Getting Over An Emotional Obsession: An Email

OK so, it’s taken me a real long time to post this for a couple of reasons. The main reason being that I wanted to make sure that it worked. To give a brief outline, I got an email from someone I didn’t know explaining that she had this year-long uncontrollable love for a guy and wanted my advice to make her feelings go away (tall order, no?) In her case, she was a Muslim, in love with a non-Muslim, BUT faith really isn’t an issue here. The advice I gave (though at times directed specifically to her circumstances) is for ANYONE. It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim/atheist/spiritualist, whatever, nor does it matter what the other person is; the advice is psychological, and concerns thinking patterns. If you’re human, it should work (love-struck dog groans and turns away from computer screen). So fellas can use this too – if a guy had emailed me, the advice would have been the same.

I just have one major thing to mention before we go into the emails. If you are someone who has an uncontrollable love or obsession for someone and no longer want this feeling, in order for the advice here to be effective, you need to WANT to get better and you need to want it BAD. If you’re just reading this out of interest, pass it on to someone else who is sick to their stomach from their ordeal. The girl who messaged me clearly wanted it bad (heck she emailed a stranger). And that’s a major reason why this worked for her. I do have her permission, and have obviously censored the email for the sake of anonymity. Where my advice is specific to her circumstances, just substitute them with your own.

Email from young woman:

“Salaam aleikum,

I have read your tweets and your columns.
I have the following matter.
I have been struggling for a while with this.

I’m a young woman who lives in X. I’m in love with a non-Muslim man and I don’t want to pursue with this because I know its haram. He actually doesn’t have a faith but he is into spiritualism like sufis.

I pray everyday to Allah to release me from this passion and feelings for him but they wont go away. I’ve tried not to contact him but my heart ends up bluffing and I call or text him.

He lives in X so I don’t see him that often. But I love him when I don’t want to, because I know in my life I can never have the halal life I want for myself and my family. As a practicing Muslim that’s my problem but my heart doesn’t want to acknowledge this.

This has been going on for a year and I don’t know who to tell this because I don’t want my surroundings to know…

If you could share some advice I would be grateful.”

Philo_Human REPLY:

“Salam X,

I want you to take these words seriously because I know about these situations and have had plenty of experience. What I will say might sound harsh, but I sympathize with you a lot.

In the same way the body falls sick, the heart and mind can become sick too. You have a disease of the heart. Make no mistake about this. It is a habitualized feeling that you have constructed in your head. There is nothing “special” about this individual or your relationship to him. You may suffer from some kind of addiction to him, and it is like any other addiction – be it to sugar, or alcohol, or sex, or whatever. Know this. It could have been anyone. That it IS him is purely due to the specific circumstances that have led you to this outcome: right place, right time, right background, right words, and hey presto – you’re in “love”. But you’re not in love in any positive way because clearly this situation is bringing you great difficulty.

Know this: You create further “love” in your heart the more you invest in him. By “investing” I mean putting time, effort or money into him. This includes sending him a text, calling, checking his online profile (if he has one) etc. By doing these things, you FUEL the attachment, and will never get over it. You must cut off contact entirely – not even a glance to a photograph of him.

You need to make sure other things in your life are in order: Your health (eating well and exercising), your other relationships (family and friends), your job, your goals and ambitions (what are you trying to achieve in life; who do you want to be?). Often people aren’t able to move on from the past because they don’t have a great enough future to aspire towards. I obviously don’t know your situation, but this is all very important.

Most crucially, you need to RE-CONDITION your mind to change what he means to you. This is what it’s all about. You have falsely associated certain positive meanings to him: “happiness” “love” “completion” whatever, you need to radically change this. I want you to write down a list of new associations to him: “He’s bad for my faith”, “He takes me away from God”, “He will destroy my state in the akhira”, “He compromises my job ambitions”, “He makes my life miserable”, “He wastes my time and energy” “He brings out the worst in me” etc. Add your own, make them general and specific – make them emotional; and make them MEANINGFUL TO YOU. Feel the effects, contemplate on each one. I want you to do this EVERYDAY. Preferably before you sleep and when you wake up, as the defenses to the subconscious are weakest at these points.

In addition, I want you to remove the assumptions you have about him, as you are currently filled with them and they are a huge cause of your distress. You may have hoped that he will somehow come round, embrace Islam and marry you. Or you might think that he’s truly perfect for you. These are all likely fantasies and have no basis in reality. I want you now to make a list of questions that undermine and destroy these assumptions. Make them in the form of QUESTIONS. So for example, ask yourself something like: “Will he get married to someone before I get married, or after I get married?” (here the assumption is that you will both marry other people) or “Why waste precious time, energy and thought on someone you don’t ever want to see or hear from again?” or “How grateful will I be when God blesses me with someone who I am so much happier with?” (the assumption here again is that you are not going to be with him). It’s all about undercutting your assumptions. Make some more up of your own and ADD THESE to the list of associations I mention in the previous paragraph. Ask yourself these questions EVERYDAY. Make sure you FEEL the effects of asking these questions, because the subconscious is shifted more strongly when there is an emotional charge to it.

