By Portarlington Psychologist and Operation Transformation Expert Dr Eddie Murphy
Some thoughts are rarely talked about but we have all experienced them. ‘Intrusive Thoughts’ are thoughts and mental images of sexual violence, harming people, making impulsive or abusive outbursts, blasphemous acts and violence against animals or children.
Imagine your baby is crawling around on the floor, all smiles, playful and sweet and you buttering some toast and then having a thought of ‘stabbing your child with the knife in your hand’, or you are religious and at mass and have the thought of 'shouting out loud Christ is a Fraud’. Or you are standing waiting for a train and think 'I could jump in front of that train, or push someone off the platform'.
While wanting to do any of these things is not normal, having intrusive thoughts like this, is.
In my clinical experience, this thought hits where we are most vulnerable; the most loving parent has thoughts of harming their child, the priest of shouting in church, or a peaceful person has thoughts of hurting others.
It’s precisely the opposite of our true nature and because we do not want to act in this way; these thoughts are the most inappropriate thing your mind can imagine.
Now you know why we don’t talk about them.
They are terrifying and upsetting. Most people can dismiss them with their ‘rational’ brain, knowing they would never act on them.
They can be a symptom of unrecognised stress. Sometimes we need to target the distressing thought with the same tools used on Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
If you struggle with intrusive thoughts, explore your work, relationships, financial, emotional, friendships, physical health. See where you are, and tackle what is causing you stress.
If thoughts remain persistent, and interfere in everyday life, there is help.
Reassurance will not help the thought to go away and seeking constant reassurance will only amplify the thought and distress.
If they persist to this point then they could be associated with the ‘O’ of OCD.
OCD world authority Dr Jeffrey Schwartz explains: “Obsessions are bothersome thoughts that intrude into your conscious awareness totally against your will and make you feel afraid that something might happen. Because of that feeling of fear, you then start to do compulsions.”
People with this form of OCD often avoid things or situations that trigger these thoughts, for example, not taking the train, or holding a baby. In situations they can't avoid, they may turn to rituals, such as repetitive counting or praying.
If you think you experience some intrusive thoughts please know you are not weird, or ‘going mad’. These are normal. Next time they occur try to remember that there is a difference between a thought and an action. Don't try to push the thought away, just let it pop in and float right out again.
They are a reminder of the opposite of who you truly are, loving, law abiding, conscientious, caring, supportive, intelligent, happy.