DEALING WITH INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS
You’re going through your daily life. Suddenly,out of the blue, you’re hit by a unwanted thought that is negative and highly uncomfortable. The more you resist, the more the uncomfortable thoughts persist. These thoughts are labeled ” Intrusive Obsessive Thoughts”. In this writing we will attempt to come up with ways to deal with these unpleasant thoughts.
People who experience intrusive obsessive thoughts are afraid that they might commit the acts they picture in their mind. They might imagine hurting someone or themselves. There is no desire to act on these thoughts but merely having the thoughts denote to them the possibility of acting out those thought. Even having the thought is upsetting and frightening to them.
INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS ARE NOT ANTICIPATORY ANXIETY
Intrusive obsessive thoughts should not be confused with anticipatory anxiety. Though both are under the anxiety umbrella, anticipatory anxiety relates more to excessive worry about a bad outcome occurring for oneself or one’s love one in the unknown future. This topic of anticipatory anxiety will be dealt with in later writings.
THOUGHT STOPPING TECHNIQUES
Two thought stopping techniques commonly suggested when struggling with intrusive obsessive thoughts are; 1) to internalize the command “Stop!” and/or 2) to snap a rubber band previously placed around your wrist. when an unwanted thought surfaces. The goal is to interrupt the unpleasant thought as soon as it materializes.
These two techniques have been met with mixed reviews depending on the person utilizing them. They are certainly worth trying.
In addition, the following are some other techniques you can try.
- Understand and accept that it is virtually unheard of for people who have intrusive obsessive thoughts to act upon them. Safe to say, you are one of these people. Know that you are probably too hard on yourself at times and merely having the thought and the accompanying fearful feeling is enough to make for you, the improbable seem probable.
- View the thoughts for what they are, which is a bothersome nuisance. Know that they will end as they have in the past. Therefore minimize them by becoming amused and mocking them.
- Know that no two thoughts can occupy the mind at the same time. Therefore, focus on one your prearranged pleasant thoughts that make you feel good and are totally unrelated to your unwanted thoughts. When the negative thought attempts to reenter your mind, don’t fight them but merely refocus on the pleasant thoughts.
- Know that struggling with unwanted thoughts are not the problem but merely a way of avoiding dealing with some underlying issue such as a fear of change. The unwanted thought may provide you with an opportunity to become aware of the underlying conflict you may be struggling with.
- As with dealing other forms of anxiety, when the intrusive obsessive thought enters your mind, take deep breaths (through your diaphragm, not your lungs) until you begin to relax.
- Instead of resisting the thoughts, merely go back to focusing on what you were doing prior to the onset of the thoughts.
- Remember unwanted thoughts do not define who you are. You define who you are. Don’t let unwanted thoughts keep you from working on being what you want to be.
Questions or suggestions can directed to Raymond Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT at email@example.com