Friday, September 2, 2022

Intrusive Thoughts - Part 2


How to deal with unwanted disturbing thoughts.

~~ Video Coming Soon ~~


  • Introduction
  • Traits of Wholeness
  • Review Dealing With Rumination
  • What is an Intrusive Thought?
  • Are Intrusive Thoughts Sin?
  • Where Do Intrusive Thoughts Come From?
  • How normal thoughts become intrusive thoughts
  • Can You Eliminate Intrusive Thoughts?
  • Strategies to Deal With Intrusive Thoughts
  • Distract Yourself
  • Stop Trying to Control Them
  • Reject the Thought
  • Ignore the Thoughts
  • Take it to God: Pray
  • Intrusive Thoughts Identify What You Value
  • Desiring God Strategy


  • 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
  • Colossians 3:2-4
  • Proverbs 3:6
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Matthew 5:27-28
  • Jeremiah 17:9-10
  • Matthew 15:19
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 
  • Matthew 10:28
  • 2 Timothy 1:7
  • Proverbs 16:27 (Living Bible)
  • Proverbs 12:25
  • James 4:7
  • Psalms 139:23-24
  • Philippians 2:13

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage battle according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.


Example:  a car intentionally takes two parking spaces

  • There are no parking spots at the mall
  • Selfish
  • You think about keying the car to teach them a lesson

Have you ever had a though and wondered…”where’d that come from?”

Have you ever had a dream and wondered…”what the heck…??”


“ oh no what if I push one of my students in front of the car?“

Did you think

  • Why would I think something like that?
  • I must be a horrible person
  • “Get behind me satan”

Today we’ll talk about Intrusive Thoughts

Traits of Wholeness


Neither myself nor any of the participants are licensed clinical professionals.  These are opinions that we believe to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and/or personal life experiences.  This is for educational purposes not medical advice.

We are in our series called Seeking Wholeness

How can we be:

  • Spiritually healthy
  • Emotionally healthy
  • Mentally healthy

Dealing with life’s current stresses and also being healed from experiences/wounds of the past

We’re not just supposed to have eternal life

  • We’re supposed to have: joy, peace, patience, and self control here on earth

Learning not just what The Word instructs us to do, but learning how to implement it in our lives

Traits of Wholeness

  • Authenticity
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Not seeking external approval / validation
  • Living by values and principles
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Taking ownership of your responsibilities
  • Living with purpose and passion
  • Optimism
  • Confidence
  • Healthy relationships with others
  • Not losing control of your emotions
  • Free from addictions
  • Addressing Conflict with truth and love
  • Vulnerability
  • Not critical or Judgemental
  • Not jealous
  • Genuinely applaud the success of others
  • Forgive those who have wronged you in the past
  • Know that you’re worthy of receiving love
  • Not afraid to fail
  • Able to manage irrational fear, worry, and anxiety
  • Selfless encounters with others
  • Not manipulating others trying to control their actions/reactions
  • You care about how others feel
  • Patient
  • Don’t give into peer/social pressure
  • Can communicate directly
  • Don’t take responsibility for other people's emotions
  • Take responsibility for your own emotions
  • Slow to anger
  • Ability to maturely express your wants, needs and desires
  • Being led by the Spirit

We want to become aware of our issues and empowered to manage/fix them.

Review Dealing With Rumination


The term ruminate means to run a thought over and over in your mind

Typical ruminations

  • “why do I always get the short end of the stick“
  • “why can’t I be happy like everyone else“

Anxious ruminations:
  • Thinking about how you could’ve handled the situation differently
  • Worrying about what type of impression you left
  • What did that person mean by that?

Reasons for Ruminating Thoughts

Common reasons for rumination include:

  • Belief that you’ll gain insight into your life or a problem
  • Past emotional or physical trauma
  • Facing ongoing stressors that can’t be controlled
  • Possessing certain personality characteristics
    • Perfectionism
    • Neuroticism
  • Excessive focus on one’s relationships with others
  • Inner Critic
  • Judging others
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Unmet physical need / craving
    • Hunger
    • Addiction
  • Unfiled information
  • Need for closure
  • Uncertainty / Anxiety / Fear of future
  • Someone said or did something
  • Low self-esteem
  • Focusing on your “idols”

Strategies For Rumination and Negative Self Talk

Seek the Kingdom Instead of the World

Colossians 3:2-4

2 Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Focus your life priorities around Kingdom goals

Self worth based on your “identity in Christ”

Seek the Truth

Don’t react off of

  • Assumptions
  • Mind reading
  • Catastrophizing
  • Projection

Projection is a defense mechanism where we assume others believe the negative thoughts that we have about ourselves

Get Into Nature

Prayer / Quiet Time

Write Your Thoughts Down

Release Control

  • Let go of perfectionism

Have Faith

Proverbs 3:6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Plan and Take Action to Resolve the Issue

What is an Intrusive Thought?

