Part 2 of 2

This is the twinsie episode about obsessing and ruminating. Part 1 is episode HM290.

Obsessing and Ruminating without being able to make a decision is such a painful place to be, feeling like you need to make the perfect decision and never being able to. I struggled with it myself for about a decade of my life.

Dr. Liz gives even more information and examples about how to move out of obsessing and ruminating.

Joan Sotkin hosts the Prosperity Show podcast.

Books mentioned:
“The Path through the Jungle” by Dr. Steve Peters
“The Discriminating Therapist” by Dr. Michael Yapko

About Dr. Liz

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Winner of numerous awards including Top 100 Moms in Business, Dr. Liz provides psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and hypnosis to people wanting a fast, easy way to transform all around the world. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and has special certification in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Specialty areas include Anxiety, Insomnia, and Deeper Emotional Healing.


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Listened to in over 140 countries, Hypnotize Me is the podcast about hypnosis, transformation, and healing. Certified hypnotherapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Dr. Liz Bonet, discusses hypnosis and interviews professionals doing transformational work

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Hi everyone, dr Liz, here, this is a doubleheader. I originally recorded one episode about rumination, but it talks so much about relationships that I thought you know I really need two separate ones because relationships and obsessing about what to do it’s slightly different than, let’s say, ruminating or obsessing in your daily life about being able to make a decision about something a job, a friendship, maybe something that happened in the past that you’re obsessing about. So they have some common elements. But I got to the end of that episode and decided I really need to do two separate ones. So here you go.

If you clicked on this episode to listen to, or you’re on the website reading the transcript, either way, we call it analysis paralysis, meaning you think and you think and you think and you feel like you can’t make a decision. Now I will say I had it a good 10 years in my life where this was me, it was extremely difficult for me to make any kind of decision, not just about the marriage that I was in, about what to buy at the grocery store, about buying a shirt, about whether to go somewhere. like it’s pretty miserable.

So I have just ultimate sympathy and empathy for people who come into my office who are just stuck. They feel stuck about making a decision and at the base of it is a couple of things we’re going to talk about those.

Often at the base of it is fear, fear that you’re going to make the wrong decision, that you won’t get it right. Sometimes perfectionism is running the show. If I don’t make this perfect decision, then it’s going to be a disaster, okay, like it’s going to impact everything. My Life will be awful. I’m going to ruin the life of my kids. That one’s for the relationship episode.

But you know you could be saying, okay, what school do I send them to? That’s one, for that applies to kids.

And it’s this feeling of what if I make the wrong decision about this. Sometimes with kids it’s this feeling of I’m going to deprive them of something if I make the wrong decision, like if I put them in dance and not piano, then that’s somehow going to deprive them of you know, world-class concert pianist career someday. I’m laughing, but it’s like these are the kinds of decisions that sometimes run around a parent’s head and then it becomes very difficult to act on them.

Now we do know from research that ruminators and obsessers remember the past negatively, so they will recall events with a negative bent on it and not recall the positive things that happened as well. So you can imagine how this impacts someone if you’re remembering the negative. If you’re remembering the past in an awful way, then sometimes there’s no trust in yourself, in friends and family, in the universe, in a higher power, that things are going to turn out positively in the future, regardless of what decision you make. So sometimes people get stuck there thinking it’s all just going to be awful, so I’m just going to sit tight and make zero decision. But it doesn’t solve it for them.

The thoughts still go around in their head about what do I do.

They’ll say

What’s wrong with me?

Why can I ever do this?

What if I fail?

Why is this happening to me? Is a common question that I hear.

What if I never get better?

Or like, why me? Why is this happening to me?

All of these questions don’t really accept the present of okay, this is happening. I do need to make a decision. I can take action to get better. There’s nothing wrong with you.

I have a money mentor, Joan Sotkin, who I love. You can look up her podcast. She’s been podcasting forever. She will say there’s nothing wrong with you. She actually criticizes therapists because she thinks therapists will say or believe that there’s something wrong that they need to fix, and her perspective is there’s nothing wrong with you. You have habits that you’ve developed in early childhood, most likely along the way, that just need adjusting. That’s all we can develop a new habit for our brain. I’m with her on this.

I think we are born, um, really wonderful, although I do believe we have some karma going on. Okay, some people are not as wonderful as others, for sure, but that’s their own karma. Okay, but it’s like you can’t look at a baby and be like, oh, that’s an evil person. Doesn’t happen. No, babies are wonderful and innocent and good and all of this stuff. Um, you know, anyway, we’re not going to get into nurture nature um argument right here, but I do believe that people are basically born good, until they prove me otherwise.

