Negative Attention

In a bowl of fruit, would you rather focus on the firm and juicy ones or those that are soft and rotting? And consider, would you rather focus on food as it begins the digestive process or when it comes out at the end? Also, would you rather focus on the living or the leaving part of existence? And, would you rather focus on the worst your imagination has to offer or what’s most pleasant?

Why would we ever focus on what we don’t like? Yet for some reason we often do. Nasty things come to our attention and we dwell on them. “What’s that smell? It’s horrible. Hey, anyone else smell this? Come over here. Disgusting right!? Oh I think I’m going to be sick.” It’s like reading books or watching videos you dislike, why would you do that?

Nowadays I don’t linger as long on the things that instigate irritation or frustration. Is this due to a simple realization, perhaps mental discipline, or maybe just experience — who knows. It’s an interesting question though: how much can we shape our focus? It’s clear that we don’t have total control as our mind constantly wanders wherever it wants.

But if we lack complete control, is it possible to have some? First, we’d need to stumble onto the idea that influencing our focus might be possible. Second, we’d need to practice keeping our mind focused. Third, we’d need the ability to discern pleasant topics from unpleasant ones. And fourth, we’d need to repeatedly remember all of this as life tries so hard to keep our attention occupied.