Tip #25 The pink elephant

There is a very interesting exercise that is sometimes played in psychology classes. It goes something like this:

  1. Imagine a pink elephant and then
  2. Try  not think about the pink elephant for as long as you can…

Are you still thinking about the pink elephant or have you managed to erase it from your mind ? You could try this with any other unusual thing, object or animal. The interesting thing is that not wanting to think about something sometimes leads to an increased number of thoughts about that same something. This is called a brain paradox.

So no matter how much power and strength you put into not wanting your brain to think about something, the most likely effect is that it will only increase the frequency of those same thoughts. 

How does this apply to ROCD sufferers?

In my opinion, trying to get rid of ROCD thoughts is not the best strategy and shouldn’t be the end goal. A much better strategy is to leave the thoughts alone, not giving them much importance. Accepting that they are there, not pushing them away and most importantly not engage with them. They are just thoughts not facts.The likelihood is that they will disappear by themselves. It is calculated that we have roughly 4,000 different thoughts a day. But we seem to get stuck in that ONE thought that causes all our anxiety and problems. That is the “O” in ROCD – obsessive.

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5 comments

  1. I find sometimes when I “just notice and accept” my ROCD thoughts they fade or don’t cause much anxiety. But other times the thoughts seem more “real” or “convincing” and while I use the same notice and accept strategy, my anxiety/fear of the “what if this means she’s not the one” stays about the same. Any thoughts on this?
    Thanks Andy

    1. Hi Andy, first of all let me say that is an excellent question! Second, the important thing is that you are building awareness of your thought/feeling processes and this is one of the most important things that you can do. Example:
      1- You have realised that thoughts come and go and that these might trigger emotions/feelings

      2- You have realised that your response is different at different times

      3- THe only thing left to accept is that even though you are practicing acceptance sometimes you do not have the response you wish for. Once you start accepting that every experience is unique things will start to improve.

      The trick here is not expect anything but teach your brain to be comfortable with whatever experience you are going through.

      Hope this makes sense…

      1. Forgot to add. It is OK to have ROCD thoughts. Our goal is not to eliminate them but to live with them comfortably. If you want something not to be there, then most likely it will. If you don’t care, then it will lose its power over you. I know it is easier said than done but this is a long process. Your brain will need to adapt to this new way of being.

  2. One day I loved my boyfriend and the next my feelings of love for him went and then I wasnt attracted to him. Thinking he was a gay etc. It was such a shock and so upsetting, we have been through a stressful two months together but this isnt normal. What do I do?

  3. What you are describing is not unusual, specially in new mums. That is called obsessive thinking/intrusive thoughts. I would thoroughly recommend you reading the book below and seek some medical advice. Medication and a good medical psychologist/psychotherapist can do wonders. I know, because I had both! And it would be good for you as I think you might need extra support as there is more added stress when you have children. Drop me a line on my email if you would like to chat more – pingfrance@hotmail.com

    http://www.amazon.com/Imp-Mind-Exploring-Epidemic-Obsessive/dp/0452283078

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