Now, from a CBT perspective, cognitive behavioral therapy we have a thinking error that we talk about called catastrophizing. This is really a style that some people have and we all do this to some degree to be able to plan. Like we say, anxiety is the price tag for planning. Okay, actually I didn’t say that.

Dr Yapko, who’s a very well-known hypnotherapist, psychologist, hypnotherapist psychologist he said that anxiety is the price tag for planning. We all have some anxiety. I took his professional education workshop on rumination and obsessing and how to help clients move out of that, which is part of the reason I’m doing this episode. I’ve worked with this in my practice for a very long time. I’m always looking for new ways to help people. So I took his workshop in like late 2023. Very informative. So some of this information is from him. Some of this is personal and professional experience, but anyway he is the one that said anxiety is a price tag for planning.

We all have it. We all have the what ifs. That’s not the problem. The problem is when it becomes unpleasant and unmanageable. The problem becomes when we can’t actually make a decision because we’re too scared of the what-ifs, and part of the task here is to move to a place and a belief in yourself that you will manage whatever happens.

There’s a book that I read last year life-changing, called Path Through the Jungle, and that author also talks about this. That often we have these beliefs running that we can’t handle things, that we won’t be able to manage, that disastrous results are going to happen and then we’ll be miserable. Sometimes it’s a fear of moving into depression or even a greater state of anxiety, although if you’re running around a question in your head and you can’t seem to resolve it, that’s a pretty high state of anxiety, depending on what level it’s at, how big the decision is. But sometimes the fears all get even more anxious. Or I’ll have to blame myself Like I’m the problem here because I made this decision and it led to this, this and this, and now my life is effed right Like that’s the thought process that happens.

So the task here becomes replacing those old beliefs with I will be able to manage. I do have help. If you don’t, I can seek help. I mean, people can seek help all kinds of ways these days, for free. There’s all kinds of forums you can join and ask questions Facebook, reddit. I’m trying to remember the one my kids use Discord when you can really talk to people who are going through things and get some help.

So that’s a more workable belief to have. It’s okay to ask for help. I do get help when I ask for it and people are helpful. So sometimes, when we look at the root belief, it’s not okay to ask for help. That’s what’s keeping someone stuck in that obsessing, anxious process. So when we’re looking at changing those beliefs, it’s like practicing that as a thought habit.

Journaling is not recommended for people who tend to obsess and ruminate. Not recommended, you’re hearing it here from a therapist. Journaling is like ruminating on paper. For some people it doesn’t solve anything. It sometimes makes it worse for them. So stop the journaling. If you’re doing a lot of that and thinking, why aren’t I working through this, why isn’t this working, why aren’t I making a decision? Alternative to journaling is actually making a success list or keeping a victory journal, we call it. This is where you write down good things that have happened to your decisions in your life.

I’ve kept one since my 20s. Just intuitively I did this, just kept a small list of synchronicities, let’s say, that happened or things that turned out really well for me when I was in graduate school. You know, I had no money as a grad student. And there is this neighborhood down by the beach in Hollywood, florida. This is like the Fort Lauderdale area, which is just north of Miami, so South Florida, and these houses are gorgeous, gorgeous. They’re so pretty and much larger than even the house that I grew up in, the neighborhood that I grew up in. But I would drive to the beach and dream about living in that neighborhood someday. Like how wonderful would it be to live that close to the beach and in one of those beautiful houses. So I graduate, so I move away from Florida to do my internship over to Oregon. I move back to South Florida with my boyfriend at the time, who I eventually married and became the father of my children.

We lived in several different places. We eventually bought a house and then when we got divorced, I lived in that house for about a year to keep a stable home for the kids and then I really wanted to sell that house and move out of it. I really hated that house. It was never really a good fit for me. It was okay. But even my friends would walk in and remark, like this house doesn’t seem like you. But it was like all right, this is the house we could afford at the time and that we picked. So that’s what we did.

So we’re selling the house and I’m trying to find a place to live. The house sells in like three days. Okay, this was not expected. I am freaking out. I know I have to move in about a month. Okay, say, a contract was written in about three days. We had about 30 days to closing on that house. So I am like, oh my god, I’ve got to find someplace to live in 30 days.

And I was looking and looking I couldn’t find anything. I was crying all the time. Okay, I was thinking, okay, worst case scenario, which always helps me, by the way. I run the worst case scenario. Some people like the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is often what will help my anxious thoughts stop. I’m running the worst case scenario, which is we will have to put everything in storage and live in like one of those extended hotel stays, little suites thing. That was my worst case scenario.

