Navigating Intrusive Thoughts: Witness & Release

Automatic Thoughts

Approximately 30,000 thoughts pass through our minds during the day. These thoughts are automatic and not quite possible to control or minimize. While these thoughts can sometimes be the kind of ordinary thoughts that cross the mind day-to-day, other times we may find ourselves alone with unpleasant, negative, or disturbing thoughts. It might be useful to remind ourselves that our mind is like a flowing sea at such moments, that thoughts just come and go.

Do you also find yourself stuck with negative or disturbing thoughts during the day? Do you feel intensely uncomfortable when such thoughts come to mind? Are you having trouble coping with this discomfort? Do you ever focus on other thoughts, dreams, or plans in order to suppress these thoughts?

Let’s go over a day in your life from start to finish. Look at what you see around you. What do your surroundings make you think and feel? Often, what you feel is based on what you think. Look for the sensation that any object, texture, taste, or perhaps smell evokes within you. All of them originate from your experiences to date. And these perceptions and your lived experiences compose your present thoughts and feelings moment to moment. Notice them and try to capture those automatic thoughts that run through your mind.

Intrusive Thoughts

Some thoughts are more persistent and intrusive than others, entering our minds and almost refusing to leave. Notice the content of these thoughts and let them pass by like a train. Remember, whatever they consist of, they’re all just thoughts. Before getting caught up in challenging emotions, it can be useful to remind yourself that thinking and doing are not the same thing. Our thoughts don’t have to be our physical reality or dictate our actions.

Our thoughts make sense based upon the meaning we attribute to them. If you try to force the disturbing thoughts out of your mind, they will continue to insist on staying. So let them be… Let the thoughts flow from your mind like water. You can just be a witness to them, noticing them and letting them go by.

Thoughts Like Waves in the Sea

Just one thought that comes to mind… Just one among many thoughts… You can imagine it like a wave in the sea or a train passing by. A thought comes and goes. The more meaning you attribute to it and the more you try to suppress it, the more it will nest and resist you. Let it simply be in your mind and then it will go as it came. Thoughts are just thoughts and are different from actions.

Don’t let these thoughts rule your life. In short, anything you do to suppress your thoughts can actually make them stronger. The greatest favor you can do for yourself and your mind is to not react to these thoughts. Not distracting yourself, ignoring them, or focusing elsewhere, but rather hearing them, listening to them, questioning their reality, and evaluating what they mean to you. Then you can begin to heal. 

Remind yourself:

  • You are not in control of these intrusive thoughts coming into your mind.
  • These thoughts come to everyone’s mind, not just yours. Identify their meaning for you and see the reality.
  • Thinking and acting are not the same.
  • Don’t try to silence what your thoughts are telling you. On the contrary, listen to them, notice them, and look at their place in your life. Do you want to continue living with these thoughts? Remember, you have power and it’s possible to reduce the impact of cyclical thinking on your life. So let the thoughts come and go.

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