by Dr. Ken Larsen
I can choose to see clearly. I do this by how I focus my attention. To focus is to see clearly. When you look at these pictures you can see that the only thing that changes is how the picture is focused.
All the pieces are there in each picture. The pieces might represent our experience of life and our memories and perceptions. They are all there. It is important to recognize that we can choose which of those perceptions or memories we bring into the focus of our attention.
This shift in focus is a very important component of maintaining our mental health and happiness.
We carry fearful images of what has happened or what we fear might happen. Those images become part of our present perceived world which tells us how to interpret what is presently happening. Here again it is a matter of focus. We can focus on the fear driven images and produce more fear. Or we can focus on what is actually going on and choose to respond to what is real rather than what is feared.
In my dental practice I would use this insight to help patients deal with their anticipated fears. If I could get the patient to focus on what was really happening and report to me what they were experiencing, this shift in focus could override the anxiety producing anticipation of an experience that didn’t happen.
The first time I saw this shift in focus at work was when my young wife was in labor with our firstborn. She gripped my hand and looked at me. “What’s going to happen is going to happen. The only choice I have is how I deal with it.” That lovingly courageous insight deeply impressed me.
One bad habit that I continually am working to change is how I “pre-interpret” a present experience or an upcoming event. It is easy for me to “awfulize” and anticipate a not so good outcome. What I’ve learned to do is to shift my focus, realizing that there are no future facts, and “be here now” with curiosity and attention to my present experience of life, which in reality is all I have. I can’t live in the past or the future. All any of us have is the present fleeting moment.