During the week, I have come across an interesting concept called “ Pink Elephant Paradox ”.
Let me ask you something ?;- Try imagining a pink elephant? Is it big or small? Hot pink or pastel pink? Does it look happy, sad, tired, or excited? Give your pink elephant as much detail as you can.
Now that you have got your pink elephant image clear in your mind, it is time to stop thinking about it. Think about any other topic for 30 seconds, and observe where your thoughts take you. How long did you last without the pink elephant creeping back into your mind?
For most of us, that pink elephant will appear back in our thoughts within seconds. The same is true of unwanted and intrusive thoughts: the more you try to suppress them, the more they will bother you. This is called the Pink Elephant Paradox.
What is the most facinating of this concept is that it tells us “Learning how to manage obsessive or intrusive thoughts can help us to avoid the associated pitfalls of negative emotions, distractibility, and poor decision-making”.
As writer Fyodor Dostoevsky
famously put it in Winter Notes on Summer Impressions: “Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute
Whether it’s a white bear, a pink elephant
, or any other thought, this psychological process whereby our deliberate attempts to suppress certain thoughts make them more likely to surface has been named “ironic process theory
” by scientists.
For example, when your life hits a bump in the road, family or friends may recommend that you “just stop thinking about it”. However, their advice to suppress your thoughts could paradoxically serve only to strengthen your intrusive thoughts. The Pink Elephant Paradox can not only intensify intrusive thoughts, but it can also impact the way we think, feel and make decisions. You have probably experienced this phenomenon if you have ever felt more distracted or less productive at work because of a ruminating thought or unresolved issue.
Without mindfulness, the opportunity to address difficult thoughts or feelings does not arise, and instead, we attempt to suppress the emotions. This attempt at suppression, rather than acknowledgment, feeds into the Pink Elephant Paradox, causing the thoughts to become intrusive.
Have a great week ahead
PS: Brain Trust :
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