I’m having difficulty differentiating between my intentional thoughts and my unintentional ones at the moment. My fiancé says having intentional bad thoughts isn’t good, which I understand. Now, I feel like I am betraying him.
I also have thoughts which are vulgar and disgusting. At times, I can't stop these intrusive thoughts, and other times I dwell on them or put off contemplating them and thinking about them.
I think of something or action, and then find myself unable to tell whether it was intentional of me or not. It is causing great trouble thinking it is intentional. Please advise me.
In this counseling answer:
• Everyone gets intrusive thoughts every now and then. Even sexual ones.
• You may want to examine what exactly the thought content is, how often it occurs, how long it lasts, and how you feel during these intrusive thoughts.
• I kindly suggest that you seek out counseling if this becomes an ongoing problem.
Assalamu alaykum dear sister,
Thank you for writing to us and trusting us with your concerns. May Allah SWT bless you in your efforts to resolve your confusion regarding your thoughts. As I understand your situation you are concerned about intentional thoughts or thoughts that just pop up and are intrusive.
I’m not sure what kind of thoughts you are having, although you did say some are vulgar and you refer to these thoughts as intrusive. Thoughts that are intrusive do tend to just pop up. They are often random, cannot be stopped, and take over one’s thought process.
Some thoughts that come to us are related to something that we have experienced, conversated about, or things we’ve been through but put off thinking about. They may be related to a specific situation, conversation or experience, or they may be totally irrational and bizarre.
The point is, these thoughts are controlling and unresponsive to normal thought dismissal.
According to OT, everyone gets intrusive thoughts every now and then. For example, “you might be driving and wonder what it’s like to steer your car off the road. Or walking down the street and imagine a passerby naked. Despite how absurd these thoughts sound, they really do happen to everyone. But for people with OCD, these thoughts are repetitive and debilitating. They don’t happen once in a while, they’re constant.”
As you stated that some of your thoughts are vulgar and disgusting and that you have a fiancé, I am wondering if it is related to sexual desire and urges. If these are what you are experiencing, please know that thoughts of sexual intimacy or desire are normal, and they do come up as a result of our natural hormonal makeup as human beings.
In the context of normalcy, most people do have sexual thoughts. Sexual thoughts can come on their own (biology) or as a result of external factors.
Anxiety and OCD
Intrusive thoughts are usually related to anxiety or an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Based on your question, I’m not sure that this is what you are experiencing. You may want to examine what exactly the thought content is, how often it occurs, how long it lasts, and how you feel during these intrusive thoughts.
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If you are able to stop them by diverting your thinking, engaging in an activity, or otherwise stopping them, I would not worry. Some thoughts just dissipate if you ignore them and let them pass.
Everyone experiences unwanted or intrusive thoughts from time to time, but they pass. If they do not pass or you cannot stop them, I would kindly advise you to go for counseling to see if you do in fact have anxiety or another disorder which may be causing this.
Power of Suggestion
It seems that your fiancé has convinced you that the thoughts you’re having are not good and you feel as though you are betraying him. Please do understand, sister, that this is only his interpretation. That is only his reaction it does not mean it is a reality.
If, for instance, you are having thoughts about other boys and you told him of these thoughts, of course, he would feel they are purposefully bad thoughts. You love him; thus, you feel you have betrayed him. However, if this is the case, it is normal too as we are human.
Other people can appear attractive to us and fantasies occur. Again, forgive me if I am advising in the wrong topic of thoughts as I am not clear on the content.
Self-Thoughts Vs. Intrusive Thoughts
You state that when you think you’re doing an activity you don’t know if you thought about it intentionally or if it just came up like an intrusive thought. Again, it depends on the situation.
Say you are going to school and the thought comes up to stop at the store and buy a coffee and donut. Perhaps you are trying to limit your sugar and therefore, this is considered a disgusting thought. However, you do go and purchase the coffee and donut, which leads to guilt. Thoughts like this may have just come up.
However, it is an intentional thought because somewhere in your subconscious you do desire the coffee and donut. So, while it is something that you did think about, it was not readily available in your mind to associate with an intention.
Another example is if you are taking an exam and suddenly you can’t stop thinking about something vulgar and disgusting such as an animal being harmed or killed; it would truly be disturbing. This is an example of an intrusive thought as it just comes out of nowhere. It has no relation to the exam or to anything that you have seen or witnessed.
There are some cases, however, with people who have post-traumatic stress disorder where intrusive thoughts come from things that they have experienced. These experiences can be either one that is still remembered or ones that are subconscious.
Sister, as I don’t know your history in terms of trauma, mental health, or life stressors, I kindly suggest that you seek out counseling if this becomes an ongoing problem. Based on your brief question it appears that you ‘may’ have anxiety and it was exasperated through your fiancé’s statement.
Often when one is worried about something or doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, such as what you’re going through with your thoughts, a suggestion like your fiancé’s can only make it worse. It can turn into a type of obsession which is related to anxiety as well.
According to Psychology Today, “the very act of monitoring your thoughts for the absence of thought can make it occur more frequently. When someone becomes very distressed by their intrusive thoughts, goes to great lengths to get rid of them, and prevent them from occurring, this can become a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)”.
Sister, it is my feeling that you are experiencing a passing excessive worry (anxiety) due to your fiancé’s statement. However please do see a counselor if it continues so you can be assessed.
We wish you the best,
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.