This strategy has been around a long time, and never seems to go away. The premise is that you snap a rubber band on your wrist, or imagine a giant stop sign, or shout "stop", whenever you have an intrusive thought.
I have an early memory of being 8 or 9 and trying to stop thinking. I held my breath. I stood still. But I couldn't stop. I was baffled by this phenomenon. No matter how much I tried to make my mind blank, I could hear my thoughts of "Stop thinking. Have I stopped yet? Why am I still thinking?"
Thought Stopping sounds logical on the face of it. You have an intrusive thought. It makes you anxious. You want it to go away. You stop it. Except that I couldn't stop. It wasn't that I didn't try hard enough. It was that I tried too hard. Every time I jumped in to push the thoughts out, through figuring them out, rationalizing, analyzing, confessing them, researching them, websearching and other forms of distraction, cueing my relaxation exercises, my deep breathing or reassuring myself that it would be ok, the thoughts rebounded and came back even stronger.
If Thought Stopping worked, would anyone have OCD intrusive thoughts? We could just make them vanish with the snap on the wrist. Our minds are immensely creative and generative. All sorts of thoughts pop in, and if we just let them alone, they tend to pass. But if you have OCD it's a struggle to let them pass, and the initial wrestling with them does give a hit of anxiety relief, but then it's like signaling your brain that this thought is truly dangerous, so if it comes back, try to kill it, and the cycle continues.
I reclaimed a lot of my life back by doing Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy. I recorded scripts of the thoughts, and listened to them repeatedly until my anxiety level came down on its own. I had a therapist helping me to do this.
Hayes and his Action and Commitment Therapy colleagues have been researching the phenomenon of trying to make thoughts go away, and how it doesn't work. For a useful summary of ACT, Dr. Russell Smith has a good article: Simple Overview of ACT: To download a simple, non-technical, easy-to-read overview of ACT ( called 'Embracing Your Demons', an article he wrote for Psychotherapy Australia magazine) click here.