Thoughts about obsessiveness took me over. How very fitting, isn’t it? Yesterday I went to an exhibition of Bruce Nauman at Stedelijk museum. And the visit triggered some further explorations of the topic. While looking at his works I realised that I am looking at obsessiveness. His work has this slightly uncomfortable, penetrating quality that in my opinion can only be achieved by an obsessive mind. So there I was looking at it. It didn’t feel that uncomfortable because it was mine and it wants directed at me specifically.
I came to distinguish different types of engagements with obsessiveness. What I was experiencing at the exhibition is mediated obsessiveness. It is presented in a safe, institutionalised container. Art, science, literature and other social domains accommodate it and make accessible to others. In such a setting the individual can decide for herself how far she wants to go, and to what extend to be affected. Sometimes one work of art will resonate more than the other, touch more facets of one’s soul. If that is the case, looking at obsessiveness with which we can relate, can be a profound experience, But mostly it is merely a curiosity, I think we are naturally drawn to obsessiveness, because if is self-confident in its beliefs and woking methods. And confidence is attractive. Meeting obsessiveness in designated areas can also be just entertainment, but with the right mindset it has the potential to stretch tolerance for obsessiveness and even inspire a first step towards direct encounter with obsessiveness.
Direct obsessiveness is another type. It is more confronting and generally wants to be avoided. It has intense presence which leads to rejection and avoidance. We can experience this directness in two different ways, as a subject and as an object. As an object of obsessiveness we are confronted with something unexpected, unknown and purposeless, directed at us. It asks a lot from the other, the ability to let go of control, strength and trust. I mentioned already that in my opinion, obsessiveness is a potent creative space, but when it is not held in the right way, it becomes a very dark place for everyone involved. This space provides direct access to the real, that is why it is so scary and difficult to stand. We have little control over the real, it is just there, acceptance of it remains a matter of conscious awareness and practice. Self-confidence and individual sovereignty are prerequisites of a successful encounter with direct obsessiveness. Knowing that this potent stream of energy, encounter with the real, won’t shatter us in pieces allows for enjoyment and playfulness. Direct encounter with obsessiveness is a truly transformative experience, being able to take it in comes with a great sense of pleasure, reinforcing strength while stretching the boundaries of what was already known. Having curiosity and openness towards the new is another precondition for a positive engagement. I believe it is worth becoming better at holding the obsessiveness in direct interaction. It creates more points for interaction with the truth beyond what is already known, thus expanding the existing maps of meaning.
There is also direct obsessiveness wherein a person is a source of it herself. The engagement refers to a dynamic exploration of oneself while being a container and contained simultaneously. Here as well it can become a risky endeavour, introducing a possibility of collapse. Self-aware obsessiveness can be a way out where obsessiveness becomes a productive force. It is important to remember that the focus of attention while being obsessed is very narrow, the narrower it is the more effective it is. At the same time we know that arriving down evokes anxiety, fears and insecurity. The amount of options becomes limited and we feel trapped. Seeing the narrow focus of obsessiveness as method rather than a thing in itself can help to find a way to benefit from the narrow-mindedness while placing it in a larger dynamic system. Self-confidence and sovereignty obviously preconditions here as well.
I would suggest to start noticing obsessiveness and revisit our relationship with it. Directly or through mediation, but there is plenty around. Try to see if there is something to find with obsessiveness and if so, how much are you willing to take in?