Lets talk about thoughts for a minute.
When you have an anxiety disorder, the number one rule of thumb is:
Every thought we have is not meant to be taken seriously.
This is a hard thing for those of us with anxiety to wrap our heads around. We think if we are thinking something, there must be a valid reason for it. It HAS to mean something.
But no. No, it doesn’t.
Thoughts can exist for absolutely no reason at all.
Not all thoughts require feelings or emotions. And not all feelings and emotions require thoughts. Those two things can work completely independently of each other. But because we believe that on some level they must co-exist, we have gotten ourselves all freaked out and have started assigning more value to certain thoughts than we need to.
I wonder how many thoughts a person has a day………thousands?
I am guessing that would be a fair answer. Well, let’s be realistic here. When you have thousands of thoughts running through your mind every day, they can’t all be profound little “gems”. There are bound to be a few “stinkers” in there. There is just no way around it.
It would be impossible to think nothing but pure, wholesome, “true” thoughts every second of every day of your life.
Nobody’s mind is capable of that.
Many of our thoughts just pop into our head without us putting any of our conscious self into them. It’s like our brain just lobs them out like fireworks to keep our heads from getting empty. It pulls thoughts up based on habit and association and memory. And I am convinced that sometimes it will just pull one up from the very bottom of the barrel just to mess with you. They don’t mean anything. They are just fireworks.
They are “brain junk”.
Sometimes these thoughts that the back of our minds lob out, and yes, even thoughts that we consciously think, are going to be a little “odd” or “out there”. Maybe even a LOT out there. And why wouldn’t they be? There is no rule or law or biological code that says:
“Every Thought Must Be Completely Within These Exact Set Boundaries”.
I never got that hand-out at birth. Did you?
On the contrary, if something occurs to us, we are allowed to think it.
Its our mind, our head space, our brains, our thoughts.
And we can think whatever the heck pops into our mind without feeling like we must be responsible for it, it must mean something, or like we have done something “wrong”.
That is the thing about thoughts: There are no boundaries. It’s not like with actions, when we must follow a pretty strict set of rules and guidelines and be responsible and accountable for every move we make unless we can prove we were sleepwalking. Our thoughts live in our headspace and our imaginations and they can be whatever they happen to be.
Any thought can be thought any time, any day, any place, any where……..no matter how odd, funny, serious, bizarre, inappropriate, or gruesome it is. That is just the way thoughts work. It has worked that way your entire life. Nothing has changed except the fact that the more tired and stressed out your mind is, and the more negative of a thinker you are, the more likely it will be that those odd or bizarre scary thoughts come to your mind and/or that you will be aware of them. Your thoughts aren’t any scarier now that they ever were. You are just more aware of the scarier thoughts now.
I can pretty much promise you that you have been having “stinker” thoughts ever since you were old enough to put thoughts together. Everybody in the world has them and has always had them and always will have them. You are just noticing yours now. That is the only difference.
Why am I only noticing these odd, scary thoughts now?
If you are like most people with intrusive thoughts, you are noticing them now because you are mentally exhausted, overly sensitized and hyper aware due to the constant stress in your life. Anything odd or different from the “norm” feels like a threat. Your brain senses trouble in your world so it has turned up the alarms in order to keep you vigilant and out of “danger’s” way. Your radar is picking up everything…including those little thoughts that would have never been a blip before now.
I always use this analogy, I know, but it’s so accurate:
Imagine how Barney Fife would be if he were left in charge of the jail after he had been awake for 48 hours and then drank two pots of coffee in an hour. He would be a hyped up, exhausted, nervous mess shooting his gun off at his own shadow. That is basically the mindset of somebody dealing with chronic anxiety and mental exhaustion, regardless of their particular symptoms.
Imagine Barney sitting at his desk wide-eyed, just waiting for something bad to happen. Then imagine he had the random thought of “What if I were to take this gun and shoot myself with it?” I can just imagine him getting even more wide-eyed as he turned toward the camera with a terrified look that said “What if I DID shoot myself?” Barney would jump out of his chair and he’d be fumbling to get rid of that gun and probably end up shooting himself in the foot and they would have to do a three episode series on how Andy convinces Barney to go near a gun again.
Those random thoughts we all have, just become incredibly believable when combined with exhaustion and adrenaline.
