One of the most important skills in life is learning how to stop thinking about someone. Everyone wants to forget someone – an ex girlfriend or boyfriend, a toxic friend, an abusive relative, the list goes on.
Sometimes distractions help, like talking to new, understanding people.
But stopping a nostalgic or resentful train of thought is harder than it seems. Pull the emergency brake and follow these steps for how to stop thinking about someone, both right now and in the long term.
Fast ways to forget about someone
(Pro tip: talking to someone else, like in a 24/7 anonymous chat, is the fastest.)
1. Stop virtual stalking
The last thing you need when you’re figuring out how to stop thinking about someone is constant notifications about them. Unfollow, unsubscribe and unfriend!
Constantly checking who they’re hanging out with or what they’re up to is only going to slow down your recovery. Regular posts about them can also cause unpleasant flashbacks. Do yourself a favor and remove the temptation by removing them on social media or blocking them. Also remove any of their friends with whom you aren’t close.
2. Toss nostalgic memorabilia
Physical reminders also make it harder to forget someone. Get rid of all of the items that remind you of them!
Maybe it’s a hoodie, a framed picture, or photos on your phone. If these items have financial value and you’re reluctant to throw them away, consider boxing them up and leaving them with a friend. Your emotional connection to them may fade eventually.
3. No contact rule
We’ve all been there — you may feel tempted to contact the person and stir the pot of emotions again. Don’t fall into this trap. Follow the no contact rule!
Don’t text, call, or message them, and minimize contact any way you can. This means avoiding places you know they visit often, like their favorite coffee shop. While you may think you want to see or talk to them again, all you’re doing is indulging masochistic drives and torturing yourself.
If you really have to communicate with this person for financial, logistical, or other reasons, consider appointing a friend as a go-between. If this person needs to get you a message, they can send it to your friend, and vice versa.
4. Move your body
Don’t sit at home all day and ruminate about this person. Go out and experience the world by yourself or with other positive people in your life.
Even better, try some hobbies you couldn’t engage in while this person was around in your life. No matter what you choose to do, engage yourself in something physical and remind yourself that an entire world exists without them.
5. Transport your mind
If you can’t get up and go out, try some techniques to shift your mind space. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and imagining a place you love to be in.
If that’s too unstructured for you, try asking a friend if you can help with something on their mind. Attending to others’ problems easily removes you from your immediate world. You can also read an engrossing novel or watch something on Netflix.
Let your mind roam where this person doesn’t occupy and can’t intrude.
6. Imagine a future, when you’ll be with someone who…
- Loves you most on the days you’re not trying
- Sees how your mind works
- Values your quirks
- Automatically meets you halfway
- Shares a sense of humor
- Respects your autonomy
- Gets to know your friends
- Hears you out
- Makes you feel calm
- Gives you strength
Slow ways to get someone out of your head
7. Forgive to forget
This one is really difficult for many people, but just as essential. This person probably hurt you, bad, in some way. For your own sake, not theirs, don’t wish ill upon them. Fueling yourself with constant anger will make it harder to forget this person.
One way to do this is to imagine yourself sending this person a ball of white light and surrounding them with it. You can also try drafting a letter to them, and achieve closure by releasing emotions.
8. Respect yourself
How to stop thinking about someone that you still love? How about thinking of someone else you still love — yourself!
Often, we put people on pedestals even if they mistreated us, causing obsessive thoughts, self-blame and doubt. You deserve better.
Build yourself up by engaging in empowering activities and thinking about your own emotional needs. One example of this is treating yourself to an entire self care day.
9. Let yourself feel the pain
All of the strategies used to move on only work if you’ve allowed yourself the proper time to grieve. The end of any relationship, even if it was toxic, can be painful.
Trying to move on without validating your emotions can lead to denial and suppression – building up the pressure in a bottle you’ll eventually have to open.
Before you try to forget, walk yourself through the course of what happened with this person. Let yourself feel the pain and sadness that is due, and then let it go.
10. Avoid substances
In the search for a quick fix brain cleanse, you may consider falling back on alcohol or other substances. While these may offer temporary relief, they also dig you into a deeper pit.
Substances can also lower your inhibitions, making it easier to contact the person you want to forget – and then you’ll have to start this whole process over again. Put down the shot glasses and find other ways to distract yourself, like talking to understanding strangers.
11. Look forward with excitement
Learn to accept that you can’t go back in time and change what happened. However, this person is not a permanent mark on your life — there’s so much more to come.
Consider sharing your excitement for the future with supportive folks!
You have the ability to mold yourself by learning from past experiences. Whether these experiences were good or bad, each relationship we have gives us wisdom we can apply to the future. You’ve already learned that you deserve better, that you are resilient and that you are capable.
12. Talk to someone else!
Hopefully these tips on how to stop thinking about someone have helped you feel better today. If you’re seeking support and need help distracting yourself from a certain individual, consider reaching out to Supportiv’s peer support network.
Hit Chat Now, enter what’s on your mind, and you’ll be connected with understanding folks in less than a minute. No bots, no personal information – just support.
Crushes are common in the teenage years, but they do frequently persist well into adulthood, especially if you’re not able to talk to the person, ask them out, and start dating them. Some obstacles in your way might include an unavailable partner (married or dating someone else), a lack of confidence, or maybe a long distance between the two of you that makes conversation difficult. In this case, it may be helpful to figure out how to stop thinking about someone.
Some people develop crushes on others who completely disdain them, and the lack of attraction only makes the person more obsessive. They start asking, “What can I do to impress them?” even though the answer is clearly: Nothing! We all want to feel attractive and like we’re successful in all our efforts to find love, even if those efforts are misguided at times.
How To Get Over A Crush: Ways To Move On
Dr. Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., wrote an article in Psychology Today, stating that romantic crushes are usually based on infatuation and “idealization.”
This means that if you’re saying, “I can’t stop thinking about someone I like!” then you might be projecting attributes onto a crush… and this person may not be anything like you imagine them to be in reality. This is one reason why therapists might advise a teenager dealing with a crush to confront their object of affection, and tell them that they “like” this person. This allows the teen to get to know the crush in a real-world setting, rather than limiting all these obsessive thoughts to his/her imagination. If there is a mutual attraction from the other person, you may be able to pursue a relationship. But even if there’s not an attraction, the belief is that once you can interact with this person and see them for who they are, you may soon realize that the romanticized feelings are false. You’re in love with the idea of the person, but not necessarily the reality of who they are.
Are You Wondering How To Stop Thinking About Someone As An Adult?
It may be more difficult to get over a crush if you’re an adult. This article may help you figure out how to stop thinking about someone soon! If you find yourself obsessing over someone you know personally, then the advice above is important to pay attention to. Ask if you can get coffee together sometime. You may find that once you get to know them, it’s clear that you idealized them before. This will clear your mind from obsessive thoughts and guide you through the steps of how to stop thinking about someone.
If you can’t meet the person that your mind can’t stay away from, there are other things to try. Finding a distraction is important. Find a new hobby or a new interest. Take a vacation. Do something kind for the needy. Date someone else, if you think you’re ready to handle getting into something new. In other words, distraction is good. Anything is better than just sitting in a room and “trying to stop thinking about a person.” You ever hear that expression, “Don’t think about pink elephants?” What happens when you stop trying to think about pink elephants? All you can think about are pink elephants. The same goes for trying to stop thoughts about someone you’re obsessed with. The more you try not to think about that person, the more you’ll end up with them on your mind, so turn to distraction instead. How stop thinking about someone? One way is to be active. This way you don’t have as much time to obsess over them.
How To Stop Thinking About Someone
Below, we’ll cover other how to stop thinking about someone.
1. Get in Touch with Your True Feelings
The first thing you need to do to get over a crush is to allow you to experience your feelings about your crush and yourself. We sometimes develop crushes because we think that person is better than we are. Another possibility is that you feel inadequate on your own and think the crush will complete you. Before you can move on with your life, you need to acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to experience them. Talking to a counselor gives you a chance to describe your feelings to someone who understands. After you come to terms with your feelings, you can start to use techniques your counselor teaches you to put that person behind you.
2. Avoid Your Crush on Social Media
Social media does have some redeeming values. However, if you’re obsessed with someone, being able to follow their activities easily on social media can keep you stuck in romantic feelings for them. Avoid clicking on their profile to read their information or catch up on their posts. You can’t get to know who they are through social media anyway, so there’s no point. People post the appearance of who they want you to see. Don’t cyber stalk your crush. If someone brings up the person you have a crush on, excuse yourself from the conversation, change the subject, or move on to some other topic you find enjoyable, whether online or off.
Instead of dwelling on your crush and what they’re up to, interact with the people who bring positive value to your life through social media. Perhaps they share humorous videos, congratulate you when you’ve done well, “listen” when you’re feeling blue, or just look at life with a positive and independent attitude. These are the people who can make your social media experience worthwhile.
A fascinating new study on the power of love vs. the allure of sex.
- Research shows that changing the focus of one’s thoughts—instead of suppressing them—works best to direct one’s thinking.
- Thinking of the love shared with one’s own partner decreases thoughts about others one finds attractive.
- Love is more powerful than sex when it comes to maintaining commitment to a partner.
You meet someone new and attractive. The eye looks and the mind wanders. Temptation strikes, although you don’t succumb to it in the moment. Nonetheless, you find your thoughts keep returning to the encounter, to that attractive person, and to the possibility for romance, sex, or a relationship. When the mind wanders, it often follows a path to love, romance, and sex. If you’re currently unattached, such thoughts can be wonderful. Infatuation is a seductive emotional experience. Who knows where it will lead?
But if you’re already in a committed and happy relationship, you may not want those thoughts. You may not want to be distracted by a handsome or pretty new face. What can you do to remain focused on, and committed to, your current relationship?
How can you stop those thoughts about the other person?
Just telling yourself to stop thinking about that person doesn’t help. Daniel Wegner and his colleagues have shown that attempted thought suppression actually has the opposite effect—you end up experiencing more of the thoughts you tried to suppress. In a classic study, Wegner and colleagues asked people to not think about a white bear. Trying to suppress thoughts of white bears, though, just led to more thoughts of white bears—a rebound effect.
Thought suppression and rebound effects appear for all types of thoughts, including those about people you find attractive. Trying to suppress such thoughts can even lead that person to appear in your dreams. And trying to not think about sex isn’t very effective, either. Those thoughts not only rebound into awareness but they have physiological effects as well—your palms get sweaty when you try to avoid sexual thoughts.
How do you stop that person from constantly appearing in your thoughts?
Change the focus of your thoughts
Instead of suppressing your thoughts, try changing the focus instead. The best advice is to actively focus your thoughts in a different direction—but the nature of those alternative thoughts is crucial.
