Our minds are full of stuff which most of us are able to ignore or shake off. But for some people these thoughts have taken over, gained control. Negative thoughts come to them and, over the course of time, their reactions to these thoughts become habitual.

In his book, ‘the Happiness trap’ Dr Russ Harris takes us on a journey to help us understand that thoughts are just thoughts – not in fact reality.

He asks us to think about having breakfast. Put yourself in this situation now if you will. You are thinking about having breakfast, you imagine yourself looking into the cupboard and think about which cereal you would like today. You see yourself take the bowl and fill it with cereal, remove the milk from the fridge and pour it onto the cereal. You imagine the beautiful smell of the coffee as it brews, then sit at the table and eat. But you can’t eat can you? You can’t eat because despite your vivid imagination and your desire for your favorite food, you did not actually prepare your breakfast – you only went through the thought process in your mind. These thoughts cannot feed you unless you act upon them and make them reality.

So we see here that thoughts are not to be confused with reality. Sometimes we are deceived by what we think is the truth and what actually is the truth.

Imagine then, what our children go through when bad thoughts plague them. Maybe, if you are trying to help your child with self-harm you could discuss this – or drop them a note if they don’t want to sit down with you.

It’s a big issue.

We need to help them understand that these thoughts have no control over them. Sure, no-one can stop thoughts popping into their heads, but everyone can act upon them – either to reject or accept them.

Perhaps your child thinks they are bad, ugly, unpopular. I read an article recently where a young boy thought that, because he’d had contact with someone who had been convicted of being a pedophile, he would become one too. For years he felt guilty about this, but of course it just wasn’t true. It was just a thought that had taken over and became, to him, a reality. He later came to realize that he couldn’t stop the thoughts – but he could stop the influence they had over him.

Here are his own words on the subject ..

I learnt from my sleepless nights as a teenager that it is my conscious response that is important. After time, I learnt to simply shrug off the thoughts that kept me awake as a child. Even now, some years later, my mind is still not entirely my friend. I still have intrusive thoughts. I frequently think of the word ‘jump’ as a train approaches on the underground. However, the thought of jumping in front of a train is entirely outweighed by the belief that the last thing I am about to do is take a suicidal jump into the unknown. And as such the thought does not need to be distressing.

My experience is that both the horror of the thoughts themselves and the reluctance to explain them to others can cause deep emotional distress. Having to deal with this can become a very isolating experience. Professional opinion is clear that intrusive thoughts do not lead to the doing of the feared action and do not indicate a moral flaw.

First published on / follow on twitter @JGrant12345)

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