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"I'm Consumed With My Ex."

By Dr. Margaret Paul
July 30, 2012

Discover why you might be obsessing about an ex and how to stop.

"How do I stop allowing my ex to consume my thoughts?" asks Tammy.

"Is your ex consuming your thoughts, or are you consumed with your ex?" I ask.

"What's the difference?" Tammy asks.

"The difference is that you are asking the question in such as way as to indicate that your ex is doing something, i.e. somehow consuming your thoughts. But is your ex really doing something, or are you choosing to be consumed with thoughts of your ex?"

"Oh…No, my ex isn't doing anything. I just can't stop thinking about him. How do I stop thinking about him?"

"What are you thinking about?"

"Things to say to him to get him back. Things I wish I had done differently."

"Is it likely that there is something you can say to get him back?"

"No. He's gone. I've said everything there is to say. He's with someone else and he doesn't even want to talk with me."

"So by thinking about what you can say to get him back, or what you could have done differently, you are not accepting your powerlessness over his decision, is that right?"

"I don't want to accept it."

"What are you avoiding feeling? Grief? Heartbreak? Loneliness?"

"Yes, all of that. I don't think I can handle the heartbreak and loneliness."

"Tammy, as long as you are unwilling to feel the painful feelings of the breakup, you will attempt to avoid them by obsessing about him. Obsessing is an addictive way of avoiding your feelings. You are asking me how to stop obsessing about him, but until you are willing to feel your authentic painful feelings, you will avoid them—and reality—with obsessing."

"But I don't think I can handle those feelings."

"Right now, if you are willing, I will teach you how to handle these feelings. Are you willing?"

"Yes, I'm willing to try."

"Okay. Breathe into your heart. What are you feeling in your heart?"

"My heart hurts. It feels broken."

"Tammy, find a place within you that feels very kindly toward your broken heart. Be very gentle, very compassionate with your broken heart. Can you be compassionate—kind, caring, gentle and understanding toward your heartbreak?"

"Yes, I can." Tammy starts to cry.

"Embrace your tears, your heartbreak, with deep compassion for yourself. Let the pain move through you with your tears."

Tammy sobs deeply for about 5 minutes.

"How are you feeling now?" I ask.

"Better. Calmer. I've cried a lot before but somehow this time I feel better."

"That's because the other times you cried as a victim, but this time you took responsibility for yourself by being compassionate toward your heartbreak. You named it, acknowledged it, and embraced it with compassion. This is what allowed it to move through you."

"Wow! I can't believe how much better I feel!"

"So, now you know how to lovingly manage your painful feelings. You don't need to avoid your pain by obsessing. Whenever you find yourself obsessing, you need to realize that you are avoiding feeling your heartbreak, loneliness and helplessness over your ex. If you move into compassion for these very difficult feelings, you can do what you just did—cry and allow them to move through you. Are you willing to do this rather than obsess?"

"Yes! That wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I can't believe I've spent so much time obsessing."

"Obsessing has been your way of trying to control your feelings and control your ex. Obviously, that doesn't work, as you made yourself very miserable with obsessing."

"I didn't realize I was trying to control. I didn't know what else to do."

"Right. Until we learn to manage our very painful feelings, we turn to various addictions to avoid them. I hope you remember to do this each time pain comes up."

"I will!"


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