Many of my online friends handle intrusive thoughts by letting them flow in and out of their mind without feeding them. Feeding them too much attention or mental energy makes them grow, and they wear away at our emotions and mental energy until…bad things happen.

Yet for the past few days strategies like this have failed me, with intrusive thoughts gnawing away at my self-esteem and sense of security.

Turns out, forcibly rejecting intrusive thoughts counts as feeding them in my case. It’s the “say you can’t think about elephants, and it’s all you can think of” cliche. My extra effort to overlook these thoughts ironically made them stronger.

I got around this by remembering not to judge myself for these thoughts. Everyone has dark or unflattering thoughts each day, but they don’t define our character. Those are the thoughts we remember, act on, and base our actions on.

So next time a dark thought pops up as I’m walking down the street, I’ll think no more or less of myself for it. It just flows into the void, like so many others.