Step 1) Understand what happened
In our natural environment we faced real dangers, such as lions. The instinct to harm here is obvious — part of the “fight or flight” response. You either fight the danger or run away.
In our modern environment, we can still very easily feel stressed and “under attack,” even if it’s not in the literal sense of the word. And so, when this primitive mechanism is triggered, suddenly you have these thoughts, or instincts, to harm someone — even someone you love.
The idea shocks. You fear it. The thoughts themselves are so shocking that they massively ramp up the now chronic stress.
On top of this, our natural instinct is to give more attention to a problem, to try to solve it. Usually this is the right thing to do, but in this case, attention is the problem.
Before you know it, you’re in the habit of poring over it, again and again. All this attention communicates very clearly to your subconscious that this whole subject is relevant and meaningful — when really the opposite is true.
Step 2) Ignore
If you’d had known the information above, you would have understood why the thought popped up and just ignored it, brushed it off. And that would have been that.
The answer now is still the same. Now that you know what happened, you can reframe the thoughts as meaningless.
Seeing harm thoughts as simply an instinctive mechanism that is quite primitive and operates when we feel under attack is the way to go. Now you can see “it’s not me” and not attach any meaning, or identification to them.
In practice, this means: do nothing and when they pop up, ignore/don’t care about the thoughts, just as you would ignore anything else that’s meaningless to you.
Now they’ve received a certain amount of emotional attention, the thoughts won’t stop coming instantly, so just stay consistent. When they pop, remove all attention and stay as relaxed as possible.
Step 3) Remove all causes
Now that we’re living outside our natural environment, it’s easy to stress our minds and bodies in all kinds of ways.
But we can remove the causes of issues like Harm OCD by correcting any mindset issues and putting 6 simple lifestyle elements in place — the causes of health and happiness.
Is this what happens to new mothers sometimes?
Yes, harm thoughts are very common in new mothers, and they can be horrified that they are having these terrible thoughts about the baby they love! But it’s just a primitive reaction to trauma/psychological stress.
Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.
Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
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