Existential Psychology

Positive Side Of Obsession

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The word obsession has mostly negative connotations. We picture a crazy stalker, a workaholic, ritualistic hand washing, or a barrage of unwanted thoughts that won’t go away.

But there’s a positive side of obsession too. Dedicating all your attention and energy to a discipline is the only way to achieve mastery over it, and this sort of single minded determination towards an object of interest isn’t bad at all and in fact is desirable. It’s the pathology of normalcy, the irresistible temptation to mark all behaviors deviating from the average as dysfunctional, that makes many see an orientation absolutely vital for self-actualization as no different from an unhealthy obsession.

The real difference is whether you’re drawn forward by what you love or driven by what you fear. In the first you’re a willing agent who feels that pull from Eros and makes the choice with all of your being to heed the call. In the second your obsession is an intruder who takes up residence in your psychic space with or without your say so. We could say that in this case your obsession wills you.

If you don’t give everything you have to a discipline you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s crazy that authority figures often try to dampen others’ enthusiasm and dedication, labeling this behavior as unhealthy. People don’t achieve true mastery by being kind of into what they’re doing, they achieve it by being fully on board in every sense of the word, by placing their endeavor at the center of their lives.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether your obsession represents a road you know you need to travel to become who and what you are or if it represents a dead end that’s keeping you from becoming who and what you are. The first is joyful and the second is joyless. The sense of joy is your best barometer for determining if your obsession is moving you forward or holding you back.