It’s one thing to not be able to stop thinking about an ex, but what about someone you’ve never even dated or slept with? He may be a guy in your larger social circle you see at parties. She may be a regular at your yoga class. Whomever it is, you’re more than smitten–you’re obsessed.
The all-consuming obsession experienced by an adolescent (writing a crush’s name in a diary, fantasizing under the covers) is well-documented in mainstream media and can seem endearing to a TV/movie viewer. Adults can sympathize with a teenager who can barely concentrate because she’s so infatuated. But once you’re an adult, it can be troubling to feel like you cannot control your thoughts.
It’s one thing to long for someone, it’s entirely another when an obsession interferes with your daily life. Maybe you’re seeing the object of your desires when you’re making love with your partner; or you’re so focused on him while at a party that you have trouble being present with the people you’re actually talking to. There’s a high cost to this–you miss out what’s right in front of you (including possibly someone who’s into you!) because your mind is laser-focused on someone who may not even be aware of your existence. You feel like you have to have (or be with) him or her.
Sometimes attraction is just about body type, but other times it’s the way in which they carry themselves. Figuring out what exactly it is about them that is the source of such strong attraction can be the key to reducing the obsession.
Step 1: Make a List
Pull out a pen and notepad, or the Notes app on your phone.
Visualize the object of your obsession. It can help to see them in a specific physical environment. Notice how they dress; their posture; their facial expressions or movement patterns. Then write down a list of adjectives that describe what it is you find so fascinating about them. Some examples: mysterious; outgoing; confident; poetic; commanding; vibrant; deep.
Step 2: Take a Good, Long Look at Yourself
Next, write a list of how you (and/or your friends) would describe you. Be unsparing, but do focus on both your strengths and areas that are “under development.”
You may notice that these two lists don’t overlap all that much.
We are often drawn to aspects in others that are under-developed or deficient in ourselves. We all seek wholeness, and it is often through sexual/romantic attraction that we aim to fill up the void in our psyches.
There’s a term in psychology called projection: like a film onto a screen, we “project” onto another person disowned parts of ourselves. You may barely know the object of your obsession, but there is something about them that acts as a hook upon which you can hang an aspect of yourself that you have suppressed. The attraction is not so much with the person (you may barely know them)–it’s to a set of traits you want to integrate into yourself. Your longing for another person may signal the desire to express or develop a part of yourself.
Step 3: Integrate
If you’re able to recognize the unexpressed aspects of yourself that you find attractive in another person, that person’s hold on your thoughts can lessen. But the real healing comes when you integrate those aspects into your own life.
If you see the object of your obsession as deep and mysterious, it can be fruitful to explore how you can plumb the depths of your own psyche–see a psychotherapist, meditate, journal daily. If you find the object of your obsession vital and confident, look at how you can build your own sense of sureness in yourself, along with the ability to express that sureness to the world–try affirmations, write a list of unique qualities you have to offer to the world.
This is no quick fix, but the good news is that the awareness and working on becoming more whole is a step in the right direction. We all strive to grow into our fullest selves, and sometimes our attractions are a signal pointing the way to where we can flourish.
Schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see how psychotherapy can help you.
Photo credit: iStockphoto by igor_kell