5

This question came about because there has been an drought in our area, which is resolved for now, and I am beginning to stop practicing some water-saving measures, but feel discomfort or guilt at no longer doing them. Example sentence:

I know the drought is over, but I still have a(n) _______ to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

"Compulsion" (Merriam-Webster) isn't quite right, because there's no strong desire to do the behavior, and no force compelling me to do so--it's more the feeling that the lack of doing the behavior causes.

"Addiction" (Merriam-Webster) is also not right, because there's no devotion or surrender to a habit known to be bad, and no physiological component.

"Urge" is not quite right either. I do have the a strong need or desire to have or do something (Merriam-Webster again), but "urge" misses the sense of guilt that occurs when I do not do the behavior.

This ELU Stack Exchange post has some good ideas, such as "fixation" and "absorption," but they all involve an aspect of attending to something to the exclusion of other things, which is not the case here.

Of course this may be one of those cases where I would like for there to be a word for something, but there is not, but if someone has a word or phrase to encompass this feeling, I would love to hear it.

  • "I still have a residual guilt not to put ..." – Graffito Nov 20 '16 at 11:35
  • Similarly, "I still feel a habitual need to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet. – Phil Sweet Nov 20 '16 at 21:41
  • Ah, but there is a strong desire to do the behavior, and there is a force that makes you feel compelled to do so. They're called social mores. – Mazura Nov 20 '16 at 21:46
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You might like compunction

Defined by Merriam Webster as:

1 a : anxiety arising from awareness of guilt < compunctions of conscience >
b : distress of mind over an anticipated action or result < showed no compunction in planning devilish engines of … destruction — Havelock Ellis >

2 : a twinge of misgiving

And by Dictionary.com as:

  1. a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience caused by regret for doing wrong or causing pain; contrition; remorse.
  2. any uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action.
  • This is likely what I'm looking for. My first thought was that "compunction" is typically used with negation or a diminisher such as "little" before it (e.g. "I had no compunction about ___.") I went through the Corpus of Contemporary American English (corpus.byu.edu/coca) and found 137 instances, and all but 15 were preceded by "no," "without," "little," etc. The remainder (except from religious texts) fit my question well, though. So though it generally seems to be used in the negative, I am pretty sure this is what I am looking for: "I still have a compunction to" etc. Thank you! – Katherine Lockwood Nov 20 '16 at 4:15
  • 2
    @KatherineLockwood I think your original thought is correct; also, compunction seems most often to be uncountable. So rather than I still feel a compunction to put a bucket in the shower etc., I think it would be more usual to say I still feel some compunction about not putting a bucket in the shower... Still a right answer, I think. – 1006a Nov 20 '16 at 11:14
  • @1006a, yes, I think putting "some" before it makes it sound better. Interestingly, when I looked more closely at the examples in the corpus, a lot of the examples that were not negated were from the bible or other religious texts. But I think this word definitely works. Thanks for your addition. – Katherine Lockwood Nov 20 '16 at 17:21
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Consider hang-up [MWD]

something that causes you to feel worried, afraid, embarrassed, etc.

Alternatively, you could use feeling of obligation [TFD]

A social, legal, or moral requirement, such as a duty, contract, or promise, that compels one to follow or avoid a particular course of action

You could say

I know the drought is over, but I still have a hang-up about putting a bucket in the shower, and using that water to flush the toilet.

or

I know the drought is over, but I still have a feeling of obligation to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

2

You should consider obligation (optionally preceded with moral).

M-W:

obligation noun  

: something that you must do because of a law, rule, promise, etc.

something that you must do because it is morally right

She believes that all people have a moral obligation to defend human rights.

He argues that people in a community have certain obligations to each other.

  • 1
    The phrase he gave would become "I still feel an obligation" instead of "I still have an obligation".. – Bill K Nov 20 '16 at 7:22
  • @BillK, what's wrong with have? Did you see the examples from M-W that I gave? – alwayslearning Nov 20 '16 at 7:29
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    Having an obligation is a very specific situation--it implies that it's not optional. If you have an obligation to save water than there are specific active requirement. Once the requirement has passed, you feel you have an obligation. In a way feeling that you have an obligation is stronger than having one because if you have an obligation to save water it's out of your control, if you feel you have one then you are choosing to do it to help others or out of your own desire to help. – Bill K Nov 20 '16 at 7:34
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How about in good conscience, properly inserted into your example?

in good conscience: without feeling guilty

Your example:

I know the drought is over, but I still cannot in good conscience stop putting a bucket in the shower and using that water to flush the toilet.

1

"I still have a drive to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet."

  • (Psychology) "A strong motivating tendency or instinct related to self-preservation, reproduction, or aggression that prompts activity toward a particular end." TFD

  • "an impelling culturally acquired concern, interest, or longing, an urgent, basic, or instinctual need" MW

1

Adding to other great answers, if saving water preoccupies or intrudes on your mind consistently, you could consider using "obsession" which means

an irrational motive for performing trivial or repetitive actions, even against your will

The word might sound too strong for your context, but I think it is a better choice than compunction.

[Vocabulary.com]

  • You can have a compunction to do something. But you can't have an obsession to do something. So your answer would not fit the OP's sentence. – Araucaria Dec 5 '16 at 15:57
0

The previously proposed feeling of obligation can be improved as @BillK suggested, to just obligation:

I know the drought is over, but I still feel an obligation to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

A variant of this would be duty:

I know the drought is over, but I still feel a duty to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

  1. something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.
  2. the binding or obligatory force of something that is morally or legally right; moral or legal obligation.

You rejected urge because it didn't have the guilt part, but I think that the context takes care of that. However, if you want the feeling of guilt more explicitly present, I suggest

nagging urge

I know the drought is over, but I still have a nagging urge to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

Lastly, here is a very informal word that I think would work:

niggle

I know the drought is over, but I still feel the niggle to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

The dictionaries say it's only a verb. But I think you can use it as a noun. "Niggle" is nice because from the sound, it incorporates "naggging."

If you like this word but want to go by the book, you could say

I know the drought is over, but I still feel niggled to put a bucket in the shower, and use that water to flush the toilet.

(But I would much rather say "feel the niggle.")

-2

I think it depends on the context of the piece you're writing and its style. I like the suggested "hang up". You might try "compelled".

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

protected by tchrist Nov 20 '16 at 14:47

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