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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Romantic Obsessions and the Thrill of the Chase: Part 3: Getting Help in Therapy

In Part 1 of the topic, I introduced the subject of romantic and sexual obsessions and the thrill of the chase.  As I discussed in that article, the thrill of these obsessions involves a dopamine high that occurs in anticipation of "catching" the person.

In Part 2 I expanded on this subject by discussing the first fictional vignette about Ed from Part 1 and  how experiential therapy helped.  As a continuation of this topic in this article, I'm focusing on the second fictional vignette about Jane.

Romantic Obsessions and the Thrill of the Chase

Clinical Vignette: Romantic Obsessions and the Thrill of the Chase:
The following fictional vignette is a continuation of Parts 1 and 2 and will illustrate how experiential therapy can help to resolve these problems:

In Part 1, I presented a fictional case about someone named Jane, a single woman in her late 30s. Although the vignette is fiction, the problems involved are real and common to many people who have romantic and sexual obsessions.

To Recap:
Jane wasn't interested in men who were interested in her.  The men she was interested in were emotionally unavailable and either only minimally or not interested at all in her. She was obsessed with these men.  She would spend most of her time ruminating about the latest man she was obsessed about.

During a six month relationship, the man she was dating told her from the start that he wanted to see other women.  However, as part of her usual obsessive pattern, Jane refused to accept this and she kept trying to convince him that he should date her exclusively.  She refused to hear him when he told her that he didn't want to be monogamous.

In the end, he stopped seeing Jane because of her constant complaints that he wasn't meeting her emotional needs and her refusal to accept that he wanted a non-monogamous dating relationship with her. 

After numerous experiences like this, Jane's self esteem plummeted.  When she attempted to date men who were interested in her and emotionally available, she wasn't attracted to them.  She didn't feel any chemistry with them--there was no "spark" (see my article: Why Are So-Called "Bad Boys" Irresistible to Many Women? Brain Chemistry Might Be Part of the Answer).

Eventually, she wondered whether she would ever be in a healthy relationship, and she complained to her friends about her romantic experiences (see my article: Unhealthy Relationships: Bad Luck or Poor Choices?).

The Story Continues: Getting Help in Experiential Therapy
After a while, Jane's friends got tired of hearing her ongoing complaints about her relationship problems, and they suggested she seek help in therapy.

During her initial therapy consultation, Jane's therapist recognized that Jane tended to be attracted to emotionally unavailable men who had an avoidant attachment style (see my articles: How Early Attachment Bonds Affect Adult RelationshipsHow Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship and Understanding How an Avoidant Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).

After hearing Jane's dating history and family background, the therapist explained to Jane that she was confusing the uncertainty and chaos in these relationships with love and passion. She explained that this is a common problem for many people, especially people who have an anxious (insecure) attachment style.

Jane's therapist also helped her to understand the connection between her family history with a father, who was in and out of her life throughout her childhood, with the excitement Jane felt for emotionally unavailable men who had an avoidant attachment style. She explained to Jane that people with an anxious (insecure) attachment style, like Jane's, are often attracted to people with an avoidant attachment style and vice versa.

Working Through Early Trauma in Experiential Therapy
Since her therapist was an experiential therapist, she recommended using EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy) to process Jane's early attachment trauma rooted in her family history (see my articles: EMDR Therapy: When Talk Therapy Isn't Enough and Experiential Therapy, Like EMDR, Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Transforming From an Insecure to a Secure Attachment Style
Subsequently, Jane's therapist used Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, also known as AEDP, to help Jane work through her attachment issues so that she could develop secure attachment style (see my articles: What is AEDP? Part 1 and Part 2).

As is typical in AEDP, the transformation in Jane's attachment style from insecure to secure (or better known when it is developed later in life as "earned secure") occurred over time through her relationship with her therapist.

The work in therapy was neither quick nor easy, but Jane stuck with it because she could feel herself changing in this experiential, "bottom up" approach to therapy (see my article: What's the Difference Between a Top Down vs a Bottom Up Approach in Therapy).

Over time, as Jane worked through her traumatic family history and developed a secure attachment style, she was no longer attracted to emotionally unavailable men.  She learned to see the "red flags" early on and she didn't waste time trying to convince men with an avoidant attachment style to love her.

Eventually, she met John, who was emotionally available and who wanted to be in a serious relationship.  She was surprised to discover that not only was he interested in pursuing a relationship with her, but she felt physically and emotionally attracted to him.

She realized that she no longer wanted or needed the dopamine high of chasing after unavailable men.  After several months of dating, Jane and John decided to move in together and they started talking about getting married.

As Jane continued in her experiential therapy, she felt much more confident and deserving of being loved (see my article: Overcoming the Emotional Pain of Feeling Unlovable).

When she looked back on her previous relationships with men who were emotionally unavailable, she felt no excitement at all.  Instead, she felt sad that she wasted so much time pursuing these men.  Mourning the time she lost in her life by pursuing these relationships was also a part of her therapy.

As I mentioned in my previous articles on this topic, romantic and sexual obsessions usually get worse over time before they get better.  Since addictive behavior tends to get worse without help, it often takes more of the same addictive dynamic to get the high--even when it's a dopamine high.

To overcome the obsessive and addictive behavior involved with romantic and sexual obsessions, it's important to overcome the underlying issues that are at the root of the problem.

These underlying problems usually have their roots in an early history of trauma, as shown in the above vignette about Jane (see my article: How Trauma Affects Intimate Relationships).

Experiential therapies, like EMDR therapy and AEDP, as well as other types of experiential therapy, help clients to get beyond an intellectual insight of their problems.

These experiential therapies have a bottom up approach (as opposed to regular talk therapy, which has a top down approach). They help clients to transform on an emotional level.

An emotional transformation is significant because we now know that transformation occurs on an emotional level and not solely based on intellectual insight.

In addition, experiential therapy helps people to stop equating chaotic and confusion in a relationship with love and passion.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling with unresolved problems on your own, you could benefit from working with an experiential therapist.

Rather than struggling on your own, you could work through your problems so that you can lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

I am currently providing online therapy, which is also called teletherapy, telemental health and telehealth (see my article: The Advantages of Online Therapy).

To find out more about me, visit my website: 
Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.