Our Obsession with Obsession

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Obsession is a pretty common word, as in, “OMG I am obsessed with that new juice bar on Hollingsworth” or “I am completely obsessed with Peter Gabriel.” We learned it back in second or third grade, where we used it to taunt our classmates and enemies about their dorky pastimes or latest crushes. We started to understand it in high school and college, when the objects of our affection went from making us giddy to making us straight crazy. We finally grasped its full complexity when we read Twilight, and thus witnessed the tremendous triangular complexity that is Jacob-on-Bella-on-Edward.

I’ve had my own experiences with the o-word, like my larger-than-life love of cake. Seriously, I LOVE IT.

Because of course, obsession isn’t necessarily restricted to the passion that a girl feels for a vampire. It is manifold, ranging from sweets to revenge, shoes or high speeds. Even music or Apple products can be a source of obsession.

But the other night when I couldn’t fall asleep, I for some reason began to wonder about the true nature of obsession. Seriously, what does it really mean? And what is really going on when we feel it? So I did what any rational person would do, and I googled it.

What I found was unclear, confusing, and a little disturbing. For one thing, society’s use of the word as applied to gummy bears or miniskirts is just plain wrong: that’s merely a penchant. Obsession usually revolves around darker themes: death, sex, catastrophe, disease, violence. For another, though its causes and sometimes even its nature are still unclear to scientists, obsessive thought is often marked by an inability to block out thoughts and extreme discomfort when experiencing them. Obsession, in other words, isn’t fun and it isn’t optional.

So think twice the next time you employ it to describe fondue restaurants or a new type of yoga. I’m going to anyway. … although I really am a little obsessed with alien domination. I figure if it’s kept me up at night repeatedly, then it probably counts.

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