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White Bears...

And Other Forbidden Thoughts

by Jane Howe
reprinted with permission

The headline caught my eye in the New York Times. It talked about what happens when a person is ordered not to think about certain thing, a white bear for example. The article goes on to inform that the person finds it very difficult to think about anything else. Suddenly the would is full of white bears. Juries have been proven to be influenced by the very testimony they were mandated to ignore. Don't we think incessantly of food if we are on a diet? Psychologists call it thought suppression. They also say it is very difficult.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Here at last was vindication. All those people who told me not to think about it. Well-meaning and caring folk, everyone. But I, the broken and sorrowful, thought about it with renewed fervor. I thought I was manic. The harder I tried to be normal, to resume every day life, the more I seemed to swell on it. It was ALL I seemed to think about. The worst was in the car on my way home from work. There I was, trapped in the skull cage looking out at a perfectly normal world. Now I know I was normal, too.

It's been two years since Stevie died, and I don't have the white bear problem anymore. I welcome pleasant little interludes, daydreaming about my first child- what he might like like now, how he and his brother might get along. My little white bear.

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