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Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 1

"Obsessive thinking is an emotional defense that, like all of the various manifestations of codependency, is dysfunctional.  Being in our heads - thinking, fantasizing, ruminating - is a defense we adapted in childhood to help us disassociate from the emotional pain we were experiencing.  It is dysfunctional because it keeps us focused on the future or the past - we miss out on being alive today.  It is dysfunctional because our attempts to escape unpleasant feelings causes us to generate more unpleasant feelings.

Worry - which is negative fantasizing - is a reaction to fear of the unknown which creates more fear, which creates more worry, which creates more fear, etc.  This fear is not a normal human fear of the unknown.  It is codependent fear:  a distorted, magnified, virulent, mutated species of fear caused by the poisonous combination of a false belief that being human is shameful with a polarized (black and white, right and wrong) perspective of life.  This self perpetuating, self destructive type of obsessive thinking feeds not only on fear, but on shaming ourselves for feeling the fear."

"Getting into recovery from codependency, starting to learn how to do the inner child work, will help a person take power away from the fear and shame that drives the disease - that causes the obsessive thinking.  Learning to be compassionate in our relationship with our self - by not shaming ourselves for being wounded human beings - will help us to take power away from the obsessive thinking."

"Traditional Western medical science has ignored and discounted the spiritual and emotional components of being.  The traditional medical perspective in relationship to any physically or psychologically manifested dis-ease is limited by a left brain (concrete, rational) intellectual paradigm which is entirely focused on that which can be seen, measured, quantified.  Therefore, any spiritual, emotional, and mental dis-ease is seen as resulting from biochemical, physiological, physical conditions.  Doctors (which includes psychiatrists of course) - and other traditional medical and mental health professionals - were trained to identify mental and emotional problems as biological and to see the solution as chemical.

There are certainly neurobiological aspects to any behavioral manifestation, but it is not possible for a scientific perspective which requires empirical proof to truly ascertain the cause of any condition - because emotional and spiritual components of a human's being can not be quantified.  In other words, brain chemistry is definitely out of balance in relationship to any physical disorder or mental condition - including OCD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, etc.  That imbalance in brain chemistry definitely has an impact on emotions - but it is not possible to say absolutely which is the cause and which is the effect.  The chicken and egg conundrum.  In other words, did the emotional trauma and the fear and shame based relationship to life cause the chemical imbalance in the brain - or did the chemical imbalance come first.  Traditional Western medicine is not holistic - it does not treat the whole being, it treats symptoms."

This is the fourth in a series of articles focused on applying the spiritual principles of twelve step recovery in relationship to codependency.
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Applying Twelve Step Spiritual Principles

This is the fourth in a series of articles by codependency therapist/inner child healing pioneer/Spiritual teacher Robert Burney, focused on different manifestations of codependency and how the Spiritual principles of twelve step recovery can be applied to facilitate learning to have healthier relationships.  This article - Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 1 - was originally published online April 28 2002 on Robert's Inner Child / Codependency Recovery page on the Suite101.com Directory.  There is a list of - and links to - the other articles in this series on Suite 101 on the Suite101 Articles page.  This article was used to create this page on Joy2MeU in late August of 2003.

Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 1

By Robert Burney
"We were taught to approach life from a perspective of fear, survival, lack and scarcity. . . . . . We were taught that life is about destinations, and that when we get to point x - be it marriage or college degree or fame and fortune or whatever - we will live happily ever after.

That is not the way life works.  You know that now, and probably threw out that fairy tale ending stuff intellectually a long time ago.  But on some emotional level we keep looking for it because that is what the children in us were taught.  We keep living life as if it is a dress rehearsal for "when our ship comes in."  For when we really start to live.  For when we get that relationship, or accomplishment, or money that will make us okay, that will fix us.

We do not need fixing.  We are not broken.  Our sense of self, our self perception, was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces, not our True Self." 

"Life is not some kind of test, that if we fail, we will be punished.  We are not human creatures who are being punished by an avenging god.  We are not trapped in some kind of tragic place out of which we have to earn our way by doing the "right" things.

We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience.  We are here to learn.  We are here to go through this process that is life.  We are here to feel these feelings.

Doing our emotional healing allows us to feel clear about what is in front of us instead of torturing ourselves by obsessively thinking, trying to figure out what's right and what's wrong."

