Narrow Focus and our metaphorical Footwear
Now, don’t get me wrong –
Narrow Focus IS a very useful perspective for doing certain tasks in life, work, play and performance. The trouble arises for us when we feel compelled to use Narrow Focus as a perspective for ALL things.
It’s like when we have just one pair of shoes and make them DO for all day and every day. We KNOW this doesn’t work, yet we’ll make excuses and put up with the inappropriate times.
We despair when our shoes wear thin or go out of shape; when they fail to support our feet properly; when they let in water; when they stick their tongues out at us!
We also find that we need to replace them very regularly because we use them ALL the time – and yet, even if we had two pairs of the same shoes, they would actually last more than twice as long.
Living with just one pair of shoes – physically and metaphorically – is a very false economy!
Default is was all our own
The same goes for when we ignore the DEFAULT setting of our mental Attentive Focus, which is Open Focus.
We are born with that “factory” default setting and in our early years of growing up we build our perspective of the world around us through that same default setting. We learn well, we learn fast, we assimilate vast amounts of NEW everything on a daily basis. We are extraordinary learning machines!
Until we reach that tipping point – the moment of IS/WAS!
At some time, usually between the ages of 4-7, we become hugely pressured to comply with the requirements of the society we are growing up in. These requirements start to make increasingly high demands upon how we manage our Attention – and we seem to lose touch with the DEFAULT setting of our Attentive Focus and get drawn into the vagaries of excessive functioning in a Narrow Focus.
Now, the various types or settings of our mental Attentive Focus are rather akin to having a reasonable variety of shoes in our locker. As Les Fehmi describes in his book “The Open Focus Brain”, there are four types of focus – narrow, objective, diffuse and immersed – each with a variety of associated characteristics.
Imagine in metaphor then, if you will, the type of shoes appropriate for Narrow-Objective focus as compared to the type of shoes appropriate for Diffuse-Immersed focus. These items of footwear might be as far apart as slippers are to sturdy walking boots, or stiletto heels might be to wellingtons.
Yet our society, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, demands we conduct our lives in Narrow-Objective focus reminding us that this is the way it is; this is life, get used to it; it’s a struggle, it is harsh, it’s dog eat dog; you MUST get to the top or you’ll fail, you’ll BE a failure – and the only way you’ll get to the top is to constantly compete, try hard, then harder; trampling over people on the way is legit, it’s all fair in love and war; and so on ad infinitum.
With all of this relentless drive to justified BESTNESS, is the perspective that life is ONLY about the climactic moments; be noticed, make more noise, OWN the moment, BE the alpha. And this relentless drive only has one Sat-Nav … Narrow-Objective.
Oh yes – and it is mighty compelling! Yet there’s just one drawback, one problem.
We weren’t born with Narrow-Objective. Nor were our start-out-right shoes built for that either. They were designed to allow our feet to grow in a well-balanced way, so that they could carry us well through life – not leave us limping and hobbling by the time we become adults.
Erlkings and Lurkings
So, it is down to our guardians, our Mums and Dads, to enable us with a range of appropriate footwear – both physical and metaphorical – so we can make our way forward to adulthood with strong, sturdy feet. Feet that will keep us balanced on the journey, feet that will support us in the storms, or on the glassy and icy surfaces, feet that can run and play as well as help us escape the jaws of the Erlkings. *
(* The Erlking is a supernatural being, or demon, in folklore.)
Now our Mums and Dads are also having to look after their own appropriate footwear, plus – they are also subjected to Erlkings of their own. Of course WE (as young children) don’t know this at the get go. We aren’t aware that our Mums and Dads, by virtue of their OWN Attention Management, may sometimes make demands upon us at home and within the family environment, over and above what we might objectively consider to be our learning about our place within the life of the family unit. Witness this cautionary tale …
Recently, I was walking behind a family of four that included 2 children below the age of 5, and they were in my town on a seaside holiday. Dad was carrying the youngest on his shoulders, whilst Mum was pushing the empty pushchair with one hand and holding her little girl’s hand with the other. A typical leisure scene and, at the seaside, a joyous time for all, you might think.
Yet all I could hear was the mother shouting fiercely at her eldest,
“YOU are ruining my holiday. Yes, you are! You are ruining MY holiday!”
It was painfully obvious that here was some inappropriate footwear being worn by the mother, whose state of Focus was decidedly Narrow! Clearly, the desired benefit of the holiday to restore her default status of an Open Focus was unlikely to take hold, let alone accrue! I looked closer … and did I not see, lurking on her shoulder, the eager and slavering jaws of her Erlking?
Sadly, that Mum, with a tone of cruelty borne of frustration, eventually threatened to cancel her little girl’s Birthday with a vehemence and tone that even I (very familiar with an out-dated and old-school toughness) winced at.
Of course, you might say, these are everyday frustrations on the unwinding road of almost every adult that has accepted the mantle of parenthood – so what’s the BIG deal?
We drive ourselves to run all the elements and tasks in our lives with a Narrow Focus, because life is very demanding of our attention. We are constantly being pulled this way and that – and we have a label for all this pulling and how it makes us feel.
And with sore feet from poor, ill-fitting, and worn-out mental footwear, a daily round of Narrow Focus and no resilience to break free from the stress of it all, we might easily end up finding ourselves bellowing at our pre-school children when they don’t instantly conform to OUR demands … yet are they really OUR demands?
In whose name is that Mum really threatening her little girl.
The shoes we are wearing are the springboard to our being successful or otherwise in dealing with every Erlking we’ve ever created that might by lurking on our own journey through life.
Young children ARE resilient – because of their default Open Focus setting they bounce back.
Yet, the more … the more. This we know. Through OUR actions we can erode that resilient springback to default.
It would be nice to think that that little girl will get her Birthday celebrations. It would be nice to think that her Mum has since relented, perhaps amidst tears, and got to receive some of the benefits that every holiday should afford to one’s resilience.
It would be nice to think that LOVE conquers all.