The way we act to intrusive thoughts..latching on to them….never letting them too far out of our minds……it seems like an OVER reaction, yes.
But it is a very normal reaction when you put in the context of everything else that is going on in your life.
Your brain is in hyper-alert mode. It is scanning for danger all of the time. It is picking up on even the tiniest bit of fear or hesitation you have over your thoughts, and because of that fear, interpreting the thoughts as “bad” and a “threat”. In response to the fear you feel it gives you some adrenaline, which makes you MORE aware of these thoughts. The thoughts feel more real and seem to have a life of their own. But they aren’t. They are just louder now…..which makes you more scared…. which makes you produce more adrenaline…. which makes you more aware…which makes you more scared. It’s the same old anxiety cycle that is behind every other symptom of an anxiety disorder. Your interpretation of your brains very normal reaction to what your tired mind is going through is causing some unnecessary drama.
Your whole fear adrenaline response system is working just as it should. All you have to do is change your response to it. You do that by lowering the stress in your life so that your alarm setting will be lowered and you won’t be so hyper-aware of your thoughts. You also must always keep in mind that these thoughts are not harmful and repeat that to yourself often. And you must learn to manage these intrusive thoughts by trying different techniques until you find one that works for you. I will get into some suggestions for that in Part 3 of this post.
Thoughts are not desires!
It is critical that you remember that a lot of them just don’t mean anything. Don’t let your analytical tendencies cause you to engage these thoughts and look for meaning to them that just doesn’t exist.
Intrusive thoughts are not “voices”.
The intrusive thoughts of anxiety are not the same as the “hearing voices” of serious mental illness.
You might say “How do I know if it’s a thought or a voice?”
Rule Number 2 of Anxiety: Trust your instincts – they will not let you down.
This does not mean trust your “primal” instincts. Those of us with anxiety disorders have primal instincts so strong we can practically still smell the cave. And more often than not, they lead us straight to trouble that doesn’t exist. No…what I am talking about are your gut instincts…….your intuition. That logical voice of reason is inside you still……you just have to listen for it. It will tell you what is REALLY worth being concerned about and what isn’t.
Deep down you know if thoughts are coming from YOU or some unknown entity inside your head. You have to listen to the REAL you, not your anxiety, and trust your own judgement.
If you have serious doubts about whether or not you are hearing voices as opposed to experiencing intrusive thoughts, then by all means contact your doctor. But generally speaking, even those of us with anxiety disorders can tell the difference between a thought and a “voice”.
If you listen closely, YOUR real voice will tell you the truth. And the truth is that you have stumbled on a thought that scares you, and now you can’t seem to get it out of your head. But that fear over the thought is the ONLY thing that separates intrusive thoughts from a pop song getting stuck in your head. In every other sense they are exactly the same. Some people have intrusive thoughts that would be considered much “scarier” or “violent” than the ones I list, but the degree of violence, disgust or revulsion doesn’t make them any more dangerous or abnormal.
Here is a list of some common intrusive thoughts:
- What if I am crazy?
- What if I “snap” and become a violent person like the people on TV?
- What if something loud and obscene comes flying out of my mouth?
- What if I drive my car into a ditch on purpose?
- What if I hurt somebody I love?
- What if I lost control of myself and hurt myself in some horrible, “crazy” way?
- What if am gay?
- What if I am going to hell because I am not a “perfect” Christian?
- What if I forget how to breathe?
- What if that one embarrassing or wrong thing I did all those years ago was to be discovered?
- What if I somehow hurt somebody and I just don’t know it yet?
Your type of intrusive thoughts may not be “What if?” thoughts. They could take another form and they can even be accompanied by horrible, disturbing imagery. Intrusive thoughts can be about anything. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be “logical”. They don’t have to be anything except very troubling and intrusive to you.
Again, always remember that intrusive thoughts are just thoughts.
Thanks to a Twitter follower of mine for sharing her thoughts on this with me, and pointing out that those of us with these types of thoughts may feel a sense of urgency that accompanies them, depending on what the intrusive thought is about. But, if so, we shouldn’t mistake this urgent feeling as meaning that “deep down we must want to do this terrible thing”. On the contrary, this type of urge is a fear based, adrenaline fueled urge and just another indicator that you find your thoughts revolting and don’t want to act on them on any level.
