Obsessive Thinking… And How to Turn It Off

As a codependent love addict in recovery, my two biggest challenges are obsessive thinking and anxiety. Those two usually come strolling into the forefront, middle, and back of my brain and increasingly remain there until I feel insane.

Here’s today’s insanity:

A former boyfriend of mine was mentioned in conversation which led to me thinking about said former boyfriend.

Thoughts went to I wonder what he’s doing, what it would be like if he was here, how would my life be different, why did it go wrong again? Which led to, I’d love to see him, what would happen if I contacted him? Should I contact him? Which led to extreme fear of intimacy and backing away quickly from thoughts like commitment, vulnerability, revealing feelings… Which led me back to, I wonder what he’s doing, what would it be like if he was here, how would my life be different, why did it go wrong again? Which led to… on and on and on. The wheel turns and leads me to the same conclusions of contacting him or running for the hills.

Insanity.

There are varying reasons why thoughts of former relationships or people we want to be in a relationship with pop into our head. We could be triggered by a feeling, a situation, a song, a mere mention of a name… It can really be anything. Heck, we might just be lonely one day or needing to fill some space in our brain with a little fun fantasizing sesh.

The fact is obsessive thinking is miserable. You find yourself unable to reach any solid conclusions because it’s all in your head. It’s a hypothetical being turned over and over until it has been exhausted and there’s nothing left to analyze… so you go back to the beginning and start all over. This can bring with it feelings of anxiety, loneliness, martyrdom, victimization, nausea, impatience, and confusion (to name a small number of symptoms).

In recovery, it’s so important to work through these moments of temptation to obsessively think. The thoughts I had today would have, in the past, plagued me until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I would act. I’ve contacted many a guy out of emotion due to obsessive thinking. And it was wrong of me. It misled some great guys into thinking I was actually in it “for real this time.” And I wanted to be, but I was not capable and I was not in God. I was acting out of selfishness. I wanted to feel better in the moment and get out of my obsessive thinking misery. At the time, it felt like if I could just hear their voice again or hold their hand I would finally be at peace in my mind. I would get my fix for a time, but it wouldn’t take long for my fear of intimacy to creep in and get me obsessively thinking about what was wrong in the relationship, which would lead to a sabotage. It also left good guys alone, confused, and hurt.

If you are a love addict and facing the misery of obsessive thinking, here are some tips that help me get back into reality and into God. It’s important to know that doing these exercises once will not be a cure all. You may need to do them over and over again at the start. That’s okay. You’ll be connecting with God and that’s never a bad thing.

Step One: Pause.

When a gross feeling or confusing thought pops up, it’s natural to shove it back down and say, Nope! Not dealing with that today! So, when you realize you’re turning a thought over and over and getting anxious about it, pause, and embrace it. Don’t suppress it. Uneasy feelings can be great warning signs of an issue that needs to be resolved.

Step Two: Write or talk it out.

If you don’t have time to do either, thank God for using these thoughts or feelings to bring up an issue. Ask Him to remove the feelings/thoughts for the time being and give you time later to work through whatever it is. Ask God for peace in the meantime.

When you do have some time, write or talk out in detail what’s going on in your mind. Ask God to show you why you’re feeling or thinking what you are in His timing. After that, ask Him to remove the feelings and thoughts your having and replace them with His attributes (usually it’s the opposite of what you’re feeling/thinking, ex. replace anxiety and confusion with His peace and clarity). Ask God for forgiveness if needed and then thank Him for the work He is going to do in you.

Step Three: Change the Subject.

After you’ve presented everything to God, do something else. Go on a walk, do some dishes, call someone who may have more needs than you to give you perspective, or whatever it is that you like best. You may be at work and can get back to a project you’re working on. Whatever it may be, just do something.

Step Four: Repeat.

Doing this exercise once may not kick every obsessive thinking spell right away. That’s okay. Recovery is a process and the fact that you are recognizing you’re obsessively thinking is a huge step. You’re going to be okay and this miserable, obsessive thinking will show up less and less as you do the work with God to surrender your life to Him daily.

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