Why Do We Have Obsessive Thoughts?
The first thing to understand about obsessive thoughts is that they serve a purpose. This purpose may be to distract you from thinking about a deeper issue in your life, to avoid facing the fears that may accompany that act of “moving on”, or to offer you a false sense of safety by making you believe that by thinking about a situation you are doing something about it. It is not uncommon for people to report that the presence of obsessions somehow creates the illusion of filling a void. The second important thing to understand about obsessions is that they can be self-reinforcing. Simply engaging in obsessive thinking can give your brain the message that the object of obsession is “worth obsessing over” and, therefore, the habit of doing so becomes amplified. Almost like scratching an itch to relieve it, only to realize that the itchy sensation is now stronger. Dealing with Obsessive Thoughts You may be wondering “why bother putting in the effort to overcome obsessive thinking?” The answer is simple: to achieve and sustain inner peace and to spend your mental energy on positive thoughts, and consequently, actions. Obsessive thoughts can be draining, can suck your energy, and leave you neglecting important areas of your life.
Let us look at 4 ways to begin freeing yourself from obsessions:
1. Practice guided meditation exercises: One of the most effective ways to quiet the mind is to learn the skills of becoming present in the moment. This may look something like shifting attention to different parts of your body, your breath and the sounds in the room. (Watch guided meditation video)
2. Find an alternative release for your thoughts: Sure, talking about your concerns to a friend can be helpful and will make you feel supported; however, it might also end up being a verbal expression of what is happening in your head. Try to come up with creative, non-verbal outlets for self-expression such as vision boards, drawing, playing an instrument etc.
3. Confront, release, repeat: The mere act of catching yourself when you are having obsessive thoughts can set the stage for overcoming them. We cannot always control what thoughts pop up in our heads; but we can control what we choose to do with these thoughts. By confronting and consciously rejecting the thought you are already making progress.
4. Minimize environmental triggers: If you know that going on Facebook, watching a particular show, talking to certain people or reading fashion magazines might trigger a chain reaction of obsessive thinking, try to eliminate such things from you environment, at least for a short period of time. Surely, the goal is not to permanently rely on avoiding every single thing that might trigger obsessions. However, when you are still at the beginning of this process you may want to get rid of anything that will make it harder.
This article was written by: Olga Gonithellis, MA, LMHC, EdM is a psychotherapist with a private practice in New York City. She is a licensed mental health counselor and specializes in the emotional health of artists, performers and creative individuals. She is an expert contributor at Good Therapy on the topic of creative blocks and was recently published in the American Counseling Association’s publication, Counseling Today. You can follow her blog and find her on Google+ and Facebook. To be a guest author on the Your Mental Health Blog, go here.