How to get rid of unwanted thoughts

© Kees de Vos

A friend of mine is plagued with unwanted thoughts.

He’s been diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and I can tell how bad he is at any given moment by the number of times he calls me — he says I say the same stuff as his psychologist but I’m a lot cheaper! :-)

I mean… this is a guy who is bordering on reckless in many areas of his life but is brought to his knees with fear from thoughts that are totally irrational…

If I told you what they were you’d think it was silly but these silly thoughts dominate his life completely.

I don’t believe in the OCD label, at least not in his case. What I see is an extreme example of the issues we all face — the inability to drive our own mental car, the inability to choose the focus of our attention, the inability to see thought for what it really is…

Roll up! Roll up!

My friend and I have the same conversation over and over…

“How do I get rid of these thoughts?”

“You have to not pay attention. There is only one method — distraction. Pay attention to something else.”

Sounds simple eh? It is simple! The question is — can you do it?

Say you’re walking through a fun-fair when one of the stall holders is giving you the hard sell. We’ve all been there. He’s in your face basically, but you know instinctively that any attention you give him will only make the problem worse. If you even look at him you know he just won’t leave you alone.

Some thoughts can be like that — they’re in your face, they urge you in the strongest possible way to act out a certain thing.

Thought becomes you… unless you watch

I was watching a video clip of Eckhart Tolle the other day… He said:

“We notice only the content; we don’t see the field in which the content happens.”

I remember too, a lecture by Alan Watts who drew a circle and asked his students what the circle was. Some said a ball, some said it was the sun and so on. They were all wrong… it was a hole! We don’t notice the background.

Thoughts and feelings can have amazing power. They suck your attention right in and you have no power to stop it. They suck you in so much that you no longer notice the field (you), only the content (thought/feeling).

That’s the problem my friend has. I’ve told him the solution to his problem a thousand times but he’s struggling to actually do it. His thoughts, backed by his belief have too much power.

And make no mistake; we’re talking a lot of power here. OCD = compulsive = no choice. We all have OCD to some extent. Little or no choice.

Thankfully, over time and with constant practice, things are getting better but it’s a tough road and progress is sure, but painfully slow.

Trauma — useful or dangerous?

In his case, a childhood trauma was the event that started all this mess. Traumatic events have amazing power to affect our unconscious minds and generate fear. This is a good thing.

If you’re walking though the jungle and get attacked by a lion, it’s this very same process that stops you repeating the same mistake again. You learn when to fear a lion attack and that is a good thing!

But if trauma is attached to insignificant events, then those insignificant events take on the fear that should be reserved for lion attacks. Say your parents always fought at the dinner table and caused you to be always in a state of anxiety at meals times, then food would become something to fear, by association.

This initial cause can then be strengthened over the years by your attention until life-stopping phobias can result. Now we have a deep problem that’s really hard to shift.

Still… not paying attention to unwanted thoughts is the true solution. But can you do it?

Finding freedom

First, you have to see the field in which the content takes place. There has to be space between your thoughts. When there is a gap, suddenly you notice the thought arising. There is more chance of your being able to choose, when there is space.

But the real bottom line, the true solution, the therapy of therapies is meditation. This is the practice where you learn how to get space between thoughts — where you notice a thought and can look at it with curiosity.

This is where you learn how to be free, where you learn to say “yes” or “no”, where you learn where the off switch is.

If you have no freedom over your thoughts, then you’re merely a physical puppet of mind-energy — a proverbial “leaf in the wind”, with no control over yourself or freedom at all. It’s like getting into your car, shutting your eyes tight and pressing your foot down on the accelerator…

No, we want to choose where the car goes and be able to steer, surely?

You’d have to be crazy…

The other component to my friend’s problem is belief. Of course, he believes his silly thoughts are true… it’s his own mind generating the fear, so if he didn’t believe his own mind he’d have to admit he was crazy.

There are two problems with this. Firstly, he is not the content of his mind and so secondly, he’s not crazy. His mind is working perfectly to the program. It’s the content, the program, the conditioning, which doesn’t serve him.

So, he is not the content. He would still be himself if he’d not had that trauma as a child. Identification with content is a big problem. We define ourselves by the content, by our experiences. But that’s not us.

Our beliefs, experiences and thoughts are often random programmings of life… interesting, often beautiful, sometimes ugly but they’re not us. They define our personality but that’s not us either. “Persona” is Greek for “mask” did you know?

While we identify with all these things we aren’t free to choose something else…

The solutions…

The belief part has to be dislodged as much as possible by reason. In my friend’s case, explaining to him at length why his fear is irrational opens the door to him letting it go and being motivated to do the not-work of distraction — not paying attention.

If he still truly believed his fear was valid, he would never do what’s required because he would still believe the fear served him. Once the understanding is there — that the fear, or the habit of thought does NOT truly serve your best interests, you’re free to try to get rid of it.

You uproot unwanted thought and fear by practicing meditation. It’s tough to see the process for what it is in everyday life when your mind is bombarded by triggers and sensory input constantly. By making everything quiet you see the process for what it is.

I am the background

Here you are… “I AM”

There is the thought.

The thought happened.

The thought has no power unless I give it more attention.

I have choice.

Unless you’ve ever tried to meditate, you won’t understand how little power you have over thoughts that happen to you.

When I first started meditating over 20 years ago, the very first morning, I had 30 minutes meditation planned — I started off just fine… then 20 minutes later I remembered I was supposed to be meditating!

Twenty minutes!

Lost in thought

Thoughts are somewhat like snooker balls. One crashes into another into another into another without ceasing forever and ever and each thought sucks you in — in a word… hell. There’s no peace to be found here, no now, no joy.

We reap what we sow and thoughts are seeds. If you’re not choosing what you sow, you won’t be reaping what you want.

I can’t meditate… it makes it worse!

My friend won’t do it. He won’t do the not-work. He admits he’s lazy but there’s more to it. When he’s having a few good days there’s no motivation. When hell descends on him he’s highly motivated but often in a state of high anxiety.

By the time the thoughts and feelings have escalated into anxiety it’s virtually impossible to rein it in. You have to nip unwanted thoughts in the bud. Spot them arising and withdraw attention before they trigger big emotions and fears.

By the way, if it’s gone pear-shaped and anxiety takes over, the best thing to do is exercise. You’ve got no chance of calming down when you’re pumped with adrenalin.

Also, when he tries to meditate, he has to face his inner demons close up through what feels like a big big magnifying glass and that feels scary at first. The solution to that is to start with relaxation techniques — get out of “fight or flight” and into “the relaxation response”.

So anyway, I can’t convince him and he’s chosen to attempt to just try and not pay attention. This is the slow route as I said, because it’s difficult to see the process with a thousand thoughts, sensory input and internal triggers going on.

You can’t fight the darkness

Meditation teaches you that attention is where the power is. You cannot try to suppress or fight any thought or feeling. That’s just more attention!

The solution is to notice it, let it be, let it go and choose a different focus.

Put your attention onto something else. As difficult as it is to ignore the fair ground stall holder, that’s what’s required. If you go up to him and scream and shout for him to go away, things are likely to get even nastier :-)

At first it takes every ounce of inner strength to hold your attention onto something else, to ignore the unwanted thought. But as you persist, it gets easier and easier until eventually, the thought has no more power over you.

Ignore thoughts you don’t want and hold onto thoughts you do want. That is power! It’s the power to say yes or no. And the same applies to feelings, which are emotional reflections of thoughts.

“I just wanted to say that since I read this article I have had no issues at all. What you wrote cured me and I am totally amazed by it. I am so impressed with the results, I feel totally different and peaceful.

I have seen so many health professionals over my problems, but none has ever come close to the advice that you give. Thanks Mike you have honestly changed my life.”

— John Woods, Australia

“For the last week I’ve been practicing indifference towards unwanted thoughts + quick and intense shifting of attention to anything else.

When I started doing it, I got relief in few minutes as the quality of fear associated with these recurring thoughts was gone. Within hours I found calmness and peace growing within me.

It took an initial 3-4 days to have full grasp over the method and develop some more understanding. And now my thoughts have become very much reduced in frequency, and they have lost their power and don’t trouble me anymore. And it’s all because of one technique only.

I am sharing my experiences with other people having O.C.D. on internet and telling them about your website and trying to help them as I got it when I needed it the most. Sir, you have changed my life. and all that I can say is THANK YOU.”

— Shivesh, India

Meditation is freedom…

…and that folks, is how you get rid of unwanted thoughts.

