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Waiting for an obsession to peter out



I'm married, kids grown and gone. For months I've been absolutely infatuated with a much younger co-worker. She's got a boyfriend, they're making long-term plans and I know this is going nowhere. But every time I see her, my world lights up, my heart races and I can't think about anything else. I keep plotting for ways that I can be with alone with her, maybe even ask her out. How can I get off this mental merry-go-round? My obsession is killing me!

— OCD About Her

Dear OCD,

We've all been there, man. You meet that one person who lights you up like an all-night liquor store and you can't turn the lights off for nothin'. As somebody who has been obsessed with so many people I've practically lit a nationwide chain of liquor stores, I have some bad news: Nothing will stop the mental merry-go-round.

Trying not to think about her is the same thing as thinking about her. Avoiding her will trigger as much obsession as plotting to see her. There is no way out. Every side street leads to Boner Boulevard.

It's easy to say the stock things like, "Put your attention on something else" or "Forget about her and concentrate on what's good in your life." Ha! You might as well try to stop AT&T from dropping your call. Good luck.

That goes for other canned suggestions like, "Limit the time you allow yourself to think of her" or "Distract yourself" or "Use a diary and write your way out of it." Ha! Like trying to capture the deluge in a paper cup.

Oh, but wait, what about hypnosis or therapy? Yes, pay someone to fill the Grand Canyon with pebbles. You're fucked, dude. I speak from experience on this. You're trapped in a speeding train that won't stop no matter how many ways you try to put the brakes on.

The good news is that the train will stop. It's just not going to be on your timetable.

While there is no conscious way of stopping the obsession, there are some things that can make it more bearable. First is hope. I promise your obsession will end. Everything runs out of gas eventually, even the Loaf staff after a Taco Bell run.

Second, practice the art of separating the thought from the thinker. The Buddha always said that negative, unwanted thoughts and emotions are like clouds. They come and they go. Your job is to acknowledge their presence without mistaking yourself as one of them.

Third, open yourself to the possibility that you developed this obsession as a way to avoid the real pain that you cannot face. What is going on in your life that might be driving the obsession? And what can you do to face what you might be trying to avoid? Sometimes (not always) obsessions are the brain's way of diverting attention from the real issue.

Fourth, talk to someone you trust. Burdens get lighter when we share them with other people. And finally, do NOT in any way shape or form try to start something with the woman you're obsessing about.

She's in a relationship.

You're married.

You've got kids.

See all of the above.

You do not have the right to blow up other people's lives just because you have a thought hurricane roaring through your brainscape. If you think this is going to be hard to avoid, then you need a good shrink to stop you from harming everybody involved.

Meantime, remember, your obsession will end. Know that and be kind to yourself.

Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? Email him at Mike Alvear is the author of the Meet the Hottie in the Corner e-book and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.

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