Do you suffer from intrusive thoughts that cause you anxiety and stress?
You are not alone. Many people experience unwanted thoughts that often involve sexual or violent images.
Without help, sufferers may start to believe that their thoughts are a sign that ‘something is wrong with them’.
They become increasingly concerned that they will carry out the acts that they imagine.
Parents worry that they will harm their children.
Other people worry that they will hurt others.
Feeling unable to talk to others about their thoughts they keep them secret through fear of judgement and through feelings of shame.
People often try to eliminate intrusive thoughts by pushing them out of their mind. It’s an understandable tactic but not a successful one.
I will explain this by asking you to NOT think of a pink polar bear, right now. Do not think of a pink polar bear.
What happens? You will find that you immediately think of a pink polar bear.
Trying to tell yourself not to think about something, causes you to think about it more.
The key to overcoming intrusive thoughts is to develop a new relationship with them.
Understanding them and acting accordingly will enable you to overcome them and find the freedom that you deserve.
Knowing how much these thoughts can impact your life and happiness, I have put together a simple guide to help you:
Understand that you are not your thoughts.
Your thoughts do not define you or your life. They are just thoughts.
Everyone will experience thoughts like this at some point, but thoughts do not have to become things.
Thoughts come and they go.
They only become a problem when we try not to think about them.
We become obsessed with not thinking about them which causes us to think about them.
Rather than resisting the thoughts, accept them.
When you start to accept their presence, they start to lose their power.
When you feel them arising, say to yourself, “Oh, there is that little thought again”. Imagine that the thought is like a house guest knocking at the door.
Resisting and holding the door shut will never get rid of the guest and the knock will only become louder.
Don’t fear your guests but imagine opening the door and letting them in for a cup of tea with a warm welcome.
This may initially seem like the last thing you would want to do, but it’s the best thing you can do.
Many of my clients have noticed a huge drop in anxiety and intrusive thoughts using this strategy.
Understand why you have the thoughts.
You may mistakenly believe that your thoughts are a reflection of potential actions. This is completely untrue.
What you may not know is that having these intrusive thoughts means that you are less likely to hurt or harm.
A parent who has intrusive thoughts about harming small children will love children. Children are usually the most important thing to them in their life.
Someone who has intrusive thoughts about suicide usually loves life.
An individual who has intrusive thoughts about hurting another with a weapon avoids hurting people at all costs.
Intrusive thoughts give clear indications to our values.
We are far less likely to hurt or harm anyone because our children, family and lives are very, very important to us.
Intrusive thoughts reflect our worst fears.
Rather than making these things happen, we want to avoid them at all costs.
Intrusive thoughts are not a sign that you are crazy, but a reflection of your values, which are the things that are most important to you in your life.
Understanding this will allow you to see that your thoughts are a sign that you would never carry out an action based on an intrusive thought.
Allow intrusive thoughts to be present whilst you carry on with your activities.
Do not let the thoughts stop your daily activities.
As above, imagine that they are a house guest sitting there enjoying a cup of tea whilst you go about your daily routine.
If they want to hang around, let them. It’s not a problem. Why not take the opportunity to thank them for showing up? Thank them for reminding you of your values as discussed above.
Know that intrusive thoughts are never the problem. Your interpretation of them has been the problem.
Now that you know that the thoughts are a reflection of your values, you can begin to change your interpretation of them.
Accept full responsibility for giving away your power to the thoughts and decide to take back your power.
You create anxiety and stress by misinterpreting intrusive thoughts.
You can re-discover peace by changing your interpretation.
By following the suggested tips and practising them regularly you will very quickly start to overcome negative feelings associated with your thoughts.
You will find yourself experiencing longer periods without the thoughts until one day you realise that the houseguest hasn’t popped in for quite some time!
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