photo by: Ian Dooley
by Andrea M. Darcy
Wondering how to stop thinking about someone? And why it is that you can’t stop thinking about them when they broke your heart, or made you crazy?
Why can’t I stop thinking about him or her?
Hard cold reality — you were in an unhealthy relating situation and the end result of that is never a good feeling. It’s feeling broken and obsessed.
How is that possible? Sadly, we live in a society that encourages unhealthy approaches around relating. Social media, films and television present us with an endless parade of addictive behaviours that are sold to us as ‘love’, and codependent entanglements that are called ‘friendship‘.
These false ideas won’t have too much of an influence on us if we grew up learning healthy relating from the adults around us and had a safe, secure childhood. We’ll simply know better. But what about the rest of us?
Why are my relating skills not working?
Before you can understand how to stop thinking about someone, you need to get clear on how you got into this situation. Why would you be attracted into unhealthy romances and friendships? Only to be left unable to move on? See if any (or all) of the following resonate.
1. You never learned what healthy relationships are.
‘Modelling’ refers to the way children learn behaviours from what they see around them. Examples of poor modelling would be parents or a parent who:
- always fought than made up, teaching you love is intense and wild
- or were dishonest, with one endlessly obsessed on where the other was, teaching you love is anxiety and overthinking
- had endless short and intense relationships that left them broken and obsessed afterwards, teaching you that love is obsession.
2. You have attachment issues.
Of course most of us, as we grow up, question any behaviours we learned from our parents, and start to learn our own.
What doesn’t change as easily, however, is the belief about love we learned from our primary caregiver.
If you were only loved if you were ‘good’? Or had a moody, unstable parent or guardian, who only loved you when they felt like it? Or not at all?
Then you are likely to grow up into an adult with what are called ‘attachment issues’.
If you are unable to stop thinking about someone, you most likely have ‘anxious attachment’. You might push and pull in relationships to get a break from the anxiety they cause you. But if the other person leaves, you panic.
3. You are a love and relationship addict.
A research overview on addictions drawing on data from 83 studies found that love addiction was thought to affect up to 26% of the adult population.
When it comes to how to stop thinking about someone, you might have to face up to whether or not you are addicted. As yourself:
- When things were good with the person you can’t stop thinking about, did you feel so great it was like you were ‘high’?
- And when you fell out or fought did you feel so low you could hardly leave the house?
- Or do your thoughts about this person tend to sabotage the rest of your life ? Affect your work or school performance, leave you so distracted you forget important things, affect your sleep and eating, even?
Then you might have a problem with one of the different forms of relationship addiction. This can look like love addiction, romance addiction, or even just straight up people addiction.
4. You lived through childhood trauma.
Trauma in our childhood, like sexual abuse, destroys our sense of self. As an adult we can have such low self-esteem, we latch on to others as a way to feel we have value, and become addicted to their attention.
Or we have what is called ‘trauma bonding’. We are so used to being a victim it forms our identity. We unconsciously seek out the highly destructive relationships that are our comfort zone, and become deeply addicted to them, even as they destroy us.
5. You have borderline personality disorder.
More accurately called ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder’, it means that you deeply fear rejection.
The tailspin that feeling abandoned sends you into can include pushing away the other person, then obsessing on doing whatever you can to manipulate them to come back.
How to stop thinking about someone
So then now what? How can you regain your headspace?
1. Recognise that thoughts are thoughts, not reality.
If you were a recovering drug addict, you would quickly question any thought about how great the drugs were, and how you should go back to that lifestyle.
When it’s a person we can try to convince ourselves it’s different. It’s not. You need to question each and every thought you have about them.
Your obsessive thoughts about the other person will often be false, romanticising what happened, or giving you dishonest beliefs like you ‘can’t live without them’. You can, and you will.
2. Don’t give the thoughts energy.
Yes, that means stop talking about it with everyone and anyone who will listen. Endless talking just feeds the addiction as you gain attention for playing the victim.
And stop hanging around with people who profit from the fact that you are addicted to someone. Perhaps they are a person addict too. Or they take energy from seemingly ‘helping’ others.
TRY THIS: Journal with intention, such as writing out all your thoughts without editing yourself, and then ripping the pages up after. Or find a private place, set a timer for five minutes, and make yourself talk about the other person to the end of the timer. If you are brave, record yourself, then play it back and have a listen.
Or talk to a therapist. A therapist doesn’t leave you to fall into a black hole of negative stories. They are highly trained at asking just the right questions to help you see new perspectives you have missed and find your way forward.
3. But do give the feelings attention.
Often we have obsessive thoughts as we are numbing out our emotions of anger, rage, and grief. If we actually work with our feelings instead, the crazy thoughts can pass.
TRY THIS: The next time you find yourself obsessing on the other person, find a quiet place, sit still, and close your eyes, applying mindfulness to the situation. What is it you are actually feeling at this moment? Is it rejection? Loneliness? Rage? Just sit with that feeling, quietly, not judging or examining. What does it feel like? Is it hot, cold, heavy, dizzy? Where is it in your body? Let it mutate into other emotions if it wants to, like sadness.
4. How to stop thinking about someone? Practice replacement.
Baking, exercising, a new job… the point here is to find a healthy replacement, and to throw yourself into it.
TRY THIS: Find one of the dreams and goals you let fall by the wayside when the other person came along. Sit down and break down al the steps reaching that goal will require. Use the SMART model. Then schedule into your diary all the first steps and get going.
5. Seek therapy for relationship addiction.
Clinical hypnotherapy helps breaks the hold the other person has on your mind.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you recognise and question your thoughts, replacing them with balanced thinking instead. This can stop obsession in its tracks.
Compassion-focused therapy can help you build your self-esteem and release your anger.
Trauma therapies are advisable if you lived through difficult experiences (other forms of therapy can sometimes backfire with trauma survivors). And if think you have borderline personality disorder, then it’s important you try a therapy that is created to help BPD.
Ready to stop thinking about him or her and start putting your wellbeing first? We connect you with a highly rated team of London therapists and mental health professionals. Or use our booking site to find an affordable UK therapist for an online appointment now.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer who often writes about relationships. She wasn’t taught healthy relating growing up but made it her mission to learn it herself! Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy.