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There is something you’re avoiding. So you distract yourself with something else. It works for a while, but there’s a catch. The more you tense-away-from The Thing, the more it seems to be pulling you to turn back to it.
Like an exercise in which you pull a rubber band away from a wall, escapism guarantees you’ll need more and more oomph to pull away from the pain, the need, the person, the issue that needs attention. Of course, the more powerful it seems to get, the more you want to get away from it!
That’s the trap. Not only does your distraction ratchet up the level of tension, it also slowly narrows your focus to a point as getting away from The Thing takes more and more of your effort to focus your attention away, away, away.
Jim Robbins, in The Open Focus Brain, discusses ways he helped patients in chronic pain avoid this trap and thereby eased their pain. These are lessons worth remembering and passing on:
- Move toward the pain, relax and try to release any effort you’re exerting to pull away from it.
- Diffuse your focus – engage your senses: What can you smell? How does this fruit taste in your mouth? What do you see all around you? What sounds can you identify in the environment?
- Think about negative spaces in your body (nostrils, the space enclosed by your lungs, the space between your fingers) and in the environment.
I’ve had tremendous improvement in migraine headaches following his advice, but I also recommend it for any situation that pushes your ‘Escape!’ button. Relax, diffuse, engage your senses, contemplate negative spaces. There are more things that are REAL than The Thing! Don’t try so hard to avoid it that you see it alone in your narrow focusing. Staying distracted is a symptom of being tensed away from something you’d do better to face, resolve, accept.
I’d like to know if you take this advice. Please let me hear your story!