Gonzaga and colleagues have investigated various ways to stop thinking about an attractive new person. First, they gave people in relationships someone attractive to think about: They presented six pictures of attractive people and asked participants to choose the one they thought was most attractive. While looking at that picture, the participants wrote about why the person was attractive and what the perfect first meeting with that person would be like.
By using the writing task, the researchers made sure that people were thinking about that person and imagining interactions with him or her. Haven’t we all had similar daydreams? You remember how attractive, charming, and pleasant a particular new person seemed to be. Where would you go? What would you do together? You imagine going out with that person for the first time.
Now stop. Stop thinking about that person.
Of course, we know that telling yourself to stop doesn’t work. It didn’t work in the experiment, either: Some people were simply asked to stop thinking about the attractive person, but the thoughts continued into the next task—more so than if they hadn’t been told to stop the thoughts.
But when they tried instead to change the focus of their thoughts—and, specifically, to think about their current romantic partner—the results were very different. Some participants were asked to think about either the time they felt the most love or the most sexual desire for their current partner. And which was better at stopping thoughts about an attractive new person? Thoughts about love. Love was more powerful than sex.
Love increases commitment to one’s partner
Try thinking about a time you felt love—that is, felt close, connected, and bonded to your current romantic partner. In the experiment, thinking of one’s current partner in terms of love substantially reduced the thoughts of another person. Thinking of sexual attraction for a current partner wasn’t nearly as effective.
Gonzaga and colleagues argued that this is the whole point of feeling love. Being in a strong, committed relationship has a lot of benefits: Love is the emotion that keeps you coming home to the same person every night for years. Thinking of love for one’s current partner did more than just drive thoughts of that attractive new person from people’s heads. Thinking of love actually diminished the memory of that other person. People who thought of love remembered fewer of the attractive features of that new person than other participants did.
Do you want to stop thinking about someone new?
Do you want to stay committed to your current partner?
Do you want to diminish your memory for an attractive new person?
Do you want to remove the temptation?
The approach is simple: Think about your current partner. But the key is to think about a time when you felt love for him or her because love is the power that can clear the mind, and keep people together.
Wegner, Wenzlaff, & Kozak, 2004
Wegner, Shortt, Blake, & Page, 1990
Gonzaga, Haselton, Smurda, Davies, & Poore, 2008
First, remember that most of the things we worry about will never come to pass.
Posted December 30, 2015 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
- The problem with ruminating is that it causes one to focus on how things could go wrong, rather than on how to make them go right.
- Trying to suppress thoughts can make them more likely to resurface.
- To stop any single thought, one needs to “turn on” or activate a different stream of thinking.
There are only two things you can truly control—your thoughts and your behavior. No one else can choose either one of those for you. But sometimes intrusive thoughts about unwanted events can flood your mind and it can feel like your thoughts are controlling you.
Whether it is something that happened in the past or a future event you are worried about, negative rumination robs you of your present well-being and, over time, can lead to serious problems like depression or anxiety.
Why do we ruminate on negative things?
- Sometimes we are trying to figure out a solution to a problem.
- Sometimes we are expecting something to go wrong and trying to avoid an unfavorable outcome.
- Sometimes a part of our brain isn’t functioning properly and a set of neurons gets stuck firing over and over again.
- Sometimes it is just a bad habit.
The problem with ruminating
The problem with ruminating is that most often you are focused on things going wrong instead of how to generate the solutions to resolve the situation and make things go right. If your boss got angry with you, you may be ruminating about what you did and worrying that if you do it again there might be serious consequences like losing your job. You might replay the scene with your boss over and over in your head, or worry excessively about what would happen if the worst-case scenario did come to pass. This kind of thinking activates your fight-or-flight response which actually shuts down your creative problem-solving thought process. In order to find the resolution that will allow you to let go of the problem, you need to disengage from the ruminative thought pattern.
Stopping thoughts, however, isn’t something we are very good at.
Psychologists refer to this as “the white bear problem,” because deliberate attempts to suppress thoughts can often make them more likely to resurface. 1 If I say to think of a white bear, and then tell you to stop thinking about it, chances are the white bear image will stay in your mind. The reason it does is that there is no “Off” button in the brain. To stop any single thought, you need to turn on or activate a different stream of thinking.
How to stop your thoughts
Following are four ways you can begin to regain control over your thoughts.
1. Engage in an activity on a different emotional frequency.
Feeling follows thought, so negative rumination generates negative emotions. Worrying makes you feel anxious. However, psychologists know behavior can change emotions, too. If you do something that you know generally makes you feel better—going for a run, calling a friend, watching your favorite movie, or meditating—you can raise your emotional frequency. When you are in a better mood, you can think more clearly and may gain a different perspective on the situation. Doing something that generates positive emotion also acts as a distraction task by simply giving you something else to focus your attention on.
2. Write down all the reasons why what you fear will not happen.
The majority of the things we worry about never happen. That’s because most of the time there are lots of valid reasons why what we worry about is unlikely. However, because our brain works on an activation/inhibition model, 2 active thoughts about what could go wrong inhibit it from thinking of the reasons these thoughts may not be rational. It requires a concentrated conscious effort to shift this train of thought and think of the reasons why your fear isn’t likely to come to pass.
3. Write down all the reasons why even if the worst-case scenario did happen, you would still be okay.
Many times we feel that if something unwanted were to happen, it would be completely devastating: We wouldn’t be able to survive, or we’d be forever unhappy. The truth is that difficult, unwanted things happen all the time and people survive and sometimes even come out the better because of them. Our brains are extremely adaptive to our relative circumstances: Many paraplegics, a year after their injury, report just as much happiness as lottery winners. 3 How well you handle any situation depends largely on your perception of your ability to cope with it. Instead of focusing on why you won’t be okay, think of your strengths. Think of the difficult things you have already overcome in life and why you are resourceful enough to get through other challenges.
4. Create an action-oriented, solution-focused reframe.
When you have a resolution to the situation, you will have both reduced the need for your brain to ruminate and given yourself something constructive to focus on instead, which replaces the ruminative thoughts. Asking yourself a few simple questions can help you move towards generating a solution:
a. What do I believe this situation means for me?
Because we can only move forward in time, we tend to think of events that happen to us in terms of what they mean for us in the future. If you have an argument with your boss, you worry about what it will mean for your future: Our relationship might be damaged; I might not get a promotion. (If something bad happened but it had absolutely no bearing on your life going forward, it wouldn’t bother you much.)
b. What do I want to happen?
I would like to repair my relationship with my boss. Clarity about what you want is a prerequisite to developing a solution to any problem.
c. What can I do that is likely to bring that about?
I can ask to meet with my boss to discuss the situation. I can make sure to keep my temper in check in the future. I can continue to interact in a positive way. I can make an effort to show my value. A plan to deal with a problem causes you to see the situation differently and reduces your anxiety and the need to ruminate.
If all else fails, remember that thoughts are only thoughts, and just because you think something doesn’t make it true. You don’t have to act on your thoughts; you can just observe them and let the unhelpful ones go by.
LinkedIn image: polkadot_photo/Shutterstock
1. Wegner, D., & Schneider, D. 2003. The White Bear Story. Psychological Inquiry, 14 (3/4), 326–329.
2. Pribram, K., & McGuinness, D. 1975. Arousal, Activation, and Effort in the Control of Attention. Psychological Review 82 (2),116-49.
3. Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. 1978. Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative? Pers Soc Psychol, 36(8), 917-27.
I’m an overthinker, and I think many of us are. However, there’s a difference between overthinking and obsessing. When you can’t stop your mind from having the same repetitive thought, then it’s not overthinking, it’s a disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness. People with OCD have obsessive thoughts and typically have compulsions.
You cannot control your thoughts
Obsessive thoughts are uncontrollable for someone with OCD. You can’t control the thoughts, but you can decide what to do with it. One of the treatments for OCD is cognitive behavior therapy or CBT. I’m throwing a lot of initials at you, but they’re relevant. In CBT, someone with OCD learns to manage their obsessions instead of being consumed by them. Getting a grip on how to manage intrusive or obsessive thoughts takes time and effort. It becomes tricky when you start obsessing over someone, not something. For people with OCD, it can be hard to stop thinking about someone. So, what do you do when your intrusive thoughts are about a person?
OCD strains your relationships
When you develop an obsession with a person, it will strain the relationship. You’re not clingy; you’re obsessing over that individual. Now, people often associate the word “obsession” with someone who is mentally unstable; however, in this case, the person with OCD is coping with a chemical imbalance in their brain. They’re not “unhinged,” they have OCD. When someone with OCD fixates on a person, it can become obsessive. It could be someone you’re dating . It’s natural to think about your partner, but when it’s the only thing on your mind, that’s a problem.
Obsessing over your partner can be hazardous to your relationship
You might not realize what you’re doing, but your obsessions could create a divide in your relationship. When you can’t stop thinking about someone, whoever that person is, they can feel the intensity of your obsession. Your partner may sense your fixation and feel pressured to give you constant attention. It could make them feel exhausted, because your expectations appear unreasonable, even though they’re not. You want to love, and that’s a natural feeling when you’re in a relationship. The challenge arises when you believe that another person can complete you. You can’t seem to shake the feeling that you’re empty inside. The reality is that nobody can fill up your cup except for you. No matter how much you obsess over your partner and can’t stop thinking about problems you’re having in your relationship, they’re not going to solve the inherent issues within you.
The underlying issue
Maybe your obsession isn’t about your partner, but something more profound. I know that sounds strange, especially if you’ve been thinking about them a lot, but with OCD, it’s normal to have obsessions that have nothing to do with your actual problems. OCD is tricky, and it hangs on to a thought in your mind for no particular reason other than it found a home. Your OCD may have attached to a romantic relationship because you’re avoiding another issue in your life. Maybe you’re having trouble keeping up at work, and you’re on the verge of getting fired. To distract yourself from your problems, you obsess about your partner. You worry about whether or not they’re happy, what you can do to meet their needs, or what you need from them that you’re not getting.
Do you feel like you have to text or call your partner over and over until they respond? If you’re engaging in compulsive texting or calling, there’s probably an underlying issue affecting your relationship. It’s not just OCD behavior; you’re struggling with trust issues. I know a woman who has a tough time refraining from texting her boyfriend. Even when she knows that he’s busy at work, she texts him to get reassurance that he’s still there. She suffers from abandonment issues, and texting to check in on him makes her feel secure.
The problem is that reassurance-seeking behavior isn’t healthy for people with OCD. It enables the person with the disorder, and they keep trying to get validation from their loved one. It’s best to find ways to reassure yourself if you’re the person with OCD. For the partner without OCD, don’t enable significant other. If they can’t stop texting, and you’re busy, you can reply “I’m busy, I will call you later.” You don’t have to reassure them, and, if you do, you’re setting them back and enabling obsessions.
