Recovery Workshop

Mapping a Ritual Worksheet

Rituals are the ritualistic elements associated with single compulsive acts. These elements are used to produce intensive change in one's emotional experience. Usually, to the point of achieving 'delusional actualization' or, temporary escape.

This worksheet is intended to help you map out a single compulsive ritual as taught in Lesson 27 of the Recovery Workshop. For a refresher on compulsive ritualistic behavior, please refer to those lessons. If you have not yet passed this part of the workshop, this worksheet might not hold much benefit for you.

First Name and Last Initial:

E-mail address:

Step 1: Choose a specific compulsive behavior that you want to map. Remember, you are examining a specific compulsive act, not a general pattern of compulsion.

Give this act a name:

For instance, Viewing porn on 9/24/12

Step 2: List the Emotional Elements Involved

Make a random list of the emotional elements of this compulsive act and what triggered them. Just brainstorm all of the emotions involved with this compulsive act. Include all times when certain actions (including thoughts) either enhanced or diminished your overall emotional intensity while engaged in this act.

Typically, there should be between five and fifteen elements identified in simple compulsive urge. Less than that and you are likely not connecting with the level of awareness needed to understand the urge. Any more, and you are likely overanalyzing and thus, missing the bigger picture.

For instance:

Emotion: Anxiety
Triggered by: knowing that my wife was going out of town

Emotion: Excitement
Triggered by: fantasizing about the opportunities to act out while she was gone

Emotion: Anxiety
Triggered by: realizing that I was facing a compulsive urge

Emotion: Guilt
Triggered by: realizing that somehow, someway, I was going to talk myself into acting out...and that all of my 'urge control preparation' was just for show

Emotion: Excitement
Triggered by: Sitting down at the computer with no possibility of being interrupted...

Emotion: Excitement intensifies
Triggered by: beginning my search for 'the right porn'...

Step 3: Timeline

Place the above emotional elements in a timeline, beginning with the first emotion that you associated with the urge and ending with your emotions upon completion of the active phase of the ritual.

This is typically all there is to mapping a compulsive/ritualistic behavior. The remainder of this worksheet focuses on some of the more important aspects of ritualistic awareness.

Step 4: Note the trigger(s) of this urge:

Important, identifying the true triggers is not always easy or necessary. It is only done to provide you with additional experience in preparing for future situations. Areas to examine include both overt triggers (fight with spouse, pressure at work) and subtle triggers (boredom, opportunity).

Step 5: Note your immediate reaction upon becoming aware of the urge.

Nothing will provide you with more value in terms of compulsive awareness and urge control than will be your ability to master the instant between your first awareness of an urge and your mental and physical reaction to it.

Step 6: Note the times in this ritual where you actually experienced negative emotions.

While it may initially seem contrary to the role that compulsive rituals play in generating emotional intensity, including simultaneous depreciation of emotion (through anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, humiliation, etc.) actually serves to produce a greater overall perceived intensity upon completion of the release phase of the act. Being aware of this during the compulsive urge is important.

Step 7: Note how you ended the ritual.

Typically, that ending will be in one of two ways. The most common is through the experience of guilt and/or shame. These emotionally intense feelings ensure that the individual is coming from the 'escape' generated by the release a;ready unstable. And thus, the stage is already set for additional acting out and release.

The other ending consists of the individual taking the approach of 'out of sight, out of mind.' In their view, they 'successfully' completed the ritual and it served the exact purpose intended. They go on with their 'regular' lives knowing that this is a card they can pull out at anytime to help them.

Step 8: Classify

Note whether this single ritualistic behavior is part of a larger pattern of life management rituals ...or whether it was used primarily as a temporary, isolated escape activity.

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