Thought Stopping to Beat Worry and Anxiety
Thought stopping is a simple technique to deal with unwanted thoughts and worries. When you have such a thought, tell yourself, in your mind, “STOP,” in a forceful way. Many find it helpful to also picture a red light or a Stop Sign at the same time. You can repeat this as much as necessary until the thought is out of your mind, at that moment. Many thoughts will revisit you and give you a chance to use thought stopping again.
Some people find it helpful to also snap a rubber band around their wrist at the same time they say “Stop.” If you try this, do it carefully, as it is very easy to give yourself a welt!
What probably works even better is when you have a repetitive, negative thought, is to answer it with a reality thought. For example, should you have a thought like, “If I touch the door knob, I'll get sick and die!,” replace it with a reality thought like, “Many people have used the door knob and nobody has died!,” “That is just another of my stupid OCD thoughts!,” and/or “My fear of the door is irrational and I won't let irrational thoughts run my life today!”
If there are a few thoughts that have been disturbing you for some time, set aside 10 minutes (and preferably longer) a day and bring up the thought and practice using the Thought stopping techniques.
A frequent mistake that leads many to stop using this technique is that after using these techniques for a short time, they conclude that it doesn't work, because the thought returns. Metaphorically, the negative thought is much stronger than the reality thoughts. Thus, it is necessary for the reality thoughts to be exercised in order to grow stronger. As this occurs, the negative thought generally becomes weaker.
The first step in changing most of these thoughts is to become more aware of them and react as quickly as possible to keep it from running your life unchallenged.
Mike Miller, PhD
Copyright © 2009. Michael Miller. All rights reserved.