Understanding the Difference between Intuitive and Intrusive Thoughts

intuitive thoughts vs intrusive thoughts

In our everyday lives, we are constantly bombarded by thoughts that shape our perceptions of the world around us. Some of these thoughts are helpful, like positive and intuitive thoughts. Others can be harmful and overwhelming, like negative and intrusive thoughts. Whichever thoughts you are having most of the time is having a significant impact on your life because our thoughts shape our lives.

Watch Your Thoughts
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Intuitive thoughts come from a deeper place within us, giving us a sense of understanding and clarity. Intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming and irrational and often stem from anxiety or fear. Understanding the difference between these two types of thoughts is important for maintaining good mental health and developing a positive mindset.

In this post, we’ll explore the difference between intuitive thoughts and intrusive thoughts, according to Brianna Wiest in her book, The Mountain is You. Also, you’ll find practical tips on how to manage and overcome intrusive thoughts to cultivate a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

Master your Mind

Intuitive Thoughts

Intuitive thoughts are serene.

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are chaotic and provoke fear.

Intuitive thoughts are logical and have a degree of coherence.

Intrusive thoughts are irrational and usually stem from catastrophizing a situation or jumping to the worst possible conclusion.

Intuitive thoughts equip you with the information you need to make well-informed decisions in the present.

Intrusive thoughts are often unrelated and arbitrary.

Intuitive thoughts are muted. 

Intrusive thoughts are loud, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Intuitive thoughts usually surface once or twice, providing a sense of comprehension. 

Intrusive thoughts persist and cause panic.

Intuitive thoughts are often loving. 

Intrusive thoughts convey fear.

Intuitive thoughts are often spontaneous.

Intrusive thoughts are often triggered by external stimuli.

Intuitive thoughts require no further contemplation–you can have them and then let them go.

Intrusive thoughts start a never-ending cycle of ideas and fears, making it seem impossible to stop.

Even when an intuitive thought is unpleasant, it never induces panic. Even if you experience sadness or disappointment, you don’t feel overwhelmingly anxious. 

Panic is the emotion you experience when you don’t know what to do with a feeling, which is what happens with intrusive thoughts.

Intuitive thoughts broaden your perspective to other possibilities.

Intrusive thoughts restrict your heart and make you feel stuck or doomed.

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Intuitive thoughts come from the perspective of your best self. 

Intrusive thoughts arise from the perspective of your most apprehensive, diminutive self.

Intuitive thoughts solve problems.

Intrusive thoughts create problems.

Intuitive thoughts enable you to understand your thoughts and emotions.

Intrusive thoughts assume what others are thinking and feeling. 

Intuitive thoughts are rational.

Intrusive thoughts are irrational.

Intuitive thoughts originate from a deeper place within you, evoking a strong feeling in your gut.

Intrusive thoughts keep you stuck in your mind and create a sense of panic.

Intuitive thoughts reveal how to respond.

Irrational thoughts demand an immediate reaction.

How to manage and overcome intrusive thoughts

Before we jump in, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • Intrusive thoughts are a common experience–you are not alone.
  • With practice and support, you can learn to manage and overcome intrusive thoughts and cultivate a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
  • Managing intrusive thoughts is a process, and it may take time and practice to develop effective coping strategies. Be patient and kind to yourself as you work through this challenge.

Following are some practical tips that can help you manage and overcome intrusive thoughts:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. When you have an intrusive thought, try to observe it without reacting to it. Recognize that it is just a thought and not a reflection of reality.

Mindfulness can help you develop greater awareness of your thoughts and emotions, and may reduce the frequency and intensity of intrusive thoughts over time.

Remember that this moment is not your life, it’s just a moment in your life. Focus on what is in front of you, right now. Ignore what it “represents” or it “means” or “why it happened to you.

Challenge negative self-talk

Intrusive thoughts can often be accompanied by negative self-talk. When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, try to challenge it. Ask yourself if the thought is true and if there is evidence to support it. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and self-compassion.

I’ve had a lot of experience with negative self-talk, so I have a few tips to offer. They’re very effective for me, but keep in mind–it takes practice:

Cancel that thought. We may not all agree with the cancel culture we’re living through, but I use the idea to cancel negative, destructive thoughts that are taking up space in my head. I try to be ruthless about it too. My thinking is: if you don’t serve me, you’re out!

Get angry with the thought. People are always talking about how bad anger is, but anger can be used very effectively here. You could say to the intrusive thought: who the hell are you to be taking up space in my head, making me feel bad about myself? I’m a queen, and I have no time for you!

Also, think of the alternative of not challenging your negative thoughts. Do you really want to go through your life saying horrible things to yourself, day in and day out? If that’s the case, you’d be your own worst enemy.

Practice self-care

You have to start romanticizing your life

Taking care of yourself is important when dealing with intrusive thoughts. Make sure you are getting enough rest, eating well, and engaging in regular exercise. Spend time doing things you enjoy and that bring you peace, such as spending time in nature, practicing a hobby, or spending time with loved ones.

Personally, I love having a glass of wine (sometimes two), and listening to my favorite music. I do it once a week on a Friday night, and if something comes up, I reschedule it because it’s that important. This one self-care habit helps keep me centered and balanced in a busy life. I strongly recommend you find something like this for yourself.

Seek support

Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can be helpful in managing intrusive thoughts. They can provide you with support and help you develop coping strategies. Or if you’d rather not talk to someone, journal. Instead of having those negative thoughts eating at you, get them out on paper. Just writing it down can be very cathartic.

Use visualization techniques

Use visualization techniques, like imagining yourself in a peaceful place. This can help you calm your mind and reduce the intensity of intrusive thoughts. You can also visualize yourself overcoming the thought, or visualize a positive outcome to a situation that is causing you stress.

Practice acceptance

Intrusive thoughts can be distressing and it can be tempting to try to push them away or suppress them. However, this can often make the thoughts worse. Instead, practice acceptance. Accept that the thoughts are there, but recognize that they do not define you and do not need to control your actions.

Use grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can help you stay present and focused in the moment. Try techniques like deep breathing, focusing on your senses (what you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell), or repeating a calming mantra.

Identify triggers

It can be helpful to identify what triggers your intrusive thoughts so that you can avoid or manage those situations. For example, if social situations trigger your intrusive thoughts, you may want to practice relaxation techniques before attending a social event or avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable.

Seek professional help

If your intrusive thoughts are impacting your daily life and functioning, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide you with additional coping strategies and support.

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