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How to stop thinking about and feeling 'it'
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
Many people question how to stop thinking or feeling something. The best answer is, paradoxically, to think and feel the experience more.

Accept that the experiences are there; and even 'make friends' with them. When they come pounding on the door, you would do well to let them in. After some time, the distress will settle down a bit. If you give them attention, the time will come when you can gently let them know that you need to move on to other things. And this is important, too — you don't want them monopolizing your life.

That said, some experiences might overwhelm or incapacitate you. In these cases, you would do well to think about seeing a therapist.

Most of the time, however, your emotions will come and go. But you need to do your part, too — treat yourself with the patience, kindness, and attention that you deserve.

This is an extremely difficult thing to do; so if you have been able to do it, perhaps you can share your experience here. It will give hope and encouragement to others by showing them that they can do it, too.

Read in more detail about this topic in my post on The Art of Relationships blog.
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cjh1203 responded:
One of my negative qualities is that I tend to stew over things. I'm not a worrier, but if someone does or says something that upsets me or hurts my feelings, I can't stop thinking about it. I may be awake, literally, all night, unable to get it out of my mind. It makes me crazy.

It does seem to have the effect, though, of allowing me to let go of it after a day or two, and then I'll be mad at myself for having spent so much time and energy on it. Sometimes, I'll think about it again months or years later and it may have the same effect for a day or so, and then it's gone again.

I guess that's how I finally stop thinking about things, but I have also changed the way I feel about things by just trying to be logical with myself. For instance, when my last marriage ended, even though it was the only choice, I was completely devastated and kept agonizing over what I could have done differently, and hoping that maybe things would magically change and everything would be fine again. Then, I realized that my husband just didn't love me any more and that made everything easier for me. I knew that he didn't choose to stop loving me, that it was nothing he had any control over, and that there was nothing I could do to change it. That was the beginning of the end of my suffering, even though it still took several months longer to completely recover.
 
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darlyn05 responded:
I really enjoyed reading this article. I'll have to bookmark it so I can reflect back to it as needed when I'm struggling with my unwanted hurt/pain or angry feelings and emotions.

"Accept that the experiences are there; and even 'make friends' with them."

I like this phrase. And the 2nd half of it I think is key to the 1st half because you are 'accepting' your feelings and emotions by 'making friends' with them. Too bad it couldn't be a universal fix although for the more intense situations as you described.
 
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gd9900 responded:
I do hope ppl will share experiences...I'm in a "limbo" situation with my husband who is waffling back and forth between divorce and marriage. We've been together 13 years, married 10. Currently we are separated, in the last two years we've separated three different times for a total of 14 months apart. Our last separation (7 months ago) he stated he wanted a divorce and moved in with his sister but to date hasn't filed or talked about taking it any further. I on the other hand, thinking that's what he wanted, am confused and feel trapped in some kind of mind game...as a result I'm starting to feel indifferent. I've been seeing a therapist for two years now and have come a long way in understanding myself better as well as having an outlet to talk about the rollercoaster ride of the past few years. One thing I'm having difficulty with is stopping the obsessive thinking about what I've done to contribute, what he has done to contribute, as well as what was, what is now, and what could be with regards to us. I do have outlets that help (reading, gardening, work, friends, house projects) but even still the thoughts creep in even when I'm doing my best to be distracted. I have recently expressed with H a need to know where I stand with him so I can make some decisions for myself - being he isn't moving to make any decisions. Hopefully he will give me an answer soon. I've also expressed with him that his actions haven't been supportive of his words and on my end its comes across as "lies". They may not be intentional or solely for his benefit, but I'd like to know his truth. I am making progress toward moving forward, but finding peace and happiness from within is proving to be a challenge.
 
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cjh1203 replied to gd9900's response:
I'm sorry for your situation. I guess I'm having a hard time understanding why you don't just initiate divorce yourself, instead of waiting for him to decide your future -- especially since you say you are beginning to feel indifferent and feel trapped.

There's no reason in the world to keep torturing yourself waiting for him to decide whether he wants to be with you. He doesn't really have much incentive to do that anyway, since he can see that you aren't going to do anything to change the status quo.

I can see why it's difficult to find peace about this when you're stuck in the same place indefinitely -- you're going to find it very difficult to come to terms with this until you've moved on. I think you would find that a great weight has been lifted from you if you take control of your own fate and get out of this non-marriage. You are giving him power over your whole life, leaving you feeling powerless -- at this point, you're the only person who can change things for yourself.

Best of luck to you.
 