Best wishes,
Michael Kinnaird

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide — the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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604 thoughts on “How to get rid of unwanted thoughts

  1. bee

    Hey mike:-) gud to see ur reply at last:P…yes! It was actually like a very gud experience, happy days again, I forgot everything, became the old bee, tried to make her see tht too, she was getting really happy too day by day, bt then another hurricane in my life, I must tell u mike, when ur bad tym cums it just cant see u happy:(…yes u r rite I was almost on finishing line bt I perceived ths thot of thinking negative in wrng way, I got scared tht I wud again start thinking negative rather than getting happy at the fact that I stopped thinking negative for some days, no probs next tym I m gonna hav rite attitude, I think it all arrived becoz I hav some serious work to do these days which I dont like so as to divert my mind from it, my brain is giving me bak my previous habit..i ignore bt mike I hv a q which bothers me alot, I hv al sort of thots n some r really dirty, I hate it:( then I feel tht wil god punish me for thinking such a thing inspite of fact tht I hate it myself n didnt want to think abt it? I m a religious person so it bothers me:( I feel I m a sinner:-( my thinking has becum so dirty becoz of my negative thinking:-( I had a very bad thot,extremely dirty one after which my mind started giving me tht I m a dirty person, totally spoiled..i ignore! Bt I feel really bad for having tht thot thts y I m nt at peace when I ignore…i kbw I shd nt be guilty coz its attention bt I was an awesum man, I neva thot dirty, thts y I feel really bad:-( I hope u can understand n help me:(
    Take care

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      “I got scared tht I wud again start thinking negative”

      Fear causes the mind to react in primitive ways… fear NOT :-) Simply ignore what you don’t want. When you have this clarity about your power, you will not fear — because you always have power over your attention.

      “I hav some serious work to do these days which I dont like so as to divert my mind from it, my brain is giving me bak my previous habit”

      Stay focused on your work.. keep bringing your attention back so that your mind is not split. The mind is fickle. It need training, like a dog to heal, otherwise like an untrained dog, it will cause you no end of problems :-)

      “I hv al sort of thots n some r really dirty, I hate it:(”

      Don’t hate, that is passion… be indifferent to what you would like to not be there.

      “I feel tht wil god punish me for thinking such a thing”

      God does not punish, only loves.

      “I feel I m a sinner:-(”

      The only “sin” is unconsciousness. Not knowing who you are and what you are doing, without knowing. That is sin. And if you are conscious of the cause/effect, then you would not do it. So you are either unconscious and therefore can’t be blamed or conscious and therefore acting for the whole. Either way, you will not be punished for your actions, although we always reap what we sow, and therefore, you will be “punished” BY your actions.

      “I had a very bad thot,extremely dirty one after which my mind started giving me tht I m a dirty person, totally spoiled..i ignore!”

      Let your experience guide you to decisions about what you choose to be. If you choose not to be a person who has dirty thoughts, then make it so… decide, choose, and make it happen by the power you have… attention. Unconsciousness… of who you are, is like being trapped in a movie, thinking you are the actor, not realizing it’s just a movie. Same happens if you think you are your thoughts, and your attention is sucked into them, there is no “light,” no witnessing consciousness. That’s why you would be wise to meditate every day… turn the lights on :-) And stay witness to every thought to prevent you being sucked in.

      “I feel I m a sinner:-(”

      That’s what an unconscious person would say. Someone identified with thoughts. And so you are… “sinning” because sinning means to be unconscious, when there is no separation between “you” and “thought.”

      “i kbw I shd nt be guilty”

      Perhaps guilt is felt when you go against something you hold as truth and as self. Mostly we take as truth what we are taught is right/wrong, so here we have guilt happening as a result of being “bad.”

      Simply decide what you CHOOSE, and drop anything that goes against, meaning you remove all meaning and attention. Mostly, you should be a witness to every thought, and remain in no-mind as much as possible — sanity. This will dis-identify you from thinking as so end all sinning. :-)

      Whatever you make a problem, you give meaning to, and attention. Drop the whole problem, decide you don’t want it on your mind (make it NOT there), by removing meaning and attention in every case.

      Practice no-mind and stay sane and conscious. It’s all in the guide.

      Reply
  2. bee

    Really appreciate ur reply mike n the tym u put on in writing it:), its really helpful, yep u r rite…its reAlly like I m in a movie, a bad one n it is such a stupidity to believe tht thots r me….i hav becum pretty gud at going to no mind, I wud say, silence n I m on the silent mode wit no thots bt due to habit of thinking negative for so long I hav also becum pretty fast in creating dirty negative thots, so fast tht tht it doesnt take even half second to think something bad n negative, honestly!:( I try to create gaps in my endless thinking bt I m stil ll nt able to achieve no mind the whole day so as soon as something bad happens around me my mind starts quick preview of negativity, its so fast! Even more than light! If I m at peace for some tym being so afat in thinking negative ruins it within no tym…okk I ll tell u wht is making me feel bad:( my servant was cleaning the dishes n as I saw her I had pitty for her tht oh! She so helpless she works whole day just to earn few dollars,i thot of helping her bt then I had a thot tht I wud think something dirty, n before I cud control my mind made one, a very dirty one:( I felt so disgusted! I mean I hav always considered her as my lil sister, my parents hv given me such gud morals..bt after having tht thot I hv a feeling tht I acted like those dirty guys n moreover insulted the morals I lov myself so much, the most imp! I ruined her trust in me,my already angry gal(..bt I didnt intend to think tht, it was thot, I aint like tht:( I dont knw wht to think:(

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Yes, habits are fast, otherwise they would be pretty useless… you should see me tie my shoes, it’s pretty incredible :-)

      Don’t make thoughts into self automatically. They are not, but you may choose which ones you hold as truth. Thoughts have no inherent meaning, they mean what you say they mean and they surface with the meaning you previously gave. You have no choice but to attach meaning to everything, even if that is that they mean nothing, still everything must be decided upon, IS being decided upon. And you are creating your life this way, you have no choice in that.

      The main thing is OBSERVATION of thoughts. Habits become associated. And you may have created an association of dirty thoughts to all sorts of triggers. If you CHOOSE to stop that happening, then be in no-mind as much as possible, observing what arises, how it was triggered, and stay non-reactive to stuff you do not now choose. Then remove attention.

      The more intelligent, the more sensitive, the more problems can happen, the more you need meditation. In meditation you say… “I CHOOSE to focus HERE.” And then you try to get your mind to follow your direction. Then you will see what trouble you are in!!!!

      Reply
    2. Michael Kinnaird

      There was a story about Buddha, he swatted a fly away, the fly was gone but he swatted again! The monk he was with asked why he swatted again when the fly was gone. Buddha said “the first time I was unconscious, it was just automatic.”

      This is paraphrased. In other words, there was no CHOICE, without awareness we are just robotic.

      The point is always awareness. No awareness, no choice. Habits must be made aware of. Have you ever experienced driving somewhere and then realize you do not remember driving!!!? I know many people who told me that. Fly swatting, driving, be aware of everything :-)

      You know Yehudi Menuhin… great violinist… his violin habits were pretty immense, perfected, as perfect as it’s possible for a human to get. But if I ask him to stop playing… he could just stop no? Habits don’t make us unconscious, lack of awareness does, then we have no power to choose, and our habits will control us.

      Reply
  3. bee

    I knw brother u r tired of counselling me, bt u still help n in return all I do is pray for ur son, u n james tht u ppl hv a long and happy life, the way u want:)…i dont see this whole bad part of my life as a punishment( ok sometyms I do) bt as a experience becoz of which I hv learnt how to control my mind, how to judge if a thot is really a helpful one or just a rubbish one n needs to be ignored…i knw who to see if someone is helping u or just putting some garbage in my mind, I deal the probs wit my brain n nt wit the thots tht pop in my mind..n this is all becoz of u mike!:) I m so very thankful to u!!:)…al ths thinking negative for an yr has given me the power to deal my upcoming life in the best way:)…i knw when she ll meet me next tym she wont believe tht its really me:) nw I understand why she used to say tht I shd be strong,nnt a coward, I shd hav a no mind , I shdnt take medicines much!(sometyms I feel she was born wit habitguide already present in her brain:P)n all coz ths is the way to live best life, a life full of happiness n love:) she wud say al ths n I wont listen bt nw I can feel it myself…thank u mike n happy guide for showing me the way to live a marvellous life:)

    Reply
  4. bee

    Hey mike…u mean I can neva remove ths habit nw n can just continuously ignore by awareness, n if I becoz unconscious I can revert bak easily?? Crap! Wht I hav done to my life:( she asked me 100s of tyms to stay away from searching things on internet coz if it has gud information it has bad information as well…i didnt listen…n the result is this!!:( I dont knw mike, y the hell I end up in searching a certain thing on internet n then I find something dirty, it gives me negative thots, ignore bt after some tym it comes bak n I m in trouble again! The greatest problem wit today’s youth is internet!!:( it has all sort of dirt, I dont search dirt I search gud things like how to create a romantic date for ur love etc bt ALWAYS it gives something dirty,i think of impressing her n ultimately creates more probs for us:( she says why the hell do I search such things, bt mike I just search for gud ones, I try my best nt to see anything bad bt internet is full of it…i just want to develop resistance against bad things, I cant run from them al my life, I just want tht I wud be able to ignore them the way she n u can….its very difficult for me:( like just a minute ago I searched something gud n got something bad n I m like totally messed up nw, so many thots coming n I m ignoring bt I feel tht I did it in my conscious mind this tym, I did wrong!:( bt I feel attracted towards gud things like a romantic date idea bt always get something else aswell so wht is my fault in this?:I hav no mind at present bt no peace of mind…i m missing her:(:(

    Reply
  5. bee

    Like yesterday I searched an article on premature babies since she is a premature n even in tht I got to see dirty stuff on a site!:0 I closed it as fast as I cud bt it is still there in my mind, inspite of ignorance:(:(….u tell me mike whts my fault in this?:( I feel I should avoid such things bt how long can I run?? If nt today bt after some days I get to see it somewhere n all the thots wud come bak again!!…i see no end!!:(

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi Bee,

      No… you are not stuck with habits because every time you turn away, then you make the thing you’re turning away from, a trigger to turn away. So it’s a NEW habit. Even decades of bad thought habits can be got rid of in this way once a person is exceptionally clear about the simple process.

