The Concept of ‘Bontamination’ (a rewrite for 2023)

Here’s one for those of us who are plagued by Contamination-based Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is a brand new version of the article I wrote eight months ago regarding the concept of Bontamination…. So… Let’s have another look…

This has been updated to the point where we are now, sort of at the later stages of the Covid outbreak, and the hope that we will somehow cope with the onset of another winter, and having lots of extra cold and flu jabs for everyone… Not to mention, the difficulties people are trying to cope with heating bills and suchlike…

We used to be naturally resistant to a lot of basic illnesses, but we have to rebuild that resistance…

Maybe we have to practice gentle ‘Bontamination’?

Okay, so what exactly is this word ‘Bontamination’?

This is a brand new word. It is a positive substitute for the negative term ‘Contamination’.

Let’s sidestep for a moment…

In the not-so-distant past, whenever we bought something from the supermarket, we never washed our hands first, except sometimes(!!!) when using the in-store toilet facilities (and some of those weren’t exactly clean…).

During the pandemic, we would be asked to anti-bac gel our hands on the way in, even wipe down the trolley or basket.

We would then proceed to take stuff off the shelves, placing them in the trolley or basket. We have never cleaned our hands between items. To do so would take all the essential oils out of our skin, doing far more harm than good.

When it all goes on the conveyor belt at the till, the operator handles everything… So, in theory, it is all cross-contaminated before we even get it back into the car to take it home.

And when we do get it all home, have we ever washed our hands before storing all the stuff away in the cupboards? Really? We honestly haven’t, have we?

Did we become ill? Hand on heart? No, we didn’t, did we?

Many of us are now grandparents… But, as ordinary parents, I have often seen and done this. If a baby’s dummy/soother falls out of the buggy onto the ground, we would usually pick it up quickly, wipe it over with our fingers, place it into our own mouths, then return it to the baby/child. Well we did, didn’t we?

Were we sterilising the thing? No! Of course we weren’t, Because we aren’t sterile, our saliva isn’t sterile, but we know that kissing is safe, so hopefully we have improved the situation by licking the thing ourselves. The children survive, as of course do we. Not to mention the ‘five second rule’.

So we hear it again… What about this ‘Bontamination’ word then?

Well, the bit ‘Bon’ is from the French for ‘good’, in direct opposition to ‘Con’, which is very negative. Thus…to ‘Bontaminate’ is the verb, the doing word. ‘Bontamination’ is the noun for the process whereby good/not so good transfer from place to place by everything we come into contact with, every breath we take and breathe out into the atmosphere.

We have many times experienced the odour of tobacco smoke in the street. That is exhaled smoke, and always has been. Not so long ago, smoking was something that most people did on a regular basis. Also mentioned these days is ‘breathing in second hand smoke’, causing breathing difficulties in small children riding in cars when the driver is smoking.

I guess asthma is on the rise in our world, but considering the amount of antibacterial kitchen and bathroom sprays we use, this is hardly surprising.

Today, saying something is good is infinitely better than saying something is bad, likewise positive rather than negative. In the dictionaries, there are perhaps 100 plus synonyms for the word “contamination”. To make things equal, there really needs to be a hundred synonyms for the word ‘Bontamination’. But it isn’t in the dictionaries yet.

In normal life today, we can smell a fish and chip shop at least a hundred yards. So what else have we been breathing in? We really don’t know, but so far we’ve survived, or we wouldn’t be reading this, would we?

Whenever we touch a door handle, we put down on/pick up from it, we always have. In a cafe toilet, they might have stainless steel door handles, which are apparently mildly antibacterial, but even so, the process still needs time to work. Even when we spray and wipe our kitchen worktops, we are actually supposed to wait maybe three minutes before wiping the surface dry, for maximum efficacy. Sometimes we should even rinse… I’ve never done that, have you? And yet we survive.

On modern TV cooking programmes, they use a piece of tree, instead of the multitude of different coloured chopping boards we used to have on a special ‘toast rack’ on the kitchen worktop. Okay, wood is also mildly antibacterial, but it will still need time for the process to work, and chefs wipe them off with the same cloth!

Is this safe? Well, it must be, or they’d be getting sued out of business, and dealing with viewers’ complaints. And yet, cooking programmes are a very popular genre for TV channels to carry. There are numerous competitions, and spin off shows about the craft of cookery.

