Distraction. Glorious, nourishing distractions. Yes, I tell everybody that I would like to be more focused. I pledge to stop compulsively scrolling down my Instagram feeds. But secretly, I crave my distraction.
Here’s that distraction you ordered
The truth is that sometimes I need distractions. From time to time I feel overwhelmed by life. I have my ‘problems’ and ‘family issues’ and it all seems so damn… well… complicated! (But where did I leave my phone? It is of the utmost importance that I send this vague acquaintance a message right now!)
Unfortunately for me, we live in a time where the corporate world has figured this out for themselves. Companies like Facebook and Youtube like nothing more than to serve us our bite-sized bits of distraction. The word ‘entertainment’ has turned into a fancy way of saying that you distract people as a service. And I am not saying there is anything wrong with this in general. But it has become so damn easy.
You get the point: permanently needing to distract ourselves is not a good thing. And the alternative – actually facing these issues – seems so out of reach. If only there was some way to deal with them that doesn’t require so much effort…
So, let’s take a step back. What do we even mean when we say that something is complicated? A quick google search shows us that the word complicated comes from the Latin word complicatus, meaning “folded together”. It explains a lot! My self-declared ‘problems’ are all folded together, entangled, intertwined ideas, stories and emotions. And to deal with them, I should untie the mental knot that I made out of them!
So how do we mentally disentangle our own minds? Well, I propose we don’t. Yes, you heard that right. Let’s not disentangle our minds. That is to say, it is not per se something we do. Rather, it is not-doing what we are looking for.
Luckily, we also have lots of unconscious stuff going on in our minds. And in my experience, these processes have quite a different effect. If I just take a moment to stop the endless thinking and working in my mind, I feel my unconscious mind starting to unfold things right away.
Applying force, applying effort, only ever seems to make things worse. Much better is to fumble around with it lightly, until we see some part of the knot giving way. Then the rest kind of releases all by itself.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my life, whenever I feel a strong urge for distraction, I just sit down with my eyes closed. I move my attention to the sounds and smells around me. The feeling of my clothes on my body. The feeling of air being sucked into or leaving my body. And this state of mind leaves me with absolutely no option to do anything. Talking about uncomplicating things!
Just now and then, stop being the thinker of your thoughts, and be the observer instead. You will find it will give you all the mental space you wished for all this time. It will allow you to approach your personal issues in a playful, creative way.
All we need to do is nothing.