Having obsessive thoughts is common in the general population. We are thinking beings and we need to normalize the fact of harboring a multitude of random thoughts. The problem appears when those thoughts become obsessive and limit our daily functioning.
This usually happens because the person places too much value or importance on thinking about something. In this way, thinking goes from being a simple mental event to becoming a psychological problem . The action of giving value to thoughts is something that we have control over.
There are big differences on how we relate to our cognitive events. There are people who are able not to merge with their thoughts, see them as what they are and not give them reality value or too much importance.
On the other hand, there are other people, usually with important characteristics of perfectionism and responsibility, that relate to their own thoughts as if they were real situations.
One of the main ways of treatment to learn to manage obsessive thoughts is logically that the patient learn new ways of relating to those thoughts . The ultimate goal is that thought does not control the person’s life. Think or not think? There is the issue
Obsessive thoughts can become a problem over time. Therefore, it is important to know how to manage them.
Obsessive thoughts can become tremendously annoying. Remember all those times when the song of the summer has been totally attached to your mind and it was impossible for you to take it out. In fact, the more you tried not to listen and hum, the more strongly it interrupted your life.
With obsessive thoughts, this happens. The idea of ”not thinking” paradoxically has a rebound effect and then the thought becomes stronger. Therefore, the key is to learn to stay beside thoughts, looking at them as if we were spectators of our own mental processes .
But this exercise is not easy. We have already explained that obsessions are very uncomfortable and the natural thing is that we try to eliminate them from our head to get rid of anxiety. There compulsions come into play: motor acts that neutralize the discomfort and make the obsession descend.
In the short term it may seem to work, but in the long run the “solution” becomes the real problem. We become dependent on these compulsions and use them to eliminate obsessions , which, therefore, are reinforced.
Strategies to manage obsessive thoughts
The idea is not to fall into compulsion as a means of neutralizing thoughts and not avoiding thinking. Therefore, the strategies that have worked best to date to manage obsessive thoughts are the following:
Cognitively defusing our mental events means knowing how to separate thoughts from reality and from myself . That is to say, it is necessary to think that I am not my thoughts, I am much more. On the other hand, it is also necessary to realize that having thoughts does not mean that they are realities.
Thoughts are nothing more than that: psychological contents, images, perceptions … but they are not objective and verifiable realities. Therefore, it makes no sense to act according to ideas that do not correspond to reality.
It is much more functional to treat thoughts as entities that I do not like, watch them pass, even greet them and stay with them, until they are only decreasing in intensity.
Reduce the value granted
To control obsessive thoughts, it is essential to reduce the value granted to them.
We do not have to give importance to a thought just by having it. We have already said that thinking is eminently human , just like dreaming. We all have thoughts that we would be ashamed to recognize or tell, but that does not mean that they are important or that they define us in any way. Therefore, a good way is to decrease the value we give to thinking.
Not only do we not have to run away from our own thoughts, but we have to try to do the mental exercise of hugging them. Embracing our demons means being open to the experience of having them present, even if we don’t like them.
This part is essential. For every compulsion we do, we are giving reason to thought. That is, we are carrying out a real act based on a mental idea.
And reality and mind are two different worlds, which do not have to go together. Therefore, it is necessary to make the effort to inhibit compulsion so as not to further feed obsessive thoughts.
Do you have compulsive thoughts? As you just noticed, there are several strategies to manage them and prevent them from taking control of our lives. However, it is convenient that you also go to the psychologist.
If you have any further concerns, please use the comment section below.