Have you ever noticed that the more we try not to think about something, the more we think about it? Sometimes we try to forget an embarrassing or painful memory, but it keeps coming up.
This is something social psychologist Dr. Wegner studied after he came across this quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
Dr. Wegner experimented on two groups of people. He asked them to talk about whatever they were thinking, but:
1. He told one group to think about a white bear.
2. He told the other group not to think about a white bear for the first 5 minutes, and then to think about it.
He found that the second group thought about the white bear at least once a minute at first, when they were trying not to think about it.
After the 5 minutes, the 2nd group thought more often about the white bear than the 1st one!
When we try not to think of something, there’s a part in our minds that checks every now and then to make sure we’re not doing it. This, ironically makes the thought come up.
Use a distractor: When you focus on something else, suppressing unwelcome memories is easier.
Think about it later: Studies show that if people set aside a specific time in the day to worry, they worry less during the day. Putting off your unwanted thoughts can be useful like that!
Don’t multitask: If you’re under a lot of mental pressure, you have more negative thoughts.
Think about it, but control it: If you think about unwanted thoughts just a little, chances are they stay away for much longer.
Meditation: This helps you have better control of your psyche!
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