Knowing how to stop obsessive thoughts is a skill that can be beneficial in a number of situations.
The human mind generates upwards of 20,000 thoughts per day, although many tend to be repetitive.
Being able to screen those thoughts to let the positive ones through while eliminating the negative ones can help to stop obsession, but screening is just one component of the process to control obsessive thoughts.
If you’re ready to control your mind and master your thoughts, then it all begins with one realization: there is no such thing as thought suppression.
Trying to contain negative thoughts creates an environment where the mind will eventually implode with negative energy. If you’re trying to stop obsessive thoughts by not thinking in a negative way, then it’s time to try something new.
If you’re tired of always thinking negatively that means you’re ready to take these additional steps:
Step #1: Understand the Negativity
Many parts of the mind are running automatically throughout the day. You don’t have to think about breathing or your heart beating, right?
Your mind processes the images you see without a command to do so. It does this because it is pulling on past information that it has been provided through generations of genetic input.
In essence, the mind works the way it does because it has evolved to act in this way.
We also try to solve our own problems based on our past history of events and experiences. The thinking patterns that got us into negativity in the first place become the foundation of how we think we’ll get out of negativity.
Just as the mind is a feedback loop that lets it run automatically for many daily functions, we create our own negativity feedback loop because we’re trying to stop negative thoughts by creating new negative thoughts.
I’m thinking positive thoughts right now. How can that have a negative foundation? Because the first thought you had wasn’t positive.
It was likely something like this: My negativity is out of control and I need to change that.
Constructive criticism is one thing, but we are hardly constructively critical with ourselves.
A simple thought like the one above robs a person of their own self-esteem and confidence. It is a thought of desperation instead of a thought to change. You need to be the one in control – not your negative thoughts.
Step #2: Get Into the Driver’s Seat
The relationship between you and your mind is a complex one. In some ways, you and your mind are the same thing.
You can consciously control what thoughts come out of your mind. When you look at a flower, you might think “Gee – that looks pretty.”
Some thoughts are out of our control. They appear based on our past experiences and habits. These background racing thoughts are always there.
When negative cycles are out of control, the barrier against these racing thoughts that is under your personal control gets worn down until it breaks down.
Pretty soon emotions that surprise you bubble to the surface and you explode with negativity to the world around you. This creates more negativity and the cycle starts over again.
If you can sit and meditate to observe your thoughts and become aware of the barrier between the racing thoughts and the thoughts you control, then you can stop this negative cycle.
Instead of letting your mind mutiny, it is time to get into the driver’s seat to stop obsessive thoughts.
How do you get into the driver’s seat?
You change your perspective. Instead of finding negative energy interesting, you must begin to pick out the positive thoughts the mind generates and separate them out from the thousands of other thoughts that happen.
Step #3: Detach Yourself From the Negativity
Awareness is the key to success. The only way to become more aware of your thought patterns is to independently observe them.
You could try keeping a journal or a diary or maybe try video blogging, but meditation is usually the best way to begin controlling those obsessive thoughts.
Why meditation? Because the silence of the environment helps you focus on those negative thoughts that try to get through your barrier of control.
You can identify them, label them, and then remove them from existence. This will allow you to detach yourself from the negativity.
The goal is to change how you’re looking at every thought.
Let’s say you are walking down the street and you see someone with a brand new Jaguar drive by you. The first thought is a jealous one because you’d like to own a car like that instead of being stuck walking.
By changing the perspective and being content with the things you do have that the Jaguar driver might not have, you take away the power that negativity has over your mind.
Emotional suffering is always caused by negative, obsessive thoughts.
The things that are important to us: loved ones, careers, or money – they often tend to become the focus of these thoughts.
- If only I had been given that promotion which I deserved more than the person who got it.
- I don’t understand why I’m the only person in this house who washes the dishes.
- My spouse never stops spending money, so we can never save any.
The moment these thoughts get a nanosecond of attention is the moment they have power over your mind.
Choose to detach and you’ll be able to reinforce that barrier between the thoughts you want and the racing thoughts that continue on throughout the day.
Step #4: Give Daily Attention to Positive Thoughts
Developing a habit that controls negative thoughts is just one part of the process to control them. Knowing how to stop obsessive thoughts also means being able to pay attention to positive thoughts on a daily basis as well.
This is something your daily meditation sessions can do for you. Many people envision meditation as sitting in the old-school “criss-cross applesauce” method while chanting some mantra on a fancy Oriental rug.
That does work for some people. It doesn’t work for others.
Finding the right way to meditate for you is important because it will allow you to give daily attention to your positive thoughts.
Some people meditate by taking a long shower in the morning. Others take a cup of coffee, watch CNN, and read the newspaper.
Taking a walk to meditate works. Putting all of the kids in a room together and teaching them the benefit of quiet can help some folks.
There’s a way for you to meditate. You’ve got to find it.
Once you do and you’ve brought your focus into tunnel vision, here’s what you’ve got to do: consciously choose to give positive thoughts your attention.
When a negative thought pops up, label it and then cast it aside. When negative thoughts are ignored, they eventually fizzle away into nothingness.
It will take some time to get good at doing this. Do not be discouraged. New habits can take 3-4 weeks to develop. It’s more important that you attempt to focus only on positive thoughts than to do it perfectly.
As with any skill, you’ll get better over time as you practice it more.
Expecting to be perfect immediately is just a hidden obsessive thought lurking in disguise. Allow it to fizzle out just like all of the other negative thoughts.
Step #5: Perform a Positive Action
Now that you’ve recognized how to stop giving power to your negative, obsessive thoughts, you’re ready to completely disarm them for good.
