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I am a notorious overthinker.
In some ways, I feel it’s an excellent trait. If you need someone to conceive of every single possible outcome, I’m your girl. I can help you prepare for the most outlandish circumstances without batting an eye and navigate us through any freak incident. I think abstractly, and I can spot a sh*t person a yard off; it’s what I do.
With this pensive hypervigilance comes a slurry of thoughts. These thoughts can be vibrant, full of hope, and make me feel impenetrable. And I love it when they come around; who wouldn’t? These lovely oxytocin-bearing cognitions are exactly what anyone would choose if our thoughts could be ordered from a menu.
Positive thinking is something to be celebrated; it is resilience beginning to flourish before action is made.
Negative intrusive thoughts are positive thoughts’ cousin, twice removed, but they serve an important function as well. They could be warning us of danger or of a situation that is in desperate need of change.
Our perspective surrounding these thoughts is key. We may choose to listen to them, suppress them, or allow them to be. Bravery is required to sit alongside them, without judgement, while we do our best to understand the underlying causes of where they are truly stemming from.
Sometimes, we internalize our negative thoughts. These negative internalized thoughts can manifest into negative core beliefs. This is no easy path to navigate. This is why it is so important for us to know we are not our thoughts.
This is such a salient truth for us all to be aware of, especially children. It is so crucial for us all to understand that our thoughts are not fact and do not make us inherently “bad.”
Thoughts have the ability to occur randomly without prompting or coaxing them into existence.
What should we do or say to someone who confides a bad, weird, or intrusive thought to us?
1. First and foremost, thank them for trusting you with their vulnerability. It takes a brave person to share their emotions.
2. Assure them their thoughts are in no way proof they have something wrong with them or they are somehow “bad” for having them.
3. Explain how fascinating our brain is and that it works without us having to prod it.
4. Help them understand that nervousness, worry, anxiety, fears, jealousy, and stress can generate or stimulate the brain into having thoughts that are simply a response to their feelings and not a representation of their character or who they are at their core.
5. Work with them to gain a more profound reason as to why their thought happened. This way you are helping them pause and work through their thoughts and emotions to gain a better perspective on why they are occurring. Bonus: in the future, they will be able to use what they have learned from you and apply it accordingly.
6. Ask them if they feel better after having spoken to you. If they do, this will help them to understand you are safe to speak with about their feelings and thoughts and will seek you out next time they need reassurance.
What if they don’t feel better?
Please encourage them to speak with a mental health professional. This may seem scary to them. So please help them to be brave, offer to go with them, and be by their side. Be their metaphorical bookend as needed. Having a support system is key to success in any situation, promise. I’ve done the research.
Please understand that thoughts and emotions are normal; it’s how we respond to them that matters.
All my best.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please call the NAMI helpline; they are there to help you, your family, and friends: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255