Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

Would you like to learn how to get rid of all these unwanted thoughts you might have because I have a solution that worked for me and that will work for you too?

Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

Unwanted intrusive thoughts are the worst. I’ve had so many of these in my life and I’m grateful today I’ve got some outstanding strategies to replace these.

Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, let me give you an example.

Yesterday, my son who is a year and a half old, goes running out into the backyard, playing and having a great time. An intrusive thought comes into my brain saying, “Oh my God, he’s going to get hurt” when there’s no reason for that, there’s nothing in the environment.

Let me give you some more examples.

Walking down the street, I see a pretty mom walking her dogs and her baby while I’m walking my dog and baby, and my mind brings in lots of sexual thoughts about things I could do to her and that she’d probably like, and those are annoying because I’m very happy with my wife and I’m not interested in being with anyone else, and why would I think about that?

On top of that, unwanted thoughts often spiral us into this, “Oh, you’re such an awful husband,” or “You’re thinking about cheating on your wife now” and “Oh my God, your kids are going to get hurt and I need to protect them.”

Many of us, if you’re like me, in past parts of my life, I used to spend an entire day going from one unwanted thought to another. That made addiction very attractive like drinking for me because drinking would knock all thoughts down and if there was a thought, I would actually embrace it a bit more like, “Yeah, I’m just gonna go after crazy thoughts and do stupid things.”

A lot of us struggle with replacing unwanted thoughts and I’ve got some strategies that work really well to do that.

Now, the first step is to pull back a bit and recognize that that’s just a thought, but that’s not who I am.

Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

I used to think if I had a thought that was who I am and that really I’m just bouncing from one thought to another, that if I thought I hate this person, then that’s who I am and that’s how I think about them, which was very difficult when I’d have conflicting thoughts on a subject or a person, like I love this person and I hate this person.

That conflict would then produce much more of the very things I didn’t want.

I remember a few years ago I was going to get a massage, and here’s another example of an unwanted thought.

First impression, I walk in, I see the girl who’s going to do my massage. I immediately noticed she was at least a hundred pounds overweight and my first thought was, “Oh my God, this fat explicative here is going to do a massage on me today.”

What I used to do is just totally go into that thought and say, “Man, this stinks” and I believed that thought.

But what I had started to do at the time or what I’ve gotten a lot better at now, is I pulled back a bit and I asked, “Where did that thought come from? Where did that thought come from?”

And the cool thing is, that gives me some space and I don’t have to take responsibility for that thought either, it just came up like a raindrop falling on me in the sky. I don’t have to take responsibility like I did that, it just fell and hit me.

It’s the same thing with our thoughts, our mind, our subconscious has a ton of things going on and only a tip of the iceberg gets put up into our conscious memory and ultimately our subconscious mind is trying to help us and give us what it thinks we want.

We, as the consciousness, and thus the first thing that helps me a lot to replace my unwanted thoughts is not to take responsibility for them and accept that thought is the truth.

In fact, asking, “Where did that thought come from?” allows me to step back and see that I have the chance consciously to set a thought after that. I don’t control the first thought that comes into my head all the time. What I can control is the second thought afterwards.

I don’t control the initial reaction and the way my mind will cuss somebody out sometimes in a half second. What I can control is, do I nod my head and say, “Yeah, she is fat. Yeah, man, this is messed up. They should hire some therapists that aren’t so fat.”

That’s what I used to do, and then I’d feel bad about being that way. I’d go home and look in the mirror and realize that I was a fatty myself and that I’d really feel like crap. Having that reaction kept me from succeeding and doing any better. All the thoughts that came up were my reality.

When I ask, “Where did that thought come from?” then what I do after that is I say, “I’m very grateful for this experience. I’m grateful I’m about to have a massage. I’m grateful this girl is willing to accept my money and giving me a massage, help me relax and feel better.”

