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Review and Obsession Redux

Posted May 18 2010 12:00am

This is a repost that discusses the difference between healthy review (and letting go) and unhealthy obsession (holding on). I go into more depth about this in the book but some people still seem confused.

Also, for those who have asked, the Relationship Inventory, Life Inventory and Parent Inventory are only in the book.


When we first breakup, we have this horrible experience of thinking about the ex and reliving the relationship over and over again. This is necessary to process what Freud called “review and relinquishment.” In other words, we have to put up with the horror movie in our head to move on. That is the idea behind the Relationship Inventory. It not only facilitates the review but it makes it less subjective by asking for both good and bad reviews. When your head just picks and chooses what to review, the review can be incomplete and therefore seemingly never ending.

But even if we do the inventory or time has passed, we find the thoughts are still recurrent and intrusive. This ruminating and thinking over and over again about situations that you can’t really do anything about is called obsession. It’s turning things over and over in your mind searching for answers where there are none. The ruminations are useless and unhelpful. And you really need to acknowledge the obsession and take concrete steps toward addressing it.

Obsession is not the same as reviewing your relationship and different conversations in an effort to be done with it once and for all. We need to go back and learn. We need to review the relationship and see where WE went wrong. We NEED TO DO A RELATIONSHIP INVENTORY and see who owns what and to become responsible for CHANGING OUR PART IN IT.

But once we do that, we need to GET OUT OF IT and move on.

Are you reviewing in a healthy way to let it go? Or are you obsessing?

Obsession is thinking and re-thinking for no useful purpose. It’s asking questions over and over…often the same questions over and over…where there either are no answers or the answers don’t matter.

What is he/she doing?
Why did he/she move on so quickly?
Does he/she ever think about me?
How could you say A one day and B the next?
What the HELL is going on/has gone on?

Getting out of obsession takes discipline and decision. You have to decide that you are going to stop thinking about it. You need to use the STOP technique or the rubber band technique. You need to write about what you need to write about and be done with it.

If you are unable to do this after a long period of time since the breakup, you would probably benefit from seeing a professional or joining a support group.

You need to be focused on YOU. There is a certain amount of looking at what this other person DID but the important thing is not to see it as what they DID, but what you ALLOWED. This work is about YOU not about the other person. It’s about YOU getting well.

At some point you need to stop dwelling on what was done TO YOU and understand that you need to figure out what it is in you that put you in that position to be treated that way. Something IN YOU is broken. What is it? Find out and fix it. Stop dwelling on them and what they did. Dwell on YOU and how to fix YOU.

The other way we obsess is to think about what we did wrong and what we could have done right and WILL do right if only given a second chance. There is a saying that if you have one foot in the past and one in the future, you’re peeing all over today.

And when you think about what you did and what you can do if given a second chance, that is EXACTLY what you are doing: giving up your today for a yesterday you can’t change and a tomorrow that might never come.

Put your head where your feet are: IN YOUR OWN LIFE.

We need to do the hard, tough work. But we also need to be bringing in the good stuff and building a worthwhile life. If you’re just ruminating over the past and not building something solid in your life, you’re suffering for no good reason.

Stop obsessing about the ex. Stop ruminating. Start working the bad stuff out WHILE working the good stuff in. Get off the dime and into your own life.

Again, this is fleshed out more in the book , the inventories are in the book as well as obsession ending techniques, but feel free to email also.

You can do this.

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