Struggling to Take Control of Obsessive Thoughts

Five of Wands
Five of Wands

Do you have thoughts circling around obsessively in your brain? Many of us do. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the things that worry you or excite you or that simply draw your attention magnetically to the point that you can’t think about anything else. I am a total overthinker and neurotic worrier myself, so I can absolutely relate to this situation. And because I do this myself, I have to point out in defense of those of us who do this that for some of us, while overthinking and worrying may be part of our shadow selves, it also has a positive side — it makes us detail-oriented. And details matter — if we are in the habit of giving them our attention routinely, we are less prone to running into all sorts of trouble in work and in life. And people who like to take time to think things through (Four of Swords style)

Four of Swords
Four of Swords

also tend to be drawn toward meditation and to spiritual development at some point. So overthinking is not bad. It’s a strength (as so often our shadow sides turn out to be, when we take the time to look at them closely).

But.

There are times when our obsessive thoughts become obstacles that stand in our way. We can worry to the point that we’re prostrate on the couch or utterly paralyzed with anxiety about a situation that won’t get better until we find the energy to do something about it. So the obsessive thoughts are very prone to becoming their own self-fulfilling prophecy. If you look closely at the Four of Swords card shown here, do you notice that our obsessive thinker looks sort of, well, dead? We can easily defeat ourselves with obsessive thoughts. And it can become a Five of Wands struggle to find ways to harness our own passion and enthusiasm without getting sidetracked by obsessions.

The solution to this is The Emperor. Take control, step by step.

The Emperor
The Emperor

Like this:

Step 1: Use that strong meditative side to help you observe your own thoughts and notice when you have become paralyzed by them. Say to yourself, are these thoughts what I most need to have in my head right now? If the answer is no, go on to step 2. If the answer is yes, you may need to take some time to journal, make a to do list, or otherwise do a brain dump that allows you to let go of thoughts while also making an action plan that will set you on your path to moving forward again.

Step 2: Consciously release. This could mean, if you have world class anxiety that requires medication, taking a moment to take that medication — or to try an alternative treatment, such as Rescue Remedy or another flower essence, or a nice cup of chamomile or peppermint tea. It could mean taking 20 minutes to do self-hypnosis around the issue of focusing (Natural Hypnosis offers their Natural Focus track free if you add your name to their email list — I’m not affiliated with Natural Hypnosis, by the way, but I find their hypnosis tracks very practical and useful). It could mean taking time for meditation. It could mean stopping to exercise or do something completely different. It could mean reading a book and giving your mind something enticing to focus on for a short break, to pull your thoughts away from the obsessive worries. Whatever form your chosen release takes, combine it with your strong intention to let go of obsessive thoughts. 

Step 3: Move on to what you need to do. Do it in baby steps if you have to. Or use the Pomodoro Technique for productivity (do what you need to do in 25 minute segments with five minute breaks in between–almost everyone can choose to focus on a task for 25 minutes, but if that’s too long, choose a shorter amount of time).

Step 4: Repeat as needed.

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