“There are all kinds of pitfalls in social life, everywhere we look; not just errors but worst possible errors come to mind, and they come to mind easily,” said the paper’s author, Daniel M. Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard. “And having the worst thing come to mind, in some circumstances, might increase the likelihood that it will happen.”
...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...
The empirical evidence of this influence has been piling up in recent years, as Dr. Wegner documents in the new paper. In the lab, psychologists have people try to banish a thought from their minds — of a white bear, forexample — and find that the thought keeps returning, about once a m inute. Likewise, people trying not to think of a specific word continually blurt it out during rapid-fire word-association tests.
The same “ironic errors,” as Dr. Wegner calls them, are just easy to evoke in the real world. Golfers instructed to avoid a specific mistake, like overshooting, do it more often when under pressure, studies find. Soccer players told to shoot a penalty kick anywhere but at a certain spot of the net, like the lower right corner, look at that spot more often than any other.
In particular, regarding meditation, it's why the "Relaxation of Thoughts" Sutra (Vitakkasanthana Sutta) was written.
Though I have found as well that once you have reminded the monkey a few times that he's just a bit of Mind projection, the monkey modestly retreats.
But that's sort of covered in the Vitakkasanthana...
If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking quickly? Why don't I walk slowly?' So he walks slowly. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking slowly? Why don't I stand?' So he stands. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one. In the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts.
Or, instead of thinking "Don't think of a pink elephant," put a better dialogue into your brain.