In any relationship, trust is essential. If you feel that you can’t trust a romantic partner, identify why you feel like you can’t trust them. Once you figure that out, you can work through these trust issues with your partner. Maybe you were traumatized by a past relationship where you felt unsafe emotionally. You can talk to your partner about the trauma, and it’s helpful to speak to a therapist about how your previous relationship is affecting your current one.
The good news about OCD (and there is some) is that it is treatable and you don’t have to go through it alone. While you work to gain control over your symptoms, you need to have a support system. Let the people around you know what you are going through — they might be able to play a role in your treatment and encourage you while you get help. Common types of therapy for OCD include CBT, exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. People with OCD benefit from medication in conjunction with treatment; however, it’s up to the individual whether they want to pursue trying psychiatric medicines. Whether you see a counselor in person or online, it’s important to get help so that you can gain control over your obsessions, and learn how to stop thinking about someone when you have OCD.
Is it true if you can’t stop thinking about someone they are thinking about you?
It’s not definitive that if you ‘re thinking about a person and maybe even if you ‘re unable to stop thinking or stop obsessing about that person, then they ‘re thinking about you. However, it is possible! But thinking that way isn’t necessarily helpful.
How can you tell if a person is thinking about you?
10 Signs Someone Is Thinking About You Here Are 10 Signs Someone Is Thinking About You. Sneezing. Burning Sensation In Ears or Cheek. Hiccups. You Get A Random Eye Itch or Twitch. Discomfort While Eating. Finding A White Feather. Feeling Unexplained Physical Touch.
What should I do if I can’t stop thinking about someone?
12 Ways to Stop Thinking About Someone for Good Find the root. Focus on facts. Accept it. Write it down. Get distracted. Go inward. Meet your needs. Keep a distance.
What does it mean when you can’t stop thinking about someone you barely know?
What does it mean when you can’t stop thinking about someone you barely know? When you can’t stop thinking about someone you barely know it may mean that you have strong feelings towards them, which may be positive or negative, and they have struck some chord inside you that is keeping them on your mind.
Can someone feel me thinking of them?
The feeling of non-physical touch is possibly the powerful sign of all that you’re in someone’s thoughts. This kind of sensation only occurs when the person thinking about you is either deeply connected with you or has psychic abilities. But it’s also possible for people to create this feeling in their physical bodies.
Why do I keep thinking about my ex crush?
Thinking about an ex is normal, and it doesn’t mean you need to break up with the person you’re dating. “It is natural for an emotion to bring up other experiences with similar emotions,” she said. “The feelings might match, and in fact, we might realize that our first relationship led to this relationship.”
Can someone feel when you miss them?
The longing that comes from missing someone can range from minor feelings of sadness to downright agony depending on the relationship and the amount of time you ‘ve been apart. Naturally, missing your SO is a totally normal reaction to being separated from them.
How do you know if someone secretly likes you?
Top 30 Ways To Know For Sure A Guy Secretly Likes You Eye Contact. Watch your guy’s body language. His interaction with other girls. Your guy tries to be funny if he likes you. Will respond over text immediately if he likes you. Interested in Your Personal Life. Gets nervous around you. Stares at you a lot.
How do I get him out of my head?
12 Ways to Get Him Out of Your Head Stop texting him. Don’t try to “figure him out.” Remember, your thoughts aren’t facts. Think about ways to grow from the situation. Think to the future, not the past. Bone another dude. Talk to friends about THEIR problems. Have a friend’s night.
How do I know if he’s thinking about me?
If you likes you and thinks about you a lot, he will most likely be thinking about touching you, and craving that touch. When you’re with him, you may notice he can’t seem to keep his hands off you, either purposefully or “accidentally.”
Why am I obsessing over someone I barely know?
Firstly understand the difference between love and infatuation because infatuation is often mistaken for love. Love involves knowing a person very well, understanding their positives and their flaws. Infatuation is blind, irrational and you can be infatuated with somebody you barely know or have never even met.
How do you know you love someone?
When someone is not only sympathetic when something happens to you, but also empathetic, it may be another sign that they are in love with you. In other words, your happiness is their happiness, and your pain is their pain. “ Someone in love will care about your feelings and your well-being,” Dr.
How do you let go of someone you love?
10 Ways To Let Go Of Someone You Love Start separating your emotional energy from theirs. Examine how the relationship wasn’t working in order to learn from it. Let yourself feel the grief associated with letting go. Use writing to tell the story and put things in perspective. Don’t assume their thoughts since you don’t know anyway.
Our ability to think and reflect on our experiences is a trait that distinguishes us from most other animals. It allows us to anticipate problems and plan for the future. It also allows us to make sense of and giving meaning to the past.
The problem that arises for many of us is when we can’t turn off our thinking mind. It’s as if part of us believes that by ruminating on a problem we can solve it and get free of it. Yet, in fact our mind can turn a problem or experience over and over again without ever solving anything or seeing things more clearly.
We all have problems; adversity is part of life. But a tendency to ruminate about our problems can set us up for anxiety and depression. We can get so stuck in our heads that we miss the beauty and joy of life and the calm clarity that can come from being in the present—the smile of a friend, the drops of rain hitting the leaves outside the window, the way the setting sun lights the clouds on fire.
Just as it took some time to develop the habit of overthinking, it will take some effort to overcome it. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- The next time you start obsessively ruminating, stop and ask yourself: what do I need right now? Do I need to eat something? Do I need to move around or go outside? Or get in touch with a good friend? Noticing that you are ruminating and redirecting your focus retrains your mind to loosen up and not get pulled into a vortex of your thoughts.
- Snap out of it. Place a rubber band around your wrist. When you notice yourself ruminating, snap the rubber band and refocus on something else.
- Get into a comfortable position and follow these breathing instructions. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and breathe out for a count of four. Repeat this for at least five minutes. Breathing replenishes the body and gives the mind something else to focus on.
- Pull Over: This method came from Therese J. Borchard who wrote an online guide to overcoming obsessions. Imagine you are driving a car. Whenever you notice yourself obsessing, imagine pulling over to the side of the road. Then ask yourself: Is there anything I need to fix? Is there anything I need to change? Is there anything else I need to do to find peace with the situation I’m ruminating about? If the answer is “no,” then let go of the obsession and get back on the road. This is a way to teach yourself to focus on things you can actually change and let go of the rest.
- Get out of your mind and into your senses. When we are in our heads, we tend to overthink things. Activities that get you out of your mind and into the physical world can help break the cycle. For instance, take a walk and notice everything that is the color blue or green. Ride your bike along the river trail and feel the wind in your face. Get out a recipe and prepare a dish that you’ve never made before. Light a stick of incense and put on some good music.
- Learn and practice meditation. One simple practice is to follow the stream of sounds as they rise and fall moment by moment. When distracting thoughts arise, let the thoughts go and return to the stream of sounds. When we are obsessing about a problem or the past, it can feel like we’re in the grip of a force more powerful than us. But developing a well-established practice of systematically letting go of your thoughts, will allow you to enter a more spacious state of mind, even in the face of challenging circumstances.
Thinking is a wonderful tool that allows us to plan for the future, anticipate, and solve problems. But in order to live a balanced life and not waste our time worrying, we need to learn how to handle our challenges and take in the world around us. Sometimes the greatest inspirations come when we stop thinking and open our minds to a deeper stream of experience.
All I can think about is homicide. Nearly all my thoughts are detailed ways to kill someone. Or imagining the feeling. It’s starting to affect my sleep because I lie awake thinking about this.
I know these thoughts are normal to some extent, but I keep getting severe urges to act upon this. I know I won’t, but I want to get rid of the temptation and knowing I’ll end up in prison doesn’t get rid of the thoughts.
If I should ask for help, what should I say? We don’t have a school counsellor and I’d rather talk to my mum. I don’t know how to ask, what to say. Or will these thoughts go away?
This question was submitted by ‘Valerie’
Hi Valerie and thank you for writing in.
Okay, now, in all probability this is just obsessive thinking and, as you say, not something you would or will really act on.
Obsessive thoughts are driven by emotion. That’s why thoughts driven by such extreme feelings as anger, hate, jealousy, fear, and love tend to be compulsive and obsessive. Sometimes if we are stressed, our minds find stuff to obsessively think about and this could be of the ‘What is the worst thing I could do?’ variety.
So, I have worked with nurses who feared and obsessed that they would harm their patients, although they knew they never would; mothers who feared they would harm the children they loved; and plenty of folk who imagined they might jump when up high, even though they were in no way suicidal. When stressed, the mind (in some people) creates these scenarios to give the stress ‘shape’ and ‘body’.
Having said all that, I think you should tell someone, tell your mum, talk to someone about this. I am pretty sure you would never do anything like that, but I don’t know you, so I have to say:
Get help now and talk to someone who is mature.
As well as that, the more you relax, stay calm, and enjoy your life, the quicker those thoughts will pass. There is enough bad stuff in the world and there is no way you want to add to that.
Speak to your mum today, if you haven’t already, but remember these thoughts will pass.
Did I mention you should speak to someone? Well, I will say it again. Talk to someone. Having obsessive thoughts is very common, but you mentioned ‘severe urges’, so I urge you to seek support for this right now.
by Mark Ballenger
Here are 3 signs God is telling you that it is time to stop thinking about someone in your past.
1. If You Begin to Feel Anxious or Depressed When You Think About This Person in Your Past, God Is Telling You to Stop Thinking About Him or Her
Our feelings are often like the gauges on our car’s dashboard. When the gauges are working properly, they will tell you what is going on under the hood of the car. Likewise, when our feelings are working properly, they will reveal what good or bad things are occurring in our hearts. When we feel loved by God and at peace, we know our hearts are working well. But when we feel anxious or depressed, this is a sign something is not running properly inside of us and is need of repair. Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV) states:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Notice the connection between “do not be anxious” and our thoughts. A lack of peace is a sign our minds are being used to worry rather than to pray. When we pray and think about godly things, the peace in our hearts will increase.
So if your thoughts about this person do not cause you to have true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable thoughts, this is a sign God is telling you it’s time to stop thinking about this person.
2. If Your Thoughts About This Person Are Causing You to Be Too Earthly Focused, This Is a Sign God Is Leading You to Stop Thinking About Him or Her
When used properly, our earthly relationships are still a great blessing that bring glory to God. But if we are not careful, we can be tempted to believe that the only way we will be happy is if we find another human to love us. When your thoughts about someone in your past are beginning to cause you to place all your hope for joy on a relationship rather than on God himself, this is a sign God is leading you to stop thinking about this person.
