Getting stuck in our fears is so easy.  Going over and over things in our head and feeling terrible is common to us all. If over the years you don’t accept your body, your looks, your smarts or your mistakes, you can literally freeze your brain into bad ways to feel about yourself. Then self-torture and all the ways there are to feel bad become second nature. Like the burden of carrying a soaking wet, heavy wool blanket it can stifle and suffocate your potential. People can feel bad about the rejection of someone they’ve loved for years. Perfectionists can always push themselves to do more, faster and better endlessly. Someone who’s been fired or laid off from work can believe they are completely unworthy. There are so many ways to get stuck.

Anxiety is something everybody struggles with. People with anxiety find it very hard to let go and find it easy to obsess. Going over and over things is a way of pretending to yourself that you’re doing something about a problem. Maintaining the status-quo of misery is better than having to move on into the unknown. It’s better to grieve over a lost relationship than to deal with the gruesome unknown of dating. Taking new risks can be an antidote to obsessing.

If you’ve already worked out what you’ve learned from the lost relationship then you understand your own culpability clearly. Obsessing enough to think through our responsibilities is a good thing; obsessing to the point where you’re grinding glass into your wounds is self-destructive. Obsessing to create art or find new scientific discoveries is another positive, while being an obsessive parent can be suffocating to a kid.

Extreme obsessing is part of OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder. An obvious example is someone who is germ phobic and washes their hands raw like Emma Pillsbury in the tv show GLEE. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz says that our brains get stuck over and over because of anxiety and OCD. He calls this Brain Lock (also the title of his book). Accepting anxiety as a disease that requires work and attention in a serious way is crucial. So there is real hope in using his 4 step process to retrain or rewire the brain. I believe these 4 steps can be valuable just for obsessing even if you’re not OCD. He has a 34 minute video and a manual that you can download on his website:

Perfectionists are people with anxiety, who have a strong need to excel. Excellence is one way to pretend that it’s possible to keep anxiety at bay. People who are perfectionists spend a lot of time obsessing. They push themselves so hard it’s exhausting. Perfectionism is tough for others to live with because there is a constant obsessing about doing things better.

Learning to let go may feel very illusive, like the search for the Fountain of Youth. Unlike that search, it is not impossible if you’re willing to do the work and train your brain. No matter what age you are, the brain can adapt and grow into new patterns. You can get yourself unstuck.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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