Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mental Obsessions with Mortal Enemies

And we're back from a long hiatus. Sorry about that folks. I'll try not to let it happen again.

Anyhoo, you ever find yourself obsessing endlessly about someone you dread? For example, you spend hours a day anticipating how so-and-so will soon cut you open with words, trample your boundaries, rip apart your dreams, and generally leave you a crumpled, tear-soggy, helpless mass on the floor. And you ceaselessly imagine yourself confronting whoever-they-are with irrefutable proof of their many crimes and truly decrepit moral state. And in this fantasy you always picture that your just conviction crumples their soul (just a little) and (even better) changes them so that they will never try to hurt you again.

But then you never actually do say anything -- or if you do it's a self-recriminating pre-apology for your inappropriately hurt feelings or a spasmodic scream-cry of hyperbolic rage that leaves you in the wrong. You never get your point across. You never feel better. Your relationship with dreaded so-and-so never changes. And so you obsess on and on.

This behavior is a like a twisted inverse of that phrase, "hope for the best, prepare for the worst." Instead, you're obsessing about the worst and preparing for nothing.

So what's the solution? Well, the fist step is realizing that the obsession is probably causing you much more misery than whoever-they-are probably ever could. Just think about it. How many hours a day or week or month do actually spend in so-and-so's company? And of that time, how much is actually spent receiving hurts from so-and-so, or having your boundaries crossed by them, or being subject to whatever they do that drives you up the wall? Then compare that time to how many hours a day or week a month you spend obsessing about whoever-they-are and what they've done or could do next. Think how you feel in midst of the obsession, how twisted up you are with your hurt, resentment, shame, and fear. Odds are, reality is far less painful than your preoccupation with it.

And if it hits you that your obsession, not whomever you're obsessing about, is the primary source of your pain, you will be motivated and empowered to end both.

And that's the trick: realizing what you do have power over. Because the sad truth is, even if you did muster up the courage to confront so-and-so in a reasonable and matter-of-fact way, and did say everything you wanted to say in exactly the way you wanted to say it, you're not going to change them. You have no power over them.

People have to want to change themselves. And not everyone has 12 Step Programs. Not everyone has therapy. Not all have the willingness or capacity to change.

So if our fantasies of freedom from pain hinge entirely on someone else changing their behaviors, we will likely be left miserably dependent on something that will probably never be, and forever suffering.

We have to realize that only we have power over us. Only we can change. The so-and-sos ain't gonna. So if we're afraid that the so-and-sos will rip our souls apart with vitriol or violation the next time they come around, we can consider our real options: 1) we don't have to let them around, or 2) if they do come around and start attacking or imposing, we can say, "Stop. I don't let anyone speak to/treat me that way," or something of the like. If, after that, they keep attacking or imposing, we can leave or escort them to the door.

"And how on God's green earth and we supposed to do that?!?" you may ask. To some such direct self-care sounds like super-feats the likes of which will only be seen in the next Superman-Batman team-up. There might as well be a "kapoww!!" caption over our heads when we do it, it's that likely to happen.

Yes, self-care is hard. Terrifying. But it's better than helplessness. Or endless miserable desperation. Plus, you can practice!

You can visualize what you'd say and what you'd do the next time self-care is called for. You can practice, mentally, saying the right words, responding to so-and-so in a way that makes you feel healthy and safe. And the more you mentally practice, the easier actually practicing self-care will be. No kidding. They say athletes who can't train due to injury maintain and even improve their performance by visualizing their moves over and over again. Their minds actually train for action through visualization of action. You can do the same.

Try releasing obsessive fear and anger and embracing self-responsibility and care. The worst that could happen is you'd have something else to do besides angst powerlessly about doom.