Myth 5. The more you think about something, the more likely it is to happen

At the heart of this myth is the belief that thinking about something can increase the likelihood of this event or make it more real.

Many people do not like negative thoughts, because they believe that the more such thoughts they have, the more negative events will occur in their lives. Some also believe that positive thoughts attract the positive.

Fact: this is a real misconception about what is actually known about thoughts. Psychologists call this myth a fusion of thoughts and actions (Rachman, 1993; Salkovskis, 1985), or a magical type of thinking. The fact is that a thought is not a message about what will happen in the future. In the same way, a thought is not a prediction or a warning of a coming tragedy or a monstrous act in the future. Thoughts don’t warn people about plane crashes, car accidents, or natural disasters. Thoughts cause premonitions; this is not an accurate forecast for the future. People tend to remember the few premonitions that came true, forgetting about the many cases when all the doubts and fears were not justified by subsequent events.

More importantly, thoughts can never provoke unwanted actions or events. Thoughts are not able to change the probability in the real world, move objects or harm living people. In addition, thoughts are not manifestations of your unconscious, which can one day break out and take over you if you lose your vigilance. The idea that someone might die doesn’t make them more likely to die; hypothetical thoughts about what it would be like to cheat on your partner don’t make you a cheater; sudden thoughts of fear do not increase the likelihood of a real threat or danger. Don’t mix thoughts and facts. Facts can be true or false. Thoughts are just thoughts. They are often based on guesses about the world around us and how it works. Thoughts themselves do not affect the world.

Thoughts don’t change the probability of events in the real world.

But you may have doubts: “If I have a negative thought, doesn’t that mean that I’m going to do more negative actions?ยป

Well, to some extent this is true. Sometimes your mood and motivation can change depending on what your thoughts and beliefs are. Here’s an example: if you think that a certain event will be exceptionally frightening, it will cause you more anxiety, and you may even decide to avoid it, because you are not sure that you can cope with your fear. If you think your boss won’t let you just leave work early on Tuesday so you can go to the final game of your son’s soccer team, you may decide to take a sick day or refuse to go to the game at all. In other words, sometimes your beliefs and thoughts can influence your decisions and actions. However, this is not the influence that those who believe that thinking about an event increases its probability speak of.

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