When I set that, the initial thought then is not important. It’s not bothering me. It’s not making me mad. I’m not trying to fight against it anymore and my mind on a subconscious level gets a message.

“Oh, he didn’t react to that thought and he didn’t seem to find any use for that thought. So next time we’re going to give him a different thought.”

As long as the subconscious gets a reaction or as long as it gets some traction with that thought, you’ll keep thinking it.

Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

I used to have a lot of unpleasant sexual thoughts. I used to have a lot of unpleasant thoughts of violence and I’ve been able to replace those thoughts, but the key is, I have to replace them by my reaction.

For example, when my son was running across the room yesterday and going outside, and I had that thought, it just started, my mind just puts these pictures into my head sometimes, like falling down, breaking his leg or something.

What I do now is, I do an affirmation right after that and I say, “People are safe around me. People are safe around me.”

And it kills any follow-up from that thought and that is starting to dissipate, the thoughts I have with my children getting hurt.

This seems to be very common for parents. If you watch other people parenting, you can see there are these constant thoughts of fear of children getting hurt and what I’ve heard is that other cultures in the world don’t have those thoughts and the kids don’t get hurt as often because what we think about is what we’re manifesting.

Ultimately, as Jesus said, “You are God and you can do, the least among you can do all the things I have done and greater things.”

We are creating the universe in real time with our thoughts.

We are asking and attracting for things based on our thoughts, which can make it difficult when you have an unwanted thought like, “Oh my God, what if my kids get hurt?”

I get an image of kids getting hurt or sometimes I just have a sound like I see my kids running around and I just hear a leg breaking.

What I do to replace that is I have a simple affirmation to every time I get a thought like that, I hit it with: “People are safe around me. People are safe around me. People are safe around me. People are safe around me.”

I’m reprograming my subconscious mind that I expect thoughts that people are safe around me, and when I don’t have a visceral reaction or when I don’t go off like, “How dare you suggest that thought. My kids are safe. I’m a good parent,” my subconscious mind is learning.

“Oh, he’s not finding these thoughts about his kids getting hurt helpful. Let’s try a different approach.”

Now my mind, lots of times, will give me thoughts like, “I’m so grateful for my children. I love them so much. Look how safe they are. Look how healthy they are.”

My mind is reprograming on a subconscious level to give me thoughts like that because then I’m nodding my head.

I say, “Yes, my children are safe. They’re so healthy today. They’re in such good shape. I’m so grateful for that. My son’s eating so well. My daughter’s loving school.”

I’m fueling and feeding those thoughts that my subconscious mind is giving me and it gives me more of them because it says, “Oh, okay, good. He liked that one. Let’s give him five more thoughts like that.”

Intrusive Thoughts Hurt! How Do I Change My Thinking?

When I used to feed the unwanted thoughts, I got more of them, and the challenging part about this can be, if I fight the thoughts, I get more of them. This has been a tough with me over the years for the sexual thoughts and I’ve finally got my sex thoughts to where almost the only thing they are is a comedy routine.

When I think, “Oh man, that hot mom will really love to have me inside her.”

I laugh at that.

I laugh at that because I see it as if that thought was said on a stand-up comedy stage, as if that’s a stand-up comedian.

That’s how I’ve chosen to see that thought, it has been given to entertain me, to make me laugh the same way I’d listened to a stand-up comedian like Kevin Hart talk about his life and his thoughts and make me laugh.

That thought is not who I am.

That thought is there to entertain me, to help me laugh, to help me enjoy the day, and I’ve also reprogramed my mind that every time I notice an attractive woman who’s not my wife, it reminds me of how grateful I am for my wife.

Thus, when I have those thoughts come up like, “Woo, look at the back on her,” then I think, “Thank God I get to look at that every day at home. Thank God I have such a pretty wife. Thank God I have a wife at all.”

