Whenever our brains have “open loops” aka unanswered questions, they automatically start searching for answers. They search and they search, and they search until they find answers for those questions so they can close the loop and move on. Until the brain finds a satisfactory answer, it keeps seeking answers. That’s why you are having obsessive thoughts.
What are Obsessive Thoughts?
Obsessive or intrusive thoughts are thoughts that pop up uncontrollably and hijack the way you think or feel. For instance, you can be in the middle of a project at work, when suddenly a mental image of your cheating spouse and their affair partner pops into your head. That image derails you completely. You can no longer concentrate, and instead of working you are suddenly down a rabbit hole, obsessing over the affair, your partner, or what you could have done differently.
Why do I Have Obsessive Thoughts?
Although there are different reasons we have obsessive thoughts, two of the most common reasons for having them are:
- There are “open loops” or unanswered question in the brain that needs to be processed and answered, or
- The bad habit of allowing oneself to ruminate has been established, and now must be broken.
Closing Loops: How to Stop Obsessive and Intrusive Thoughts After Betrayal
Humans are meaning-making machines, and whenever we are confronted by a situation that we don’t understand, disrupts our view of the world, or is shocking (such as infidelity or betrayal) our brain seeks to make meaning of the situation.
To do this, our brain opens a “loop” (an unanswered question) and starts scanning the environment for answers. Think about the way each episode of a weekly TV series ends with a cliff-hanger. When our brains have open loops, we will tune in again next week in order to get the answers we crave. Our brains need resolution! We need to understand, make sense of, and complete the stories in our head.
Sometimes obsessive thoughts are “open loops” that need resolution. When this happens, seeking out more information or understanding will help tame your obsessive thoughts. Seeing a therapist or coach to help you identify and close loops in your brain can be very helpful. So is reading, talking it out with others, or even writing down your questions and creating your own answers. Because once the brain finds resolution, it will relax, and you will no longer be bothered by intrusive thoughts that flood your nervous system and derail your life.
Breaking Bad Habits: How to Stop Negativity After an Affair
On the flip side, sometimes our negative thought become habitual, and obsessing is nothing more than a habit we have allowed to run amok.
When intrusive thoughts come up, challenge yourself by asking, “Is this helpful right now?” If the answer is no, the thought you are having might be a distraction or a habit. Acknowledge that thought, thank it, and let it go. Then, in order to give your brain something constructive to think about, create a new thought for it think!
Decide how you want to feel (peaceful, successful, excited, happy…) and create a simple thought that makes you feel that way. As silly as it might sound, I love feeling playful. I love how I feel when I’m running around a theme park. Choosing to think about a day at a theme park gives my brain a memory to think about. So instead of ruminating on the past, I’m choosing to think about something that makes me feel good.
How the Power of Gratitude Helps the Pain of an Affair go Away
Being in a state of gratitude helps us move forward, make better decisions, feel happier, and recover after an affair. Every time you are stressed out, feeling broken, or stuck in a negative cycle, pull out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Writing in cursive, (which targets the subconscious portion of the brain and changes the way you think and feel more easily) make a list of ten things that you are grateful for. Don’t make it fancy or grandiose. Simply list the first things that come to mind.
Over time, gratitude restructures your brain, allowing it to hold more happiness, joy, and positivity. Which gives you a better chance of finding answers, coming to terms with what happened to you, and finding the peace you crave.