Do you struggle with intrusive thoughts? These are the ones that pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, and can derail your whole day.
In this episode, I cover where these thoughts come from, and how to process them so they no longer have a hold on you.
You will learn a strategy that will:
- Help you bring more awareness to the thought
- Give you direction as to what to do with it (so you are in charge of the thought rather than it being in charge of you).
If you are like every client I have ever worked with, you have unwanted thoughts, and are tired of the hold they have on you. Don’t miss this episode to learn how to get a hold on the thoughts that can disturb your peace.
Want to work with me? Schedule a free call to join my new group, “Get Your Life Back After Infidelity.”
To learn more from me, be sure to join email list at: https://andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/
Hello and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more for you than the life you’re currently
living but don’t quite know how to get there, you are in the right place.
Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is, and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello. Hello. Welcome to episode number 124, Intrusive Thoughts. I’m glad
you’re here today. So confession, I recorded this episode earlier, and when
I went to send it to my producer, it was gone, vanished. So this is take
two, and it is not at my home. Once again, I had to record on the road.
Today we are expecting a grand baby and I got to get this recorded, so here
I am. I apologize in advance if my sound is not great, but we got to do
what we got to do sometimes, right? Okay, let’s just dive in. This is a
really important episode. It’s one that I have had requests about. It’s one
that I’ve given a lot of thought to and I want to do it justice. Okay? What
are intrusive thoughts? If you are here listening, my guess is you know
what they are already, right?
You’ve experienced them. You probably know how consuming they can be so
quickly, right? The definition of intrusive thoughts are uncontrollable,
unwanted thoughts that we feel unable to resist. They can be very
unsettling. The more you try to push them from your mind, the louder they
get. Intrusive thoughts often create worry or shame. Worry, because
sometimes when we have a thought, if we believe the thought, it might
create worry about whatever it is that we’re thinking about, right? Like if
we have a thought, a memory of something for example, we might take that
memory and worry that something bad might happen again, that we might not
be able to trust that our partner’s still involved in things that we don’t
want them to be, or it can create shame. Sometimes we can feel shame when
we feel like we’ve already dealt with something, already come through
something, and there it is again that we’re obsessing about it and what’s
wrong with me? And am I ever going to actually get over this?
What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? Intrusive thoughts are common
for people with PTSD, people who have experienced life-threatening events
or extremely stressful events such as infidelity. You might describe an
intrusive thought as something that pops into your head that you just can’t
seem to shake. It can take you into a deeply emotionally painful place.
fast, right? 0 to 10 so fast. You can be going about your day, minding your
own business, have a thought pop in your head, and it sometimes feels like
it just takes you down without your permission. Dr. Kerry-Ann Williams, who
is a lecturer in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says, “Any life
stressor, if big enough, can increase your risk of having intrusive
thoughts.” I included that here because I just want to point out that
infidelity is, in my humble opinion, one of the life stressors that is…
It’s big. It’s a big one.
It undermines so much of our belief of who we are, what our place is, who
our family is, who our partner is. It just blows that all open and can
create so much uncertainty, right? So much fear, so much doubt. So yes, it
does increase your risk of intrusive thoughts. Now, here’s something
interesting, intrusive thoughts are often a way of coping with an unresolved
deeper issue, and I’m going to give you an example of this as we go forward,
okay? They can be a coping mechanism, a way of coping. Intrusive thoughts
are often a way of dealing with pain or trauma, but as you probably can
imagine, not sustainable. Today, we’re going to look at why that is and
what we can do about it. I’m sure that you are listening, going, something
has to give with some of these thoughts. I can’t keep doing it.
I can’t keep going down this path. I’m either going to destroy myself or
I’m going to destroy what’s left of my relationship, right? For sure, it
impacts your relationship, but most of all, it impacts you. And we’re going
to look into that. All right, so let’s start first with what’s likely
causing these intrusive thoughts. In past episodes, you’ve heard me talk
about the upstairs brain and the basement brain. The upstairs brain, if you
imagine a beautiful home, it has windows, you can see out, you can get a
view, you can see what else is out there besides just your four walls. You
can see beyond. The basement brain, I’m thinking of a dark basement with no
windows and it’s just kind of cave-like. This is that reptile brain where
you’re concerned about having enough food and not dying, where you’re very
much in survival mode. You’re very much just kind of hunkering down and
making sure that you are safe, right?
Upstairs brain can see the bigger picture, so let me give you an example.
Let’s say that you are on a trail and you hear a rattle. You hear the sound
of a rattle and your basement brain, which is really important, right?
We’re not knocking that basement brain. This is the part of our brain that
keeps us alive. It’s very, very important, but that lower brain hears that
and just immediately your heart starts pounding. You start feeling scared.
You start worrying that maybe there’s a rattlesnake right there. Maybe you
should run. Your higher brain, that upstairs brain can calm down and go,
okay, give it a second. Let’s just see what we’re dealing with here. I’m
not in immediate danger. There’s nothing attacking me. Let’s just see what
this is. And then on further investigation, it’s not a rattle, it’s just
some leaves that are blowing in the wind, that kind of tricked you into
thinking that it was a rattle and so you carry on your way.
