To get rid of obsessions and obsessive thinking there are several fundamental ideas to keep in mind:
- You and your mind are not the same thing.
- The work of your mind is to generate all kinds of ideas, some good, some bad, some rational, some irrational, absurd or meaningless, and some terrifying. You can’t control that. You don’t decide which idea your mind generates.
- Your job is to stick with ideas worth considering and discard those that are absurd.
Unfortunately, your mind doesn’t always let you do your job, because no matter how hard you try not to think about something, your mind just as hard tries to present that idea to you over and over again, so that you get caught up in it. a tug-of-war with your own mind that only takes you to a state of exhaustion, stress and frustration.
In the following pages we will see some techniques to face your obsessions.
1. Get out of your train of thought
First of all, you must change the way you have to see your mind. To do this, imagine a train with many cars moving along a track. Each wagon represents an idea that your mind generates. You can visualize it as a freight car where there is a large banner with the thought written on it. So, in each car there would be a thought like: “I’m going to be late”, “I’m hungry”, “I’m awkward”, “I have to check the work because there may be errors”, “tonight they put my favorite series”, “it’s going to have something horrible happen.
There are two ways to see that train of thoughts: from a distance, as if you were watching it pass from a bridge, or from inside, when you have got on the train and you are inside a car, letting the train take you wherever you go , while it is picking up speed and it is becoming increasingly difficult for you to get off.
But instead of simply falling into the car of an obsessive thought, it should be you who decides when to watch the train go by from afar and when to get on one of its cars. This is only achieved as follows:
- You must be aware of the contents of your mind.
- When an obsessive thought arises (or any other that does not interest you), you should not fight it, but observe it, focus all your attention on that thought to know exactly what your mind is thinking. This way of seeing it is very important because it helps you not to identify with your mental contents and to realize that they are ideas generated by your mind, that you do not have to believe or take into consideration if you do not want to (remember what the work of your mind and what is yours). Then you put a label that summarizes it, such as: “obsession with reviewing the work a thousand times” and then you imagine it in the car of your train of thought, watching from afar, watching as the train moves away, taking your thought until it disappears.
Next: Hold your emotions
2. Hold your emotions
Holding your emotions means that you must be willing to feel your anxiety or discomfort. There is only one way to end unpleasant emotions, and that is to feel them to the end and stay with them until they are exhausted by themselves.
To understand this, first do a little test: when you feel itching in a certain part of your body and feel the desire to scratch, do not do it. Instead, focus on the itching sensation, on its intensity, where it is located, as it is, focus your attention fully on that sensation without doing anything else, keep your attention focused on it feeling the itch at 100%. The itch ends up disappearing, sometimes right away, sometimes out of boredom you realize that suddenly you have diverted your attention from the itch, you are doing something else, and the itch has disappeared. With your thoughts and emotions you can do exactly the same.
If your obsession generates anxiety, sadness, anger or any other type of discomfort, focus on the emotion you are feeling, see what it is like, name it, describe it, accept that emotion and aim to feel it while it is there. That is, you must be willing to feel it without doing anything to stop feeling it and stay there, with it. What happens when you do that? That anxiety ends up disappearing, because this is how the human mind works, which is unable to stay in the same state for long. When you “hold” the discomfort and don’t let your obsessions push you into compulsion, you can live a normal life despite them, you can do whatever you want despite your obsessions.
Also read Surfing your own mind to better understand all this.
Next: Other techniques
3. Other techniques
If the above techniques are not enough, you can try some of the following. They are techniques that will help you distance yourself from your obsessions and not end up getting into the wagon and dragged by the train I was talking about at the beginning, but they will help you to let the train go by without getting on it.
Always remember that your goal is not is that no obsessions occur. That is not possible, you cannot control the ideas that your mind generates , you can only control what you do with them (that is, if you stay with them or let them pass) and your own behavior.
– Sing your obsession: put the music of a song you like and sing it.
– Repeat the obsession out loud as fast as possible for 45 seconds. For example, if you have an obsessive-compulsive disorder related to handwashing, you can repeat the word “sink-sink-sink” over and over again at full speed. Although it seems a little absurd, it works because it helps you distance yourself from your thoughts and thus prevent them from dominating your behavior. Do the test; It is easy.
– Use the metaphor of the leaves in the river.
– Write your obsession on a sheet, in large letters, put it on the wall and look at it as an emotionless alien looking at the human species would.
– Describe what is happening, what your mind is doing: “My mind is presenting me with an obsessive and absurd thought. Thank you, mind, for doing your job.” This will also help you distance yourself. The further you distance yourself from your thoughts, the less they will dominate you.
The exposed techniques are based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). It is advisable that if you have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) you go to a psychologist who knows this type of therapy, in addition to other techniques. Here you can find information about research done to learn about the effectiveness of ACT in treating OCD.
Article By: Themes Mob