On a final note, another thing that I want you to keep in mind is that just thinking about something all day is not going to make it true.
I have been down the road of “Well, maybe I am not a crazy, violent person NOW? But what if I BECOME a crazy, violent person tomorrow because I keep thinking about it?! What if I brainwash myself into this happening?”
But that could NEVER happen. As long as a thought continues to horrify you, and trust me your scariest intrusive thoughts will ALWAYS horrify you until you learn to master them…. you will never get the urge to do the thing that you fear.
I don’t care how bad your anxiety is, and I do not care how abnormal or horrific your intrusive thoughts are. You are 100% in control of your choices every single second of your life. If you do not want to do the horrible thing you are afraid of – you WILL NOT DO IT. You haven’t lost your free will. You are not mentally ill.
You are still you through every anxiety symptom you have and you will never stop being you.
You may be you scared. You may be you freaking out. You may be you huddled in a corner crying or you may be you sitting on the couch freaking out that you may go do something terrible to somebody. But that is all part of you being you. Those reactions, no matter how strong, all come from who you are as a person. You are nervous, you are a worrier, you are under a lot of stress and your anxiety symptoms all stem from that.
You doing something violent, or doing losing control of yourself and doing something humiliating in public…..that is not you and those things do not have a root in who you are and what you are made of. So those things will not happen.
Also keep in mind that just because an intrusive thought is recurring, that doesn’t mean that it already is true but you just aren’t aware that it is true.
For example, if the thought pops into your had one day that you “might be gay” and this becomes a repeated intrusive thought/fear you have – even if imagery accompanies these thoughts – that does not mean you are gay. Intrusive thinking of this sort is very common because there is no easy, tangible, scientific way to “prove” it to yourself one way or the other. It is a very easy line of thinking to play worry games with – the perfect “ball” for your worry addicted yet mentally exhausted subconscious to throw back to you over and over.
Again, you have to listen to your inner voice. There is a difference between what you fear and what you “know” or strongly suspect. If you really are having trouble differentiating between the two, then please seek professional guidance. Sometimes talking to a counselor and just dumping it all out there can help you organize and make sense of what is going on in your head. It can really clear away the fog and help you see things as they really are.
(I am not using being gay as an example of an intrusive thought because it is something that should be considered scary or horrible, but rather because the people who have this type of intrusive thinking are usually very bothered by the “not knowing” and the “wondering” if it is true and the compulsion to analyze it can REALLY start to take over their life and it can feel quite horrible for them.)
Okay, so now you know the truth about those scary intrusive thoughts.
And from now on, every time you think an intrusive thought that upsets you, whether it’s mildly or intensely, I want you to remind yourself that it is proof that your brain is working just as it should.
I learned how to get my intrusive thoughts under control, and if I should ever go through another round of them again in the future, I am confident I will get them under control again. And you can do it too.
For more reading on the topic, here is a link to a fantastic post about intrusive thoughts from Martin N. Seif, Ph.D. and also check out Part 3 of this blog series Taking the Spotlight off of Intrusive Thoughts. If you are looking for a book on this topic, I recommend Dr. Seif’s “Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts”, which can be found on Amazon. I have done a lot of reading on this topic over the years, and in my opinion, Dr. Seif is the best of the best when it comes to helping people understand intrusive thoughts and get them under control.
Read, read, and read some more readers! Don’t read just what one person says..or two people. Read as much as you can by as many people as you can about any anxiety issue that concerns you. All this reading, even if you just take the tiniest little something out of each book or article you read, is what will eventually get you in control of your anxiety, instead of IT controlling YOU. YouTube videos are good too and there are a lot of great anxiety related videos to choose from.
Thanks for stopping by! Click here to return to Part 1 of this post.
Remember, no worries.
Photo Credit: All Photos Courtesy of Pixabay Public Domain
MONQ Therapeutic Air – Want to Try This Natural Mood Enhancer? Use Coupon TWG10 at Checkout at MONQ.com.
I am going through a pretty rough patch (have been since mid November) and I was starting to feel okay, but then I’ll have a bad day in there. I am afraid I will never feel like myself again and I will think about the same thing forever, that I will always be scared like this forever. I just want to be my normal self, the “light” version of me that is carefree and enjoys things. Cause this me, is not where it’s at. ?
