Since having kids, we have been kidnapped more times than I care to think about and I have been held hostage forced to make terrible decisions about their fates. My partner has to keep a watch out for giant birds swooping down to carry the children away and a friend of mine recently admitted to having had his children attacked by land sharks on more than one occasion.
Unwanted or intrusive thoughts like this are really common – about 80-90% of people have them. They don’t tend to occur very often but when they do, they come out of nowhere, are normally pretty disturbing and generally interrupt whatever else it was you were thinking about. They can feel really important and like you need to do something about them right away. Intrusive thoughts are usually linked to what is concerning you at the time, and those that are driven by feelings of anxiety or worry usually deal with threat or vulnerability – which would explain why the kids are so often perilously in danger.
It seems that stressful situations (i.e. being a parent) can actually increase the frequency with which you experience intrusive thoughts (yay!) – parents of newborns often report thoughts about harm or illness, and unwanted thoughts are often a ‘fun’ side-effect when your child is ill. It’s possibly because feeling bad leads to an increase in negative unwanted thoughts, which in turn lower your mood further.
Given the number of thoughts the average person has in a day (about 6,000 apparently) it’s maybe not that surprising that some of them will be unwanted – but giving them more attention, trying to get rid of them or trying to control them can lead to them becoming more intrusive and uncomfortable. In fact the more you try not to think about something, the harder it can become not to think about it.
So I guess that means whenever I see a land shark hove into view or I’m being made to make some terrible decision by my latest kidnapper I should just sit back, relax and let it happen. That way it will be over quicker and I can get back to stressing about something else.