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How to Make a Bad Thought Go Away

Intrusive thoughts are not fun. Actually, they are the opposite of that. They appear from nowhere, an
How to Make a Bad Thought Go Away
Intrusive thoughts are not fun. Actually, they are the opposite of that.
They appear from nowhere, and there you are, thinking about something totally unrelated from what you were thinking about just a few seconds ago.
The human brain evolved for this?
Yes, it happens.
Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to deal with intrusive thoughts.
They don’t work all the time, but you might learn something knew if you keep reading.

Why Does My Brain Hate Me?
Intrusive thoughts are something I’ve dealt with throughout my life.
They are terrible in their power to suddenly hijack my brain. Fortunately I take some medicine now that has helped significantly, but I know that’s not the answer for everyone.
But if brain can still be so unproductive and wacky at times, what are some strategies that actually help?
What’s a guy or gal to do when strange thoughts appear from out of nowhere?
I’ve learned that my brain doesn’t hate me–it’s just trying to stay occupied and doesn’t always know how to that best.
When the Thought Appears
I used to have thoughts in middle school and high school that I was about to curse at a teacher. Or jump up from my desk and do something stupid. I knew it was going to happen. But it never did.
This was an intrusive thought, a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. What made it so much worse back then than it is now is that I would fight against it. I would get scared that what I was thinking about would actually happen. As a result, it distracted me from what was actually going on–in this case, the poor teacher trying to get me to pay attention to the day’s lesson.
What actually worked for me–something I only learned over time–is that the thought doesn’t have to hijack my brain. Sure, it’s a weird thought, but it doesn’t have to ruin my day.
Accepting this fact was the start of my feeling better.
But Why Does this Happen?
Brains are weird. If you have obsessive tendencies like I do, you could spend the next five hours trying to learn all you can about this strange phenomenon.
But I’m going to tell you something important: It does NOT matter. It really doesn’t.
Why do birds fly? Why is the sky blue? OK, science has worked through those issues, just as it has started to work through the deepest mysteries of the brain. But bear with me.
When it comes to intrusive thoughts, it’s not worth your time trying to figure out why your brain does the things it does.
What is more important–scratch that, most important–is how you respond. And an attempt at acceptance is the way to respond. Soften your focus. Don’t be so critical of what is going on. Let the thought gently enter your mind–and just float away.
Meditation is great for this. It helps you learn the skill to just notice your thoughts. And then let them drift away.
Intrude Upon Your Intrusive Thoughts
I am sort of saying this in jest. We just talked about how you don’t want to approach your thoughts with great intensity.
But you do want to gain the upper hand. This is what you need to remember. It’s not you who is strange; it’s your brain. Your brain evolved to do wonderful things, but it also has a tendency to go into overdrive in a maniacally anxious way.
It’s not you. It’s your brain.
It’s when you start to clarify your presence, when you watch what’s going on, that you begin to gain an advantage. And what starts out as a foe–as a weird, blob of folds and rivets–soon becomes something else.
Through understanding, persistence, and patience, it starts to become your friend again.
Wouldn’t you rather have a friend residing between your ears than this foe that you hate?
I know I would.
The Inspiration for This Issue
Curious about where I got the idea for today’s Mental Health Update? I stumbled upon this podcast episode about existential OCD, and I’m really glad I did. It was an interesting conversation.
Jon Hershfield - Existential themed OCD (Ep197)
Jon Hershfield - Existential themed OCD (Ep197)
Thanks for being a faithful reader/subscriber/friend. I’m glad you’re here. By the way, The Mental Health Update now has almost 1,000 Facebook friends! Are you one of them?

Have a great rest of your day,

Jordan
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Jordan Brown - Mental Health Newsletter Writer, Poet, Social Worker, and Advocate

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