It is very normal to feel that way. It’s all part of the worry game. Don’t engage those thoughts. You are the one in charge of your headspace. Always steer your thoughts back to where they need to be. You will be okay. This is just anxiety and stress talking.
I love this page, it’s great- ecxept the Barney Fife part. The story comes off as: He’s stressed, he’s afraid of shooting himself in the foot and then DOES shoot himself as he’s afraid of it, he’s then convinced to never go near a gun again. Not exactly comforting for someone afraid of doing something that’s going through their minds that they might accidentally do whatever thing they’re afraid of.
Hi Jun. I don’t recall that episode exactly but I am pretty sure Barney didn’t have a fear that he was going to shoot himself in the foot. He was actually just messing around and shot himself I believe which caused him to fear going near guns again. My analogy is simply about Barney being such an over reactor and over responding to things much like we do when we are in the throes of anxiety.
Thanks so much for your response to my question! The idea of just “accepting it” sounds amazing! My most bothersome intrusive thoughts/fears revolve around me losing control of my mind and doing something crazy or suddenly losing touch with reality. They started when I first developed anxiety a couple of years ago, after some pretty serious life stressors that happened all in a row. I had never had anxiety before and it scared me so much. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my mind. And I’m guessing that’s where this fears of losing my mind stems from. Since then I have been unable to break that addiction you talked about of “worry thinking”. It’s almost if I’m scared that if I let my guard down and just “accept it”, that I’m not staying vigilant and aware! When you said that one intrusive fear will likely replace another until I address the root of the problem, were you referring to self-care and breaking that negative thinking addiction? I’m am an exhausted mom (aren’t we all?!) of three littles. So self-care is scarce. But all of this worrying makes me more exhausted than the kids!
Hi Ashley, yes that is what I am referring to. All of the symptoms of anxiety are just that….symptoms. Of a bigger problem. And until you correct that problem, which is the stress in your life and the state of oversensitization you are in, anxiety will manifest in one form or another. . Anxiety has about 50 legs to it, and you have to get to ignore all those legs thrashing and kicking all the time and make a connection to its heart. Kind of an odd analogy, right, but its just how it works. People pay more attention to the symptoms than the cause of the symptoms and that is why it doesn’t go away.
Hi how exactly do I know if I have GAD or OCD? I have intrusive thoughts that tell me I have those, but does that actually mean I have them, because intrusive thoughts are illogical, or do I actually do have them, because intrusive thoughts are a symptom of GAD/OCD. I tell myself that I’m fine, but I’m not to sure.
Hi, I answered your post under the comment you left on Part 3. Thanks for stopping by and good luck to you.
Thank you for your encouraging words! Can I also ask, is it normal to remember bad memories that I totally forgot about them? Things happened more than 10 years and I managed to forget them or to keep them in the bottom of my conscious and now out of sudden I remember them and they start annoying me even more than they did at the time they happened in?! Is it the same reason? my brain playing the game with me or because of what? what do u think?
For me, you are my favorite person to ever walk the planet! Really, even after I read the book, Hope and help for your nerves. I still prefer your blog! I can say that you saved my life, and I hope other people who suffer, find a way to this amazing blog. Thanks again
Yes, that is exactly what is going on. I go through the exact same thing. Especially if I am going through a particularly “good” time of my life that is relatively drama free, my mind will lob something out at me that happened twenty years ago just so I don’t get too “comfortable”.
I have one or two instances that happened in my life that are favorites of my subconscious and I will go months without thinking about them but then when I do, it becomes “Oh my goodness. I can’t BELIEVE I did that. What if this had happened, or that had happened as a result? If I hadn’t noticed my mistake in time, 5 people could have died.” I will play different scenarios out in my head about how all affected people’s lives would have been ruined by the one thing I ALMOST did two decades ago, even though in reality nobody was ever harmed in any way by the mistake that I made. I have an excellent, vivid imagination so its as if all this is actually happening. I find myself getting sucked into my created drama and then I have to stop and shake myself and say “Lisa, look what you are doing. You fell for that one hook, line and sinker. Well played subconscious, well played.”
