'I just can't get what happened out of my mind!'
Ever find yourself thinking about a situation over and over (and over)? Maybe you had a bad day at work, a conflict with a coworker, or what felt like mistreatment from your boss. It could've been that someone on the street or in the next car acted thoughtlessly or aggressively, or a family member yet again disrespected your feelings. Maybe you're blaming yourself for your status or for being lax in your exercise, diet, or medication routine.
Later that day, you find yourself replaying the details in your mind like a movie scene stuck in a continuous loop, watching every single detail, obsessing about the whats and whys'what you said and did, what was done to you, what you wish you had said or done, what you wish you hadn't done.
This unhealthy obsessing is called fixation. It's all too easy for anyone, regardless of circumstance or status, to move from contemplation to fixation'there are a number of reasons for this:
Some people fixate on perceived slights and bad choices to avoid their feelings. They fall into their intellect and, as in a courtroom scene, go through every last detail, over and over, to try and make sense of what happened. It's a kind of analysis paralysis.
Other people fixate to reexperience feelings. These may be very unpleasant feelings'loss, sadness, fear, anger'but they are nonetheless familiar feelings and therefore comfortable in their own way. It's kind of like beating up on yourself.
Either way, fixation is an ongoing process of gathering evidence that will keep you emotionally stuck and disempowered. But here's the good news: No one has a life sentence to relive the past.
Give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself that you did the best you could. You were who you were during that time and you can't go back and change anything. You're at a different place in your life now, and you're handling life on life's terms.
Don't take things so personally. We can't control how other people behave. They act out of their own self-interest or out of their own suffering, or they're just not paying attention. Bad behavior toward you may have arisen out of ignorance, or maybe you just happened to be the convenient target. You are not doomed to being mistreated by others.
Meditate on acceptance. You might want to use the serenity prayer, which encourages us to accept what we cannot change. Life isn't fair, and we don't get to control what happens. Stop fighting the facts.
Talk to someone. Tell your story to an objective friend or a counselor and ask them to help you gain a new perspective on the situation you are obsessing over. Learn some alternative ways to look at your situation and develop strategies for dealing with your feelings. Don't go through this alone.
Look around you. What's positive in your life right now? There are likely people who care about you and whom you care about in return. Revel in the things you enjoy doing, be it exercise, painting, or watching old movies. Appreciate the fact that you are taking care of yourself. Get your mind engaged in what's right in the world.
Look forward. Make the decision to consciously let the past be in the past and focus your attention on the road ahead. Life goes on, and it even gets better.