Surviving Affairs and
When Images are an Obsession
In some cases people
become completely consumed with thoughts about the affair.
This is a little different than the negative thinking we
have explored up to this point, although it is related.
Obsessive thinking is
marked by an ongoing stream of negative thoughts that carry
on even when you are trying not to have them. These thoughts
seem to have a life of their own. When people are bound up
in obsessive thinking after an affair, they are only able to
put thoughts or images of the affair out their head for a
short time. In some instances, they are unable to put these
thoughts or images out of their mind at all. In this case, I
am not using the term ďobsessive thinkingĒ in a clinical
sense. That would denote someone whose thinking is so
unmanageable that the person would be diagnosed with an
obsessive or compulsive disorder. In this case, I am using
the term the way a layman might.
If you are obsessively
preoccupied with an abstract thought, I recommend that you
put the 3-step program for overcoming negative thinking that
you just learned to work for you. You have to focus on
continually keeping records of your thoughts, challenging
the believability of them and replacing them with
In the case of
obsessive thinking, you must engage in this process more
rigorously than with other kinds of negative thinking. Each
time you have a negative thought, counter it as much as you
can. Each time it creeps into your mind, replace it with a
self-affirmation. In this way, over time, you are likely to
reduce the impact it has on your life and eventually
eliminate it altogether.
If you are plagued with
visual images of the affair, such as disturbing movies or
slide shows that run in your mind, then you are dealing with
a slightly different monster. As human beings, we often run
movies or slide shows in our minds to bring back a pleasant
memory or to anticipate a future event. Here, I am referring
to those disturbing images that are specifically related to
the affair or its aftermath. This horror show also can be
overcome, but it requires a different exercise than the one
we just did.
It is important to note
that these kinds of obsessions are not uncommon for people
who go through an experience like what you are going
through. After all, you are traumatized by an experience you
never expected to happen.
In many cases, the
injured person in an affair will imagine aspects of the
affair and then play these images over and over in their
heads until they tend to harden into a rigid pattern. The
same images occur again and again the same way, without end.
The problem with
consistent, incessant negative fantasies of this nature is
that on an emotional level they operate as if they are real.
You respond to them emotionally, the same way you would if
it were actually happening.
You know that they
arenít real; you might even try to talk yourself out of
responding to them. Nonetheless, they remain, continuing to
haunt you and causing you serious psychological distress.
Even in the event that
they do reflect some form of reality (for example if your
partner has told you the details of the affair and you
personally know the paramour), these images are still
creations of your mind and, hence, not actually real. Images
of this nature should be treated the same way you treat
images that are completely fictional: simply as images.
If you want to be free
from the distress these images are causing you, the first
thing you need to do is to be sure that you are ready to
give up your haunting fantasies. It may sound ridiculous to
say, but one of the reasons that you likely havenít given up
these fantasies already is because they justify your pain in
some way. You hold on to them because they show you that you
are right to feel as hurt as you do.
You must be willing to
let go of these obsessions, and allow yourself to feel your
feelings. Holding on to negative thinking as a means to
justify your pain isnít very valuable. Your pain is
justified by itself. Clinging to negative thinking only
serves to keep you in pain.
Once you check in with
yourself to make sure you are ready to give up the fantasy,
use the following visualization techniques to help unlock
the rigid pattern that the fantasy has developed and
overcome the pain it is causing you.
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Dr. Frank Gunzburg is a licensed counselor in
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is also the author of How to Survive an Affair, a
step-by-step healing system that can help a couple
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shattered from an affair.
If your relationship has been damaged by an affair
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This article was used by permission from
How to Survive An Affair:
The Seven Emotional Trials the Cheater Will Face