What To Do When You Can’t Stop Obsessing!

horizon red bench in snow

“Have you ever been bothered by a thought that seems unrelenting?No matter how many times you tried not to think about it the thought persisted.

That can be really tough when we want to stop thinking about certain things but cannot, wouldn’t you agree. Would you like to learn how you can change this?

In my workshops and seminars through the past decades I would point out the way we think and remember things. Most of us can do this quite easily. If you want to learn,  I invite you to play along and notice what happens.

In workshops I speak this out loud while participants close their eyes, follow along and notice. It’s most effective if instead of reading I could ask you to close your eyes while I speak, but it will have  to suffice for you read along and imagine. You can still easily do it. JUST really, do what I suggest.

I am going to say (write) some words and I want you to notice what comes to mind and how. TAKE YOUR TIME and fully do the exercise as much as possible.

Okay, ready, here we go:

What do you think of, when I write, or say,the word DOG?

THINK of one!

Did you think of one? Notice what dog comes to mind. If you didn’t go ahead and do so now. What kind of dog did you think of? Was it a specific dog? Whose dog is or was it, where and when. Did you just see a dog or did you remember being with a particular dog?

ALL answers are correct answers since there is no right or wrong.

Just notice. What did you notice?

Okay,  next example:

What happens or changes when I say, WET DOG.

Think about it a moment. Did you see the same or different dog? What changed from when I first ask you to think of a dog. Notice whatever you notice.  Take your time don’t rush. Notice as much as you are able about this image or memory.

Next example:

Okay, what happens when I angrily shout loudly, BAD DOG!

What changed? Notice what you notice. Take your time to describe it.

What were you able to remember or see in each example.

For some people they see ‘A’dog at first. It might be a random dog or their favorite type of dog. It could be their dog.

Typically, the dogs become more personalized with the adjectives placed in front.  Most people see something different in each case. Most people remember personal instances with WET and BAD. It could be the same or different dog at the same or different times.

Some recall with very much detail. It doesn’t matter whether this occurred or not. Much of it depends on whether you like or dislike dogs or spent any amount of time around dogs. This is part of our ability to recall and remember.

Ways Of Seeing: Remembered And Constructed

We also have the ability to see or imagine that which never existed before. We can create. We have the ability to put things together in unique ways that they are not likely to exist as is. Either way we are able to construct. I am going to ask you to imagine along here too.

Dive in and enjoy the exercise. I will be putting together things you mostly know and could recognize, with some variation thrown in. You’ll see. Alright, are you ready? Read the description and then close your eyes and do it.

I’d like you to imagine, right now, a purple elephant flying over your head, in the sky, with a monkey on it’s back waving a yellow cowboy hat yelling,’Yipee, yipee!’ Can you do this? Great go ahead and continue to imagine the purple flying elephant with the monkey on its back over head.

Good. Most see this quite easily. Now see it again. Imagine the purple elephant swooping and flying and circling with the monkey on it’s back all over above you. Watch it do loops and see it’s flight path, notice the landscape.

NOW STOP thinking of purple elephant and monkey. Don’t think about the flying purple elephant and the monkey wearing the yellow hat. Put it out of your mind.

Got you! It is very difficult. Actually, it’s impossible to not think about something. Did you notice?

BUT if you begin to imagine green and orange striped pigs dancing up and down the hillsides, rolling around, having a blast, singing ‘Happy Birthday’  playfully tossing gold and silver stars and flowers about.

You will forget about the elephant and monkey.

The mind works this way. If you say don’t or do not or try not to think of something you will think about it. Why, because in order to not think about it you have to first know what you don’t want to think about.

Don’t Don’t Work

When you tell a child, ‘Don’t spill!’ In order for the child to understand what you mean the child must first remember what it means TO SPILL. It is likely, sometime after saying, ‘Don’t Spill’ we follow up with, ‘I told you not to spill’.

