Most of us have at one time or another been stuck in an endless loop of obsessive thoughts or feelings – not the clinical version of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but just the plain old kind of obsession that drives our family and friends nuts as we rehash old news and issues. And often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it!
So how do you know if you’re obsessing? Are your friends starting to look haunted every time you bring up a particular person or issue? Have you reconstructed a recent argument with an old friend or a breakup conversation with your lover endlessly, painstakingly choosing the right words and attitudes that would have changed the outcome? Are your thoughts running around and around like hamsters on a wheel?
What is obsessing?
Most often, our obsessive thoughts tend to focus on relationships or money – or a lack thereof – and they are almost always triggered by fear. The obsessive thoughts are often a way of denying reality, of pushing away unwanted knowledge, or maybe attempting to change painful facts. Perhaps a part of you knows your relationship is bad for you, and the situation is deteriorating – but you try to keep that knowledge at bay by chattering endlessly about superficial good points about the other person. Or you are convinced that your husband is your soulmate, if only he’d be more responsible and stop staying out all night with his buddies… then the two of you could live happily ever after.
The keys to change
A lot of mental, physical and emotional energy goes into obsessing – energy that could be used for healing and transformation. And there’s a simple (but not necessarily easy) key to stop the incessant chatter in your head – or coming out of your mouth. Remember the three elements of “The Serenity Prayer,” and 1) accept the things you cannot change, 2) tap into your inner courage to change the things you can. Then 3) understand the difference (in other words, accept the world for what it is, not what you want it to be).
You might want some insightful help on accepting the world as it is. For that, you might turn to a friend, family member, counselor or psychic adviser for clarity. When you’ve been busy avoiding reality, another perspective can help a lot. You have to start where you are… for instance, if your husband hasn’t changed in five years he probably won’t. Or acknowledge that the falling out with a friend or family member wasn’t fair to you or to the other person – or take the time to finally list your bills and your income down on paper.
In the realm of relationships, it helps to remember that the greatest gift you can give is acceptance – love the other person, flaws and all, and then extend that same acceptance to yourself (flaws and all!). For example, in the case of your party-time husband… the task is to accept him as he is, to realize that you’re not going to get the sober, responsible man you long for, and perhaps accept that the relationship will never meet some of your important needs. Difficult as it is to admit, you can’t force change on other people, you can only change yourself – which is a huge step in silencing your obsessive thinking.
Another example would be that moment when you’ve just listed your income and expenses, and discover that they just don’t match. Rather than heading for bed and pulling the covers up, keep breathing. Give yourself time and space to develop short-term strategies and long-term solutions – instead of obsessing about the problem.
Courage to change
If you’ve managed to accept your situation, you’ve already made the most important change, because acceptance always releases the energy that has been tied up sustaining the obsessive thoughts or feelings. When you accept your husband’s party lifestyle, you can then choose to enact changes in your life that make it easier for you – or you can decide that the marriage doesn’t work, and move on. In either case, you now have the energy, clarity and self-esteem (because you’ve accepted yourself and your needs) to back your decisions up with action.
Whatever your obsessions may be, you can acknowledge, accept and make changes, to give yourself closure on those realities that aren’t enhancing your life. Then you are free to fill your head with creative thoughts, not obsessive ones, and move on to a better place. Good luck!
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