Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that seem to become stuck in your mind. The nature of some thoughts can be upsetting, causing distress once experienced.
Even if you are of sound mind, it is still possible to be struck by intrusive thoughts out of nowhere. However, it is entirely normal if you have recurring intrusive thoughts and have no urge to act on them.
Many people, however, do experience intrusive thoughts of a violent, sexual, or suicidal nature. When such ideas are triggered, they can be frightening, embarrassing, and confusing. If experienced, we often ask if we are “normal” to have thought of such things. However, the likelihood of experiencing recurring thoughts is higher the more they are obsessed over. The real problem begins when you get stuck on a thought.
When allowed to get “stuck” in the mind, feelings of anxiety and guilt can develop. When you begin to obsess about intrusive thoughts, and you have feelings of self-hatred for feeling them, this is when they become problematic. In some cases, intrusive thoughts may indicate a deeper mental health issue, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
We have no control over our thoughts, and it is normal to have some bizarre or paranoid thoughts. These are “junk” thoughts. Most of the time, they don’t even have any meaning or relevance in our lives. The best action to take is to take no action. Please don’t take the thoughts too seriously, and don’t take them personally.
Thoughts emerge from consciousness, yet identifying with thoughts is an unsupportive habit given that they feel real when experienced. Philosophers and neuroscientists now agree that our thoughts do not define who we are as individuals. French philosopher René Descartes stated: “Cogito ergo sum,” meaning, “I think, therefore I am.” However, much has evolved since then.
The mind adds its narrative to daily events, which we then accept as truth. Unfortunately, this is often a negative narrative. Thoughts occur through you, like a radio transmitting a frequency signal. You are not the signal but the receiver of the signal. Mindfulness is a valuable tool when you experience runaway thoughts.
In January 2021, Healthline published 10 Tips To Take Charge of Your Mindset and Control Your Thoughts. Aside from intrusive thoughts, other troubling thought patterns might include:
- Rumination or looping thoughts
- Negative self-talk
- Cognitive biases, or errors in thinking that you can affect your choices or interactions
- A fixed pessimistic outlook
Identifying specific thoughts and patterns and accepting them is the key to unlocking any mystery behind why you experience them. For there is no big mystery, you just do.
Other tools to assist with intrusive thoughts
Writing them down
Writing things down enables a higher level of thinking and a more focused action plan.
Distraction doesn’t always entail a lack of focus; it can sometimes simply allow the person to focus on something other than the task at hand, for example, an unwanted thought process.
Meditation can provide a sense of calm and peace and restore balance to both your physical and mental well-being.
The first thing you want to do if you experience an intrusive thought is to respond with logic. Know that the thought pattern will pass by paying minimal attention to the actual thought. Focus on the present, engage with your surroundings, and pay attention to your senses. Seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and hearing can transition your thought from one pattern to another healthier one.