And I was using a real estate agent to try to help me find a place to rent. I didn’t want to buy right then I wanted to rent someplace and I remember crying and saying I just want to find a place on my own. So I’m looking on Craigslist the next day and I find this, this house, and we go and visit it and the landlord is so nice and he sees me with two little girls and he said I lived in that house across the street and I raised my kids there and he came down on his price because he saw a single mom with two little girls with excellent credit and he knew I would take care of the place. And I said that like I will take a very good care of the place. And um, and I got the house.

Okay, this happened sort of overnight and I had come into that house through the like back way and I am driving out to go home and I realize, oh my god, this house is in the neighborhood that I always dreamed about living in like it’s not right on the main part of it, but it’s a little bit back, but it’s in the neighborhood. And I was like, oh my god, oh my god, this is the North Lakes in Hollywood for any of you who are local and listening to this, that was my dream neighborhood. And so I went and I immediately wrote that down in my journal that I kept. At that point. It was just a little list, it wasn’t a journal but I kept it like in an old planner that I never threw out, a paper planner. So I went and wrote it down.

The other thing that happened with that is I was doing some vision journaling, like I don’t know, a year before something, and I had said I want to live in a house with a wall full full of doors. And when I walked into that house that I was about to rent, it was a wall full of glass French doors. And again I thought this is it, but I didn’t remember that exactly at the time. And later when I looked back at the vision journal, I was like oh my god, I had written this a year before. So that was another thing that I wrote down on my little success list. Now why am I telling you this? Because when you keep a success list over time, you develop a sense of things that work out for you. You can look at it, it’s concrete, you can pull it out.

About a year ago I actually started a victory journal quote, unquote. So I picked a special journal just for this where I began to list all the things that have worked out for me, all the good things that I’ve done. I’ve built a business and ran it for 16 years and then sold it. Very unusual Most businesses fail within two years. I started another business.

I had two other businesses in my 20s that were successful, smaller, not at the level of my yoga business. I didn’t sell those. I was doing a lot of copywriting sales copy, marketing copy on the web and I got pregnant and I would get so nauseous in front of the computer. It was just intolerable. I couldn’t be on the computer so I had to sort of close down that business for a while and then, after I had the baby, it was like, eh, I didn’t really get back to it. But anyway, I wrote down and I do write down, uh, small accomplishments, sometimes larger accomplishments if those occur to me, but definitely small accomplishments so that I can look back and think okay, things are going to work out. I do make good decisions. Not everything is exactly how I thought it would be, but they do tend to work out for me.

So that can be something you can do to combat that tendency to remember things negatively. So that’s something you can do to combat that tendency to remember things in a negative way. You actually look back and read it like those are your words that are saying, okay, these are the good things that happened along the way.

Another thing that can help is a sense of spirituality. So during those 10 years I was an atheist. I was an atheist for about 20 years and then I went into 12 step but, as you’ve heard before, never been addicted to alcohol or drugs. But I’ve Overeaters Anonymous, I’ve done Under-Earners Anonymous, I’ve done Al-Anon, which is for friends and family of an alcoholic or someone with an addiction in your life. So I’ve done several 12-step programs and that gave me a sense of spirituality along the way, a sense of there’s something larger than me. I have a spiritual path. I have a purpose here. I can get clues and communicate with my spiritual guides. They exist. That’s a big far cry from an atheist thinking that spiritual guides actually exist and are there to help you. Sometimes what helps me is knowing I chose this path. This is a path I chose. We have free will. But I also believe that we choose people to interact with significant figures in our life. We choose some things that are going to happen to us, so that’s a comfort to me. I chose this one, so I’m going to get through it. This has to be somehow for my own spiritual growth.

Another solution here is to practice a skill we’re going to say of discrimination, the skill of discrimination. This is figuring out what’s important and what’s sort of useless. Sometimes what will happen with ruminators and obsessors is they’ll obsess about something that’s really not important, or they’ll ask questions that can’t be answered. It’s like nobody could answer that question. No one can assure you 100% that this is going to be okay and work out to your favor. Sometimes that’s impossible, but they’ll start to obsess about that instead of radically accepting there’s no answer here. So, if there’s no answer here, what would be a better question?

Dr Yapko, who I talked about before, has a whole book on good questions to ask. It’s written for therapists, called the Discrimincriminating Therapist, but anybody can buy it and read it. And I’m going to give you an example of some of the questions Because, believe me, I went out and got this book. It’s helpful. I’m pulling up my book notes here. So let’s take an example of this.

How do you decide whether a path is better or worse for you? So it’s adding a how Instead of saying is this. Well, how do I decide what’s good and what’s bad for me? How do I decide what I like and what I don’t like?