You know you are addicted to worry when you find yourself worrying about the outcome of something you never did. 😉 It’s all just brain junk and we have VERY smart subconscious minds that know our weaknesses so we have to stay on the ball and not let ourselves get sucked in.
Thank you so much for the kind words, truly and if I can try to help again, let me know. AL
I can’t stop thanking you for your awesome blog. It helps me all the time!! Each time I feel scared I just open it and read and it DOES help!
Since I started reading your blog in last june, it has been helping a lot and I feel the difference. But today I had some anxious thoughts and I started to be scared to go back the dark days before June!! This is one of the things that was scares!! That one day I might go back to ugly dark days again! It’s horrible but I am trying to ignore the thought and continue working on it! I bought the book “help and hope for your nerves”. And I now remember that she said that we should stop being scared of anxiety and only then we will start feeling better. I hope I will continue the good work on myself and THANK YOU so so so much for this awesome blog. Reading in the internet about what I was feeling to figure out what is it, was really scary until I found your amazing blog.
Thank you Rthza, that means so much to me. When I was first starting out with anxiety I had a certain website I went to, that no longer exists, and it was my one place that always made me feel grounded and “sane” again. It meant everything to me to have that site to go to so if I can provide even just a little bit of that to somebody else it really makes me proud.
Don’t you worry about those thoughts about the dark days coming back. Those kind of thoughts are actually a good sign that you are making progress. They are a sign that your subconscious is running out of things to worry about so its trying to get your attention by playing dirty pool. It knows how to get your attention and you are doing exactly the right thing by not obsessing or analyzing those thoughts. They are no different than any of the other brain junk.
Oh and Hope and Help is the absolute best anxiety book there is. I don’t know if you read my review but Claire Weeke’s is just about my favorite person to ever walk the planet. She knew anxiety like nobody else and we are all so lucky that she put these books together. They are literally lifesavers. Keep on doing great, I am very proud of you.
Thank you for your reply.. for some reason, I couldn’t reply on the same comment.
I wanted to ask you, how do you deal with nightmares, and the night that you can’t be able to sleep in peace?
You know, I have never had a problem with nightmares. I can’t say for sure because I am not an expert but I have always believed that nightmares are a symptom of something unresolved or suppressed going on in our psyche….something we aren’t addressing…a sign of emotions we are going through that we aren’t aware of or haven’t articulated to ourselves. Its our subconscious playing around with these free floating emotions trying to catch our attention and make us aware that those emotions are there so we deal with them. I’m very interested and aware of what is going in my own head so I don’t really have any unresolved stuff and I think that is why I rarely get nightmares. But if I were to start having them I would definitely pay close attention to the issues going on in my life and say to myself “What am I missing here?” I would do a lot of journaling with a lot of entries that start with “I feel….” and then see where the pen takes me. And if I couldn’t get to the bottom of it, I would probably talk to a counselor or therapist to help me figure it out.
I have had issues with being afraid to go to sleep due to being afraid I would not wake up. That usually only happens when I am going through a bad anxiety cycle because the adrenaline is making me hyperaware and question everything that could possibly harm me. And I very much have the issue of just not liking to go to bed at night because when I sleep I am not in control, and I am a control freak who always likes to be in charge of my surroundings. That I usually cope with my staying up most of the night and being tired all day the next day. 😉
You will notice that as you gain more control of your anxiety and understanding your emotions, and as you incorporate muscle relaxation, affirmations, and organizing the loose ends of your life, sleep will become more peaceful. It will just naturally happen. I know that may seem hard to believe and like such a monumental challenge from the point of view you have now, but it really is much easier than it sounds and it does work.
I love your blog! since I started to have panic disorder, I started to read more about it, but OH GOD, everything I was reading about it was making me more and more scared! Your blog is the only thing when I read, I felt good after! I even open it and read when I feel anxious sometimes, because it calms me down. So, thank you, because your blog gave me good feelings that I couldn’t even get with Psychiatrist or coaches! I even think you should collect the topics in a book!
I started to have anxiety since 7 months, it started with panic attacks and fear, i didn’t know what was happening to me and why! But after sometime, I discovered that I am an anxious person, i was anxious my entire life and since i was young, so it’s not a new thing, it’s just more severe because I got married and I had to leave my family (my comfort zone) and my country and move to another country, totally different. So, at least this is what I think it was the reason. But, knowing or discovering that I was anxious all my life made me feel better! Like Ok, i didn’t lose my mind or anything, I am just more worried and anxious.
