Using mindfulness to regulate attention

One of applications of mindfulness has to do with focusing attention. When people are emotionally aroused, they become guarded and go into “fight of flight” mode. Their attention becomes pre-occupied with saving face, getting out of a threatening situation, or escaping painful emotions. Attention can be scattered (ie, racing thoughts or rumination) or restricted (perseverating on the threatening person or situation). Attention may be under the control of the threat, as opposed to under the control of the person.

Therefore, the agenda of mindfulness has to do with helping a person control the focus of attention. When attention is under the control of the individual, the person will start to experience himself/herself as having more control over his/her emotions and his/her reactions to situations. Over time, the experience of oneself starts to feel more consistent and less erratic.

Paying attention to what you want to pay attention to can be especially difficult to do, especially under threat. Therefore mindfulness can be rehearsed or practiced when not under threat. Even then, focusing attention can be very hard!