Yes, you have to get your heart rate down. Maybe take a deep breath. Go, oh
gosh, that was scary, but I’m fine. It’s like a jump scare, right? Got to
get ourselves back regulated. I’m not in danger, I’m fine. And then we can
respond accordingly. Now, after infidelity, we often feel threatened much,
much of the time. Any random thing can set us off. It can be a certain car
driving down the road, a song, a smell, anything, like, anything can be
triggering. Different words, right? Words that you hear that remind you of
the affair. Maybe it reminds you of words that you saw in a text message or
words that you know that they spoke to each other and then you hear it in a
movie and it reminds you of that. And there you go. Sometimes we’re really
just doing our thing, living our life and a thought will just pop into our
head and we can have that immediate fight or flight response to it.
The reason why this is, my friends, is because for most people in fidelity
is pretty dang traumatizing. The person we counted on most hurt us the
deepest. For many, they didn’t see it coming. It just kind of blindsided
them. For some, they saw the signs, they felt in their gut there were
things that were off, but they dismissed them because it was too hard to
look at the moment, right? Too big, too scary to go, what am I actually
dealing with? Either way, learning of the infidelity is a great cause of
pain for every single person I have ever talked to in my coaching practice
of five years. Some of you may be trying to stay in your marriages and find
intrusive thoughts to be getting in the way. You might be sharing an
intimate moment, for example, and be reminded of the intimate moments that
they shared and just like that, you go from being into each other, to
wanting to get 20 miles away.
Like don’t touch me, you revolt me, right? Just like that, it can happen so
fast. Or some of you might be seeing a more objective view of the
situation, which I will say is really required to release the infidelity’s
hold on you. So you might be spending more time in the upstairs brain
looking around, seeing the bigger picture, and you might suddenly remember
a particularly painful lie that he told you to cover the infidelity and
just like that, you’re back down in the basement, your mind starts racing.
You start hunkering down and you are raging that all over again, right? All
right, what the heck to do with all of this? What do we do? Let’s go, okay?
I am going to break this down into a couple steps. One, you’ve got to slow
the thought down. You’ve got to slow it down. It’s probably fast. It
probably feels super intense, really urgent, really important.
We got to slow it down. Slow down the intensity. This involves breathing,
reminding yourself that there might be more to the story, reminding
yourself that you’re not in current danger right this second, journaling,
talking it out, moving your body, doing something to slow it down. Part of
it is just saying to yourself, myself, this is just a thought, and it’s not
to dismiss. It’s not to dismiss the significance of it, but to go, this is
a thought that I’m having. It’s a thought. I can decide what to do with this
thought. I can decide what I want to feel from this thought. I can decide
where I want it to take me, but for right now, I’m just remembering this is
a thought. You can even call it, this is an intrusive thought. It feels
very, very intrusive. Even that little bit of awareness of going, this is
an intrusive thought, will slow it down, it will loosen its grip a little
It’ll be a little bit less intense. The second thing is when you have
settled yourself down some, it’s time to do some digging. I mentioned
earlier that it is for most of us, some kind of coping mechanism. There’s
something that we’re using it as a way to kind of mask other things that
need to be dealt with. And when we have settled ourselves down some, it’s
time to dig. Okay? I’m going to give you a couple examples here. One is just
like a medical example. So I want you to imagine that you’ll have a wound
and most of the time it’s fine and you can keep it kind of bandaged up and
you can wear normal clothes and go about your life doing your normal
activity, and every once in a while you feel this sharp shooting pain. It’s
really, really intense, and you go to that wound and go, oh, that’s right,
and instead of getting to why that sharp shooting pain is happening, you
medicate, you cover it up with balms and lotions that numb it, you cover it
back up even more and you carry on, okay?
You go about, it might feel better for a while, but you keep having this
reoccurring sharp shooting pain. It’s the same thing with intrusive
thoughts. Until that person slows down enough to look at what is causing
that sharp shooting pain in the first place, they will likely keep
experiencing those pains. Even if they’re not that frequent, they will
probably still experience them. Now, let me give you an example about
infidelity. Let’s say that you decided to stay in the marriage. You know
that there’s a lot of good, you know that it’s worth fighting for. You’re
months out and overall you’re feeling a lot better, but one day seemingly
out of the blue, you’re reminded that he did some pretty awful things. You
remember one thing in particular where you were in a pretty vulnerable spot
and not only was he not there for you, but he showed up for the affair
Your brain attaches to the spot and suddenly your mood has completely
shifted. You’re mad at him without outwardly having had anything happen
between the two of you. Nothing has been discussed. You haven’t even seen
him, and you’re at a 10, okay? I want you to use your own most recent
experience of having an intrusive thought and practice the exercise I’m
about to share with you, okay? So first, as with that example above, you
need to get yourself to a grounded place. Remind yourself, I’m not
currently in danger. I’m not currently in danger. This is an intrusive
thought. I’m going to breathe. I’m going to slow it down. I’m going to slow
it down so I can really look at this. When you feel more calm, this is when
there’s a couple really good questions to ask yourself. It won’t work when
you’re feeling really highly activated, it won’t work.