      Re dirty images… remember that what you fear, you see everywhere, and what you passionately don’t want to see, you will notice everywhere. Indifference is the right attitude. Stop caring.

      You can’t push unwanted thoughts away from you, that is lots of attention.

      If you use google, you can set it to do “safe search” which will prevent most of the trouble. There are also “net nanny” type programs that I imagine will be more thorough.

      See… your attitude to net images is REALLY caring, you REALLY don’t want it, and that never works.

      “don’t care” + attention elsewhere is the winning formula. And of course with worries, the right Qs are “What is the outcome I want?” and “What can I do?” If the outcome is that unwanted images don’t appear on the net, then there is Google and there is net nanny :-)

      I have to say though that I use the web a lot, and I don’t come across disturbing images. I even tried searching “romantic date” with safe search off and clicked on “images” — just regular romantic folks :-)

      The internet is representative of human consciousness so yes, it’s pretty dire in places :-)

      Reply
  6. bee

    I m nt a confused person…i hav got a gud conscience..bt she used to say I act timidly in everything…this is were it al started FEAR…i neva searched anything on internet after falling in al this negative thinking trap, nt even the way to come out of it for 9 months! Bt then I did n I was blessed with this site by the thing which gave me all this problem…INTERNET…u r of my father’s age mike, I consider u like a fatherly figure, guiding ur child to rite path:)…bt I want her bak, she like a life held my hand during all the pains n I on contrary ruined her career becoz of my stupid negative thinking:(!! My mother says I hav becum a leech! I gv her so much pain by nt studying to get admission in Australian medical school neither cud my gal study well becoz of the pain I gave her, I ruined her relations wit her father…he doesnt talk to her nw..jjust by listening to my thots I hav created havoc in my life!!:(:(

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      “just by listening to my thots I hav created havoc in my life!!:(”

      Yes, if you believe your thoughts without deciding if they are true, you’re in trouble. Thoughts aren’t true, they are just thoughts. Garbage in garbage out. And if you identify with them, call them “me,” sooner or later, you’re in hell. As I say, you have no choice but to decide the meaning of every experience, including what thoughts mean. That meaning affects what happens next. E.g. if it’s fear, then you run the fear program, but that is an extreme example… the quality we give to all experience is more often very subtle, and it’s happening all the time. And the sum total of that is moving you into the next moment.

      Reply
  7. bee

    Hey…i didnt knw about tht:)…i ll get it done..okk I ll tell u what I like:-) I like to see ppl who truely love each other n then imagine me n my gal in it when I miss her badly:-) nw this is nt wrong I guess?IIt makes me really happy:-) ofcose I like thinking her that way, finding new ways to create happiness n get bak our lost romance…i dont knw mike…i really consider it my luck, Its like the things from which u run away appears everywhere…i mean how can anyone get a disturbing image on searching on articles like premature babies??!! Its just me…honestly.. Yes I hav a very bad problem…if I come to knw tht their mite be something bad in this page..80% of tyms I ignore n dont excess tht site bt sometyms where I feel it mite mnt be dirty n if it is slight dirty I ll ignore then I loose my control..n thts the major coz of ths trouble…once u start searching such things u feel like searching more..lik.i guess ths is where I need meditation o choose wht shd be done n nt let the subconscious to control me…rite?

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      “Its like the things from which u run away appears everywhere”

      Yes… your fear of images is no different to fearing a lion attack. The same psychology is operating. You are looking out for lions everywhere. That’s what fear does. You have to not care… and if you see something unwanted, be utterly indifferent, or at least, just be a passive observer of your own reaction, then refocus without passion, fear, or frustration.

      When you are calm, you tell your mind “there are no more lions” and only then can you stop looking out for them.

      Reply
      1. Michael Kinnaird

        Or in your case “there are lions but they mean nothing, there is no danger.”

        If you think bad things will happen by even SEEing these images, then you are in a no win situation. You set your mind up for an unavoidable “lion attack.” And that means it’s the first thing you will look for every time you visit a new website.

        I’ve seen all sorts of stuff. Nothing can shock me, but I don’t seek them out, I don’t think about them, at all. Whatever I do not want in my mental field, I simply turn away from.

        You are giving meaning to the act of seeing stuff you cannot control, or do not want to control, therefore you cannot win.

        And maybe part of you really wants to look… curious, even excited, so you are split.

        And then if you make it a problem, and think about it even when it’s not happening, all that is putting it ever more firmly on your radar. So we create a whole web of unwanted thoughts by not understanding choice, no-mind, attention. These are simple things.

        And then you need meditation to gain your own insights, every day, 30 minutes will be good for you.

      2. Michael Kinnaird

        OK so…. you stop caring and you stop thinking and problem making. No 1, 2 and 3.

        Now when you go to the web and notice yourself tense up, just notice… SEE it for what it is… looking for lions, just notice for a moment, then refocus. Continue like this every time you notice tension forming. If an unwanted image appears, notice how you react again, becoming tense immediately because of the no win situation and fear you’ve set up, now calmly refocus on what you’re there for, or move to a different site etc.

        Drop the problem, notice reactions, refocus attention, stay calm.

        Or get net nanny :-)

  8. bee

    Oh mike u wont believe it…i m actually getting betta at indifference n ignorance:D yesterday i was reading a novel and came across certain lines which reminded me of an old bad memory, a really shocking one which had brought me so much of pain an yr ago…bt when i read those lines yesterday i was totally calm!:D i just showed no reaction n was totally indifferent n moved to next paragraph, n after few seconds when i realized tht i actually did it i became ultra happy n al i did was thanked u a thousand tyms n also prayed for u n ur son samuel:):D thank u so much mike:) u taught me the ways to live an ultra happy life n nw i m actually getting betta n betta each day:):D u nt just gave me happy guide u gave me life guide :):D

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      That’s wonderful Bee! There’s incredible power in attitude and attention. That’s where your power is! That’s how you choose. Glad you’ve moved from theory to experience :-) And you’re right, just knowing this one simple thing will change your life completely!

      Reply
  9. Claudia

    Thank u so much for your article. I just started the exercises today and I have faith that my intrusive thoughts will diminish.

    Reply
  10. Jeff

    Hello mike. I have had anxiety issues since I was a kid and became a full blown agoraphobic when I was 17 and withdrew into my room for 2 1/2 years. I somehow managed to overcome than and lead a somewhat productive life. About every 2-5 years some unnatural unwanted thought pops into my head from no where and it takes me several days or a week to get past it, and I don’t really know how I do manage to do that. Recently I was visiting my 18 year old daughter who lives about 300 miles away woth her mother. On my way home I suddenly became overwhelmed with guilt and then sudden feeling that I was saying goodbye forever.
    That’s been 8 weeks ago and the fear of that moment has not left my mind for a waking moment. I am petrified that I am either wishing her away or something even worse. It has gotten so bad that I almost fear talking to her on the phone for fear that I may say something hurtful to her. What is worse is that I am brginning to feel like “she’s not real”. This REALLY scares me because I feel like it is just confirming my fears. I found your website last night after 8 weeks of looking for some clue on the Internet that would tell me what I am feeling / thinking isn’t actually real. All of my anxieties before threatened only me. This one has the potential to break my child’s heart and I just can’t live with that. My biggest fear is that there is a much larger underlying desire for this feeling to be true. This is the most frightening feeling that I have ever had and even confessing it makes me feel a great deal of shame and anguish. Not only that, it makes me even more fearful that what I am feeling is real rather than imagined. I am trying to use the “I don’t care” method you mentioned but this is very difficult to use in my case because if a say I don’t care about the thought then I feel like I don’t care about her. I’ve prayed, cried, screamed, got down on the floor and begged God to either help me or kill me before I could say anything that would hurt my child. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m afraid to seek counseling because they may confirm my beliefs. I’m 49 years old now and I absolutely feel like my life is over. I’ve never posted a comment or even visited websites until the last 8 weeks. I guess what I’m hoping, praying for is for someone to tell me that my anxious nearly delirious thoughts are what is driving a wedge between me and my child and not my true heart. I love my child with all my heart and would die to keep her safe and I know that 90 percent of what I feel is irrational , just plain crazy, but I can’t understand why it is there at all if there is no foundation. I am realistic enough to know that I love her and care for her because if I can’t get her on the phone I nearly go crazy wig fear that something has happened to her. For the first time in the 8 week period I told my wife what I am feeling. I just had to talk to someone even though I swore to myself that I would never breathe a word of this to another soul. Even this has made me afraid because i fear that i am becoming weaker and my next step will be confessing all this to my child. the “her not feeling real” feelings have only arose in the past week and ive got to tell you i have never had a more terrifying feeling in my lifethan to think that i may be “letting go” of her. What is astonishing is when she and I Skype or FaceTime at night all of these fears and thoughts seem to disappear and I go to bed hopeful for a peaceful tomorrow, but it doesn’t happen, the fear is right there waiting on me as soon as i open my eyes. i have read everything you have posted on unwanted thoughts and your ideas really are spot on with some of my feelings. I run and I try to hide but I cant get away from it. i dont want to say that i am suicidal but it has definitely crossed my mind several times just to make it stop. The reality thing is what frightens me most because I feel like I’m only getting closer to letting he go.. sorry to take up your time with this but I feel like I’m at the end of the line with this and there’s only a couple of directions that I can see it going, none of them good. Even this comment helps confirm my beliefs because again, it makes me feel weak as though I am giving in. Any help?

