Though painted as the enemy, anti-social, anti-human, blinding, bias paradise, and beaten out of our kids at school, obsession is not bad. Obsession is good. But like all good things, danger lurks. Ignorance of the brain’s unconscious processing superpowers must be dispelled.
Unconscious problem-solving is equal to or even more valuable than hyper-conscious, analytically-driven problem-solving. Insights make appearances in the shower, on long undistracted walks, in conversation with others, during mindless idling about, in dreams, the moments just before sleep, the moments just after waking — all the times when we’re not trying to force them. Not giving space for these insights to birth, evolve, flourish, is an incredibly risky long term strategy — because your greatest ideas are alive; they need oxygen, a safe space, nurturing, feeding, a voice.
Is an obsessive person really a danger to themselves? What if the obsessive person is also the person who takes unconscious processing seriously — that is, he is obsessive about making sure there is ample space and time for epiphanies to not just make an ephemeral appearance but also be captured, developed, seriously considered, put to the test, and so on? Some rephrasing is obviously necessary. So: An obsessive person who becomes stuck is a great danger to herself if she seldom allows herself time away from The Problem in order to facilitate unconscious problem-solving.
Though definitely more accurate than the previous statement, it’s still a handful. Handful Statements are acceptable if they’re as powerful an explanation as can be made. What if the obsessive person is not consciously taking time away from The Problem — say, some urgent task has taken precedence, or illness takes hold, or there’s some other sudden drop in time spent on The Problem? Unconscious problem-solving never stops: it’s just that as a talking point, it’s seldom given the attention it deserves. If the activity which replaces time spent on The Problem is not as demanding as The Problem, the only thing which changes is the probability of noticing insights — namely it increases. Being conscious of this process at least would make a person more attentive to possible insights. Hence the final revision: An obsessive person who becomes stuck is a great danger to themselves if time away from The Problem is not part of their obsession.