Intrusive thoughts are scary when you don’t know what they are and how to deal with them. Incessant thoughts of blasphemy, thoughts of sexual or criminal nature that go against everything you believe to be right, are just too hard to ignore. So you end up suppressing these thoughts. You develop many avoidance behaviors and overall begin to question your sanity.
Here is when it gets interesting, Intrusive Thoughts are just like any other thoughts that you have. The only thing that makes them different is the fact that you react to them the moment they come up. Your reaction quickly makes them dominant, pushing away everything that occupied your mind prior to that. This is especially distinct when you are put in a situation that triggers these thoughts.
In my own journey, bridges were the trigger to my Intrusive Thoughts. For you it could be a church, a kitchen, being alone with your child etc. Surely, you have no intention of acting upon these thoughts, otherwise you wouldn’t be reacting to them with shock and disgust. But the question is what makes you have Intrusive Thoughts? The short answer is high level of anxiety and stress paired with shame and self-loathing.
Going back to my high anxiety days, my Self-Harm Intrusive Thoughts triggered when I was standing on any elevated area, for the most part it was bridges. A thought like “Jump off” would instantly startle me and make me rush off the bridge to avoid having these thoughts.
Due to lack of any rational explanation for having these thoughts, I started questioning my sanity. But then I started questioning these thoughts instead. Where did they come from? I may have had them in the past but I never paid attention to them. However, since my anxiety level was high, I instantly interpreted them as a threat, which activated my fight/flight mode and made me escape the situation without thinking. Which in turn, signaled to my brain that being in this situation is threatening to my survival. Thus, the irrational cycle of Intrusive Thoughts was created.
Incidentally, the moment when I started having these Self-Harm Intrusive Thoughts was when overwhelming amount of anxiety made me contemplate suicide. This was a period in my life when I saw no hope in recovering from anxiety disorder and was full of self-loathing. Thankfully, this was about to change.
Things got better when I gained some hope and self-confidence after making it through a long international flight, which I genuinely thought to be the end. This was a pivotal point in my recovery in general, which made me see clearly that all the self-harm thoughts weren’t me and what I wanted to do.
As a result, my journey to recovery could be summed up as a process of becoming best friends with myself. I started seeing clearly that I was more than thoughts. I was the one who observed them, the one who chose whether I should feed a certain thought or not. This is what gaining control over thoughts means. You can do it too, just accept that having a thought doesn’t mean that it represents who you are. Also, learn to forgive and love yourself no matter what.
I’m a self-recovered anxiety disorder sufferer trying to teach others how anxiety works. f you’re interested in 1-on-1 anxiety coaching with me, feel free to visit my coaching page.