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi Jeff, Well your history with agoraphobia shows that you are vulnerable to this kind of thing, so first of all I’d like to say be very careful what you give meaning and attention to in future, best to nip unwanted thoughts in the bud.

      By don’t care, I mean don’t care that the thought is there, or the anxiety, because you see into it, you see the problem. If you give attention, meaning, fear, you can create hell, as you know. So, once you see what happened, ignore everything to do with it.

      Just think about when you are together in person, on Skype etc. And you said the truth in your question of how you feel about her. So all this nightmare is nothing more than fearing a thought and ramping that up to epic proportions. Fear and anxiety are very unpleasant so you literally end up in a confused, fearful hell.

      So once you see that what I say is true, what you want is for the thoughts not to be there. You need attention OFF.

      So you go about your life, a thought pops, you ignore it because you see into it, later on it comes back, ignore it again. It’s the attitude of don’t care you want, because you see it as meaningless.

      Be utterly consistent in ignoring. Without fail.

      What is the thought that defeats all this rubbish? Prob the memory of the last time you spent together. So whenever hell comes simply remember that, then ignore, then repeat. Unwanted thoughts reduce over time, be realistic, and utterly consistent.

      Be sure to rivet attention away from arising anxiety connected to this hell maze of connected thoughts, any attention will cause a cascade that you won’t be able to easily exit.

      There’s nothing I’ve said here that isn’t in the article. I think you just wanted reassurance that yes, this is not true, and you’re totally free to let it all go, until you’re not aware that it isn’t there any more.

      Reply
      1. jeff

        Thank you Mike for your comments. God will only love you more for what you share with people….Some of the things you have said I can relate to but this is not going to be easy to shake. Even when I try to think of our times together they are unpleasant because all of this was going on and I couldn’t give her my full attention. When I try to imagine future times together, well, I just can’t. She has NO idea that this is going on with me. Before she was born I didn’t want to be a father and I feel that a lot of what I have done has been out of a sense of responsibility, but love as well. I have been a good father and I am trying still to be one, but this has confused me to no end. This is what is praying on me. I fear that I no longer want the responsibility and her moving away has made it easy for me, but I just can’t cut the cord! That scares the world out of me that I may really feel that way towards my child. It makes me think that is why I feel like she “isn’t real”, to make it easier to separate. I tell myself “it isn’t her that you want rid of it’s the anxiety and fear”, but I’m terrified that it is something more. I feel that I MUST keep a constant eye on this for fear she will just fade away and the love will no longer be there. She thinks the world of me, how can I feel like this? So much shame and grief. When I look at her photos, she seems almost like a stranger to me. I am just wondering if the anxiety can do this to a person? I enjoy talking to her on the phone and face time but I feel everyday is going to be THE DAY that I can no longer hold my tongue. When we start talking, I just shut everything down in my mind, but when we finish it’s right back where it was. How can I KNOW this isn’t really what I feel? I do not use medication for fear it will weaken my resolve to stay silent. Honestly, and without reserve, I can say that I would rather die than wake up every day like this. Mike I really appreciate your time and I don’t know how you deal with all of the world’s problems and try to help complete strangers. I do feel that you are Godsend to take YOUR time to help others. Thank you so much, Jeff

      2. Michael Kinnaird

        You can’t think your way out of this Jeff, not the way you are doing anyway. The way to resolve the idea that you must keep thinking otherwise she will slip away is to have regular contact… call once a week, visit once a month, whatever you decide. And then maybe you could think up some cool activities to do together, meals out, trips to Disney, movies, whatever. Also, get your favorite pictures of her mounted and framed. Say hello every morning, how can you forget? If that’s a habit, you will get confidence that you’ll never forget.

        All these these things will bring you to relief on the idea that she will slip away.

        All this mental ANALysing is BS. Love is beyond thought, it’s a different realm, the realm of feeling. How do you Feeeeeel about her?

        You have to get to the place where you can let go, resolve those issues you believe are stopping you from dropping it. All these doubts can simply be ignored, about your worthiness as a father blah blah, give yourself a break. What do you choose NOW? That’s all that matters. Who are you NOW?

        So, now she cannot slip, now you’re a good father now, and that’s all that matters…

        Any other reasons not to let go?

  11. jeff

    I suppose that I have to believe that about myself, and how can I feeling like I do? I have dozens of her photos all around me, we talk on the phone / skype two or three times a day and text constantly, but it feels forced and unnatural to me now since the episode coming home. I do not want to feel this way, I absolutely hate myself for it. I love her and I know that I do, I just can’t understand why I have these feelings if my love for her is true. I shouldn’t feel this way about anyone, least of all my child. She has mentioned me coming to visit her and the thought of it absolutely terrifies me, I just don’t know how I will behave. All of this is causing me to avoid her, SHE has become a trigger! She told me earlier that she had a surprise for me, I became petrified because I thought she may be coming to visit. Why is that??? Am I trying to get past her? Am I just hanging on for her? The last thing that I want to ever do is hurt my child in ANY way. I have spent the last 18 years protecting her worrying about her CONSTANTLY and I just don’t understand why I feel that it may be slipping away. I still worry about her, but not like I use to because THIS is pretty much all that occupies my mind now. If she is out at night or something or driving then I worry. Pretty much the only few time that I have had any relief from these feelings is a few times that she has been on a plane and on a couple of dates. Then my mind switches to worrying about those things. Mike I am truly sorry to bug you with this. I am not your responsibility but your’s is the ONLY website that has given be hope. I have not commented or communicated with anyone else on this matter other than my wife. I do appreciate what you are telling me….Jeff

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      As I say, you have to get to the point of letting go.

      She is 18, she is independent now, your job is kinda done. Well done! If she needs your advice, you can be sure she’ll ask. If you haven’t taught her not to get into a car with strangers or walk down dark alleys, then it’s prob too late, or you should have a word.

      I am not reading any reasons not to let go. Let me put it this way… what do you want to happen? Maybe talking 3 times a day is too much?

      With worries, focus on “What can I do?” And then action it, and drop it. Endless worry achieves nothing.

      For my son, I will go with what he wants re contact. At a certain age, there is an instinct for independence, especially with boys.

      I think it’s great that she has plans for you. Hmm maybe you feel there’s too much contact?

      Reply
      1. jeff

        See,that would scare me too if I felt that there was too much contact. I’m not feeling like she shouldn’t be independent, she is VERY independent. What I fear are feelings that I just want her to “not be there” anymore. I just don’t understand where this all came from or why. Can anxiety do this or is it something else, much deeper? Thank you again….

      2. Michael Kinnaird

        She is at the center of you feeling bad all the time, but she’s not the cause. Sooner or later you’re going to want the pain to stop. That’s what you fear and of course that creates a tremendous amount of confused feelings. Cutting of all contact is a solution, but it’s not the right one, neither is killing yourself :-) It’s not her you want to go away, it’s the anxiety, and it won’t while you continue to think all this means anything, or you have fear.

        Decide what you want to happen, get to the place of letting go, then ignore all thoughts about it.

  12. jeff

    Thank you Mike. The MOST reassuring thing that you have said to me, (or that I am able to comprehend right now), is “you don’t want her to go away, you want the anxiety to go away”. That’s what I keep telling myself but after you have evaluated all that I have said to you and you say the same thing, well, it’s a huge help and I may be able to feed off of it for a few hours :-) I have but on more question; any thoughts on why I am filled with so much dread about actually seeing her again or about the next phone call?

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Yes, fear is very primitive, it tells you to stay away from the thing you fear, whether it’s lions or whatever. As I say, in a primitive way you see her as the cause, but she is not.