(All quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls)
Obsessive thinking is an emotional defense that, like all of the various manifestations of codependency, is dysfunctional.  Being in our heads - thinking, fantasizing, ruminating - is a defense we adapted in childhood to help us disassociate from the emotional pain we were experiencing.  It is dysfunctional because it keeps us focused on the future or the past - we miss out on being alive today.  It is dysfunctional because our attempts to escape unpleasant feelings causes us to generate more unpleasant feelings. 

Worry - which is negative fantasizing - is a reaction to fear of the unknown which creates more fear, which creates more worry, which creates more fear, etc.  This fear is not a normal human fear of the unknown.  It is codependent fear:  a distorted, magnified, virulent, mutated species of fear caused by the poisonous combination of a false belief that being human is shameful with a polarized (black and white, right and wrong) perspective of life.  This self perpetuating, self destructive type of obsessive thinking feeds not only on fear, but on shaming ourselves for feeling the fear. 

The disease of codependency is a dysfunctional emotional defense system adapted by our egos to help us survive. The polarized perspective of life we were programmed with in early childhood, causes us to be afraid of making a mistake, of doing life "wrong."  At the core of our being,we feel unlovable and unworthy - because our parents felt unlovable and unworthy - and we spend great amounts of energy trying to keep our shameful defectiveness a secret.  We feel that, if we were perfect like we "should" be, we would not feel fear and confusion, and would have reached "happily ever after" by now.  So, we shame ourselves for feeling fear, which adds gasoline to the inferno of fear that is driving us.  The shame and fear that drive obsession becomes so painful and 'crazy making' that at some point we have to find some way to shut down our minds for a little while - drugs or alcohol or food or sleep or television, etc. 

It is a very dysfunctional, and sad, way to relate to life.  The fear we are empowering is about the future - the shame is about the past.  We are not capable of being in the now and enjoying life because we are caught up in trauma melodramas about things which have not yet happened - or wallowing in orgies of self recrimination about the past, which can not be changed.  Codependents do not really live life - we endure, we survive, we persevere. 

Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior is caused by, and fed by, fear and shame.  The feeling that the world will come to an end if ____ doesn't happen, or that it has come to an end because ____ happened, is a feeling coming from the wounded inner child.  It is the result of early childhood emotional trauma - and the subconscious programming adapted by our egos to help us survive at a time when we were helpless and powerless. 

An adult is not helpless and powerless.  We are, however, powerless to know that, as long as we are unconsciously reacting to repressed emotional energy and subconscious programming.  It is impossible to see our self or life clearly when we are caught up in trauma dramas (internally and externally) that feel life threatening.  In our codependency, we are in denial of our emotions at the same time we are allowing the feelings of the wounded child within to define and dictate our lives.

Getting into recovery from codependency, starting to learn how to do the inner child work, will help a person take power away from the fear and shame that drives the disease - that causes the obsessive thinking.  Learning to be compassionate in our relationship with our self - by not shaming ourselves for being wounded human beings - will help us to take power away from the obsessive thinking.  Starting to choose to believe that there is a benevolent Force in the Universe, a Loving Higher Power, will facilitate taking power away from the fear of the unknown. 

Love is the answer to obsession - but not the love of another person.  Learning to be Loving to our self - and remembering that there is a Loving Higher Power, is the best way I have ever found to stop obsessive thinking.

Some notes of clarification from Robert Burney: (These notes were part of the article when it was originally published.)

I learned a lot about the wounding process of codependency by studying cases of people with multiple personality disorder.  Anyone raised in an emotionally dishonest, dysfunctional culture had their relationship with themselves - their psyche - shattered and fractured into multiple disjointed segments in childhood.  People with multiple personality / Dissociative Identity Disorder were pushed farther than the rest of us.  The recovery process for the normal form of codependency and the more extreme multiple personality variety both require reclaiming and integrating these different parts of self into a functional internal structure that allows us to put a mature adult in charge of our internal dynamics instead of the wounded inner children or the critical parent / disease programming.

In relationship to obsessive thinking, the manifestation of codependency that is the extreme, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, which involves such things as: washing hands repeatedly;  or returning to the apartment multiple times to make sure the stove is turned off;  etc.) will probably require medication to bring the disorder under control enough to be able to focus on recovery.  Like other conditions/diseases that are fueled by the reactive condition of codependency, and that involve a genetic predisposition and/or compulsively self destructive behavior (alcoholism, some eating disorders, extreme forms of relationship or sexual addiction, etc.), it is sometimes necessary to bring the symptoms under control before the cause can be addressed - but addressing the cause is vital in making possible significant, long term changes in the symptomatic behavioral disorders.

