The obsessive, unconscious symptom is well rehearsed in provoking the anatomy through destructive, self-punishing language. Repetitious demand is met with hurriedness and panic, for neutralizing its imminent, unreasonable force is by all means a priority to the sufferer. To this end, the self-appointed victim achieves their goal of neutralizing tremors by applying a complex, strategic and well maintained dialogue of repetitious language. This dialogue often results in physical, compulsive actions, which are implemented without regard for logic and are strengthened by virtue of the fact that once again the obsession has been temporarily quenched or postponed by the compulsive act. So while you invest mental energy in that which you fear or obsess about, you also willingly expend your desire, ambition, drive and motivation to aspire outwards towards life.
So why do you become obsessed in the first place? What makes you become fixated upon a wish, or on something that’s forbidden, or unattainable? Often the obsessive symptom is a distraction, or a diversion from what is in real need of address. Becoming immersed in obsession allows you to master the art of self-deception, as you play a game that’s familiar and painful, yet still not as painful as making your repression conscious. So the obsession helps you keep it down, or at least at bay for a while, locked tightly within the recesses of your unconscious, to be explored at some vague point in the future. Yet from the deep, the symptom calls to be realized or at least mulled over again incorrectly, perhaps with the usual mistruth and fantasy. And instead of making it conscious, you simply neutralize its gravity by playing it out again, without reservation for rationality, for through the most accessible point of relief, which indeed is the compulsive thought, feeling or action, you intuitively compromise with the symptom and make peace with yourself once again.
1. Learn to identify why, when and where you are most obsessive.
Unconsciously, there is no desire to end obsession; so consciously you should use language wisely if you are to succeed in persuading your unconscious that there is no need to think, say, or do something that is fixated, repeated, or obsessive. The unconscious accepts what it’s told, but is not reasonable when it comes to deciphering the language and image being passed down to it. So with obsession, because repetition increases retention, the unconscious becomes too bombarded by the same program, which often results in a symptom that may be compared to a virus in a computer that has spread and destroyed a once healthy, working system. The virus may have come about accidentally, or even on purpose. The anti-virus may still be accessible to the programmer. But very often the sufferer will sabotage their attempts to quell the language and calm the storm; for this can mean giving up their favourite way of activating libido. There can be no doubt that the obsession brings with it an awful pleasure, a crushing and debilitating satisfaction, which under no circumstance can be discarded, unless of course the obsession is replaced by a substitute satisfaction, of equal or greater benefit than the current obsession. Taking a break from speaking to yourself internally, through deep breathing, hypnosis, or meditation for example, helps to bring an end to obsessive thinking. By taking time out to relax your thoughts, unconscious demands are not met. Intuitive wisdom counteracts polluted misinformation that can only gain momentum if its demands are met with a readiness. When obsession calls, it must not be neutralized by traditional means, but rather by logic, breathing, misdirection etc. For what it wants is well known to you, strictly abided by normally, but now requires a new, safer way of dealing with its stubborn unwillingness to change or get better.
Give this a try - Think about something you obsess about. Take a few minutes to write down all the characteristics or traits of your obsession, both mental and physical.
2. By not participating in the compulsive act, you help bring an end to obsession.
The obsession is a call to action and the action taken at the height of obsession strongly determines your ability to reduce or amplify the problem in the future, all depending on how strong your desire is to remain in control at the time of your obsession. Positive action is the way forward, but is difficult and challenging, for when unconscious demand is not met by traditional means, obsession tends to call out louder, painting an image of impending disaster if not attended to quickly by the sufferer. The thought is only a thought, but is nothing short of pressing and intolerable if ignored through positive thinking and behaviour. You know what is best for you, but your unconscious doesn’t really give a damn, especially if it has come to believe in the importance of your familiar rituals. It dutifully attempts to thwart desire to get better, for it is selfish and fixated. The better you get, the more it tries to pull you back into murky waters. The more you allow it to pull you back, the better it seems to function on the whole. So how do you overcome it, if it is so difficult to ignore the compulsive act or point of relief? The answer is simple but difficult to apply. You must put up with the torturous feelings that come with getting better. You must allow the obsession to ride itself out by not giving in to its demand to neutralize mental and physical turmoil. Doing the polar opposite of what it demands and putting up with the fear that comes with doing that, is a great help. Misdirecting attention to another, more positive thought or image is also a great help. If anxiety is to well up in the body when ritualistic behaviour is ignored, then so be it. Anxiety can not harm you in any way and eventually subsides. It’s worth feeling uncomfortable for a few hours, if it means putting an end to the very thing that has the ability to destroy your entire existence and way of living.
Give this a try - Is there a reason you enjoy, maintain and protect your obsession from change? List three reasons why you protect your obsession from change, when you already know that positive change is good for you.
