Managing Obsessive Thoughts

What I am going to share here are just some tips to hopefully help you manage obsessive thinking. Keep in mind, this article is based on my personal experience; what works for me; and based on my studies…it is not meant to replace your therapeutic sessions nor any medication you may be taking.

At some point or another, we all have gotten lost in thoughts we could not “shake off”, this is natural, but there are two predominant types of people who get can get lost in obsessive thinking; those who are lacking self-esteem (we all have been wounded) and those who rate high in their IQ but also exhibit a certain degree of autism. Sidenote: it seems even to this day, many seem to think of autistic or those who fall into the spectrum of autism…children/adults, as lacking the ability to think properly…being slower in the process of assimilating information. We could not be further from the truth, autistic children/adults, are extremely intelligent people who simply have a different way of looking at things. Their way although different is not only more “complex” in a good way; meaning they can grasp concepts most can’t and see things most miss; it is also more wholistic. Unfortunately because they cannot express themselves as most people can…the norm, they are often misslabeled as below average or slow. This explains why the most intelligent minds have always been considered eccentric, different, etc. Now that we understand the predominant group of people who get caught in obsessive thinking, lets elaborate more…

With the first group, these obsessive thoughts seem to appear whenever they are triggered; when expectation and perspective does not match how one interprets reality. The second group tends to experience it in a similar way, but rather than being centered on self-esteem — “the world is trying to attack me”– it is based on trying to understand the why, the reasons behind a mechanism; regardless of that mechanism being material or psychological. Of course, the reasons found within each group may overlap; a person may be highly intelligent and have been wounded by something or someone.

Before we continue, let us understand the difference between intrusive and obsessive thoughts…

“Intrusive is a repetitive, invasive, involuntary thought about something, someone, event or situation that disturbs you. They appear at any time, even if there is no triggering external stimulus and are complex to suppress, change or avoid, as they persist. In general, you don’t know how to proceed about it.

Obsessive thoughts are automatic, and self-limiting. They appear when you least expect it and are usually a kind of emotional engagement from situations that produce great internal disturbance and that you enter into an emotional conflict.

Frequently one may seek in some way to get out of that obsessiveness with equally negative methods, such as aggressiveness, revenge, scorn towards what you consider the object of your discomfort, making hot decisions that can have disastrous consequences, or the disproportionate manifestation of anger. Others tend to self-harm, be it physically or mentally for they rather not hurt others. The second is often more in tune with their emotional mechanics than the first. In both cases, they are unconscious behavior; obsessive behavior can be accompanied by compulsive behaviors, hence their denomination of “obsessive-compulsive”.

If you are one of those who have been covering up their emotions and have not led them to express themselves, it is possible that there is some internal aspect that you may have repressed or rejected, not paying enough attention to it. Over time this manifests itself in the form of an internal conflict; an unresolved dilemma that jumps out like obsessive thinking.

It does not matter that the unconscious internal object (understood as a difficult relationship with a person, something that hurt you, something that disappointed you, that which “disarmed” you internally and you did not know how to channel) is no longer in the present today: it is enough that something of those emotions appear as a brushstroke of what is repressed — as such, you react with the irruption of an obsessive thought that pursues you and is lurking in your mind to control your behavior. Obsessive thoughts have an extreme powerful charge, which can be damaging to us when left unchecked.

The best recommendation is to attend Dialectic and Cognitive therapy, which unlike traditional psychotherapy helps us understand our emotions, thoughts and how to work with them. Growing up we learn a lot of things, sadly, no one teaches us how to mediate with our thoughts and emotions or how to utilize critical or introspective thinking; something which perhaps schools should focus more on, instead of just repetition of concepts which will mostly be forgotten. There are tremendous gifts towards us waiting when we learn to listen to our own being, which is why I recommend the above therapies. In the meantime, here are some tips…

Identify the root. It is possible that, if you seek to calm down and get out of the emotional suffocation in which you find yourself, you will need to look in and see more clearly where the thoughts come from and what has triggered them internally… there usually is a history to it. Understanding this history is key. We cannot simply think that living by the mantra “the past is the past”, one will move on…the subconscious is far more complex than this. Our mind likes to find answers, which is why simply pushing things away never works and why eventually damaging thoughts and behavior come back. We need to walk through it. We may need to walk through it many times, each time we heal more because we do the work and understand more. And remember that it is okay to ask for help from others.

Accept them and give your thoughts their place to express themselves. As difficult as it may seem, the process of going through them begins with the acceptance that they are in you and that you can give them the space to express themselves internally. Gradually you will conquer spaces of greater calm to signify them and go deeper to transcend them. You will end up more mature and freer. What we deny controls us, what we embrace allows us to flow.

Don’t hurt yourself or others. If the tendency to aggression is present, remain attentive to your limits so as not to self-harm. You deserve to heal not to self-attack, which is what we are doing when we simply replace whoever or whatever caused the wound by doing it ourselves. Learning to listen to our limits also prevent the emotional whirlwind of obsessive thoughts from moving onto hurting others.

Make a space for ruminating on them. One technique that works is that when your obsessive thoughts appear, you stop them and “negotiate” for about 15 minutes to half hr. By expressing them out verbally, talking, expressing yourself with gestures, manifesting your emotions, you will feel calmer because you are channeling the emotions. You can also assign time by saying to yourself out loud “okay, I want to hear you but this is not the moment, we will come back to this at this time”…. the mind understands the action (words) and satiated it usually will wait, because it feels listened to. Remember the thoughts are you, the unheard you…feeling listened to, gives the wounded you the validation it was denied. Many times, by the time the allocated time arrives, they usually dissipate, because again, they felt heard.

Write down what you feel. Writing is a powerful therapeutic tool which will also help you express forcefully what you feel for it engages your mind, but it also needs your body. Take pen and paper (it works best written by hand), and start dumping everything that comes to you, even if they are single words. The important thing is to make some catharsis of what you feel internally. Give yourself enough time, and you could observe with this continued practice how you lower the revolutions internally; greater clarity will appear about what hurts, angers and frustrates you from those obsessive thoughts. This is another way to get to the root of the matter. It is also a powerful tool to help others or your therapist to better understand you…. the constant you…all of you.

I hope the above helps a bit, remember to be kind to yourself…you deserve it.


By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!


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