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3 Surefire Ways To Overcome Intrusive Thoughts

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By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

You’re driving on a two-lane road when you suddenly think about veering into oncoming traffic. You’re waiting for a train and you imagine jumping in front of it. You’re holding a child you love when you suddenly picture doing something terrible. What IS that? And what is wrong with you?  Those are intrusive thoughts, and nothing is wrong with you. They’re completely normal, but they can also be terrifying. The next time you’re scared by the images that come to mind, remember the following three things.

1. Talk to yourself.

Deep breath. Talk yourself down. Keep breathing deep, in and out. To come back to reality, do a quick grounding exercise. Identify:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can feel
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

An intrusive thought is often simply threat assessment happening in your head. During the intrusive thought, your brain is actually pointing out something NOT to do. It’s easy to interpret it as a desire to do something harmful, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite.

2. Talk to others.
Friends and family have these thoughts as well, and it can bring you closer together to talk about them. If you’re constantly battling intrusive thoughts to the point that they interfere with your productivity or happiness, it’s probably time to see a psychotherapist or a
psychiatrist. Psychotherapists comprise the staff here at Stenzel Clinical, and psychiatrists can perform an evaluation and (potentially) recommend medication.

3. Talk to God.
The fact that intrusive thoughts are also referred to as The Call of the Void or Imp of the Perverse tells you that people often believe dark and sinister forces are behind them. Our God is a gracious and loving one, and he is strong enough to fight voids and imps so you don’t have to.

Tell Him about what went through your head, ask for help and say thanks for being who He is. Feel free to apologize, but remember: one apology is plenty. Don’t get stuck in an apology loop.
Intrusive thoughts are part of being human. If you acknowledge them when they happen instead of running from them, they lose a great deal of their power.