Is it possible to avoid unwanted thoughts? - Livescience.com

Is it possible to avoid unwanted thoughts? - Livescience.com

Is it possible to avoid unwanted thoughts? - Livescience.com
Oct 02, 2022 1 min, 43 secs

People's thoughts are far less focused — and under far less control — than most people imagine, said Joshua Magee, a clinical psychologist and founder of Wellness Path Therapy, who has conducted research on unwanted thoughts, images and urges in mental disorders.

In one famous 1996 study in the journal Cognitive interference: Theories, methods, and findings (opens in new tab) by study author Eric Klinger, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota, participants kept track of all their thoughts over one day?

And these thoughts were fleeting — lasting no more than five seconds each, on average. .

In the 1996 study, one-third of these thoughts seemed to pop up totally out of nowhere.

In a 1987 study (opens in new tab) conducted by Klinger and colleagues, people perceived 22% of their thoughts as strange, unacceptable or wrong — for instance, you might imagine yourself chopping off your finger while you're cooking, or dropping your baby as you carry them to their crib. .

In some situations, it makes sense to suppress these unwanted thoughts.

"We didn't find evidence that people can entirely avoid unwanted thoughts," study lead author Isaac Fradkin, who did the research as a psychologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Live Science.

Not everybody agrees that a slideshow of random words is a good way to tease out how people suppress thoughts laden with emotion, as Medical News Today (opens in new tab) reported.

"When we suppress a thought, we're sending our brains a message," Magee said.

"In essence, we're making these thoughts more powerful by attempting to control them." A 2020 analysis in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science (opens in new tab) of 31 different studies on thought suppression found that thought suppression works — in the short term.

In the end, it might make more sense to take a mindful approach to these unwanted thoughts and simply wait for them to pass rather than avoiding them — just like the thousands of other thoughts that drift through your head each day, Fradkin said.

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