Sometimes despite being told that our thoughts are untrue, we keep seeing evidence of our fears coming true. You may notice more things that can be used as weapons than anyone else. Your mind may keep giving you more ideas all the time about harming others. Your mind may give you more urges to hurt someone or not help someone with a view to hurting them. So, if you have so many ideas, feelings and urges about hurting others, how are you not an evil person? You ask why you shouldn’t believe what your mind tells you. You have the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon to blame.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also called the frequency illusion (Kluchka, 2021), is a way in which our minds play a trick on us and we begin to see more of what we have put our minds on. Like, if a girl is getting married, she would begin to notice bridal exhibitions, wedding venues, honeymoon destinations, and so on. Or, if you are planning to buy a laptop, you may begin to see laptop ads everywhere – in magazines, in newspapers or on billboards. It isn’t as if those cues did not exist before. It is merely that we begin to notice more of them when they are actively on our minds. Thus, we see what we seek. 

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is dominant in people with all forms of OCD including Harm OCD. You struggle to deal with the anxiety your intrusive thoughts bring. So, you try your best to avoid being triggered and the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon kicks in right there. Because paradoxically, what you want to avoid seeing is more dominant on your mind and you end up noticing more triggers. You see what you seek. So, even if you do a hundred good things, you would ignore them. But if you get a few intrusive harm thoughts that could have occurred to anyone else, you seem to notice more and consider them to be evidence that you are evil.

The trick is to look at everything you stand for and not just the intrusive thoughts you get and base your judgment about yourself on that. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is sneaky and takes hold without our realization. But when we do realize its occurrence, we can take active steps to disallow it from making us believe in our own irrationality.

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