the pink elephant technique?


Well-known member
Just wondering if anyone has heard of the pink elephant technique or something similar for intrusive thoughts, because it helped me a bit with mine and made me feel a lot better about my OCD. Almost normal.

I saw my therapist about my OCD.

I've had OCD I think all my life to varying degrees. When I was a kid, it was really harmless stuff. I had to flick light switches on and off, say certain things a certain number of times, and I also personified my toys (I would feel bad for throwing stuffed animals because I may "hurt" them, and I had to make sure they were always on their backs so they could "breathe").

I was afraid of the dark until I was 11, which my parents were really concerned about. But really I wasn't afraid of the dark, what I was afraid of was my parents coming into my room and killing me in my sleep, but I felt too crazy to tell them this.

As I got older, I forced myself to stop those rituals. I told myself to grow up, and it kind of worked. I never did or thought any of those things again. But now I have a lot of intrusive thoughts. Most of them are about bad things happening to my loved ones. Them being killed, raped, kidnapped, injured in a car accident, etc. I also sometimes have thoughts of me myself harming them, even though I would never hurt them and love them all very much.

I told my therapist that sometimes I get images flashing in my head of me killing my cat. I love my cat and would never harm her, it's just intrusive thoughts ya know? I hate the thoughts but once they get in my head they just won't leave.

My therapist said he wanted to do an exercise. He told me to picture a pink elephant for 30 seconds. I did. Then he told me to picture the words: "Pink Elephant" in my head for another 30 seconds. Then he told me to imagine a pink elephant doing something, like dancing or whatever. So I did. Then he told me that for the next 30 seconds, I am not allowed to think of anything to do with a pink elephant. He said, "Think of something else for the next 30 seconds. Anything except for a pink elephant." I tried to think of something else, but for those 30 seconds, I couldn't NOT think of a pink elephant or the words.

He told me that the reason I couldn't think of anything besides a pink elephant was because the mind naturally wants to think of things it's not supposed to. He told me that almost everyone has OCD in some degree and that many people including himself have very common intrusive thoughts (like feeling an impulse to drive off a bridge when you pass one, or feeling an impulse to push someone onto the subway tracks when the train is coming). He said this is normal, but some of us have an excessive amount of intrusive thought, and more trouble controlling it than others do. In other words, it is my controlling of the thoughts that is the problem, not the thoughts themselves.

He then gave me a list he had of the most common intrusive thoughts people have. I can't remember all of them, but so many of them I thought to myself, "Wow, I think of that one."

Some of them were:

harming yourself
jumping off cliffs, buildings, etc
saying something rude to someone for no reason
sexual fantasies about people who find repulsive
harming a loved one or pet

when I saw this list, I just started sobbing uncontrollably. he asked why I was crying and I said because I thought I was crazy. he said, "And what have you realized from what we just talked about?" and I said, "That I'm not crazy."

it felt so good to say out loud and actually believe it.

sorry for the super long post, i hope this will help someone.


Well-known member
I'm reading a book at the moment and there's an experiment mentioned in it where the person has to think of white bears for two minutes, and keep count in a notebook each time the persons thought wanders to something else. Then the person has to think about anything other than white bears and again keep count each time the mind drifts to the white bears thought. What they found was that the more a person tries to ignore a thought the more the thought becomes intrusive.


Active member
I too suffer from some of those intrusive thoughts, so it's interesting to hear some theories on it. Thanks for sharing.


Well-known member
kateavary said:
I didn't read the whole post because I'm feeling a bit lazy considering it's five in the morning so I'm sure my input is unnecessary. I apologize.

When I saw my therapist we were talking about the intrusive thoughts and he told me to imagine the pink elephant, then to try and stop thinking about him. Of course, I couldn't. Then he told me to shift my awareness by meditating. I failed. Ha, that is the extent of my knowledge.
Hey not a problem. I always write WAY too much anyway whenever I post anything lol

How did you fail at it?

I'm not that great at meditating either.


Well-known member
kateavary said:
Well, meditation was nearly impossible because I can't just focus my awareness elsewhere. The intrusive thoughts are far too strong.
Yeah that happens I guess. I read a book that said the trouble lies in us trying to "force" ourselves to stay focused. I can't explain it well but you know what I mean? Like... "No! Don't be distracted! Focus!"... when really we should just allow ourselves to dwell on the distraction for a second, then gently bring the mind back to focusing on what you want it to. And do that as many times as it takes. Eventually your intrusive thought gets "bored," if that makes sense. Easier said than done IMO


New member
I suffer from some of those exact thoughts and it makes me so upset. That sounds like a good technique and I will try it. Thank you for posting this.