Need advice..
November 8, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

I sit adjacent to a nice woman at work. I get bad thoughts. I do not have any bad intentions. Since i suffer from Obsessive compulsive disorder i find it extremely difficult to get rid of these thoughts. Can people give me some insights. I am married to a nice woman. I do not want to change my work/ location, since i want to grow in my life by overcoming problems.
posted by mot123 to Work & Money (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you could use a therapist to help you discuss these feelings.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 AM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are no bad thoughts without bad intentions, or bad actions. Unless by that you mean intrusive thoughts that prevent you from functioning, in which case get help.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:24 AM on November 8, 2007

Your wife reads the site, right? So she knows about this? If not, tell her immediately, and proceed to couples counseling. If I were in your shoes, I would actually have a heart to heart with HR and then, depending on their response, the woman in the next cube, so she can be prepared to react appropriately. However, if these impulses' fulfillment would be harmful to her, HR might not look kindly upon you. Start with a counselor.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:26 AM on November 8, 2007

Just clarifying...i do not intend to harm anyone...
posted by mot123 at 11:31 AM on November 8, 2007

I would most definitely NOT talk to HR. They exist to protect the company, not help the employee. You may find yourself out on the street immediately you chat with HR.

That said, get some help if this is bothering you and keeping you from living your life. Therapist, anti-OCD meds, vacation, more exercise, new hobby. whatever. But do something.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

You sound like you've got a lot of anxiety. 4 of your 5 ask mefi questions have been about feeling you've done something wrong.

What do you mean by "bad thoughts"? If it means you are attracted to your coworker, but do not plan to act on it, that is pretty normal. Most of us have experienced this.

It sounds like your OCD (and possibly anxiety) are making this tough. There are 2 things a counselor could help with. One, you might need new medication, or an adjustment to your current medication. Two, you can learn some new strategies for managing anxiety.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2007

I am not sure whether by "bad thoughts" you mean thoughts of adultery, or thoughts of harming someone. The latter is far more scary, but if you think have trouble quashing these thoughts, or if there is any possibility you might act on them unexpectedly, either can be terribly dangerous.

Get professional help as soon as you can. If these thoughts center around just the one person, find a way to remove yourself from that person - see if you can get a different desk. You may have to leave your job if that's what it takes - unemployment is better than a criminal record.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2007

You sound like such a sweet, well-intentioned person. Please don't let everyone here make you think you are a scumbag just inches away from cheating on your wife who needs counseling just for having "bad thoughts."

The easiest way to deal with this would probably be to just change where you sit at work to lessen the temptation you have from being close to this woman, which is very natural (you are married, not dead, and you can't help who you are attracted to, only what you do or don't do as a result).

If this woman also has a significant other, it might help to meet him, too, and develop a rapport. When you think of this woman, you will then see her as attached to someone rather than available. If she is not in a relationship, and your wife could befriend her, that would also be beneficial to all involved, as you would see her in a more "friendly" role as opposed to that of a romantic interest.

Here's what you must NOT do: don't become emotionally close to this woman in a private, on-on-one correspondence. This could lead to misunderstandings on her part and hurt on your wife's part. Women place great value on emotional intimacy, and for good reason. It is very easy for it to slip into something more physical.
posted by misha at 11:53 AM on November 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

Most men get bad thoughts looking at stick figures. You're not a bad person. It's the OCD you need help with. Talk to a professional about that and count yourself lucky to sit next to a nice woman, and that you get to go home to the woman you love each evening.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:56 AM on November 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

If "bad thoughts" mean that you look at her in an attractive outfit and briefly contemplate the joys of her physical form or you notice that she smells lovely in the morning and you make excuses to chat a few seconds more than you have to, you are simply a normal guy. Looking at someone and having a fleeting vision of something erotic isn't really a "bad thought" in my dictionary. I find such thoughts quite pleasant.

The only real problem is if you are concentrating on this fantasy to an extent that you can't do your job or act normally or if you are so obvious in your lust that you are making it known to the woman and making her uncomfortable. If either of those is the case, you have to find a way to stop immediately. I would not involve HR unless you aren't very fond of your job.

The self-loathing implied in this and other questions is more of a concern. I have some pretty wacky ideas sometimes, but I would never call them "bad" or worry about being unable to forgive myself. If your comment about being obsessive-compulsive means you are talking to a therapist, I think you should seek help from them. If it is just a self-diagnosis, this might be a good time to involve someone else.
posted by Lame_username at 12:03 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the primary problem is with the distraction/intrusiveness of the thoughts, and secondarily the nature of the thoughts and that they are about a coworker. That can be a sign that your medication, assuming you are on some, is no longer working at the dosage you're at, which is very common since your metabolism changes over time. If you've not been treating your disorder with medication, it may be time to reconsider. Whether you're on medication or not, regular work with a therapist to help you with coping strategies is really important.

I think coping strategies are what you're asking for here, but getting some that work from a group of strangers who don't know your particular pathology is going to be pure luck. You don't want to replace an obsessive thought with a different obsessive thought or behavior.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2007

Just clarifying further...My feelings resemble what
'selfmedicating' said...

>What do you mean by "bad thoughts"? If it means you are >attracted to your coworker, but do not plan to act on it, that >is pretty normal. Most of us have experienced this

Thanks to everyone who responded...I am sorry, some
of your responses, scared me , because i am not such
a bad person...
posted by mot123 at 12:13 PM on November 8, 2007

You're not a bad person, you are just being very hard on yourself. The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns is a book with a lot of advice that I've found useful for getting my inner critic to quiet down. If you're not in counseling already, I'd definitely encourage you to check it out. It can be a great way to learn strategies to cope with stress.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:28 PM on November 8, 2007

Seconding what self-medicating said - Have you been treated for your OCD? Go to your therapist / MD and tell them how this is making you suffer. They might put you on medication or adjust your medication or help you to cope with the intrusive thoughts.

Metroid baby - One of the principle things about OCD is that people who suffer from these intrusive, scary thoughts are very unlikely to ever act on them. If anything, OCD sufferers are terrifed and ashamed of these uncomfortable thoughts, and obsess about them and create checking rituals to make sure they didn't and never would act on them. The shame and fear of stigma is one reason why many people don't get treated for OCD.

I recommend treatment with a psychiatrist and/or a cognitive behavioral therapist. If you don't have access to treatment, some books that have helped me:

Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts: How to Gain Control of Your OCD

Stop Obsessing! How to overcome your obsessions and compulsions
posted by tlong at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2007

Most men have these kinds of thoughts about people they find attractive and pleasant. We usually don't talk about those thoughts in mixed company or with people who might rat us out, because they are socially unacceptable. Nonetheless, they are common and normal.

In fact most people have all kinds of weird thoughts, like "that guy's nose looks like an eggplant", "if I had a gun I bet I could wing that cyclist", "wouldn't it be neat if all the cheese in the dairy case melted into a solid layer of cheese on the supermarket floor." We don't talk about them. But they come into our heads from nowhere, and then they go again.

Definitely your problem is not the kind of thoughts you are having. Your problem is your inability to put them out of your mind. As others have said, seek help for the repetitive unstoppable thoughts, but don't worry about being a bad person.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

First, the Internet is no substitute for a therapist. You owe it to yourself to seek out a good therapist, because you're giving yourself a lot of undeserved grief here.

There's no such thing as a good thought or a bad thought, but we do have good and bad reactions to them. A therapist can help you figure out when a bad reaction is warranted, and when you're being unnecessarily hard on yourself.
posted by bobot at 2:08 PM on November 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

First, you are not a bad person, because you are clearly able to identify which thoughts are troubling. Since you can identify them, you can decide not to act on them. You are still in control.

Second, it is normal to have wierd thoughts go through your head, even for people without OCD. The problem with having OCD is that it's harder to dismiss them as no big deal, because your tendency is often to make everything into a big deal.

Third, you do not have to deal with this on your own. Talk to a psychologist about these thoughts and how they bother you. The psychologist will not judge you. Their job is to give you tools to help you deal with this sort of thing.

