A PERSON THINKS a negative thought and tries to get rid of
it, that person is thinking positively negatively. Daniel
M. Wegner of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, has conducted
a long string of experiments that show the futility and actual
danger of trying to get rid of thoughts.
In some of the experiments, Wegner told
his subjects, Try not to think about a white bear.
The subjects were then asked to say aloud everything that came
to mind. Of course, thoughts of white bears showed up quite a
bit. Trying not to think of a white bear produced a thought
of a white bear between six and fifteen times in a five-minute
Trying not to think a negative thought
will result in thinking it more.
Thinking is like breathing: It goes on
night and day and you cant stop it. But you can
change it. You can breathe slowly and deeply or shallowly and
quickly. You can breathe any way you want. But you cant
The same is true about thinking. You can
say something stupid or depressing to yourself; you can say something
intelligent or inspiring to yourself; but you cant stop
So when you find yourself disliking the
content of your thoughts, instead of trying to stop yourself
from thinking a thought, try to direct your thoughts.
And the way to direct your thinking is
by asking yourself a question. A question gets your mind
going in a new direction without suppressing what youre
already thinking. Ask yourself a question.
Of course, the kind of question
you ask makes a big difference. If you ask Why is this
happening to poor me? your answers wont help you
The idea is to direct your mind by asking
questions that put your attention on practical things, on accomplishment,
on the future. If you find yourself worrying, for example, ask
yourself something like this: How can I make myself stronger
and better able to deal with this? Or Can I get busy
right now working on my goal so busy I forget all about
my worries? And if not, is there some planning I can do now that
will save me time later? Or even simply What is my
When you find yourself thinking negatively
about something bad that happened, ask yourself Whats
good about this? Or How can I turn this to my advantage?
Or What assumption have I made that I can argue with?
Ask a good question.
When you decide on a question to ask yourself,
ask the question and keep asking. Ponder it. Wonder about
it. Let it run through your mind whenever your mind isnt
otherwise engaged. It will turn the tide of your thoughts and
bring you into a new state of mind because youre thinking
Direct your mind by asking yourself
a good question.
what qualifies as a good question
thinking works best under what conditions?
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