As Colossians 3:2-3 states, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
3. If You Are Elevating Yourself in Your Own Mind When You Think About This Person, It’s Time to No Longer Think About This Past Relationship
Sometimes our minds dwell on past relationships where we felt wronged and betrayed by this person. One danger of dwelling on past relationships where you feel like someone wronged you is that you might begin to elevate yourself too highly as you simultaneously put this person down in your mind.
For example, if someone mistreated you and revealed how ugly their character is, it is easy to look back at that person with a smug and self-righteous attitude. While we should not pretend like we were not hurt, the healthy thing to do is to go through a season of healing where we think about what we need to think about, but then we need to forgive and move on so we don’t let negative thoughts about this person in our past corrupt us with pride. For as Romans 12:2-3 states:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Most Christians are familiar with Romans 12:2 where we are told to “be transformed by the renewal of the mind.” However, Romans 12:3 is often not linked to verse 2. Verse 3 explains one way in which we can renew are minds to be transformed. How can someone renew their minds? To “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
When we compare ourselves to other people, we often elevate ourselves and think too highly of ourselves. God want us to only think about ourselves in view of the grace he has given us.
So if your thoughts about how someone has wronged you in the past are making you feel superior to this person, this is a sign God is telling you to forgive and move on.
For more information on “how” to actually stop thinking about someone in your past, you want to review my article titled, How to Stop Thinking About Someone You Liked.
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
- Thank Writer
I see many of you are experiencing what I’m feeling right now. 21 years ago I fell in love with a girl. We were so young, I was 16 and she was 15. The first second I saw her I knew I loved her. We were at sea, vacations. Then we went back to school, we live at almost 100 miles from each other. We were 100 miles apart, our story ended but we kept in touch with letters (no Facebook in 1992/93) and by phone. In 1994 we decided to get back together (here in Italy you get the driving license at 18yo) and we met a couple of times, but she felt I was too much involved (she told me I was idealizing her. how I couldn’t? That happens when you’re in love. ). We still kept in touch, but the next year I started dating the wonderful woman that is now my wife. Our relationship didn’t start that good, my wife is a very shy person, so we stopped dating and I had an intense relationship with a woman much older than I was, who changed my life and my perspective about love. After I quit the relationship with that older woman I decided to stay by myself to try to put order into my life and have fun with friends. I was 21 at the time. That year, 1998, that first girl that I fell in love in 1992 came back. We met a few times and she was willing to get back, but my story with the woman had such a negative impact on me that I wasn’t ready for a new relationship. So we slowly started to talk less and less. Few months later I re-met the girl that became my wife, we dated and fell in love. I told the 1992 girl I had a story and we never ever had any further contact. But every once in a while she came to my mind, because she alway had some kind of a hook on me. My wife is now pregnant, fifteen years passed since the last phone call with that magic girl. This year we went to the sea in the very same place where I met that girl 21 years ago. I had a flashback, some kind of a backfire. After few weeks I searched for her on Facebook (I knew she has a profile, I searched for her before, discovering she is married. wath a punch in the guts I felt), and dropped her a couple of lines. She answered, I was shivering! She told me she was happy to hear from me, that she is married for 9 years now and she has 2 daughters. I realized I lost her forever and I felt a pure feeling of desperation. What could have happened if only I had a bit of courage in 1998? I didn’t tell her anything about my feelings, I didn’t want to scare her, but I think she got the point because I told her I often go to her town because of my job and that we could keep in touch. she never answered to this last message and I decided not to bother her anymore. I have a wife I love, I’m going to be a father and that girl (woman) has an husband and two daughters, I can’t play with these things. But I know she will be in my heart forever and that every ti e I will be in her town my heart will race. I can’t even imagine what could happen if I see her. What a bittersweet feeling. I wonder what she feels for me. As some of you stated, love will last forever, no matter what you do. This hard feeling will fade, but I know I will never forget her.
- Thank Writer
I am from San Francisco, but enjoyed a wide berth in connection with Europe since I was a youth. This transatlantic relationship afforded friendships with peers.
One of these led to the following story; yeah a testimonial to what is possible within the scope of the subject in question here.
I did so after a 35 year quiescence. I met her on a festive eve in the Niederrhein, but was then underway with two college friends for a three month tour of ‘Europe’. Yes, there were a few letters. She came to visit with her boyfriend at the time for a day.
A year ago I found myself in Boston, and typed her name in the Google Box. 2 Months of intense E-Mails (We were both READY for this to be and found that over these many silent years our lives had been bereft of something we both wanted: Love. We are now married.
The message here is how powerful feelings can be in terms of memory, when that very right person is luckily met.
By Yasemin Saplakoglu published 7 September 19
We often find ourselves in an endless loop of thoughts.
That Susan is so funny. oh, I need to bring the car to the wash tomorrow…did I turn off the stove. why is this person being so loud. my toe feels weird. I feel like I know that person. here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo.
We often find ourselves in an endless thought loop. And every so often, we try to stop this endless flow of thoughts by telling ourselves to just stop thinking. But do we or can we ever really stop thinking?
It depends on how you define “thinking,” said Michael Halassa, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT. A thought, which is the result of chemical firing between brain cells, can happen both on the conscious and unconscious level, he said.
The type of thinking we are aware of, such as the endless thoughts that pop up when we’re trying to sleep, can, in theory, be silenced. That’s presumably what meditation is all about, Halassa said.
But even though that’s what meditators strive to do — it’s not clear how much of a blank state they can actually achieve. “I don’t know if [completely stopping thinking] is theoretically possible and if it is, I think that would be incredibly difficult to test,” said Julia Kam, a cognitive scientist at the Knight Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
But it’s clear that “meditators are a lot more tuned into what their thoughts are,” Kam told Live Science. “So when they’re supposed to be focused on something and their mind shifts away, then they’re just a lot better at picking up on that shifting of attention.”
There’s a difference between having a thought, and being aware that you’re having a thought, she said. So if you ask someone what they’re thinking about and they respond with “nothing,” they could just not be aware that they’re having thoughts, Kam said. For instance, you could be deeply in thought about a relationship or an upcoming test, and you only become aware of it when someone taps you on the shoulder and snaps you out of it, she said. People who are thinking about “nothing” could also be having stream of consciousness thoughts that don’t tell a coherent story, Halassa said.
But the brain never actually stops “thinking” in a broader sense. Most thoughts are actually happening in the background without us being aware of them, and “there’s not really a way to turn these things off,” Halassa told Live Science.
If you see a familiar face in a crowd and think you know them, you might not be able to come up with how you know them right away, Halassa said. But maybe hours later, you’ll suddenly remember. That’s a result of your brain “thinking,” in the background, he said.
Even making decisions happens mostly unconsciously. For example, some of this background “thinking” results in what we call a “gut feeling,” Halassa said. “A lot of times our brains are crunching a lot of numbers and spitting out a gut feeling that we ultimately go with.” We don’t always have conscious access to our brain’s decision-making process and sometimes we create a story to explain the decision — sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes it’s not, he added.
Kam agrees that how you define “thinking,” changes the answer to the question. “If you mean thinking, as in having an inner dialogue with ourselves, then, yes, we can stop having that inner dialogue,” Kam said. But if thinking means not focusing attention on anything in particular, “I think that would be a lot more difficult for the layperson.”
Even sitting here reading this, thinking about thinking is sending messages across a chain of neurons in the brain. So if we somehow manage to stop ourselves from “thinking” consciously, or achieve a “blank state of mind” through meditation, the brain won’t sign off. It will continue to have thoughts — we just won’t be aware of them.
Having a critical voice is helpful—knowing how to block it out is even more helpful
September 14, 2021
“Humans, and our brains, have evolved such that we are capable of language, something no other mammals have,” explained McLean’s Lisa W. Coyne, PhD. “Our ability to speak, think abstractly, and reason gives us the ability to plan, problem solve, collaborate in groups, and learn indirectly, in the absence of our direct experience. For example, you might have learned not to touch a hot stove because your parents told you ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot!’”
Moreover, Coyne stated, “Everyone has a mind that ‘talks’ to them. We think of this as our verbal mind or our ‘advisor.’ It’s the part of you that is linked to your languaging brain, whose function is to serve as your threat detector.”
Having a threat detector or “critical voice” is a good thing. “It points out all the stuff that could be dangerous to us, including stuff that might happen in the future and all of our missteps from the past,” said Coyne, a senior clinical consultant at McLean’s Child and Adolescent OCD Institute.
“Its function is to help us to avoid making the same mistakes so that we are physically and existentially safe,” she added.
How We Experience Our Critical Voice
People “do not hear voices, per se,” Coyne explained. “But we do notice critical thoughts popping up as we go through our days.” She stated that “we have evolved to experience our thoughts as literal truths. It’s what allows us to learn indirectly by listening to what other people say, rather than only directly through our own experience.”
Our inner voice, Coyne stated, “is always on, and it’s overinclusive in its estimation of what is threatening.” These are “features, not bugs” of our critical voice, she said. “It wouldn’t be a great threat detector if you could turn it off at will, and it wouldn’t be a great threat detector if it somehow underestimated threats, right?”
Our nonstop, always cautious critical voice, Coyne said, is “an incredible ability, a boon to our survival, but also comes with a dark side.”
“People run into trouble when they get stuck listening to their mind solely, rather than being out in the world and noticing that sometimes the mind isn’t correct about what it thinks,” Coyne stated.
The critical voice, she said, can cause people to “focus solely on avoiding unwanted thoughts and to avoid situations that trigger those thoughts.” This is defined as “experiential avoidance.”
“If it’s our default for managing unwanted thoughts, it can trap us, such that we lose our focus on other, more important things in our lives,” said Coyne. “The problem? Not only does this focus on getting stuff out of our heads capture our attention, but it also often backfires—sometimes the more you try not to think about something, the more it sticks around.”
Coyne offered a real-world example of how this works: “My mind may say something like ‘Better not speak up in that meeting, people will think you are stupid, and that would be embarrassing.’ I might experience a physical reaction (my heart rate might increase). Or an emotional reaction (I’ll feel nervous).
And, of course, I’d have a cognitive reaction (should I not speak up? What’s the right thing to say so I don’t look stupid?). This is important because we also treat unpleasant or unwanted thoughts—even though they are just thoughts—as actual truths that we must avoid, or fix, or suppress, or change.”
Detaching From That Critical Voice
“Having a critical, threat-detecting mind isn’t the problem,” Coyne asserted. “Rather, it’s our response to that critical mind that can trap us.”
To avoid these, Coyne reported that some people engage with mental health professionals by using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). “This approach will teach you skills for how to manage these types of thoughts by helping you undermine their faulty logic or overestimation of threat,” she explained.
Approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or acceptance-based behavior therapy can also be helpful. These methods, Coyne said, “help you change your relationship to your thoughts, such that you become more skilled at noticing them mindfully and making a space for them without reacting so that you are no longer hooked by them.”
In essence, you might notice your critical mind chattering away at you, but it will no longer take up central importance it once did and leave you free to choose what direction to take in your life.
Simple Steps to Stop Negative Thoughts
While some may need to seek help from professionals, Coyne said there are “simple steps that folks might practice, helping them detach from that critical voice and build more joy and vitality and connection in their lives.”
1. Pause a Moment
If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck in negative thinking patterns, PAUSE. Focus your awareness on the world around you with your five senses.
2. Notice the Difference
NOTICE the difference between being stuck in your thoughts vs. experiencing the present moment through your five senses. Notice also what you have been up to in your mind. Were you arguing with yourself? Struggling with disproving negative or critical self-evaluations? Trying to push unpleasant thoughts or images out of your head? Ask yourself whether this mental struggle is serving you well.
3. Label Your Thoughts
If it isn’t, see if you can step back and LABEL your thoughts as they are, rather than literal truths. For example, you might practice slowing down your thoughts and adding to them the stem “I am having the thought that ….” Continue this practice of labeling, without attempting to soften, change, or avoid whatever thoughts you happen to be having. See if you can notice what it is like to have some distance between you—the thinker—and your thoughts.
4. Choose Your Intention
Once you have PAUSED from your mental struggle, NOTICED what’s happening and how it’s been working, and LABELED your thoughts for what they are—simple, mental weather that will come and go—you are better able to CHOOSE your intention, and the next right step for you. Are you going to continue to struggle with your thoughts? Or you can choose to take a small step toward something that matters to you in your life.
Sometimes it can feel like your mind is working against you. You’re trying to live your life, but your brain won’t stop focusing on bad things that could happen. Whether or not those things actually will happen, these kinds of thoughts can be frustrating—and exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to be worried all the time!
The emotion you feel when you’re worrying all the time is called anxiety. Your body tenses up, and your mind becomes fixated on the thing you’re worried about. It can be hard to concentrate on anything else. Anxiety can also affect your appetite and make it hard to sleep.
A little anxiety can be useful. For example, if you’re anxious about an upcoming exam, it might motivate you to study so that you feel more prepared. But anxiety can easily get out of hand. If you’re so anxious that you can’t concentrate on studying, the anxiety is no longer useful.
Reducing your anxiety in the moment
If your anxiety has gotten out of hand, the first thing you need to do is bring it down to a manageable level. This can be easier said than done, but with some practice you should be able to find a few coping skills you can use. A few simple ones you can try are deep breathing, exercise, and writing in a journal.
Once your anxiety is a bit lower, you can start to think about what’s actually going on: What is your anxiety trying to tell you?
Worrying about real-life problems
It’s natural to feel anxious about something that realistically might happen. For example, if you’re about to move to a new city, of course you’re nervous—your whole life is about to change! But once you get there and have had some time to settle in, the anxiety will likely pass.
In the meantime, give yourself a set amount of time—say, half an hour—to sit with your anxiety. Make a list of everything you can do to prepare for the thing you’re worried about. The next time you feel anxious, use a coping skill to bring your anxiety down to a manageable level, then look at your list and see if there’s anything on it you can do. And if there isn’t? Use a coping skill and move on.
When your worries are about something that’s very unlikely to happen, or if you’re disproportionately worried about something relatively small, your anxiety is considered irrational. (“Irrational” is another word for “not realistic.”) Sometimes, when people realize their fears are irrational, they stop worrying about those things. But this doesn’t always happen, especially if you have an anxiety disorder. If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, take a mental health screen to find out whether that’s likely. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are treatable.
If you find yourself looking over your shoulder, self-conscious, or fretful about how your actions will look to others, here’s some help to stop worrying.
We all want to be liked and appreciated for our many talents, our ferocious intelligence, our good nature, our sparkling personality.
But when we start to rely on what other people think of us, and we make their opinion pivotal to our success, we get into trouble. We start tailoring our lives to fit the expectations of others, and from there it’s a vicious cycle.
When we give over our power to others and allow that their impressions to become how we perceived, we lose out on who we really are. The only reality we can see is how we believe others see us.
Here are 15 sure-fire ways to eliminate the worry and free yourself to be yourself.
1. Focus on what matters. When you concentrate on what’s important, you think less about your individual role and more about the bigger picture. It takes the glare of people’s spotlights off you individually.
2. Remember, most people aren’t paying much attention. People spend more time thinking about themselves than thinking about others. If they’re expressing an opinion about your life, it’s probably not something they’ve given much thought to but just a passing thought.
3. Keep perspective. Another person’s opinion is often based not on your beliefs and behavior but on theirs. What’s good for them may be terrible for you, or vice versa. Be who you want to be from your own perspective.
4. You know best. Nobody else is living your life. They might have opinions or ideas, but the only person who knows what is best for you is you. And that means you need to learn about yourself through your own mistakes and failures.
5. Mind your own business. Stop asking people what they think of you. Stop worrying about their opinions–especially if they’re critical, unsuccessful or unhappy. Most of the time, the negative feedback is coming from negative people.
6. Desensitize your triggers. Are you too sensitive for your own good? Do you get triggered when people say things about you that you know aren’t even true? It’s easy for a sensitive nature to blow things out of proportion, but try to build the thick skin that lets you shake it off.
7. Stop overthinking. Overthinking can lead you to thinking you’re being judged even when that’s not the case–and even if not, it can set you down in your own way. Learn to recognize overthinking and replace it with positive thoughts.
8. Seek constructive feedback. For important decisions, you may want to seek out a few opinions from people you trust–and then forget the rest. Pick people who know how to give feedback that’s constructive and specific.
9. Don’t try to please everyone. It’s impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations, so don’t burn yourself out trying to do so. Please yourself and let the rest fall where they may. Some people may dislike you. That’s OK.
11. Opinions are always changing. Never allow the opinions of others to get too deep, because people can change at any given moment. If you’ve overinvested in an earlier opinion, it can leave you in the lurch when the person changes their mind.
12. Sow what you want to reap. Life is an echo; what you send out comes back. Too much worry about what other people think of you can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that eventually governs your behavior and thoughts.
13. Focus on the moment. When you’re fretting about what other people are saying or thinking, you tend to miss some very important present moments. Conversely, when you truly focus on the present moment, you tend not to worry about what will come later–including judgment. Accept yourself for who you are and be present in the moment.
14. Find a role model. Look to someone whose self-respect you admire to help point you toward your own. A guide can help dispel your lack of confidence and help you envision your best future.
15. Life’s is too short. The bottom line is we truly have this one life and life is short. Do you really want to spend even a few precious moments of that time worrying what other people think? To live a life where others tell you what you want? Or should you decide for yourself who we are and what you want and how you plan to go out and get it?
You must make a conscious effort to let go what other people think. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, like meditating. But once you truly understand how to let go, you will see the world as entirely different.
People will love you, people will hate you, and none of it will have anything to do with you. Make your choices and live by those decisions, taking full responsibility for what you do and how you do it. When you do, you’ll gain the self-esteem you need and the power to give yourself what you want, without blaming anyone for your mistakes.
What does it mean when you can’t stop thinking about someone? Are they your true love? A friend? Or just someone you really should get over?
The truth is there are a million reason why we might think of someone, but let’s have a look at some of the more common reasons.
Falling in Attraction
There are various different reasons we’re attracted to someone. As someone wise once told me, there are five layers of attraction: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and sexual. If you like someone’s body and mind, you may feel very attracted to them, you can’t stop thinking about them, but getting to know them you might very well realize that they will never satisfy you emotionally.
There are also ways of making people attracted, both women and men tend to fall for people whom they have to work for a little bit (as it proves the person won’t just go for anyone and people are drawn to a challenge), people who have other people interested in them and people who are overall confident and happy.
Unfortunately we also tend to fall for people who prove our not so pleasant thoughts about life and love to be true; a reflection of our wounds if you so like.
In other words, you really need to check why you think you’re attracted to someone. Even if it’s a mutual match on all levels, you also have to build a sustainable relationship.
Whatever the case, whatever the form of attraction you feel, and especially if you feel you have to work to get someone, you’ll be thinking about them.
Trying to Figure Something Out
This sometimes falls into the above category, but we tend to think about people who we can’t figure out. They appear a little bit mysterious to us, whether we’re blinded by attraction, or simply can’t work them out.
At other times, we’re simply trying to figure out how to make someone like us…that can lead to a lot of thoughts too. Like what dress to wear, what to say, what to do…but really, be yourself, learn people skills, focus on creating a great life for you and chances are the right person will like you!
A Wounded Soul
Ever met someone who was generally charming, but who had a dark side, or a problem? And you wanted to solve that problem, didn’t you? Heal their wounds. Make them feel better. You might even have excuse just about any negative action they took, because you pitied them and you wanted to be their savior.
Beware, your only job in a relationship/friendship is to love someone. There are professionals who can deal with healing peoples’ minds. Taking that job upon yourself, unless you truly really are a support pillar in their life and that’s what you want to be, only leads to an unhealthy relationship.
A Wounded Ego
Ever had someone do something that slightly hurt your feelings, or made you feel like you needed to prove yourself to them? Like that irritating person who always came first place and you second? Or that guy who hurt your feelings by rejecting you and now you want to prove that you’re so great at dating other guys that he will get the hint that he doesn’t matter?
This is a trap! An ego trap. What matters in your life is you having fun, you challenging yourself mentally and physically to get better at things, you doing what you love. Screw what other people are thinking and screw your ego’s need to put itself in a perceived superior position. When your ego says you have to prove yourself, you have to look better than someone else, or whatever it is it feels you need to do, tell it to shut up and go do something that really matters instead. You will be so much happier if you start listening to your heart instead of your ego.
It happens we think a lot about someone, not only because they hurt us, but because we’re angry about it and we never told them. If you want to tell them, do so. Speak from the heart, make them see the pain (an angry outburst will only lead to them attacking you in return, or defending themselves). If you don’t want to talk about it, let it go. Realize they did wrong, your part in it (if any) and move on. Stand up for yourself as you move forward, even if you can’t do much about the current/past situation, but don’t hold onto grudges. As the saying goes: when you forgive someone you let a prisoner free: you.
And if you ever want proof of what good it does to stand up for yourself when angry and letting it go once it’s past, read Curing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection by Dr. John Sarno. It’s an incredible insight into what suppressed emotions can do to us.
Do you have a lot going on in your life right now? If so, maybe thinking about that one kiss with that one guy, is a lot easier than thinking about whatever is going on? Sometimes thinking a lot about someone is simply a decoy; we’re thinking about them because we don’t want to think about ourselves, or some aspect of our lives.
As mentioned in the first point about falling in attraction, we have different connections with all sorts of different people. When we meet someone we have a connection with, mental, emotional, or otherwise, we tend to think about them because we’re curious. Sometimes these connections turn out to be really helpful ones, at other times we’re drawn to people who have similar wounds as ourselves, or people who see life in the same dysfunctional manner we do. At other times we are annoyed because someone has a similar flaw to ourselves and we think they don’t hide it well enough, or don’t suffer as much pain from it as we do.
The best connections, of course, are the people whom we can share wonderful experiences with us because they understand us in a way that’s helpful to us.
What to Remember When Thinking of Someone
If you are thinking about someone a lot, stop and ask yourself why. Get curious. Be open to finding out what’s really going on. Then work on finding balance. We all lose our senses a little bit when we fall in love, or get really angry, enjoy the love and sort out the anger, but do other things to. Things like hardcore exercise, time with friends, time in nature, focusing on work, watching great movies, eating good food, etc. all have a way of balancing the chemicals in our brain. Enjoying a connection with a friend, or partner, is great, but you don’t want to overly focus on someone else. You want to enjoy all aspects of your life.
I’ve had friends and people telling me that when you get that really weird feeling that you can’t stop thinking about someone, they must be thinking about you too.. It’s not like when someone just goes through your mind, it’s kind of a stronger feeling you get in your chest and you can’t stop thinking about that someone. Is it possible our cosmic energies or something allow us to do this?
Do you believe this could happen and how exactly?
In my case.. I don’t know if it counts but there’s this someone I can’t seem to stop thinking about; he goes through my mind sometimes and it’s really annoying cause even when I’m trying to concentrate on something else I just can’t; I keep really thinking about him. of course I think of him in a special way :/ I was just wondering if it’s cause he might have been thinking about me..
Most Helpful Guys
A very strange thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago that makes me think there might be something going that we can’t see. It was Sunday, a day off for me and I was sleeping in late. I had this dream where a woman I know asked me for a backrub. I woke up right away and a couple minutes later I got a text from her. She wanted to meet up with me but I was busy. A week later we met up and she told me her back hurt and the week before she wanted me to rub her back. This is weird because I have not rubber her back in well over a year.
Another time with a different female friend of mine I was waiting for her to email me about her location in New York because she wanted me to go see her since she was visiting there. I was getting sleepy when I got this strong feeling to check my email. I did and she had just sent me email with her details.
Another time back in college I had a dream that I met this girl I liked down in the lobby and she asked me to open a door to the computer room for her. Later that day, that exact thing happened.
These things don’t always happen. It’s kind of random but when they do I get this strong feeling that something might be going on.
Taking things personally is a sign of low self-esteem. When you take things personally, you might be sensitive to the words or actions of others or you interpret things in a negative way. Perhaps someone says something which you take as an insult or you assume a person doesn’t like you if they walk past without saying hello. Taking things personally may cause you to feel inadequate, ashamed, or even angry at yourself or the other person. It’s disempowering and can worsen your self-esteem. However, you can build your self-esteem when you stop taking things personally.
Why You Might Take Things Personally
When you take something personally it’s a reflection of your own insecurity. Deep inside, it may reinforce your negative thoughts about yourself. Remember that if you have a negative view of yourself, you have a distorted perception of reality. You might automatically interpret something in a negative way or treat it as a personal attack. Perhaps you feel that it exposes your mistakes or flaws of which you feel ashamed. This can be very problematic, especially if you base your worth on the approval from others or if you are a perfectionist. When you take something personally, the chances are you interpret it in a different way to what was intended.
The good news is that you stop taking things personally and build your self-esteem.
How to Stop Taking Things Personally
- Realise that other people’s rudeness is not about you. When someone is rude it’s likely to be a reflection of their own issues. They might be having a bad day, going through a rough period, or it might just be their personality. It’s important to know that rudeness is not okay and it’s not your fault. You deserve to be treated with respect, however, people aren’t always nice. While you can’t control other people, you can stop taking things personally and instead be kind to yourself.
- Ask yourself what else the comment or behaviour might mean. For example, if someone doesn’t smile or say hello, they might be shy, have something on their mind, or they didn’t see you. If someone is critical, they may genuinely want to help you and it might not be intended as a personal attack.
- Take comments or criticism in a constructive way. If you are criticised, ask yourself if there’s any truth to it, and what you can learn. Take the lessons and let the rest go. Even if it wasn’t said in a nice way, you can still learn something. As well as learning from your own experience, you could learn from the other peoples’ mistakes. See the positives in every experience.
- Take a different perspective. Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider would see the situation. Are you misinterpreting the reality and is it really as bad, or as negative, as you perceive it to be? Another perspective is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how they would see it.
- Realise that you can’t please everyone. No matter who you are or what you do, there will always be people who dislike or criticise you. You can’t change other people and all you can do is be yourself.
- Let go of perfectionism. It’s okay to make mistakes and to have flaws, it’s part of being human. You won’t learn and grow if you don’t make mistakes.
- Know that you’re not defined by your mistakes or criticism. Your worth is who you are as a whole person despite of them.
- Realise that your self-worth depends on you. It does not depend on what others say about you.
- Get mental health help. Overcoming personal issues can be challenging and you don’t have to do it alone. It’s important to know that there is help available and it’s okay to seek it.
It does require effort, persistence and time to stop taking things personally, especially when it’s something you’re used to doing. However, it’s well worth the effort. You will find that your self-esteem and overall quality of life will improve when you stop taking things personally. You are worth it and you can do it.
According to a survey by British sex-toy brand Lovehoney, 46 percent of women and 42 percent of men say they’ve thought about someone else during sex. Furthermore, 60 percent of men and women say they thought about an ex during sex, with 15 percent noting that this happens often. Beyond it being a common thought, there are a number of reasons to explain why an ex might pop into your head at all while you’re having sex with someone else.
“Maybe you haven’t created a sexual narrative with your current partner yet, and you might just need more time getting to know your partner sexually.” —relationship therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT.
“Maybe you haven’t created a sexual narrative with your current partner yet, and you might just need more time getting to know your partner sexually,” says relationship therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT. Other possible reasons you can’t figure out how to stop thinking about your ex during sex? Maybe certain smells or images bring an ex to mind, since those senses trigger our memories. Or perhaps you’re in the mood to try something different, sexually, with your current partner. Or, “maybe you don’t miss the person, but you might miss what it was like to have sex with them.” And if you do miss your ex, is that definitely a problem?
The short answer: Maybe but not definitely. “In this situation, context is everything,” says clinical sexologist Cyndi Darnell. “Sometimes during sex, our mind wanders off. Sometimes we start thinking about errands, work, and even domestic chores rather than sex. None of these things indicate that we’d rather be doing something else.” So ask yourself, are you thinking about an ex during sex because you’d rather be with them or because you’re simply being reminded of them for a reason that skews innocuous? And, based on that answer, when (if ever) should you tell your current partner about what’s going on in your mind?
“It’s okay to have private thoughts,” Earnshaw says. “You do not need to let your partner know you were thinking about your ex during sex. Instead, it’s more important to try to get at the root of why you were thinking of them.” Once you’re able to pinpoint what brought the memory to mind, you can judge whether it’s important for your current bedmate to know. Hint: If the reason has nothing to do with potential improvements that could be made within your current relationship, consider keeping it to yourself to avoid confusion, jealousy, and hurt feelings.
For instance, if your current partner’s sheets are the same brand as your ex’s? Your current partner likely doesn’t need to know that detail brought your ex to mind. But, if you think sharing what’s going on might lead to increased connection and satisfaction, there are ways you can address this using some finesse. “You might not say ‘my ex used to do this thing I really like—can you do it, too?’” Earnshaw says. “But maybe you instead can say, ‘I think I’d like you to try to do blank.'”
Your wandering mind, it turns out, isn’t necessarily an issue to get to the bottom of. Rather, the more important intel to glean is deciphering whether the reason you can’t figure out how to stop thinking about an ex during sex has to do with something lacking in your current relationship. So, commit some time to critical thinking (though, perhaps not during your next romp with your current partner).
If you’re not trying to learn how to stop thinking about your ex, are you perhaps considering getting back together? If so, ask yourself these questions first, and make sure to not compromise the quality of your mental health in the process.
It happens to the best of us. We find ourselves completely undone by someone else’s behavior. It could be anything from someone cutting you off in traffic to your spouse cheating on you. Mild to severe, other people’s actions can turn our world upside down.
I recently let myself get all caught up in someone else’s drama. My boyfriend’s daughter was behaving in some ways I found unacceptable. He was trying to rein her in; she was acting out more and more; we all went to counseling (I can’t tell you how many arguments, sleepless nights, and general fury on my part all this caused). Suddenly, she decided to move in with her mother. As soon as she moved, poof – there was peace on earth. No more drama, angst, or fury. Is she still doing all the stuff we had problems with? I’m sure. But now it’s not my issue. And you know what? It never was.
Most of the things that you get upset about aren’t your issues. The driver who cut you off? Their driving is not your issue. All you need to worry about is getting safely to your destination. That lazy co-worker who isn’t doing their share of the work? Not your issue. All you need to do is focus on your own good work. Your cheating spouse? Not your issue. Your issue is why you would stay with someone who is cheating on you.
Some tips to help with this:
1. Realize you cannot control other people. They are going to do the crazy, stupid, incorrect things they are going to do. You can’t force them to do anything else. You can’t force someone to stop being lazy or lying to you or cheating on you. The only person you can control is you. You get to decide how much you’re going to let this person’s behavior impact you. Your worrying, obsessing, venting, etc. has zero impact on them – and only hurts you.
2. You have three choices – change your thinking, change your behavior, or do nothing. My boyfriend is not a planner – it’s just not his way. This used to drive me completely insane. I would constantly argue the importance of planning – that if you failed to plan, you planned to fail. I was quick to point out occasions where his lack of planning cost him (I’m such a charmer!). He finally told me that if I liked planning so much, I could just plan everything and he would gladly go along. I finally accepted that I was never going to change him. I can either live with no plan (changing how I think about planning), make the plan myself (changing my behavior), find a new boyfriend (also changing my behavior) or just keep complaining about it. But I’ll never make him a planner.
3. Examine your role in the behavior. Did the driver ahead of you cut you off because you just started talking on your cell and slowed 20 MPH? Did your teenager lie to you because the last time he told you the truth he was grounded? Is your spouse cheating because you are on the road 358 days a year? I’m not condoning any of the behaviors – I’m just asking you to look at the only person you can control – you. Maybe you are playing a role and not even realizing it.
4. But realize it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. I hate to say it, but this is more often the case. We are all the center of our own universes. Many times we think people are doing things because of us or to us and they aren’t. The driver may not have even seen you. Your teenager may lie just because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed. Your spouse may be cheating for the thrill of it and still loves you (although they have a crummy way of showing it).
5. Don’t inadvertently enable the behavior. Some people engage in their crazy behavior because the people around them encourage it. If your spouse cheats on you, and you take them back and treat them better than before, can you blame them if they cheat again? If your friend “borrows” money from you, and never repays it and you lend them more, can you blame them if they never repay that loan either? I love Maya Angelou’s advice, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I know you don’t think you’re enabling, you think you’re helping. You think they will behave differently this time, that perhaps your love or kindness will change them. I say to you – why are you trying to control them still? Trying to change someone is trying to control them.
6. Let it go. Think of whoever drives you crazy right now. Get worked up – think of how they lie to you or how they don’t do their share or how selfish they are – whatever it is they are doing that drives you crazy. Assume they will never change. Ever. Can you just let it go? Is it really a minor thing you’ve been focusing on, making it major? In the big scheme of things, my boyfriend’s nonplanning is just not that big a deal. It’s offset by his kindness, patience, and wonderful good humor. Can you focus on the good more than the bad?
7. Let them go. Some behavior you just can’t let go of. Sometimes there’s not enough good to offset the bad. The best thing to do may be to let go of the relationship. Why are you staying with someone who causes you so much upset and pain? If you can’t let go of the relationship (say it’s a co-worker), can you let go of thinking so much about them? I bet they aren’t spending so much time thinking about you.
8. Get help. Can’t let it go or them? Talk with a professional counselor – life is too short for all this drama.
9. What about kids? Obviously when kids are little, you have to control them. They might think running into traffic is a good idea and you should probably put a stop to that. But as they get older, you’ll find that you need to alter your behavior to impact theirs. Maybe they start to dress inappropriately. You have several options – you can check out current fashion before you freak; you can yell and tell them they’re not going out like that (giving credibility to their attempt at rebellion); you can cut off the clothing allowance (controlling your behavior not theirs); or you can ignore it, knowing that sooner or later they will be embarrassed just like the rest of us and will fall in line. And if you are sharing clothing with your children, know that the rest of us are trying to let it go.
The bottom line is that you can’t let the behavior of others steal your joy. But if you do, it’s your choice. Focus on being the best and happiest that you can be – that’s where your energy should go. Set the best example you can and spend time and energy on people who lift you higher. And remember, somewhere there’s someone out there who thinks YOU need to change! Ha!
Do you over-apologize?
Over-apologizing refers to saying “I’m sorry” when you don’t need to. This could be when you haven’t done anything wrong or you’re taking responsibility for someone else’s mistake or a problem that you didn’t cause or control.
Here are a few examples of over-apologizing.
- The waiter brings you the wrong order and you say, “I’m sorry but this isn’t what I ordered.”
- You approach the receptionists at your doctor’s office by saying, “I’m sorry to bother you. I have a question.”
- While checking out at the supermarket, the cashier accidentally breaks your eggs and sends someone to get another carton for you. You apologize to the shoppers behind you in line, “I’m sorry it’s taking so long.”
- Your spouse makes a racist joke. “I’m sorry. S/he’s not usually like this,” you say to your friends.
- You’re in a meeting and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. Could you repeat what you just said?
Why we over-apologize and why it’s a problem
In each of these situations, it’s clear that you haven’t done anything wrong and there’s no need to apologize. So, why do so many of us over-apologize? Below are some possible reasons.
- People-pleasing. You want to be considered nice and polite. You’re overly concerned with what other people think and don’t want to upset or disappoint others.
- Low self-esteem. You think poorly of yourself and as a result, you worry that you’re doing something wrong, being difficult, causing problems, being unreasonable, asking too much.
- Perfectionism. You have such painfully high standards for yourself that you can never live up to them. Therefore, you constantly feel inadequate and feel a need to apologize for every tiny thing that you do imperfectly.
- You feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, we apologize because we feel uncomfortable or insecure and don’t know what to do or say. So, we apologize to try to make ourselves or others feel better.
- You feel responsible for other people’s mistakes or inappropriate behavior. One member of a couple, for example, may apologize for their partner’s behavior (being late or interrupting) as if they did something wrong themselves. This can be an issue of lack of differentiation – you act as a unit instead of as two separate people. Just because you’re dating or married to someone, doesn’t make you responsible for their actions. And taking ownership and apologizing for them, actually enables their problematic behavior because you’ve let them off the hook.
- It’s a bad habit. If you’ve been over-apologizing or listening to others over-apologize for a long time, you may be doing it unconsciously. It’s become an automatic response that you do without thinking about it.
More of a good thing isn’t always better. And this is true of apologizing. Over-apologizing dilutes your apologies when they’re really needed. And over-apologizing can make you look less confident. It can seem as though you’re sorry for everything – for your actions and feelings, for taking up space, for your mere existence. These types of inappropriate apologies are roundabout ways of criticizing ourselves because we’re essentially saying, “I’m wrong” or “I’m to blame” all the time. This doesn’t reflect self-confidence or self-worth.
Over-apologizing is a common problem for those of us with codependent tendencies. It’s a symptom of our low self-esteem, fear of conflicts, and laser-sharp focus on other people’s needs and feelings. We also tend to have poor boundaries, sometimes enmeshed with others, so we’ll accept blame for things we didn’t do or couldn’t control. And we take responsibility for trying to fix or solve other people’s problems. We excuse their behavior as if it’s our own. We feel like everything is our fault – a belief that probably began in childhood. We’re very conscious of being a burden or problem. We’re afraid of rejection and criticism, so we go out of our way to be accommodating.
Know when to apologize
Of course, there are times when we all need to apologize. We should apologize when we’ve done something wrong – hurt someone’s feelings, said or done something offensive, been disrespectful, or violated someone’s boundaries.
You do not need to apologize for:
- Things you didn’t do
- Things you can’t control
- Things other adults do
- Asking a question or needing something
- Your appearance
- Your feelings
- Not having all the answers
- Not responding immediately
It’s okay for you to have needs. It’s okay for you to have preferences. It’s okay for you to want something different or have a special request. It’s okay for you to take up space. It’s okay for you to exist.
How to stop over-apologizing
1. Notice what you’re thinking, feeling, and saying. Awareness is the first step in making a change. Just bringing your intention to stop over-apologizing into your consciousness can help. Notice when, why, and with whom you’re over-apologizing. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, as well. They can be cues that you’re feeling anxious or afraid or inadequate.
2. Question whether an apology is necessary. Did you do something wrong? How bad was it? Are you taking responsibility for someone else’s mistake? Or are you feeling bad (or anxious or ashamed) when you didn’t do anything wrong? If you often think you’ve done something wrong, check out your belief with a trusted friend and try to challenge this idea to see if you’ve really done something wrong or perhaps, you’re expecting too much of yourself.
3. Rephrase. Instead of saying I’m sorry, try another phrase. Depending on the situation, you might try:
Thank you – Thanks for your patience.
Unfortunately – Unfortunately, this isn’t what I ordered. I asked for no cheese.
Excuse me – Excuse me, I need to get around you.
Be more assertive – I have a question.
For many of us, over-apologizing is a bad habit. And like any habit, it takes effort and practice to undo a bad habit and replace it with a new behavior. So, don’t be discouraged if you find that over-apologizing is a hard habit to break.
You may also find it helpful to read these related articles:
©2020 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of Canva.com
Ditch perfectionism and let your true self shine
Do you have impossibly high standards for yourself? Do you berate yourself for even the tiniest mistakes? Are you perfectionistic and never satisfied with your performance? Do you feel inadequate or unworthy? Are you unsure of how to love yourself? With this digital guide, learn to ditch perfectionism and accept yourself – flaws and all! For more info, click HERE.
Whether you’re finding yourself thinking too much about the past, or obsessing over upsetting memories, it’s difficult to “get over” the past and live in the present.
Part of the reason that it’s so difficult to stop ruminating about the past is due to how our brains are wired. Specific memories, feelings and thought patterns often arrange themselves together if they coalesce around a past event. There’s a saying in brain science that goes: What fires together, gets wired together. This basically means that we create well-worn “paths” in the neural structures of our brains that we can get caught in. Once we start thinking about one thing, it leads to the next and so on and on.
Here are some concrete tools to stop thinking about the past:
- Notice when you are thinking too much about the past. Pay attention to where your mind is. If you’re obsessing about the past, say to yourself “I’m obsessing again, and I’m working on letting this stuff go.”
2. Use an Interruption Technique. This is where you jolt your mind out of the obsessive pattern by thinking about something else, moving your body around, giving your brain a new task (such as solving a simple math problem), or even singing to interrupt the ruminating on the past.
3. Re-write the story of the past event. Take a more balanced view of the past event and re-frame it as something both good and bad, not simply something bad that happened that you can beat yourself up over. For example, you could re-frame a job firing as: “I didn’t do well in that job, but I did learn new skills and I know what to work on in my next job.”
Some people may think hate is the opposite of love, but in actuality, it’s indifference, as Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel once said (via Oxford Reference). He was not wrong. As the human psyche has shown us time and again, both love and hate can spark some very intense emotions in people.
These feelings, regardless if they’re the product of a relationship, a crush, or a breakup, may propagate nonstop contemplation about a specific someone, which can then lead to many questions and frustrations (especially if the person you’re thinking about is not someone you’re particularly fond of). Some of these questions may include, “Is this type of rumination normal?”, “Why is it occurring?”, and “What can I do about it?”
The fact of the matter is, thinking about a significant other or a past lover is normal. Unhealthy obsession, however, is not. With that in mind, here is what it really means when you just can’t get someone out of your head.
Why you are thinking about said person
If you catch yourself in deep thought about someone throughout your day-to-day living, your initial reaction may be to force yourself to stop. However, studies how shown that suppressing uncomfortable thoughts and/or feelings can lead to them returning stronger than ever, according to Healthline.
Hence the best course of action to take in this situation is to dive deep and figure out just why you’re pondering so much. Here are some possible reasons: (1) you are in love, (2) you are insanely sexually attracted to said person, (3) they are giving you mixed signals that have left you overthinking, (4) you are an avid daydreamer fixating on unrealized hopes, (5) you are in a relationship but unsure of where it’s heading, (6) your love is unrequited.
There are many other potential reasons, but only you can identify them (and if you find your introspection yielding no results, therapy can be a great place to start).
What you can do to move on from these thoughts
Once you’ve identified the why, it becomes much easier to figure out the next course of action. If the object of your rumination is someone new, perhaps you can ask them out — if only to eliminate the idealized version of them you’ve created in your head. And if they say no, well, at least you know you tried and can move on!
