How to prevent obsessive thoughts How to prevent obsessive thoughts

When a person becomes distracted, ruminates or fantasizes, this can form mental habits that change how a person thinks, preventing them from using their ideas creatively.

 Medical Advisor: Susana Ceballos, psychologist

When you are falling in love, you often hear the romantic expression, “I think about you all the time!” However, someone that you obsess over on a day-to-day basis goes beyond liking or loving them, as over time, it can harm a person’s emotional and physical health. When people become distracted, ruminate or fantasize, mental habits form that change how they think and limit them from applying their ideas in a way that is creative, sustainable or useful for themselves or others.

According to Susana Ceballos, a psychotherapist and mental health specialist that practices self-realization psychology, “Thought is an idea or mental representation. We can have millions of ideas a day and our bodies experience them in the form of energy. Someone that you obsess over is someone that steals your cognitive energy and your potential to process the information in your head as best as possible.”

Keeping things under control 

Factors such as self-deprivation, denial and minimization are the pathways through which obsessions operate, manifest or stay. Self-deprivation is a mental and emotional pattern in which the person suppresses feeling something in order to avoid establishing the strong bonds that lead to pain and suffering.

Denial is a mental and emotional tendency of not acknowledging, whether consciously or unconsciously, that something is there in order to manage and deal with it. Last, minimization can be understood as cognitive economics, “…which isn’t a negative thing because it actually allows us to keep information to a minimum and make connections that helps to process it better,” states Dr. Ceballos. Read on to learn more about what happens when we are distracted, ruminate or fantasize.

Distraction

This is a mental state in which the person thinks about something that is completely different than what they are doing, instead of being present. It is when you lose your train of thought about something you would expect to be focused on. As our minds become distracted, whether they are right or wrong, those thoughts that we are conscious of, are shaping our lives and taking control of our decisions.

Fantasy 

A mind that is distracted is what leads to fantasizing. This occurs when a specific situation or piece of information gets distorted, and we falsely associate our ideas with desired or undesired situations, and make decisions based off of these ideas. The brain is so occupied with processing these fantasy thoughts that when it comes time to putting them into action, we think that the action was already taken, wasting the energy we actually need to carry them out.

As our psychologist explains, we have three realities: a primary reality, which are the facts just how they are; a secondary reality, which is how we interpret these facts; and a tertiary reality, which is the emotional significance we give to the interpretation of those facts.

Most people make decisions based on their secondary and tertiary realities, based on their interpretations and on the meanings we assign to them (which comes from fantasizing), not on the facts themselves.

Rumination

This practice occurs when we think a lot about something that happened, that we experienced or that we were told. It occurs when we create an unhealthy internal dialogue with our thoughts that can lead us to developing emotional disorders such as loneliness, rejection and depression. When we begin to believe that what we ruminate on is true, it is because our thoughts are being reinforced by fantasy, causing such great mental fatigue that is not as easy to let go of as you would like.

Anti-theft remedy

How to prevent having obsessive thoughts The following three tools can be used to deal with obsessive thoughts:

1. Observe yourself. Get your thoughts out of your head. The best way to achieve this is to write them down and materialize what you are thinking instead of leaving them stuck in your head.

2. Train your mind. Our thoughts and emotions are what keep our obsessions alive, which are actually predictable. All you have to do is beat them to it, and you can do so with practice:

  • Try identifying when they tend to appear, how they manifest and what situations trigger them.
  • Keep them under control and send them in a new direction when they pop up by asking questions like “What habit am I allowing to form in this situation?” “What can I do that is different than normal?” “What kind of person do I want to be in this situation?” “How can I use this situation as a tool for me?”

3. Regulate your emotions. If you control your emotions, you repress them; but when you regulate them, they lower in volume and allow you to think clearly. Using breathing techniques to regulate the weight of the emotion that is making you distracted, ruminate, or fantasize works when the situation that is bothering you first occurs. One suggestion from the Spanish Institute for Physical and Physiological Coherency, known as HeartMath, is to practice “heart-centered breathing”.

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