Controlling Unwanted Thoughts – Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
As well as all of the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, worry and stress, it is often the constant stream of anxious thoughts that causes the most distress.
You may find your thoughts racing off in all sorts of negative directions. You find yourself thinking the worst, catastrophising and overthinking everything. You feel mentally exhausted, making it even harder to deal and cope with your thoughts. They follow you around inside of your head, turning everything into anxiety, dread, fear and worry.
And you may very well find yourself stuck in the negative spiral and cycle where your anxious thoughts lead to anxious feelings increasing. And all of those anxious feelings lead your thinking towards the source of all the worry and dread and you find yourself imagining and thinking about things getting worse and worse. That cycle of thoughts increasing feelings, and feelings increasing thoughts can start to become more and more habitual, persistent and distressing. Your anxiety can start to pervade into all areas of your life as you worry about things going badly or wrong in some way.
There are many ways you may try to deal with your unwanted anxious thoughts. You may try and distract yourself and aim to avoid thinking about those things (although you probably find they still come into your head again in quieter moments). You may go through a gruelling battle inside your own mind as you battle with the anxiety generated thoughts. Or you may simply find yourself lost in the never ending flow of anxious thoughts as they spiral from one thing to another and one worst case to another catastrophe of some kind.
As well as many of the strategies I’ve covered before for dealing with anxiety and anxious thoughts, an approach that is quite common within hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy is to start to learn how to challenge, dispute and undermine those thoughts and, in so doing, to calm your anxiety and take back control over what goes on inside of your own head.
Dealing With Anxious Thoughts
I’ve covered this method of disputing, challenging and undermining your anxious thoughts, along with some other ideas, in these previous articles:
And if you are struggling with anxiety and all the wanted thoughts and feelings it brings, then there are many hypnosis downloads that can help you with controlling unwanted thoughts and getting back to being more calm, confident and in control: Anxiety Help Hypnosis Downloads
Controlling Unwanted Thoughts
Usually, when it comes to unwanted thoughts and feelings, we only take action once they have become problematic. A general tendency for worry, negative thinking or overthinking may be manageable and you may just consider it part of who you are and what you do. However, at some point, often associated with stress and overwhelm of some variety, the anxious thoughts start to dominate your thinking and you find yourself caught in the inner spiral of anxiety.
When unwanted anxious thoughts are a problem, are distressing and are impacting upon your life negatively, you may then need to learn how to handle, deal and cope with your thinking and how to stay calm so that you can take back control over what goes on inside your own head.
The strategies above, and the hypnosis downloads, are all about tackling unwanted thoughts once they have become a problem for you. The anxious thoughts have already happened and then you try to deal with them through distraction, suppression, disputation or some other method.
Research has also looked at whether there is a more proactive way of dealing with and controlling unwanted thoughts before they ever become a problem.
Fradkin and Eldar (2022) presented participants with verbal cues, each repeating several times, and instructed them to generate an association and to then not repeat associations they already made to the cue when it was repeated. This meant that participants would either proactively pre-empt the repeated associations from coming to mind in the first place, or reactively seek an alternative association each time a repeated association came to mind (that is, they think the same thing as before and then change it internally to something else).
The results indicated that people primarily react to unwanted thoughts after they occur. That is, you think the unwanted thought and then try and do something about it reactively (which is where the approaches I touched upon above will help you). However, they also found some evidence for proactive control mechanisms that may help with mitigating the strength of repeated unwanted thoughts and also help you with avoiding the looping of repetitive thoughts. It’s possible that these mechanisms may help explain why some people seem to have more control over their unwanted thoughts in daily life than others.
Trying to deal with unwanted thoughts is something that is very familiar to anyone who struggles with anxiety, worry, stress and overthinking. All of those unwanted and intrusive worst cases, catastrophising thoughts, memories and imagined scenarios can make your head feel very busy and noisy. The more you engage with those thoughts and put focus and belief into them, the more they may seem to fill your mind and dominate your thinking. And, as we know, the more unwanted thoughts you think, the worse you feel, and the worse you feel, the more those thoughts take over your awareness.
As the research shows, for most of us, trying to stop thinking unwanted thoughts involves the thought being there and then engaging in attempts to try to reject it or replace it somehow. As my clients know, being able to do this is a skill that you can get better at so that it happens quicker, the thoughts lessen and you feel calmer and more in control in your feelings. You can learn many ways to manage your thoughts, whether through preventing it taking hold and strengthening, diluting it with other thoughts, moving it on quickly to something you’d rather think about, staying calm with whatever drifts through your mind or through effective challenging, disputing and undermining it’s hold over your thinking and feeling processes. In essence, you become better at both proactive and reactive thought control methods that can help prevent getting stuck in an ongoing loop or spiral of unwanted and intrusive thinking. You become more mentally calm, more physically relaxed and more confident in your own ability to manage and control your own thinking.
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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Reference: Fradkin, I. and Eldar, E., 2022. If you don’t let it in, you don’t have to get it out: Thought preemption as a method to control unwanted thoughts. PLoS Computational Biology, 18(7), p.e1010285.