So… what about door handles in supermarket toilets, fast-food restaurants etc? In short, when my OCD was at its height, I firmly believed that I contaminated the world. I was a health hazard. This included walking on a carpet with outside shoes on – a carpet that babies and children crawl around on, that people sit on – leaning back against other furniture for comfort. And yet, other people would do that all the time, but, looking back, to the best of my knowledge, nobody became ill as a result.

It could be said that, in the past, children from untidy homes would tend to be more resistant to illness than those in tidy homes. Their immune systems would have had time to build up resistance to their living environment. When we go on holiday, sometimes we hear people talk about ‘change of water’. Is that because we need, or become used to or tolerant to, certain components in our domestic water at home?

So what about this ‘Bontamination’ word then? Is it a good word? Is it growing on you yet?

It can be natural for us, especially when feeling low, to actually seek out a bit of reassurance from others; reassurance that everything will turn out okay. The trouble with that theory is that reassurance tends to be counter-productive for us OCD sufferers, because we can deal with one concern, and feel great for five minutes, only to be presented by another scenario or event, long forgotten, and needing to then get reassurance for that.

Just a thought then. Just maybe, a word like ‘Bontamination’ could be seen as a form of reassurance. Another way of looking at it is that it is not ‘reassurance’, but actually ‘release’. A blessed release from having to remember whether I’ve washed my hands enough or whether there is literally a speck of dust on my shoes from walking outside. I’m released from the feelings of guilt that, at some point, by walking in from outside, I have stepped on the floor where one of the grandchildren crawled, leading them to feel a bit sick as they ate their lunch in their high chair. Blessed release from worrying about what may have got on my clothing, that maybe I unconsciously brushed off with my hands before making a cup of coffee for someone.

So… maybe I don’t ‘Contaminate’ the world – I ‘Bontaminate’ the world. (And it, in turn, ‘Bontaminates’ me…)

D’you know something? This could be kind of important right now. After two plus years of literally inhaling anti-bacterials, surely we now have to rebuild our natural defences. I seem to have lots of colds all of a sudden – bad colds that last days and days. Maybe this is an idea that we can all take on board as we go on from Covid, and through to springtime.

My own suggestion is that, if and when we excessively sterilise our hands, we will in effect be bumping off the good germs as well as the bad, and therefore could be setting ourselves up for much worse possibilities.

As aforementioned, at one time, I would believe that I contaminated the world. Not just by what I believed I was putting ‘on’ work surfaces, items, clothing etc, but by what I was picking up from the said work surface, or item, or clothing, to then transfer that to something else by touch. I was maybe risking another person’s health, simply because I knew that I had been in contact with the said work surface, item or piece of clothing.

In the old days, we didn’t know that we had to be careful what we breathed in. One of the things I did a lot of was making plastic model kits. In later years, the polystyrene ‘cement’ turned out to be dangerous, and yet, when I was a child, I could get it over the counter in my local toy shop. Then of course came the glue sniffing epidemic, and we couldn’t get the glues any more. That was a real problem when we had a caravan, which needed contact adhesive to effect repairs to the framework and interior. A project that ultimately got abandoned. (That was quite a few years ago now, fortunately.)

So, due to the fact that we have, in effect, been breathing antibacterials for more than two years (in our bid to beat the COVID monster), have we actually, inadvertently, lowered our resistance?

Are our lungs actually ‘damaged’?

Coughs and colds may be becoming prevalent again…

So… let’s Bontaminate everything, in a good way… YES!!! For our children’s and grandchildren’s sake. Let’s get ‘Bontamination’ into the English language.

Let’s get strong again!!!

Incidentally, I no longer carry anti-bac gel in my pocket. It is actually easier to do things this way. It simply isn’t there, so I don’t start cleaning my hands uncontrollably. I used to, you know, when my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was at its height, just a few years ago.

So, from this day forward, and in ordinary life, and in most things, don’t we just have to be reasonably clean?

There is a ‘Serenity prayer’:

Please God, grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

For me, the most important word in there is not “strength” but “wisdom” (“the wisdom to know the difference”).

Dare we ‘Bontaminate our world for the better? Mmmm…

This basic simple idea could in fact be vital. What do you think?

Would anybody like to research this new idea?

Many thanks
David Grinyer

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