Narrow Focus & Its Effect

Narrow Focus & Its Effect

I wanted to provide some more information on these two most important attention styles. The below explanations come from Les Fehmi's "Open Focus Brain", "Dissolving Pain", his website and the articles from it. All information comes solely from his research over past 40 years.

If we were to summarise Open Focus technique it would sound like this:
Search out the core of pain and give it full attention, surrender to it, instead of fighting it,  surrendered to it. Allowed yourself not only to fully feel it but also to bathe in it and completely dive into and accept it. 
"Narrow Focus supports full attention and Open Focus is the surrender and bathe and dive and accept. Both Narrow and Open focus are how our mind and brain functions fundamentally. We can focus on a detail and we can enjoy the panorama. 

Everyone has the ability to rebalance and heal their nervous systems to end these problems, to dissolve their pain, to slow down and yet accomplish more, to experience life more deeply, to optimize the function of their bodies and minds, to dramatically change their lives for the better. They just don't know how. The answer is simple and well within their grasp-it is accomplished by changing the way they pay attention. Attention is the central mechanism through which we guide our awareness and experience the world." -LF 
Attention is the nerve of the whole psychological system. 
- EDW ARD TITCHENER, PhD, pioneering attention researcher

NARROW FOCUS - Explanation
"On the African savanna, a pride of lions lie on a grassy rise, half asleep, muscles relaxed, breathing slowly as the warm sun soaks into their backs. When a herd of gazelles wanders into sight, several heads go up. But the real change comes when the lions notice that one of the animals appears to be injured. Suddenly, without moving, they narrow their gaze on that one animal; all else, including the other gazelles, is relegated to the background. They hear only the sound of the bleating gazelle, nothing else. The lions have moved from a relaxed, diffuse form of attention to a more intense, single-pointed, visual focus, and as a result their arousal levels rise: Muscles tense and heart and respiratory rates increase as they prepare for the chase. 
I call this style of attention "narrow-objective" attention or focus, and it is how, without realizing it, the vast majority of us pay attention most of the time, to both our internal and external worlds. Narrow-objective attention is focusing on one or a few important things as the foreground, and dismissing all other stimuli, making everything else the background. 

Narrow-objective focus is an emergency mode of paying attention that quickly and substantially increases the frequency of the brain's electrical activity and raises other aspects of physiological arousal, such as heart and respiratory rates, which in turn directly affect our perception, emotions, and behavior. While narrow-objective focus allows us to perform some tasks very well, it is also physiologically and psychologically expensive because chronic use results in the accumulation of stress. It takes a great deal of energy to perpetually maintain this type of attention, even though we usually aren't aware of it. In narrow focus the central nervous system is more inherently unstable and more highly reactive than other modes of attention. 

Evolution provided humans with this narrow beam of attention to respond, in the short run, to urgent or important external situations. There's nothing inherently wrong with it; in fact, one reason it is overused is precisely because it is so help- ful and allows us, in the short run, to accomplish so much. What's wrong is our near-complete dependence on it and addiction to it. Not everything is urgent, but we can treat it that way. 

Mid-range beta brain waves (16-22 hertz) is produced during focused, external attention. Frequencies of this range and higher are associated with the dominant use of narrow focus. High beta (22 hertz and higher) is often correlated with tense muscles, anger, anxiety, and other intense emotions. 

Vision, Fear, Survival

Vision is critical to any animal's survival. However, the eye is extremely susceptible to stress. People who experience chronic stress develop a chronically narrowed visual field, which over the long term impacts eyesight. Our visual system is also hardwired to our emotions. Just as the resting lion reflexively prepares for the hunt when he spies gazelles, human beings respond to external problems, threats, or perceived threats by heightening their arousal and narrowing their gaze. 

Chronic narrow-objective focus creates a behavioral loop. Narrow focus exacerbates fearful circumstances; and then when circumstances have changed and we are no longer in "danger," we tend to stay in narrow focus as a way ofavoiding our residual feelings of fear and anxiety, accompanied by a middle- to high-beta range of frequencies to keep unpleasant feelings from surfacing. 
In this sense, narrow focus is used as a strategy to escape. As feelings of anxiety rise we unconsciously look for effective dis- tractions to keep us from feeling them. We rivet attention on an engrossing novel or fast-paced television show or thrilling video game in part to escape emotional chaos, anxiousness, or unpleasantness from within. The more interested we are in something "out there," the more effective it is as an anxiety- management technique. 

In fact, without realizing it, many of us use our attention to manage our physical and emotional pain. The more success- fully our attention is diverted, the less pain we feel. At some point, however, pain and anxiety become so great that diver- sionary tactics don't work. Think back to my unsuccessful effort to distract my attention away from the intense kidney- stone pain by bending my thumb or pinching myself. If atten- tion diversion works, we'll keep using it until it stops being effective or becomes too expensive. When it stops working we'll find something more potent. Diversionary strategies are often overused to the point ofaddiction; compulsive use oftelevision, food, sex, gambling, travel, video games, loud music, alcohol, drugs, and especially work can all serve as strategic distractions to keep us away from-or help us manage-our pain. 

The effort it takes to chronically divert the mind from these feelings causes the accumulation of tension and leads to fatigue and burnout, and depression can be the end result. 

We don't recognize paying attention effortfully and chronically as a problem. Some people may never notice the problems it causes. Chronic narrow-objective attention requires  a great deal of energy and, in my view, keeps us from knowing our true selves. Yet most of us aren't aware of the ten- sion that the use of chronic narrow focus produces. We've be- come habituated to it. But maintaining a tense, emergency mode of attention tires us out; and so we need another cup of coffee to muster the energy to keep paying attention, or a ciga- rette or a glass ofwine to relieve the tension of narrow focus. 

Chronic narrow-objective attention ultimately prevents the diffusion of stress. Even in a life that is relatively carefree by current standards, stress can and does accumulate to levels that produce symptoms of disorder and disease (though we often don't recognize them as being caused by stress). Preventing the diffusion of stress and causing its accumulation, narrow- objective focus actually makes us less productive over the long haul. People who complain of an inability to concentrate, listlessness, low productivity, diminished sexual activity, and depression often find these problems resolved when they learn to shift out of narrow-objective attention. 

On a psychological level, when we remain in narrow- objective focus, fear and anxiety play an exaggerated role in our minds and adversely color our perceptions of the world around us. Though we may not realize it, narrow-objective focus and the resultant stress that we bottle up inside keep us emotionally numb, blocking many feelings from our aware- ness. We miss out on rich experiences ofsmell and taste, pleas- ant physical sensations, and deep feelings of joy and sadness. Ironically, and tragically, although this constant narrow- objective focus is how we attempt to connect emotionally with other people, and with experience itself, it is exactly the wrong way for making these kinds of connections." -LF
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