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August 20, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Personality

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I really want bad things to happen to me

Question:

I often find myself wanting something bad to happen to me, and I don't understand why. I've never had anything extremely bad happen to me; a few grandparents have died and my brother has cancer, but nothing seriously bad. Still, I imagine things happening and kind of enjoy imagining them happening to me, but they're everyday things that people really struggle with and I feel seriously sick at myself for it. I've felt like this for years, but not always as bad. When I was younger I'd just wish I could fall over and scab my knee, and as I've gotten older its more things like get in a car crash.

I have done some research and most people who are also feeling this way have a history of anxiety or depression, or have Bipolar Disorder, OCD, or Schizophrenia, but I've never suffered from any of these. Many people have reported that it was caused by the medication they were on, and I'm not on medication either. I always wonder if it's because I want attention, but when bad things do happen (i.e. we found out four or five months ago that my brother has stage 4 cancer), I do my best to keep it to myself. Only those who need to know will I allow to know. None of my friends or teachers in school have any idea, so I don't see why I personally would want something bad to happen to get myself attention because that's not how I react.

Why do you think I feel like this? Is there any way I can make myself normal?

Caer, 16 years old

Answer:

My dear, the answer is that you are normal. You have a particular habit of thought you don't want, but that doesn't make you sick or damaged. Also, why you fell into this unfortunate habit doesn't matter. The only important question is, what to do about it. It distresses you and you want it to stop, so we shall work on getting rid of your distress. If you didn't want this habit of thought to go away, then it wouldn't matter. Some kids fantasize about film stars, excelling in sports, electronic games, or whatever. You fantasize about having disasters happen to you.

There is a joke about how to have a wart fall off: You stand under the light of a full moon at midnight, and for one minute, do not think of the word "hippopotamus." Or, here is a challenge: do NOT think of what you had for breakfast today. The point is, the more you want something to go away, the more it bugs you. "I don't want to think this" is paying attention to it, and attention is a fertiliser that makes things grow.

The solution is to do the opposite: to allow the thoughts, rather than to fight them. "OK, I've imagined being in a car crash again. So what." Then you get busy with something you find interesting. You can carry this further by assigning a number to the thought. How strong and vivid is it, on a scale of 1 to 10? You may find that at the moment, it is quite strong. Let's say it's 7 out of 10, but when you try to send it away, the strength may increase until you can't think of anything else. If you give it permission to stay by saying, "It's there, so what," it will fade to perhaps 3.

In time, as you get good with your new habit of acceptance instead of struggle, it will run out of the fertiliser of attention, and one day you'll realise, "Hey, I haven't had a disaster thought in ages!" What's more, going through this process of training your mind will make you a stronger, more competent person for the rest of your life.

Give this a go. It takes at least two to three weeks of regular practice to acquire a new habit. At the end of that, please email me back and let me know how it's going.

Your new grandfather,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

For more information visit the site or contact information page on QueenDom.

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