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How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

How to Stop Obsessing About Your Ex’s New Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Until now you’ve been handling your divorce or break-up process well. You’ve gone through the confusion of whether to stay or go, and all the angst and hard decisions that come with leaving. But you’ve been coping.

Then you found out that your Ex is sleeping with someone new.

Now, waves of rage, pain, self-doubt, and resentment are crashing over you. “Coping” has been overwhelmed by a storm of emotion. It feels like your blood has been replaced with Arctic seawater: Frozen and stinging at the same time.

What’s worse? It. Is. All. You. Can. Think. About.

Are they on the motorcycle right now? He’s probably taking her to that restaurant I always wanted to go to that he said was too expensive. Are they holding hands right now? I bet they’re kissing. Maybe they are having sex right this very second. They probably skipped the motorcycle ride and decided to spend the day in bed. We used to do that…

In your mind’s eye you play out scenes from your life together. Except your role is being played by someone who might be sexier, more fun or more interesting. You see your Ex — the happy, sweet, fun one you first fell in love with — sharing the best parts of themselves (and hiding the rest).

It’s worse at night, when there are no distractions. The joy and passion you envision for them is made all the more cruel by the stark contrast to your own silent bed. You lay sleepless, writhing in agony at the injustice. You want to stop thinking about it but you can’t. You feel trapped… in your own head.

Believe it or not, the part of your brain that sees things in your mind’s eye cannot differentiate between something that you’re thinking about and something that is actually happening. So when you’re imagining your Ex and their new sex partner making out on the couch, you react to it emotionally (and physically) like you were seeing it happen right in front of you: Your heart starts racing, you feel nauseous, and you are filled with pain and rage.

Being victimized by these intrusive images is incredibly traumatizing. Ruminating does not bring any value to your healing process. Instead, it keeps you from moving forward.

In order to rescue yourself from the impotent madness of this obsession, you must learn and practice three new skills very deliberately, every day, until you’re in the clear: Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, and Shifting.

1. Self Awareness

Self Awareness is the ability to think about what you’re thinking about, and the fact that you are having an internal experience—not an actual experience. It sounds simple, but it’s very easy to get swept away in our thoughts without even noticing what’s happening.

The practice:

As soon as you become aware that you are thinking about your Ex, say, (out loud, if necessary) “I am thinking about something that is not happening right now.”

2. Mindfulness

Recognize that your vivid thoughts are activating all these scary, painful feelings, but in reality nothing bad is actually happening to you right now. You are sitting at a table, eating a bowl of cereal. You are breathing. Anchoring yourself to the reality of the present moment by using your senses creates a protective barrier between you and intrusive thoughts.

The practice:

Look: Notice what your phone / tablet / laptop looks like right now. Notice the colors, shapes, things you can see in the room around you.

Hear: What are you aware of hearing, right now? Yammering in a coffee shop. Music through your headphones. The hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

Feel: The chair under your butt. Your feet on the floor. The breath in your nostrils. The aching feeling of heartbreak in your core. Emotions are really just physical sensations. That’s why they are called feelings. Notice how your body feels, in the present moment, without judgment.

3. Shifting

You’ve broken the obsession, and are in the safe space of reality. The third step to stop intrusive thoughts about your Ex is to intentionally shift your attention to something positive or pleasurable.

For example, you can shift to thinking about going to lunch with a friend this afternoon, or weekend plans. If shifting mentally is too hard you can also shift your attention to something that is happening in the present moment: Watching a movie, listening to music, or petting your dog.

Shifting is important because the thoughts we habitually think about get stronger. When you practice shifting, the intrusive thoughts about your Ex will get weaker.

Putting It All Together

You get stabbed in the brain with the image of your Ex having hot sex with the new person.

  1. Become aware that you are having a thought about something that isn’t happening right now.
  2. Shift your attention to physical reality: The color of the table, the taste of your tea, your heart pounding in your chest.
  3. Then, very deliberately, think about going skiing with your friend this weekend.
  4. Repeat as needed. (And plan on doing this many times a day, at first.)

Shifting your awareness or distracting yourself does not mean that you are avoiding or stuffing your feelings. “Obsessing” is not the same thing as “Processing.” It’s mentally picking at a scab that you are not allowing to heal. You have to get unstuck from the obsession phase in order for healthy new growth to occur.

