“My thoughts are driving me mad!”
“They scare me!”
“I can’t get them out of my head!”
“I can’t stop thinking about (insert obsession here).”
Your mind is very powerful and it is very good at repeating in your lovely head what it thinks is very important to show you.
Levels of importance are determined by your emotional response to the thought and what you try to do with it. The most common approaches with thoughts which are bugging people are:
Try to suppress
Put them in an imaginary room or box in the head
The problem with any of these strategies is that your mind is being told that these are very important and therefore must be drawn to your attention when appropriate.
A common example is food:
“I can’t stop thinking about food, my meal times and what I shouldn’t be eating.” Is a common problem for clients who have food issues. Their minds seeing the importance of the thought keeps repeating them over and over which feels like it is driving them mad.
“Food is on my mind all the time.” Cries client after client.
“I wish I could stop thinking about food.” Another says unrealistically.
Do not think of a pink pig smiling at you
Your mind has to check by thinking of the pink pig that you are not thinking of the pink pig. The more you try to not think of the pig, the more your mind has to think of it, hence why people fail to suppress their thoughts.
Thoughts are just thoughts
You have thousands of thoughts each day, most of them hardly register at all as they are unimportant. Some though you give extra meaning to when you recognise the thought appearing.
Going back to food, just imagine that you noticed a thought of a cake in your thought stream. The thought is just a thought but to someone who has a food issue this cake has extra meaning and as they try and not think of it, it comes back over and over which must mean they want to eat it. This is not true, the thought is just a thought but now it has extra meaning and thoughts of acting on it are also given extra meaning which results in a more likely action of the cake being binged on.
Dealing with the thought experiment
Picture for me a thought which may feel obsessive or you don’t like much when it appears.
Instead of trying to get rid of the thought, give it your full attention for as long as you can until your mind wanders to something else.
As soon as it has wandered to something else go back to the original thought and repeat.
You should notice that your attention span gets shorter on the obsessive thought as your mind literally starts to get bored of it. (we only have around 30 seconds of attention span).
Keep repeating until the thought no longer can be sustained or creates an emotional response.
After all a thought is just a thought.
The Life Doctor based in Brighton and Hove can help you with OCD, food issues and obsessive thoughts in all areas of life with one to one sessions in person or online.
Picture credit to Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot