Thought Stopping

I did not develop this technique. It is a very common therapeutic tool and has been recommended for many years. Sometimes children actually develop various forms of it on their own.

Before I get into an explanation of it, I’d like to address a recent controversy. Some professionals have begun to insist that Thought Stopping can cause increased stress, anxiety, depression, and so on. This is true in the same way that learning a little bit of karate will get you seriously injured in a real fight. If you can’t use the technique correctly, it will cause you more trouble.

The objection to Thought Stopping goes like this: If you try not to think of a pink elephant, then you are going to think of pink elephants all day. Well, that’s not even Thought Stopping. The technique I teach is not merely trying to avoid thinking of something. The proper application of Thought Stopping is to deliver a crippling or killing blow to the thought.

Thought Stopping is not for the weak of heart. But, then again, neither is human life. No technique, not even one prescribed by an expensive professional, will ever work if you apply it halfway. As I said on the Welcome page, people who find this site are not sitting back waiting for some easy way to solve their problems. People on this site are on an adventure through life. No matter where you learn your techniques, you must apply them with passion.

What is Thought Stopping?

I will never forget something that happened in eighth grade. I remember turning around to talk to my buddy behind me when our teacher, a rather hot-blooded type, smacked a book on her desk and shouted, “Fred!” in a very sharp tone. I nearly passed out. And I also forgot what I wanted to talk to my buddy about. But I still remember the jolt in my heart when she made that noise with the book and snapped my name.

Twenty-five years later, I was teaching a class of sophomore boys who couldn’t seem to focus on Greek mythology. I lifted a book and slapped it on the table in front of me. They immediately stopped screwing around and focused on me. I even scared the Special Ed teacher who was in the classroom with me, and she was actually paying attention. Then I went right into talking about how the vulture devours Prometheus’ liver for all eternity. Worked.

These are both examples of Thought Stopping. And you can do it to yourself.

Use with Food and Drink

I began using Thought Stopping on myself when I hit my mid thirties and started to put on weight. I never had any problems with weight, so I was used to eating whenever I wanted to. The time came, however, when I had to wait for meal times or I would not be able to burn all the calories I took in during the day. When I would get hungry between meals, I would let the urge come closer. Still closer. Then I would mentally shout “Stop!” If the mental shout is sharp and forceful enough, the desire to eat should lessen if not completely dissipate. This also works for me when I should abstain from alcohol. If it doesn’t work for you, then you’ve lost nothing by trying it.

CAUTION: This technique can be too powerful. I have been so successful at curbing my appetite that I have actually experienced hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) episodes. I am not diabetic. Many people experience hypoglycemia by simply forgetting to eat. In my case, I might forgo a meal and then begin a two-hour workout. Thought Stopping should not be used to stop eating but to help you eat more effectively.

Use against Unwanted Songs in Your Mind

A word about the subconscious
I use the term subconscious informally here. It is not a scientific concept. But it is useful in referring to things such as nagging songs, urges you would rather not have, and so forth. The subconscious also provides positive influences such as ideas for writing, for surprising your mate, and so forth. Any use of this term on this site is purely informal.

I developed a technique to get rid of nagging songs in my head. I developed a few variations on this one. REMEMBER: These songs surface in our minds because our subconscious wants to communicate with the conscious mind– in this case, to annoy it. The conscious mind must discipline the subconscious by not rewarding it with the song it wants to hear. The conscious mind must control its contents by correcting the behavior of the subconscious.

Word Changing

Change the words to some unpleasant version of the song: For example, “Happy Birthday to you” can be changed to something like this:

Go away, please, won’t you!
Go away, please, won’t you!
I’ve had enough of your bullcrap!
Go away or I’ll kill you!

Unpleasant Sounds

I have never been fond of gunfire. Neither is my subconscious, apparently. If a song starts bothering me, I can fire off gunshots rapidly in my mind. This stops the song immediately. Other sounds work, too, such as, a rattlesnake’s warning, a car crash, screeching tires, and so on. Sometimes I must repeat this technique several times, but eventually it works. You can use any sound that you find unpleasant to stop the nagging song.

Use against Inappropriate Emotions

This is covered on the page titled How to Feel Bad and on the page titled The Problem of Guilt. Depression is not a useful emotion. It is your enemy. It must be conquered swiftly and decisively.

Most guilt is inappropriate for reasons I explain on the page dealing with guilt. If you are experiencing inappropriate guilt, Thought Stopping is a technique to help you clear your mind so that you can determine the appropriate emotion to feel.

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