If it’s an ex-lover who broke your heart and left you without closure, you can take it as an opportunity to work on your own self-worth (because FYI you don’t need closure from anyone, though we understand it’s helpful). Perhaps you can do a social media cleanse, or pick up a new active hobby. Focusing on yourself in healthy ways that can enhance your body and mind is one of the best ways to stop fixating on someone else, according to Healthline.
You can also journal as a way to get your thoughts out of your head and in front of you. This can in turn help you reflect and work through your emotions. Another great way to get out of your own head is to do something beneficial for others. Studies have shown that charity or volunteer work make us feel good and connected to one another, according to The Washington Post. If all else fails, therapy/counseling is a great way to work through many mental-health issues.
Have you ever experienced a moment and realized it’s something you’ll be thinking back on again and again, for potentially years to come? It could be as small a moment as tripping in front of people or saying the wrong thing in a work meeting. But it could also be an intense fight with a loved one, a conversation that led to a breakup, or making a career choice you regret down the line. Therapists call this sort of rehashing of past events rumination. When constant rumination causes you anxiety or influences all of your decisions too heavily, it can become extremely debilitating.
According to Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, it’s important to recognize when your mind starts to spiral into rumination, or as he likes to call it, “review and regret.”
Think of rumination as a bad habit. “It actually makes sense mechanistically if you think about the basics of habit loops: trigger, bait, reward,” Dr. Brewer says. “If the trigger is that a person has a thought or a certain feeling in their body, the behavior would be the rumination—or replaying—I call it ‘review and regret.'”
What’s the reward? Basically, it’s familiarity. Dr. Brewer cites a 2014 study (similar to this study here), which showed that people who are depressed are more likely to prefer sad music, pictures, memories—essentially things that keep them in the sad mood. That’s because this sad mood is familiar. “Their speculation was that people are just more familiar and comfortable with those states, and that familiarity feels good and trumps something that is outside of their norms,” he explains.
Leaving this state of rumination can be mentally equated with leaving a comfort zone, which can lead to panic due to the unfamiliarity. But Kati Morton, LMFT, a licensed therapist and YouTuber, explains that this can become a problem when these negative reflections begin to take up the majority of your brain space or begin to impede your ability to complete daily tasks.
“There are many ways this can harm us,” she says. “First, it can make concentration at work or school difficult, if not impossible. Next, it can erode our confidence and faith in our abilities. It can also make it hard for us to sleep at night, complete daily tasks, and actively participate in our relationships.”
Ali Mattu, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Psych Show, says that people should remember that “while your thoughts might be scary, they aren’t dangerous.”
“Worries and rumination are just thoughts and your thoughts can’t do anything to harm you,” says Mattu. “I also remind people that if you’re struggling with your thoughts in this way, they probably aren’t that helpful anymore. Sometimes we try to worry or ruminate our way out of a problem, but that rarely works. Solutions usually come from taking action, getting help, or just giving the problem some time.”
If you’re going through a time where you can’t stop dredging up the past in your mind, don’t worry—Dr. Brewer, Morton, and Mattu have compiled some actionable steps you can take to overcome these thoughts when you’re in the eye of the storm.
1 Distract and Challenge
Morton suggests that people “distract and challenge.” To do this, take notice of when you’re beginning to mentally spiral and immediately distract yourself with a healthier habit like a walk or a call with a friend. Then, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself if they’re helping you in any way.
2 Stop Your Thoughts
Utilize literal thought-stopping techniques. Morton explains this can be as simple as repeating, “stop, stop, stop,” and then forcing your mind to go to one of your favorite memories. “Tell yourself that story in as much detail as you can remember, and you will get your brain off of that well-worn worry track,” she says.
3 Verbalize What’s on Your Mind
Talk to a family member or friend about what’s on your mind. Mattu explains that this will not only make the thoughts less scary, “it will make you feel less alone, less ashamed, and get you a needed reality check on what’s happening.”
4 Ask Yourself if There’s Something You Can Do
Finally, decide if you need to take action. If yes, start small and start somewhere. If not, that’s a sign your thought loops aren’t serving you. “Sometimes our minds keep bringing up stuff from the past because we need to take action on them,” says Mattu, who uses the example of feeling the need to apologize or forgive someone. “But if no action is needed, then these thoughts aren’t really helpful, they’re just more background noise that don’t deserve your attention.”
5 Map Your Mental Habit Loop
Dr. Brewer recommends trying to identify what’s triggering your rumination. When you notice that you’ve started spiraling, make a mental note of the trigger that led you there. Then explore what you’re getting from it. “This taps into your brain’s reward mechanisms,” he says. If you can begin to recognize that dwelling on past negative experiences doesn’t feel good, its reward value drops. He then explains that the brain is always looking for a bigger, better offer—so replace that negative thinking and those negative feelings with something else, like simply being present in the current moment. Take a second to check in with your five senses; go for a walk outside; write down three things you’re grateful for. “Find the bigger, better offer, and eventually learn to replace the negative thoughts by repeating [this new, healthier reward] over and over again,” he says.
When you find yourself falling into a spiral of rumination, show yourself some grace. After all, as Mattu explains, this process is a result of your brain trying its best to help you out. It’s trying to tell you something. “This happens to everyone and it can be helpful at times,” he says.
“There’s an aspect to depression called anhedonia, and it’s when you don’t experience joy anymore in the things that usually bring you joy. Researchers think anhedonia is part of our psychology because it forces us to stop, think about the things we’re unhappy about, and make positive changes in our lives. This type of dwelling on the past can clarify the changes we need to make in the present.”
On Assignment For HuffPost
You’re going about your day when something unfortunate happens — you get a parking ticket, maybe, or find out your boss removed you from an exciting project — and your mood shifts for the worse. A stream of negative thoughts floods your brain, and before you know it, you’re completely overwhelmed. No matter what else goes right after that, your day feels ruined.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Lynn R. Zakeri, a licensed clinical social worker, told HuffPost it’s normal to get hung up on a negative experience.
“We ruminate on things that we don’t have control over, on things that make us uncomfortable, on things that hurt our feelings,” she said. Even something as minor as receiving a “K” text from a friend can derail your mood if you let it. “The small things take up so much space in our brains.”
Why this happens
Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and co-host of radio show “The Web,” said we tend to associate negative experiences with situations in which “we lose something, are rejected, are threatened [or] have our vulnerabilities exposed.” From an evolutionary standpoint, he explained, many of us are hard-wired to seek out negativity so we can learn to protect ourselves from it.
But the more time we spend focusing on how to avoid negative events, “the more we train our brains to seek out the negative interpretation of a situation first and the positive second,” he said. This phenomenon is often referred to as negativity bias, which is the idea that negative events tend to have a greater psychological effect on us than positive ones.
Negative thinking can have a domino effect. A negative experience can cause you to view the world through a different lens, Klapow said, one colored by emotions like fear, sadness, guilt and anger. “The next event or situation then has a greater chance of being interpreted through this filter. Each time this happens, it creates an emotional self-fulfilling prophecy.”
This experience is universal and, to some degree, inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be regularly occurring. “We can’t always control feeling bad when something negative happens,” he said. “However, we can absolutely control how long we feel bad and how we interpret the situation.”
How to bounce back
There are a few strategies that can prevent a bad moment from derailing your entire day. Below are a few strategies to try the next time your brain is stuck in a negative loop.
1. Observe your emotions.
“After a negative event, know that you will be primed to feel and perceive information as negative,” Klapow said. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a response technique that doesn’t perpetuate those feelings.
First, acknowledge your emotions. “It’s OK to say, ‘I’m angry, hurt, scared, frustrated,’” he said. Then, instead of dismissing your emotions or letting them consume you, try to take an observational approach. “Get curious about why you are feeling this way.” Talk yourself through the experience, he suggested, and ask yourself what you learned.
2. Remind yourself that you might be interpreting the situation incorrectly.
Simon Rego, the chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said everyone has a tendency to distort neutral situations into negative experiences. This is a kind of cognitive distortion, in which your mind convinces you of something that may not be true, and and it can reinforce your negative thoughts in the process.
For example, instead of asking your boss why you were taken off that big account, you might jump to the conclusion that it’s because you’re incompetent. Rego said other common examples of cognitive distortion include overgeneralization, thinking in black and white terms, mind-reading, minimization, personalization and fortune-telling.
Keep in mind that it’s not wrong to think negatively, he said — it can even be appropriate — but it’s important to examine your behavior to understand why you’re thinking the way you are. “Once we’re aware of our tendencies,” he said, “we can learn skills to help us recalibrate to perceive situations more rationally or objectively.“
The first step is acknowledging that you may view certain situations problematically, he said. From there, you can evaluate your thought patterns and start to generate alternatives to the stories you tell yourself. “What else could it be? What would I say to a friend? What is the best-case scenario?” said Rego. “These questions can get you out of being locked into a view.”
And the more you practice putting yourself on trial, he added, the quicker you can course-correct in the future.
3. Concentrate on the facts.
When you feel overwhelmed, this simple exercise can put things into perspective. Fold a piece of paper, then write down all the facts of the situation — the things you know for sure — on the left side, Zakeri said. On the right side, write down all your worries, assumptions and fears, then direct your attention back to the facts.
Similar to checking your cognitive distortions, this practice can help you view the situation from a place of logic instead of pure emotion. “Take control back from the experience rather than it controlling you and your day,” she said.
4. Create a positivity practice.
Getting more control over your emotional responses is as much about cultivating positivity as it is diffusing negativity. Klapow recommended taking a few minutes each night to write down three things that went well during your day, no matter how small. Go an extra step and write down why you think those things went well — for example, Klapow said, “maybe you got a promotion because you have been working hard.”
The trick, he said, is to force yourself to think positively at least once every day. “This will help shift your baseline pessimism slowly over time. It is called learned optimism,” he added.
5. Get out of your head.
Sometimes the best way to get over a negative experience is to switch gears. Dive into a work task, turn to a creative outlet, go for a run, call a friend to check in or offer to help a co-worker or loved one with a project. Engaging in an enjoyable activity or shifting your focus to others can help diminish your feelings of negativity and put the situation into perspective.
6. Finally, check in with yourself.
Everyone falls prey to negativity sometimes, but it’s important to examine yourself to make sure you’re not dealing with a bigger issue. “If you’re experiencing emotional distress at a high frequency or intensity,” Rego said, “if it’s causing a disability or impairment in your social or occupational or family functioning or if it’s so intense, it’s stopping you from living a full life, you may need to reach out to a mental health professional.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and treatment options available, and you don’t have to suffer alone, said Rego. To gather information or search for mental health professionals, he recommended checking out the websites for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.