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4 ways to stop obsessive thoughts sabotaging your life

Overcome obsessive thoughts and regain control of your thoughts and emotions

a womans screaming because of all the obsessive thoughts in her head

Did you know Obsessive thoughts create compulsive act?

Obsessive thoughts breed compulsive actions. The son who feels that unless he turns the light on and off five times something bad will happen to him or someone he loves, the anxious businessman who has to 'avert disaster' before boarding a plane by clearing his throat twenty times, or the young girl who can keep her parents safe by not walking on the cracks in the pavement. Obsessive thoughts often have this element of superstition about them.

And what's more, knowing that what you are thinking is irrational isn't always enough to actually stop the obsessive thoughts from happening.

Worst case scenario fantasies are common obsessive thinking fodder. "What if I just screamed in this formal meeting? What if I kicked this person's chair over! What if I do this…" The mistake people make is making the leap from "What if I do this" to "The fact I'm thinking about this must mean I really will do it".

Imagination holds a dual nature, with both advantageous and detrimental aspects.

Anyone with a spark of imagination may occasionally misapply it. Who hasn't experienced the fleeting fear that the sound of an ambulance might signal an emergency for a loved one, or momentarily contemplated leaping from the edge of a train platform? Not out of a desire to act upon these thoughts, but merely due to the ability to conjure them in the mind.

Worrying about the future is one focus for obsessive thoughts and so too is focusing on the past. What went wrong? How could it have been different? Did I cause this/not do enough? How could they have done this to me? These thoughts go round and round.

Obsessive thinking is exhausting! Having obsessive thoughts doesn't make someone 'crazy', but it generally means they are over-stressed and, in turn, stress is worsened by the thoughts.

If you've been obsessing, then follow these tips to help control and stop it.

1) Stop and search

Next time you catch yourself having that same old obsessive thought, I want you to stop and 'search it' - don't let it go unchallenged. Ask yourself: "Is this my imagination working overtime here?" Write down the thought itself. Now write three counter-thoughts. For example:

Obsessive thought: "I might have left the stove on and caused a fire."

Counter thoughts:

  1. I remember checking the stove multiple times before leaving the house. It's unlikely that I forgot to turn it off.

  2. I have never experienced a fire incident caused by leaving the stove on. The chances of it happening now are low.

  3. My past behaviour shows that I am responsible and mindful when it comes to household tasks. It's unlikely that I would neglect such an important safety measure.

Obsessive thought: "I must have offended my friend with that comment."

Counter thoughts:

  1. My friend and I have had open and honest communication in the past. If I had truly offended them, they would have mentioned it to me.

  2. It's possible that my friend simply misinterpreted my comment or didn't give it much thought. Not everything I say has to have a negative impact.

  3. I value my friendship with this person, and it's unlikely that one comment would irreparably damage our relationship. We have built a strong foundation of trust and understanding.

Obsessive thought: "I must have made a mistake at work that will have serious consequences."

Counter thoughts:

  1. I have a track record of performing well in my job and being attentive to detail. It's unlikely that I made a significant mistake without realizing it.

  2. If there was a mistake, my colleagues or superiors would have likely caught it by now and brought it to my attention.

  3. Feeling anxious about potential mistakes is a common experience, but it doesn't necessarily mean that something catastrophic has occurred. I have the skills and competence to handle challenges that may arise.

It doesn't matter what your counter-thoughts are. The obsessive thinking has remained unchallenged for long enough. So stop letting it off the hook so easily.

2) Snap out of it! (Literally)

Obsessive thoughts immerse you in a counterproductive state of mind, akin to a trance. During this state, your focus narrows down to specific thoughts, causing you to lose awareness of the broader realities around you.

A traditional behavioral technique involves wearing a discreet elastic band around your wrist. Whenever you notice yourself succumbing to obsessive thoughts, consciously snap the elastic against your skin. This act serves to disrupt the obsessive trance and trains your mind to associate a sense of "punishment" with returning to the repetitive cycle of those thoughts.

3) Know what's real

Obsessive thinkers have a very powerful tool in their imaginations but, they'll sometimes assume what they imagine to be real is in fact real. Just because you can think something or imagine it, doesn't mean it's more likely to happen.

Sit down and close your eyes. Now imagine clapping your hands. Next, i want you to really clap your hands. Which was the real clap? Can you tell the difference? Of course you can. No one (no matter how obsessive and over-imaginative) has ever not been able to tell the difference between an imaginative clap and a real one. The imagination is a great tool, but it needs to be employed usefully and you can practice seeing it as markedly different from reality.

4) Watch the world (and those obsessive thoughts) go by

Ever sat at a coffee shop and just 'watched the world go by'? You observe, but are not involved. People go in and out of view and you stay detached and relaxed.

There is an old meditation technique which encourages detachment from the contents of your own mind. 'Watching' obsessive thoughts in your mind from a relaxed 'distance' is very different from being in the middle of those thoughts and feeling totally identified with them.

The more detached you become from the thoughts, the less you try to fight them. Just view them as curious nosey visitors at your house who'll soon be gone if you leave them alone and don't encourage them to stay.

So if you have an obsessive thought:

  • Close your eyes.

  • Breathe deeply and just observe what that thought does and what it tries to make you believe, perhaps by creating images. Just watch it curiously, like objectively observing a practiced liar that you can see right through. Don't fight them; just observe.

  • You can then imagine watching that thought starting to disappear, like a car travelling past you, coming into view, then continuing on its way and leaving you free of it.

It's a good idea to voice your obsessive thoughts to a professional and well-trained therapist or hypnotherapist to help you develop more strategies to overcome obsessive ideas.

Hypnotherapy for obsessive thoughts

Hypnotherapy can help with obsessive thoughts by accessing the subconscious mind, where deep-seated beliefs and thought patterns are stored. During hypnosis, a state of deep relaxation is induced, allowing a hypnotherapist like myself to work with you to identify and address the root causes of your obsessive thoughts.

Through techniques like suggestion therapy and reframing, a hypnotherapist can help you replace negative thought patterns with positive and healthier ones. They can also strengthen coping strategies and provide tools for managing and redirecting obsessive thoughts.

By tapping into the power of the subconscious mind, hypnotherapy aims to create lasting changes in your thought processes and behavior, helping you gain control over obsessive thoughts and promoting a sense of calm and well-being.


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