Intrusive thoughts is a psychological term that refers to unwanted thoughts that cause distress or discomfort.

An intrusive thought is an involuntary, unwanted image, phrase, or impulse. They are very common; nearly everyone has them from time to time. Sometimes they are of a violent nature, other times they are sexual. Often they are blasphemous or induce great fear of having done a ritual incorrectly. They can be quite disconcerting, especially when they are completely contrary to what a person actually believes.


“ what if I stand up and start screaming in this quiet auditorium “

<while stopped at a stoplight> “what if I accidentally press the gas and ran over everyone“

“What if I lose my faith in God one day”

It’s normal to have unwanted thoughts that intrude into your awareness.  

  • they are unwanted because they are objectionable in someway

Anxiety Makes Them Worse

For a person without anxiety… These thoughts can just come and go.   Others may have an emotional response if the thought is disgusting, but they are able to just move on, but with a person with anxiety these unwanted intrusive thoughts can stick in your head and cause you a lot of distress

You Can’t Eliminate Them Completely

It is unrealistic to think you can eliminate intrusive thoughts. But we can learn how to deal with them quickly and keep them from taking over our mind.  

When Is it an Issue?

Research to determine 94% of people experience occasional intrusive thoughts

Approximately 1% of the population experience clinically significant stress and anxiety associated with their intrusive thoughts

It’s not the experience of having the thought that is the issue, but the relationship with the thought

What makes it clinical

  • How one relates to them
  • How hard one tries not to have them
  • What having the thought means to you
  • The experience of having a thought

The troubling intrusive thoughts are the thoughts that go against your values.  

Having Intrusive Thoughts Does Not Mean …

Intrusive thoughts do not reflect your hidden desires

Experiencing intrusive thought does not make you “deranged“ or “depraved“

The only thing unhealthy about your experience of intrusive thoughts is how hard you are trying not to have these thoughts

What are the common types of intrusive thoughts?

  • Sexual
  • Harm, injury, and aggression towards someone else or yourself
  • Contamination
  • Doubt about decisions you’ve made
  • Religious thoughts
  • Violating religious or moral codes
    • Blaspheme the Holy Spirit
  • Fears about something happening to you or someone else

Sexual Thoughts

“Intrusive sexual thoughts” mean you are experiencing a pattern of unwanted thoughts that you find disgusting or distressing that have a sexual theme to them

Not lustful thoughts

  • Lustful thoughts are chosen in the mind.
  • Our flesh finds these thoughts enjoyable.

Postpartum Rumination

“what if I accidentally throw my baby out when I threw out the trash“

Religious thoughts

  • Blasphemous thoughts
  • I’m not saved
  • I’m so sinful Jesus can’t love me

C.S. Lewis said, “Christ is hard to satisfy and easy to please,” which simply means his standards are infinitely high — he is God — but oh how ready he is to say, “well done” to a faithful, imperfect servant. He’s gracious. He’s God, so his standards are infinite. But he’s gracious, so he loves to say, “Well done.”

—Desiring God

Are Intrusive Thoughts Sin?

God Knows Your Heart

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

  • There are both thoughts and intentions of the heart

The thought is not a sin… It is a temptation

If you cherish the sinful thought then it is a sin.  

Thought / Actions / Desire

There is a difference between a bad thought and a bad behavior/desires

Matthew 5:27-28

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust [epithyméō] for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

It is not just the thought… It is the lust behind the thought

epithyméō - desire, lust

to show focused passion as it aptly builds on (Gk epi, "upon") what a person truly yearns for; to "greatly desire to do or have something

Where Do Intrusive Thoughts Come From?