I hope that these techniques are helpful to you. I’d like to hear your thoughts about them. If you have other practices that you’ve used successfully, please share your strategies in the comments so that others who may be hurting can benefit from your wisdom.

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Feeling Judged?

Feeling Judged?

Feeling Judged?

Don’t Let Mutual Intolerance Ruin Your Holidays

Feeling judged is difficult at any time, but as we lead up to the holidays, I begin to hear from many therapy and life coaching clients that feeling judged or criticized during family gatherings creates a ton of anxiety. I commonly hear that people feel judged by their in-laws, and also that they feel a great deal of frustration that their own boundaries will be tested. Many of my clients express anxiety and frustration that their in-laws and parents don’t respect their boundaries as parents, disregard their values, and also do intrusive and annoying things during their time together. 

Listen, it’s true: Most of the time we all get to live in our little bubbles. We spend time with our like-minded friends, and we get to control much of what we let into our personal spheres. But during the holidays, we pony up to spend time with people that we may not have much in common with other than the fact of our being related. And it’s stressful.

When we’re in close contact for prolonged periods of time with people who are very different from us, judgment disapproval can easily creep in — often to the point where it disrupts our ability to stay in the present and have a good time. We get upset with them for judging us, and then they get upset because we’re upset (or hold our boundaries and refuse to accommodate their preferences) and before you know it it turns into an ugly conflict instead of the happy holiday gathering you all want. 

So, what to do? How do you spend time with family who may have values at odds with yours, deal with judgment and frustration, and manage to have a good time anyway? 

How to Stop Feeling Judged

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m diving deeply into this topic, in order to help you find strategies to stop feeling judged (while you’re staying true to yourself and your values). 

To this end, I’m tackling a listener question. Miss S wrote in with this:

“I recently found your podcast and I am enjoying it very much. I do have a request for a topic that may be helpful to others especially as we near the holiday season. I could use help in dealing with family members who are socially awkward and/or difficult to be around.

During the holidays, my mother and mother-in-law give us a run for our money!

We are exposed to guilt trip galore like accusing us of not spending enough time with them (ie unable to accept that we are adults and have our own lives and have set boundaries), the “inconvenience” of “having” to come to our house for the holiday dinner, not having overnight accommodations that are comfortable, not eating the requested desserts that they bring  & etc.

They are also obsessed with the past as in constantly bringing up family members who have passed away in such a way that it is awkward and not relevant to the conversation.

Despite our requests to not do this, my mother-in-law always calls her other son , who lives out of state, and puts him on speaker during the meal. It is really disruptive, awkward and unnecessary as we all speak to him on our own. Also, she doesn’t see us much so it would be nice for her to enjoy her time with us and call him when she goes home.

Also, my mother-in-law doesn’t like me anymore. I think she blames me for her son not spending as much time with her or his other family members. This is not true , of course, but it’s still off-putting when I can feel her disdain even though I know it’s her stuff, not mine.

I know that I will not be able to change their behaviors but perhaps I can learn to be less annoyed and regain enjoying my holidays. This is so much easier said than done so I am hoping that you may be able to illuminate a path for me.

Thank you for sharing you talent and expertise via your podcast. I have found it very helpful and have shared it with friends and family members, too.”

Listen and hear what I share with Miss S including:

  • Why it’s so important to get clear about your values before heading into emotionally fraught situations with family and inlaws
  • How to decide where to be flexible and where to hold firm in your interactions with others
  • How to let go of your need for approval from others
  • What to prioritize in order to help yourself make decisions and be less reactive
  • The secret strategy to help yourself be okay… even when others are not

 

Becoming Self Aware of Our Own Judgments

The flip side of feeling judged is often an opportunity for US to grow and become more self aware and compassionate. For example, I sometimes encounter people who are feeling very frustrated and judgmental for other people for… wait for it… being so judgmental!

Part of the key skill in learning how to manage feeling judged by others is understanding how we respond when our own values and preferences are not being honored. On this episode of the podcast I also discuss some of the ways that we can become more self-aware of our own judgment and use it to:

All this, and more, on this episode of the podcast.

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dealing With Judgment

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Balanced, Healthy Emotions: Learn to Ride the Wave

BECOMING EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY: Feelings. They happen to everyone, all the time. And yet, we don’t always acknowledge them or talk about our feelings, much less take guidance from our emotions.