      What would happen if I could hard wire your brain so you were unable to think an anxious thought about her? All I’m asking is that you make that happen, by consistently turning attention away, not thinking, analyzing, dwelling, looking for reasons, none of it. Nothing. Then the anxiety will subside, and you can have a great relationship again.

      See… the mind easily creates habits, and what you fear you see everywhere, so to get rid, make the decision to stop thinking and then as soon as it comes, see it as irrelevant and rivet attention away. Just keep doing that consistently and don’t be sucked in.

      Reply
    2. Michael Kinnaird

      You get stuck in a never ending loop trying to think your way out of anxiety, it useful for lions, for this it won’t work, and the test is “if I hard wire your brain so it can’t think about this, is the problem still there?”

      Reply
  13. jeff

    Mike, if you have ever wondered if your words make a difference, trust me, they do. You just talked this old man down from the ledge. It will be a constant fight and check this check that sort of thing for a while, but at least I feel a little more confident that I’m not “totally” crazy. I will touch base with you in a week or so and let you know what is happening. What a kind soul you are to take time out of your life to help someone that you do not know. Who knows, maybe I can talk someone down someday. Best regards my friend…Jeff

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Wow, thank you. Constant low level anxiety can make you think you’re crazy Jeff, because anxiety is for running away or fighting danger. Logical thinking is suppressed, so when the danger isn’t real, we get drawn into this downward spiral. I’m glad I could help you Jeff. Stay Solid, don’t be tempted to dwell once you’ve resolved the issues that bring you to the point of letting go. If you can’t resolve those, talk to me, or just set them for review, so you can let go now. Good luck.

      Reply
  14. bee

    Hiya james n mike:)
    Guys I dont want help or mike’s time…..as everything is going fine in my life now, I m able to handle problems on my own I just wished to tell mike tht wht tremendous results his coaching brought in my life:) I just couldnt help bt tell my story…i feel so thankful to u guys..i owe ualot…i just felt like informing u tht my lov is winning n u are such an imp reason of it!:) yeah though I asked how to remove tht friendship line coz u r elder to me n experienced n so wise…i seeked for advice this time nt help as I understand ur situation too…its hard to coach everyone….bt I told u th result of ur coaching mike:) u brought happiness in someone’s life who was suffering badly….its a great deed isnot it?:) thanks mike for all u hav done for me..god bless u, sam n james!:)

    Reply
    1. James Riddett

      That’s great Bee, and thanks for your kind words. I’m delighted to hear you’re doing so well now. This is off-topic really but my advice is to stop thinking and relax. Spend time with your girlfriend without expectation, see what happens. Don’t try so hard, stop thinking :-) I see too many young couples (especially) think themselves out of a perfectly natural and enjoyable relationship. They get bogged down in trying to define “who they are” — analyzing likes and dislikes, ideas and concepts, to the point where it just creates tension. Relax, let if flow, see what happens. Stop thinking :-)

      Reply
  15. pink dollys

    My mind always torchures me of the things that i have not done. it torchues me of taking things of people or taking money from people. when i really havent. it plays tricks in my mind. and i start shivering and i would find hard to do anything. may be when i was a little kid may be when i was the age of 7 i took a chocolate from a girl with out het knowledge bt i promise till this very day i have never evert taken any ones money or any belongings, at school i had a very good reputation amoung my my friends and teachers, i come from a good family back ground and i practice my religion strongly. i am still guilty i took that chocolate my parents keep telling me i was kid and children do those kind of stuff, but the hardest part is my mind keeps that and would accuse me of other things. it would say if you took the chocolate then you are responsible for other things if said lies then your responsible for other things. please help me on this, please reply

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi Pink Dollys,

      The method in the article applies to any unwanted thoughts including yours. Thoughts you keep thinking become habits and you are giving meaning, or searching for meaning when there is none. Getting rid of unwanted thoughts is a very simple process of not caring, and removing attention in every case. And also understanding the process… that the thoughts diminish over time.

      So, have a don’t care attitude from now on, and calmly ignore every single occurrence. See what happens. Your parents are right, kids do that kind of thing, it means nothing. And being sensitive, I would urge you to get into good lifestyle habits every day… looking after your mind and body. For example, the constant practice of living in the moment, stops your attention being sucked into thoughts, gives you the power of choice, lets you see thoughts as just thoughts. If you read the Happy Guide book, you will learn everything you need to know.

      Reply
  16. sarah lee

    Hello there, I just read the book and loved it…I just wanted to ask about these thinking grooves….if its been a couple years of unhelpful thinking….I want to believe that one day I will look back at this and those once deep grooves will no longer be there…is it possible to change ur life so much that things or thoughts that u used to let bother u or make u anxious…will not anymore…because u changed your reactions and thus your body and mind adapts to the new You.?

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi Sarah Lee, glad you loved the book! :-) Yes, absolutely. In your mind a thought is either there or it isn’t, so you can’t force a thought to not be there because that is attention which grows the thought. To make something not there, remove meaning and attention every time something pops into your mind that you don’t want, you essentially ignore it. Let me know if you need more clarity on anything.

      Reply
  17. nn

    Hi Mike, thanks for the article.
    I’ve been struggling with health related (due to some traumatic experience) and ‘unexpectedness of future’ related fears for couple years now. The rituals I made up to reduce anxiety seemed to have just exaggerated those fearful thoughts up to the point that they became really intense, frequent and unbearable. Finally a month ago I decided to give up on those rituals and it seemed to work well for couple of days until I read about the OCD. This is when the actual hell began. It is this label of “OCD”, of “mental illness” that killed me. It consumed me and took completely over me up to the point that all fearful thoughts now focused on “mental illness”, I developed a terrible fear for other ‘mental disorders'; started constantly checking all my thoughts, all my emotions, all feelings I got and analyze them, relate them to the “disease” – this completely crashed me. All this coincided with a massive disappointment in love life that I had built so much hopes for. It is hard to describe the despair these two events together caused.
    I started analyzing my whole life, my childhood, my teenage years. I felt completely alienated from myself, I no more trusted myself, I felt to be in an extreme emergency to be “cured”; felt like I’ve been carrying this “mental illness” my whole life and I knew no more what “me” was. I felt so detached from everything, from myself, from life. I did not know what form of existence that was, I started questioning every little aspect of life – all this accompanied by sense of terrible struggle and anxiety.
    I thought to myself, “had I never read anything about OCD”, I would have just beaten it all so well myself.” And it from then on seemed impossible, because I lost trust to my sanity fully. Speaking of this now, I am still questioning, being so “obsessive” about the idea “OCD” itself, is not itself a proof that something’s wrong (in other words – proof that I actually have “it”)? I sometimes wish I could let go and did care about the answer to this question, but I do. and I still do not know how “normal” that is.
    Here’s another thing. In the process of “checking” whether I have OCD, I forced myself imagining terrible things. I then read, OCD people have unwanted sexual thoughts. So I picked the worst for me and focused on that. And starting from that day, I can not let go of this. And how these terrible thoughts are proof of my “disorder”. It’s a terrible cycle I can’t break.
    And there is always something that tells me it is just artificial, I forced many thoughts up on myself and that I should ignore, but I hardly manage to. Feels like it’s always “somewhere there”.
    Then I’ve read somewhere that such “unwanted thoughts” come due to cover up something that is really bothering us. How true is that? Or is it worth thinking about its truthfulness – as I would assume based on you article, it just feeds it. This analyses just feeds it all.
    And the thing is, I don’t feel anxiety over these analyses any more. I just feel tiredom and disgust. I am utterly tired of it. Fed up with it. But I have struggle feeling “back”, feeling “normal”. I know I’m writing all this now, and then in couple hours or minutes, this cycle will trap me back in again. I know I have to be strong and step out, but it is hard to let go. And I don’t know why it’s happening.
    All this anxiety over “OCD” started a month ago and I am still going through it. I don’t want to see psychiatrists, put myself on meds, I know it will mess me up even more. I just want my life back, even with fearful thoughts and anxieties. I do not want to be “analysing” myself any more. I don’t want to be questioning whether this “need for analyses” is abnormal either.
    It is hard to fight too, because the idea that there actually “something” to fight feeds all the “unwanted thoughts” itself and the major unwanted thought about “disorder”. I hope my lengthy comment makes some kind of sense and I sincerely look forward to you reply.

    Good luck everyone.

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi nn,

      Sorry to hear about your situation. The OCD label does a lot of harm in my experience… people think they have a disease and it makes the whole thing worse, as in your case too. If you follow all the advice in the article, things will begin to turn around for you and you can get back to yourself. You’re not the first to unwittingly create hell by fearing and giving meaning to thoughts that rightly, mean nothing. If I could hard-wire your brain so that you couldn’t think these thoughts, would anything bad happen?

      All the analyzing makes it all worse, and deepens “the problem.” No, unwanted thoughts do not come to cover up something that is really bothering you.

      To let go, do nothing but be aware of whatever pops into your mind. If you want mud to settle in a pond, you STOP STIRRING.

