Left to my own devices, I’m an obsessor. A chronic over-thinker. The type of person who plays out a scenario over and over again as though that would somehow give me clarity or insight into someone else’s behavior. But, as you may have guessed, all it does is piss me off even more.
Aside from abuse or situations that need professional help, many of us struggle with a day-to-day obsession with other people’s craziness. We play out what happened, what we should have said, what their reaction might have been and other thoughts that get us nowhere. These thoughts keep us in a victim mentality. And much like a cheap carnival ride, as much as you want to get off, it never seems to end. This is called cyclical thinking and it straight-up sucks.
Here’s how to stop letting it ruin your life:
- Tolerate the discomfort of not having a next move. I started with the hardest tip first. You don’t need to know what your move is or what the other person’s is. Give yourself permission to wait and see without needing an answer. This is a key trait of emotional resilience.
Quit the blame game. Whether you’re blaming yourself or someone else, it isn’t making you feel any better and it certainly isn’t productive. Besides, chances are, it’s both of your faults. Blame stagnates growth. It’s that simple.
Deal with yourself first. The issue isn’t what that person did, it’s how it makes you feel. For example, if someone breaks up with you via text message (true story!), the issue isn’t how things should have played out, it’s the anger you feel. Focus on the feeling before the issue itself. How? Attack the emotion with self-care (exercise, meditation, journaling.) From that evolved space, you’re more likely to deal with the situation or person in a healthy and productive way.
Don’t believe everything you think. Your feelings are not facts. They are real, but they are not always true. Anger, sadness, and anxiety are the ego’s way of creating false beliefs. For example, if you are upset, you may internalize it, believing that you are not good enough. So while you should honor and process your feelings, know that the assumptions you make based on those feelings, are not true.
Choose to grow. We often believe that a painful event leads to suffering. However, the truth is that the equation looks more like event + reaction = suffering. If you focus on your reaction, you’re more likely to gain insight, and, as a result, grow from the experience.
Take a time out. It takes 90 seconds to move out of an emotion. Use that time to create a pattern interrupt that will get you out of your headspace. Try meditation, a walk, or mindful breathing.
Send love and forgive. When I ended a 9 year relationship, I was pissy and in pain. I focused on how things should have been different. I soon realized that forgiveness was the only way I’d ever feel better. But how could I forgive the f*cker? I concentrated on sending him love, bridging the energetic gap between us. And when I focused on the love instead of the anger, it began to melt away. It sounds hokey, but lovingkindness meditations actually work as evidenced by the fact that he’s still alive (and one of my closest friends!)
Cyclical thoughts aren’t about the situation or what happened, it’s about us, our reaction, and our ability to choose a different state. Try these 7 tips and reclaim your thoughts, energy, and time. What do you have to lose?
Need to reclaim your headspace? Share your story in the Comments Section below!