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How Obsessive Thoughts and Guilty Feelings Feed Exhaustion

Exhaustion TriangleHave you ever wondered how exhaustion becomes so pervasive and infects nearly every aspect of life? Just like the flu bug, it takes over with an unyielding vengeance, putting the most productive people out of commission. There are two main ingredients that constantly fuel exhaustion: obsessive thinking and guilty feelings.

This concept is borrowed from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Thoughts and feelings drive behavior as the triangular diagram above illustrates. Replace the word “behavior” with “exhaustion” and change “thoughts” into “obsessions” and “feelings” into “guilt.” These two components contribute to increased exhaustion.

Obsessive Thinking

Here are ten examples of obsessive thinking:

  1. Replaying the same conversation over and over with no new insight or understanding
  2. Fantasizing “Super You” responses to past experiences that did not meet with satisfaction
  3. Imagining horrible scenarios and negative outcomes
  4. Envisioning anger rants that don’t produce any relief or better perception
  5. Judging the actions of others and condemning them
  6. Retelling the same story excessively, usually with a bit more exaggeration each time
  7. Assuming the worst-possible meaning in a comment, text, note, or gesture
  8. Rationalizing excessive responsibility taken on as a result of someone else’s failure
  9. Dwelling on negative comments and dismissing all positive statements
  10. Deliberating past choices and decisions to the point of driving others crazy

How can a person stop such obsessive thinking?

The first step is to become aware of the thoughts by journaling them as soon as they arise. This time-consuming exercise helps to identify patterns of thinking, subject matter, and potential triggers. The next step is to logically analyze the belief behind each thought. Most faulty beliefs stem from concepts such as only honest people are negative, or if this topic is reviewed one more time some new insight will be achieved. Finally, substitute the obsessive thought with a positive one, and be accountable to someone for the change.

Guilty Feelings

The expression, “I feel guilty all the time,” indicates there is an issue with excessive feelings of shame. There are three main types of guilt:

  • Things done wrong for which we are responsible, such as errors in judgement, mistakes, insensitivities, cruelty, or mischaracterizations
  • Things done wrong for which we wrongly assume responsibility, such as the performance of every team member on a project, actions of a spouse or child, or accidents
  • Things done wrong for which we are not responsible but which impact us, such as abuse or crimes committed against us

How can a person stop feeling guilty? First, it is essential to identify the type of guilt. The first type entails some action such as accepting responsibility and demonstrating appropriate remorse for the situation. The second requires letting go of excessive responsibility which is usually a manifestation of a person who likes to be in control of self and others. The last necessitates a repeated statement such as, “I am not responsible for this abuse.”

Keeping the obsessive thinking and guilty feelings to a minimum will reduce exhaustion. At first, the exercises above may seem meticulous but eventually they become part of a positive inner dialogue that will transform exhaustion into energy.

 

How Obsessive Thoughts and Guilty Feelings Feed Exhaustion

Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

Christine is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor by the State of Florida with over fifteen years of experience in counseling, teaching and ministry.

She works primarily with exhausted women and their families in conflict situations to ensure peaceful resolutions at home and in the workplace. She has blogs, articles, and newsletters designed to assist in meeting your needs.

As author of the award winning book, The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook, Christine is a guest speaker at churches, women’s organizations, and corporations.

You can connect with her at her website Grow with Christine at www.growwithchristine.com.

 


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2017). How Obsessive Thoughts and Guilty Feelings Feed Exhaustion. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2015/12/how-obsessive-thoughts-and-guilty-feelings-fed-exhaustion/