Magical thinking accompanies the emergence of human civilization. It is magical thinking that underlies animism, religions, and popular superstitions. Its logic suggests that the repetition of a certain ritual can cause one or another desired result. For example, that a shamanic dance can cause rain.
OCD functions by the same logic. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition in which a person constantly encounters obsessive anxious and often irrational thoughts, which they, in turn, try to suppress with the same obsessive irrational actions – rituals. Their function is to temporarily calm or prevent certain situations a person is afraid of. A person with OCD often agrees with the meaninglessness of their rituals but is not able to resist them. Anxiety increases if the compulsive actions are not finished.
By feeding it with new irrational actions, I gave silent consent for the transformation of my state. From early childhood, every year it acquired new forms and ways of expression. With time, my fears have grown with me, I’ve acquired new ones, transformed the old ones, and compulsion became part of my daily routine. For example, I am now always late, because before leaving I have to turn off all the lights, electrical appliances, stoves, close all the doors, windows, and hide some things. Nevertheless, it’s never enough to do this just once, therefore I need to do so multiple times, and visual confirmation that something is turned off and closed is not enough. I must touch all the sockets, switches, and locks. And when the front door is finally closed, I must pull the handle so hard that my hand hurts for a few minutes after, so that the confidence that the door is finally closed completely wouldn’t leave me.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, my OCD has only gotten worse. However, the truly terrible thing is that now, I am not the only one in this state. The endless ritual of “antiseptic-hand washing-distance anxiety” is something that each one of us has encountered. Constant obsessive thoughts and fears of both the present and future. Humanity has been living like this for the entire year, and it is not yet clear what the consequences will be.
Ritualism permeates all spheres of human life. It exists thanks to our religious consciousness and helps to temporarily suppress fear of death. In our society, ceremonies and rituals follow us from birth. All life’s crises, transitions from one state to another, victories and failures, weddings and funerals, are accompanied by rituals.
We use rituals as therapy and a way to calm down, as a temporary relief of stress and tension. This is an attempt to control the uncontrolled, that is, life itself.
Magical thinking has had a huge impact on the development of culture and even art. Ritualism is an important feature of medieval culture. The rituals reflected a layer of medieval consciousness that turned to more archaic and primitive forms. This includes jousting with various symbols-rituals, such as knighting, and the belief in the existence of witches with subsequent hunting for them, ordalia or “God’s court”, in which only the innocent can pass all the tests, the judicial torture system, witchcraft and alchemy. In each case, it is possible to find a connection between the magical action and the consequence that should follow. Medieval thinking is totally ritualized and mythologized.
In my series, I record my ritualism, my obsessions, and compulsions. The connections I find between things that are quite different according to conventional logic. OCD is the same medieval ritualism, the search for common ground between reality and fiction, giving magical meaning to completely ordinary things, accompanying actions and their repetition, repetition, repetition.
BIO/ Viktoriia Tymonova is an Ukrainian artist who focuses and works on traumas both personal and collective, societal constructs, and the Soviet legacy. Her mediums are photography, collage and sound. Through her projects, she expresses her disagreement with constructed stereotypes and imposed scripts.
Text and Photos / Viktoriia Tymonova @viktoriiatymonova
Translation / Polina Bakanova @bakanova__p