3. Getting better is daily and gradual
The point of learning comes through a change in unconscious attitude. The mind is adaptive but needs direction through spiritual enlightenment. If left to its own devices, or unsupervised with regard to language, viruses are then more likely to spread in the form of obsession. Getting better is gradual, daily and can sometimes take a lifetime. There is no cure for obsession. There is only a move away from it, whereby the remnants remain, but no longer affect your ability to operate in the world. The obsessive character has work to do in terms of relaxation, which is one of the great enemies of obsession. But there is a big difference between relaxing and engaging in slothful inactivity. Relaxing outdoors, beyond the confines of the home or workplace must become a priority. Obsession festers in climates of inactivity, where satisfaction is met through an introversion of mental energy. So much energy is invested in obsession, especially when a person has plenty of time to think. That is why the outdoors is the best place to distract and relax the mind. When engaged in activity in the open air, you are far less likely to become introverted.
Give this a try - Write down three places where you are most likely to become introverted. Places where obsession can fester. How often do you go to these places and are you willing to give them up?
4. The inevitable setback.
When a change in attitude is made and gradual healing has begun, you must accept that one of the problems you face when leaving obsession behind, is what’s known as the ‘inevitable setback’. During the process of positive change, people unconsciously sabotage their ability to keep things running smoothly. Just when everything is going right, a sudden shift back to old ways and behaviours becomes inevitable and you are left feeling as though you are back to square one. This is only a false misconception. You are simply having a bad day which can be overcome. But this can be hard to accept, as a lack of acceptance is also a trait of sabotage and the inevitable setback. Here you must take control, knowing that you can go right back to normal equilibrium; that is if you allow yourself to continue getting better. Overcoming a setback is a true psychological achievement for anyone fighting obsession. A setback can last hours, days, or even years. It all depends on your attitude to overcoming it. Getting back to basics and normality appears momentous when faced with a setback. But getting back to basics such as breathing, yoga, tai chi, self-hypnosis and meditation, are indeed the answer to getting better. The answer is not found using language, drugs, or by dissecting and inspecting your thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. You already know what you think, so obsession is a pointless waste of energy. Trusting intuition and switching off each day helps to win the battle over language and the type of self-destruction it creates. Your spirit finds balance without language or instruction. In slowing down the pace of thinking through relaxation, you pave the way for clear, well adjusted thought. If you balance relaxation with healthy activity, obsession is far less likely to rear its ugly head. It’s a battle that can be won, if you allow yourself time and space to win it.
5. You are only ever guilty of not allowing yourself to get better
Guilt and obsession are interwoven, for when obession is ‘given in to’ or ‘not given in to’ by the sufferer, guilt feelings as we understand them follow. This makes the process of moving away from obsession an emotional time, whereby you reassure yourself in the face of toying with unconscious demand that everything is fine and that you do not have to ‘give in to’ what the obsession is asking of you. The guilt that arises when defying an obsessive calling should be acknowledged as normal and natural, just another annoying component of your sabotaging behaviour, or a reason to go back to your old ways. But in the present you have a choice; to continue feeling guilty until guilt eventually dissipates, or to remove the guilt temporarily by ‘giving in to’ the symptom through the compulsive thought or action. If you choose the latter, you are only ‘fixed up’ for now, but in the long run, you are making the obsession worse. Logical, conscious desire to improve yourself must overthrow unconscious demand to engage in obsession, especially if unconscious demand is plaguing you.
Father and Mother made demands on you as a child. You did as you were told and so your parent’s desire became your desire, for when they were happy, you were happy. You also did as you were told so as not to be reprimanded or punished. So by ‘giving in to’ their demands, you were able to keep the peace and maintain harmonious balance in your life. Therefore it is natural and easy to always ‘do as you are told’ and ’when you are told to’, even now, here in the present, as you still answer the familiar call of demand. Only now you are answering to yourself and not your parents, although the parents are part of the reason why you do so in the present. The obsession has been created by you, a symptom, with language as its nucleus. Yet while you are willing to change, change is proving difficult, as change involves ‘giving up’ the need to ’give in to’ your own unconscious demands to nurture, protect, and maintain the obsessive symptom. But in the same way a child must follow their own desire, you too must also follow your own desire, by not replicating an earlier, childish need to make everyone else happy but yourself. The desire to end obsession is generated through attitude and belief, through natural, gradual means and cannot be found in a remedy or an overnight cure. Psycho-physiological healing is subtle, daily, and consistent. Obsession by its very nature demands an instant cure. The cure means letting external forces rid your mind of unwanted thoughts, ideas, and fixated characteristics, while you do nothing only await freedom. Except for very unusual and extraordinary circumstances, such as miracles, or divine intervention, cures these days are rare, and in particular, for obsession. ‘Nice and easy does it’ is suitable self-therapy. ‘Take a deep breath and relax’ is a worthy affirmation. ‘I’m in full control’ is an appropriate response. Redirecting your mental energy towards meaningful, purposeful, healthier substitute satisfactions is ‘the right thing to do’. This healthy substitute is to be found in your external reality, so enjoy living it to the full.
By Cathal O'Briain © Copyright 2011