Traditional Western medical science has ignored and discounted the spiritual and emotional components of being.  The traditional medical perspective in relationship to any physically or psychologically manifested dis-ease is limited by a left brain (concrete, rational) intellectual paradigm which is entirely focused on that which can be seen, measured, quantified.  Therefore, any spiritual, emotional, and mental dis-ease is seen as resulting from biochemical, physiological, physical conditions.  Doctors (which includes psychiatrists of course) - and other traditional medical and mental health professionals - were trained to identify mental and emotional problems as biological and to see the solution as chemical.

There are certainly neurobiological aspects to any behavioral manifestation, but it is not possible for a scientific perspective which requires empirical proof to truly ascertain the cause of any condition - because emotional and spiritual components of a human's being can not be quantified.  In other words, brain chemistry is definitely out of balance in relationship to any physical disorder or mental condition - including OCD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, etc.  That imbalance in brain chemistry definitely has an impact on emotions - but it is not possible to say absolutely which is the cause and which is the effect.  The chicken and egg conundrum.  In other words, did the emotional trauma and the fear and shame based relationship to life cause the chemical imbalance in the brain - or did the chemical imbalance come first.  Traditional Western medicine is not holistic - it does not treat the whole being, it treats symptoms.  Medication is necessary for some people.  It is an invaluable temporary help for others.  It is not the whole answer.  The great majority of doctors are limited by their training, the intellectual paradigm which determines their perspective, to believing that they do know the answers.

In my belief and experience, a person's relationship to any dis-ease can be improved by the adaptation and integration of a Loving Spiritual belief system.

It is vital to change our relationship with our own emotions in order to take power away from the distorted, magnified, virulent, mutated variety of fear that drives obsession so that we can stop the compulsive behavior that is driven by repressed emotional energy.  And the underlying reason that fear is given so much power is the shame about being human that is at the foundation of our relationship with self.

Taking power away from the shame so that we can take power away from the fear is greatly facilitated by becoming involved in a twelve step Spiritual recovery program in order to develop some kind of benevolent spiritual relationship with life.

Here is a quote from an article on my web site about spirituality.

"My own personal Spiritual belief system is one form of spirituality.  It is certainly not the only one.  Mine works for me very well in helping me to have a relationship with life that allows me to be happier today.  It is not necessary for you to accept my belief system in order for you to use the tools, techniques, and perspectives that I have developed for emotional healing / codependence recovery / inner child integration.

For the purposes of this discussion of spiritual integration, I would now define what I refer to as a Spiritual Awakening in the quote above, as:  being open to a larger perspective - awakening from being trapped in a limiting perspective.  In this regard, spiritual would be a qualifier, an adjective, that describes the quality of one's relationship with life.

This adjective, spiritual, would be (in my definition) a word describing an expanded level of consciousness.  A level of consciousness, of awareness, that is expansive and inclusive and facilitates personal growth - as opposed to limited, exclusive, rigid, and inhibiting growth,  development, and alternative view points.

By this definition, any religion that claims to be the chosen one, that excludes alternative perspectives or certain people, is not spiritual." - The Recovery Process for inner child healing - spiritual integration

So, basically what I am saying, is that codependency (which includes an addictive, toxic, abusive concept of love) is the problem and Love is the solution.  Any belief system that empowers separation, fear and shame is codependent in my definition - not spiritual.  There is a saying I like: "Religion is for people who are scared of hell, Spirituality is for people who have been there."  It is possible to be spiritual without being religious, and possible to connect spiritually within a religion - but some religion as it is practiced is not at all spiritual.

Recovery is a process of learning to stop living in the hell that the illusion of separation - which empowers fear and shame - created, and start living life based upon remembering that we are connected to everyone and everything in Love.

Hearts with arrow through them symbolizing both love and heartbreak.
 Next in the series:  Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 2


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Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995.  Material on Joy2MeU web site (except where otherwise noted) is copyright 1996 thru 2013 by Robert Burney  PO Box 235401 Encinitas CA 92023.
 

Obsession / Obsessive Thinking Part 1 - was originally published online April 28 2002 on Robert's Inner Child / Codependency Recovery page on the Suite101.com Directory.  There is a list of - and links to - the other articles in this series on Suite 101 on the Suite101 Articles page.