I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts
(repeat as required)
Intrusive thoughts can feel like hell in your head, they go round and round, taunting and teasing and tempting you to believe life’s terrible taboos are actual truths, acted out by you. Repetitive in nature they evoke fear, shame, despair and sadness. Once you begin to experience intrusive thoughts the worry of them returning can be as distressing as the thoughts themselves.
However, help is available and this post will pass on some general information about intrusive thoughts along with some useful self-help hints.
Some examples of more common intrusive thoughts.
- Worries of hurting loved ones
- Thoughts of being a paedophile
- Ruminating about hurting animals
- Stressing that you have a serious disease
- Worrying you’re going blind
- Pre-occupation with going mad
- Images of distressing violence
- Picturing family members/partner/children dead
It’s easy to see how these thoughts can feel painful, terrifying and indeed become debilitating. For example, someone who has intrusive thoughts of hurting loves ones may begin to avoid seeing loved ones.
Avoidance behaviours re-enforce the notion that intrusive thoughts should be adhered to and suggest therefore that they hold some truth which subsequently provides a platform for further unpleasant feelings to flourish. Therefore avoid avoiding at all costs!
So what can be done?
Firstly recognise everyone has intrusive thoughts, they’re part of being human and having a momentously powerful and fast moving mind. I get them, you do, so does your neighbour, and the bloke who served you at the supermarket. I’ve just had one now.
If I picture myself pushing someone onto a train track right now, does it make me a murderer? No. A psycho? No. A deviant? No. A weirdo? No.
Should I avoid the combination of people and train tracks at all costs?
Here’s some Do’s and Don’ts:
Do – Accept the thoughts, fighting them just adds to their ferocity. For example if I told you twenty times “Don’t think of a red pair of shoes” a pair of red shoes would be soldered into your mind’s eye and every time you attempted not to think of them the deeper the image would be imprinted on your brain.
Do – Recognise the important of visualisation. Picture the thoughts as words in your head, then place these words in clouds in your head. These clouds are in a vast blue sky and you can see them big and looming but like all clouds they drift away distorting in their shape as they do, until they’re faded like aeroplane trails and gone.
Do Get in touch with the process of the the thoughts. It could go something like this.
- This thought leads to me experiencing the emotion scare
- When I feel scared I feel it in my chest, it gets tights. My tummy turns somersaults as well.
- When I get scared and feel it in my body it helps if I take the dog for a walk
- After I take the dog for the walk I’m going to evaluate how well I’ve done at coping, what I liked and what I might do differently if it happens again.
Do Become a barrister and put your thoughts on trial. Where’s the evidence that your thoughts are fact? Very often there won’t be, fear isn’t a fact. Build up a solid case of why your thoughts aren’t true. Use information on intrusive thoughts to begin building up your argument.
Don’t avoid situations that trigger your intrusive thoughts. Get to know your triggers grade them least difficult to most challenging and start facing them in a scientific style. What happened? What helped? What have you learnt? What could you do differently next time?
Do Seek help from a therapist if you need a helping hand. Warring with intrusive thoughts without support can be lonely and frustrating.
If you want to see a Stockport counsellor or want psychotherapy in Stockport contact me on:
07908710526 or firstname.lastname@example.org