Why Do We Obsess?

Humans have roughly 85 years on this planet. That is 31,025 days. 744,600 hours. 44,676,000 minutes. 2,680,560,000 seconds.

Life goes quickly, much quicker than we realize, and when we arrive on our deathbed, perhaps we may look back and wonder why we lived life the way we did. If it all ends anyway, why follow rules? Why follow regimens? Why have structure?

And why do we allow things to bother us to the point of obsession? Consider how long the average person obsesses over something. Maybe like…two days. Two days is .005% of a year. So if you consider that, this means that you are spending .oo5% of your life obsessing over stuff.

But let’s jump that number up a bit. Let’s say you spend…six months obsessing over stuff every year.

This means that you have spent 24% of your life span obsessing. If I did the math right, which I probably didn’t. But I digress. We all spend unhealthy amounts of time obsessing over stuff.

From Psychology Today:

At its worst, obsession is an iron mask that permits us to gaze in only one direction at one thing—or, to use another metaphor, a giant tidal wave that crashes through our minds and washes away all other concerns. We may become obsessed with a person, a place, a goal, a subject—but obsession amounts to the same thing in all cases: addiction.

At first, like all addictions, obsession is intoxicating. It fills us up, and what a relief that feeling is (especially if we felt empty before). But even if we didn’t feel empty, obsession makes us feel potent, capable, and purposeful.

But also like all addictions, with time obsession unbalances us. We often begin to neglect parts of our lives we shouldn’t. If allowed to become too consuming, obsession causes us to devalue important dimensions of our lives and tolerate their atrophy and even their collapse. But even if our lives remain in balance, if the object of our obsession is taken from us, as my patient’s was from her, we find ourselves devastated, often convinced we’ve lost our last chance at happiness.

So, the only question that probably remains is this:

Are you obsessing over something that will do good for your life, or are you obsessing over something purely negative that will get you nowhere?

If your answer is the latter, perhaps reevaluate how you want your life to look when you do that deathbed review.




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