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How to deal with troubling thoughts | Psyche Guides

https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-manage-intrusive-thoughts-with-the-help-of-cbt

psyche.co

How to deal with troubling thoughts | Psyche Guides
Intrusive thoughts are a common and disturbing symptom of anxiety. Cognitive behavioural techniques can help

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Disturbing Thoughts

Disturbing Thoughts

We all have thoughts going on in our heads all the time, stories, reimagining of the past, beliefs and ideas. Many of these thoughts are not in our direct control and can show up in our consciousness in an intrusive manner, without any effort or intention from our side.

These unwanted intrusive thoughts, which are without our consent, can be beneficial, mundane, disposable, or even disturbing and scary.

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Suppressing Our Thoughts: The Pink Elephant

Many studies show that thought suppression leads to the mind paying extra and frequent attention to the particular thought that is being suppressed, causing it to ‘rebound’ and become the dominant thought.

Example: Telling the brain to not think of a pink elephant conjures up the image of a pink elephant automatically for most people.

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Disturbing Thoughts: The Limits Of Therapy

Many psychotherapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) only touch the surface of the problem, not the origin of the disturbing thought.

Though simply having those unwanted intrusive thoughts does not automatically mean that those will be acted upon, as most people are simply terrified of having such thoughts.

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Practical Steps To Handle Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

  1. Acknowledge and label these thoughts as bad or negative, creating a distance between you and the thoughts.
  2. Write them down, to have it in front of you on a piece of paper, as you reflect on it and stop the worrying in the process.
  3. Recognize that the thoughts are real and are an unpleasant problem.
  4. Recognize and validate your own emotional response to the thoughts.
  5. Do not brood over them, and try to redirect your attention to something else, which is pleasant.

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Handle Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: Do’s And Don’ts

  1. Practice mindfulness meditation, focusing your attention to your breath or a mantra.
  2. Note the thought and ‘park’ it, reminding yourself to tackle it later.
  3. Do not distract yourself in a way that makes your mind rebound towards the unwanted thought you are trying to avoid.
  4. Do not take comfort or reassurance in others, as it can be a cause of false beliefs and incorrect notions.
  5. Do not worry, ruminate or delve into negative self-talk.

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Experiencing Panic Attacks

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There are three reactions that the body produces when in the grip of a panic attack:

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Panic And The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) region of the brain is activated during a panic attack, and two opposing components get to work as needed:

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Mindfulness And Simple Knowing

Mindfulness And Simple Knowing

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One Medicine Many Cures

Mindfulness can be practised to:

  1. Manage pain, anxiety, stress, or mood swings.
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  3. Reduce suffering, distress and trauma caused by pain and depression, along with the negative emotions that come with life-threatening diseases.

The Space Inside Us

Mindfulness opens up a space inside our minds that helps us respond to outside situations with ease, instead of just reacting impulsively.

We become aware and are able to detect our default setting, which is our ‘driven-doing mind’, and catch hold of it before any impulsive reaction is acted upon. It also helps us arrest our cycle of negative thoughts.

Psychological skepticism

Psychological skepticism

Psychological skepticism means being neutral toward the contents of your mind.

Most of us are overly trusting of our own minds. But information is not always the truth. Jus...

Your mind is just guessing

Emotions, thoughts, and memories may give us useful information, but they are also likely to be unhelpful, inaccurate, or misleading.

For example, when you hear a rattling noise while out hiking, your fear may make you proceed more cautiously. However, fear of your coworkers who think you're dumb keeps you from participating in important meetings.

The information your mind sends you in the form of emotions, thoughts, memories, desires, etc., relates to simply guesses, which means it's unwise to put blind faith in it.

Embracing psychological skepticism

Remind yourself that just because you have a thought doesn't make it true. Just because you feel an emotion doesn't make it significant.

When we deal with our thoughts, emotions, and painful memories, we should consider embracing psychological skepticism - the middle road between ignoring the content of your mind or taking it as gospel.