Ego-Dystonic Thoughts

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re minding your own business and suddenly your brain presents you with a horrible image of something terrible happening? Or even of you actually doing something terrible to yourself or someone else?

Well, don’t worry – because you’re not alone – and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. In fact, it actually means the exact opposite!

This is something my human, Annie, discussed with her therapist some years ago – and she discovered something really unexpected. She told her therapist she was worried because she would often visualise herself doing something really bad – like pushing someone in front of a train or jumping off a bridge. She never felt any inclination to do these things – far from it – but her brain would show her the images anyway.

What her therapist said was that these are examples of ego-dystonic thoughts and they apparently happen to a lot of people. She also said the people who are most likely to experience these kinds of thoughts and images are actually the people who are least likely to act upon them – so they’re really an indication that you’re a good and moral person.

The thoughts and images are part of the brain’s way to warn you about potential sources of danger. If you’re on a bridge, the brain visualises you jumping off it as a way to point out to you that there’s a dangerous height you need to avoid. And when you picture yourself pushing someone off a train platform in front of the train, the brain is just pointing out that you need to be aware of the platform edge and stay well clear.

So, next time you find an intrusive thought disturbing you in this way – just remember, your brain is trying to keep you safe, not trying to suggest you’re a terrible person!


Do let me know if this is something you’ve experienced, or if there’s anything in your life you’d like my thoughts on!


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