Obsession is the constant focus of our attention on anything or anyone that causes us to lose our grip on reality. And while most of us have certain people in our life who we deem irreplaceable, when our respect and admiration turns to obsession, it can create a sense of co-dependency and the erosion of our own identity. But this can be reversed with the willingness to examine ourselves and take responsibility for our thought processes and behaviours using an approach that’s rooted in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
3 Signs You’re Obsessing Over Someone
Constantly Thinking About the Person: This one is obvious, but the key here is actually being able to ask yourself this question and to answer with full honesty and transparency with yourself. Many people who’re obsessed will seek ways to justify their obsession. So what you need to do here, if you’re aware of ongoing thoughts about someone is this… Do you think about this person more than you would anyone else, and if you now realise this, are you seeking to justify it?
Feelings of Possessiveness (he/she is mine): Another hallmark of obsession is the territorial nature of how it often manifests. Because of the intensity of emotion that is invested and projected onto this person, there’s a feeling that they, in effect, become your property. And when you see them interacting with others, it brings up challenging emotions you need to regulate such as jealousy, fear, anger, resentment, abandonment to name a few.
The Need to Protect the Object of Your Obsession: An extension of the territorial nature of obsession is the need to want to ‘protect’ your prize from harm. But in reality, this is simply jealousy at play as you attempt to isolate the object of your desire from friends and family. This is often presented as being in their best interests but is, in fact, a subtle manipulation that underpins a large part of the obsessive mindset.
How CBT Can Help You Overcome Obsessing Over Key People in Your Life
If you’re unfamiliar with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), it’s a proactive form of psychotherapy that’s designed to reduce the intensity and emotional impact of destructive thought patterns like anxiety, fear and obsession.
Within the context of obsession, CBT is comprised of the following steps:
- First, is the cognitive aspect, which relates to changing your beliefs and assumptions about the object of your obsession, this being a key person in your life, which could be a friend, love interest or family member. And this step involves understanding the ‘why’ of your obsession. What’s actuallycausing you to obsess over this person? It isn’t an accident. There is a specific set of circumstances that have caused this it happen. And it’s from this state awareness you’ll be to reverse engineer that thought process and move forward from where you are right now.
- Next, is the behavioural aspect, which relates to the more proactive action-focused part of the therapy. This is where you take what you’ve discovered about yourself and use these learnings as actionable points of change. So you begin by accepting your behaviours, taking full ownership of them, not pushing them onto anyone else. This is then followed by distancing yourself from the person/object of your obsession in a gradual way. In manageable steps, little and often, that, over time, have a compound effect, allowing you to integrate the changes much easier than if you were asked to instantly withdraw, which would inevitably cause a rebound/relapse effect.
Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Obsession of a Key Person
Identifying the Problem Obsession: In the case of obsession, it should be obvious who this person is and what effect your infatuation with them is having on your life. The intro to this article and some of the key signs should give an indication of what obsession looks like if you’re on the fence about whether you are lying somewhere on the spectrum.
Become Aware of Your Thoughts Emotions and Beliefs: This forms the first part of the cognitive aspect of CBT as stated above. This is going to take some work to accomplish, and can’t simply be done by keeping a mental track of what you think, feel and believe. In the case of obsession, we’re often unreliable narrators. And so, to get around this limitation, you’re going to have to start a journal. This has multiple benefits. The first being that it prompts your honesty in assessing yourself, the second being that it’s far more expansive than just thinking, as you’re externalising your thought process on paper.
The next advantage is that it allows you to have a physical record of your thought process, so nothing is ever lost. But also, you can refer back to it at a later date and recognise the patterns that are at play in your cognitive process that are underpinning your behaviour. This is how you will hone in on these problem areas of your thinking so you can make positive changes that will ultimately stick. The way you achieve this is by observing your internal self-talk and what you tell yourself about certain experiences, your interpretation and the meaning you find in situations.
Identify Negative or Inaccurate Thinking: This is the second part of the cognitive process where you employ your discernment and ask yourself what’s actually true, and what’s a manufactured or dysfunctional line of thinking that’s causing you to fall into obsession. And you may find that you achieve this simply by becoming mindful of your thoughts and becoming more observant of yourself straight away. But this is where the value of journaling really comes into its own. If you’re making a consistent effort to journal any thoughts, feelings and beliefs relating to your obsession – in an honest fashion – it will make the job of undoing and redirecting these thought processes more productive pursuits that much more manageable and achievable.
Restructuring Your Behavioural Patterns: The final step comes once you’ve been able to honestly discern whether the thought patterns you’ve identified are based on fact i.e. what’s true for you and your circumstances, or if it’s simply a perception. Once you’ve got to this level, and you’re ready to take ownership of your circumstances, and can then take the step of reshaping your behaviour to match your new way of thinking. And in this, you begin the process of integration. This is where you start modifying your behaviour as mentioned above, step-by-step, pushing your edge just a little bit at a time, just beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone, so you’re challenging yourself to grow out of the limiting experience of obsession you’re rooted in. How long this will take is dependent on your capacity to be honest with yourself, engage with the act of journalling, and the courage required to change your way of living. Change is entirely possible, but it’s dependent on your participation.