Obsession is a state of being during which an idea or thought continually dominates a person’s mental state, actions and emotions.

Is obsession always a bad thing? Not necessarily. Thomas Edison was obsessed with the goal of inventing a light bulb. Despite many failures, he never gave up. Other great successes resulted from dogged determination which we could call obsessions.

In this article we are looking into the negative impact of obsessive thinking and behavior. This is worthwhile, because, as therapists know, letting go of obsessive thoughts and behaviors is one of life’s greatest challenges, and the inability or refusal to let go can lead to unfortunate outcomes. Numerous theories seek to explain why people have such difficulty freeing themselves from obsessive thoughts and actions. Let’s examine some of them.

One theory is that obsessing over a negative event, relationship or situation provides a benefit. Here is an illustration from an actual case in which a female client chose to terminate a pregnancy. The experience was traumatic, and so we worked together to help her get past her lingering feelings of guilt and sadness. In a recent session she said she doubted that she could put it behind her, because a part of her does not want to let go of the sadness. She said that, if she did let go, “I’d be abandoning my baby.” The benefit to this client is that continuing to feel sad and guilty prevents her from viewing herself as a bad, insensitive person. If she lets go and allows herself to be happy, she feels she will be disregarding the gravity of what she did.

Another theory involves situations in which a person has been cheated or injured, and the offender has never been held accountable. The unfairness and injustice leads to a feeling of outrage against the offender and against the legal system, which can make it seem impossible to let go of anger and bitterness. For example, one of my clients fell into a deep depression after being swindled out of a small fortune by his business partner.

Yet another theory contends that magical thinking is related to obsessive expectations and actions. Magical thinking results from holding on to beliefs that are based on fantasy rather than on reality. A compulsive gambler, whom I attempted to treat, believed that “I know how to win”, and so he was obsessed with sports betting, despite the fact that he has lost tens of thousands of dollars, and put his marriage in jeopardy.

Do you tend to obsess in such a way that it detracts from your personal life or your work / school life? If so, it might be time to consider outside help, because this kind of problem is rarely resolved without the aid of a professional. If this applies to you, and you are ready to move forward, please feel free to call. You may reach me at (219) 309-3928

For further thoughts click Letting Go

Thanks for reading!