Using Fear To Leverage Your Attention For What’s Important

You hit post. Even though it was as crass as it gets, you feel fine because it’s pointing out a major *insert political hottake* and the hope is the shock somehow persuades people who don’t think like you to finally think like you, or at the least draw the same conclusions.

But now you’re feeling a churn in your stomach. Wait, you’re connected with your boss online right? Oh and there’s aunt Lisa but maybe this time it will get past her newsfeed addiction and won’t notice so your comment section blows up.

You hit post because you’d figure people would watch this video to themselves, think to themselves, thank you in their heads for sharing this derogatory political take, and repent of their wrongful ways.

Nope. Now the fear is bubbling up of the oncoming social faux pas you have to address and you don’t have a personal communications staff to handle all the heat coming your way. Now the fear is cementing itself in you and weighing your stomach down, turning into stress.

In John Mark Comer’s book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, he provides a couple declarative statements about attention I find helpful in addressing the above scene.

One is “attention lead to awareness.” This is important because awareness is how we perceive the world. It’s how we filter the stacks of information in our environment and condense them into a coherent narrative. Where we are placing our attention varies as this person might notice the cloud in the shape of a dog, while this person is noticing the stormcloud forming, and the other person is just scrolling on their phone with no view of the natural landscape at all. But those three people are physically in the same environment.

Attention thus aids our ability to scan our environment and provide us the opportunity to perceive what’s happening. Choosing what to place our attention on is critical.

The second powerful statement on attention Comer makes is “what you give your attention to is the person you become.” Instead of just being observational of our surroundings, our attention serves as a transformative agent. It molds us. The things we discriminate against in our environment helps us focus on the things we become biased towards, and those biases mold us into the people we increasingly become more like.

You see your political commentator. They see theirs. And neither the two shall meet.

If we are becoming more of what we focus our attention on as we scan our environments and gain awareness, the object of our attention greatly matters. Because we start becoming more like it.

Which leads to an interesting finding in psychology. In the book Mastering Fear, it’s revealed that fear focuses attention. It’s a mechanism in our brains which allows us to zero in on something in particular.

This tool is useful out in the wild to scan the environment for predators. Fear focuses.

But misplaced fear terrorizes and causes all sorts of symptoms not useful to one’s life.

The author, Dr Robert Maurer, states there is a law of success and that for successful people they “develop an awareness and acceptance of fear.” (pg 26). Fear is thought of as something to be embraced by artists, athletes and business folk alike. This is because of the physiological response appropriate fear is triggering in us to train us for the most important things in our life to work on. To dedicate ourselves to.

Which is why a hypothesis I caught onto once finding out about the actual power found in fear simplified a sort of conundrum I and I am sure others have held.

There are a lot of commands in the Bible, but one repeated message or phrase is to fear God.

Fearing God comes off as, well, scary. What was meant by repeating this phrase over and over, throughout the centuries?

Ah. It appears we are wired to scan our environment and focus our attention on what fear points us towards. We can of course focus on things we love. But the mechanism of fear serves as a powerful attention tool.

Our awareness then, as a scanning mechanism of our environment, is greatly affected if we are looking for where God is showing up in the midst of our present moment.

Comer resonates here in the same passage I was previously quoting from:

So many people live without a sense of God’s presence through the day. We talk about his absence as if it’s this great question of theodicy. And I get that: I’ve been through the dark night of the soul. But could it be that, with a few said exceptions, we’re the ones who are absent, not God? We sit around sucked into our phones or TV or to-do lists, oblivious to the God who is around us, with us, in us, even more desirous than we are for relationship.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry Pg 54

Our fear turns out to be a tool of great importance, not something to be discarded or ran away from.

If we are to master fear, use it as the tool it is intended for as an attention tuning device, then the object of our fear is of incredible importance.

Horrific news dialed up several levels via gossip tactics by political social media accounts or the 24/7 news industry? Yeah I’m not sure that’s the proper aim of our fear we need to be focusing our attention on.

Published by David Mieksztyn

I am a writer passing along what I've learned.

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