Our Minds

Or… how to Eradicate Irrational Thought Processes

The Mind is… malleable

Your Consciousness is… aware

Your thoughts define how you want to be

With that in mind, it might seem that your thoughts might lead to an awareness of things not being right, and then a desire to do something about those thoughts less the mind goes into a state of nothingness, despair, depression as your consciousness determines the awareness that you have.

This is termed rabbit hole thinking! You can end up spiralling down into a deep abyss of despair, sadness and possibly confusion with little true realisation as to how you got there; or at least some realisation. This realisation can be all consuming, and you find yourself looking for ways to quell these feelings.

Had the feelings not manifested in the first instance, through your thoughts, then you might not be where you are now.

This is a huge clue in a quest for a truly magical mindset.

What is happening? How is it different from say a week ago when you weren’t in this mindset?

What is different?

You feel you do not have the power over your thoughts.

So you seek external ways to validate or invalidate the abyss you’re now in. The dangers of addictive behaviour, self-harm, further rabbit holes of despair may now take hold.

And yet … all it took was as thought.

Think about that. Come up the hole and think about where that thought came from and how it manifested.

Yes, it was YOU. No one else but you.

And that’s a great realisation because now YOU know you have the power to change that thought, through a different mind-set. After all, if the mind is malleable then clearly it can change. And with that malleability and changed mind-set comes a different awareness.

But how?

You will need to go back to the basics of WHO you are, WHAT you enjoy and HOW you go about including those things into your daily life.

Make a list now of who you think you are, and don’t hold back. Include all the values you have in life and mark them off, thinking about how they impact or resonate with you on a daily basis.

If you’re looking for more along this “wavelength” some of which ties in with the Three Principles, then try this little book; read every sentence carefully and allow the words to sink in:


What happens to your relationship when you bring a child into the world?

Having a child is one of the single most amazing experiences you can have yet it can attract additional emotional challenges – not only to you but your relationship with your partner and how your relationship develops with your child and the bigger picture. The unconditional love you have for your child may threaten your relationship.

Some parents are “blessed” with a highly spirited or high need child. A child who sleeps badly, refuses food, and generally resists any form of “instruction”, wanting to do everything their way. Any “interference” is tantamount to controlling, and they resist at every turn. And when we see our child wanting to control the situation this may highlight our own need for control; after all, as the parent or guardian we know what we need to do, the plan of action and we simply need our child to fall into line.

What about those last minute scrambles to get your child into the car in time so you can get to school / nursery / pre-school? Or getting their laces tied / shoes buckled so you can walk out of the door in good time? Getting their hair combed with no tears?

I have been there, as have many other parents. As a result of these battles we find ourselves questioning our ability as a parent and wonder where we went wrong, seeing other peoples’ well-behaved children and these parents going on about how wonderful their children are, no wonder we may – at times – feel a failure.

There are many things you can do as a parent of a highly spirited child, but it would be wrong of me to suggest that one size fits all. The most important thing to remember is that we, like every person on this plant, is learning to navigate and find our way in the world, learning how to behave, how to fit in and how to make the most of our existence on earth. Children are no exception, it is simply that some are more immediately in tune with what’s going on, or are more laid back, others want to know everything, plan everything, in their own special way. They don’t call it the “terrible twos” for nothing (perhaps the terrible two’s is just a phrase for referring to the time at which most children start to exert their independence – some are simply more determined than others).

If you would like to meet with me and connect over a parenting issue – and I also touch on extended breastfeeding which has been in the news lately – please be assured you will receive a warm, non-judgemental welcome and together we can work out ways in which *you* can feel supported in your parenting decisions, finding effective ways to communicate with your highly spirited child, whatever the age and find some solutions that work for you.

In the meantime, here is some recommended reading.


Writing a page on motherhood can seem odd.  After all, becoming a mother is the most wonderful job of all, right?

Not necessarily.  Firstly the addition of another member of the family can be absolutely joyful, this is true.  If your baby is born healthy, the needs of your infant become clear once you leave the hospital if your baby was born there, or once the midwife has left you to it.  If you have a high need baby it can throw your world and the relationship with your spouse / partner into new-found territory.  If you are breastfeeding you may wonder how it works, whether you’ve enough milk, whether the baby is full (the baby wants breastfeeding *again*?) and why your baby wakes so often?

