What you focus on influences what you experience

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Many years ago, while on a personal development course, I first heard the phrase 'You move towards what you think about.' I found it startling, at the time my thoughts were mostly pretty limiting and self-defeating and it gave me a bit of a fright. Not ready to face up to it, I put it out of my mind and thought nothing more of it. 

A few weeks later, on the same course, I came across the notion that our unconscious is not that hot at processing negatives. 'Don't think of a purple elephant' the trainer said. I was alarmed to have an image of a purple elephant instantly appear in my head. I tried to get rid of it. The more I pushed it away, the more my mind resisted, after a few minutes the elephant looked positively gleeful!  

I felt disturbed.  I began to wonder if there was something in the idea that what I focused on made a difference to what I experienced. If I was continually thinking about what I didn't want, was I actually making it more likely to happen? 

I began to try some thought experiments. I found that when I dwelled on problems and how not to have them, the problem was more and more prominent in my mind, and I felt down and despondent.  It flattened my energy and I didn't do much about it. 

When I focused on what I wanted to have happen, stated in terms of what I did want, not what I wanted to avoid, that seemed to get my mind focused on what was possible. It wasn't so much positive thinking, more possibility thinking. It seemed to give me a touch more energy, and get me moving and doing things. 

The rub was, recognising this meant I had to take some measure of responsibility. I had to accept that I could influence what happened in my mind, and that doing that was influencing what happened in my world as well. Sometimes that felt empowering and amazing, sometimes it felt scary and overwhelming. 

That development course was a bit of a turning point for me. In the years that followed I changed my career, moved to a new city, had changes in my relationship circumstances, became a Mum (twice), and became a meditator and once more a musician.  

From little acorns great oak trees grow. In the many moments when I doubt and feel overwhelmed, I find it helpful to remind myself that where I put my attention affects both my mental and physical experience. I have influence, even when it all feels too much.  I think that's a good thing to hang on to.

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Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

I am here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to clients based in Durham. I am UKCP Accredited and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists locally. I have worked in private practice, the NHS, and in charitable organisations, with a wide range of clients and conditions.

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