How to Eliminate Intrusive Thoughts

white bear

Have you ever had a violent thought toward a close person? Maybe you thought of hurting someone you love; stabbing them; pushing them; or acting in other horrifying ways. If one of these thoughts has popped into your head without your control, you are not alone. You are not a bad person. You are not mad. You are not a criminal.

These thoughts are called “intrusive thoughts”. They are inappropriate images that enter your mind without your volition or control. They are basically stupid thoughts without any reason behind them.

Intrusive thoughts are common among those who suffer from anxiety disorder. However, these unwanted thoughts do appear also in the mind of those people who are not necessarily struggling with anxiety.

For most people these violent thoughts and images are fleeting moments of anxiety. People get very scared when they cannot dismiss them mainly because they fear they might actually put them into practice.

Avoid These 5 Mistakes

Before you learn what to do about these unwanted thoughts, let’s see five most common mistakes people make when they try to get rid of intrusive thoughts.

The first mistake is searching for the origin of these thoughts and asking, “Why do I have these thoughts?” The more you search for a logical reason, the more difficult it becomes to find a solution. These thoughts are useless and stupid.

Second mistake is trying very hard not to think of unwanted thoughts. However, our brain cannot forget by will power. You cannot not to think of something because not thinking is thinking with more intensity!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the nineteen Century Russian author, warned us about this mistake with the following challenge:

Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

Social psychologist Daniel Wegner put Dostoevsky’s advice to test. In his study, the participants were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed to think of white bears for five minutes. The second group was asked not to think of white bears for the same period of time. Then after a short break, both groups were asked to think of white bears again.

Wegner found that the members of the group that were told not to think for five minutes and then were asked to think, they thought of white bears more often than participants who had been told from the beginning to think of white bears. The results of this research confirmed that Dostoevsky’s was right: you cannot banish a thought forcefully.

The third mistake is trying to resist the negative thoughts. Some therapists claim that whenever you have an intrusive thought, you will be able to control them if you say to yourself “Stop!” This thought stopping technique is not an effective way to get rid of unwanted thoughts because it’s a variation of the first mistake.

The forth mistake is also another variation of the first inefficient strategy. Some people try to distract their mind. Distraction may help you focus on another topic; however, it will not eliminate the intrusive thoughts. Later they will pop up into your head.

The fifth mistake is to try to convince yourself that you would never actually do such things. Although this seems a logical strategy, it does not work because by reasoning with these thoughts, you are paying attention to them. Whenever you search for a rational response to unwanted thoughts, it’s like running away from a monster as well as feeding fresh meat to eat! It will become stronger.

How to eliminate intrusive thoughts

The first step in eliminating intrusive thoughts is becoming aware of the above mistakes and avoiding them. They are ineffective strategies that could actually make the problem worse.

There are two specific strategies that can help you eliminate intrusive thoughts:

First useful strategy:

Every time you get an unwanted thought or image, say to yourself: “This is a stupid thought”, “ It doesn’t deserve an intelligent reply”, and “I can block my reaction to it.” As you can see, this is a different approach than trying to stop the negative thought or not thinking. You have no control over a thought that involuntarily comes to your mind. Once you have an image in your head, you cannot get rid of it.

Where is your domain of control? The answer is: your own reaction. You can control how you answer these thoughts. So, instead of focusing your attention on the unwanted thoughts, focus your effort on your reaction to them.

For few weeks practice ignoring these thoughts by avoiding giving them rational replies. Stupid thoughts do not deserve intelligent answers.

Second useful strategy:

If the first strategy is too weak for you, then you can use one of the Chinese principles of Tao Te Ching. Lao Tse, the author of this classic book of ancient wisdom, writes:

What is in the end to be weakened,

Begins by being first made strong.

This means that if you want to diminish or eliminate the unwanted thoughts, first you must encourage their flow. You can let intrusive thoughts to come to your mind without trying to stop them.

Allow yourself voluntarily to think of all these nasty thoughts. There are some rules to doing this correctly. You decide when, where and for how long you think these thoughts. It is done in a controlled fashion: it has a beginning and an end.

This exercise will help you control the uncontrollable because it’s a paradoxical approach. Reflect for a minute! The more you try to control your thoughts, the more you lose control of them. To overcome this paradoxical impasse, you apply a counter-paradox. You let go of control in order to gain control.

This idea may be scary at first but will help you channel the intrusive thoughts. After two weeks of this paradoxical exercise, the unwanted thoughts will be less likely to come back into your mind.

A good way to tame these negative thoughts is to write them down. In a previous blog post I explain in detail the step-by-step of this assignment. You can set an alarm to write for 30 minutes all your intrusive thoughts that you voluntarily can conjure up. Then write whatever comes to your mind as you express freely any emotion that you feel. Perform this task alone in a room so you would feel free to cry if you feel like it. When the alarm goes off, stop writing and tear up the papers into pieces.

“What you deny, subdues you. What you accept, transforms you.” Carl Jung

I Cannot Get Over My Ex

Source: Orin Zebest
Source: Orin Zebest

Carmen was a young woman in her twenties who came to see me two weeks before her wedding day. She had no time to lose so she quickly stated her problem: she couldn’t get over her ex. Even though she had broken up with this former boyfriend and had completely let go of that past relationship, and was about to marry the man of her dreams… she had become obsessed with her ex-boyfriend.

She had tried to forget her ex-boyfriend but couldn’t. Among the complicating factors was that this ex-boyfriend was a good friend of the family and as such he was invited to the wedding.

The closer Carmen got to the wedding day, the more obsessed she had become. She felt terribly guilty and blamed herself for the persistent thoughts swimming around her head.