Sinful Thoughts Come From Our Flesh

Jeremiah 17:9-10 9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, To give to each person according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

Could be from our

  • Conscious mind
  • Nonconscious / subconscious / Unconscious mind

Matthew 15:19

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, acts of adultery, other immoral sexual acts, thefts, false testimonies, and slanderous statements.

If you do what is natural, you’ll constantly be thinking sinful thoughts and acting them out.

Your old nature

From the Devil

~if you get an evil thought about something that’s not in your heart it could be from the devil

  • It could be based on a fear

When negative thoughts come from the devil… They are extreme and unusual

  • “ where did that come from?“
  • The thought is out of character for you

1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

How normal thoughts become intrusive thoughts

Having an inflated sense of responsibility

You believe you have

  • the power to cause
  • the duty to prevent

the negative outcome.  

Attaching too much importance to the thought

You think that having the thought makes it a fact

you think seeing the image in your head increases the possibility of it happening

Example: you think you may have hit someone when you were driving

  • You don’t remember seeing a person
  • You do remember hearing a bump sound
  • You see an image in your mind of someone lying on the road

Thought action fusion

Do you believe that having the thought is just as bad as committing the thought.  

Example: you thinking about touching someone personally
  • You don’t desire to do it
  • You think Thinking about the thought is just as bad as doing the thought

Excessively thinking about controlling your thoughts

You believe that it is possible to completely control what you think, and that this level of control is essential

Overestimating the threat

You have an inappropriate sexual thought about someone. The mere presence of that thought makes you worry if you have the ability to not do it.  you start to believe that the other person is at risk of you being inappropriate with them.  

Since you don’t have enough strength to resist the thought, how could you resist the urge?

Not Tolerating Uncertainty

You believe that it is possible to be extremely certain that there won’t be negative outcomes.  you become extremely anxious when you can’t get enough facts to support your desired outcome. Unanswered questions and loose ends caused you a lot of stress.

“how can I prove to myself that I don’t want to hurt my baby“

Try to convince yourself that you believe something for sure can cause you anxiety

  • Don’t try to prove it to yourself


The thoughts  may manifest from fear in us

Example: you fear what other people think of you,

  •  intrusive thoughts about making a fool of yourself
  • doing something inappropriate in public which would make people look down on you

afraid of death

  • you could get lots of intrusive and violent thoughts about dying

fears about your sexuality

  • you may experience lots of unwanted sexual thoughts that disturb you


Ask yourself: what is the fear behind these thoughts?

Once you identify the fear you can deal with the fear

We focus on the things we fear

The Bible tells us to fear God the most because we should focus on God the most

Therefore we should have a healthy respect for his authority

Matthew 10:28

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

Having a perfectionist mindset

You believe that it’s possible for everything to be perfect and “just so “. You don’t tolerate mistakes.  

Can You Eliminate Intrusive Thoughts?

“Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” You can’t keep the Devil from suggesting thoughts, but you can choose not to dwell or act on them.”

–Rick Warren - Purpose Driven Life

Two Traps

  1. Reassurance seeking
  2. Freaking out – despair

Both represent missed opportunities to tolerate uncertainty

Build your uncertainty intolerance muscle

Don’t seek out reassurance

It will make you reliant on other people for your sanity

Don’t research it.  

Don’t ask for validation everywhere you turn.  

Don’t Focus on Eliminating Them

The natural reaction to intrusive thoughts is to try to eliminate them altogether or to reduce the anxiety that they caused.  

People with generalized anxiety use

  • avoidance
  • seeking reassurance

People with OCD use

  • rituals

to reduce anxiety

The strategies are worse than the distress, and cause you to worry even more about the thoughts.  

Don’t Create a Ritual

If you feel like you have to pray for hours to stop that thought it can lead to obsessive compulsive behavior. You believe that you have to perform a ritual in order to stop the thought.

The less you respond with the compulsive behavior, often times the less you will experience the excessive triggers

Cyclical thoughts

  • You have a thought
  • You do something to address it
  • Seek reassurance
  • Ritual
  • You feel good for a few minutes
  • And then you’re right back to feeling like garbage

Getting the constant reassurance doesn’t help

Strategies to Deal With Intrusive Thoughts

The Goal is to Change Your Response

Distract Yourself

  • shift of attention
  • Find a Positive Distraction

Proverbs 16:27 (Living Bible)

27 Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.

Turn the Focus to God

  • Recite Bible verses that you have memorized
  • Praying
  • Sing a hymn

Fully engaging activity

Do something that requires your full attention

  • Rock climbing
  • Zip lining
  • Narrating an activity
  • Talk to a friend (about something else)
  • Problem solve
  • Meditate on what God has done in your life

When you realize you’re starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. Look around you, quickly choose something else to do, and don’t give it a second thought.


  • Watching TV
  • Scrolling on your phone

This gives you a mental break

Stop Trying to Control Them

Control: Mopping the Ocean

You cannot control them. The more you try to control them… The worse it will be.  

The less you fight it… The less often it happens… The easier it gets

Don’t Focus on the Negative Thoughts

Proverbs 12:25

25 Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down,

But a good word makes it glad.

Anxiety About Having the Thought

Anxiety about having the thought

When we get anxious… We can get anxiety about having anxiety

  • get angry about having anxiety
  • get sad about being angry
  • feeling guilty about your sadness about your anger

This can make me fall into self-defeating behavior

Don’t invest your time and energy into it

invest your time into a meaningful life enhancing activity

Mathius Barker

  • Notice them but don’t judge them
  • Breathe and let them pass

Reject the Thought

If you can just reject the thought…do that

James 4:7

Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

  • Don’t entertain the thought “but what if I…“

Ignore the Thoughts

Sometimes the path to overcoming unwelcome thoughts is to ignore them.

Sometimes the more you focus on them the more power you give them

Solution: Imagine putting your fingers in your ears and going “La La La La La La La“


If you ignore thought… It will die. If you give it a lot of thinking energy will get bigger and stronger.  whatever we think about the most will grow.  

—Caroline Leaf PhD

Take it to God: Pray

Psalms 139:23-24

23Search me, God, and know my heart;

Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;

24And see if there is any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way.

  • Ask God to lead you in the correct way

Trust That God is Working in You

Philippians 2:13

for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.

Intrusive Thoughts Identify What You Value

Do atheists worry about whether they’re saved or not?

  • Why not?

You only worry about what’s important to you.

Intrusive thoughts only hone in on that which is important to you

  • God
  • Sin
  • My baby
  • Other people’s opinion of you

You will never have an intrusive thought about a topic your brain finds irrelevant

“oh no… What if the next sentence starts with the letter ‘T’? “

The fact that these intrusive thoughts are troubling shows that you have empathy

Hitting Pedestrian Example

Example: Hitting someone while driving

“What if I run over someone while I am driving”

Could show

  • Value of for human life
  • Concerned for going to jail and not being with your family
  • Concern for going to jail and losing your freedom

Your brain will only exert the effort to offer up an intrusive thought about something you care deeply about and it is fears maybe threaten


The flipside of your intrusive thought is that which you valued the most


If you have idolize sexual pleasure… You may have unwanted sexual thoughts when you are talking to an attractive person

If you have idolize sexual purity… You may have intrusive thoughts about being cheated on …because that’s your worst fear…

If you think sex is the unforgivable sin… you will think about all kinds of sexual things out of fear that you will cut yourself off from God


put God above everything else

Desiring God Strategy

Be careful not to make too much of thoughts that enter your mind. It seems to me that Satan’s main strategy for ruining people is by deceiving them, either by seeding destructive thoughts in their minds, or by influencing us to deal with our thoughts in a destructive way. Besides Satan, our own fleshly nature can do the same thing — can send thoughts into our mind.

This means that the presence of a thought in your mind is not necessarily a mark of your own identity in Christ. That’s important to realize. It’s not necessarily a mark of your new nature in Jesus. It’s an alien thought. An enemy has done this, you might say — either your old self or Satan.


  1. View it as that: harassment. It’s not an atom bomb. Treat it more like an annoying fly that you need to swat. Get it out of your face — swat it. It is not the end of the world.

  1. Say to the thought, “No. No. That’s not what I think, Mr. Thought. You can get out of here. I renounce you.”

  1. Turn your mind, then, to an alternative truth that is you, that’s based in Scripture.

  1. Ask God to liberate you from this harassment.

Take your confidence from Philippians 4:6–7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” — and this is key — “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Instructor: Michael Leadon


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