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HONORING MY MOTHER | The hidden psychology of don’t

By Icoy San Pedro

I was listening to an interesting dissertation from Simon Sinek, a modern author and inspirational speaker. He surmised the human brain is totally incapable of comprehending the negative. To prove this point, he tells his audience, “DON’T think of an elephant!”  and unless they were not listening, they’d have surely thought of one elephant in the room for sure. As he goes on, he insists it must be possible all along during our education, we have been taught to focus on keeping clear of obstacles for example. Don’t do this, don’t do that, etc. As such, what our mind only sees are obstacles, never focusing more on the paths to avoid them. 

Although aimed as part of an exercise in managing and dissecting work attitudes, what it overall indicates is something we have suspected all along; cautioning us simply to be wary of the deceptive workings of negative thought. At work for example, whenever we begin to say we that a task is difficult to do, that perspective will slowly reinforce itself so that in the end, there’s the danger we will end up believing that yes, a chore is truly difficult to perform and that is power of suggestion right there.

In a sense, we might as well be just like animals frozen at the headlights in the middle of the road. I used to know someone who was really bad at Maths in school. Every time we had a test, he would freeze up and as he recalls it, his mind would just simply shut down. Many years later in college (could be another story how he got that far), during Statistics 101, he said he discovered the secret behind computing. Since then and much later, with his fear of numbers totally gone, he had rediscovered more drive in his present work.

In another universe, we might consider the mind processes of children. Still agog and curious with the workings and wonders of the world, to say “don’t” to them will most often sound like an open invitation to “do”. While this may seem as if there’s a disconnect somewhere, the command of ‘not to do’ directed at them usually comes out mistranslated, and will actually infer that there must be something hidden that should be discovered ergo, “do”. And to think long ago, I actually believed that children were hard-headed as they come.

Finally corrected from this misconception of cherubs and purely for the purpose of teasing, it has to finally come to this. What about us adults? In the course of our spurt from being innocent children to the matured state where we are now and then judging from the smokey mountain heap of “don’t” violations we have before us, how many excuses have we managed to collect thus far? Wrong answers only.


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