All of my previously unwanted thoughts now guide me back through my chosen reaction to what I want to experience and I don’t debate with them like, “Man, you shouldn’t have had that thought about the back on that girl. She’s not, you’re not…”

I used to debate and fight my thoughts all the time, especially when you have really shameful thoughts of violence.

My mind used to be like “Grand Theft Auto.”

I’d walk out the gym and picture like getting in somebody’s car and steal it, then driving off and just going nuts, and then I’d feel bad.

“You are such a loser for thinking a thought like that. You are a disgusting human being for having a thought like that. You’re just trash. You know what? You deserve to go to prison for thinking thoughts like that.”

How Do I Change My Thinking?

As long as I reacted to the thoughts like that, ultimately the part of our minds that gives us these thoughts, it’s just like a child that wants attention. When you pay a lot of attention to a thought, it says, “Oh good, that worked. I’m going to do that again. I’m going to do that again and again and again.”

When I stepped back, which I consistently do now, I only give attention and get excited and give back to those thoughts that I want more and more of. Over time, the challenging thing with this can be that a lot of us expect instant results.

“Okay, Jerry, I tried that. I had a thought I didn’t like yesterday and I said, ‘Where did that thought come from?’ and you know what, I right after that was another thought and another thought and another thought.”

Our subconscious minds have so much power, so much momentum and so much conditioning, it can feel like we are working against a massive current with our little bit of consciousness and the relentless nature of the subconscious conditioned mind and body.

And for me, having support and talking with people in very clear detail on a daily basis makes a big difference for this.

I go to Alcoholics Anonymous every single day.

That’s the first place I really learned to get in and look at my unwanted thoughts because I could see that when I was trying to stay sober and I knew my life depended on it, I still was thinking about drinking all day.

I needed to get rid of those thoughts about drinking or unwanted thoughts, so I asked people who had been sober 10, 20, 30 years, “What do you do when you think about a drink?”

That’s how I originally learned to get in and reprogram those things. It didn’t just happen once. They said, you know what I do when I think about a drink, I pray to God to stay sober.

I tried that. I was thinking, “Oh man, I just want to get drunk. Oh, it feels so good.”

I felt like I was suffocating to death by not taking a drink.

I tried it when I had a thought, “Oh man, I’d have vodka. It’d be so good.”

Then I thought, “God, please help me stay sober.”

It’s almost as if I was ignoring the thought.

This relentless barrage again and again, lots of times when we try to make a change, our minds will fight and question itself.

“Oh, well, you definitely want to drink. Here are 10 more thoughts about drinking.”

Once you break through that initial resistance, now it’s very rare I have a thought that comes into my mind about drinking. I’ve been working and conditioning that for six years and still it’ll happen sometimes.

The thoughts are more ridiculous.

I saw an empty beer cane in the trash can at a bar that I was with my family. We’re on the beach having dinner. I had a perfectly good reason to be there. I go in the bathroom and there’s a beer can in the trash. Now, I didn’t use to drink like that, but my mind still occasionally will produce a thought like, “Yeah, I wonder if that’s got any beer in it.”

I laugh now like a comedy routine and my thought was, “Wow, the part of me that wants to drink has really gone down to a whole new level and it entertained me.”

I laughed at that thought and I also told on myself at Alcoholics Anonymous for having that thought because a lot of our unwanted thoughts want to be thought in shame and secrecy.

What I have today is a commitment. I will tell on my unwanted thoughts.

I’ve had some very tough discussions.

I remember I had a very tough discussion with my wife about my sexual thoughts, at which point she said, “I don’t need to know about everything you’re thinking.”

How Do I Change My Thinking?

But she also saw the level of trust I had in her to tell her, “Look, this is an unwanted thought. I need help. I don’t know what to do about it. It leaves me feeling horrible just thinking it,” and since then it’s been miraculous.

My willingness to tell on my unwanted thoughts makes those thoughts not so attractive.

Now there’s a time and a place. It’s not appropriate to tell my wife every single thought I have. That’s why I have a big support group. I go to AA every day. I’ve got friends, I’ve got family, and to consider others and say, “Well, who can I share this unwanted thought with?”

What I have today with myself as a commitment, I will not think about any unwanted thing in secrecy. I will tell somebody about it and that is another thing I used to replace unwanted thoughts because sometimes I’ll have some tempting thought of “Woo, that girl looks really good,” and then I’ll think, “Is this something I would like to talk about with my sponsor?”

“No, no, I don’t want to talk to my sponsor about that,” and then I don’t think about it again.

I think, “Is this something I want to talk about with my friend and talk about how I’m thinking about this?”

“No, no, I don’t want to do that,” and then the thought just goes away because it wants that secret, that fuel, it wants that attention.

When I bring up in my mind, “Is this something you’d like to talk about?” and understand that I will talk about it, that I’m not bluffing, I will talk about any thought I’m having with the right person who can handle it, it knocks down the unwanted thought.

I’ve talked about some of the worst, darkest, craziest places in my mind, and that has knocked down my unwanted thoughts unbelievably because these unwanted thoughts don’t want to be spoken as they often come from shame.

When they’re willing to be brought out into the light, when I demonstrate willingness to bring any thought I have into the light, my subconscious mind will not suggest things that it doesn’t want talked about. It will simply keep those down there, and then if there is anything that keeps coming up, I know I do need to talk about that.

If I keep having thoughts that I don’t like and I say, “Look, is this something to talk about? No, I don’t want to talk about it,” and it keeps coming up over and over again, then “Okay, well I will talk about that.”

I’ve got a therapist, I’ve talked with her about a bunch of things and it’s so helpful because on a normal day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis, I don’t have unwanted thoughts.

I like, I love and I enjoy the majority of the thoughts I have and many of the thoughts which formerly would have been in the unwanted category, even those entertain me today.

I laughed out loud on my walk after seeing a girl and having a sexual thought. I laughed out loud and that was it, and it’s so nice instead of descending into the shame spiral after that about what a horrible boyfriend, fiancé, husband I am, because I have thoughts that crossed my mind about other girls.

Now that said, I also only focus on what I want to actually happen, and making habits can be hard to break.

In high school and in middle school, even in elementary school and college, I used to fantasize a lot about getting with girls because I wasn’t getting with girls.

That created a habit, a very strong habit of seeing a girl that was attractive and fantasizing about her, and what I found frustrating is that getting with the girl of my dreams did not instantly kill a 20-year-old habit.

It took conscious attention to the habit, talking with other people, and that has taken out the majority of it and still the seeds of it, the lingering is up, it’s still come up occasionally.

I can recognize that, “Oh there’s that fantasizing thought habit.”

How Do I Change My Thinking?

What I refuse to do today is to engage in some fantasy scenario that I don’t actually want to experience.

For example, I have thoughts crossed my mind about other women, but I refuse to get all engaged in a fantasy about how great it would be to be with that woman because I realize that is like a prayer.

I’m asking God to, “Hey, let’s make that a reality.”

I see today that I don’t want that as a reality, and therefore I have a radical refusal to think about anything that I don’t want to experience. I keep my mind open for only things I do want to experience.

I think a lot about things in my business, like I want to make some money, I want to make some amazing videos for people.

I think a lot about things in my family. I want to have more hugs from my wife and I want to have more dates with my wife.

I think about the things I’d like to do with my family and my life, like going to the gym and I refuse to think about anything that I don’t want to happen.

This is how I do it.

I appreciate you being here through all of this.

I love you.

You’re awesome.

I appreciate the chance to serve you.

I hope this has helped you alleviate the pain and feel some hope that there is relief and the potential to replace all of your unwanted thoughts, and to be entertained by any unwanted thoughts that refuse to be replaced, and in that sense, to turn even an unwanted thought into a wanted thought.

Jerry Banfield

Edits from video transcript by Michel Gerard.