Clearly if your baby is well-adapted, eating and sleeping healthily and your relationship is just enhanced by the arrival of your newborn, then you won’t be reading this page, but imagine if you could have that lifestyle?  If your baby has additional needs or is born with a physical or mental handicap, then there may be other resources better suited to your needs.

People who know me realise that I am not a fan of the cry-it-out routine.  Many books have been written on the subject – “teach baby to learn” to do without you.  It’s a behavioural technique that works, after all.  The issue I have is that it does “teach baby to learn” to do without you.  Is that healthy or wise?  This can lead to a condition known as  “learned helplessness“.

Personally I feel attachment theory is what all new parents might learn about even before they consider adding to their family.  Richard Bowlby, son of John Bowlby has been furthering the theory after his father passed on and considers the potential of attachment theory to eliminate many mental health conditions, even going as far as to suggest it could halt or prevent alzheimers, although this is impossible to prove since alzheimers has many potential causes.  An interesting debate nonetheless, making it even more important to try as far as possible to get “parenting right” as far as we possibly can within the constraints of our lives and relationships.

If you need help with your baby, breastfeeding and knock-on effect on the relationship, contact me.  I have experience personally and academically in the area of attachment theory and baby bonding.

Just Let Go!

Do you know what it feels like when people constantly tell you to “let go” of your struggles?

You know when your head is just filled with different ways of trying to solve those emotional problems?

Wouldn’t you just love to find a way to actually “let go” of those struggles but you don’t know how?

I totally get that sometimes stuff just goes round your head as you struggle to understand and solve a particular issue in your life, whether it’s a relationship struggle, a career or work struggle or a struggle in the home.  Sometimes these issues can get stuck in your head and body and sometimes lead to real physical pain in your body.

Let me help you find a way to break through the buzz and the pain, let go of the struggle and find peace and clarity in your life.  Contact me today for a no obligation free 20 minute phone call to see how I can help you move forwards!

The five stages of grief

Five stages of grief – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
EKR stage Interpretation
1 – Denial Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It’s a defence mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored. Death of course is not particularly easy to avoid or evade indefinitely.
2 – Anger Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset.
3 – Bargaining Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the person believes in. People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can we still be friends?..” when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.
4 – Depression Also referred to as preparatory grieving. In a way it’s the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the ‘aftermath’ although this stage means different things depending on whom it involves. It’s a sort of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness and regret, fear, uncertainty, etc. It shows that the person has at least begun to accept the reality.
5 – Acceptance Again this stage definitely varies according to the person’s situation, although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must necessarily pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.

How to heal your Relationship

Healing the Cycles that Tear Couples Apart [click the title for the original link]

Learn how to identify, understand, and heal negative relationship patterns

Published on November 13, 2012 by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express

Respect and intimacy are the foundation on which loving relationships are built. Without such safety and connection, there can be no trust; without trust, we lose the ability to be playful, spontaneous, and joyful The following are common issues in relationships that, if unaddressed, can kill love and happiness. For each relationship-ruining issue below, I explain what it is, why it is a problem, why we do it, and what we can do instead to heal and repair this issue. When people have the courage to look at these patterns, admit their own contribution, and are willing to change and put their relationships first, even the most difficult relationship problems can be healed.

(1) Lack of Trust


Inability to trust our partners may take many forms, including feeling that they are being dishonest or hiding something from us, not trusting them to be reliable and consistent, and available when we need them, fearing they may take advantage of us, not trusting their values as human beings, or not feeling safe to express who we really are in our relationships.

Why We Do It

People may get married because they see something desirable in their partner that they don’t have in themselves, rather than because of common values. Over time, one or both partners may grow in confidence, or their needs may change, making them less willing to put up with the difference in values. Charm wears thin when our partners never help wth the dishes! Jealousy has its basis in personal insecurity and fear of abandonment. We try to control our partners so they won’t find someone better and leave us. People who have been abused as children or hurt in previous relationships, will find it difficult to trust and let themselves be open to a partner’s love. Negative communication cycles can erode feelings of trust and safety.

Why It Is a Problem

According to marital intimacy researcher Arthur Aron, Ph.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, the most loving relationships help people to expand themselves, by providing support for exploration, learning, and growth, bringing in passions and interests that broaden each other’s worlds, and encouraging spontaneity and reasonable risk-taking. However, lack of trust does the opposite – it makes our worlds smaller as we try to control our partners or subjugate our needs to theirs. When people don’t share the same fundamental values, or when we can’t trust our partners to be stable sources of attachment, insecurity and fear begin to dominate the relationship.


