by: Charles Linden
We’ve all been there… One minute your listening intently as your mother in law tells you for the tenth time about the people she met on her recent holiday… or to the boss as he delivers a presentation on improving productivity levels (yawn!)
One minute you’re listening… the next you’re planning the colour scheme of the new kitchen or what you’re going to be eating for dinner tonight! Basically, your mind has wandered!
It’s called ‘stream of consciousness‘ and it happens to us all!
Our minds are designed to work like that, flowing from one thought to the next. It’s the basis of intelligent human thought… of creativity… even of survival. Our brains have to react quickly to changing stimuli and they have to be thinking on many different levels at once.
Of course that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to pay attention and stick to the subject at hand! We should control our thought patterns sufficiently so we can learn, so we can live. We should be able to apply this control, this discipline, over our wandering minds.
But what about people who experience the kind of disturbing thought patterns where they see themselves hurting themselves? Or harming loved ones? Or acting totally out of character, for instance in a sexual way? Or behaving in an inappropriately violent or aggressive manner?
These people have NO CONTROL over their thoughts. They cannot help what they picture in their minds.
Sound familiar at all?
These people suffer from ANXIETY . They may not know it, but anxiety is the CAUSE of these disturbing thoughts. These clients invariably think they’ve become anxious as a result of having disturbing thoughts. That’s NEVER the case.
Anxiety causes them. An anxious mind is constantly considering ‘what if’ scenarios and, together with a vivid imagination, this is what fuels these disturbing thoughts.
I’ve spoken with many people who have these thoughts. I myself experienced them during my anxiety so I know what I’m talking about!
People who experience disturbing thoughts become confused, scared and isolated. They worry that they’ll act on these thoughts. So by limiting their experience of life, they believe they’ll somehow control these thoughts and stop them in their tracks.
No. That’s not going to happen.
The ONLY way to stop these thoughts is to stop the CAUSE of them – ANXIETY.
So many people experience disturbing thoughts. They think of jumping from high places… harming their loved ones… hurting themselves. They’re controlled by fear because the thoughts can be so intense.
Others experience less distressing thoughts. They may find their minds obsessing over music. They may repeat words over and over… or count… or display irrational behavioural patterns. They lack control over their minds.
But however it manifests itself, these thoughts are simply another symptom of anxiety.
If you are experiencing the kind of thoughts which leave you distressed, the most important thing to remember is that you are not going to act on them! You are not a bad person! They have no control over you! Once you remove the cause of them – the anxiety – they’ll just go away. It really is that simple!
I only wish it was as simple to keep my mind from wandering when I’m listening to my mother-in-law!