How to deal with intrusive thoughts

Posted on February 4, 2020
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Dr. Friedemann helps overcome intrusive thoughts

Do you ever have intrusive thoughts seemingly out of nowhere popping into your head? You may be preparing dinner in the kitchen, when suddenly your mind conjures a scary image or crazy idea that leaves you wondering about what just happened. The thought could be about harming a loved one, wondering if you have cancer, or worrying what happens to your children when you die. Sometimes, you may be able to shrug these thoughts off as a misfiring of your brain. But other times, you may feel bombarded by such a barrage of similar thoughts, that you start to be concerned about whether you are losing your mind.

One of the challenges with intrusive thoughts is that they can become ‘sticky,’ which means that you can’t simply ignore them. These are usually disturbing thoughts, like seeing yourself jumping off a bridge, exposing yourself in public or being attacked by a friend. While these images may rationally appear completely ludicrous, they can still cause you to feel anxious and worried. Unfortunately, your anxiety doesn’t scare the thoughts away, but seems to only amplify them. This is when a random intrusive thought can turn into a spiral of negativity that leaves you feeling held hostage by your own mind.

The good news is that you are neither alone, nor that there is anything wrong with you.

Here are a few facts about thoughts, which may help you to feel less scared and overwhelmed by them.

  • Unwanted thoughts aren’t a sign that there is something wrong with you. Studies showed that about 90% of people have unwanted thoughts on a regular basis.

  • Thoughts aren’t always in your control. Even though it may appear desirable to consciously direct your line of thinking at all times, many thoughts just pop up out of nowhere. It is when you try to argue or fight with the thoughts, that they are starting to take hold of your mind.

  • Thoughts aren’t truth-tellers nor a reflection on your character. A thought can literally be just a random, non-nonsensical expression of your mind. Just like you may experience an involuntary quick jerk or twitch of your body from time to time as a form release of tension, your brain can also fire off images and thoughts without any deeper meaning to them.

  • Thoughts from your subconscious mind don’t have the power to make you act on them. Some of the more disturbing thoughts may make you wonder whether you could truly harm somebody or do harm to yourself. Yet, the truth is, that without your conscious consent, thoughts don’t have the ability to force you to take action.   

  • Thoughts aren’t literal. Many intrusive thoughts stem from the subconscious mind. This deeper part of our mind, which is also responsible for your dreams, communicates through images and metaphors. And just like with dreams, intrusive thoughts can be without meaning and purpose; they can also be a form of mental-emotional release or they can be a way for your subconscious to resolve an issue without your conscious input being required.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should categorically dismiss all intrusive thoughts. Some thoughts, when listened to carefully, can be important messages from your subconscious mind. So how do you distinguish between the thoughts that are just mind junk and those that may have some useful information for you? How do you make them stop from scaring you and ruining your day? Join me on Empowerment Radio this Thursday, February 6th, and learn to understand the reasons why your mind creates intrusive thoughts, how to interpret them and how to best respond to them.