We have an epidemic of endlessly circular, obsessive thinking in this country. Many sufferers do not realize that they have the disorder. They call it “worrying” as if it is merely a “bad habit”. However, the obsessive mental merry go round is a symptom of some emotional pain that lies further down.
We can relieve our painful worry by identifying the major components that contribute to it. Each of these can then be put in a more moderate and manageable perspective. This new perspective requires us to use our judgement to determine what is a major or minor pain. After we have done so, the mental turntable ceases to spin.
A significant theme in obsessive thinking is the issue of control. Obsessors have mistakenly defined control as “preventing” bad things from happening. The bad thing may be a personal shortcoming, which is taken as a potential “failure” or “vulnerability”. These terrifying potential possibilities give rise to painful anxiety along with constant rumination. What is even more painful is the mounting conviction that they will be unable to prevent the disastrous, bad thing that they have prophesied to occur, from happening. Their thinking is distorted and out of control.
They begin to act in way to gain control, but the harder they try to gain control, the more out of control they feel. They become tense, short of breath, trembling with a racing heart. These are physical manifestations of their underlying feelings that they are losing control. So they act by controlling what they can.
In almost every case of obsessive thinking there is an anger component. Obsessors may be angry with the person who caused the problem. They may be angry with themselves for their own “failure” to prevent the problem before it occurred. They may be angry with themselves for not foreseeing it in advance.
Their thoughts are filled with phrases like “weak”, “stupid”, “failure” or “worthless.” In a sense, it is this anger, which gives energy to the wheel of obsessive thinking. As long as they are angry with themselves for their imagined “failure” the wheel cannot stop spinning.
I’ve noticed that every obsessive client I have ever seen has a similar theme that contributes to their endless dwelling. It is a theme of unfairness. A wife may feel it is unfair that her husband puts his mother’s concerns ahead of her own, a rejected lover may feel it is unfair that his partner no longer cares for him, or an employee may feel it is unfair that a coworker receives a promotion. These experiences of unfairness are painful. But the real pain comes from the fact that their self-esteem is so paper thin. As a result, these experiences are used as evidence to confirm their pre-existing feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
Worried man image available from Shutterstock.