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How I cope with intrusive thoughts

Apparently, the average person has around 70,000 thoughts a day and 94% of us have intrusive thoughts. I never really noticed them as strongly as I did after having children. Everywhere we go I spot potential danger and my brain actually plays me a video of terrible accidents happening, which physically make me tense up. If, for example, we have gone for a walk along the pier I imagine what would happen if one of my children fell in: would I be brave enough to jump in afterwards immediately or would I freeze for a few seconds? When we’re walking to school I imagine what would happen if a car careered off the road towards us: would I be quick enough to get us out of the way? The list is endless.

Authoring... and Jim Carrey's dad

Having a proper go at being a children’s author brings a similar amount of intrusive thoughts, although they are more slow burning worries. I’ve always had too much anxiety about what other people think of me, to the point of making decisions based on that rather than what I actually want to do. I find myself justifying my actions: ‘I’m putting things on social media because I’ve been advised to’ rather than owning the decision I have made to do so myself. It’s that fear that ultimately people may see me fail quite publicly. But… I am trying to change my thinking. Instead of them seeing me fail publicly perhaps they will see me trying. Jim Carrey once told a story about his father, who was a great saxophone player and was always the funniest man in the room. He was too scared to pursue his dreams of becoming a comedian so he got a job as an accountant but was ultimately let go from this at the age of 51. Jim says that you can just as easily fail at something you don’t even want to do so, if you are going to fail, it may as well be at something you love. Personally, I also think that failure isn’t just a one and done thing. If you fail, more often than not you can try hundreds more times if you want. And if you are trying that many times, odds are, you will succeed especially with everything you will have learnt from all of those failures.

How I use intrusive thoughts to help me

I have changed the way I look at intrusive thoughts. I think it is just my brain trying to help me. Those horrible images that pop into my head of my children hurting themselves is just my brain scanning around for potential hazards to help protect them however, like me, it can be overprotective at times. Going after what you want also comes with risks (less physical ones!) but I suppose they are also trying to prevent you from potential hurt however I happen to believe that not going after what you want will probably hurt much more in the end. So, in the future, I am going to thank it, note the danger, and try to move on. It’s nice to know that my subconscious mind is trying to help me.

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