Saturday, February 11, 2012

Common Denominators - Obsessive Thinking

If I were asked to pick the one character trait I have found most destructive of my peace of mind, this would be it. I have the sort of mind that, without program intervention, climbs onto that gerbil wheel and runs for hours, sometimes days at a time, until I'm sick at heart with rage, fear and frustration.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, obsessive thinking is when I have one idea in my head, and I just keep chewing it over, angry, fearful and distressed, walking through my day with my body in the here and now, but my head somewhere else entirely. That one idea becomes all I can think about; it takes me over completely.

It wasn't until I joined Al-Anon that I began to grasp the idea that I have some control over what goes on inside my own head. I may not be able to stop thoughts from arising, but I don't have to latch onto them like a trap slamming shut, and carry them over to the gerbil wheel for a little workout. I can honestly state with full conviction that I have never climbed back down from the gerbil wheel feeling anything but worse than when I started.

Obsessive thinking drains my energy, poisons my day, and renders me incapable of enjoying my life. I will be moving from one thing to the next like a zombie, consumed with my obsessive thinking, while hiding behind my cheerful facade. It creates a feeling of tremendous alienation from the world around me, and makes me feel helpless and hopeless.

So how do I deal with this? How do I not get started, or once started, stop?  I ask my HP for help.

I call my sponsor, or another program person, and speak honestly of the madhouse between my ears. That breaks my isolation. I read program literature or listen to a speaker tape. That reminds me that we are all in this together, and I am not a solitary lunatic, but one of a large group, many of whom will take my phone calls.

If I can laugh at myself, I can break that pacing back and forth of obsessive thinking. Obsession requires total serious concentration - laughter makes this impossible, because I am given, through the laughter, some detachment from myself.

I I cannot change whatever it is, why expend all my energy and life-force obsessing about it? Back to Step One: I admit that I am powerless, and my life is unmanageable while I'm obsessing. I turn it over, I work my program, and I receive relief. For that relief, I feel a deep and abiding gratitude.


  1. I'm also grateful for the tools Al-Anon has helped me learn to help keep my obsessive thinking in check.

  2. I am glad to not have those gerbils running around in my head. My mother was an obsessive thinker and was a severely depressed person. I used to ruminate on things for days. Letting go has helped me so much. I say the Serenity Prayer and realize that no matter what, I cannot change the outcome for others. It is a good feeling to not obsess.

  3. I just joined Al-Anon in August 2012 and I decided to check out some blogs. Yours is one I just found and I am going to follow you.

    I am reading on this post because I can identify with the Gerbils so well. I fixate on things even silly small things. I don't mean they have to be big life altering or sad events. A subject just gets put in my head and I have to tell everyone and anyone about it. Ugh I know this isn't normal!!!