Particularly in our culture, individuals and couples on a quest of “Happiness” can come to believe that being happy means being relatively free of dark emotions, like anger, sadness or fear. In fact, the opposite is true: Research shows that the happiest, most emotionally healthy people are actually the ones who are most comfortable with the full range of their emotions.

Emotionally healthy people tend to be both self-accepting and self-aware: They know how they feel, and they have a great deal of tolerance and self-compassion when they’re not feeling so great emotionally. They don’t try to avoid bad feelings, and they also know how to (gently, appropriately) support themselves through challenging times. 

Emotional Health: Finding a Balance

Emotionally healthy people tend to be attuned to their emotions (and those of others). They know how to “lean in” to hard feelings with acceptance and without judgment. However, even though they’re fully connected with their feelings they may not always react or take action from their emotions. A core component of authentic emotional health is knowing which feelings to listen to and which feelings to leave alone.

It can be hard to develop emotional health and learn how to stay in balance between taking wisdom from your emotions, but not always “obeying them. Learning how to tell the difference between helpful and unhelpful feelings, helps you develop self-compassion, self-understanding, and self-control. 

Becoming Emotionally Healthy is a Personal Growth Process

A key aspect of holistic personal growth is learning how to have an authentic, self-aware, and sensitive relationship with your own emotions. This kind of powerful personal growth work often addresses: 

  • The life experiences that shaped your emotional reality and core beliefs
  • Acknowledging any unfinished business with the past
  • Identifying and understanding your unique emotional triggers
  • Figuring out which feelings are guiding you helpfully
  • Using your emotions to connect with your hopes, dreams and values
  • Pinpointing the emotions that are getting in your way
  • Developing self-compassion and acceptance of feelings without judgment
  • Learning how to cope with big, dark emotions in a healthy way
  • Learning how to stay in balance emotionally, no matter what’s going on

It’s a lot! While this type of personal growth work often takes months (if not years) of focused attention in therapy or life coaching, it’s so worth it. Becoming emotionally healthy is a foundational life skill for anyone on the path of self-actualization. 

The Benefits of Cultivating Emotional Health

Learning how to manage your emotions skillfully allows you to have better relationships with others, feel happier, improve your self-esteem, and also create a meaningful, values-based life for yourself. It’s worth talking about, and that’s where we’re going together today on The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

In addition to talking through all of the above, I’m answering some specific listener questions like:

  • “How do I get my emotions under control and stop being so reactive?”
  • “How do I stop allowing my anxiety to get in the way of my relationships?”
  • “How do I feel less numb and ‘blah’ and more engaged with my life?””

All for YOU, on this episode of the podcast. 

See you there!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Resources I mentioned on today’s show include the “Happy Heart” unit of my online Happiness Class, as well as a self-soothing breathing technique I shared on IGTV.

 

PPS: Once again, I recorded this episode LIVE on Instagram so that I could answer some real-time listener questions. If you’d like to join next time, follow me @drlisamariebobby and you’ll see me LIVE in your stories (almost) every Monday at 12pm MT. Hope to see you there! LMB

 

 

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Becoming Emotionally Healthy

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Enjoy This Episode?

Please Rate, Review and Share The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Enjoy This Episode?

Please Rate, Review and Share The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Living in a Beautiful State

Living in a Beautiful State

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Step Out Of Turmoil, and Into Tranquility

Do you ruminate? Think about things that happened in the past? Worry about what could happen in the future? Feel irritated with other people? Or struggle with the anxiety of comparing yourself with others? (Lisa looks left, right, and slowly raises hand). 

We’re all human, and part of the human experience is being in possession of a powerful brain. A brain that thinks thoughts, remembers things, envisions possible outcomes for your future, harbors core beliefs, and passes judgment over all that comes before it. That is what brains do.

Brains are useful: We rely on our brains to plan, create, make decisions, and solve problems, and keep ourselves out of trouble. However, some of the byproducts of all this brain activity can lead to unintended consequences.

Thinking about the future can lead to feelings of anxiety.

Thinking about the past can lead to feelings of regret or shame.

Believing untrue “rules” can lead you to beat yourself up mercilessly when you “fail.”

Passing judgment can close you off to connection with others.

Remembering hurtful things from your past can impact the way you live in the present.

Pros and cons, right?

