Is Your Life Distracting You from Yourself?
Alicia Lord, MA
There are so many really fabulous distractions in our world and it feels like there are more to discover with every passing day. In a world driven by consumerism and media, it is possible to be distracted every minute of every day. Have you ever gotten really addicted to a game on your phone? Do you feel like checking Facebook multiple times a day despite rarely gaining anything from it? I will be the first one to admit that I am guilty of these compulsions, and even when I am aware of how much of my life is being wasted on mindlessness, it is still hard to shut down the impulses.
Even being productive can be a distraction! Do you get really into projects and end up spending hours and hours in front of a screen working? Have you scheduled every day of your child’s summer so that they never have to experience boredom? We are conditioned to be efficient and to do, do, do…but at what point is doing just another way to avoid feeling?
We fill our lives to the very top, until they are almost unbearably full, so that we can constantly ping pong between working and being so exhausted that we have no choice but to sleep.
But what would happen if it all fell away? What would you find underneath your doing and your distracting?
In my experience, there is a feeling waiting to be processed.
In your every day life that feeling is peaking its head out, trying to get your attention. Probably, you notice it…just a little. But it’s uncomfortable (I know…), so you just keep moving forward and pretend it isn't there. You play a level of a game you don’t care about. You watch every video on your newsfeed. You schedule a happy hour or a play date. Make sure it knows you do not have the time or attention for feeling right now.
The tricky part is, that feeling isn’t actually going away. Most likely, it’s getting a little bigger each time you turn your head away. Taking up more space, draining more energy. Ignoring feelings doesn't starve them, it feeds them. Only with attention and movement do feelings become smaller and more manageable. Eventually, you are going to have to pay attention—that’s just the nature of feelings.
There’s a downside to all the distracting. That is, when the feeling is so big you can no longer ignore it, it is also so big that it is bound to cause you distress. I do not mean to say that you cannot handle it; you absolutely can handle it. It is just going to take more work and it is going to be unpleasant. In fact, it is probably going to suck.
Because I know what this feels like, I would like to offer you an alternative: a way to avoid the biggest, most distressing versions of whatever feeling you are challenged by. I invite you to take an hour, a day, a week, whatever amount of time is available to you right now and I want you to swear off distracting. During that time, whenever you notice the urge to check social media, start a new project, plan an event, play a game, take a nap, shop, watch TV, etc, just notice if there’s also a feeling popping up.
Maybe welcome that feeling in, maybe tell that feeling that it scares you, maybe take a breath. We do not need to change anything, we just need to become more aware of what is actually truly happening in our experience.
Gaining awareness of what you really don't want to feel is an opportunity to get to know yourself a little bit better. Letting the feeling be seen instead of pushed under a pile of chores and extracurriculars is a very simple way to empower yourself a little bit more each day.
In addition, when we are trying so hard in an effort to avoid something, it can feel like we are hamsters in a wheel—there’s plenty of output but no actual movement. Instead, when we make room for being and for feeling, we invite a more natural flow into our lives. When we stop DOING all the time, and tap into feeling just a little more, life starts to unfold around us. It’s magical.
Today I invite you to feel just a little bit more. It’s worth it.