The following story about the power of negative thoughts is from the wonderful book The Situation is Hopeless, But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness written by the philosopher, communication researcher and psychotherapist Paul Watzlawick. It reminds us how powerful our thoughts can be and how fast we sometimes get caught up in a negative thought spiral.


The Story of the Hammer

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels via Canva Pro


We spend a lot of time analysing the behaviour of our fellow human beings, but often without knowing what is truly behind their behaviour. There may be many explanations for the (perceived) behaviour of the neighbour and his barely greeting yesterday. However, if we are already in a negative thoughts spiral, we are much more prone to interpret the neighbour’s behaviour negatively. And as shown in this story, negative thoughts attract more negative thoughts. That is why it is so important to identify (and change) negative thought patterns early on.


A man wants to hang a painting. He has the nail, but not the hammer. Therefore it occurs to him to go over to the neighbor and ask him to lend him his hammer.

But at this point, doubt sets in. What if he doesn’t want to lend me the hammer? Yesterday he barely spoke to me. Maybe he was in a hurry. Or, perhaps, he holds something against me. But why? I didn’t do anything to him.
If he would ask me to lend him something, I would, at once. How can he refuse to lend me his hammer? People like him make other people’s life miserable. Worst, he thinks that I need him because he has a hammer. This has got to stop!

And suddenly the guy runs to the neighbor’s door, rings, and before letting him say anything, he screams: “you can keep your hammer, you bastard!”


The Story of the Hammer

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