You can choose to turn your negative thoughts into positive energies that can fuel a positive outcome.
Let’s be honest about those obsessive thoughts for a moment. They’re often a cry for help.
When children cry because they’re hungry, tired, or hurt, do we ignore them? Of course not. We address the situation – even when those children are not ours.
How do we help children who are crying? We tell them positive things so they stop focusing on the negative thoughts that are bothersome.
We take the power away from the negativity by fueling it with positive energy.
Now you’ve got to do the same thing with your own mind. The next time you have a thought that is similar to “Why did I even bother? What’s wrong with me?” is the time to put this step into action.
You’ve learned how to identify thoughts. You’ve learned how to label them. You’ve learned how to cast them aside when necessary.
Now you’re ready to use negative thoughts to your advantage by turning them into a positive action.
If you’re in a stressful situation, remove yourself from it immediately. If you have worries or fears, consciously choose to keep them around.
Center yourself, calm down, and then create a plan of action that outlines specific steps which will allow you to be able go from a negative perspective to a positive one.
Why is this important to do? This forces your mind to use its rational side instead of its emotional side.
This is the key to knowing how to stop obsessive thoughts. The logical parts of your mind must overcome the reactionary emotional parts of your mind and highlight a positive path that is beneficial.
Then all you’ve got to do is choose to take the first step down the logical path.
Step #6: Remember… This Is Not a War
There are two basic reasons for war: to conquer or to avoid being conquered.
The approach of attempting to conquer negativity with positivity is the wrong approach. As history has already taught us, most wars are ultimately pointless.
There are the occasional battles that are 100% necessary, but most of the time wars just lead to more misery.
Going to war with your obsessive thoughts often creates more obsessive thoughts.
The goal here is to observe what does and what does not work. Include the things that are working to help you focus and fuel positive thoughts while setting aside the negative components so they can be properly addressed at a quiet time.
Negative mental energy must always have a coping skill associated with it for it to turn into positive action fuel.
Without coping mechanisms, a person is simply running away from their obsessive thoughts and eventually they’ll get tired. The obsessive thoughts will catch up eventually.
How do you cope with negative thoughts so they can be properly identified through meditation?
There must be some sort of process that is followed which allows a person to identify the specific negative components of the thought, why those components are negative, and what that information means on a personal level.
Here’s an example:
Jerry heaves a heavy sigh of frustration. He’s just gotten off the phone with his supervisor and has been told he has 6 hours to complete a project that would normally take him 30 hours to complete. The reason why this has been put on his shoulders is that the two people who were given this project were just laid off. Jerry feels anger build in the pit of his stomach. “I hate my boss!” he screams at the top of his lungs.
At first glance, it would be easy to say that Jerry is upset because he’s got a lot of work to do immediately because the company just laid off two other people to save money.
Jerry is being asked to do double the work without double the pay. Hating his supervisor for assigning him this task instead of someone else would be another possibility.
What if the 6 hours of work that needs to be done right now means Jerry spends less time with his family tonight?
The negative thoughts that we have form when the most important things to us are kept away from us. Most people have the order of love, career, and then money.
Being kept from loved ones in what seems like an unjustifiable manner will always generate negative thoughts. Jerry would rather be laid off in that moment because he could collect unemployment insurance while spending more time with his family.
If Jerry focuses on the momentary hatred of the supervisor or the injustice of doing the work of two people, then he won’t be able to turn the negative thoughts into positive fuel.
He must identify that his frustration is being generated from being kept away from his family. When this is identified, that frustration can become fuel which generates a positive output to help complete the work as quickly as possible.
Jerry could go to war with the other surface negativity, but it would be pointless. When we remember this isn’t a war that we’re waging, but a new habit we’re trying to form, there will be more success.
Step #7: There Is Always an Equal and Opposite Reaction
Now you’re ready for the final step: recognizing that negativity and obsessive thoughts will always be present. Knowing how to stop obsessive thoughts means giving up the effort to permanently stop them.
Every positive thought you have creates and equally negative thought that can lead to obsession.
We must recognize that there will always be negative thoughts. We must give up the idea that we can completely eliminate them for good.
Sound like bad news? It’s not. That’s because for every negative thought, there is also a positive thought that can be found.
What you’re doing isn’t stopping the creation of obsessive thoughts. You’re stopping how obsessive thoughts control your future actions.
When you have a positive thought, it is important to search out the negative thought that accompanies it. This allows you to pay attention to it, label it, and then set it aside.
This searching process also provides emphasis to the habit of searching out a positive thought after a negative thought has been generated.
Obsessive thoughts can be terrifying. Over time they can become very real and powerful. Even imaginary obsessive thoughts, like having a bunch of rats climb into bed with you at night, can become real within the confines of the mind if we allow the negativity to fester.
This is the most difficult step to master. It takes time.
This process is different for everyone. There is not a set timetable that needs to be followed. Some people may be able to skip steps. Others might find themselves stuck for a year or more on an early step.
What is important is that there is a specific point of emphasis: you will be better at this tomorrow than you are today.
A tiny step forward is still forward progress. Three steps forward, but two steps backward is still one step of forward progress.
Discovering how to stop obsessive thoughts on a personal level will happen with this 7 step process. Begin your journey today and free yourself from that negative energy once and for all.
P.S. One method which has really worked for me has been EFT. Emotional Freedom Techniques have helped me to identify emotions and better manage them. I definitely recommend giving EFT a try with these other methods.
Read next: Positive Affirmations For Depression
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