Sticky thoughts are the kind of thoughts we cannot let go of. No matter how hard we try they persist. Sticky thoughts vary greatly from person to person. Some examples include negative self evaluations like “I will never be good at or good enough for…”, fear thoughts that play over and over like “I wonder if the kids are OK or hurt?”, ruminating on negative events or feelings like “I shouldn’t have done…I am a bad person.” Overcoming such thoughts can be challenging and the earlier the intervention the better.
Sticky thoughts occur with a wide range of mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. They can also occur in the absence of a mental health diagnosis. Seeking guidance with a mental health professional can be very helpful, no matter the cause or contributing factors. A mental health professional does have the expertise to assist in understanding and fine tuning how to let go of those pestering thoughts.
Learning to identify, confront and counteract this type of thinking is possible. Some examples of ways to address sticking thoughts include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Developing Or Using A Positive Mantra Such As “This Too Shall Pass”
I like to use all of the above strategies. Some of my favorite guided meditations involve visualizing various ways that unhelpful thoughts can be carried away, such as on a cloud or on a boat. This type of visualization is a great way to create calm in the body while simultaneously creating distance in the mind. One might also write down all of their negative thoughts on “sticky notes” and then tear them up and throw them away; later remembering this activity every time those thoughts enter the mind again. Whatever path one chooses, remember that repetition and variety is likely necessary to combat and extinguish sticky thinking.
Kimberly Prendergast, LMFT is one of the Owner's of Empire Therapy & Family Services. She has been assisting children, adolescents and families in crisis for over 20 years. Kimberly can be reached at 805.798.3723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.