After listening to her story, I told Carmen that I agreed with her: she should feel guilty. I suggested that a good way to resolve her problem would be a good punishment. I argued that she deserved it because she still was thinking about her one man when she was about to get married to another.
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“I Cannot Let Go of a Past Relationship”

Source: Quinn Dombrowski
Source: Quinn Dombrowski

After reading about my expertise and unique approach in a magazine article, Pablo, a sixty year-old man sought my help. He wanted to forget someone who had been special to him at one point but he couldn’t let go of this past relationship. At first, it appeared to be a typical case of someone who wants to get over his ex, but it turned out to be more complex than that. Pablo told me that he was now a happily married man and he stressed that he enjoyed the intimacy and heterosexual sex he shared with his wife.

The problem began when PAblo initiated a friendly relationship with a younger man. However, what seemed to be just a friendship between two men, gradually turned into a physically intimate one. Although they never engaged in homosexual sex, they had kissed, touched and caressed each other. The younger man had asked for money because he said that he needed it. Gradually, requesting money became a regular part of their interaction and he was soon asking for greater amounts each time.
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How I Vaccinated Mike Against Anxiety

anxiety mike success story

Sitting in front of me, sweating profusely with dried saliva in the corners of his mouth, Mike said, “I’m afraid of talking about my fears”. He apologized again and again for being nervous but he could not sit still. He told me that he had read one of my books and driven 250 kilometers to ask for my help.

Mike said that he suffered from anxiety, fear and obsessive thoughts. He was afraid of saying something “obnoxious” when he was talking with people. He was also unsure if he had just said something inappropriate without noticing it. Being a school teacher he was constantly on guard, watching his words in order not to make any mistake and say something inappropriate in front of his students. This constant effort exhausted him which wouldn’t let him sleep well at night. He didn’t dare ask people he didn’t know well but he did feel at ease with friends and relatives. So he would ask them if he had said something wrong and obnoxious. Several times he apologized to me just in case if he had already or was going to say something inappropriate to me.

Unfortunately Mike had suffered from this condition for 25 years. His first psychiatrist had made a gloomy prognosis: “Your fears and obsessions would never be cured.” Other psychiatrists weren’t as negative as the first one but neither could they help to solve his problems. They had prescribed multiple medications which Mike was taking regularly.
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New Solution for Anxiety Sufferers

I can help you overcome fears, phobias & anxiety-related problems with a safe and effective method. The methodology I use is both effective and efficient. So much so that many people that come to me for help find they require just a handful of sessions to rid themselves of fear & anxiety. However, every case is unique.

How the Rowshan Method Works

I’ll share with you the secret to overcoming fear and anxiety. Bear in mind that the discovery is not mine. World renowned neurologists and brain researchers such as Antonio Damasio, Michael Gazzaniga and Dennis Charney, among others, have contributed greatly to expand our knowledge of how the brain functions.

In order to free yourself from phobias and anxiety, two fundamental things must be changed:

  1. Your perception of what appears to be menacing and dangerous, and also
  2. Your reaction to it.

These two aspects become a vicious self-reinforcing loop that takes a life of its own. Once you manage to change how you perceive the problem situation or stimuli, your physiological reaction to it will change as well.

Before telling you how I go about achieving these two goals, let me tell you briefly what I do not do:

  • I do not expose you to the object or the situation that causes fear or anxiety. Exposure techniques rarely work because by triggering this vicious circle of fight-or flight response (fear and anxiety) you could actually reinforce it.
  • I will not just talk and listen to you. Simply giving you a sympathetic shoulder and a listening ear to your problem will not solve anything.
  • I will not give you advice. Telling that you should read such and such book or to take life easy will not help you.
  • I will not try to convince you that your fear is irrational. That would insult your intelligence as you already know that.
  • I will not delve into your past or childhood memories to uncover the deep layers of issues surrounding the problem.

You must realize that there is no scientific evidence that knowing the causes of a problem contributes to its solution. The key factor with fears and anxiety is not what causes them in the past, but rather how the problem keep persisting in the present.

Over several online sessions, I will take you through specific techniques that allow you to overcome your fears or anxiety. Between sessions, you will practice what you’ve learned. And as we progress I will fine tune your exercises to fit your unique case until you have overcome the problem.

My method is a combination of many proven techniques. I use relaxation exercises, suggestions and other techniques that I have honed through years of study and practice. The key is the correct order of these techniques.

As Blaise Pascal, the great philosopher said: “Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects.” Likewise, techniques differently arranged will have different effects. Some of the techniques used by most psychotherapists are effective; however they are presented in the wrong order. Therefore they do not have the desired effect and rarely help you overcome your fears and anxiety.

My Method Is Effective

I believe there’s only one proof that matters: the results I can deliver. I’m neither a doctor, a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. I am a specialist in anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behavior and other anxiety-related problems.

My approach is decidedly pragmatic aimed at freeing you from fears and anxiety. My method has proven over the last 23 years to be an effective solution to extreme fear and anxiety. To learn more, you can read the success stories related to anxiety, phobias, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder describing how I’ve helped specific individuals.

Many believe that the origin and the very first cause of fear and anxiety is the key to solving it. However, in some cases, people don’t even remember the cause. I have had clients who had every reason to be happy in their life but still felt anxious and depressed. As every person suffering from fear and anxiety can tell you, the symptoms often evolve through time and usually become worse. Untreated problems can worsen. So time becomes the enemy – as you let your fears and anxiety rule your life, your symptoms worsen.

I remember a man who came to see me for agoraphobia. His fear had started with a panic attack in the street but gradually his fear limited his life to the extent that he could hardly go out of his town on his own. It is immensely gratifying to be able to assist individuals improve their lives and reach a little bit further into their vast potentialities.

You can contact me for more information and to book an appointment for online sessions.