Intrusive thoughts are like a can of worms. Anyone who overthinks knows what we are talking about. Our happiness is better off without these thoughts as they can eat away our peace of mind.
You might be wondering what intrusive thoughts are, but before we dwell on its explanation, let us paint you a picture. You are having a great time with your friends and all of a sudden, an inquiry pops up in your mind.
Out of the blue, you hear a voice saying your friends are only putting up with you because you tagged along. No one wants you there. And if you were absent, hardly anyone would miss you?
Sounds familiar? Or perhaps a different context? You are having a wonderful time with your partner and the voice in your mind says otherwise. The thoughts may state your partner deserves a better significant other? Or maybe, you are on a new date, meeting a person for the first time, and the voice recalls some old toxic memory?
Before you let these intrusive thoughts rob you of your happiness, take a step back. Take deep breaths before you already assume how everyone else feels around you or how a date may play out. Don’t give in to this toxic nature and you will be able to keep your sanity.
But before we tell you how to stop these thoughts, we first have to acknowledge what they are and where they stem from.
What Is an Intrusive Thought?
Every day we have hundreds of thoughts trafficking through our minds. These thoughts happen normally and mostly because they receive the green signals from our brain. For instance, whenever we walk by our friend’s house, we wonder what our friend is up to, and so on.
We hardly pay attention to these thoughts and they disappear just as quickly as they came into our minds. Our mind is like an airport and these thoughts come and go as they please.
Anyone who has ever tried meditation or any other form of relaxation technique can easily notice the thoughts entering our consciousness. Yet, instead of engaging, we sit back and observe the thoughts, till they are replaced by another one.
Intrusive thoughts, on the other hand, are like your cousins from the countryside, who move in unannounced. They show no sign of leaving, no matter how much you want them out of your mind, and are always demanding attention. At one point, these thoughts become obsessive and this recurrent intrusion into your mind, feels like you’re losing control of your life.
Now, you might be asking why these thoughts are so unwanted. If the thoughts were about rainbows and unicorns, or things you love, that would be splendid. Sadly, these thoughts are dark, often related to tragic experiences, and hence, incredibly disturbing.
Kinds of Intrusive Thoughts
There are various kinds of intrusive thoughts that come across our minds. Saying these thoughts are anti-social, would perhaps not even be an exaggeration.
As mentioned earlier, they may even make you doubt yourself when it comes to your relationships. The voice may constantly say you are being cheated on because you aren’t good enough. Not to mention, how much these intrusive thoughts make you analyze someone’s feelings for you or your actions, be it your partner or not.
People who suffer from an overload of intrusive thoughts may also conjure dark scenarios by seeing a knife. The dark thoughts may range from killing an innocent person, willingly or unwillingly, to even wanting to commit suicide.
Are You A Bad Person?
If you could relate to the kind of thoughts mentioned above, this article is definitely for you. But just because you have these intrusive thoughts, are you a bad person?
The function of our brain is to produce thoughts and just hence, we have these inappropriate thoughts at times. But as long as we are not acting inappropriately based on these thoughts, we are not bad people.
Everyone at one point or another has had an intrusive thought. Some are better at managing these thoughts whereas others aren’t. Just because you have these scenarios in your mind, doesn’t mean you have to associate with them.
It’s normal to think you are a bad person because of these negative feelings. The kind of person you are is based on your actions, because that’s what people see, not your thoughts.
How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts
Being aware of these intrusive thoughts and recognizing them is the first step to stopping them. The best way to start is by meditation. Although many people find it difficult to meditate, this act of relaxation and knowing your body helps you become more mindful.
Once you are self-aware you can easily label the thoughts in your mind as positive or negative. Mindfulness brings clarity in your mind and doesn’t let you act out based on the voice from within.
You can easily learn to differentiate the thoughts and afterwards, discard the views which seem toxic and stupid, and focus on the brighter aspects.
Once you start recognizing the intrusive thoughts, your job is to accept the fact that these thoughts are normal and can happen to anyone.
People often try suppressing these feelings, but like a raging volcano, it gets worse. Instead of bottling up, why not embrace them?
If they keep on coming, let them. Identify the negative views and then tell yourself, that is not the kind of person you are. Reassure yourself that you don’t act inappropriately and tell yourself these are just thoughts, nothing more.
Acceptance gives you the power to dictate your feelings over this unusual wave of energy. You are now in command of your actions, and you choose to let these thoughts be, not suppressing them, nor engaging in them. With time, you will gain full control and they will reduce eventually.
This is another technique to prevent pesky intrusive thoughts from ruining your peace. We talked about identifying and accepting them, now let’s try replacing them.
Whenever you have a negative notion, try to trick your mind into pondering on something else. If your partner receives a text, and you think you are being cheated on, just engage in a different activity or thought, till it completely gets out of your head. If you are out with friends and start doubting whether your presence is enjoyed or not, just live in the moment. If someone doesn’t tell you that you are unwelcome, don’t assume the worst for yourself. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Every time an unwanted opinion pops up, replace it with another interesting view. If possible, something happy. As long as it isn’t inappropriate, it doesn’t matter what you are replacing it with.