The wishing thought: When we see only what we want to see

A psychoanalyst was convinced that dreaming of fish was the cause of all psychological disorders. When patients came to him and started talking about their problems, the analyst interrupted them and asked them: Psychoanalyst: Excuse me, but did you dream last night? Patient: I don't know… Yes, I think so. Psychoanalyst: You didn't dream of fish, did you? Patient: Ah… no, no. Psychoanalyst: What did you dream about then? Patient: Well, I dreamed I was walking along a street. Psychoanalyst: Was there a puddle on the road? Patient: Well… I don't know. Psychoanalyst: But, could it have been there? Patient: I believe so. Psychoanalyst: Could there have been some fish in that puddle? Patient: No, no. Psychoanalyst: Was there any restaurant on the way to your dream? Patient: No. Psychoanalyst: But there could have been ... Patient: Well, I think maybe there could have been a restaurant. Psychoanalyst: And did they serve fish in that restaurant? Patient: Well, I guess as this is a restaurant maybe they served some fish. Psychoanalyst: Aha! I knew! You dreamed of fish.

Neither rational nor logical

When we desire something we look for a way to get it, and thought is the main tool we have in deciding which direction to take. Each of these decisions will gradually move us closer or further away from what we desire. Like the psychoanalyst of history, we trust such decisions because we believe that our thinking is logical and rational, we do not consider that it is profoundly influenced by our desires, expectations and dreams.In fact, desire signals that we are missing something, and the wishing thought it is the mental response to that need. The problem is that sometimes this desire is so great that thought becomes a slave to it. Then we are unable to see the signs that we are going astray, we only see what we want to see and draw the conclusions we want to draw, ignoring reality. And this can cause us serious problems.

The pitfalls of wishing thought

The wishing thought arises from desire, not reality, so it often becomes the source of many problems in our daily life.
- Makes us focus too much on results. The wishing thought is above all concrete, it is aimed at achieving a goal in the shortest possible time. That sense of urgency caused by desire plays tricks on us, because it prevents us from programming correctly and perceiving the signals that indicate that we are on the wrong track. Basically, wishing thinking gives us the logical justifications we need to make mistakes and take the path we want, even if it's not the best or the most convenient.
- It prevents us from seeing evidence and obstacles. Wishful thinking causes us to draw conclusions and make decisions based on what we like best, rather than analyzing details while taking reality into account. This type of thinking is based on emotions rather than evidence. The underlying problem is that we want something to happen or be true so badly that we reject the evidence to the contrary. In fact, a study conducted at New York University showed that wishing thinking fuels fantasies about our future, so that we become more fixated on the advantages than the disadvantages, so that, in the end, we make worse decisions.
- It causes great frustration. One of the main problems with wishing thinking is that we end up living in the fantasy world we have built in our mind, based on the wrong conclusions we have made. In practice, it is as if we lived in a house of cards. Obviously, as soon as the wind of reality blows that castle falls. Then we are overwhelmed with frustration, disappointment and sadness.

Why do we let wishful thinking take the reins?

A study conducted at the University of Illinois revealed that our thinking works much like memory. That is, sometimes it distorts some memories by forgetting some details and adding others because it is more convenient for us, either to avoid painful memories or to consolidate the image we have of ourselves, avoiding dissonances. people to read a number of predictions, some were very convenient for them and others downright negative. The task of each participant was to determine the reliability of the source. Interestingly, people tended to indicate that the most convenient predictions for them came from reliable sources, while they attributed negative predictions to unreliable sources. In practice, our desire to make things work out well causes us to lose perspective.We can also let the wishing thought take the reins to avoid having to deal with a complex reality that we are not willing to accept. When things don't work out the way we would like, instead of accepting reality, we decide to only look at what we like and confirm our view of the world. So we feel better. Of course, this mechanism is normally activated on an unconscious level.

How can we use wishful thinking in our favor?

The wishing thought itself is not negative, it is only necessary to learn to use it to our advantage. In reality, the desire that underlies it has an enormous motivating power that we can exploit through the WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan) technique:1. Desire. Think of something you really want. That desire becomes an achievable goal. Keep in mind that while desires can be vague and general, the goal should be concrete and quantifiable.
2. Result. Imagine the best possible result, let the feeling of accomplishment fill you.
3. Obstacle. Come back to reality, focus on the obstacles that prevent you from achieving this goal and choose the greatest.
4. Project. Think about the possible solutions and select a concrete and effective action that will allow you to overcome this obstacle.

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