Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why It's Hard to Control Your Thoughts

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why It's Hard to Control Your Thoughts

Article excerpt

Why do we keep thinking about something bad when we're determined not to think about it? Psychologist Daniel Wegner, Ph.D. uses the "theory of ironic mental control processes" to explain why, during times of stress, we have so much trouble controlling our thoughts.

Apparently, what happens is that while the "intentional operating process" in one part of our brain is looking for a distraction, the "ironic monitor" in another part is checking to make sure the unwanted thought is not intruding. During stress, however, the "ironic monitor" gains power and brings to mind all the things we don't want to think about.

The solution, says Dr. Wegner, is to give up trying to control your thoughts, especially when you're under stress. It's better to change your environment-go someplace else, be around other people. …

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