Intrusive thoughts can seem like a problem. Just by their nature, they can seem scary and as though they are a sign of something that is wrong with us. But what if this isn’t true? And what if dealing with them is simply a matter of understanding their nature?
- What intrusive thoughts can look like
- The feelings that can come with intrusive thoughts
- How our thoughts are NOT a reflection of our mental health
- How we don’t need to do anything about any kind of thought
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Stay informed about receiving an advanced copy of my next book by signing up for my newsletter at AlexandraAmor.com/insight
Transcript of episode
Hello explorers and welcome to Q&A episode 35 of Unbroken. I’m Alexandra Amor.
Today our question is how do I deal with intrusive thoughts about food?
I’ll get to answering that question in just a moment. But first, a little public service announcement. If you’re listening to this around the time it goes out, which will be the middle of October, I can’t remember the date exactly, always on a Monday. If you’re listening to that around that time, and you would like to receive an advanced copy before anybody else gets it of the new book that I’ve got coming out about food and resolving our relationship with an unwanted overeating habit, make sure that you’re subscribed to my newsletter.
You can do that at AlexandraAmor.com/insight. You’ll receive a notice from me when I’m going to send out requests and offers for anyone who would like an advanced copy of the book.
If you’re already subscribed, then there’s nothing you need to do, you will receive that notice as well. But if you’re not subscribed, yet, I thought I’d mention it. And so you can sign up and you’ll receive as a bonus, perhaps, the little video course that I’ve put together called how to hack your thinking and resolve unwanted habits. That’s five videos that you receive. And it’s all self-paced, you can watch it at your own speed. And hopefully that will help you well, as you’re exploring this understanding as it relates to resolving and overeating habit. So there we go. That’s the public service announcement.
Now, let’s get back to the question. So how should I deal with intrusive thoughts about food?
This popped into my head the other day, because I used to have this recurring intrusive thought, and it went like this. I’ll give you this personal example.
Very often if I was dishing out some food, and especially if it was something that I really liked anything to do with potatoes, particularly, or anything to do with sugar, the thought would come to me, “There’s never enough.”
It would be a thought and a feeling at the same time. A very visceral sense, and almost like a little bit of panic. So whatever was there in front of me on my plate, or that I was dishing out, there was just this feeling that there was never enough that there could never be enough.
And I think that feeling had two edges. There were two edges to that sword.
One was about the amount of food, that it just it felt like it wasn’t going to satisfy me or make me feel better, whatever it was.
And then the other edge to that feeling that I felt was a bit of panic about the feeling itself. Like if I’m feeling that, then there must be something really wrong with me.
It frightened me that I could feel such a powerful feeling about food. When it was the one thing that I was trying to resolve. It was the problem that I was trying to fix. And that no matter what I did, I would have that intrusive thought and it was unbidden. It was a thought I didn’t want to be having and it came about so often. I had it, I would say nearly every day and, and there were those two elements, like I said, to the fear around it.
What can we do when we have a thought like that? How can we make it go away, or resolve it or manage it, so that it doesn’t bother us anymore?
And here, this really points to the paradoxical nature of this understanding, in that what we need to do about that thought is absolutely nothing. So even though it felt to me like I urgently needed to get rid of that thought, like if I didn’t have that thought, then my relationship with food would be so much better. And I would be fixed, and my overeating habit would go away.
There was pressure within me to get rid of that thought, and to do something about it.
And to notice, if it had gone away, that would be something that I could feel like I had achieved, that I had made a step forward toward resolving that unwanted habit.
What I see now about thoughts like this is, well, I guess it’s a few different things. But paradoxically, there’s nothing we need to do about thoughts like that, and even about the yucky feelings that they come with. So that feeling that I had of fear about not having enough food, and then fear about the thought itself. And the, yeah, just the visceral feelings that I had within me about that.
First of all, none of that means anything about you, or about your unwanted habit or about your mental health at all.
Having a thought like that is not a problem. And it can be a little bit difficult to get our heads around something like that, because it feels like a problem in the moment. It feels that that’s something we shouldn’t be thinking about. And if we didn’t, that things would be better.
But when we examine and explore the nature of thought itself, what we see is that it’s fluid. And it’s moving all the time. And there are a number of metaphors that we use to look at this; thought is like the weather in the sky, always changing, always moving. And we don’t need to manage it at all, the same way we don’t manage the weather.
Or we could look at it like thought is a river. always moving, always changing, sometimes turbulent, sometimes quiet. And when we see that, that it is in thought and thinking is very nature to just keep moving, keep flowing through us. When we look in that direction of understanding what thought is that’s the thing that, surprisingly, resolves any intrusive thoughts that we’re having about anything but also about food.
Because when we see the nature of what is really happening within us, when we see that insightfully when we try to understand it with our logical minds, which is fine, that’s the first step. And then we’ll often see things more deeply more insightfully as we continue to explore. Then when the thought occurs to us, it doesn’t have any real impact. And somehow, and I can’t describe why, but that is what dissolves those kinds of thoughts. Is looking upstream, as I’ve talked about in the past, understanding the nature of thought as a whole is the thing that will resolve what we would label as intrusive thoughts.
When they do happen to come up again, in the future maybe months or years after they’ve seemed to have resolved themselves, that’s okay too. When we understand the nature of thought and if these thoughts come back to us, we have so much less attachment to them and worry about them and concern about why they’re showing up. We understand that, like a stick floating down the river, they’re just there momentarily, and they will move on. And there’s nothing that we need to do about it.
And as I said a little bit earlier, the fact that this thought is showing up is not a reflection of our mental health or anything that’s broken about us. It’s simply a reflection of the way that thought works. So just like if there’s a thunderstorm that moves through, you wouldn’t consider that to be a reflection of your brokenness or your fault in any way. It’s just a thunderstorm, it’s moving through, it’s happening in this moment, and then it will move on, and the next bit of weather will show up.
So the short answer to the question, “What can we do about intrusive thoughts?” is absolutely nothing.
The longer answer is that exploring the nature of how thought moves, is what helps us to understand what’s happening when we have that kind of an intrusive thought.
And that insight and understanding is what helps those kinds of thoughts to resolve. I’ve used a specific example from my life, but of course, that’s not the only thought that’s going to occur to us about food. And you may have your own specific ones, perhaps you do, and they could have to do with the cravings that you experience or anything like that.
In your life, and in your experience of food, those thoughts are going to be different, but their nature is exactly the same.
That’s the thing that’s common. That’s identical, really, between you and me, is the nature of the energy of thought that is moving through us.
I hope that’s been helpful for you, and that you were doing well. And I will leave you there for now and talk to you again next week. Take care. Bye.