|This book played mind games with me when I was a kid.|
Whatever you do, don't think about a white bear.
If that last sentence immediately made you think about white bears, then congratulations on falling victim to something called the "ironic process theory," which states that any deliberate attempt to suppress or discourage an idea is highly likely to make that same idea surface in a person's mind. If you have ever tried to make yourself forget about something uncomfortable, sad, or embarrassing, only to have that very thing dominate your thoughts, you know all about this psychological phenomenon. It's only one of the ways in which the human mind fails us. Fortunately, time and apathy are good antidotes for irony. The phrase "don't think about a white bear" doesn't make me think of white bears, because I have no interest in white bears and can't really even force myself to think about them. I know, for instance, that polar bears are in dire straits these days becomes their homes are melting. And I want to care about that, but I don't. I'm sorry, polar bears and people who care about polar bears.
A happier version of the ironic process theory, by the way, appears in this scene from Ghostbusters in which Ray (Dan Aykroyd) inadvertently conjures up the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from his subconscious while trying and failing to keep his mind totally blank. "Nice thinking, Ray."