Did you ever get a tune stuck in your head that you can’t get rid of? It’s a Small Worldin Disneyland comes to mind. I dread hearing that song and even as I write this blog, I can feel it trying to take root in my brain. When I hear the ad for JG Wentworth on TV, I try to hit the mute button before they start singing so I can avoid repeating it to myself all day. This is a form of obsession, a pattern of thinking perpetrated by an idea that seems to affect you against your will. When you hear these short ditties, they bombard your brain and you start repeating them over and over. That’s called good advertising, exactly what the marketers want. They want their product embedded in your brain and a catchy tune is a great way to do it. The ads are harmless in the long run, but there are other forms of obsessions that are harmful and can make your life a living hell.

Recently, a woman I considered a friend stopped talking to me. It came out of the blue for me and I thought long and hard about our history. We had not had a kerfuffle, one of Judge Judy’s favorite words, but clearly I had offended her in some way. We’d had a supportive friendship and when her husband fell ill, I had spent hours comforting her and driving her repeatedly to his facility that was two hours away. So when she stopped communicating with me without warning, I was stunned and confused.

I sent her a note saying I’d be happy to talk this through if she would kindly let me know what was going on. Here’s the really painful part. She never answered my email and she still hasn’t. I began talking to her in head as my hurt escalated and turned to anger that took over my mind. During the next week, my thoughts turned dark as I projected what this woman might be thinking. It was all made up on my part, I had no idea what her problem was, but that didn’t stop me from projecting, blaming her, and viewing myself as a victim.

Here’s the tricky part, the perfect recipe for obsessive thinking and self-abuse. My negative thoughts went on and on, and I only got more bombarded when I blamed myself for being obsessed. Hurt layered on hurt. I should be more spiritual, I told myself. I should be able to let it go. And it went downhill from there.

Obsession is a bad habit. When you become obsessed with something, anything, judgments and decisions based on stories you tell yourself swirl around your brain until you get caught in a downward spiral that threatens to drown you. I couldn’t shake my negative thinking as hard as I tried – – until one day, my mind literally made me sick. I had a bad stomach ache and when I realized I had done it to myself, that was the end of it. I stopped trying to project good energy into the situation. No more love and light. I stopped talking to myself like I was a child and feeling sorry for myself. When I understood that I was actually causing myself harm, it had nothing to do with my friend, I put my foot down. I got strict with myself and demanded that I stop obsessing and start facing reality. It worked.

When there is nothing you can do about something, if you don’t find a way to let it go, it’ll eat you alive. I let that friendship go because I had to. I suddenly felt free and light . . and now, I’m waiting to see what my brain will latch onto next. It’s an ongoing process to clear your mind and accept yourself as you are and participate in life as it shows up. It may take a few false starts, but when we learn to be good to ourselves and allow kindness to run the show, life gets a whole lot easier and a lot more fun.