Obsessive Thoughts: Deal With Them In Yourself Or Someone Else

by AnomalousArtist

6 suggestions on how to deal with unpleasant obsessive thinking patterns from an obsessive thinker!

I'm of the belief that just about anyone can succumb to obsessive thinking patterns. When I was in therapy some years ago I worked with my therapist on recognizing this behavior in myself and others by using what I believe might be the final word on the subject, Susan Forward and Craig Buck's "Obsessive Love: When It Hurts To Much To Let Go" as the foundation for my study.

What my therapist and I discovered was that obsessive love, which I'll talk about a bit below too, is just one branch of obsessive thought patterns. It seems as if anyone is capable of having these types of thought patterns about any number of things...in fact, obsessive thoughts, when used to work towards a personal goal, may just be how a person ACHIEVES that goal.

The subject I'll discuss here is obsessive thought cycles that are unwanted and can be treated with some small adjustments. My hope is that this information, which I have culled from research and my own experiences, will be informative, entertaining or will spark interest in someone who'd like to delve further into the subject; I'm not a therapist and I would recommend professional help to anyone who believes he or she has, or is around someone who has a serious condition.

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1) What are obsessive thoughts?

Have you ever fixated on buying something you really wanted and couldn't rest until you got it in your hands?  Have you ever wanted a relationship with someone you didn't have one with? 

These are just a couple of examples of obsessive thought patterns.  They can be as simple as longing for lunch when it's still 2 hours away or as complicated as the motives that compel someone to become a stalker (or worse, but let's not go there right now). 

An obsessive thought is one that is repeated in the mind like a loop, spinning around and pushing out other thoughts.  In some cases this can be a positive thing--it can get you motivated to do something and KEEP you motivated enough to see something through to the end.

An obsessive thought can also be a painful experience, a loop that repeats until it makes an individual uncomfortable or motivates that person to do things that are not healthy.

2) Some obsessive thought "triggers"

I have seen the most rational, well-adjusted people go "slightly mad" when given mixed messages or when otherwise blocked from something they expected or hoped to attain. 

Most often I see this in relationship matters.  One person "freezes out" the other, and leaves the other person questioning "Did I do something wrong?"  "Is there something I can/should do?"  Without any answers to this question the "victim" can become fixated on getting a conclusion to this problem and begin obsessively turning things over in her or his mind. 

Similarly, one can become obsessed with one's work..."I hate my job and wish I could get out of it but I can't."  "I love my job and don't ever want to lose it."  "If I could just get promoted I'd be happier."

A person can become obsessed with buying things, owning things, achieving things.  If you can get everything you want, or if these thoughts work for you, great!  But if you find your head spinning with these ideas for long periods of time it can be uncomfortable.  You can, and SHOULD, do something about it. 

3) Why does this happen?

Depending on the severity of one's obsessive thought patterns any number of things could be at the root of these "thought loops." 

One possibility often sited is  that unhealthy thoughts arise from developmental challenges or issues in childhood.  Certainly a lack of security, trust and healthy loving relationships in youth will affect an adult's ability to attain those things.  This topic is covered thoroughly and professionally in Forward/Buck's book.

Humans, like most creatures with brains, prefer things to be cyclical: our bodies prefer meals, sleep, activity and rest at similar times each day and it's no surprise that our minds operate that way too.  Repetition and cycles are the foundation of learning and everything else we do so it's natural that we think this way but it is NOT natural if these thoughts are taken to an extreme and result in unpleasant feelings, which can only happen if we LET it happen.

4) The logic of a "cure"

In order to combat unpleasant thought loops the goal is to cut the unwanted loop off with a specific command. 

A negative or unwanted obsessive thought can be pretty strong and there's not much use in wishing it away...in fact, wishing a thought away can turn into a moebius strip, a never-ending cycle of wishing an unwanted thought away while obsessing over the unwanted thought at the same time!

The first step is to identify the obsessive thought.  The most important step towards solving any problem is identifying that there IS a problem.  Next, it's helpful to determine what is triggering an obsessive thought and then consciously be aware of any time you are thinking this thought.  Finally you have to have a more "healthy" thought prepared to replace the unwanted one with and you have to bring out your "inner parent" to implement this thought. 

