We Create What We Focus On
What you love you empower,
And what you fear you empower,
And what you empower you attract.
We can change our world by changing what we focus on. In divorced co-parenting situations, fear can cause us to focus on what is wrong. Focusing on what is wrong tends to create more of what is wrong. I am not suggesting that we go into denial or ignore what needs attention. I am suggesting that we consider how much attention we give negative ideas, and consider whether it is possible to shift toward more positive ideas.
Rick Hanson, a well-known neuropsychologist talks about how our brains have a negativity bias. He explains that “your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences…it’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster. Then the background feeling of what it feels like to be you can become undeservedly glum and pessimistic.” (Hanson, Rick (2009-11-01). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (p. 68). New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Kindle Edition)
Taking in the Good
To counteract this negativity bias, Dr. Hanson developed a technique he calls “Taking in the Good.” In “Buddha’s Brain” (previously noted) he states: “The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences— and in particular, to take them in so they become a permanent part of you.” His technique for “taking in the good” focuses on noticing positive experiences, allowing ourselves to more fully feel positive experiences and to focus on allowing the experiences to actually become part of us.
Children benefit when we focus on what’s right about our lives and their lives. It is easy to realize what is good if we consciously turn our focus toward it. We cannot choose the experiences that we have had, or some of the facts about our lives, but we can choose what we focus on.
Gratitude is powerful for turning us toward what is positive. Give the following exercise a try. You can do it alone, but doing it with another person is better. You can even do it with your child/ren. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Name as many things as you can that you are grateful for. If you are doing it with another person, alternate saying the things you are grateful for. The things you name don’t have to be big. They can be small and they can be things that we take for granted.
Here are some examples:
I am grateful that I have indoor plumbing.
I am grateful that it was a sunny day.
I am grateful that I have a home to live in.
I am grateful that I have a car to transport me.
I am grateful for microwave popcorn.
I am grateful that I have two healthy children.
I am grateful that I have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
I am grateful that I have a job.
I am grateful that I have grocery stores to shop at that have a wide variety of items.
I am grateful that I have good friends.
I am grateful I felt good today.
Notice how you feel after ten minutes of engaging in this exercise. Now, if you had done the same thing, only concentrated on what was negative, how do you imagine you’d feel? Are the negative things any truer than the positive things?
What we focus on determines how we feel. What we focus on and how we feel determines what our children focus on and what they feel. If we can cultivate a practice of turning toward what’s good, and being grateful for the many positive things in our lives, our children will benefit immensely. © 2012 Alisa Jaffe Holleron