In my opinion, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of treatment for reducing obsessive thoughts. It is important to understand when coming out a relationship with a narcissist, we need to deprogram from them. I can speak from personal experience that working with a certified CBT mental health professional is what finally helped me deprogram and retrain my brain. Thanks to recent advances in science and technology, we now know that our brains are much more plastic (changeable) than we ever thought.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that has been around for the last forty to fifty years, but has just recently been gaining popularity. This type of therapy is based on the belief that emotional disturbance is caused by distorted or irrational reasoning. Humans can be influenced to think illogically. This warped way of thinking can be acquired at any point in someone’s life.
We must realize that we have been manipulated and emotionally abused to the point that we now doubt ourselves and no longer trust our judgment. We have been brainwashed by the narcissist and we need to deprogram from them. They have caused us to think illogically
Cognitive therapy teaches us we can retrain our brain. We must not let others upset us. CBT helps us realize we often upset and disturb ourselves as a result of how we choose to respond to others. We can control to what extent the narcissist upsets us by how we respond to them. Most disturbance comes from the belief that we should be able to control others in an attempt to control ourselves.
Unfortunately, what we fail to realize is the only person we can control is ourselves.
Cognitive therapy teaches us not to give others the power to upset us. CBT is a “doing” therapy whereby the therapist takes you through different mental exercises in an effort to help retrain your brain. We easily get stuck in negative patterns of thinking. However, the good news is we can retrain our brain though behavioral therapy.
This therapy is not easy as the exercises can be difficult and anxiety provoking at times. However, with the assistance of a trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I can tell you from my own experience that it is extremely effective and worth every bit of hard work.
It’s important to understand that everyone gets unwanted, intrusive thoughts. Yes, everyone. However, those who have not been brainwashed or suffer from Cognitive Dissonance do not over-analyze or judge these thoughts the way we do. They let random thoughts roll-off of them. They may just laugh and say, "Ha, what a strange thought" and then move on.
Unfortunately, we cannot do that because we are stuck in Cognitive Dissonance and over-analyze and obsess about every little thought that pops into our mind. You must understand that this is precisely where the narcissist wants us to be. If we feel paralyzed to act, confused by our thoughts and doubtful, we will never leave them. This is where they want us….under their control….asking them to clarify what is truth and what is reality.
A CBT professional can help you deprogram and begin to trust your judgment again. You will learn that the key is not to judge your thoughts or give them any weight. The minute you judge a thought, you give it more power. The important thing to remember is a thought is a thought. That's it. You need not over-analyze it or judge it.
Exposure Response Prevention is a form of treatment used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The idea is to prevent yourself from responding to thoughts that cause you to obsess. You see, obsessive thoughts are a result of anxiety and compulsions are what we do to try to reduce the anxiety….aka obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Unfortunately, we think engaging in a compulsive behavior will lessen the anxiety, and it might initially, but it is only temporary. In fact, it only increases the anxiety in the long run. Why? Because responding to the anxiety or obsessive thought in any way, shape or form only intensifies it. It validates it. Do not validate the thoughts.
You can observe the thoughts, but do not judge. Do not try to wish the thoughts away either because it will only cause you think of them more. Do not fight your thoughts. To do so only creates more obsessive thought. Allow your thoughts to happen, but do not validate or judge them in any way. Laugh at the thoughts, dismiss them, talk back to them as if they are an unwanted intruder in your mind, but don’t fight them off. Instead, simply observe, but don’t judge or respond to them. To ignore them decreases their power.
You must realize that these thoughts do not define you and are not a part of you. They are simply thoughts. Look at the obsessive thoughts as a separate entity and you will be able to distance yourself from them. The thoughts will always come. We have no control over that. Do not fight that. If you fight that, you're only setting yourself up for failure. It's like telling people not to look at the white elephant in the room. Everyone is going to look, right? Do not fight the thoughts or tell yourself not to think of them. Instead, you simply control how you respond to the thoughts when they do occur.
We will always have intrusive, unwanted thoughts. Everyone does. The good news is that we have a choice in how we want to respond to these thoughts. Life is not about what happens to us, it's about how we RESPOND to what happens to us.
The key to recovery is understanding that you CAN control HOW you will respond to your thoughts. And that is what makes all the difference in the world for your sanity. By engaging with the thoughts, you only increase the intensity of the anxiety and fear you already feel. You can acknowledge the thoughts are there, but do not engage with the thoughts in any way.
Practicing this (aka Exposure Response Prevention) has helped me tremendously. I finally have peace of mind I never thought was possible. The thoughts still come, but by choosing HOW I will respond to these thoughts, I have reduced the power and the hold they have over me. I prevent myself from responding to the thoughts in any way that will intensify their strength.
They are only thoughts after all. Thoughts cannot hurt me, but how I respond to my thoughts can hurt me. Being paralyzed with anxiety over thoughts is no way to live life. It prohibits us from enjoying the moment and living life to its fullest.
For me, the key is this:
I will always have intrusive, unwanted thoughts. I cannot control this. However, I can choose whether I want to engage with the thoughts and give them power or see them for what they really are - white noise that tries to distract me from living in the moment.
Obsessing about ANYTHING to the point that it interferes with your life is an obsessive ritual that, in my opinion, can only be stopped by retraining your brain. I also believe this MUST be stopped in order to truly live in the moment and experience life to its fullest.
Seeking help from a qualified CBT Therapist can help you lessen your obsessive thoughts and retrain your brain.
The power to change is yours and yours alone. No one can take this gift from you, but you must treat it as a gift. Never take it for granted. Harness it and take control of this miraculous power you possess. Believe me when I tell you, I am living proof that it is possible to retrain your brain so you can stop negative obsessive patterns of thinking.