How To Control Unwanted Thoughts

Trying to stop thinking unwanted repetitive thoughts is a familiar experience to most people. 

researchers studied how 80 English-speaking adults came up with new associations to common words.

Most people, they found, use reactive control—rejecting unwanted associations after they have already come to mind.

This type of reactive control can be particularly problematic

ensure that thinking an unwanted thought does not increase the probability of it coming to mind again

Whereas the current study focused on neutral associations

 every time we have to reactively reject an unwanted association, it has the potential to become even stronger.