      The only thinking that needs to be done is if you think the thoughts are serving you in some way. This doesn’t appear to apply in your case, so there is nothing to do, and a lot to stop doing.

      Keep reading the article until you are very clear, then begin to stop doing all the things you’ve been doing that grow it, begin to do nothing, to have a don’t care attitude, to notice and let go of any related thoughts, to put attention to other things, see what happens.

      Reply
      1. nn

        Thanks for your response.

        I came across with this article – http://www.hope4ocd.com/foursteps.php on overcoming OCD obsessive thoughts and compulsions and it was really surprising how it is similar to your method. The wording is all different (and psychologically traumatizing in my eyes), but the method is kind of same – revaluing thoughts as “mere “OCD” thoughts” and forming reaction habits.
        Differences are:
        “you are not your thoughts” – “Your thoughts are OCD”
        “the types of reactions to thoughts are results of formed habits” – “Reactions are due to biochemical imbalance”.
        This both contribute to labeling thoughts as meaningless. And the method is reaction severity reduction, and refocusing – forming new habits that in the other writer’s eyes will fix “chemical imbalances”. I do like ” it will form the habit” better.
        Then it does go on to mention “impartial observer”, which is also interesting. Guess it all comes down to that, I’ve been reading some article the other day on freeing yourself from “false self” and finding your “true self”. That one was from pure psychological perspective. These fields of sciences and relevant wording just complicate things more. After all, all roads lead to Rome :)

        Your wording is so much more useful and non-harmful. It is amazing how all this “scientific” ways go through puzzles to put things simple. While PHD may assure you to “probably” have brain defects along the way of “curing” you – You can help people go right to the curing phase without hurting them into believing they are “mentally ill” – that can have very negative effects.

        I’m planning on buying your book. But there is one question that bothers me when it comes to happiness recipes. How do you define happiness. It is some easiness, peacefulness, sense of control that is to be achieved – I mean, some general mode that can be stable and long lasting – is this what the word “happiness” symbolizes in your case?
        I really want to ask what you do in times of big trouble. How does it effect this general, stable mood of yours that you managed to achieve? And in big trouble I mean, times of very evident and extremely unhappy and upsetting events.

      2. Michael Kinnaird

        Hi nn, great comment!

        “you are not your thoughts” “Your thoughts are OCD”. Both things are true… thoughts, memories, images are all forms in the field of consciousness of which you are aware (ideally), therefore they are not you, although you have a choice (ideally) about which thoughts you hold as true, i.e. you have a choice about what they all mean, and in that sense you are choosing who you are in relationship to them. They are also OCD thoughts in that the patterns created and habituated conform to OCD as psychologists have defined it. The dysfunction follows predictable patterns which we label OCD.

        The label, however is not helpful to sufferers. In my experience, telling people they have OCD creates a big obstacle to recovery.

        “the types of reactions to thoughts are results of formed habits”. “Reactions are due to biochemical imbalance”. The first is always the case, the second may be true, but not necessarily. If the cause is only the first, then only the first need be addressed, if the causes are both, then both need to be addressed. Without access to expensive testing methods, the best approach is to change the diet and lifestyle to automatically correct potential imbalances. This is mentioned in the article above.

        Changing thought habits will not alter chemical imbalances resulting from years of sub-optimal nutrition for example. But what can happen with OCD is a constant anxiety state which more or less keeps the sufferer trapped in dysfunctional thinking, without the understanding and tools I’ve described in the article. This constant anxiety is probably the chemical imbalance the other article is talking about.

        “These fields of sciences and relevant wording just complicate things more. After all, all roads lead to Rome :)” Yes, everywhere there is over-complication, as individuals try to carve their own niche, try to sound very clever etc. And problems with the mind make over-complication and over-information more likely because we are dealing with a massive range of potential effects that need to be described and treated. The truth though, is very very simple–you must establish yourself as the witness, and gain control over your attention, and remove meaning and attention from unwanted thoughts.

        I call happiness feeling good… good feelings of contentment, joy, peace, spontaneity, a sense of loving life etc. Feeling good.

        In times of big trouble, a happy person accepts fully the situation and works to change things to a desirable and stable state without taking it personally or reacting negatively. When you achieve great health and inner peace, there really isn’t anything that can affect that, so outer conditions become much less able to affect your state. Of course if there is loss, you might feel sad and cry etc, but this is a different quality to that which is normally experienced by people. There IS greater ease in becoming sure of your SELF and trusting in that, acting from that, being that, than in trying to figure everything out mentally, how you should behave in a billion different circumstances and all the other problems the ego creates.

  18. nn

    I see…..All very logical and acceptable :)

    There’s one more question I’m interested in on the way of getting rid of unwanted thoughts – maybe you could have some answer on it already or come up with a suggestion.
    Let’s say you’re thinking on something that causes certain emotion (and you’re okay about it ) – be it pleasure/anger or whatsoever. And in this process, the “unwanted thoughts” hit you and distract your previous thoughts AND emotion. When refocusing on what were you thinking before, how do you KEEP the previous emotion as well. I mean, ignoring an unwanted thought requires certain level of emotional balance – you kind of need to be cool and relaxed to ignore. So it’s hard to avoid emotional change – some kind of response – avoid going to “relaxed mode” after being “excited/pleased/angry/sad…etc”. In this process of ignoring thoughts and going back to what we were doing/thinking – should we also try to restore the emotions arisen from previous doing/thinkings?

    I hope I didn’t overcomplicate it.

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird

      Hi nn,

      Think big picture here… if your mind is stormy, then it’s impossible to control all the effects. Thoughts are subtle and yet powerful, they become associated/linked, habitual and unconscious. So to be boss, first we make our minds very quiet, as you say cool and relaxed. The common analogy is like the surface of a lake… only by making it calm and still can we see to the bottom.

      So… the important thing is to be boss of mental processes. Only then do you have complete choice over your attention and so what emotions you feel. To restore a certain emotion, focus on the thoughts and feelings that created the desired emotion to begin with. That’s going to be hard if your mind is stormy, if old stuff is powerfully activated and dominant. To really be boss, go back to square one and learn to be still first of all.

      Practice this simple method all the time to rapidly disentangle yourself from unconscious thought habits… http://happyguide.co/2011/10/27/start-meditating

      Does this answer your question?

      Reply
  19. Dini

    I just got out of a 6 almost 7 year long relationship. He was my first love and after about 1 year into our relationship my feelings had changed for him, I no longer had that puppy dog love for him like I once did. I wonder why for so long and than I had my intrusive thought of “What if I’m gay” well that scared me right off the bat, I never had a gay thought ever even when my female friend was hitting on me I was turn off from it because that is not me I always loved boys since I was in elementary school. So I realized that isn’t true and I quickly got over it. We worked out our relationship and stayed together. Through the relationship he had a gambling addiction and he had been emotionally and financially abusive towards me I still loved him but I often fantasized about other men which I have always done so in the past. So about 4 weeks ago decided to end the relationship I just didn’t love him anymore and there was just no future for us. So because my anxiety is up very high due to my life style change my intrusive “You must be gay” thoughts are coming into my head. I’m very upset by them because I didn’t break up for him for that reason. I love men and I think women are beautiful but they don’t attract me in that aspect. What fuels the thoughts is that once I ended the relationship all my feelings towards men (even my fantasies) just disappeared. It feels like he took my sexuality away from me. I don’t feel like myself and my intrusive thoughts want me to act on them. It has really shaken my confidence in myself. I wish I could feel for a man but I can’t and that’s when my intrusive thoughts come out even more. I get scared that I’m turning gay which makes no since to me and I’m having an inner tug of war with myself. This is my first break up too so all these emotions are new to me. My head keeps obsessing about being gay and turning butchy which is just not me. I love feeling womanly, it makes me feel like a freak in my own body and mind. I’m SO scared I’m losing control of my inner self. I can’t stop thinking about it and it’s so alarming. I feel like I’m soon going to scream “I’M GAY” and I don’t want to because that is a lie against myself. I have know since I was a child that I liked boys so for me to think this is disturbing.

    Reply
  20. Dini

    I feel so guilty because during the relationship I even looked up porn once with a guy and girl and saw woman’s porn and you know I wasn’t turned off but I wasn’t turn on like I would be with a guy. It was more of a okay I see why some would like it and I carried on like it was nothing. So now my mind goes “remember that time” maybe that was a sign. It’s like things you would brush off as being normal my mind is making it into something and feeding off of it. It is silly when you think about it. I feel like my aniexty is extra henghted because of this break up and all these “what if” thoughts. I’m going to read your arctile and try to practice it.

    Reply
    1. James Riddett

      Yes that makes perfect sense. What would have been ignored before, your mind now links to the “What if I’m gay?” shocking idea. This is how our brains work. It identifies patterns and makes connections. We tell our brain what is important through our reaction, attention and sense of importance to an idea. Then suddenly you start noticing “evidence” to support that idea.

