Do you have those times when you have upsetting thoughts that you can’t get rid of? Or ever felt like you want to move on but memories about someone or something in your past keep holding you back?
It maybe someone whom you love and broke up with and you just can’t shake him off your mind. Or perhaps somebody insulted you, or hurt you, or berated you and what they did keep playing over and over in your head. Or something you did that you now regret and critical thoughts are always present.
These are what we call intrusive thoughts. These are unwanted words or images that keep popping up in our mind and we can’t seem to control them.
Why do we have these thoughts and how do we account for their presence? A new research confirms that we all experience persistent and distressing thoughts. However, intrusive thoughts are more prominent in people who may be depressed, grieving, have anxiety problems, have obsessional thoughts, and have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marks, Franklin, and Zoellner investigated intrusive memories with a focus on what happened before the event that predispose the thought to get stuck, what happened during the event, and what factors may account to make these thoughts go away after the event.
The researchers found out that there are two factors that seem to increase the likelihood that a thought will get stuck and keep recurring causing distress long after the event is done.
First is pre-existing negative emotions. If you are anxious, depressed, angry, and feeling other negative emotions, the coming of a sudden emotionally intense event is likely to leave longer lasting impacts and intrusive thoughts than if you were calm and peaceful.
The second factor is negative appraisal style. How do you evaluate the event? What do you say to yourself after a difficult situation? Do you criticize yourself? Do you condemn yourself and berate yourself? This appraisal style will more likely lead to more intrusive negative thoughts after.
But if you accept yourself including your mistakes, console yourself, and look at what you can learn from the unfortunate event, then it will prevent intrusive thoughts later on.
Again, if you are already feeling bad before the event and you have the tendency to evaluate situations negatively, that partially explains why the negative thoughts get stuck and persistently recur.
What happens during and after the event is also critical. But we will leave it until next issue.
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