Minds go searching for what we don’t want

You ask someone, “How are you?” they may reply, “Not bad.” People tend to tell you how they are not, rather than how they are. Many of us communicate in similar ways. I’ll show you what I mean.

Say to yourself: “Don’t think of pink elephants.” You’ll find yourself thinking of pink elephants. Don’t is a negation in the English language. It’s processed as a nonword and not heard by our mind. So all our mind hears is what follows: “Don’t think of pink elephants.”

How many times have you put something away for safe keeping so nobody would find it, and when you wanted it again you couldn’t remember where you put it? We usually tell ourselves, “Don’t forget where I’ve put this.” Now you know why you can’t find it. Your mind only heard you say, “Don’t Forget where I’ve put this.”

Whenever you or somebody you know feels anxious about entering the dating game again after a break-up, divorce or death, we may tell ourselves, “I don’t want to be stressed. I don’t want to worry. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to screw up.” However, our mind only hears: “I don’t want to be stressed. I don’t want to worry. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to screw up.” This is the last thing any of us wants to happen. It’s like going to the meat counter in your supermarket and telling the butcher, “I don’t want hamburger. I don’t want liver. I don’t want oysters.”
“Well,” he may huffily ask, “What the hell do you want then?”

Many parents and coaches believe they’re helping their son or daughter who’s struggling to throw a baseball or softball when they advise, “Don’t think. Just throw the ball.” Parents also believe they are helping their child who may be walking on a precarious hillside or climbing a tree by saying, “Don’t fall.” That doesn’t necessarily translate into the child falling because he or she usually believes: “I’m fine. I know what I’m doing. I do this all the time. Mom is always worried and overprotective of me.”

If only the parents followed their kids all day long and saw what they were doing, they would have a heart attack! Remember what you did as a kid?
You can see how your mind will go on a search for whatever you tell yourself you don’t want. It’s that simple. So what can you do?
The key word to keep in mind for your outcome is “Intention.”

Instead of being stressed, worried, upset or scared, be clear about your intentions. You may view your intention as your wish list, your goal of what you actually want even though up until now you think such positive intentions are too difficult to achieve. That’s normal. You can either let the negative, worrisome thoughts run you as they have or let those upsetting thoughts become triggers to remind you to become conscious of asking yourself, “What is my intention?” “What do I want?”

So it may go like this:

My intention is to have fun getting back to dating. My intention is to get a well-paying job I will enjoy. My intention is to remember where I’ve put this so I can find it when needed. My intention is to tell my child to be careful and mindful when in precarious situations.
Does it mean if you made it your intention and it didn’t happened immediately or at all that you should abandon using it as your new intention mantra? Of course not!

You may begin to see situations that are going in the direction of your intention. It may not happen exactly like you think it should, but your mind takes your intent and may present it to you in a manner different than what you expected. It’s the key to the positive outcomes you are seeking, including your hopes and dreams.

Dr. Richard Crowley is a sports psychologist and author. Email questions and suggestions to doc@imagineallbetter.com.

Warriors roar back to win behind a Looney performance

Golden State takes 2-0 lead against Dallas in Western Conference Finals