What We Pay Attention To
We pay attention to something that is different to what is around it.
- A moving figure in a still landscape
- A stationary rock in a flowing river
- Music surrounded by silence
- A drone in a chaos of sound
- A hint of spice in bland food
- A cool taste in a spicy meal
- Intensity against boredom
- Calmness when we are feeling overwhelmed
What We Pay Attention to in Self Development
In self development we tend to pay attention to the breakthrough(s).
– the flashes of insight that illuminate the ordinary.
– those times of liberation that open the door to a new way of living.
Most of our lives are ordinary, usual.
- We put our clothes on in pretty much the same way each day.
- We tend to the needs of ourselves and those we love – in more or less satisfactory ways.
So the breakthroughs stand out.
And they stand out in our memory too. Because after the breakthrough we live a new normal. The breakthrough can be followed by integration:
- we find a way to live that is not hostile to our emotions
- we begin a loving relationship
- we pay attention to our intuition
A Breakthrough Can Feel Amazing
Our breakthroughs normally have an intensity that the rest of our life doesn’t. Though less often the breakthrough is a relaxation of tension – something like: Oh, I don’t have to do that.
The high is great and so you want another one. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with this. Some people love roller-coasters others love a calm and steady rhythm (I’m one of the calm and steady group).
This can become a problem when the workshop or next self development book or program becomes the only time you feel fully alive. You become a self development junkie or workshop junkie.
The problem comes when we try and have the breakthrough over again instead of living the new life that has opened up for us. It is like wanting to fall in love again, rather than feel deeper and more profound love for the person we fell in love with.
Feel the Feeling
Emotions are to be expressed – when they are fully expressed we feel the next emotion that comes along. When we don’t express them fully a part of us remains stuck on that unexpressed feeling.
[When someone thinks you are too emotional and tells you to, “Get over it”; know that the quickest – and perhaps the only – way to ‘get over it’ is to express the emotion fully. You don’t have to do this all at once; you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the emotion; you just need to express it with all of who you are.]
So the way to move on from the breakthrough is to feel it fully. Enjoy the elation if that is what comes, or cry or plan – whatever it is for you.
We get used to some things quite quickly. So we can forget how much better our lives are now compared to what they were before. Our lives are just usual – and we forget that our new usual is feeling ok about ourselves or not having that particular bad relationship dominating our life. So it can be worth setting up quite deliberate reminders of how far we’ve come (and even one step is worth celebrating I think).
The integration can be quite deliberate work. The breakthrough is usually to some extent unconscious or spontaneous – usually we are taken by surprise to some extent. The integration, the development of a new life can feel a good deal more pedestrian compared to the elation of the breakthrough.
For instance, you realise that in your relationship with your spouse that you can ask for what you want. It is worth thinking about what this means in different areas:
- domestic duties
- planning outings
- financial expenditure
Each of these could need quite different innovations and ways of talking about them.
And then it may lead to differences in other relationships too. What does it mean to ask for what you want from your:
- Work colleagues?
How you change these relationships could be quite different to how you change your relationship with your spouse.
One way of seeing the integration is applying the breakthrough to what was your usual way of life. You create the future by changing how you did things in the past. In this way the breakthrough doesn’t stay only emotional or intellectual (or both) but comes to pervade all our life.
It can be hard work to break an old habit – or learn a new way of doing things which we don’t have a clue about. I think it will help if you:
- celebrate each new step
- find ways to take regular enjoyable breaks
- find the easiest way to do the new stuff
- do one or two new things rather than trying to do everything at once
The breakthrough and the integration are both important for our development.
- Without the breakthrough there’d be nothing to integrate.
- Without integration the value of the breakthrough can be lost.
I want to draw your attention to the rhythm of our development – from your usual way of living, to the breakthrough, to the integration (the new usual) – to shift the focus from the breakthrough alone. I want to draw your attention to the importance of the integration of the breakthrough, and the need to alter our usual way of life. And I want to remind you that by taking small steps after the breakthrough you can build a deeply satisfying life.