Buddhist Thought - Countering Intrusive Thoughts

I have unfortunately long resisted Eastern thought and certain “alternative” medical practices, though in the past five years I have been intrigued and inspired by the sensible writings of Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen Buddhist). When I participated in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy I began to learn how to better control my anxiety, but it is difficult work that requires daily practice. Simple meditation and mindfulness do help reduce intrusive negative thoughts. Getting a handle on anxiety can help reduce the fear of bad DP episodes which can become a vicious cycle.

Here is a wonderful article by an individual with OCD who has worked hard implementing Buddhist thought (DBT and CBT for all intents and purposes) into calming his symptoms and finding some inner peace.

Please have a look:
Learning To Fall Apart by Matt Bieber
Some excerpts:
“ … the practitioner simply focusses on the outbreath, following it as it passes the tip of the nose and dissolves into space. Thoughts arise, of course, and when the practitioner notices that his attention has been diverted, he simply takes note and returns to the breath.

Over time, the practitioner begins to notice the sheer quantity of thoughts and feelings that his mind is generating. He sees the way that these mental phenomena have a mysterious life of their own — that they arise from nowhere and then disappear again. He starts to realise that it is possible to see thoughts and feelings without judging them, reacting to them, or identifying with them.

As this happens, the practitioner begins to notice some of the stories he tells himself. Some of these are big stories — about the kind of person he is, the ‘meaning’ of his life, and so on. Others are much smaller — his narrative about why he should buy this toothbrush rather than that one, for example. But in both cases he starts to see that these stories are simply composed of thoughts and feelings — like a string of popcorn on a Christmas tree. In other words, he sees that his stories about himself are made-up, too. (Practitioners of contemporary cognitive behavioural therapy — CBT — might find such insights familiar.)

As he recognises this, a kind of loosening occurs, not only does he identify less with individual thoughts and feelings, but he also begins to rely less on particular ways of understanding himself. He feels less and less need to summarise his experience, to corral his raging flood of thoughts and feelings into a stable, permanent view of who he is. And as he begins to let go of his constant grasping after solidity, a fuller sense of who he is starts to emerge.

OCD often feels like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, except that all the choices suck and all the adventures hurt. However, as I’ve begun to learn through Buddhist study and ritual, those ‘choices’ are illusory, and there’s no one being hurt. In fact, there’s no one there at all. The attempt to attain pleasure or avoid pain, to stay consistent with a storyline, to ensure some kind of outcome, to be somebody — this is what causes so much suffering.”

A Great Book To Soothe The Mind

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, based on the most basic concepts of Buddhist thought, helps soothe an anxious mind. But it takes dedication -- daily practice. I often feel angry that I have to “work” to feel a “bit more normal.” But Rick Hanson, Ph.D. (author of Buddha’s Brain) has created a fine little workbook that takes the edge off any sense of “failure” or “frustration” when applying a new self-help technique; you simply do “just one thing” a day, or maybe a week. This has a wonderful collection of exercises on such topics as “Be Good To Yourself” -- “Build Strengths” -- “Be At Peace.”

As noted in the book description:

“Each day we are pushed around by external forces – from the economy to the people we live and work with – and by reactions to these that come from ancient reptile/mammal/primate/caveman circuits inside our own brains. But now, with the power of modern neuroscience, we can take charge of the brain and gradually change it for the better.

That’s the promise of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time – which shows you down-to-earth ways to build up a “buddha brain” for more peace of mind in stressful times, greater inner strength and confidence, and an unshakeable sense of contentment and worth.”

Add this to your arsenal of weapons against anxiety. It is a little gem for all of us.