Understanding Intrusive Thoughts.
Do you find yourself with frightening thoughts or images about your baby? Do they make you feel worried, anxious or scared that something bad might happen because of them? You are not alone.
Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts and/or images at some point. These can be violent, graphic, uncomfortable and really not fit with how you see yourself as a person. Therefore, it can be confusing as to why you are suddenly having them when you are holding your precious child in your arms.
The sense of responsibility we can feel when caring for a baby can be immense. Often parents are struck by how vulnerable and dependent babies are on their caregivers. This can lead to thoughts of how easy it would be to accidentally harm our babies.
Why do we get these thoughts? We sent a parent to interview her brain to find some answers…
Parent: Why do you think of all these scary images and thoughts?
Brain: My job is to protect my person and their clan. Therefore, it is essential for me to ensure no harm comes to them. In order to do that I work super hard to notice any dangers around me. I am also super talented at imagining the worst case scenario. If I do this, then I can help you plan how to avoid it happening. Pretty clever huh!?
Parent: Hmmm. The images you create are often really frightening, can you make us act on them?
Brain: NO. I have no power at all to make you do it. I don’t want you to! I’m just telling you about the things that could go wrong related to the things that you find most precious. That way we can ensure it doesn’t happen! Makes sense, right?
Let me give you an example. A knife could harm baby. I give you images of what could happen, you ensure there are no knives around baby so that it doesn’t happen. Simples!
Parent: OK I see that you are trying to do your best to keep us safe but it sometimes makes things worse. Your thoughts and images frighten me. I love my baby and don’t ever wish to harm him. You make me feel anxious!
Brain: Oh….that in not really my intention. I’m just trying to keep you safe. Sorry.
Parent: You see it results in me avoiding making supper whilst my baby is in the same room. I am so, so frightened I’ll harm him!
Brain: oh well, that doesn’t really work then. You have to be able to cook, otherwise your species will not survive…hmmm…perhaps I overdo my thinking at times?
Parent: I really appreciate you trying to protect me and my baby. I can see that you are actually doing your best to protect us but to be honest, it is making things worse for me. Can we find a way to make this better? The more you present me with scary ‘stuff’ the more I freak out and feel anxious. This makes me and my baby feel really worried and it stops me being the parent I want to be. I don’t want you not to protect us but is there a possibility you are overestimating the level of danger in our every day scenarios?
Brain: This is tricky…. I am using my alarm system to warn you. This part of the brain is not very good at planning and thinking logically. It is not possible to turn it off. It just reacts. But, the more you pay attention to the thoughts and worry about them, the more I think there is actual danger so I will create more images for you to consider. Bit of a vicious cycle really.
Parent: Ok so next time it happens I’m going to notice what you are saying, maybe even thank you for trying to keep me and my baby safe and then put my energy into doing what really matters in the moment – caring for and loving my baby.
Thanks Brain for your time – you’ve been great!
Brain: pleasure – here to help!