Loathing, Lust, & Longing: Why We Obsess so Much

My son amazes me. He has his obsessions, but they’re about his music, his philosophizing. He’s so different from the adolescent me of thirty-five years ago. He’s calmer and freer to learn. He’s funny, and takes creative risks with language. He accepts people with all their weirdness. At his age, I worried a lot. I fretted about my social life so much that I smothered my vocabulary, my empathy, and my sense of humor in the process.

My boy pays little attention to having the right shoes or the right jeans. I take care of his wardrobe before he asks (because at 15, I wished my mom would have done this). When he disses the shirts I bring home, I exchange them. He waves off shopping. He’s comfortable and un-perturbed about how he looks.

He knows . . . I’ve got his back.

And where I was boy-crazy and so afraid of being an ugly old maid, my young man seems comfortable to let it happen (or not), let others worry about romance, and just enjoy life where he is now. He likes it when girls pay attention to him, but he shrugs it off when they don’t. He laughs at his faux pas, his breakouts, his bouts of ennui. Ginormous difference. 

So, in my way, I craft a theory to explain it . . .

My son’s emotional needs are noticed, anticipated, and met (maybe to a fault) . . . especially the ones that I did not have met. Back in the 70s and 80s, my parents resented each other to the core. I felt their disconnection and anger every day and absorbed it into my own nervous system – as if I was in a lonely, rejecting marriage myself. I learned that true love was rare. But in 2016, my son’s parents love each other, imperfectly but deeply. We’re nice to each other. He can see, every day, there’s plenty of love in the world for everyone. No need to worry.

Think about the implications here. When we obsess over religion, rules, sex, drinking, eating, or being sinless, we NEED something that feels missing. Our addictions, our compulsions, our fears, our hates . . . tell us what we need.

Perhaps you need: Rest, Friendship, Sweetness, Comfort, Color, Protection, Change, Nurturing, Challenge, Order, Forgiveness . . .

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When we obsess, hate, and fear, we show our gaping needs. . . which formed a long time ago.

For instance:

I must achieve more, or I’ll be a loser. = I have to make something of myself because my father did not.

I must find love or I will have failed. = I haven’t been loved enough (or my mother/father hasn’t been loved enough).

I need a better body – mine will never be good enough. = I have little worth beyond my body (or I watched my mother deal with being overweight).

I don’t have enough money – I can’t afford _____. = There’s not enough love (or food) to go around. So I could die or be cast out.

I must always be prepared for an attack. = Nobody has my back.

I must eradicate sin and evil. = I must keep proving my goodness, because I’m really so very bad.

If you see your obsession in here somewhere, trace its urgency back as far as it will go. Notice the fear there. When do you first remember having that fear?

Now, close your eyes and picture life without the obsession or the fear. How do you feel? Who can you love more easily?

Take three long, slow breaths and hold this idea: There’s enough for everyone, always.

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