Let’s take a very easy example of buying a dress or buying a piece of clothing a dress or buying a piece of clothing, so this is I don’t know years ago, hanging out with my mom friends and we’re talking about how hard it is for one of us to pick a dress or something like that and another one pipes up and says well, I just I pick the one that makes me feel beautiful. You could substitute any word in there Sexy, comfortable, attractive, cute, whatever you’re going for, whatever look you’re going for, but this had never occurred to me before, that you choose the one that makes you feel good, that makes you feel a certain way.

In the house I grew up, you choose clothes to look a certain way for other people. I grew up in a very religious household. There were no low shirts. Believe me, easter dresses, um, itched like crazy since I have clothes sensitivity stuff and were a certain color and had puffy sleeves and um, and were a certain material and were presentable and often they matched my sisters. They had to look a certain way. Whether I really liked being in that dress or not was irrelevant. I don’t even remember being asked. I think I probably was asked about the color. Maybe I was asked about a pattern at some point.

I remember as a teenager I got to pick more of my own clothes, let’s say, but this was not something that was taught to us very young. It was more like you’ve got to look a certain way. Now there are some professions that you do have to look a certain way.

So that’s an example of oh, how do you know which dress or which shirt to buy? Well, I choose the one that I feel good in. Okay, very different than I have no idea. So when we start to add hows to the beginning of sentences, it really changes the thought process. It changes the thought process. It changes the thought process around it. Sometimes the task is to see that you have more control than you think you do.

So I do work with chronic pain sometimes or chronic conditions sometimes, and often people feel helpless to affect that. I’ve felt that way sometimes about my eyes. You know I had eye surgery in March 2024. I’m recording this in April. No, I had eye surgery in February of 2024. I’m recording this in April and I went to the eye doctor for my regular checkup and one of my eyes had developed macular pucker which makes things look wavy and affects your vision, and it was a sense of helplessness like, oh, I did nothing to create this and now I’m going to have to deal with it.

I had to make a decision Do I have eye surgery or not, or do I put that off? Some people never have eye surgery and it stays the same. Some people can get worse. But what I do is I research stuff. So I found actually the sooner you have eye surgery, the better chance of a good result. So once I found that, I ran it by a friend or two and then I went ahead and scheduled the surgery. Someone asked me later did you get a second opinion? And I said no, I went with a doctor, that I went with the surgeon, the retinal specialist that my ophthalmologist recommended.

Now I know myself, if I had sat tight and thought I’m going to get a another opinion, I’m not going to do the surgery, I’m going to wait and wait and wait, see if this gets worse. I would have also worried a lot, a lot. So for me, I knew part of my decision was based on what’s going to decrease my worry over time versus increase it over time. That’s going to decrease my anxiety over time versus increase my anxiety over time. It’s an important question that you can also ask yourself what’s going to help me worry less or what’s going to lead to me worrying more?

Now, as I’m reading through some of the notes on the book I was talking about, I realized that quote anxiety is a price tag for planning is actually by David Barlow, psychologist and anxiety expert. Okay, so just want to correct that right here, because I said it before it was Dr Yapko, it’s not, it’s David Barlow.

Anyway, the real task here is to move into action when you find yourself ruminating or obsessing, versus problem solving. So sometimes people think, if I think about this long enough, I’ll find the answer, and that’s not problem solving, that’s not moving into action. And what I encourage people to do is let’s just do an action list. If you did make this decision, or if you made this decision, how would the actions differ? What would be different in your life? If you flash forward a week from now or a month from now or years from now and we look at it in a positive way what would be different in your life on this path and on this path, and that’s harder for some people than others, but it is one way out of feeling like you’re just obsessing and not getting anywhere.

This is a tip, not just for obsessing and ruminating, but anxiety in general is to take one small action, or to what we call, in hypnosis, break state. Break state is instead of being exactly where you are doing what you’re doing, you get up and you do something else, or you think about something else. So you take a brief walk, you take the dog for a walk. You say is this useful, useful? Is this thought useful to me? If it’s not, you choose something else to think about. Perhaps you choose to read a book, or go in your, or go do a project, or go and tinker with a car or or go in your wood shop or your quilting little art studio. Whatever you do, go on social media. Sometimes that’s helpful. You’re just breaking state. Watch a show, have a snack, like all different ways to say. All right, I’m going to stop thinking about this for a while and just give myself a break.

Usually, obsessors, ruminators, are very hard on yourself. Usually, when you’re obsessing and ruminating. You’re being very difficult on yourself. You’re not really having the sense of trust in yourself that you’re going to make a decision that you can handle in the future. All right, we’re running up here over 30 minutes or so probably be under by the time I edit it. But I’m going to stop here.

I hope that this was helpful for you. I hope that this was helpful for you and check out the other episode that goes with it, the Twinsie episode, All right, I am wrapping up here. I hope you are healthy and safe and that this episode helps you make some good decisions in your life that you feel good about Peace.

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