Sustained and focused attention

When emotional arousal is super high, attention and concentration gets fragmented. Thoughts race, conclusions are jumped to, and worse case scenarios play themselves over and over again in our minds.

The business of being mindful has to do with purposefully directing our attention towards something. That is, we control what we pay attention to. If we control what we are paying attention to, then we are less prone to be being distracted and overwhelmed with racing anxiety and non-useful scenarios.

Out tendency to act without thinking has to get interrupted, thwarted, and re-directed. Ranting and raving, calling or texting people multiple times to seek assurance, and speaking very rapidly are some examples of what people do when on emotional overwhelm. Stopping yourself from doing these things can be very hard and take multiple tries. Especially when you’re on a roll, and your emotional energy is behind you!

The agenda of learning DBT skills is to learn how to slow yourself down. In other words, if you are clear and calm when you interact with people, they will be more likely to take you seriously. In fact, you might even be more able to take yourself seriously!

Focusing on one thing in the moment is one of the distress tolerance skills. Focusing on one thing at a time can be very “moment-to-moment”. Since the moment is constantly changing, you will have to constantly be refocusing. Sound hard? I can’t always do it either.

I was reminded a week ago of how pleasant it can be to work on a task for a sustained period of time without interruptions. (In fact, I was painting cartoon elephants!). I placed my interrupting gadgets away from me and put on some favorite music. I felt different. I was reminded of the difference in how it felt to concentrate on one thing, vs. how it felt to constantly be jumping to many different tasks in the course of an hour.

I have to say, it felt really good.