Lack of trust becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading us behave in ways that alienate and anger others. When we inadvertently push away other people, we are not able to receive the genuine love they may have to give us.

What To Do Instead

Determine if you think the lack of trust is due to the way your partner has acted in the past or your own issues, or both? How much are you able to trust yourself? If you can’t trust yourself, what gets in the way – insecurity, an unhealed wound, an addiction problem, depression, or something else? If there are specific things your partner has done to erode your trust, it is important to begin talking about these in a non-blaming way. If necessary, decide what behaviors are unacceptable to you and set reasonable limits with your partner. If you are suppressing important parts of yourself to accommodate your partner, it is important to acknowledge your unmet needs and work with your partner to find a solution that allows them in. Therapy is often necessary to help repair injuries due to affairs, addictions, or other forms of unavailability, instability, and control.

(2) Blaming and Fixing


Attributing responsibility for some bad outcome to our partner. May also include thinking we have a better way of doing things or we know how they need to change, and trying to “fix” them.

Why We Do It

When something goes wrong, our brains automatically look for the cause and try to correct it. This probably gave us an evolutionary advantage in enhancing our ancestor’s chances of surviving with threats of hunger and predators. Lack of control also makes many people feel unsafe. Blaming and trying to fix our partners are ways of trying to have more control over important outcomes in our lives.

Why It Is a Problem

Most problems are multifaceted, and don’t have one linear cause. For example, a person may not find a high-paying job, despite his/her best efforts because of geographic location, age, or economic conditions. Our partners may not actually be doing anything wrong. Also, some characteristics of a person, such as introversion, intelligence, emotional sensitivity, or energy level are relatively stable, biologically built-in, and unchangeable. We may be viewing the issue through the lens of our own distortions, and our partner may have a different perspective. Blaming people often leads them to respond by defending their actions, counterattacking, or withdrawing. This creates a negative cycle of miscommunication, anger, and hurt.


Blaming interactions can lead to what couples researcher, Sue Johnson, calls “Demon Dialogues,” – negative communication cycles in which people get stuck trying to be “right,” and the real underlying needs for connection, safety, or influence don’t get addressed. For example, in “Find the Bad Guy,” the couple gets stuck trying to prove that the other partner acted badly.

What To Do Instead

Take a good hard look at your own actions and assumptions, and how they may have, intentionally or unwittingly, contributed to the problem. Take full responsibility for your own contributions – be they miscommunication, unrealistic expectations, letting anger leak out, or being unsupportive. If you feel your partner’s actions hurt you in some way, communicate this gently, using “I” statements and speaking about your own feelings and needs that were not met, rather than what your partner “should” have done. Make requests, not demands.

Criticism and Putdowns


Making negative comments about our partner’s looks, desirability, character, or competence. Name-calling or other disrespectful ways of talking to our partner.

Why We Do It

There are many potential reasons that people criticize their partners. They may have learned this way of relating in their families and not realize the effect they are having. At a deeper level, people who are narcissistic tend to fear intimacy and therefore are vigilant for faults in their partner that may reflect badly on them, or indicate they made the wrong choice. Other times, people may hold onto unspoken anger, which can leaks out in the form of barbed comments. Those who are untrusting or who fear abandonment, may use criticism and putdowns to control their partners, so they (the partners) are less likely to assert themselves or leave.

Why It Is a Problem

Putdowns and criticism erode self-esteem and trust. Everybody has weaknesses. Loving somebody means understanding why a person is the way they are, and supporting their self-esteem and personal growth. Love also means seeing and appreciating strengths, rather than a constant focus on faults.


Researcher John Gottman describes “criticism” and “character assassination’ as two of the four “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” that, if not healed, predict the doom of a relationship. Based on research with early-married couples, the frequency of these types of interactions in a videotaped discussion predicted marital breakup 10 years later!

What To Do Instead

Practice compassion and tolerance. Learn mindfulness or seek psychotherapy to help you begin to let go of what you can’t control. If there are things we don’t like about our partners, we can think about what happened in the person’s life to make them act that way, and the hurt child that often lies underneath our partner’s anger. It helps to refocus on fixing ourselves and meeting our own needs, so we are less reactive to these aspects of our partner or can provide compassionate support for growth.

Emotional Distance


Couples don’t communicate about the feelings and needs that are most important to them. Alternatively, they substitute ‘secondary” emotions, such as anger, for the real, vulnerable emotions underneath. They may also respond to the partner’s attempts to ask for change by shutting down, acting passive-aggressively, or side-tracking the conversation to get away from feelings.

