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Is It Love or Obsession?

How to cope with obsessive thoughts in a relationship.

“I can’t stop thinking about her”. “I want to know everything about her.” “Time stops when I’m with her.” “I don’t think she knows how much I care about her.”

If you hear these sentences, would you think about love or obsession? Sometimes, separating the two can be quite an endeavor. Having feelings for someone we don’t know very well can border on an insane obsession we cultivate for that person and unhealthy projections we attribute to them.

On obsession or being under siege

In general, obsession is quite an unhealthy state of mind. It becomes even more dangerous when obsession gets confused with romantic feelings somewhat resembling love.

But obsession is a state of mind that tries to tell us something important about ourselves to improve the quality of our lives.

Irvin Yalom once wrote: “Love obsession often serves as a distraction, keeping the individual’s gaze from more painful thoughts.”

Obsession is a distraction; a very dangerous and consuming one. It keeps us from a true intimate connection with ourselves.

That is, if you start obsessing about someone, this person is the least of your problems. It is very likely in fact that this person does not even feel cared for by you.

Obsession is putting you under siege. In fact, the word, ‘obsession’ comes from the Latin ob-sidere, which means to be occupied and almost invaded by something that does not belong to you. In fact, the person you may be obsessing about is often a stranger, a long distant friend, a coworker; someone you met only a few times. It is someone you do not know well. The fact that you do not know this person very well allows the obsession to thrive. Thanks to the lack of reality checks, your mind will run wild in projections on the life of this person. You will build possible scenarios about your next encounter with them. Any action or reaction from that person will make your heart beat as never before. You are alive but under siege. You are alive because you are under siege. Suddenly, your mind will be busied with intruding thoughts that do not fully belong to you but keep you busy.

Keeping you busy is the hidden agenda of any obsession. Obsessions are there to displace your attention and care about what truly matters.

But watch out. The glimpses of joy you allow yourself to feel when humoring the obsession are often just an illusion. What seems to bring promises of joy and happiness will be the carrier of a loss of sleep and a ton of anxiety.

How can you know if you are in love, or if you are just obsessed?

You can decide to allow yourself some time to answer this question.

If the person you are feeling so much about is the right person for you, the decision about what to do with these important feelings can wait some time; before making big decisions, you can allow yourself to take some distance and check with yourself if there is something missing in your life that justifies the obsessive feelings.

Often, the difference between obsession and healthy loving feelings is marked out by a natural spontaneous and anxiety free growth. When prey to obsessions, you are getting close to the person you feel obsessed about with a ton of anxiety, double guessing, and looping thoughts. So, it might be that you feel attracted to this person and feel slightly insecure about him or her. With a closer look, you might realize that you do not know much about this person. You might see that you did not spend so much time with him or her. You do not actually know how she or he is in the world.

With a deeper introspection, you might even realize that you do not care that much about their life or inner world; what you want is their spotlight on you. You want this person to see you, to get to know you, to get interested in your life. You look forward to making this person part of your life.

In fact, this person whose company you are craving, is you.

Give yourself what you fantasize receiving from your obsession

Obsessions are very tricky. In fact, they indicate that there is something so painful and sad at the bottom of your chest that you have decided to disconnect from it.

In fact, if you try to think lucidly through it—"what if I give in to my obsession”—a disastrous chain of events sometimes follows: your marriage breaking up in an awful way, losing respect for yourself, getting so disorganized that a job offer is revoked, etc.

An obsession can help you make the change you are so afraid of. Yet, it will open that door in a tempestuous way: your life will be so busy and disorganized that you will eventually forget about your pain.

But pain cannot ever be forgotten. It can be repressed, but never deleted from the soul unless you put real work into listening to it.

Ideally, what you can do to care about yourself is to give yourself some time to understand the limits of your situation. To do that, you need to resist the temptation of giving the obsession all your time.

You can pay attention to the obsession, only in so far as it tells you something concrete about what you would like to do. Do you desire to be with the other person? What would make this encounter so special? Do you want this person to know about your interests? Do you want this person to acknowledge the depth of your thoughts and creativity? Then invite all this into your life. Pay attention to your own interests and try to make more time to dedicate yourself to them. Invite sex into your life with your partner, by yourself or by undertaking fun sexual adventures. Be ambitious; start doing with your life what you wish you could do with the person you are obsessing about.

To conclude: obsessions are tough

Obsessions are tough. They are little tornadoes that we invite into our life because mourning would be too painful and making a change too unsafe. The source of pain becomes so remote and disconnected that you need to play the emotional investigator in order to reconnect with that source and resolve the pain.

So, if you start paying attention to what your needs really are and what you expect to find in that person, it might be that the hurting part, hidden somewhere in you, comes back to trust you again with its thoughts and feelings.

It might be that all you can do is just cry and mourn; or it might be that it is time for you to take action in respect of that pain and move on.

In general, the best advice is to take some time for yourself to learn how to cope with the obsession and make a decision that involves the real you, not the you that is under siege.

Facebook image: Roman J Royce/Shutterstock

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