Do you obsess? One minute it’s the survivors in the Philippines. The next, it’s what you’ll wear tomorrow. How much you weigh. When you can bust out that pressing project with an impending deadline. Why your child’s grades are slipping. What your boyfriend is doing right now.
Obsessing means that you’re constantly and exclusively occupied about something and are unable to let it rest. Obsessing is rooted in fear. Because you don’t express the agitation that fear creates in your body physically, it creates hyperactivity in your mind. Underneath the non-stop obsessing is a frantic drive to be in control and to do everything perfectly so that others will love and take care of you.
A few days ago, a client came in to my office who was all wound up and exhausted. Today she was fretting that there was something wrong with her infant daughter who wasn’t gaining weight like other toddlers in her mom’s group. Last week, the main focus was planting the perfect garden. Before that, it was wondering if her landlord would evict her.
Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts to Feel Joy, Love & Peace Again
Having obsessions is all-consuming and keeps you from feeling joy, love, and peace. Luckily there are some things you can do to address the problem head-on so you can get some relief, relax a bit, and enjoy the present.
1.There are only three emotions you’ve got to get good at expressing physically and constructively: sadness, anger, and fear. Releasing the emotional energy rampant in your body significantly and immediately decreases the grip obsessive thoughts have over you. Repeatedly remind yourself that expressing your emotions is natural. Look at young children. It’s what they do before adults tell them to not to! A child naturally tantrums or cries and then gets absorbed in another activity. They are soon back in the present, relishing life. The same applies to you.
• Expressing sadness means you must cry when you feel sad. Cry wet tears. Tears wash you clean.
• Expressing anger means you need to engage in an aggressive activity, such as pounding, shouting, stomping, pushing, where nothing of value is destroyed. This must be done in a safe place where you can let loose and express yourself with abandon. Your thrashing and bashing must be hard and fast (think of a young child having a temper tantrum).
• Expressing fear involves encouraging and allowing your body to shiver, quiver, tremble, shudder, and wiggle. While this seems strange at first, it makes sense if you think about what a dog does at the vet or your knees do the first time you have to give a speech in front of five hundred people.
Give yourself permission to express your emotions physically when you feel sadness, anger, and fear. Cry, pound, and shiver when you realize you are obsessing. We all have huge buckets of unexpressed emotions. Express the emotional energy of one or more of these three emotions. As you emote more consistently, those obsessive thoughts stop screaming so loudly and you’ll be able to start relaxing.
2. Relentlessly offset the destructive, obsessive chatter in your head. I know this one’s a biggie, but you can do it. Reassure yourself and pacify the fear by repeating mercilessly, something along the lines of “Be here now. Everything is all right. Everything will be all right.” Combat the anger with acceptance, by repeating “People and situations are the way they are, not the way I think they should be.” And honor yourself and your sadness by telling yourself “I’m doing the best I can.” “I’m whole and complete.”
3. It’s very helpful, though not imperative, to talk with someone safe about some of the traumatic events that stand out from your childhood, especially those when you first started to obsess. Express the emotions you couldn’t back then (a lot of fear for sure) and it’s much easier to loosen the grip those emotions have over you.
4. When you notice you’re obsessing, take a time out, a pause, for a couple of minutes. Ask yourself what you need to do right now. Maybe it’s playing with your child. Maybe it’s doing laundry. Maybe it’s bill-paying. Do whatever you know will be most helpful right now, and keep your focus on enjoying the task at hand.
Give Your Emotions an Outlet & Release the Obsessive Behavior
You can get the upper hand over your mind. It’s just a deep old habit. Know that when your mind is obsessing, it means you need to deal with the emotions you are feeling right now. You’ll be astonished at the effect that pounding the heck out of something for fifteen minutes (pausing to catch your breath when you get exhausted) will have on your mental state. Likewise, a huge cry, or shivering like a leaf on a tree, mobilizing all parts of your legs, arms, hips, back, etc. will be significant and liberating.
Each time you release these suppressed emotions, you’ll find a welcomed calmness soothing the internal landscape. Peace, and the ability to live fully and engaged in the here and now, will finally be yours.