After sometime, i started to have the scary thoughts, each time I hear about someone committed suicide, I panic because I get so scared that it might happen to me, each time I read or watch or hear about anyone did anything or any violent act to himself or to anyone else, I panic and I get scared that I might lose control and hurt myself or anyone else. I still suffer, but I am trying my best to get out of this darkness.
I tried before and it worked, but then it came back and I tried again and it came back, sometimes i am so scared that i won’t have energy to continue fighting! But each time I try hard and pull myself out of this darkness, it goes well!! So, It’s all about our willing! Life is hard and we have to fight all the time, sometimes we will be down, other times we are good and happy!
I love your blog and I love you and THANK YOU for sharing such a great blog.
Thank you so much for that comment. I am glad I was able to help you find some relief.
I can relate to everything you said, especially the part about hearing something that somebody else did, such as commit suicide or a violent act, and then worrying that I may do that myself.
It may help to start categorizing your thoughts as “thoughts I react strongly to” as opposed to intrusive thoughts. This phrasing puts you back in control. The phrase “Intrusive thoughts” seems so out of your control and as if you just have to be at their mercy for whenever they pop up. Calling them “thoughts I react strongly to” is a bit of an awkward phrase, but its a way to remind you and your subconscious that these thoughts are just thoughts. The way you respond to them is what makes them different. It takes them out of their own separate “scary weird” category and lumps them in with all the other anxiety symptoms that may be really annoying but not in a violent, chilling kind of way. It normalizes them a bit and leaves the door open for you to learn to NOT be afraid of them. Using words like “intrusive” and panic “attacks” is very common for those of us with anxiety. But if you think of our nervous subconscious as a scared child, which in a lot of ways it is, using words like “intrusive” and “attack” are probably not the most soothing words we could use, right? Instead its “thoughts I react strongly to” and “I panicked” as opposed to the alternative. We must always speak about and refer to our anxiety in a way that keeps us in the drivers seat and has us taking responsibility for every response we have, good or bad. I am going to write up a blog post about this at some point but just thought I would drop that here to give you something to think about.
Remember, anxiety is a sign that you are smart, intelligent, creative and have a strong will to survive. It means you are a deep thinker and you are tough. I believe every personality type is here on this earth for a reason, and ours is VERY needed, especially in this modern time of technology and social media and shallow thinking. We are the old souls of the world and we can’t waste our time locked in our heads fighting imaginary demons. We have to learn to harness that amazing energy we have and use all of our traits the right way instead of turning them against ourselves. When we can do that….we are magical. 😉
Part 3 of this post should be up before the end of the month. I apologize for the delay. December got the best of me and I haven’t quite caught up yet.
I too am eagerly awaiting the third part of this series. I started having intrusive thoughts towards the end of the summer/beginning of fall and they freaked me out because, at the time, I didn’t even realize that you can have spontaneous thoughts. It took me about two to three months before I stumbled across that on the internet (which led me to Martin Seif’s page on intrusive thoughts). It took until I read another book on worry thoughts and how the brain works before I started to be convinced that these thoughts were not going to make me do something (I was like you; afraid that if I let my guard down, something bad was going to happen). I’m still a little ‘on guard’ but feeling much better than I was. Although I was wondering if you ever noticed the wording of your thoughts changing over time (like the thoughts are still around the same general subject matter but the thought itself is different)?
I haven’t noticed the wording of my thoughts changing but it doesn’t surprise me to hear you say that is happening with you. Remember that your brain doesn’t want you to forget about these intrusive thoughts you are having. Based upon your reaction to the thoughts all this time, it thinks they are a threat and that you need to be “aware” of them all the time. And if it thinks you are getting a little too “used” to these thoughts and aren’t reacting to them the way you usually do – it will play tricks on you to catch your attention again. This is very normal and it happens with EVERY anxiety symptom and it is a GOOD sign. It is a sign of recovery and progress. It is your brain’s way of saying, “Hmmm, she seems to not be thinking these thoughts are a big deal anymore and that is good…..but JUST to make sure…I’m going to bring her attention back to them and see how she reacts.” Your brain is paying very close attention to how you react at this point so be sure you are sending the message you want to send: that you aren’t phased by these thoughts and that you are carrying on with your day, they are no threat to you, and life is going on. If you keep that up, the brain will shut off the spotlight on these thoughts and you will no longer pay as much attention to them.