Try not to talk about being depressed over him to friends or family as this is also a form of investment and will fuel the attachment. If you must talk about it, make sure it’s from a position that empowers you.

In general, pray to Allah and repent. Repent until you feel like crying for all faults major and minor, hidden and open. Do this EVERYDAY or as often as you can. Know that He loves you and will not put you through anything without it strengthening you in some way. In-sha’Allah, you will be able to help someone with the same difficulty in the future, as it is a common problem among people.”

Now thankfully, she did as I said and emails that followed were very positive on her part. I won’t paste them all in full here because I want the focus to be on the method, but let’s just say it worked better than I imagined. Within a few days she was seeing dramatic changes, and by two weeks she displayed a huge turn around. Here is a part of one of her later emails (2 weeks later):

“I’m in a state now I’ve never experienced before. I’m enjoying my life again, I have a wonderful time with my family and most of all I’ve found peace in my mind and connected stronger with my Faith!

I’m no longer desperate in this kind of love. He’s been trying to reach out to me different times but I can handle it very well. He called me once because it was his bday. I clearly showed no interest and I told him that I have no intention in going further in such kind of relationship. He asked to skype etc but I refused. I said goodbye and that was it. I cried after but those were these of closure and joy at one side.

I can truthfully say to myself that I can look back at his pictures/memories without feeling any emotions (love kind)…

There are times where I have a moment because something I see or hear makes me remind of him. But then I just laugh it away and think, I was blind to not see the signs but hamdellah on the other way it brought me closer to my truth and to Allah and my family.”

But girls and guys, before you start sorting your lives out, I just want to add a few points:

When you do this just like I said, you may start feeling better to the extent that you feel you don’t need to carry on doing the daily re-conditioning. This is a mistake. You must keep going. The mind is like a rubber band; if you stop pulling it in one direction, it will slowly relapse back into its old thinking patterns. You need to create a new default. The girl had emailed me a few weeks later saying she had had some set backs due to “some brief encounters with him”. When I spoke with her much later (when everything was good again), I asked her if she had stopped doing what I told her during that time and she said yes. So do not stop. Feel great, but just keep doing it. Do it for months if you have to. And later you can start doing it less. I can’t stress this enough. Do not think, “OK I’m fine now, enough conditioning,” especially not for the first few weeks.

This leads me on to another point, which is that you should feel free to change and add to the list of new associations or questions according to how you feel. In the course of reframing the way you think about this individual, you might realize more reasons why this person isn’t good for you, or why you need to stop thinking about them. Add them to the list. Or, a new negative thought might arise which means you need to ask yourself a new question to undercut and uproot it. The mind can be nasty like that – you get over one negative thought and then it’s like, “oh yeah…? well, remember THIS!!” And you’re like “Noooooo!! I just remembered some sentimental detail which has made me mushy again!!” (or whatever).

And this leads me to a final point, which is: expect triggers to spark off emotional reactions now and then. Don’t worry, they’re totally natural and not a set back. They’re just associations. It could happen when you see the road he or she lives on, a park bench you sat on together, a gift they gave you, etc. This is normal, and eventually these strong emotional associations will fade away the more you just keep doing everything I mention in the email. And don’t skimp on the healthy eating and exercise – that’s all important too! (trust me, everything in that email is thought out with rifle-scope precision).

Please bear in mind guys, I’m not an agony aunt. I might even take this down later because this isn’t really my “field”. I just want to give you the tools to help yourself. I’ve now given you more than I gave to the young woman who got better just from that email. If you do everything there, you should notice big changes. Feel free to comment but pardon me if I can’t be so responsive because I will not have a life if I addressed everyone’s relationship issues individually. But it would be nice to hear how you are doing.

I really wish you all the best and am genuinely excited, because I know you can be happy again.

Peace be with you.

And with Allah is all success.


18 thoughts on “Getting Over An Emotional Obsession: An Email

  1. Hello. Iv just read your article on Getting over an emotional obsession.
    I must say I was very impressed at your explanation skill. You definatly are gifted in the writting department.
    I read your article and with out a shadow of a doubt i belived you had spoken the truth
    . You cover the subject on an emotional on a health and scientific angle.

  2. First of all, jazakAllah khair for yet another great work sir. I really wished this article was around years ago. I don’t have any formal training in counselling but I’ve had random people approaching me for advice on matters that I hardly have any experience in at that time (marital and premarital issues, interfaith and interracial relationships etc). I don’t know where and how they’ve got the idea that I would be of any help but I felt compelled or obliged to offer some perspective anyway.

