Compulsion. A strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, esp. one that is irrational or contrary to one's will.
I recently watched a fascinating MSNBC Investigative Reports called "The Obsessed" about people who have the compulsion to hoard. Evidently, hoarding is a medication-resistant form of OCD. These are the folks who die alone and the neighbors find the body buried under fifty years worth of TV Guides and ValPak coupons. Instead of the OCD compulsions to lick the lightplate or turn the faucet on and off 20 times, they have a compulsion to accumulate. There was a poignant scene with a fifteen year old girl explaining why she had to keep a sticker she didn't even like. "Someone might come in with a gun and say, 'Give me that sticker.' What if that happens? I can't throw it away."
Of course, I love this, as I love all shows about illness: because it makes me feel so normal. As I was congratulating myself for fearlessly purging my house every year of stickers and other detrious, I recalled that when I was that girl's age I had my own compulsion. I had to turn off the television before the signal went off at the end of the broadcast day. And based on my irrational fears of what might happen if I didn't turn off the TV before the signal stopped, I think the entire world owes me a hearty "Thank you!" and "Here's a Starbucks!" for saving you from what might have happened.
Just to put it in context, when I was that girl's age, there was no cable TV (and in case you're curious, Poltergeist had not yet come out). So every day, children, the television signal stopped at 10:30, or midnight maybe. There would be a voice explaining they had come to the end of their broadcast day over an image of a test signal with an Indian, or later, a color test signal. They'd then
brainwash televise the waving American Flag and play the Star Spangled Banner. (Oh, and then we would cower because that's when the mammoths would come out and wander the ice floes looking for human flesh.) Then I understand that then the signal would go off, and the screen would just be snow. Mind you, I don't know from experience what happened, because I would vault over furniture to get the damn TV off so I wouldn't see what came after the signal. Because GOD KNOWS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I DID. Something BAD. Yeah, really bad. (Again: you're welcome.)
I didn't bow to this compulsion very often, because how often was I up watching TV at midnight? Rarely. I recall doing this in Junior High...and High School..and I admit, in college. But when I was in college they invented cable, and lo, the cable was on all the time. Then the networks caught up and there was the eternal signal. What a relief.
Poltergeist came out in 1982, two years into college, and I thought yes! Who is Steven Spielberg? He's afraid of the TV snow too.