A Transformational Level of Consciousness is Within Reach

A cornerstone of evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy is developing the ability to gain awareness of what is going on in your own head and learning how to shift it away from unhelpful thought patterns and into better feeling thoughts. Mindfulness skills have been shown to help with everything from your emotional health to your physical health. It’s also known that developing core skills to calm yourself down and shift your mood-state are fundamental to authentic inner health and happiness. We also know from the field of neuroscience that our brains are plastic, in that they change — physiologically — in response to our volitional thought patterns and behaviors. There are decades of science to support this.

But these ideas are not new. The mere decades that CBT, and evidence-based mindfulness practices have been investigated and championed by shrinky-types like me are but a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of years that ancient contemplative, healing, and consciousness-enhancing practices have been around. In fact, much of what we know to work in modern psychology is fundamentally based on very, very old concepts that have their roots in deep, spiritual practices of indigenous peoples around the globe.. (As I write this I can feel the imagined presence of Carl Jung, looking over my shoulder and nodding in agreement).

All this to say: There are many alternatives to being at the mercy of your mercurial mind. Learning how to mindfully and with intention get in control of your inner experience can help you break free from anxiety and worry, rise above stress, attain profound levels of empathy and connection with others, and feel happier and more joyful in the process.

But how? How do we rise above the churning of our minds and our egos, to enter into a state of compassion and connection? Well, my guest on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is Preethaji, a philosopher, mystic, the author of The Four Sacred Secrets and the co-founder of the international school of self-development, the O & O Academy based in India.

Preethaji and her husband and partner Krishnaji have taught thousands of people how to use ancient contemplative practices to expand their consciousness, embrace radical compassion, release attachment to the ego, and enter a state of unity that transcends the exhausting machinations of the mind. She’s joining me to share how you, too can learn how to live your life in a “beautiful state” of healing and growth.

Listen to this episode as Preethaji and I discuss:

  • How to liberate yourself from a state of suffering
  • How to find clarity and purpose within
  • How to intentionally shift into a state of love, peace and calm
  • How to feel more connected to others, to the universe, and to yourself
  • How to transform your most important relationships through love and compassion

We’re digging deep, discussing how to mindfully heal old wounds, release self-limiting old beliefs, and taking responsibility for the way you show up in the world.

As always, we’re also tackling some of YOUR questions. Specifically, on behalf of a couple of listeners I asked Preethaji to speak about how to apply her ideas if:

  1. You’re in a relationship with someone but while YOU are committed to working on yourself, practicing emotional regulation, self awareness, cultivating compassion, and intentionally working to cultivate growth and unconditional love… your partner is not.
  2. What to do if you’re currently feeling trapped in adverse life circumstances in order to feel peace in the present from within even if you’re going through a really hard time.

Mindfulness Tools to Change Your Life

In this episode Preethaji very generously shared some specific techniques for calming down and entering a meditative state. Get access to the full (free!) Soul Sync Meditation at pkconsciousness.com. For even more support in beefing up your meditation skills you’re invited to take their free 7 day training at The Breathing Room. 

I really enjoyed speaking with Preethaji, and I hope you get as much out of listening to this episode as I did in making it for you!

Your fellow traveler,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: In case you want more Preethaji in your life (hey, who doesn’t?) check out her amazing TEDTalk, where she walks you through some of her breathing exercises as well as a classic story to help you cultivate a beautiful state of mindfulness in YOUR life.

 

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Living in a Beautiful State

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

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Do You Know How Awesome You Are?

Hey, let’s try something. Can you name 3 things that you LOVE about yourself? 

You don’t have to grab a piece of paper or pull up your Notes app. Just take a moment, close your eyes, and answer that question for yourself in your mind.

How did it feel to do that?

Now think about how easy it is for you to describe the wonderful things about someone else in your life. Someone you love, admire, or even only know superficially. For many people, it is a little more complicated to do that for themselves

Some people can rattle off a long list of their best qualities and accomplishments. Some can confidently name a few. I was working with a client recently who felt extremely uncomfortable identifying even one. 

When I asked her to do this exercise, she puzzled over it for a while before settling on one. But then came a flood of uncertainty, and she began to doubt whether it was true or not. She tried a few more times but ultimately she gave up on the entire exercise, feeling frustrated and disingenuous. 

This was someone who is highly intelligent, extremely kind, a hard worker, and truly lovely inside and out. She struggled with perfectionism in her work, insecurity in her relationships, and a lot of anxiety. We worked together to tackle those issues, and found that ultimately they all stemmed from her low self-esteem.