Okay, wait until you feel a little bit more calm. The first question is,
this is intrusive thought kind of like that sharp shooting pain, showing me
something that still needs to be processed? An emotion. Is there something
that I need to allow myself to feel? Maybe it’s regret, maybe it’s grief.
Maybe it’s just sadness or anger or loss. Is there something that I’m
avoiding? Is there a feeling I’m avoiding that I need to just give myself
permission to feel? Why am I afraid to feel that emotion? So that’s question
number one. Question number two is this. Is an invitation to look deeper at
something that needs to be addressed so I can actually feel more safe here?
Now, this can go one of two ways. Oftentimes, this is an invitation to learn
how to comfort ourselves. Sometimes it’s an invitation to learn how to
soothe ourselves, to learn how to trust ourselves at a deeper level.
It is knowing how to navigate thought processes that derail us. When we can
see patterns of intrusive thoughts, this is where we might look and go,
okay, this is something that I need to learn how to manage. I need to learn
that every time my thoughts go this way, this is where it takes me and it’s
not useful. It can be something that we can do on our own. Now, in the
example above, this is the rest of that story. It could be that you are
getting closer and closer in your relationship and your brain wants to
remind you that you could get hurt again. So you’re starting to feel safe.
You’re starting to breathe a little bit easier. You’re starting to stay in
that upstairs part of the house a little bit more, and this is the basement
brain going, don’t get too comfortable.
Don’t get too close. Remember this. Remember that he did this. So you can
ask your spouse. If you want to do this, you can take the situation, the
reminder of what happened, where you were feeling really vulnerable and
they didn’t show up for you, but they’re there for the other person and you
can ask them and say, do you understand what that was like for me? And they
can never fully understand, but I want to tell you, I want to tell you what
that was like for me. I want to tell you what that felt like for me. For me
to be in this situation and have you show up in this way. I need to know
like what you would do differently. Please tell me if you had a redo, what
would you do differently? And just knowing that, you’ll learn if they get
it, you’ll learn if this is a person that is safe to continue in a
Now, it might not go perfectly. The person might get a little bit defensive
because it might feel out of the blue, but in the end, what matters is how
do you repair? How do you come together? Does he just blow you off and say,
I can’t believe you’re bringing that up again, or does he try to help you?
Does he really get it? What you’re looking for is if I continue to let my
guard down here, will he protect my heart? Is this a wise place for me to
let my guard down? These are all really good things to know when you’re
moving forward, right? Okay, so first I suggest checking in with yourself
after you’re calm and just seeing is there something that needs to be
processed here? Is there something that I can answer for myself? Is there
something that I need to know or some kind of validation that I can give to
You’re looking deeper at that. Second, it’s totally fine to bring in your
partner for those of you where this applies and co-regulate. Co-regulation
is one of the past episodes that I did. It’s where we learn how to help
each other be calm by settling our own nervous systems, by using our own
safety within ourselves to help each other. And this is a great way to heal.
Now, I know that sounds simple, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy. It
requires some muscle. It requires growth. It requires pushing yourself to
dig deep, to go, okay, what’s the lesson here? What am I avoiding? What do
I need to learn to do? What’s the skill? What’s the skill here? Intrusive
thoughts are not something that just are meant to stick around forever that
you can’t do a dang thing about, that is not what they are.
It’s a signal that there’s something to heal. It’s a signal that there’s
something to look at. It’s a signal that there’s something that needs to be
brought to the upstairs of the house to be addressed. So I invite you to
look at your intrusive thoughts and dig deeper and look at what needs to be
addressed. And first of all though, growing your capacity to self-soothe
when the intrusive thoughts come. Learning how to bring yourself down.
Okay? All right. That is what I have for you today. I appreciate you being
here, and I know that this is a topic that affects probably all of you, and
I hope that you find this useful. Now, before I go, as a reminder, I have a
new program open. The doors are open, we start on September 27th. The people
that are coming are amazing women who are really kind of done with their own
story that’s keeping them stuck and they’re ready to try on something new.
They’re ready to step out into creating the life that they want. They’re
ready to take ownership of their healing instead of waiting for something
to happen. If this is you, if you’re ready to invest in yourself
financially, with time, and really go all in on your own healing, I’ve got a
seat for you. You can book a consult with me over on my webpage,
andreagiles.com, my website, or in the show notes. You can go in the show
notes and you can find where you schedule that there as well. All right,
thank you so much. Take care, and I’ll see you next time.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
like to be kept in the know about upcoming free classes, new podcast
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it’s andreagiles.com/lies-about-infidelity/. I will see you next time.