Why We Do It

Nobody likes to be vulnerable, especially if we feel that our deepest feelings and needs won’t be heard and respected by our partners. Alternatively, one partner may not know how to respond when his/her partner communicates unhappiness. We may respond by trying to “fix” the problem, rather than listening empathically. People who experienced early loss, abuse, or parental unresponsiveness, may be uncomfortable with their own or other people’s emotions and fearful of intimacy.

Why It Is a Problem and Consequences

Emotional distance can cause each partner to doubt his/her needs can ever be met. Couples begin to feel “like roommates” or lead separate lives, with communication focused only on errands and logistics. Sexual intimacy can erode, and feelings of hurt and loneliness emerge. One or other of the couple may try to get their needs met in other ways – such as through over-focusing on parenting the kids, social status, substance abuse, working all the time, or affairs. Eventually, the couple may separate.

 What To Do Instead

Rebuilding emotional intimacy begins with a willingness to be authentic with oneself and one’s partner. It also involves a courageous readiness to change; to give up certain habitual patterns we may have relied on for most of our lives. Couples therapy can be especially helpful in diagnosing destructive patterns and teaching new ways of relating. Sometimes, one or both partners need individual therapy to address issues of mistrust, early emotional deprivation, trauma, or feelings of defectiveness. Restoring sexual intimacy involves making it a priority and seeing it as a way of getting both people’s needs met, rather than satisfying one partner at the expense of the other. This involves restoring trust, safe communication and focus on different ways of expressing intimacy.

Final Words

Those hurtful interactions in which people tear each other down or shut each other out, build up a reservoir of anger and injury, which, if not healed, will eventually destroy relationships. In my therapy work with couples, one or more of these problems is almost universally present The good news is that we now have effective techniques to diagnose and heal negative relationship cycles and the insecure styles of attachment, traumas, or negative patterns of viewing the world that contribute to them

About The Author

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, and expert on Mindfulness, Attachment. & Relationships with expertise in the Gottman approach and Emotion-Focused Therapy for couples. Dr Greenberg provides workshops and speaking engagements for organizations and nonprofits, and coaching and therapy for individuals and couples in person or via skype.

Visit Melanie’s website:


Read the Psychology Today blog & personal blog



How to relax – free download!

Passive Relaxation Script [click here to apply for a free recording by Kate]

Description: Passive relaxation script symbolized by a relaxed womans face This free passive relaxation script was written to induce a state of total mind-body relaxation. It’s a perfect prelude to a guided meditation and takes about 7-9 minutes to read aloud.

Read it calmly and slowly and you’ll find that anyone within earshot will quickly begin to sink into a very relaxed state of mind indeed.

Find yourself a quiet place to sit. Turn off your phone and dim the lights. This is your time.

A time for total relaxation and inner stillness.

Take a moment to make sure that you are warm enough, and that you are seated comfortably. Rest your hands loosely in your lap. Now close your eyes.Take a long slow, deep breath in…hold it for a moment, and then slowly exhale.

Just allow any tension to melt away as you gradually relax more and more deeply with each breath.Take another long slow, deep breath in…hold it, and then exhale. Empty your lungs completely with your out-breath.Take a third deep breath in. Take your time. Hold it for a moment, and then let it go. You can already feel yourself drifting into a state of deep relaxation.

Continue to breathe slowly and gently as you bring your awareness to the top of your head. Just sense or imagine a feeling of relaxation beginning to spread down from the top of your scalp…. feel the muscles in your forehead and temples relax.

Allow your eye muscles to release. Let your cheeks and jaw soften and let go of all tension.

Now let this peaceful feeling flow down into your neck. Feel it loosening every muscle and every fibre. With each breath you take, this relaxing feeling becomes deeper and warmer. It works its way deep into the muscles in your shoulders…soothing them…releasing them.

This peaceful feeling flows down from your shoulders and into your arms. It loosens the muscles in your upper arms…your forearms…your hands…relaxing and soothing…all the way to the tips of your fingers.As your body relaxes, your mind relaxes, and your thoughts seem to become lighter. You are slipping further and further into a dreamlike state of stillness and relaxation.Now, bring your awareness to your chest and your stomach.

Feel how this area of your body gently rises and falls as you breathe.