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gd9900 replied to cjh1203's response:
cjh - I definately hear and appreciate what you are saying. Believe me after the first few months of this last separation I had thought long and hard about filing for divorce...but that's not what I want. I'm not sure I could be at peace knowing I gave up on us when I wasn't ready or willing to do so. I'm still not there. He told me that is what he wanted 7 months ago now but he hasn't acted upon it - if that's truely what he wanted its his responsibility to support his words with actions. I'm not going to do that for him - and frankly, he needs to learn to stand up for his own wants and be honest with himself. If he honestly wants a divorce and his actions support that, I will let him go.

Maybe I'm being stubborn to my own detriment, but I take his lack of action to mean he still trying to figure out what he needs from himself and what wants out of his life. We have been in communication and he is working on himself to fix issues on his end...just as I am on my end. Because we are/have been working through personal issues for the benefit of our individual lives, I think we have to go through this sort of non-marriage stage. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but neither him or I can be a good partner if not whole and loving to ourselves first. We do love and care for each other and have a deep rooted connection which is still there even through our disconnected times of late. I think H figured out how to detach as a husband...but he's still attached to me as a person in his life. I've had great difficulty detaching myself as "wife". I'd like to figure out how to do that as I think it would help me to move forward in some way...any suggestions are welcome.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gd9900's response:
If your decision is to stay in this marital limbo, then it makes sense that you will have emotions about this-- you talk about having 'obsessive thinking', but I suspect that the way through this for you will be to really feel and get to know your emotions more; and to learn to relate to them in a different way.

I don't know if this is the case with you, but very often people's 'obsessive' thinking is motivated by wanting to get out of distressing or painful emotions. Thinking cannot really do this, so they end up continuing to ruminate or obsess. So, you might want to work with your therapist on exploring your emotions, experiences of yourself (e.g. if you feel inadequate, flawed, empty), and how you relate to these experiences.
 
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gd9900 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Due to budget cuts, my therapist and I had our last visit a little over a week ago. I was having difficulty affording our visits as it was, so not sure if I will find another therapist for a while. Do you have any suggestions for me to work through relating emotionally to my experiences and keep the obsessive thinking at bay??? I don't want to live this way forever, I'm having a hard time feeling comfort in my own skin right now.
 
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goofyove replied to gd9900's response:
gd9900
I to have been through someting like this. My EX decided to move out and although we tryed to work things out it was never the same. We ended up being apart from 1994-2001 before we divorced. It should get easier with time but you need to take a long look at how this is keeping you from experenicing new relationships. He is not moving forward because he may not be ready to let you go so you can move on with your life with someone new. He doesn't want you as a wife but he doesn't want anybody else to have you either. Move on with the divorce. If he truely loves you he will make more of an affect to work things out.
 
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cjh1203 replied to gd9900's response:
I have to say that I sort of agree with Goofyove. You see your husband staying away for seven months without doing anything as not wanting a divorce, but when I was reading your posts, my first thought was that it means he doesn't want to be married. He may see filing for divorce as a formality that isn't necessary right now.

Anyway, you have mentioned your obsessive thoughts. Maybe it would help to write them down and just read them over and over and over until they lose their power over you. Maybe make lists of what he did to contribute to your problems, as well as what you did, and how (or if) those things could be resolved.

The thing is, no matter how obsessively you think about all that's happened, you can't change any of it. There's not a single thing that can be undone. All you can do is change what happens from today on, and start to take charge of your own life.
 
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gd9900 replied to goofyove's response:
goofyove - I can't imagine living 7 years married but separated and headed for divorce. I'm sure that must have been very difficult for you. How did you keep your sanity through all of that?

All I want is his honesty about what he wants for himself, and if he wants a life with or without me. I don't mean to sound closed minded but that sounds pretty selfish for someone willing to let go of you as a wife, but hold onto you so no one else can have you? I don't know if he is that selfish or not...although there are times when I am thinking about things and I've wanted to tell him if you really love and care about me, let me go if that's what you want.

He knows where my heart lies and what I want. Even still, I understand just like you said it won't be the same...but it can be better if we both work at it! Problem is, I don't know if he wants to work at it or not. Giving up is not an answer in my book...but like I said, if that's what he wants I'll let him go. We had a good life together, not great but not bad either.

Thank you for giving me the benefit of your experience. I'm still gun shy toward divorce, but getting a little more comfortable with the idea as time passes...but ONLY because I don't want to be in this situation indefinately. I want answers.
 
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gd9900 replied to cjh1203's response:
cjh - can't you help me understand what the difference is between not wanting to be married but not wanting to divorce? I don't understand what that means. I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around that because you can't have it both ways. KWIM?

I know you are right that its best for me to take charge of my own life, and slowly I am getting there. I understand I can't change anything from the past. Here's where my thinking comes into play...what has power over me is the unknown outcome of where our marriage stands on his end. I don't understand how to be "married", but have no husband to speak of in my life. Why is he hiding???

Thank you for the suggestion to write down my thoughts instead of thinking them outloud. Writing them down and reading them are far more concrete than mulling the thoughts over and over. Maybe that will help me find some resolve, or at the very least areas to work through with forgiveness.
 
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cjh1203 replied to gd9900's response:
Even though you're still legally married, you haven't really been in a marriage for seven months. He may just think that divorce is a formality that isn't that urgent. A lot of people -- like Goofyove and her ex -- end up being permanently separated but may not actually get around to a legal divorce for months or years.

It could be that he doesn't want you to move on, or that he's a procrastinator, or doesn't think it's necessary until one of you gets into a serious relationship, or just thinks it's too much hassle, or maybe even for financial or practical reasons.

From reading your posts, I get the impression that you still consider yourself married but he doesn't (even though you are technically still married).

I know you're waiting for him to tell you what he wants, but being gone for seven months and showing no sign of coming back tells you everything you need to know, I think -- and you said that he had told you at one time that he wanted a divorce.

It seems that you're living on hope at this point and, at least from the outside, it doesn't appear that there's really any hope to hang on to. Nothing in your posts indicates that he's at all inclined to get back together.

I can see what a terrible struggle this is for you. I hope that writing down everything will help. I've used that several times in my life, and it has always made a difference and allowed me to let go of things.
 
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tmlmtlrl replied to gd9900's response:
I think writing things down is some of the best kind of therapy. It really takes a weight off for me. I've kept many journals in my life and when I go back and read them what I've found is how many of my prayers have been answered!

I think the other poster put it best in saying that your husband just isn't ready to let you move on with your life. He probably knows 99% that he doesn't want to be married to you, but he's waiting for the results from his choices to back it up. But in the meantime he wants to keep you on the backburner so he can run back to you if he needs to. And if he does do that, I think it would also be likely that he will leave you again.

Have you ever thought that he might want you to stand up for yourself? He might not even know it. Basically when you can stand up tall and say "enough is enough, I'm going to take control of my own life" that he'll probably be like "wow, I didn't know that side of you existed". Which when you really feel that way it will be too late for his crap.

I think it is sad you allow him to hurt you like this. I understand you want to be married and to him, but it's not all under your control. You can make stipulations for your situation though. You can tell him he has a time limit to get this figured out. You don't need to let him drag this out and drive you crazy. The thing is that he will continue to do this as long as you allow him to.

I think you need to find things to do to keep you busy. Give yourself time frames that your allowed to ponder on all this and do some journaling. But the rest of your day needs to be about you -- your happiness and well being.

The control doesn't have to be you filing for divorce or not but it does need to be something. You have to take some sort of stand in your life right now and let him know it's not ok to take advantage of you in this way.

My heart goes out to you. Things will work out they way they are supposed to, but the only changes that are going to happen in your life are going to have to start with YOU.
 
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gd9900 replied to cjh1203's response:
cjh - I agree with you that his actions are speaking louder than his words...and I've called him on this. I've expressed with him that his saying things like "I miss you and want to spend more time with you" and the following unsupportive actions feel like a mind game. Same thing with saying "I want a divorce" and not acting upon it as well as a whole host of other things in between. I've also told him I'm not going to "be" around at his convenience anymore, that he needs to meet me half way. I've asked him to tell me where I stand with him...he can't answer - But by the same token, he threw that question back at me and you know what? I can't answer either...because I'm not sure who he is anymore. I guess I've been waiting for him to show me...and he continues to hide from himself. I know this isn't about me, but it affects me and my life PROFOUNDLY. Sharing a life with someone for 13 years just to end up in the pooper without a dealbreaker issue??? I'm not buying it...

cjh, he has said to me that he's felt pressure from being married, and he's also expressed with me that he thinks a divorce would take that pressure off and may be the way for us to find our way to a happier life together. I'm not opposed to exploring how that may or may not play out, but going through a divorce after all these years to achieve what a marriage is all about? It comes across as an easier path to walk away at any time.

Maybe his unresolved issues of the past with trust, attachment, abandonment, commitment, and rejection, from the caretaker relationships (Father to a serious degree, mother to a lesser degree) are surfacing in such a way that its overlapping into our relationship...maybe that is why he leads the line with me for a few nibbles and then retreats. He doesn't trust there is someone out there who will be a part of his life and accept him for who he is. I am, and have been that person...not because I HAVE to, but because I WANT to.


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