Our brains don’t handle negatives. We don’t or can’t or won’t. Instead we do or can or will. Keep that in mind whenever you try to stop yourself from thinking about something. You may not be very successful. WHAT YOU CAN DO is think of something else!!!

What You Resist Persists

You can’t oppose it and shut it off. It doesn’t work like that. You have to redirect your thinking. You have to distract it by thinking other thoughts. Yes, with annoying thoughts you may have to redirect over and over. Especially, at first but if you keep doing it you learn how to do it.

Whenever you dwell on unwanted thoughts or obsess about them they will take over your life. We can’t shut off negative thoughts but we can chose to think about something else. We think positive thoughts instead. I write about in this blog many times the need to learn to direct back toward center.

You can’t ‘not’ want to. You can’t shut them off easily but you can choose to redirect your thinking to other more productive and positive thoughts. If you choose to think positive thoughts your life will become much better. So much better you will be amazed!

I use the example, of how, when we drive down the center of a lane we actually make micro-corrections all along. We adjust the wheel left and right continuously to keep going straight.

Direct And Redirect Your Thoughts

This is what we do while we learn to gain control control of our thinking. We steer back to the positive thought again and again. Anything done repeatedly long enough becomes a habit. You will learn the habit of managing your thoughts with some effort.

It takes a little while and it gets easier and easier. You gain more control and then what used to bother you no longer does as much. In time you learn how to better handle it.

Eventually you get to the point where you can go on in spite of it or it no longer has any pull. Ultimately, you succeed. So stop resisting and start acquiring new positive habits that serve you reliably, as the old ones did, but that are much better for you.

It is amazing how powerful and well this works. Yes, it does require discipline and persistence. Anything  you currently think or do that bothers you that you would like to change is already a habit. It has been developed in the past and serves you reliably all along.

Develop New Positive Habits

Even if it is unwanted it is something you have learned to do. Might as well congratulate yourself on being a good learner because criticizing yourself is not likely to be effective. My guess, you have already been doing that to no avail. Time to change. Embrace it and then move on.

One more thing. Since it is not very effective to stop thinking about something. Don’t think of a flying purple elephant… Realize this. You just did what you didn’t want to do! You thought of a flying purple elephant with a monkey on its back…

Okay enough, enough! BUT do you get it? You can’t think of what you don’t want and not get it. Did you understand that? If you represent what you don’t want (don’t spill) you are likely to get precisely what you don’t want.

Some people, I was, are great at getting exactly what they don’t want. ‘I don’t want a smoker’, ‘I don’t want to be broke’ , ‘I don’t want to be fat’. Instead, and one of the many reasons I write this blog, you have to know exactly what you DO want. You must think and say what you want to include in your life not what you want to exclude.

Why You Must Focus On What You Want

This is why we focus on the positive. The brain works this way! It delivers to you whatever you imagine strongly enough. Whatever you think of accompanied by strong feelings and emotions the brain takes as a command to bring about. If you are primarily focused on what you don’t want that is precisely what you will end up with.

That or something worse. If you are primarily focused on what you DO want you will end up with that or something better as long as you continue to think this way.

This is why it is said, we become what we think about! Whatever we focus on expands. We bring about what we think about. So know what you want and stay focused on it. Steer back to  center whenever you have to. Am I getting through?

Think And Speak Only Of What You Want

Final point before, I leave for today. ALWAYS, only think and speak about what you want to create or have. Only think and speak about what you want to include in your life to yourself and others. Manage your self-talk and your talk.

Think only and say only that which you wish to become come true. Never confess that which you don’t want. Keep your focus aimed at what you want to bring about. Put a guard before your mind and lips.

Develop this as a habit and you will discover life is so much more amazing than you can imagine right now. You absolutely can manage and direct your thoughts, not only for relief, but for transformation.

You have no idea, none of us do, the immense, incredible power inside of you, which if you could discover and use would make you everything you ever dreamed of or imagined you could be.” Rex Sikes

Have a wonderful day!!!

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*Horizons photo used with permission of Phil Koch.

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