5) How to make it work

And now comes the part that is often the hardest...actually doing "the work!"

It's not really that difficult, but it can seem so initially.  In effect it's as simple as telling your brain, "Knock it off!" whenever you find yourself thinking in circles.  It really does come down to that:  You have to literally tell your brain to "shut up already!" 

An example:  Perhaps you're starting a new job soon and are nervous...so nervous you can't sleep, maybe. First you have to admit that you are thinking obsessively.  Second, you have to decide you do NOT want to think this way and finally you have to interrupt your obsessive thought circles with a command of some sort.  "Stop thinking about it, right now, thinking this way isn't helping" works for some people, "I'll think about this tomorrow" works for others.  The important thing is that you think SOMETHING else besides what was spinning in your head.  Again, this often requires dragging out your "inner parent" to quiet the voice of your inner child.  "Enough already--go to your room if you can't be quiet," or something like that!

Another example:  One of the hardest things to deal with is mixed signals from another person, whether in love or friendship.  It would be a great thing if we could always get the answers to the questions we have in life but that's not always the case.  The hard truth is that sometimes the only thing you can do is take care of your own needs and dismiss the other person. 

If someone is freezing you out and/or has cut off communication with you there is seldom anything you can do.  You might get answers eventually and they may or may not make you feel better, but in the meantime you have to take care of yourself.  The only sure way to do this is to identify that you're driving yourself crazy thinking about someone, to determine to stop thinking this way, and to command your mind to just "stop it!"  You can convince yourself you don't care and other thoughts but I consider these things denial.  In the end you really just have to tell your mind, "No." 

I don't want to give the impression this is easy.  I didn't title this article Obsessive Thoughts:  EASY WAYS TO Deal With Them In Yourself Or Someone Else, because I don't think it IS easy to change the way you (or someone else) thinks.  But it can be done and in some cases absolutely MUST be done in order to feel better.

6) When the one with the obsessive thoughts isn't YOU

The solution to this problem is in some ways the easiest of all and can sometimes be the most difficult at the same time. 

If you find yourself in the presence of someone who is obsessing over something the first thing to do is determine if the person is causing him or herself harm, or could potentially cause YOU harm.  If so, forget everything I wrote and get professionals involved! 

If you find someone is having obsessive thoughts over you and it isn't welcome, there is only one real solution:  you have to break it off.  This is another topic, but if a person is obsessed with you it's not really YOU the person is obsessed with, but an idea.  You become a "drug" to the person and the person can never quite get enough of you, often to the point of desperation.  This isn't love, it's unhealthy, and in my experience there is no winning with someone who is obsessed with you--if you give a little the person just wants more.  You have to cut it off as soon as you can and eliminate all contact.  Eventually the person WILL move on and it's not your responsibility to guide him or her.

If you find yourself with a friend who has obsessive thoughts about a person or subject and it begins to wear you down, the best solution is to communicate this to the person in as loving a manner possible.  If the person is your friend she or he will be receptive, if not...it may not have been a solid friendship after all.  Enabling someone's obsessive thought patterns, if they're negative, is like tossing a rope down to a person in a well and jumping in after them, there's no winning for either party.  It takes some gumption to communicate this to an obsessing friend but there's really no alternative. 


I hope this article has sparked some interest in the subject, offered some small solutions or simply entertained; I reiterate that for the final word on the subject there is no better book than the one by Forward/Buck, and if you suspect the situation you're dealing with, in yourself or someone else, is more serious there's no excuse but to seek professional assistance of some kind. 

The best book on this subject I've ever read:

Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go

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Updated: 05/13/2013, AnomalousArtist
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AnomalousArtist on 05/14/2013

Thanks for the comment, belinda342, it's always helpful to find out other people are going through something similar, isn't it? :)

belinda342 on 05/14/2013

Obsessive thoughts can indeed be harmful. I have to admit to a few of them myself. Sometimes it takes a while to break free, you have to continually do that breaking until that loop is completely broken. If you can't do it yourself, then counseling can really help.

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