aversive and some these people may have obsessive-compulsive traits, frequently related to OCD.
IMI are not listed in the DSM-5’s section on Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. I’ve heard people with OCD comment on the presence of IMI and there is a question about it on the YBOCS (Young-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale, which is used to diagnose OCD, determine severity, for research purposes, etc). I’m not entirely sure why it didn’t make it into the DSM-5, but then again the DSM-5 is an example of what can happen when books are written by committee.
This is a fantastic review article on IMI:
Musical obsessions: A comprehensive review of neglected clinical phenomena
IMI Article Takeaways:
- It can be an obsession, and some sort of avoidance behavior (compulsion) may be accompanying it.
- It tends to co-occur with other obsessions, such as familiar ones like contamination or harm.
- It sometimes gets misdiagnosed as part of a psychotic disorder or just plain ignored by clinicians.
- Unlike other types of obsessions, use of distraction can be helpful – here is an opportunity to indulge in distraction, folks (I kid).