Intrusive Thought: "What if I Harm a Child?" (POCD)

When the same thought, image, dream, or motif shows up across cultures and crosses all of our lines of classification (age, gender, geography, race, religion), we call it an archetype. For example, the dreams where you show up at school without your pants on or have forgotten to study for a test are archetypal dreams. The character of the wicked witch or the evil stepmother are archetypal symbols. And the thought, “What if I’m a pedophile?” is one of many archetypal thoughts – alongside “What if I don’t love my partner?” and “What if I have a terminal illness?” – that clients and course members have shared with me over the past two decades. It’s also one of the most highly misunderstood intrusive thoughts and the one that often causes the most anguish. As the Louisville OCD clinic writes:

Although all the many ways that obsessive-compulsive fears manifest themselves can … Click here to continue reading...

Caught in a Thought

A coaching client recently shared the following (shared here with her permission):

A few weeks ago, I found myself obsessively thinking about a situation with a friend of mine – someone to whom I’ve given my power for many years. I was completely caught by this theme and I couldn’t get out from under it for weeks. I haven’t been stuck like that in a long time and it scared me. Constantly thinking. Completely consumed. Disconnected from myself. I had no trust in myself or in my ability not to let the thought take over. It was an unrelenting intrusive thought and I seemed powerless to stop it. It was like everything I’ve learned over the past several years disappeared. Like being swallowed by a thought-vortex.

This continued until one day when I was able to name it. As soon as I named it as an intrusive thought, I shifted Click here to continue reading...

What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

The One Essential Question that Lives Inside Relationship Anxiety

One of the most challenging elements of relationship anxiety to understand is that, if you’re in a healthy, loving relationship with no red flags, the anxiety is projection. This means that the parade of intrusive thoughts that tortures the anxious mind and sensitive soul are actually pointing to areas inside of you that are crying out for your attention. This is such a reversal of our literal, read-everything-at-face-value culture that it can take a while for the shift of mindset to sink in.

There are many areas that need our attention: old pain from early abandonments, loss of loved ones, faulty beliefs that form as a result of being the child of a narcissist or suffering from bullying or teasing, unrealistic expectations about love and relationships that we absorb from the mainstream culture, fissures of psyche that were created because we didn’t receive the guidance, tending, and rituals necessary to … Click here to continue reading...

Conversations with my Seven Year Old: In the Fear Forest

One of the blessings of having a second child is that we, as parents, gain some skills by walking with the first one through predictable stages of growth, maturity, illness, and emotional challenges. When our firstborn had a high fever, we panicked. When the younger one has a fever, it’s old hat. When our firstborn struggled with separation anxiety we thought he would never leave our side. With our second born, we trust that he will find his way with time (and some help, if he needs it).

These milestones of childhood often manifest as confrontations with fear. In the early days of this blog I often wrote about my older son’s fear of the dark and his intense fear of change and death. Like many highly sensitive-creative-prone-to-anxiety children, the fear of change and death tends to arise early and can easily preoccupy their minds for hours on end. Left … Click here to continue reading...