How Fear Fuels Obsession

Fear Obsession CycleHave you ever felt as though you were doing everything you could yet no matter how hard you tried things got worse and worse?  Are you caught in a trap that leaves you feeling helpless, frustrated and discouraged?  Do you find that your behavior which is careful and cautious to you is perceived by others as obsessive and often repels others instead of drawing them closer?  Certain emotions such as fear can add fuel to an obsessive cycle that you leaves you feeling trapped and out of control.

It all starts with a painful event such as abuse by a relative, abandonment by a friend or rejection from a job.  Each of these events can spark fear directed at another person for their part in the event or directed at you for failure in handling the event properly.  This feeling of fear is uncomfortable so you counteract it with a desire to over control yourself, others or your environment.  So you turn to the obsession of your choice: cleaning, checking, washing, excessive order, repeating the same conversation, repetitive thoughts, hoarding, perfectionism, reassurance seeking, rituals or counting.  Other people in your life don’t like your obsession so they in turn withdraw from you.  You are now confused by their response as you were just trying to avoid the fearful or anxious feelings.  This in turn results in another painful event such as a fight, more distance in relationships or further loss.

Acknowledge.  The first step to stopping the crazy cycle is acknowledging that you are repeating the same behavior over and over.  You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge.  So admit it.  You are doing the crazy cycle.  This is not the time to blame others for the reason you are doing the crazy cycle; this is the time to accept responsibility for your own crazy behavior.  Everyone is responsible for their own behavior.  This maybe a new concept to you as our culture is quick to blame others, parents, churches, organizations, companies, governments, and even nations for bad behavior.  But this is not constructive thinking, it is destructive thinking.  You are responsible for your own behavior.

Stop at Fear.  There is nothing wrong with feeling fearful.  The Bible acknowledges that you will be fearful but you don’t have to control the fear by becoming controlling.  Whether you are acting scared, anxious or fearful or avoiding those feelings by being controlling, fear is still controlling your behavior.  It is OK to be fearful when you are hurt, when someone hurts you, or when someone hurts someone else.  Just don’t take it to the next step and become controlling; rather deal with the fear by confronting how you feel and taking responsibility for the actions that follow.  Just saying the words, “I am fearful or anxious but I’m going to act responsibly” can restore that out of control feeling to feeling more controlled.

Know Your Obsession.  What is your obsession of choice?  More than likely you have more than one obsessive behavior.  Not all of the obsessive behaviors are listed so taking an inventory of your go-to obsessions is extremely helpful.  Many times you will go directly from the painful event and skip right past the fearful emotion to the obsessive behavior because you have developed a conditioned response similar to Pavlov’s dogs.  In Pavlov’s experiment, he trained dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell by first giving food along with ringing the bell.  Before long, he only needed to ring the bell for the dogs to salivate.  You have done the same thing with your obsession.  You no longer need to feel fear to justify the obsessive behavior; rather you go straight from the painful event to the obsession.  If you know your obsessive behaviors, you can trace backwards to the fear anytime you feel the desire to become controlling and stop it from going any further.

You can take responsibility for your own behavior and stop the crazy cycle from destroying your life.  You do not have to be a victim to your obsessions or continue to allow painful events determine how you will respond.  Remember, if you make a mistake along the way and slip backwards, it is never too late to turn around no matter what others around you say.  Who you are is NOT defined by your mistakes.  Who you are is defined by your character which can be shaped by your mistakes only if you let it.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

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Help for Hurting Families

There are times in our lives when things happen that hurt us.  Perhaps it is the disappointment of our children, the broken trust of our spouse, the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of a family member, the failure of a business, or the rejection of a neighbor.  Whatever the incident, we have a choice to either deal with the hurt or bury the hurt.

Often the reason we bury our hurt is because we don’t want to feel the pain.  We instead turn to some sort of medication to stop the pain as if the pain is the problem instead of a symptom of the problem.  Medication does not necessarily come in the form of drugs, some medicate themselves from pain through excessive shopping, eating or drinking or perhaps fantasy thinking through gambling, pornography, television or video games.  Whatever the medication, the goal is the same, to dull or distract us from the pain and hurt we feel.

But we can choose to deal with the hurt instead.  The process is threefold beginning with recognizing the hurt has occurred, than responding constructively to the hurt and finally restoring the damaged relationship.  With each step, the hurt diminishes over time allowing the stress of the incident to fade.  However this process is not easy as many get stuck in one of the stages thereby not fully completing the steps and allowing the hurt to continue far longer than needed.  Let’s examine each of the steps more fully to better understand the process.

Recognize.  Our ability to recognize and be honest with the hurt we feel greatly impacts our ability to heal.  Honest is the most difficult step because it requires us to admit to our pain and reach out for help.  We often think feeling pain will make us weak or venerable for more pain, ironically the reverse is true.    For it is in our honesty first with ourselves and later with those around us that we are able to begin the process of healing and restoration of relationships.  By not being honest, we continue to lie to ourselves and those around us thereby setting ourselves up for even more hurt in the future.

Respond. Once we recognize the hurt, our response to the hurt can either destroy or rebuild our relationships.  Angry outbursts, vengeful thoughts, ignoring others, and manipulation schemes are all examples of unhealthy responses to hurt which will eventually destroy the relationship.  Alternatively, by lovingly confronting the hurt and processing it in a constructive environment, we can work towards the next step in the healing process.

Restore.  Only after the hurt is recognized and then responded to properly can true restoration of a relationship begin.  Broken relationships continue to cause pain even if they are distant; however healthy relationships allow us to prosper.  Healthy relationships allow room for mistakes without judgment, for boundaries without control, for security without anxiety, and for safety without fear.  They provide peace in our lives which ultimately brings harmony and freedom from strife.

One of the lessons learned from giving birth to children is that from the greatest pain comes the greatest joy.  Just as in child-birth, the pain is an indication of the upcoming birth of a child so the hurt in our lives can bring about unexpected joy through restored relationships.  We are not created to feel only joy without pain; instead we feel the greatest joy after the pain.  Use the hurt you feel as an opportunity to grow past the pain and into the joy of a restored fellowship with your child, spouse, friend, family member or neighbor.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.