Here are some common examples:
- The image of purposefully steering your can into oncoming traffic
- The urge to kiss someone that you are not attracted to, and may be even disgusted by
- The thought of whether you might become contaminated after touching something
- The urge to arrange items in the "right" way
- The urge to scream out in the middle of a lecture
- Preference for "good" numbers
- Doubts about whether you left the hair straightener on and fears that the house will burn down
- The urge to push others in front of a train
So does having these types of thoughts mean we are crazy? or dangerous? or bad? Are these thoughts are sign of who we are or what we could do?
The resounding answer from the psychological research is very confident NO. In fact, if you have these sorts of thoughts then you are not alone. The truth is that vast majority of people (around 94%) have many different types of these unwanted thoughts, images and urges. In fact, the list above is from a sample of healthy individuals without any mental disorder, and the list could be much longer because in reality, there is no end to the amount of craziness that our minds can come up with.
Although these types of thoughts resemble those of more serious conditions, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the difference is in what we make of these thoughts. Treating them as silly but unimportant is helpful because they lose their power and they can drift away so you can move onto thinking about other things. People with OCD, however, tend to interpret these thoughts as "evidence" that they are bad/mad/irresponsible, and so they feel compelled to perform behaviours (e.g., washing, checking) or mental acts (e.g., counting) to prevent bad things from happening. These behaviours unfortunately only make the thoughts more powerful, noticeable, frequent and repetitive.
So if you catch yourself a bit upset the next time you have one of these odd little thoughts, you may want to change the way you talk to yourself about it. Perhaps try something like "this is just one of the fantastically random odd thoughts that my mind can come up with, it's ok, that's what minds do"
The sourced picture is from a blog which beautifully illustrates various types of odd thoughts and fears... you may recognise a few that you have, or be comforted to know that there others out there just like you. For me, I enjoyed reading the some of the amazingly creative ways that our brains can conjur up odd things!