The Computer Screen Metaphor

The computer screen metaphor shows how negative thoughts can derail you. Learn more about it in this article!
The Computer Screen Metaphor
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 21 February, 2022

The computer screen metaphor shows just how much your thoughts can influence you, to the point that they might even make you lose sight of your goals. It uses a simple story to describe the way your thoughts can affect you in everyday situations.

This metaphor can help you see a situation from two different perspectives. It’s also a great example of how negative thoughts can affect your ability to achieve your goals.

In the computer screen metaphor, messages represent automatic, negative thoughts. These are the ideas that often contaminate our thought processes, condition them, and lead to problems.

Studies have shown that these kinds of thoughts generally lead to failure. But the worst part is that, when that happens, you can’t see that you’re the one who brought it on yourself.

The computer screen metaphor

Imagine this. Two people are working together side by side. All of a sudden, messages start to pop up on both their computer screens. The messages say “You won’t be able to solve the problem” and “You’re useless.”

The first person tries to delete the messages, but they just keep on appearing. So, this person tries to focus on their work and not let the comments affect them. Instead of letting the comments get the best of them, they decide to keep doing their job.

After receiving the same messages, the second person tries everything they can think of to delete them. The comments distract them and affect their self-esteem. They feel unable to continue their work until they make the messages on the screen go away.

In the end, they don’t get rid of the messages nor finish their work. The messages blocked them and kept them from doing their job. They only got more frustrated, and the negative messages kept on coming.

The second person becomes furious with the first when they see them working and even enjoying their tasks. They assume the first person isn’t getting the same messages.

The lessons of the computer screen metaphor

There are a few lessons worth learning from this metaphor:

1. There’s always more than one solution

You can see that these two people handled the exact same situation in different ways. This is a great example of how important it is to have self-confidence.

When you have doubts or receive negative comments, you need to be able to stay focused. Things are hardly ever 100% positive or negative. There’s usually a balance, but your mind tends to be the one to swing comments in one direction or another.

2. Negative thoughts

Negative thoughts always pop up in your mind unexpectedly. They stem from your personal experiences and can distract you from your goals.

They spark doubts and create internal conflicts. But they’re also natural and happen automatically. Our suggestion is to learn not to feed them.

A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.”

-Patricia Neal-

A woman holding her hands to her head, stressed by the black cloud of negative thoughts hanging above her.

Which person do you identify with?

The first person was able to overcome the potholes and finish their work. This means they won the battle against all the negative thoughts that were trying to take over and derail their entire day. This is why it’s so important to know how to control negative thoughts because you can’t predict when they’ll pop up in your mind.

Meanwhile, the other person gave in to the pressure of the flood of negative messages on their screen. They let the messages affect their natural rhythm. Thus, they weren’t able to focus their mind on their work.

The computer screen metaphor is a great example of why it’s important to have good coping strategies.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.