This article is to help you to understand how random thoughts can become intrusive thoughts.
I was watching TV last night and had a random thought that my living room would be better without curtains. Then I saw a large tree on the television and thought ‘that would be a good place for a hanging.’ Both are random thoughts that I had no control over while I was watching TV, but one might become intrusive.
The thought itself is not the problem, it is how you react to the thought that is the problem.
In the first paragraph above, what thought grabbed your attention most?
Random thought 1 living room better without curtains
Random thought 2 large tree would be good for a hanging
I’m guessing it was thought 2 ( large tree would be a good place for hanging) as this would probably disturb you more than whether or not my living room had curtains! I might sound flippant, but I am deadly serious when I say, they are both the same, both are random thoughts that popped into my head while watching a program on TV.
You could well be thinking, but the second thought could cause harm, or it says something about you as a person Elaine ( my name is Elaine, hello, and I’m the psychologist behind MoodSmith) and therein lies the first mistake that can make a random thought become intrusive – a judgement.
Just now, as I am writing this my partner, Lewis, came in to tell me about 12 tone technique and serialism (he’s a musician and I have no idea what it means) and probably because I am writing this post I became acutely aware of random thoughts as he was speaking. I don’t mean to be rude, I am being as open and honest as I can can – nipples, my thought was ‘men have nipples, but don’t have to cover them in anyway to stop them from being seen through their clothes, women, we wear bras, or you can even get flower shaped patches…..”
I interrupted my writing to tell you that, as I want you to be aware of how common random, odd thoughts are, but back to what I was originally saying.
How do thoughts become intrusive thoughts?
I want to start by mentioning some judgments you might be making;
- it says something about me as a person
- I am a bad person for thinking that
- I’m not normal, etc
In all of these type of judgments you are reacting to the random thought as if it could be true. You may question the initial thought – why did I think that? All judgements and further analysis means that you are giving time and space in your head to the random thought. You are giving the thoughts attention.
What happens when you pay attention to the thought?
You start to make little connections in your brain, sort of like learning a skill,
Video taken from my course on Intrusive Thoughts, find out more about my course
The major difference between a random thought that pops into your head, and one that becomes intrusive, is how you respond to the original thought.
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