Sharpen Your Mental Ability to Pay Attention

We all get weird thoughts. How we react to those thoughts is pure choice. If you’re not paying attention to the fact that you have a choice, and just operate on automatic pilot, then you’re likely to get stuck in a loop. Watch this video for a warm and humorous explanation of how to manage mental habits and prevent getting stuck in a loop: (I had trouble embedding this video so click on the link above or “show all content”.)

Key points:

Thoughts cause habits. Some of these habits are mental acts. Mental habits appear invisible. But they aren’t! When there is a thought there is a choice of how to react. If we don’t notice the choice we will automatically react as we have before. It’s human instinct to repeat, repeat, repeat. Pay close attention to the choice!

Our reaction to a thought will either reinforce the same thoughts or reduce them. If we don’t want to perpetuate a thought then we have to do something different to break the habitual response.

Notice an unwanted, intrusive thought. Recognize there is a choice on how to react. Don’t use the same old response you’ve been using that keeps you stuck. Your reaction must be different.

One time I helped a married couple who were arguing all the time. During their sessions all they would do is yell at each other. I couldn’t get a word in. Finally one day as soon as they came into the office I had them lie down on the floor with heads touching. They never raised their voice once. The pattern was broken by doing something different.

A lot of times people will stay away from something that brings them joy because they don’t want to associate something bad with something good. What they end up with is everything bad and nothing good.  This is a great example of doing the same thing over and over and getting the same outcome. Be courageous and break the pattern of keeping everything that is good locked up. Let the goodness touch the bad. Do something different.

It sounds simple and too easy for such a tough problem. It’s hard for a while but stick with it and there’s a payoff.

This is day 23 of a 30 day challenge. If there’s something you love to do, but you’re not doing it because you’re afraid a bad thought will pop up. Break this pattern. Take the good with the bad. Don’t let your world get so small.

2 thoughts on “Sharpen Your Mental Ability to Pay Attention”

  1. There is a book called “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” written by psychologist Daniel Kahneman. In it, he talks about two “systems” of thinking: System 1 and System 2. The two systems are meant to describe the two ways that we think. System 1 is quick, automatic, and reflexive. There is no sense of voluntary control. System 2 is slow and reflective. System 2 deals with calculations and choices. I believe an obsession can be thought of as coming from system 1 – some thought pops into your head unconsciously: “Oh no! There are so many germs on that doorknob! I didn’t wash my hands! What if I get sick?” System 2 notices the unwanted, intrusive thought. System 2 can be used for either compulsions/ruminations OR for mental kung-fu/shrugging the thought off. This is where the element of choice comes in. “Oh, I didn’t wash my hands? Well maybe I’ll get sick…” *shrug* This, I believe, is the correct choice that System 2 can make.

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