Worry, Worry: Obsessional Thinking:
Are you an obsessive thinker, and do you worry a lot? If you are a worrier, you are not alone. I told everyone not to worry, but worry consumes the obsessional thinker.
Several years ago, I received an anonymous E. Mail question. Below summarizes the question:
The email writer reports her boyfriend ended their relationship two years ago. He ended the relationship because he was involved with another woman. Suddenly, he was in love with another woman. He always said that he was in love with her.
Now, she cannot get him out of her mind. She repeatedly asks herself what she had done wrong that drove him into the arms of another woman. She constantly reviews their time together and second-guesses every decision she makes, hoping to uncover her mistakes. The writer firmly believes that the breakup was her fault because, from the time she was a child, her mother and father blamed her for everything that happened at home.
What troubles her is that she is now in a great relationship and deeply in love. She understands she worries she will make the same mistakes in this relationship as in the past.
The problem is both familiar and very painful. In situations like this, people get caught up in obsessing, especially those predisposed to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. There are several reasons she keeps obsessing:
- Obsessing is an unsuccessful way to cope with anxiety because of loss and humiliation.
- Humiliation is one of the worst feelings with which anyone has to cope.
- Feelings of anger at her ex-boyfriend and helplessness to prevent another from losing her present boyfriend.
- Depression is often the word for feeling helpless.
- Obsessional thinking is a failed defense mechanism to protect her ego. The trouble is that it does not work.
- The obsessional thinker takes the blame for everything that happens.
In the case described above, there is a lack of reality to all or most of her obsessive thoughts.
What can people who obsess do to end repetitive and useless worry? Some of the suggested strategies are:
- Avoid sitting around doing nothing.
- Exercise is an excellent way to relieve anxiety and depression.
- Keep a thought log or diary where unrealistic thoughts can be listed, challenged, and replaced with realistic thoughts. A Google search will help you find self-help manuals and worksheets that explain how to keep this type of thought record.
- Guided mindful meditation helps to focus on the moment and let useless thoughts drift away. A Google search will help you find resources for mindful meditation.
If none of these techniques work, it’s time to enter psychotherapy.