Sanctuary for the Abused

Tuesday, February 20, 2007



"While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it." Samuel Johnson

OUR OBSESSIVE THINKING...
N = Narcissistic Abuser

"I decided to run a medline search and came up with the following. It seems the good news is that once we demystify the N situation (which can be accomplished by reading and learning as much as we can) that we then experience a lessening of the 'obsessive-thinking' problem. I hope this helps some of you because we all seem to go through and will help validate your own experiences. Also, you will note from the excerpts I have copied from the abstracts that attempting to 'not think about it' actually increases the problem.

Address for medline searches - I used the parameters of 'obsessive thinking'

"According to recent research, deliberate suppression of unwanted thoughts may result in a paradoxical increase in their frequency."
White bears and other elusive intrusions. Assessing the relevance of thought suppression for obsessional phenomena. Purdon, C. Clark, D.A. Behav Modif 2000 Jul;24(3):425-53
"Research has shown that attempts to suppress a thought can cause an increase in the frequency of the thought. These paradoxical effects of thought suppression play a key role in cognitive-behavioral models of several emotional disorders."
Paradoxical effects of thought suppression: a meta-analysis of controlled studies. Abramowitz JS, Tolin DF, Street GP. Clin Psychol Rev 2001 Jul;21(5):683-703
"It is proposed that obsessions are caused by catastrophic misinterpretations of the significance of one's thoughts (images, impulses). The obsessions persist as long as these misinterpretations continue and diminish when the misinterpretations are weakened."
A cognitive theory of obsessions. Rachman S. Behav Res Ther 1997 Sep;35(9):793-802
The White Bear reference seems to be the name of a psychological questionnaire used by psychiatrists to determine obsessive thinking levels. It does get better with time and with understanding the whole N problem and its significance and impact in our lives. So, the upshot of all this is to read and learn and try to cope with the problem and understand it fully.

(REPLY 1) I would guess it takes a lot of time for cognitive restructuring to take place, and the thinking and re-thinking helps with minimizing the misperceptions and aids in assimilation of "the new knowledge".

I really like the proposal: "It is proposed that obsessions are caused by catastrophic misinterpretations of the significance of one's thoughts (images,impulses). The obsessions persist as long as these misinterpretations continue and diminish when the misinterpretations are weakened."
That makes sense to me. I had people tell me to just stop thinking about it, but I had to think about it until I was comfortable. The better I understood it, the less stress I had. Obsessional thinking really helped.


One thing I say to explain my obsessional thinking is that my experience with my N was such a catastrophic failure, that I was forced to do a failure analysis, a re-thinking of the events and my misperceptions. I wondered how I could have made such a blunder in life. It took a lot of thinking to fix myself. I do not want to repeat that lesson.

(REPLY 2) I have been trying for months to "thought stop" and to "get over it!". I have been having obsessive thoughts about the N and the other woman, playing and replaying fantasies based on my anger and rage at the N.

(REPLY 3)I am only now becoming enlightened and just in the past 24 hours have received so many answers to the questions that were plaguing me. The biggest question I had was about myself: why was I obsessed with this person? I engaged in crazy obsessed behaviors (driving by his house to see if he was there or had another woman over). My thoughts were so preoccupied by him that all other areas of my life suffered. I kept trying to resolve conflicting information. Over and over, he was all I thought about. I have only now gotten the answers I need so have not yet extricated myself from the situation.

(REPLY 4)That big hump--it's there for everyone and it is overcome in each person's unique timing. I want to make sure that no one here in the early stages of this process thinks that they need to begin practicing forgiveness....NO NO NO...embrace your anger, vent as you need and use it to empower you to escape.

(REPLY 5)The chapter on obsessive thinking in the book Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy D. Wilson is helpful. The author argues that we obsess because our brains are wired to "find an answer" that makes sense of things ("makes sense" is the key there--it doesn't have to be a "right" answer, it just has to satisfy our need to have an answer that we can believe). Nothing about NP behavior or thought is really very "rational"--it just does not make sense, so you (we) obsess and obsess, trying to come to terms with it in a way that satisfies our brain's wiring. Add in the fact that we often are hoping there's some way we can "fix" the situation, or that we often wonder if it's WE who are somehow at fault, and it can add up to many many many sleepless nights.

When we encounter traumatic, tragic, shocking, inexplicable, gut-wrenching events in life, we develop obsessive thinking trying to comprehend it. That's normal, it's the situation that isn't normal.

If you find yourself thinking obsessively about an event or person, interrupt the thoughts with a prayer, or begin counting or reciting the alphabet. This sounds so simple, people often laugh, but it works. You'll find you have to do this over and over throughout the day - perhaps for weeks, months, or even longer.

Living in the Moment Jan Luckingham Fable


Therapists recommendation:
Pretend your X has tragically dropped dead. (It happens!) Although the person might still be alive, the relationship is dead, and so are any illusions about the person. If you begin to obsess remind yourself out loud that you are only playing "old tapes" - change the channel.

Thought Stopping:
Thought stopping helps you overcome excessive worry, repetitive thoughts, and negative thinking, which may take the form of self-doubt, fear, and avoidance of stressful situations. Thought stopping involves concentrating on the unwanted thoughts and after a short time, suddenly stopping and emptying your mind, by using the mental command "stop" or a loud noise to interrupt negative thinking. Then, you may use thought substitution to focus on positive thoughts and outcomes. If the thoughts can be controlled, stress levels can be significantly reduced.

Stress Reduction Techniques

Thought Stopping in Recovery


Some people, however, cannot get past the denial, or rage phases. They remain 'stuck", frozen in time, constantly replaying mental tapes of the interactions they had with the narcissists. What they don't realize is that these tapes are "foreign objects" implanted by the narcissist in their mind. Time bombs waiting to explode. Kind of "sleeper cells" or post-hypnotic suggestion. If you find yourself in this situation there is little you can do to help yourself. You need professional assistance.

In the case of unnecessary or bothersome thoughts, try "thought stopping." This is simply yelling (loudly but silently to yourself), "Stop! Get out of here!" And, believe it or not, the thought often goes away. It will come back, so yell again. Eventually, by telling yourself that you don't have to put up with useless or hurtful thoughts, you can frequently control "your mind"

Thought Stopping – During the Behaviour Methods


Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
from Desiderata, Max Ehrman

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