The peaceful sensation flows throughout this area of your body, soothing every muscle and relaxing every organ. You can feel it releasing every last molecule of tension.Turn your attention to your upper back, and feel this relaxing sensation flow all the way down your spine. As it gradually works its way down your body, feel every muscle in your back relax and unwind. Feel that your entire upper body has become loose, limp and relaxed.

Sink into this serene sensation. Relax more and more deeply with each breath.Now feel your hips relax as the peaceful feeling starts to work its way through your lower body. Relax your buttocks…the backs of your thighs…the front of your thighs.

Feel all these large, strong muscle groups becoming looser and more relaxed with each passing moment.Soothing feelings of relaxation flow down through your knees, and into your calves. Your ankles relax. Now your feet relax.

Allow your entire lower body to relax completely, and allow any remaining tension from anywhere in your body to flow out through the tips of your toes.

You are comfortable, peaceful and relaxed.

Taken from

Also check out this site


What does it mean to you to feel “whole”?

Perhaps it’s not all it’s cracked up to be! Read on for some thoughts that I found whilst doing some research online – is it healthy to be completely “autonomous”, or are we creatures in a social world with thoughts and feelings that are affected and effected by others?  What do you think?  You may be looking for therapy because you find yourself continually impacted by others in your world thus leading you to make decisions that are neither right nor healthy for you.  I found the article below fascinating and it looks – in the main – at narcissism.

The result of pervasive narcissism is a new myth – that each person must be a whole unto him – or herself, autonomous and fulfilled without needing anything from others, before being able to be in a relationship. A healthy person, though, cannot be totally separate from others. Autonomy is a relative state requiring another person with whom we establish boundaries. Without others, there is no autonomy, only isolation.

There appears to be a contradictory tendency for narcissists to search for individuality at all costs and yet be unable to live outside of a continuing state of fusion, according to Andreas-Salome (1962). That apparent contradiction is seen as a basis for a myriad of relationship problems. It is not a love of oneself that causes problems in relationship but the remnant of narcissism inappropriately responded to, which leads to a development of unrealistic defences to protect vulnerable, frightened selves. This can be reinforced by a cultural milieu that encourages expendable relationships in service of material success. The result is a two-pronged assault on a basic human need to love and be loved. Family and relationship therapy seems to have been distorted into an attitude of self above all.

Values in marriage have changed drastically over the years – previously it was seen as an economic and social arrangement designed to give families the best chance of survival. Marriage choices were made on the basis of what each partner could bring to the union. Nowadays marriage is portrayed as being held together by the strength and significance of the couple’s interpersonal relationship.

Nevertheless gender differences are alive and well. Men and women value marriage pretty much equally although men tend to fare “better” in marriage than women – with more women purporting to be unhappy or dissatisfied than their male counterparts. Women “do” emotional attachments differently compared to men, with men enjoying the heroic pursuit of power and achievement.

Add into the mix the emergence of women’s liberation, the stress of equal power, men in the home and women holding down full time jobs whilst raising a family, no wonder as a society we seem confused.

Men are confused as to whether they want a wife to take care of them or an economic helpmate. Do they discuss their confusion? Women – wondering what men actually want, start to believe that men’s requests are unreasonable. They want nurturing and caretaking without commitment. They want women to be strong and able to take care of themselves and at the same time desire women who are submissive and accommodating, who will also listen to their problems and be supportive. Tired couples come home at the end of the day, face chores, dinner, children – and then find themselves saying “what about me?” And because of this situation, many women have less time and energy or even inclination to provide emotional support to the men in their lives. It could be argued that women carry at least as heavy if not heavier burden than men. The goals of women’s liberation may be admirable, yet economic and social equalities have tended to add burdens rather than discover new resolutions.

Despite apparent differences in overt social functioning, people tend to marry those who are at the same basic level of personality differentiation, but with opposite patterns of defensive organisation. When such an experience is re-enacted, a person who experienced early rejection or abandonment may choose a mate whose enmeshed family was engulfing. The former desires greater closeness in a relationship whilst the latter struggles for more separateness. Each then re-enacts what is known. Old patterns are repeated because the known – however unsatisfying – is more comfortable than the unknown and therefore less dangerous. One partner may desperately wish that the other would be more responsive but gives no sign of such neediness for fear of shameful exposure. Many never learned the basic skill of communicating needs in early parent-child interactions. A mate then sees only the perfect façade of narcissistic defence. On may seek admiration and appreciation – and when not forthcoming experiences feelings of emptiness and deflation. Another may seek understanding and acceptance, and when deprived of it may feel frustration and anger. Narcissistic collusive patterns such as these can underlie other more superficial issues such as money worries, children’s problems, sexual dysfunction and so on. Projective defences allow the possibility of splitting off internalised, unacceptable impulses and hand them over to a mate who is more willing to accept them.

