Here’s a story. You wake up one morning and make your way slowly and carefully down to the place where they give you some coffee. You’re nursing a headache: let’s not go into the reasons why. You look out of the window and see whatever’s out there: grass, street, traffic; the usual. Somebody, a friend, sits down opposite you and tells you to cheer up. You don’t cheer up. They say, this so-called friend, ‘OK. Well, just don’t think about elephants’, and then they get up and go away, whistling. Loudly. You stare at the tabletop and try to forget what they just said. You look out of the window and see, mixed in with the grass, street, traffic, the faint but unmistakable outline of an elephant. You shut your eyes. No, you think to yourself, I don’t want to think of an …. But the word insinuates itself into your mind: the more you tell yourself not to think of an elephant, the stronger the thought-elephant becomes. Test this for yourself — with a little variation. Today, as you go about your normal business, try not to think about a giraffe. Try hard.
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