At a fundamental level, functioning socially means mastering one’s impulses. The adult brain expends at least as much energy on inhibition as on action, some studies suggest, and mental health relies on abiding strategies to ignore or suppress deeply disturbing thoughts — of one’s own inevitable death, for example. These strategies are general, subconscious or semiconscious psychological programs that usually run on automatic pilot.
In order to suppress a particular (perhaps nasty or politically incorrect) thought, one must consider it in the first place. In doing so, it is more likely to come to fruition. Stress plays an important role in determining whether something remains a thought or actually gets blurted out.
Concentrating intensely on not staring at a prominent mole on a new acquaintance’s face, while also texting and trying to follow a conversation, heightens the risk of saying: “We went to the mole — I mean, mall. Mall!”
Paging Austin Powers…