Rabail Umair Khan
How to Overcome Intrusive Thoughts
Updated: May 8, 2020
Intrusive thoughts. The unwanted, mostly disturbing thoughts, that leaves us feeling distressed, because it contradicts our core values and belief system. In most cases, these latch on to things or people that are the closest to our heart.
Thoughts, that we wish we never had, because there is no way we would ever act upon them, but yet they are stuck on us like a leech, sucking up our energy, and running a havoc on our mind and body.
Sounds familiar? If yes, then can I say something? THIS IS NORMAL! Most of our anxiety comes because we attach SO MUCH guilt and shame to these thoughts, that we start feeling like we are bad people for having such images! GUYS, you are human and are bound to have intrusive thoughts. The only difference is that some of us (including me) are just extra sensitive to it, and are not able to just brush it off.
The biggest mistake you can make is think that these thoughts are you. That’s what causes the problem in the first place. Where are they coming from then? If you take the religious or spiritual stance, then in Islam, these are called the, “whispers of shaytaan.” If you want to take the scientific stance then, we call it the, “inner critic.” Whichever, you resonate with more, the point is, we all experience it, and it is within us all.
Now that I have established that it’s okay and that you are totally not alone! I want to now share three tips that I have learnt over time and I truly believe can help you overcome these intrusive thoughts.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Get out of your mind. When we experience intrusive thoughts, chances are we start camping in our mind, constantly fighting it, and CHECKING, if we are still having these thoughts. We think this is a way of coping with it, but in actual fact, that only exaggerates it to a whole new level. So do you avoid them then? Nope. Not that either. This is what I have learnt about the mind. What you resist, persists; what you ruminate over, culminates further. These are both extreme ways of handling them.
What you need is to find the middle ground, and that is living in the moment. The thought may have started as a passive thought, but you constantly checking, THAT is a conscious act of compulsion.
The antidote to that is, bringing yourself back in the present moment. Find an anchor — your breath, physical touch, for example, hugging your loved one, going for a mindful walk and looking around you! When you get out of your mind and engage your senses, you come back to the present moment, and with repeated practice, you start to distance yourself from these thoughts.
Write down your intrusive thought. See it clearly. Now right down the reality, that is actually aligned with your true self. Next, list down all your triggers. Did something happen leading up to it? Does it have something to do with your past? Maybe your childhood? Be as detailed as possible. Now breakdown these triggers; expose the lies. That’s right, these thoughts may seem real and what you are feeling is totally valid, but these are lies that just APPEAR real.
One by one break it down. Chances are, after this you are already feeling better. But just end this off, by giving yourself a compassionate self-talk. Tell yourself its okay. Tell yourself that now you have addressed it and that it no longer has power over you. Instead, you are on the driver’s seat, and now the steering wheel is in your control!
SEE THE BIG PICTURE
Learn to take life a little less seriously. Ask yourself, is worrying about this worth wasting every single moment of your day? Will this even happen to begin with? If no, then why worry? Will this matter in the next five years? The next month? The next week even? Why worry about something that didn’t even happen or will not even happen. Learn to sit with it, and usher it out of your system.
Here we go! These are my three tips! You are certainly not alone in this, and this is certainly not permanent. Thoughts are harmless, they are intangible, and its what you make out of it that actually makes it so scary and daunting. Remember, your mind is not separate from you, and you cannot lose control to it. You can manage it and you are always the captain of the boat! The choice is always yours!
Originally published on my Medium, on September 2, 2019. Click here to access it.