Psychology

How to Suppress Bad Thoughts



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If you have negative thoughts about your abilities, you might feel too discouraged to try anything new. If you often have fearful thoughts, you may put stress on your body and risk having problems with your health. You may feel you'd be better off if you could stop thinking those unwanted thoughts.

Sometimes simple distractions work. If you are busy, you may not have time to worry. If you listen to music you enjoy, you may banish negative thoughts. Just be sure that the distraction doesn't create more problems than it solves. Drinking and drugs can surpress unwanted thoughts, but in the long run they will only make your problems worse.

Cognitive therapy offers many ways to change your thinking. Cognitive therapists believe that negative thoughts are often inaccurate, that they are distortions of reality. For example, say you asked someone to go out with you, and you were rejected. You might think, "No one will ever want to go out with me ever," a thought which can keep you from even asking anyone else. A cognitive therapist might say this was an example of the distortion of over-generalization, where you take a single incident - in this case, a rejection by a specific person - and over-generalize that to all people.

If you understand the distortion, you may be able to reformulate your thought to something like this: "That specific person rejected me, but there are billions of other people in the world, and they are not all like the person who rejected me." You would then be more inclined to try again with someone else.

Cognitive therapy lends itself well to self-help. Psychiatrist David D. Burns wrote two best-selling books, "Feeling Good," and "The Feeling Good Handbook" which many people have found helpful.

Cognitive therapy is more about modifying thoughts than suppressing them outright. Outright suppression may not be a good idea. It could actually backfire. At least that's what Sigmund Freud said. He called the backfiring "the return of the repressed." If someone takes a thought and tries to push it down into their unconscious, the thought can pop back up on its own. Sometimes that may cause illness, sometimes neurosis, and sometimes it can cause a person to act out inappropriately.

In addition to cognitive therapy, meditation may also be helpful in dealing with unwanted thoughts because it can create a distance between the thinker and the thoughts.. Meditators don't suppress their thoughts, but they do learn to look at them in such a way that the thoughts lose much of their power to be upsetting.

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