Intrusive Thoughts

As the image says, “We do not need to engage with intrusive thoughts”.

Dr Steven Phillipson has shared several times on the podcast that the brain is self-healing. He shares that if we get out of our own way, the brain will recalibrate. For example, if you have a cut on your arm that scabs and you keep picking at that scab the wound will keep reopening, and take ages to heal. But, if you leave the scab alone, the body naturally heals itself and eventually the scab falls off by itself, with no intervention from us.

So through exposure and response prevention therapy we learn to stop doing compulsions, and learn to leave our intrusive thoughts alone (engaging with them is rumination – a compulsion). Every compulsion is the metaphorical equivalent of picking that scab, we are just encouraging the wound to reopen by compulsing. We do not need to engage with the intrusive thoughts. By paying attention to them and giving them more credit then the intrusive thoughts deserve will make it more compelling for us to do compulsions. Let them be (not easy, but possible). They will go when they are ready.

To quote the philosopher Alan Watts:

“You have to learn how to leave your mind alone, it will quiet itself.”


“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

Hope that helps.

Illustration by

Check out the weekly podcast through the website, or: