How can I get over obsessive thoughts?
QUESTION: Sometimes I get stuck thinking or doing the same crazy thing over and over again. How can I break free from this horrible cycle?
Tom McElroy says: Obsessive thoughts = thoughts, memories, and emotional tugs that repeat themselves over and over again. They draw us in, and make us feel like a little dog chasing its tail, round and round and round and round, never actually getting anywhere or accomplishing much. It’s a temptation that comes to all of us to some degree; it pushes our buttons in whatever ways we seem to be most vulnerable.
We’ve all got stuff we need to learn—ways we need to grow and be better—and each of us has a life journey that’s completely individual. But that obsessive, relentless element that can make us feel trapped is actually not personal or unique at all. And recognizing that fact, I think, is often the first step to breaking free, turning off that broken old record, and feeling capable of doing some genuine growing and problem solving.
It helps me to think of obsessive thoughts a bit like junk mail. Anyone can get it. And day after day it can come to our very own personal mailbox. But is it personal? No. There isn’t some employee in a building somewhere thinking specifically about us, the type of person we are, our strengths and weaknesses, and then sending us some particular advertisement that day. When we look through our junk mail—if we look at it at all—we probably don’t think, “I must HAVE to go get this thing that’s on sale. Otherwise, why would it have come to MY mailbox??”
But if we did think the mailing was personal, we might end up asking ourselves questions like, “What did I do to make this happen? What about me makes this mail KEEP coming?” We might even feel guilty and self-condemning, as we do when we’re dealing with obsessive thoughts. We don’t, however, feel that way if we realize that this stuff comes in some shape or form to just about everyone’s mental mailbox, and it’s totally impersonal.
Being relieved of feelings of guilt and self-condemnation, lifts the biggest part of the burden that makes growing and problem solving seem so hard sometimes. Unmasking the nature of obsessive thinking (no matter how many times it takes) is also a major first step in stopping mental tail chasing, and that leaves us free to begin constructive and progressive thinking.
Tom is a Christian Science practitioner and lecturer. He just moved to Boston, MA.
What do YOU think? Add your comment below.Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 am | Follow responses with the RSS feed
Topics: Identity, Topics in Focus | Tags: ICD, obsessive, obsessive behavior, OCD