Is It Love or Obsession? Understanding and Coping with Obsessive Thoughts in a Relationship
"I can't stop thinking about her."
"I want to know everything about him."
"Time stops when I'm with him."
"I don't think she knows how much I love her."
These phrases can leave us questioning whether it's love or obsession that we're experiencing. Differentiating between the two can be tough for some, as sometimes they intertwine. When we develop strong feelings for someone we don't know well, it can border on an obsessive infatuation, where we project unrealistic ideals onto the person and become consumed by our thoughts. These are common scenarios for some people when using dating apps, or online dating in general.
Exploring the Nature of Obsession and Its Significance
"Love obsession often serves as a distraction, keeping the individual's gaze from more painful thoughts."
Obsession, in general, is an unhealthy state of mind. It becomes even more problematic when it becomes mistaken for genuine romantic feelings resembling love. However, it's important to recognize that obsession can serve as a signal, attempting to communicate something significant about ourselves and prompting us to improve the quality of our lives. So we must pay attention to it when it arises at all costs.
As renowned psychotherapist Irvin Yalom once wrote, "Love obsession often serves as a distraction, keeping the individual's gaze from more painful thoughts." Obsession acts as a distraction, diverting our attention away from forming a genuine connection with ourselves.
Therefore, when we find ourselves obsessing over someone, it's crucial to understand that this person is often the least of our concerns. In fact, it's highly likely that the person we're fixated on doesn't even feel cared for by us.
The Concept of Being Under Siege by Obsession
Obsession can be likened to being under siege. The term "obsession" originates from the Latin word ob-sidere, meaning to be occupied or invaded by something that doesn't truly belong to us. In many cases, the person we obsess over is a stranger, a distant acquaintance, a coworker, or someone we've only encountered a few times. We don't have a deep understanding of them, and this lack of familiarity allows the obsession to thrive. Without reality checks, our minds run wild, projecting scenarios onto their lives and imagining future encounters. Every action or reaction from them evokes intense emotions within us. We feel alive, yet simultaneously trapped under siege. Intrusive thoughts flood our minds, keeping us preoccupied.
Understanding the Hidden Agenda of Obsession
The primary objective of any obsession is to keep us preoccupied, diverting our attention from what truly matters in our lives. However, we must exercise caution. The moments of joy we experience when indulging in the obsession are often mere illusions. What initially promises happiness ultimately brings sleepless nights and overwhelming anxiety.
Differentiating Love from Obsession: A Time for Reflection
To determine whether what we're feeling is love or obsession, it's essential to allow ourselves some time for reflection and introspection. If the person we're fixated on is genuinely the right person for us, we don't need to rush into making hasty decisions. It's crucial to give ourselves space and evaluate if there's something missing in our lives that justifies these obsessive feelings.
When looking for love with dating apps, it's important to remember the key distinction between obsession and healthy: genuine love lies in the natural, spontaneous, and anxiety-free growth of love. When consumed by obsession, being near the person we're fixated on is accompanied by excessive anxiety, second-guessing, and repetitive thoughts. However, upon closer examination, we may realize that we don't actually know much about them or haven't spent significant time together. In reality, our deep interest may stem from a desire for their attention to be focused on us. We want them to see us, to get to know us and to show interest in our lives. Essentially, the person we crave is, in fact, ourselves.
"...genuine love lies in the natural, spontaneous, and anxiety-free growth of love. "
Nurturing Ourselves and Fulfilling Our Fantasies
Obsessions can be deceptive. They often signal underlying pain and sadness that we have chosen to disconnect from. If we allow ourselves to entertain the idea of giving in to our obsession, it can trigger a chain of disastrous events: a crumbling marriage, loss of self-respect, disorganization leading to the revocation of job offers, and so on. Obsessions can provide an opportunity for change, but the door it opens is often stormy, leaving our lives chaotic and causing us to forget our initial pain.
However, pain cannot be truly forgotten. It may be repressed but never deleted from our souls unless we actively engage with it and work through it.
To care for ourselves, we must resist the temptation to give our obsession all our time and energy. Instead, we can use the insights it offers as guidance for what we genuinely desire. Do we long to be with the other person? What makes that potential encounter so special? Do we seek acknowledgement of our thoughts and creativity? Rather than fixating on the other person, we can invite those qualities into our own lives. We can focus on our own interests, dedicate more time to them, and embrace our sexuality by exploring it with our partners or by engaging in fulfilling sexual experiences. It's crucial to foster ambition and actively pursue the life we desire, embodying the qualities we wish to experience with the person we're obsessing over.
In Conclusion: Navigating the Challenges of Obsession
Navigating obsessions can be challenging and emotionally tumultuous. We often invite these tornadoes into our lives as a means of avoiding the pain and discomfort that comes with acknowledging and mourning our losses. The source of our pain becomes distant and disconnected, prompting us to adopt the role of emotional investigators in order to reconnect with our true selves and resolve our suffering.
By paying attention to our genuine needs and examining what we expect to find in the person we obsess over, we allow the underlying pain within us to regain trust in our ability to address its thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, all we can do is cry and mourn, while other times, it's necessary to take action and move forward with respect to that pain. Ultimately, it's crucial to dedicate time to ourselves, learn how to cope with the intensity of obsession and make decisions that involve the authentic version of ourselves, free from the siege of obsession. While attachment styles can play a role in shaping our relationships and responses to love, the focus here is on understanding the broader dynamics of love and obsession within the context of our individual experiences.
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