    On hindsight, I might have made some sense at some point (lol) because reading your article, I see some of my fragmented thoughts and underdeveloped pieces of advice in it, except that you had reconstructed it all into one excellent article. Clear and thorough, with an uplifting tone.

    Although I’m happy seeing those people in better circumstances now, I’ve had the misfortune of being in a similarly annoying situation as the girl you’ve helped. “Aunt Agony” in agony tried to practise what she’s preached. Not so easy eh. What worked for me though, was going cold turkey. Removed all forms of attachment to tht person and anything associated with him. And reinforced it with the reminder that my heart belongs only to my Creator and if it should break, then it is only to let His light into my hardened heart. Because indeed, only in the remembrance of Allah (and no one else) do hearts find rest. I sincerely hope that sister you’ve helped would eventually find her peace.

    The next time someone approaches me for help or advice, I’ll be sure to share your article with them. (:

  3. Can I just say that Al-mumtahinah… that sura (60), really helped here from experience. (Several translations of the title include, she who is examined, she who is tested, the one who is examined). Again, one has to be sitting in God’s presence to appreciate it. Very beautiful Surah, and very direct.

  4. Assalamu Alaikum,
    Just wanted to say that the method outlined here really does work…It’s true that going all Negative Nancy/Ned is a little hard to do when wearing rosy-colored glasses…So it might take time to develop all the points to start the re-conditioning process…but even if one has to start small: it doesn’t matter. So long as one starts the process immediately. Plus, the mind is really fun and twisty. One negative thought/association can spark many more. I will say that the key to making this work really is the continuation of the conditioning…I’ve personally used this method more than once…so I guess I can safely say that keeping up with the conditioning can help to reduce the trauma of the triggers.

    P.S. I know you say that you’re not an Agony Aunt, but this is a really great piece that explains how to get over a person so if you ever do take it down….can I know prior to the taking down so that I can re-post it on my blog? ‘Cause If I tried writing this, I’d probably turn into a Plagiarising Paige…[y’know, since I’ve read this article 🙂 ]

  5. Thank you so much for this. Please do not take this down. Ive bookmarked this and will probably come back to this page over and over again as a self-reminder. I have been struggling with a disastrous break up for the past couple of years and still have not moved on.I’m going to give this a try and go from there on. Insya Allah, maybe this technique might just be it.

  6. Wow! I just happened to come across this article out of nowhere… But it literally speaks to me. and what im going through… Great advice 🙂

  7. BismIllah el Rahmen el Rahim

    MashAllah very interesting blog and post. ( i love India too)

    First of all, i want to remember to all my dear sisters this hadith:<>
    And <>

    Fi iman Illah my dear sisters

  8. salam, subhanallah! its amazing how this speaks to me and I was close to tears after reading this.because it has been a serious battle coming to terms that he isn’t good for me now or as much I seek closure with him sometimes,this has given me the strength to ignore and just move on. focus on the most important things like my deen,iman,family and career.also pray for a good brother I share islam with.jazakallah for this.

  9. Nice – was always interested in what you put in this, but can we please drop the Americanisms (I know where you get them from) ‘heck’, ‘fella’ etc. Much love bro

  10. I am truly truly thankful for this post. Coincidentally, this post is posted on my birthday. This post speaks directly to my situation, and I believe there is a reason why I am reading this. I will follow every guidance in this post, this is the help that I really really need. Thank you for you and your studies ad your passion for truth is a blessing to all of us.

    Thank you.

  11. Jazakillahu khayran katheeran.
    Thank U so much.
    I was tearing while reading this piece because I felt like the end of my pain is near. I will put this into practice and I believe that it will work for me in shaa Allah.
    Thanks once again.
    P.S. Pls don’t put it down.

  12. Phlohuman Read your article and really liked it. And, plan on working through its steps. Thank You. My only question, is that I made the mistake, I will try not ever to do it again, of falling for a person, I worked with. Still have to see that person every working day. So, I cannot get away from them completely. Thinking perhaps, I should get a new job, somewhere else, to get away from them
    completely. But, I like my job. Any thoughts to what I can do in the meantime? Living with an a less
    than optimal solution at the moment.

  13. Assalamu alaikum akhi.
    I would like to follow you on twitter. Can you please add me to your list of approved followers?
    Kind regards

  14. My problem is getting to the point where I really want to get over this obsession, I haven’t gotten there yet despite knowing that I need to. There’s so much fuel that I don’t want to go away. Please don’t take this down, I have saved it for when I am ready. How long does it take to get to that point of wanting this, what has to happen to get to that point? I don’t know, all I know is that right now we can’t be together but we want to at least remain friends, we have a wonderful friendship when I can leave all the other emotional stuff out of it. The more I try to not communicate with him the more I miss it and obsess even more and like I said I guess I’m just not ready to give him up like that 😦

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