Disarming Intrusive Thoughts

Disarming Intrusive Thoughts

Autistic Minds put on one of the most important events in the calendar for the neurodiverse. The charity is, without hyperbole, one of the most welcoming events I have ever attended. But – today, I didn’t walk away feeling like I’d done my best.

Let’s get a few things out of the way;

  • Wales is amazing. So many epic stories in my life have come from here.
  • Autistic Minds may be the nicest convention team in the UK.
  • The audience they pull in are fabulous, kind, invested and safe.

So why am I walking away from the event feeling I failed in one key part of my purpose for being there? It goes back to my talk. There was a part where an audience member was open about their mental health and spoke about the pull of intrusive thoughts. An incredibly brave statement and one I didn’t want to unpack to an audience. While I applaud the courage – it wasn’t my place to Dr Phil that.

Instead, I asked him to catch up with me afterwards. I’d planned to drive their attention to a stand in the upper part of the event, where the perfect people were there to address this. In that, I failed – because I went for coffee and cake almost immediately after getting off stage. Having just gone for 45 minutes, my brain was a bit fried and I needed a minute.

Unfortunately, despite making many laps of the event, I never saw the audience member again – and it has stuck with me. Most of my talk was talking about ‘sliding door’ moments, and I feel I may have operated the doors on one here. So, if by some chance they see this – here’s a quick slice of pie for how I handle intrusive thoughts.

For me, I de-escalate, disarm and and deconstruct with a simple word; kumquat.

In my experience, intrusive and armed feelings and thoughts have a different identity and can be almost picked out of a lineup from regular feelings and thoughts. My method for making them feel immediately less threatening was to attach a moniker to them, turning them into unserious and almost comical ones.

Kumquat is a ridiculous word. It just is – say it to yourself and try remain serious. You can’t, it tickles your own mind and you have to crack a smile. Nothing can be taken seriously when it’s a Kumquat. 

As I made laps of Cardiff City Stadium trying to locate the audience member, I hoped they had access to a support network. Being able to speak about the issue in a forum, to a guy they had never met before, made me feel they might. 

For anyone reading this who wants to put intrusive thoughts and feelings right into the ridiculous category – disarm them with a foolish word like Kumquat. It’s not the ultimate answer, nor am I qualified to give one. In my experience, however, just disarming them long enough to open up to a professional can make all the difference.

Be kind to each other, reach out to your people and just let them know you’re around. If blue shirt person ever sees this – I am sorry we didn’t catch up. I tried to find you. You are seen!

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Alex Watts

Leadership, Public Speaking... Video Games? Alex Watts brings you musings of an askew brain being fed dopamine from all angles. Will wax poetic about dogs, basketball, hip-hop, Batman and whatever the hyper-focus is that week.

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Alex Watts

Sprinkle some 90s pop-rock on nachos and consume while watching something Batman related. That’s the Alex Watts experience.

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