Cultural messages enforce a viewpoint that suggests that it is wise for an individual to avoid extended dependence on parents or a spouse. Thus, separation from one’s family of origin is seen as a step forward in the development of a mature ability to form intimate relationships. The importance of one’s independence and self-esteem is a basic tenet of our society, but it makes little sense to work towards separation and differentiation exclusively when the whole purpose of an intimate relationship is mutuality and interdependence. Partners who are free to accept and understand each other’s infantile needs are also free to support each other’s search for individual satisfaction. A mature desire for another to function as an extension of the self, if limited in duration and coupled with realistic expectations of reciprocity, is a normal aspect of a relationship in our culture. It is important to recognise that adults continue to have certain childlike needs. Some needs, such as the desire for empathy, affirmation and nurturing, are never fully outgrown.

Taken from : Narcissim and Intimacy, by Marion Solomon. ISBN 978-0-393-30916-4

Are your thoughts dictating your life?

Do you feel the need to control your thoughts and feelings?  Does it actually work?

Here’s what I believe…. [essentially believe and trust in your process!! But dear reader, read why I think this]

Life feels very different today in the UK and many other westernised societies compared to 50, 100 or more years ago.  Survival rates from serious health issues are improving year on year, babies who might have died from birth complications are now surviving, we do not fear war.  We are living in fortunate times.  This also compares starkly to other countries over the world who live in daily fear of war, terror, famine and disease.

So why in our civilised society do we persistently try to control our thoughts and feelings?  Why are therapeutic groups springing up teaching us about mindfulness, being in the moment and allowing our thoughts and feelings to simply be and then allow them to be released?  Perhaps as a recent article in The Psychologist suggests, thought suppression doesn’t work.

Research over the past twenty years asserts that actively trying to suppress thoughts and feelings can have unexpected consequences (Erskine and Georgiou, 2011).  The thought that you are trying to avoid will become more prevalent and if the thought concerns a behaviour then the likelihood is that you will want to engage with that behaviour.  It is asserted that avoidance makes one less able to control what one thinks and does.

So how often have you tried to resist something because you were afraid you might actually do it?  Perhaps you fantasise about someone and as much as you try to push that person from your thoughts, the more you think about that particular person.  If you happen to be on a diet, thoughts of chocolate are never far from your mind… so in an effort to suppress those thoughts, you end up being propelled to break the diet.  Thought suppression can be our own worst enemy, according to Erskine and Georgiou.

Thought suppression is the act of deliberately trying to rid the mind of unwanted thoughts (Wegner, 1989).  Research shows that this behaviour often results in an increased return of an unwanted thought, in a “rebound effect”.  An example – after watching a disturbing news item it may be a desire to suppress thoughts about the footage but the result is that I may become obsessed with it instead.  There are instances of people in everyday life who blurt out things that they are trying to suppress.  Is it possible that someone suppressing thoughts about a particular behaviour will paradoxically be more likely to engage in that behaviour later?  Suppressing thoughts about an attractive individual is not to avoid thinking about this person but to avoid acting on these thoughts.

Wegner’s ironic process theory (1994) suggests that when people try to suppress thoughts this activates two distinct processes.  First there is an operating process that tries to create the desired state of mind; this acts to seek out contents that are in agreement with the desired state (anything other than the suppressed item).  This is a conscious and thought out process which can render thought suppression hard work.  So when suppressing thoughts of craved food, we will seek out other less dangerous thoughts to distract ourselves.  The suggestion is that suppression sets in operation another more automatic process (monitoring).  This is a continual search for thoughts that one has failed the suppression task, which means one is continually looking for the suppressed thought.  Paradoxically this has the effect of sensitising the mind to the very thought one is seeking to avoid – in other words, raises the activation level of the suppressed thought.  This then makes it *more* likely that thought suppression directly leads to the suppressed item to gain activation (Klein, 2007, Wegner & Erber, 1992).

How many times have you picked up something fragile saying to yourself “I must not drop this” or carried a hot mug of tea “I must not spill this” and ended up spilling or knocking the fragile item in some way?

For more information check out The Psychologist, vol 24, no 11, pp824-827 (or click here)