Practice 2: Think & Act in Slow Motion During the Ritual

Another way to change your ritual pattern is to purposely slow down the thinking and physical movements that occur during the ritual itself.

Perform the Ritual in Slow Motion

  1. Select one ritual (typically a checking behavior)
  2. Slow down your thinking and physical movements during the ritual
  3. Pause at several points to take a calming breath and let go of tensions
  4. When ready, let go of the ritual completely and tolerate the distress that follows

There are two major benefits to this practice. First, when you are distressed you often feel tense, pressured, and rushed. By slowing down your thoughts and actions, you decrease the intensity that accompanies the ritualizing. Without that intensity, the ritual may not be as compelling and consequently will lose some of its power.

The second significant benefit of slowing down during a ritual is that you will remember more of the details of your action. Have you noticed times, just after you've completed a ritual, when you can't quite remember how well you ritualized or if you ritualized enough? You feel safe momentarily but seconds later start doubting whether you carried out your ritual adequately. This probably led you into another round of rituals. As you physically and mentally slow down, you can better remember the details of your actions. Since this technique provides you with a stronger memory of your actions, it will reduce your doubts.

Slow-motion practice can be used with many behavioral rituals. It is especially effective with checking rituals since it seems to reduce this doubt about your actions. For instance, if you wish to practice slow-motion checking of a door, approach the door slowly, pause a few moments to take a Calming Breath while you casually study the lock. As your hand reaches the lock, notice the sensation of the metal on your fingers. If it is a dead bolt lock, then turn it ever-so-slowly. Listen for the "click" as the bolt drops into place. As soon as you hear it, pause for a moment. Hold your hand in place for fifteen more seconds while asking yourself, "Is this door locked?" When you respond, "Yes," drop your arm slowly and then slowly walk away.

When you practice this slow-motion procedure, be sure to incorporate either the Calming Breath or Calming Counts. By interspersing them several times throughout the practice, you can help keep your physical tension at a minimum. This, in turn, will help your concentration and your memory. Listen to the tape entitled "Practicing the Breathing Skills" to remind yourself of these brief relaxation techniques.