      And you’re right again — the added anxiety of the break up would have fueled this. It’s impossible to control thinking when you’re anxious. It’s a “fight or flight” state, it’s not a state for clear, rational thought.

      So the answer is to understand that there is no hidden meaning to this thought, that there is no “real” problem — so you can therefore see these thoughts as silly and ignore them, just as you would ignore anything that is unimportant to you. This article and the one I mentioned above explains everything, if needed. But do leave a comment if you need anything clarified.

      Reply
  21. Tiffiny Rayner

    Hello? You may remember my brother, Aaron, talking about me and my fears on the old site. I’m worried about him. He loses motivation to do things. Sometimes he doesn’t walk, sometimes he doesn’t move his body, sometimes he doesn’t stand, sometimes he even stops himself from breathing occasionally! He just doesn’t feel like doing anything, even subconscious things like the aforementioned breathing. Is it possible he is thinking why he is doing everything that he does in his life?

    Reply
  22. Imtiyaz Khan

    Thanks to Michael Kinnaird and all of happy guide team. I am searching a solution in some areas regarding unwanted thoughts which still needs to be looked into. The happy guide is excellent but I need counselling through the experts in the subject. I have a story behind. Hope to get conversation addressed. If so I will be waiting your reply through my e-mail address.

    Reply
  23. Imtiyaz Khan

    Good, though seems simple little more explain how to get space between the thoughts.
    Best Wishes to the Team
    Imtiyaz Khan

    Reply
  24. Ending_OCD

    Hello everyone,

    I’m very thankful to have come across this discussion. After some contemplation, I sense that I’ve had slight OCD for some time now (about 6 years). It’s the kind where I have a paranoia of checking things over and over again. But I’ve mitigated this problem considerably by just relaxing and being more confident.

    What I’m really here to talk about though is another form of OCD that manifested itself in me about 3 months ago, which is SO (Sexual Orientation) OCD. It’s the exact same problem Dini was experiencing. Before I got this problem, I didn’t even think about my sexuality. That’s because it was obvious I’m straight. Throughout my whole life, I’ve always been sexually interested in girls, and I’ve fantasized about them far too many times to count. I’ve never expressed that kind of interest in males. It’s just not me. I don’t know exactly how I got this problem, but I suspect something incited a paranoia in me that triggered the “what if” scenario. Then whenever I would fantasize about women, I would see images on and off of males in my head. I was so disturbed by this that I would forcefully try to rid those images out of my head, but that was to no avail. I just recently learned that suppression doesn’t work at all; on the contrary, it makes those unwanted thoughts/images come back even stronger and more frequent. It was mentally exhausting to keep thinking about my sexuality on a daily basis. I just wanted to be back to my old self.

    Just a few days ago, I researched the internet and found out about SO-OCD, and all of its symptoms completely fit what I’ve been going through. In a nutshell, what the brain does is fabricate “false attractions” and “lies”, ultimately trying to trick you into believing you are your thoughts. But again, none of that is real, nor does it say anything about who you are. So, that led me to the most important question – how do I treat this problem? The answers are really simple, and they don’t even involve psychiatric or therapeutic intervention. All you have to do is: 1) Knowing that your brain is lying to you, just live your life the way you used to, 2) Be confident in yourself, and 3) Don’t be afraid of those unpleasant thoughts/images; become indifferent to them, laugh them off, and just ignore them. I’ve made amazing progress in just a few days by using these methods, and I feel so much better (I’d say that I’m at about 85-90% of what I used to be). These unwanted thoughts now come much less frequent, and they themselves don’t bother me. I just want them to be gone entirely, that’s all. Or at the very least, be able to control my thoughts so I don’t have to go through this again.

    Mr. Michael Kinnaird, I will definitely read your guide and give you my feedback on it. My hope is that by using your guide, it will bring me back to my old self as soon as possible. I’m so close, but I just need that extra bit of guidance to get there. You’ve given me a whole new perspective on meditation, and now I definitely plan on starting that in the near future. Perhaps Yoga would also be good as well. I don’t want anyone to have to go through SO-OCD. I will inform you of my complete recovery when that time comes (which should be very soon).

    Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences. Everyone here is strong, and I KNOW we’ll all overcome our problems and enjoy life to the fullest again. Peace.

    Ending_OCD

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Hi Ending_OCD, yes you’ve got a really good handle on it now, it really is just about being indifferent, not caring and ignoring consistently. The thing that could be holding you back is REALLY WANTING it to be gone for good, because that is caring. So if you just trust the process and stay consistent, as you’ve seen, it will continue to die away until you’ve forgotten about it.

      Meditation will really create a higher awareness of your mind, and give you much more control over what you give meaning to, what you pay attention to etc, highly recommended. I look forward to your thoughts about the book. I recommend reading cover to cover in one go if possible, which only takes an hour or so. Doing this allows you to hold the whole thing in your head as one complete idea… you get the full impact.

      Reply
      1. Ending_OCD

        Hi Michael Kinnaird,

        Thank you for the reply and feedback. It’s much appreciated. Good to know that I’m on the right track. I think I mistook the article you referenced above as the book/guide. Is there a link I can access for the book, or is it something I have to purchase?

        Ending_OCD

  25. Ending_OCD

    I think I found the book you’re speaking of. It’s the 100 page “Happy Guide”, is that correct? Yes, I’ll most definitely give this a read and follow through with you. Thanks a lot, Michael.

    Ending_OCD

    Reply
  26. Ending_OCD

    Hi Michael Kinnaird,

    I purchased your book, but it’ll be another 3-5 weeks until I receive it from the mail. In the meantime, I’d like to start meditating. Do you have any particular techniques/postures you use in your meditation? How did you go about doing it during your tribulations? I want to heal myself of these foul thoughts, but I know I just have to not give them any attention and then they’ll gradually disappear and not become habitual anymore. I’ve never meditated before, so is there any advice you can give me? Thanks as always.

    Ending_OCD

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Hi, yes, have a look at this page http://happyguide.co/2011/10/27/start-meditating/

      Let me know if you have any more questions once you’ve tried it, and let me know how you get on. The very best posture for meditation is the yoga lotus posture because it’s extremely stable. Hard to do though, and I suspect most would not be interested in achieving that… you can sit on a chair with back straight, or cross-legged on a big cushion. This is for meditation for extended periods of time, but the idea is to move into this state of being all the time. The technique is the same, whether sitting, or just using all the in between moments to get centered.

      So… the aim is to STAY centered all the time. You can also meditate lying down, although the tendency is to fall asleep. As it says in the linked article, meditation is about returning to a NATURAL state, that’s important to understand. We are not trying to achieve some kind of altered state to get some benefit and then return to normal, we are trying to RETURN to a natural state of being, like children are mainly experiencing… aware, natural, flowy, spontaneous.

      Reply
      1. Ending_OCD

        Hi Michael,

        The technique sounds simple enough. If I understand it correctly, it means to just relax while being aware of thoughts (listening, and just maintaining that as consistently as possible). As for the posture, I’ll opt for the time being to conduct my meditation sitting on a chair with my back straight. Is 30 minutes good for beginners, or would you say that starting off with as little as 5-10 minutes can suffice as well?

        I can’t wait to be done with this problem. These intrusive thoughts are annoying, but I can’t let them bother me. It’s as if they’re programmed to automatically associate themselves with my desired thoughts. They’ve become habitual and developed patterns. I guess that’s just how the brain works. Like you said though, I just have to not give them attention. After a while, my brain will simply forget these unpleasant thoughts/images.

      2. Michael Kinnaird Post author

        “…it means to just relax while being aware of thoughts (listening, and just maintaining that as consistently as possible).”

        Yes, that’s it, but the listening puts you in a state that STOPS thoughts, so if you are having thoughts, listen harder :-) i.e. more intensity. The intensity needed diminishes over time until awareness is just natural, no effort is needed. It’s an incredible process of transformation.

        30 minutes is ideal, if not, do what you can/or feel like, and build. The best mindset for this is TOTAL COMMITMENT, i.e. try to maintain it 24/7, always listen, always. So, in the end, you are always conscious, not a puppet of thought energy, you are a thinker, not being thought, you are yourself, not identified with thoughts.

        “I can’t wait to be done with this problem. These intrusive thoughts are annoying, but I can’t let them bother me.”

        Annoying isn’t “don’t care.” Any attitude other than indifference isn’t helping you, it’s delaying things.

        “It’s as if they’re programmed to automatically associate themselves with my desired thoughts.”

        Quickly reset using the intense listening method i.e. don’t give “airtime” to corrupted/associated thoughts and then think your desired thought again cleanly. If it is still associated, repeat. If you can’t shake it for now, try again later, but stay calm, aloof and AWARE throughout.

        Always write your thoughts on a clean blackboard :-) New analogy that just came to me. The default, the center, is clean mind, peaceful aware, then think ON PURPOSE ONLY.

        They’ve become habitual and developed patterns. I guess that’s just how the brain works.

