“You are not your thoughts or your farts.”
An amazing piece of wisdom from mental health advocate, Mark Freeman. His website is here if you fancy checking him out at all. Although this advice may seem weird and even a bit gross, it really (oddly) spoke to me. It makes so much sense. If you’re feeling a little baffled right now, let me explain…
Believing my thoughts are true is a massive part of my OCD. I experience intrusive thoughts that can frighten, disgust and distress me. I make myself believe that just because I’ve thought it then it will come true. Because I’ve been capable enough to think it, I’m capable enough to make it happen. But this isn’t true. It’s the meaning I attach to these thoughts, thoughts I have no control over, that makes them so, so scary.
The way I have interpreted what Mark said is that we don’t pay attention to our farts (c’mon everyone, you know you do it), a bodily function that is natural and completely normal. We don’t attend to farts any more than perhaps just a little snigger, so why do we pay attention to those random, meaningless thoughts that, similarly to farts, just come and go? We can’t control our body producing gas and we can’t control our brain either.
Thoughts pop into our mind out of nowhere, with absolutely no warning or control. But the difference is when we experience intrusive thoughts, we attend to them to such an extreme extent that we start to panic. We can end up believing that they truly reflect some unconscious part of our brain informing us of something we don’t normally associate with who we are: that we are a terrible, terrible person. If we think it, it must be true. But this is where we are going so very wrong.
Comparing thoughts to farts makes (strangely) a lot of sense. Farts come and go; we don’t waste any time attending to them or labelling them as something deep and meaningful. They are a natural product of our bodies in the same way that our thoughts are. I need to keep reminding myself that my intrusive, nasty thoughts don’t mean anything. They are just thoughts. They come and they go in the same way that farts do. I want to be able to strengthen my ability to work with my OCD by answering these thoughts back:
“I hear you OCD. I know you hate that thought just as much as I do. I know it makes you feel anxious and upset, it does me too. But it’s just a thought. A meaningless, empty thought.”
Again, in the wise words of Mark: “You just have a brain” and it will do what it wants. I just need to keep reminding myself of that and not fear what it pumps out on a day-to-day basis. I am not my thoughts… or my farts.
Imagine that on a t-shirt.
Disclaimer: The amazing title of this post and the ideas I’ve discussed have been inspired by Mark Freeman. You can read his take on it here: http://www.markfreeman.ca/why-not-build-your-identity-around-mental-illness/