Knowing some of the techniques you used to help yourself get in control of these thoughts would be really interesting/helpful to hear! I know you said you would do so in part 3, but I don’t see that listed here. Any chance you could share the methods that helped most? Many thanks!
Thanks Mia! I agree with you, I need to get that post out. It somehow didn’t make it onto my post list. Thanks for the reminder and I will get it out ASAP. Lisa
Great! Thank you so much!
I do wonder how you convinced yourself that those are just stinkers. Down deep that’s what I believe in, but it makes me angry that they are “lying around” and taking my thinking space, not to mention joy, out of my life! And yes, sometimes it is easier to say “whatever, I don’t care anymore, they are not real”, and sometimes it is not. Did you ever write the part 3? Thanks!
Because as you said, you just know. All of the anxiety around intrusive thoughts is not about the thoughts themselves. Its about your response to the thoughts..your analyzing of the thoughts..your discomfort and annoyance with the thoughts. Every second of time you spend on these thoughts….in any way…whether it is questioning them, analyzing them, hating them, getting mad and frustrated at them….. is a second that you are shining the spotlight on them. And every time you shine the spotlight on them..your brain is paying attention and saying….”She is spotlighting them again….wow these thoughts must be important..can’t let her forget these thoughts! I will help her out with that and try to keep her good and focused on them!” Then you brain pats itself on the back for helping you out. You treat these thoughts like they are important….so your brain treats them like they are important.
Getting over intrusive thoughts is like kicking an addiction . The addiction is analyzing the thoughts and thinking about them and picking apart the emotions you feel from them. You have to resist the urge to engage in this worry game and distract yourself and do whatever you have to do to keep your train of thought off that track. Its not always easy but it gets easier with time as long as you keep in your mind that you will never take these thoughts seriously again.
For me, it was easier because I had that moment of epiphany where I just “got it” and I could see so clearly what these thoughts were. My conscious self finally caught up to what I always knew deep down. Most people with intrusive thoughts aren’t there yet, so you have to forget everything your conscious self is telling you about fearing these thoughts and analyzing them, and put your faith in what you DEEP DOWN know….and that is that they are meaningless and you do not give them a moments worth of your concern, questioning or time.
You know how when somebody hurts somebody so badly and the person says “You are now dead to me.” and they don’t answer their calls or acknowledge them in any way no matter how hard the person begs to come back in their life. You need to look at your intrusive thoughts and say “You are dead to me.” and don’t answer their call.
‘They can’t all be profound little “gems”.’ that one got me. I also laughed right out loud at ‘practically still smell the cave’
This is a fabulous post. The way you explain this is so perfectly spot on. Well done.
Hi Ashley, thanks for the comment. Acceptance plays a huge role in anxiety recovery. And the biggest thing that helped me get over my fear of going crazy was telling myself that if I WAS crazy…then so be it. I told myself that if I REALLY was mentally ill, then it was best to find out, and the sooner the better so I could know and get the help I needed. I decided that if it was my destiny to live my live in a mental hospital, then let it happen. If it was my destiny to be a person who had the dreaded “nervous breakdown”, then let it happen. If I was truly “insane” or going to become insane, nothing I could do or say would ever change it because it was out of my control….so let it happen and I guess I would just have to find some way to deal with it. You would think that would be a hard thing for me to wrap my head around, but it was surprisingly easy. Giving up control is SO freeing, and when you are truly so tired of worrying about something and carrying that burden, it feels like a welcome thing to do. And once I quit caring about it, the fear went away. In order for fear to exist, you HAVE to care about it. Without your concern, it fear can’t live. The truth is, that deep down, you know you aren’t crazy. This is just an over-reaction you are having because you are so overly sensitized and you are addicted to worry and drama right now, and looking for something to stress out about. Be brave and take the leap to just “let it happen”, and this fear will die. It will probably transfer to another fear until you deal with the underlying issues, but at least this particular fear will be gone.