        Absolutely, we’re all about using the power of habit to create good outcomes. Awareness again, has the effect of not letting habits run on unconsciously. Your primary aim should be to simply be aware of what happens. On its own, this has tremendous transformational power, just notice what arises, staying aloof, indifferent. The mind runs on MEANING, so now you are in your power… to give the meaning you choose and not be trapped in an ever growing dysfunction web of thought-habits that are running and growing automatically and unconsciously, i.e. without your control.

        You will notice, at times, in this process, that suddenly you become aware that you have been thinking and at the same time, it was unconscious, happening without your awareness. That is the moment of sanity. So a lot of thinking has a dream-like quality, automatic, semi-conscious or unconscious. Listening as top priority, committed, earnest, really wakes you up quickly.

        “I just have to not give them attention.”

        Yes, quickly remove attention, as you would with anything you don’t care about.

  27. en

    I have unwanted thoughts. I’ve actually been working on my unwanted thought exercises by watching interesting television shows or doing something very interesting or even playing video games to help my unwanted thoughts and its actually been helping very much.my thoughts have simmering away. It’s only a thought once in a while now which is every couple of days. Instead of what it used to be which is everyday, every hour of every minute.

    Reply
  28. Ending_OCD

    Hey Mike, how long did it take you to become proficient with meditation? I know this is a skill that I can’t acquire overnight, but I’m just curious.

    So you used to also have random garbage perpetuate in your mind, as well? I think all people are susceptible to this; we get so easily distracted while paying attention to something at the same time. The only problem is when this random garbage becomes disturbing/unwanted (like in my case). Again, I just have to fully commit, and my brain will “forget”. Thought patterns that are habitual – we need to reprogram our minds by placing attention elsewhere until the mental grooves are gone.

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      I can’t remember exactly how long, but I didn’t have the clarity about how effective it is back then, plus I had a lot of health battles so it’s all quite blurry :-) Yes, my mind was very disturbed and I’ve come to realize that it’s never just about one discipline, it’s about 6 things, and they are all important. If you are eating unnatural foods for example, that could be affecting your mind, so meditation alone won’t do it, although you always benefit. As I say in the book “it takes a lot of aspirin to feel better if you’re sitting on a tack.” These tacks we’re sitting on, represent the things that are taking us away from health and happiness. Removing only one won’t do it, so the right solution, the fastest is “remove ALL tacks.” It’s impossible for me to say what is affecting you, but what I CAN do, is tell you how to remove all tacks, because that’s the same for everyone. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your diet right. Food is 1000 times more powerful than any drug in the way it mediates hormonal, chemical systems in your body. Crucial to look at every aspect.

      Reply
  29. Ending_OCD

    “the inability to drive our own mental car”.

    This quote is so true for a lot of people. It’s normal for random thoughts to perpetuate in our minds. With meditation, everything eventually stops and you have to make a conscious effort to think about something. This is a big departure from what I’m used to (like many others), but the rewards are amazing. Unwanted thoughts can surely go away through distraction, but I find that to be the slower way. Depending on how deep the mental grooves are, it can take a while for the brain to forget typical habitual patterns and triggers through association. For people that are coping with this problem, the keys to success are full commitment and consistency.

    Ending_OCD

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Thank you! I love how quickly you “got it” and how you committed fully and “did it.” Yes, distraction alone is not as effective… it will redirect triggers and remove meaning, but meditation is best to learn to be boss of the mind. Always “listening” is the key, and find time for sit down practice if the mind is stormy (30 minutes a day is ideal), until it’s the natural state. Well done!!

      Reply
  30. Ending_OCD

    Amazing. I’ve read so many articles on the internet that tell how to mitigate/possibly eliminate OCD, and they all come down to what Happy Guide says. It’s just funny how the medical field and research try to over-complicate things unnecessarily. In a nutshell, the ways to stop unwanted thoughts and gain freedom/control in our minds are: ignore, don’t care, distract, and listen. OCD no longer has any power over me; the fears are all gone. Progress to full recovery – 97% :).

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Totally Ending_OCD, everyone is over complicating it because everyone is trying to “make it,” to stand out, write a book, make money, to have status, be an expert. Another reason for over complication is text-book teaching vs. real insight. Real insight and a real desire to help leads to simplicity because the answers are always simple. Not always easy at first, but at least they are simple. I am soooo happy you found the answers and the FAITH in them enough to do it, through us. Because that tells us that the info we publish WORKS, it gets real results. Thanks!

      Reply
  31. kishore1990

    Hi my name is kishore i lives in india…i have thoughts about something unwanted that i want to rid it,that thoughts about its really silly to hear but so worse that something im while talking to my friends i thinks that ”IS HE DIE SOON I CANT HEAR THEM WHAT THEY ARE SAYING SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THEIR DEAD’S” something like that ”PLS HELP ME SOON DO I NEED ADVICE OR MEDITATION”.i’ll catch you in e-mail

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Yes you always need meditation which is practicing Being who you are, and having choice over your attention and what you think, and having choice over what things mean, including thoughts. Nothing has inherent meaning, but we decide what things mean either by conditioning which you haven’t questioned and just accepted or by choice/reflection. You have immediately given this thought importance, meaning. Although you may not know its meaning, you’ve already decided to explore it, that it’s important.

      But if you understand that you have choice over attention, and that nothing has inherent meaning, then you simply ignore what you don’t want to give attention to. No attention, and it doesn’t exist for you does it?

      A thought can come into mind because of past meaning and attention, or may have embedded subliminally from a movie, or your culture, a thousand different ways, so they are not always personal. Something you experience in a heightened state embeds easily, fear and anxiety around the subject has the same effect.

      So yes, meditate, very important, and remember that the more the mind is disturbed, the more you should meditate and practice “no-mind,” become more aware. Then be aware that you always have choice of attention (if not, meditate more), and that thoughts mean what you say they mean, and you can give them more attention or ignore, and that attention or not, is the volume control for thoughts. As you practice a thought it becomes easier to recall, it becomes habitual, conditioned.

      Reply
  32. sarina

    Hi Mike,

    Sometimes when I realize I have unwanted thoughts, I just let them be and they go away on their own. When I notice they are gone/ check and realise they are gone, it gives me a lot of confidence that I am doing the right thing and I continue to keep practice being mindful when I want. Is this the correct way to recovery?
    when you said its ‘virtually impossible’ in your article, did you mean it is ‘hard’ for people who have not really practiced letting thoughts be, to be able to let thoughts be and go if the thought has changed into anxiety? I find that sometimes I do let myself get overwhelmed by my thoughts and they do become anxiety, but even if the thoughts or feeling do become anxiety, I just label them as ‘just a thought’ and/or let them be, then I realise the thoughts just go on their own again and the anxiety is gone I am not anxious again. I dont have to physically exercise for this to happen either. When you said in your article it is ‘virtually impossible rein them in'(when you have let the thoughts become anxiety), you mean it is ‘harder to’, but not ‘impossible’, correct?
    If you agree with both my statements and/or questions, please just answer yes.
    Kind regards,
    Sarina

    Reply
    1. Michael Kinnaird Post author

      Hi Sarina,

      Sometimes when I realize I have unwanted thoughts, I just let them be and they go away on their own. When I notice they are gone/ check and realise they are gone, it gives me a lot of confidence that I am doing the right thing and I continue to keep practice being mindful when I want. Is this the correct way to recovery?

      Yes, essentially. Being mindful, aware, we can notice thoughts pop in contrast to a quiet mind, a choiceful state, rather than habitual mind-chatter, and then ignore the unwanted thoughts which tells the unconscious mind that the thought isn’t important. It’s the meaning we attach to thoughts that determines what happens, so ignoring is giving the meaning “don’t care” which is the right meaning if you want it to stop coming.

      When you said its ‘virtually impossible’ in your article, did you mean it is ‘hard’ for people who have not really practiced letting thoughts be, to be able to let thoughts be and go if the thought has changed into anxiety?

      Yes, if it’s not nipped in the bud, it becomes harder, and as you say, if letting thoughts be hasn’t been practiced, the process of creating the anxiety plays out automatically. Then the body produces adrenaline etc and we go into a flight or flight state.

      I find that sometimes I do let myself get overwhelmed by my thoughts and they do become anxiety, but even if the thoughts or feeling do become anxiety, I just label them as ‘just a thought’ and/or let them be, then I realise the thoughts just go on their own again and the anxiety is gone I am not anxious again. I dont have to physically exercise for this to happen either. When you said in your article it is ‘virtually impossible rein them in'(when you have let the thoughts become anxiety), you mean it is ‘harder to’, but not ‘impossible’, correct?

      Sounds like you are doing it right. Just watching the reaction, the anxiety form, isn’t being it, it’s watching it. If we see it as old stuff just playing out, old meanings and reactions, and understand it will stop coming in time, we can just let it be, keeping the attitude of indifference. Noticing fully in awareness and releasing it, done as it forms, and staying indifferent, allows you to return to a normal state quickly.

      Reply

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