Recognize Your Narratives

The narratives we construct about ourselves are informed by our early experiences, our caregivers, our teachers, our friends, the media, and society at large. As we grow up, we are constantly bombarded with messages and belief systems about the world around us, and we quickly learn to internalize them. Recognize that some of the thoughts you have about yourself are part of deeper, more subconscious narratives you hold, and may not actually be the whole truth. 

For example, if you’re in the dating world, you may be experiencing various forms of rejection on a regular basis. A bad date can lead to thoughts like, “I acted like an idiot!”, “I can’t believe I said that, I’m so stupid!”, “I’m ugly!”. It’s important to recognize that thoughts like these are your brain cherry-picking through all the potential thoughts you could have about that situation in order to feed into those constructed narratives that you hold about yourself. In this case, it may be a deeper narrative of “I’m not loveable”.

Reflecting, journaling, and doing growth work through therapy or coaching are some ways to learn to recognize these thought patterns and the deeper narratives you are holding on to. They are usually so ingrained and instinctual that we have to make a real effort to even notice that they are present. 

Learn How to Thought-Stop

Thought-stopping is a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) technique that I teach many of my clients who struggle with anxiety. Once you have done the work of recognizing the untrue or harmful narratives you hold about yourself, the goal is to learn to stop the thoughts that feed them further. 

I like to describe this as a muscle: Just as you need to continually do strength training work to keep your biceps strong, you need to strengthen your thought-stopping muscle in order for it to be effective. 

The basic idea is to bring more awareness to those moments when you have an unhelpful or harmful thought, like “I’m an idiot!”, and quickly perform a stopping exercise. This can be simply saying “Stop!” to yourself, or even a physical action like snapping a rubber band on your wrist. The goal is to develop awareness of the thought patterns, and to stop the tendency of letting harmful thoughts spiral into anxiety or continue to feed that unhelpful narrative. 

I like to think of thought-stopping as a protective measure to keep that harmful self-narrative from cementing further. It’s good practice to develop more awareness of your thought patterns and to feel more in control of your thoughts and anxiety. However, to develop self-esteem, we also have to do some deeper work to challenge these narratives we hold about ourselves.

Challenge, Re-Frame, and Practice Self-Compassion

While thought-stopping is a great practice to have in your toolbox for managing anxiety and spiraling self-criticism, we also want to make a deliberate effort to challenge some of those harmful narratives we hold about ourselves. Taking time and space to really look at what we think about ourselves, where it comes from, and how to re-frame some of those beliefs with more compassion is a vital part of building self-esteem. 

For example, with the dating situation, listing the ways in which you are a desirable partner and truly allowing yourself to look at where you tend to dismiss the positives and highlight the negatives. A supportive therapist or coach can be a helpful person to do this with, because we often find it hard to recognize when we are being unfair on ourselves or engaging in black-and-white thinking.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably someone who is looking to boost their self-esteem and are ready to make some changes in your life. One actionable tip I have for you may be one you’ve heard before: talk to yourself as you would talk to a close friend who is going through something difficult. 

Would you be harsh or overly critical with this friend when they make mistakes? When someone says something rude to them on a date? When someone talks down to them at work? When they are feeling anxious or fearful of tackling a challenge in their life? Just as you are capable of being a kind, compassionate and supportive friend, you are capable of developing your own self-esteem and gaining more success and happiness in so many more areas of your life.

Remember that exercise we started with? Try incorporating it into your life as a 5 minute practice. Maybe in the evening, before you go to bed, as a way to wind down and reflect. Or maybe in a 5 minute break in the middle of your busy day, when you’ve been on the go and have already had a thousand thoughts that you have not yet brought awareness to. Take a few minutes to breathe, check in on your thoughts, reframe anything that you need to, and remind yourself that you are trying your best, and you are worthy. 

Developing self-esteem is not easy. It takes a lot of energy, patience, perseverance, and support to be able to do some of the work I’ve laid out here. But it can be hugely gratifying to be able to live with less self-doubt, less anxiety, more purpose, more confidence, and a stronger sense of how kickass you are!

All the best, 
Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M., M.A.

Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M, M.A., is a warm, validating counselor and coach who can help you uncover your strengths, get clear about who you are, heal your spirit, and attain the highest and best in yourself and your relationships.

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