You've identified that you have a problem and wish to do something about it. That means you're already halfway to a solution.
posted by Asymptote at 2:31 PM on November 8, 2007

I will go out on a limb and say that there ARE bad thoughts -- including (at least) thoughts that bring us personal displeasure. So yours qualify.

Having said that, if you think yours are bad in some objective sense -- and if you're soliciting views on that -- I would say no, not necessarily. Thinking about rogering a co-worker, without any intention of doing so, can bring far more pleasure than grief. But it depends on your ability to avoid getting distracted, and to avoid obsessing about obsessing. I'm not sure you've given anyone enough information to judge that, and don't know if you could.

You have wandered into broader divides here: (1) some say tell your spouse everything, and others are more circumspect; (2) some say see a therapist if you're unhappy, others are slower; (3) some say tell HR if you've got any kind of workplace problem, others (most) would never tell HR anything that might conceivably be used against them.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2007

Even President Jimmy Carter, who most folks feel is a noble and good hearted person - he won the Nobel Peace Prize and is spearheading a charitable effort to eradicate Guinea worm, the leading worldwide cause of blindness - admitted in an interview with Playboy magazine that he had "lusted in his heart many times." He remained faithful to his wife but obviously these kinds of thoughts were troubling to him, as they are to you. It's OK to have these thoughts and it doesn't make you a bad person, any more than it makes Jimmy Carter a bad person.

I agree it can be useful to chat with a therapist about the origin and cause of these thoughts, their meaning, and proactive steps to help you deal with them when they crop up.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

You would probably benefit from cognitive behavior therapy, even as simple as wearing a rubber band on your wrist, and snapping it when you have unwelcome thoughts.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on November 8, 2007

i think it's normal to have, er, sexy thoughts about people around us, even if we're in relationships. it's totally normal, so i don't know if a therapist can get you to stop, although they might help you learn how to deal with those feelings.

unless by "bad" you mean hacking her up with an axe or something. that might be worth a more intensive psychiatric evaluation.

good luck! and don't panic.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2007

Please check your MeFi Inbox mot123.
posted by JaySunSee at 4:03 PM on November 8, 2007

If these thoughts are easily triggered but difficult to shut down, you may try to use them to trigger more thoughts. 'Oh, that thing she did with her wrist was so cute' -> 'oh my wife's cute wrists..' And then spend the time you'd spend fighting 'bad thoughts' dreaming very similar thoughts about your wife, and at the end of the day, living them out. It is generally not bad if these sources of arousal get a bit mixed.

But, if this mixing leads to making constant comparisons between them, then it won't be a good strategy.
posted by Free word order! at 5:06 PM on November 8, 2007

If being physically attracted to co-workers was a bad thing, we wouldn't have the overcrowding on the planet that we do - this is perfectly normal and absolutely nothing to worry about.

Maybe you could work on the way you feel about those thoughts, though. Learn to accept that you are a sexual person and that it is natural to be attracted to other sexual people. just don't let them take over your life.
posted by dg at 7:49 PM on November 8, 2007

Ambrosia Voyeur suggested you tell the woman in the next cube that you're having bad thoughts about her.

Uhm, no. *Whatever* you do, do NOT tell this poor woman you're thinking anything at all about her. That will get you fired, and rightfully so.

Keep your thoughts to yourself and you'll probably be okay. Talk to a therapist and keep this between you and your therapist.

Ambrosia Voyeur also suggested you talk to HR. Do not do this unless you want to lose your job, or at the very least, stall your career.

Since we have no idea what kind of "thoughts" you're talking about or whether or not you're close to acting them out, we can't tell you if you're a raving lunatic or how to handle your obsessions. Talk to a private counselor.
posted by tejolote at 11:52 PM on November 8, 2007

I think the only thing that concerns me is that you describe the coworker next to you as a "nice woman" and the person you are married to as a "nice woman". Maybe it's that you're not that expressive in the written word, but the fact that you describe them identically worries me for some reason.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2007

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