So I was going to write a post today about feeling over-sensitive and feeling a bit anxious. Then I did some meditation and realised that by writing about these feelings, I’m giving them power. So instead I am going to write about how you can start to conquer these intrusive or obsessive thoughts.
We give our thoughts so much power don’t we? Like the fear of them being true is worst than the actual thought itself! We all have various upsetting and distressing feelings, but mine were always self-hatred and a panic about the things I had control over. I was, and often till am, very anxious about my behaviour and the decisions I was making, scared that I would take a wrong turn somewhere and that this would result in total disaster. While I still get these anxieties, I have learnt how to deal with my them more effectively. And I am confident you can too! This is how:
Don’t Fight Them
One of the biggest things you can do straight away with intrusive thoughts is not to fight them. I know that might sound crazy, but accepting your thoughts, no matter how painful, gives them less power. Just let them wash over you, let go of the fight and surrender. Doing this can make them less severe and often they end up leaving on their own after a while.
One of the first things I tried when I decided I wanted to stop my obsessive thoughts 3 years ago, was self-affirmations. To begin with, I was very skeptical and even felt silly saying things out loud! But to me it really proved just how fragile our reality is. Saying things out loud, things i didn’t believe, suddenly made them real and I started to believe them! I use this technique still today. If you’re interested in giving it a go, (because what do you have to lose?) there’s a fantastic article on self-affirmations on the Huffington Post.
I tend to harp on about meditation so I’ll make it short, but I truly want to stress to you all how much this has effected my every day. It has been a fantastic way to quieten my mind and when stressful situations arise out of the blue, to which I’d usually have a knee-jerk reaction, I am able to find the inner peace that meditation has taught me and react calmly. There are so many different ways to meditate and you’ll find a lot of information on the web on how to do it.
Some articles are triggers for me as they seem quite overwhelming for some reason. That’s why I love guided meditations on youtube. Here’s one on helping you deal with obsessive thoughts.
Find Out Why
Learning to deal with my intrusive thoughts and stopping them from returning frequently, meant finding out who I was as a foundation to work from. That in itself is hard when we are so bombarded with images and stories from the media that completely distort reality. But finding out why you feel something is going to help you master the emotion.
I hated myself. Trying to not hate myself was pointless until I understood why it was I had such low-self-esteem.
You want to get rid of the source of the fear rather than just deal with the symptoms as this will only bring momentary relief. You can try and do this alone but usually the help of a professional is beneficial in finding those answers. Understanding that being bullied had a huge impact on my self-image (I took what was being said to me as fact), I could start to deal with those traumatic experiences and find closure in accepting that what happened wasn’t my fault. The self-hatred started to lessen as a result of me understanding why I felt the way I did.
The journey of self discovery will seem terrifying, but ask yourself this: What is it you are afraid of finding out about yourself?
Any journey that involves exploring more of yourself is guaranteed to bring up ‘new’ fears as you start to uncover the deepest and darkest depth of your psyche. Finding them, understanding and accepting them, then learning to let them go will make a huge impact when tackling distressing thoughts. There will be nothing left to be afraid of if you successfully uncover them all! Let them all be out in the open! You are the powerful one – you are not your thoughts. Let them come out of the woodwork of your mind and then take away their power by realising that they don’t represent the truth – it is just your mind trying to protect you from reliving a trauma.
No one is afraid of the dark, people are afraid of what’s in the dark. Turn on the light in the darkness of your mind and expose your emotions for what they really are. Nothing but thoughts. Also realise that you do not have to act upon them.
Take Time Out To Work On The Relationship With Yourself
There was a time in my life when it seemed like all my relationships were falling apart. And everything I did only made it worst! Sometimes the best thing is to do nothing. I looked at myself and thought, “Hang on, I’m the common denominator here. Maybe I just need to step back and look at why I am acting or reacting in a way that’s affecting my life in a negative way.” For a month I became silent (not completely but I let my friends and family know that I needed some time out, that no one had upset or offended me, and that I would be in touch soon). I allowed myself some time to just be. No pressure from friendships or family. Just time to be with myself, to mediate and to think about the kind of person I wanted to be. I didn’t try to fix anything that I felt was broken.
I had been in a cycle of reacting to situations, to people, and then I had been frantic to rectify or change the result of that reaction. The time out reset everything. It was like I had left a room full of people in my life and re-entered a person more in control. I was able to start again. My point is, allow yourself the time. It is ok not to know all the answers all of the time. Trust in the process, and trust yourself!
The world won’t stop if you allow yourself weeks or months to just be still, be with yourself.
Nurture the relationship with yourself. Learn to like and love yourself. Be your own best friend; when I am in a situation where I don’t know what to do, I ‘give’ the problem to someone else. I say “if this person had this problem, what would I tell them to do?”
Concentrate On How Far You’ve Come, Not On How Far You’ve Got Left To Go
You’re reading this, so I am going to assume you want to change something. Wanting to be different and actively seeking the answers on how to do that is a huge starting point! Most people try to pretend they aren’t feeling the way they are or think that by ignoring their emotions they will somehow magically disappear. Sadly it isn’t that easy. It’s important for you to realise that by having the courage to face yourself, you are already well on the way to kicking your mind’s ass! Don’t be afraid, there is nothing you can’t conquer! You can take back the control your emotions.
Lastly, for those thoughts that start to consume you no matter how much you try to accept and let go, I find this exercise useful (closing your eyes might help):
See your thoughts as a physical object. Imagine them as a shape or form or anything that comes to you. See it in your minds eye – how it looks, the colour, the size, the texture. Is it quiet or noisy? Pour all of your intrusive thought into this object – see it filling the shape, coming out from your head. Concentrate on deep breathing while you do this. Then imagine yourself physically taking hold of it in your hand. Look at this object you’re holding. It is containing all that anger and hate and anguish. Hold it at arms length and note how you feel about it. Do you feel pity for it? For it being so full of pain? Do you feel anger for it or bitterness? You might find a smile start to form on your face for this insignificant object that is doing you no service at all. It is just so self consumed by itself and its own destructive nature. Realise you do not need it. Allow yourself to become separate from it.
When you’re ready, let go of it. Release it into the air. Watch it disappear.
So here’s some thoughts and tools that might help anyone struggling with these destructive thoughts. I hope some of this has been useful. As always, please do let me know if you want to talk about anything in more detail, or anything else at all! I’m not a professional, just a real person hoping my experiences will help others realise it’s going to be ok.
Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net