Fantasy is the cornerstone of obsession, where imagination is trussed up like a battery-farmed chicken; catharsis eventually becomes catastrophic. Walter Mitty lives in all of us, in varyingly-sized corners. We use "starter" fantasies to weave meaning into a new situation, "maintainer" fantasies to prop up a boring task, and "stopper" fantasies to persuade ourselves that it's better not to ...
A fantasy has tremendous power, and in a period of high anxiety we can imagine a thousand outcomes, good and bad (but mostly good) of what the dreaded/hoped for moment will bring us. The fantasy exists in a continual tension between the desire to fulfill it, and the desire to maintain it - to keep from losing it. Of course, any move to real-ise it threatens its existence. A closed loop is is the result, shored up by our favourite defence mechanisms, whipped on by fear of failure and lust of result.
The obsession clouds all reason, impairs the ability to act, makes anything secondary to it seem unimportant. It's a doublebind tug o'war. The desire to maintain the fantasy may be stronger than the desire to make it real.
In classical occult terms I am describing a thought-form, a monster bred from the darker reccesses of mind, fed by psychic energy, clothed in imagination and nurtured by umbilical cords which twist through years of growth. we all have our personal Tunnels of Set; set in our ways through habit and patterns piling on top of each other. The thought-form rides us like a monkey; it's tail wrapped firmly about the spine of a self lost to us years ago; an earlier version threshing blindly in a moment of fear, pain, or desire.
Thus we are formed; and in a moment of loss we feel the monster's hot breath against our backs, it's claws digging into muscle and flesh. we dance to the pull of strings that were woven years ago, and in a lightning flash of insight, or better yet, the gentle admonitions of a friend, we may see the lie; the program. it is first necessary to see that there is a program. To say perhaps, this creature is mine, but not wholly me. What follows then is that the prey becomes the hunter, pulling apart the obsession, naming its parts, searching for fragments of understanding in its entrails. Shrinking it, devouring it, peeling the layers of onion-skin.
This is in itself a magick as powerful as any sorcery. Unbinding the knots that we have tied and tangled; sorting out the threads of experience and colour-coding the chains of chance. It may leave us freer, more able to act effectively and less likely to repeat old mistakes. The thing has a chinese puzzle-like nature. We can perceive only the present, and it requires intense sifting through memory to see the scaffolding beneath.
The grip of obsession upon us has three components:
Cognitive - our thoughts & feelings in relation to the situation. These must be ruthlessly analysed and cut down by vipasana, banishing, or some similar strategy.
Physiological - anxiety responses of heart rate, muscle tone and blood pressure. The body must be stilled by relaxation and pranayama.
Behavioural - what we must do (or more often, don't do). often, our obsessive behaviour is entirely inappropriate and potentially damaging to others. Usually it does take other people to point this out. Analytic techniques such as I Ching or Tarot may prove useful here.
The wrath of the monster left me gasping and breathless, feeling trapped. All paths littered with broken glass. Desperation drove me to a friend. There is magick enough in reaching out to ask another for help. An I Ching reading suggested action and nonaction, negating the momentary trap of self-doubt. Pranayama banished the physical tension (well, most of it). The monster shrank and skittered on spindly legs through years of frozen memories, dissolving finally into a heap of mirrored shards.
Clues; I'm still fitting them together, but the pictures they hint at aren't frightening any more.
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