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Obsession & Your Issues

One my favorite T-Shirt sightings was one that said boldly across the front, "I've got issues."  While it's funny, because it announces what most people work hard to hide, for me it also points to the possibility of a matter of fact acceptance.

If you are like most folks, you probably find yourself in an internal tug-of-war with accepting familiar patterns of reactivity as they come up.  Perhaps one the most difficult challenges is when your issues give rise to obsession.  Having the experience of obsessing over something can cost all sorts of needs.  Obsession can pull you around like a puppet, interfering with an ability to choose what's really right for you.  Obsession can also trigger a sense of shame as you start telling yourself that something must be wrong with you that you can't stop obsessing about this particular person, experience, or thing.  If you act from the obsession you might find that you make decisions that cost your integrity and consideration of others' needs.

When you are caught in an obsessive mind state there are a few things you can do to de-trance yourself and interrupt the cycle of shame.  First, it's helpful to have someone you trust to talk to about it.  Shame does it's worst work when kept hidden.  Just being able to say to your friend, "Hey, I am obsessing about … again" can interrupt the shame cycle.

Second, it's helpful to de-mystify the object of your obsession.  When you wake up in the morning from a night of dreaming, you know well enough that your dream of a mountain lion does not mean a mountain lion is waiting on your front porch for you.  Your obsessive thinking is like a dream.  You keep telling yourself that if only you could be with this person, or do or have this one thing then you will be satisfied.  As you enter the trance of this thinking you start to literally believe this to be true.

What's actually true is that the object of your obsession is a symbol, just like the mountain lion in your night dream.  It symbolizes the need for healing of some underlying issue.  At some point, you got a taste of healing this particular issue and your mind linked that felt sense of healing to a the person or experience you now obsess about.  Unfortunately this linking process doesn't particularly include wise discernment.  That is, having this object of your obsession won't necessarily result in the healing for which you long.

You can discover the issue underlying the obsession by studying your initial experience of the original link.  What were the subtleties of that experience?  Reflect on all dimensions of your experience:  physical, emotional, energetic, and mental.  Then notice what was happening externally.  If the obsession is a person, reflect on your interactions and notice what was unique.  What was this person doing and saying moment by moment in his or her interaction with you?  If the obsession is about a particular experience, notice which parts of that experience impacted you most.  Then allow yourself to feel the longing without inserting the person or experience.  What is it that you are actually longing for?  For core issues, the answer is usually some version of one of these:

  • to be loved unconditionally

  • be be seen deeply and celebrated

  • to feel secure in an emotional bond with another

  • a sense of belonging

  • to feel fully alive and expansive

  • to relax deeply into a sense of being held in loving safety

As you de-mystify the object of your obsession by seeing clearly what it's really about, you will likely feel some immediate relief from the obsessive mind state.  Each time you understand more about what the obsession symbolizes it's important to tell your trusted friend.  He or she will remember this connection and help remind you about it the next time you go into a trance.

And here is the acceptance piece, you will go into that obsessive trance again even after you have demystified it.  That doesn't mean anything is wrong with you!  What it means is that having information and insight isn't the same as healing.  Insight and information simply helps you to be ready for healing.  So as long as that healing work remains undone, your mind will bring up the object of your obsession again and again like an SOS call.  

This is just one of the ways in which human psyches work.  It's not a reflection on your goodness or worth.  As human beings we are all wearing the "I've got issues" T-shirt.  It is just one dimension of the multi-faceted human experience.


Take a moment now to reflect.  Is there anything that comes up for you consistently that you push away or shame yourself about?  Who could you share with about this?  Follow the steps described above to de-mystify this pattern or obsession.  Here they are in short form:

  • Choose someone you can trust and share about the obsessive thinking.

  • Remind yourself that this object of your obsession is just like a dream symbol and not to be believed literally.

  • Reflect on the initial experience of your object and identify what was unique and impactful about that.

  • Let yourself experience the longing without the story or content.

  • Identify the core issue that the obsession represents.

  • Get support to decide how to begin or continue your healing journey with this issue.

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2 Responses

  1. Oct 04, 2013
    Kathy Peterson

    Your messages seem to come to me at the perfect time. This one in particular. I am struggling with feeling abandoned by a potention partner, and I can't stop obsessing about it. I know it is not healthy, but I can't seem to get out of the cycle of Ruminating, but this did give me some insight into how I may be feeling.

  2. Oct 04, 2013

    Hi Kathy,

    Glad to hear this landed for you. I wish you well in your work with this challenge.

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