For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with obsessive thoughts, with severe ruminations that can interfere with daily life. My thoughts get stuck on something and, like a broken record, repeat a certain fear over and over and over again until I scream out loud, “STOP IT!” The French call Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) “folie de doute,” or “the doubting disease.” And that’s what obsessions are—a single doubt caught in an endless loop of thoughts.
But even those not diagnosed with OCD can struggle with obsessions. In fact, I have yet to meet a depressive who doesn’t ruminate, especially in our age of anxiety. Every day gives sensitive types like myself plenty of material to obsess about. So I’m constantly pulling out the tools that I’ve acquired over time to win against my thoughts, to develop confidence–the antidote for doubt–to take charge of my brain, and to STOP OBSESSING.
To tackle obsession. First, identify the thought. What is my fear? What is my doubt? I make myself describe it in one sentence, or, if I can, in a few words. For example, when I was divorced, it means my marriage failed. When some of my kids didnt do well in their academics, it means I have failed as a single parent. When my BF ignored me & kept his distance, it means I have failed again and again and again. I was paranoid. I obsessed about it and obsessed about it and obsessed some more. Finally, I named the fear: I am afraid that if everyone knew of my failures & the severe depressions I was going through, that they won’t respect me anymore, and they will stay away from me. There it is. Phew. I named it, and by doing so, I hope to get those burden off my chest and mind!
Sometime ago, when I was especially tormented by some obsessions, a close friend told me to schedule a time of day where I was free to ruminate. That way, she said, when you get an obsession, you can simply tell yourself, “Sorry, it’s not time for that.” I remembered recording some of the things I was dwelling about – that I was a horrible mom, an inadequate writer, a non-competent employee, that no one liked me, and so on and so on. My son who was watching TV next to me asked what I was writing. I handed over my “obsession essay” and he shrieked, “Yikes mama! Apa benda ni?! I was just thinking about your yummy nasi goreng for breakfast tomorrow!”
And we laughed together. Aha! Laughter! Laughter can make almost any situation tolerable. And I have to admit, there is something a little funny about a broken record in my brain. If I couldn’t laugh at my depression and anxiety and severe ruminations, I would truly go insane. I mean, even more insane than I already am. And that’s pretty darn insane. I have a few people in my life who struggled with obsessions in the same way I do. Whenever it gets so noisy in my brain that I can’t stand it, I’d call up one of them and say, “They’re baaaaaack…….” And we laughed.
Mossavi, literally please snap out of it. And I do mean SNAP OUT OF BEING SO OBSESSED WITH ISSUES OK!! For a while when I couldn’t take the obsessions. I’d wear a rubber band around my wrist, and every time my thoughts would turn to an obsession, I’d snap the band as a reminder. (Fair warning: by bedtime, my wrists were a tad red hehehe).
One day, while driving, my thoughts somehow or rather reverted back to an obsession. I had to pull over, because my car was misaligning. Then I ask myself: Do I need to change anything? Can I change anything? Can I amend this situation somehow? Do I have anything I need to do to find peace? I spend a minute asking myself questions. My visualization of the Serenity Prayer. Was trying to decipher between what I can’t change and what I can.
Also, I often obsess about my mistakes. I know I messed up, and I’m beating myself over and over again for not doing it right the first time, especially when I have involved other people and hurt them unintentionally. If that’s the case, I ask myself: What is the lesson here? What have I learned? Name the obsession– and then I will describe the lesson that I have absorbed in one sentence or less.
Put away the lessons for now. I wanna forgive myself. This is a hard one. Especially for perfectionists (as if I am one hahaha!). And guess what? Perfectionists are natural ruminators. Julia Cameron wrote “Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop–an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole. Instead of creating freely and allowing errors to reveal themselves later as insights, we often get mired in getting the details right. We correct our originality into a uniformity that lacks passion and spontaneity.”
I take it that self-forgiving means concentrating on the insights gained from mistakes, and to let go of the rest. Uummm. Good luck Mossavi for 2009 is just around the corner….