Dealing with obsessive thoughts


Dealing with obsessive thoughts


your avatar   Fiona, 18-year-old woman

I've been obsessed with eyes for close to a year now, especially violet eyes. I have written it many times on paper, sometimes filling pages at a time. I have also taken to calling other people (in my head)"violet eyes" as I feel that they are a special type of person. Nothing strange/violent/tragic has ever happened to me.

Why is this happening to me? Why am I obsessed with violet eyes? Is it a problem if I genuinely believe this?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Fiona,

Here is an experiment: Do NOT think of what you had for breakfast today.

What happened? I'll bet my breakfast tomorrow that you thought of your breakfast. There was no reason to, except that my suggestion that you shouldn't brought it to mind. You can have fun with any thought, image or idea. The usual example is "Do not think of the word 'hippopotamus' for one minute."

Have you ever noticed how yawns are infectious? You see someone yawning, and your mouth follows. That's the same thing. For some reason, which actually doesn't matter, you got focused on violet eyes on one occasion, about a year ago. For some reason, which also doesn't matter, you decided you didn't want to, and tried to banish the thought. And, as is the case with almost all chronic problems, the solution made it worse. The more you struggled with it, the worse it got, and then you struggled more... Get the concept?

If something doesn't work, do the opposite. If you can now genuinely and honestly ALLOW yourself to obsess about violet eyes, then either it stays or it fades away. Either way, it's allowed to be there, so your distress goes. But, in fact, my prediction is that the obsession will fade away, because you are no longer feeding it.

This is a recipe for all problems, including major sources of suffering. The problem has two parts:

1. I am obsessing about violet eyes; or my left foot is hurting; or I can't stand this humid heat...

2. I don't want it to be like this: I want the violet eyes to go away; or I want the pain to stop; or I'll go crazy in this heat.

The suffering is from the second part. If I can simply and calmly give permission for the first part to be there, then I am content with things, and I am not suffering. Life can be OK in what is objectively the worst hell imaginable.

I recommend two books, by people who survived terrible events using this tool: Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and Najaf Mazari 's The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Let me know how you go with the violet eyes.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:

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