It is always important to pay attention to what is going on around us in the world. For example, we need to pay attention to where we are walking, what is going on around us while we are driving, and be attentive listeners when people are speaking. We need to pay attention to our children to protect them and encourage them. We need to be aware of our environment so we can enjoy the beauty of our world while also be mindful of danger and threats. These types of mindful external focuses can bring us into the present moment, which is the only moment that ever exists.
So, how can external focus be harmful? External focus can be harmful when it prevents us from paying attention to our own pain and emotions. If you get frustrated (anxious or angered) easily, it is because you cannot control who or what is going on around you. Do you ever get frustrated with other drivers? For example, do you become frustrated when you are late for an appointment or work? Do you get frustrated with your mate or child because they are not behaving the way you think that they should? Do you have a difficult time getting along with some of your colleagues, peers or boss?
When we get frustrated, it is because our world views and perspectives are clashing with reality. For instance, I get frustrated with my husband when he is in a bad mood. “I am happy. Why are you raining on my parade?” I also have choices. I can get upset at him, yell at him, and blame him for my frustration. It is his fault after all, right? He is the one with the problem (rationalization), not me. I was fine until he… Does this sound familiar?
When we complain about others, blame others, lash out, and try to control other people’s behaviors, this type of external focus can very be harmful. Projecting our control issues onto other people prevent us from paying attention to our own behaviors and reactions. Why do we use projection? Because it can be too painful and too scary to really see what is going on inside us. This type of emotional fear is the number one reason why people resist mental health counseling. Do you know a friend, family member, or a colleague that is continuously blaming, gossiping, or complaining about other people or external factors? This is a perfect example of projecting individual fears onto others to avoid internal pain, suffering, and low self-worth.
What can you do rather than trying to control your external environment? Begin by being mindful of your externalizing behaviors. The only one we can change and control is ourselves through our thoughts and behaviors. Instead, you need to paying attention to your emotions and anxieties, as they are happening, rather than avoiding them through projection and rationalization.
Changing and healing are difficult to do on our own. Especially as we have strengthened these harmful habits over the years. It is possible for us to develop new habits to heal our emotional pain and distress. And the people around us will notice and begin to like us better, especially our children and loved ones.
Please reach out to me, Catherine Cleveland, for more information and to discuss your personal concerns. (585) 432-0313, firstname.lastname@example.org.