This is the third and final video in this intrusive thoughts series.
In this video I discuss two simple strategies you can use to help reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts.
Strategy 1 - Journaling
Journaling is very helpful to get the stuff in your head out on paper. Journal can help with creating some space between you and your thoughts (a process called cognitive defusion). I highly suggest a simple journaling practice if you are struggling with intrusive thoughts.
Strategy 2 - Meditation
Meditation is very simple practice that will help enhance your moment by moment awareness. I suggest Meditation to almost all my clients -especially those who struggle with intrusive thoughts.
In this video I discuss why suppressing thoughts doesn't work. I explain how a series of studies on "White Bears" conducted my Daniel Wegner in the late 80's and 90's actually show how thought suppression actually increases the frequency and intensity of thoughts.
In this video I will discuss Intrusive thoughts and unwanted thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are basically thoughts that invade one's mind again and again. In this video I am going to explain why having intrusive thoughts isn't actually the problem - reacting to them is.
I explain how the battle of intrusive thoughts is actually right after you experience the thought. You can either react to the thought by trying to argue with it, suppress it, avoid it - Or you can simply experience it and move on with your day. Understanding this simple choice is crucial to overcoming Intrusive Thoughts.
This is video 1 in a 3-part series.
In video 2 - I will explain how suppressing thoughts actually makes them worse.
And in video 3 - I will introduce some simple techniques you can do that will help quiet down your mind.
How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts
Stopping intrusive thoughts is a much more difficult task than you might think. In fact, I often here from people that struggle with these pestering thoughts that the more they try to stop intrusive thoughts…the more they seem to pop up.
So in this video I talk about some studies that were done in the late 1980’s / early 1990’s by Daniel Wegner that dealt with thought suppression. Now thought suppression is basically the act of trying to push away or not thing a particular thoughts, and these studies demonstrate that when a person suppresses a particular thought they are actually more likely to continue thinking about that forbidden thought.
Intrusive Thoughts (Part 1)
Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that are unwanted that seem to invade a person’s mind. Intrusive thoughts can take on a variety of forms but generally fall into 1 of 3 categories
1. Unwanted Violent Thoughts
2. Unwanted Sexual Thoughts
3. Unwanted Religious Thoughts
One key point to remember is that Intrusive thoughts are usually Ego-dystonic which means they do not reflect your true character, wants, or desires.
Another key point to remember is that when dealing with Intrusive Thoughts you are generally dealing with an anxiety issue versus an impulse control issue
If you wrestle with OCD or any other form of anxiety for that matter….you can probably attest that it is a very painful thing to experience. I know it was for me anyway.
So part of this video is simply me acknowledging that when you experience an anxiety spike it is very painful…and that pain feels very real when you are going through it.
With that said, I truly believe that suffering with OCD or Anxiety or Panic Attacks or (insert anxiety disorder here) for a long period of time is optional.
What do I mean optional?????
Well, overcoming OCD or other anxiety disorders comes down to recognizing what behaviors you are engaging in that are prolonging the anxiety and then replacing those behaviors with healthier actions. Therefore, if you find yourself doing the same compulsive behaviors again and again and again…. you are likely going to experience the same exact result of being stuck in an anxiety loop again and again.
However, if you are willing to choose to...
To put simply, Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, while specifically paying attention to your feelings and your sensations without casting any judgment on them.
And while this sounds like a simple process, you will probably find that it is a little more difficult than you initially thought….
If you are anything like me, you probably spend long periods of the time not paying attention to the present moment. You are lost somewhere in your head either thinking about the past or worrying about the future. And by engaging in this “mindless” wandering day after day… you eventually train your mind to just start wandering to the past or future on autopilot.
But the problem with engaging in this mindless wandering (that you and I both do) is it can lead to several negative consequences. For example, you may start to worry more, you may start to experience more anxiety or feel more nervous, and most importantly...
So What is Exposure and Response Prevention?
Well to put simply, the process of Exposure and Response Prevention has two separate components. The first component is the Exposure, which consists of a person directly experiencing the objects or situations they are afraid of in order to conquer the fear in a safe manner. So, when I bring up the concept of an exposure it means to experience direct contact with something that triggers your obsessive thoughts as well as the uncomfortable feelings that come with the obsessive thoughts, like anxiety, fear, and disgust.
The second component of ERP is Response Prevention. Response Prevention is exactly what it sounds like: preventing yourself from quickly responding to the uncomfortable feelings which are a result of the exposure. Specifically, Response Prevention has to do with ceasing or stopping your compulsive behaviors once you trigger your anxiety and obsessive thoughts. (1)
Now it is important to note that there...
Understanding White Bears and Obsessive Thoughts
Daniel Wegner was a famous social psychologist who conducted some fascinating research throughout his career. Specifically, in the mid to late 1980’s, Wegner conducted research regarding thought suppression and obsessive thoughts, which generated some fascinating results.
To breifly summarize, the participants in his studies were given the following instructions, “For the next five minutes, don’t think about White Bears.” Sounds pretty simple right? Yet, for some reason participants reported continuously thinking, even obsessing, about white bears during the whole five-minute period.
The participants reported trying to distract themselves from thoughts of White Bears, or trying to force other thoughts in their heads, but almost universally Wegner’s research concluded that the participants in his study had little success not thinking about White Bears. The thought seemed to just keep popping up again...
Accept, Sit and Breathe
Accept, Sit and Breathe is a process that is rooted in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And when it comes to this process it is important to distinguish that accepting the presence of a thought, does not mean you accept the thought to be true. This idea of “acceptance” can be very scary for people with OCD….probably because OCD in its very nature involves “unacceptable thoughts.” But it important to realize that most people experience or have experienced the exact same thoughts you are experiencing – but they are able to simply brush it off as a weird thought. This is really the underlying difference between people that struggle with obsessive thoughts verses people who don’t.
So when it comes to “accepting” your obsessions…..try to think of it like being in an elevator with a person you don’t particularly enjoy being around. You can still stand next to them and not like them. In the same...
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