In today’s video, I will explain why trying to suppress intrusive thoughts is the wrong approach. I’ll also give you some ideas for what to try instead.

Read or watch below to learn more about dealing with intrusive thoughts.

Zachary Stockill: When you are struggling with unwanted painful, intrusive thoughts, it’s tempting to try to suppress those thoughts when they come up. It’s tempting to try to swat the thoughts away. Or, try not to think of them.

However, when it comes to dealing with intrusive thoughts, this is always the wrong approach. In today’s video, I will explain why it’s the wrong approach. I’ll give you some ideas for what to do instead. 

By the way, for the people here for the first time: The term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, often obsessive curiosity about your partner’s past relationships and or sexual history. It’s pure hell.

And a big component in the painful and frustrating experience of retroactive jealousy is often, as I just said, painful, unwanted intrusive thoughts about your partner’s past. 

When you’re struggling with painful, unwanted intrusive thoughts, it’s easy to feel frustrated. 

And to almost “lash out” at the thoughts as they come up, or feel like you want to suppress them. Or you want to just try not to think about them.

You basically want to try anything you can to kind of “swat them away,” and suppress them as much as possible. But this does not work for a very simple and straightforward reason. 

I want you to try a little thought experiment. I want you to close your eyes with me. And try, as hard as you can, to not think of a pink elephant. Let’s just take a few moments, and try not to think of a pink elephant. Whatever you do, do not think of a pink elephant…

I don’t know about you, but I spent the past 10, 15, 20 seconds thinking about a pink elephant. You’re probably thinking about a pink elephant.

When you tell someone not to think of something, guess what they think of? When we try to not think of something, guess what we spend our time thinking about?

The mind is a funny thing. If we focus on not doing something, quite often, counterintuitively, we end up doing that thing that we’re trying to avoid doing. Or, in this case, thinking about that thing that we’re trying not to think about. 

This, in a nutshell, is why trying to suppress unwanted intrusive thoughts doesn’t work. 

Because in the act of trying to suppress the thought, you’re still feeding that thought with energy. You’re still subconsciously focusing on that thought, energizing that thought, even though you’re trying your best to suppress or avoid or ignore it. 

So this raises an interesting question: what to do instead?

Okay, Zach, you’re saying “Don’t suppress unwanted intrusive thoughts.” So how should I respond to unwanted intrusive thoughts?

I give you all kinds of tools in my online courses, in my e-book. And here, and on my YouTube channel, I’ve given many, many tools.

There are many options for dealing with painful, unwanted, intrusive thoughts. There are many options for you in these scenarios, but today, I’m just going to focus on one very briefly… 

So nowadays, everyone and their dog is extolling the virtues of meditation and or mindfulness practices. Everyone’s talking about meditation. There are all kinds of meditation apps. And many of your favorite celebrities are probably talking about the benefits of meditation. 

My intention is not to oversell meditation or mindfulness practices, but to encourage you to think of them as very powerful tools in your arsenal. 

dealing with intrusive thoughts

Especially when it comes to overcoming and dealing with unwanted intrusive thoughts, whether those thoughts are about your partner’s past or anything else. 

So when you build up some kind of meditation or mindfulness routine, it’s kind of like going to the gym.

If you go to the gym once, and you just work as hard as you can for an hour… It’s not going to create a miracle overnight. You’re not going to be shredded overnight, you’re not going to have a sexy six-pack overnight. It takes time; it takes cultivating the habit, putting in the hours consistently, before you start to see results. 

When it comes to experiencing the full benefits of any kind of meditation or mindfulness practice, consistency is what’s truly important. And it’s the same with working out. That’s why I tried to draw that example.

I think it’s far better to meditate or engage in some kind of mindfulness practice for five or ten minutes a day, every day, than it is to meditate for an hour or two a week. It’s much more important to be consistent, even if you only have a spare five minutes. Because when you embark on some kind of meditation or mindfulness routine, you’re getting many benefits from that routine, including stress reduction, reduction in anxiety… there are all kinds of benefits.

You start training your brain to observe thoughts, and note thoughts, but not respond to them. 

You train your brain to observe thoughts without energizing them. Essentially, observing thoughts almost like clouds in the sky; without feeding them with energy, without identifying with them, without latching onto them, without trying to suppress them.

Noticing, and then going back to your practice. And, you’re building up this habit of simply letting thoughts go rather than ignoring them, rather than trying to suppress them, rather than energizing them. 

dealing with intrusive thoughts

So I would encourage you to seek out some kind of basic mindfulness practice. Some kind of basic meditation routine.

If you want to go deep into mindfulness and meditation practices that are designed specifically for retroactive jealousy sufferers, I have a bunch of resources to offer.

I’ve got two premium online courses Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast and The Overcoming Jealousy Blueprint, with many guided meditations throughout those courses. 

Also, I’ve created two separate, audio-guided meditation series designed specifically for retroactive jealousy sufferers. These are Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations and Beyond Retroactive Jealousy: More Guided Meditations.

My basic recommendation is to try to find something, some practice, some kind of mindfulness routine that works for you. And above all, stay consistent with it. To my mind, this is one of the best ways that you can build up that muscle for overcoming unwanted, intrusive thoughts.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.