In the middle of the night, a nagging thought can grab hold of my sweet sleep and bring me bolt upright to wakefulness. My first response is to “get on that pony and ride.” “What if this happens?” or “What if I do this?” or “What if I just say it this way?” or “What if I had just done ____”? The “What ifs” accelerate. Before I know it, I’m out of the starting gate and racing into a full blown Obsession Session.
Obsession is massaging and rehashing the same thought over and over again. It initially makes me feel smart. I’m dealing with a perceived problem and using the scientific method to consider all of the outcomes and possibilities. What I’m obsessing about, however, is often out of my control and sometimes not my business—my children, the church, the future, what people think of me. Obsession is about the fear and powerlessness I feel. It is my frantic effort to be in control or at least to not be blind-sided by future surprises.
Obsession, however, mostly makes me crazy. It makes me lose sleep and serenity with nothing to show for it. All I’m left with is a headful of looping movies clips of an endless chase scene on a tortuous road on top of a cliff above the ocean. Nighttime obsessions are the worst. I can’t escape the darkness and I don’t want to wake my husband or call a friend at 2AM for reassurance.
I’m not sure who first said this: “My mind is a dangerous neighborhood and I try not to go there alone,” but it is wisdom I often forget when I enter into an obsessive rant. Well before dawn this morning, a brain typhoon began and my current obsession blew to the surface. At the same time, I heard the warning: “Don’t go into that neighborhood alone.” With no conscious thought I heard myself inviting a friend to go with me: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come”! I recited this Advent acclamation over and over. Jesus had entered the “hood” with me. The obsessive thoughts skittered to the sidelines of the town square as we walked together. They didn’t disappear, but I knew I was no longer alone. A great light shined in that dark neighborhood and I fell back to sleep, less afraid.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2 NRSV)
LOL. So true! Inviting the Light in.
Anne Lamott said the quote from the beginning.
Actually you have paraphrased Anne a couple of times. Isn’t she great!? The “b movie” is also how she explains the negative thoughts that run through our mind.
I didn’t know I had paraphrased Anne. If so, I give her credit for entering my brain and writing. I would not knowingly do that without attribution. I’ve thought of B movies running in my head for a long time. Those old terrible horror movies with puppet-like monsters were labeled as B movies. I know she has used the “neighborhood” quote before, but that one has been around recovery communities for decades. I heard it at least 25 years ago. That’s why I said, ” I’m not sure who first said this.”
Been trying to the find the source of the “neighborhood” quote online. Anne used it in an Salon article in 1997 said a little differently. Maybe she WAS the origin….If so, thank you Anne. Maybe she had been SAYING it earlier because I’m pretty sure I heard it before then. Thanks for your comment, Kathryn