Posted by: Judy | December 3, 2014

Doesn’t everyone?

Recently, I’ve had information regarding invasive thinking dropped in front of me, repeatedly. I think God’s attempting to tell me something. I’m attempting to listen.

My sister posted a video of a woman seeking to connect with others with non-Combat PTSD. The woman talked about being at the mall and having a great time until she suddenly imagined a plane crashing into the mall.

My first thought was that I don’t do that. I don’t imagine planes crashing into the mall. I imagine being assaulted or kidnapped and assaulted… actually, what will I do if I am, every time I leave the house and sometimes even when I leave my room. Leaving the room is about verbal assaults. Not the fighting, angry kind. Questions that have no right answer. Questions that demand I reveal myself, make myself vulnerable. Comments that demand my attention and hurt expressions and complaints when I’m distracted, though they’ve been told repeatedly I’m working through things in my head. It isn’t what they want to hear, so they’re deaf to it.

My next thought was, “Doesn’t everyone have flashes like that?”

Apparently not.

How do I explain to anyone the thoughts racing through my mind every time I go somewhere? Anywhere. I’ve mentioned the pep talks I give myself. Those happen when the battle moves from the back of my head to the front.

Routines make is easier.

Going to pick up work is something I must do. I’ve created routines around those trips. I don’t need pep talks as much because the routine is more firmly in place than the need to avoid the images popping into my head. Possible accident scenarios play while I’m running my errands. It’s a relief to return home. There are still days when I must push myself out the door. I do frequently leave the house later than I planned, unless I’m meeting someone, then I’m early so they don’t have to wait for me. This has gone on for decades. I don’t anticipate this ever changing.

The images are still there. They rarely go away.

I didn’t know this wasn’t typical or normal.

This game I play is something I easily brush aside as unimportant. Maybe I shouldn’t.

I finally made it around to catching up with some blogs I’d put on the back burner until I had more time. What did I find but Scott Williams’ post on invasive thoughts:

Is there a way to stop the invasive thinking?

A starting place is to be aware. I’m still working on being aware. I have only a vague idea where to go from here. I’m counting it a good thing that at least I’m aware now. Aware of my thoughts, I’ll work on manipulating them. Don’t know if it will work. Won’t know, if I don’t make the attempt. I need to figure out a way to track my progress.


  1. One of the things suggested to me is mindfulness. Pay attention to my breathing, slow, deep, and steady. What does the chair that I am sitting in feel like? Is my skin cool or warm? What am I looking at right in front of me? How do I feel about the color? Ask myself all about my present environment, what do I hear? Bring myself into totally awareness of now. It is starting to work. It didn’t at first but like many new skills it takes time and practice. This is also a subject of a future conversation with my counselor.

    • ((Ruth))

  2. I have a lot of trouble with invasive thoughts, but being aware of what they really are helps me get through them. I get feelings of dread and doom, like I’m going to have a car wreck or heart attack, when I am on my way to races. It’s like I’m punishing myself for wanting to race and do well (so no wonder I get bad stomach problems when I race with a big goal). It’s almost like my body is trying to prevent me from doing things that will result in a psychic trauma–anything good happening to me was always struck down in some manner by my mother, often by a withdrawal of affection (sadly there was little affection to begin with, but I would gladly accept crumbs).

    Fear does funny things to us to protect us from perceived threats.

    • Good point. Thanks, Judith. If I was happy, NM would find a way to make me miserable. I learned happy was dangerous and became a warning sign that something bad would happen. What a horrible thing to teach a child.

  3. My own experience has been that invasive thoughts are generally a symptom of some other external or internal stressor. For instance, if I am experiencing frightening financial issues, I will sometimes find myself lost in thoughts of “what would happen in this catastrophic incident, or that physically-debilitating event” and how would I survive? A vicious cycle takes place, in that the overwhelming stressful feelings associated with the imagined event stack on top of the already-existing stressful feelings of things being out of control because of my financial circumstances, and it just keeps piling on, one thing after another.

    What ruth suggested is very helpful. Training yourself, with practice, to bring your thoughts back to the “here, and now”. Making it a point, when you feel your brain racing through invasive thoughts, to become an external observer … what is the temperature around me at this moment, are my feet flat on the floor, what color is the sky today, can I hear any distinctive sounds in the distance (birds chirping, doors closing, water running) and so on. The more times you train your brain to focus on the present moment, the less you will find yourself lost to invasive thoughts.

    When learning how to work through PTSD, there was one therapist that I worked with that suggested an opposite approach. A total immersion sort of approach. He suggested that when I found myself lost in invasive thoughts, that I stop whatever I was doing, and write down, in detail, every thought, doing my best to describe in extremely minute detail exactly what I was imagining. Colors, sounds, emotions, and every horrifying detail. He also suggested I follow the invasive thoughts through to conclusion – for instance, if I was imagining or having invasive thoughts about being sexually assaulted, that I describe, in detail, how it happened, and how it ended. Follow it from beginning to end.

    For me, this particular therapy was not effective, and it actually ended up making it much worse for me, keeping me stuck in a constant cycle of imagined invasive thoughts. But he swore that some people found that if they allowed their imaginations to work through all the steps of the invasive thoughts, that the thoughts would lose their power, because eventually the person would realize that they could imagine any outcome. According to him, people that benefited from this approach had a tendency to fall into a predictable pattern, in that after some measure of time of practicing this approach, they would rush towards concluding the invasive thoughts, thereby shortening (or eliminating) the cycle.

    As I mentioned, this particular approach did not work for me, and actually ended up making the cycle worse, so we discontinued that approach. I think the key, for the people that are able to use this approach successfully, is to finally get to that point that you are able to acknowledge that invasive thoughts are exactly that … nothing more than CONTROLLABLE thoughts. We tend to believe that we have no control over how they run rampant through our brains, but when we practice “here and now” or “total immersion” we are really laying the groundwork for acknowledging that we are able to control our thoughts, even when they start tilting in the direction of being invasive.

    Obviously, it is something that still plagues me from time to time (especially when I get caught in a cycle of frightening nightmares), but overall, it has become much improved on a “daily life” sort of way. Awareness, as you mentioned, is a very positive step in helping to break the cycle.

    • Hmmm… Actually, I find that immersion actually does work for me. I never thought of allowing those thoughts to play through… I’m always working to control and stop them… I’ll need to give it a try. Thanks ((ntexas99))

  4. […] […]

  5. Me2, a struggle for me. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Good to know one isn’t alone. You’re welcome. ((TR))

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