Pickleball was cancelled for today and tomorrow – Saturday and Sunday. Sadness reigned. My knees and several muscles will get a respite, so I have that to console me. As the day wore on an unwanted feeling began to creep over me. It took a while to identify it as obsession. It is uncomfortable. I have experienced it before. It took quite a while to eradicate it from my being in the past. The New Oxford Dictionary defines obsession as an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.
I have had obsessions before to money, activities, women, and other items. In the past the obsessions have led me to drink more. They are triggers for alcohol abuse. The obsession process is never positive. I ruminate excessively entering into a funk, ignoring my tasks and even personal care, driving aimlessly for hours while obsessing on whatever the object is. I tend to push people away, make bad decisions, and get so lost down the rabbit hole that it is nearly impossible to extricate myself. Worse I tend to dismiss positive events. As a teenager, after we moved from Kentucky to Cincinnati and I was forced to work in the family hardware store, I would leave home and walk the town, stopping at the railroad crossing and stare at the tracks. I was obsessed with leaving the area, the new school, the loneliness of being stuck in an educational factory. I had moved from a small co-ed school with a total of 145 students to an all male school with 1800 students. I was a college junior before I was able to put it behind me.
There were more obsessions during the next decades. Most of the fleeting kind, several took time to overcome. So why now, why today? Maybe an analogy I have developed while I was doing counseling might help. Imagine a pristine white wall. Imagine also a brilliant red dot on the wall. If I am facing the wall, what would I see? The red dot of course. My focus on the wall will be directly at the red dot. No matter how I try to look away, I can’t but help to return to the dot. Stand up, sit, lay down, the dot will still be the point of focus. Look away, but I know the dot is there and I can’t help but focus on the dot when my gaze returns to the wall.
So it is with an obsession. It remains whether I try to ignore it, wipe it off the wall or devise other plans to deal with it. Use of alcohol merely blurs the image, doesn’t remove it. Sometimes alcohol magnifies the dot. The dot remained when I sobered.
What does the dot represent? Could be anything. Usually its something I want but don’t have or don’t feel I could get, usually quickly. Money, better accommodations, more relationships, activities. Whatever, it usually is something I feel I need soon if not immediately. Or that my less than agile brain perceives I am being prevented from obtaining. Today it was Pickleball – activity and social relationship. In the past the obsession might be accompanied by anger which became the impetus for alcohol intake.
How to rid myself of obsessions? Return to the analogy of the red dot. I know I can’t wipe out the red dot. What would happen however if I added other dots, different sizes, different colors, different shapes? The original red dot then looses its power to attract. My gaze will be diffused, re-oriented to other perceived needs, wants and desires. Relationships will become “normal”, more honest, less tense, less intrusive.
So here I am in need of developing more dots to reduce the tension of my obsessions. Yet I am in a distancing protocol. The trick is to develop more activities. Reach out to other interests. Easier said than done. But the researching and active exploring of tasks will set me up for when the limitations are lifted.