Distraction: Friend or Foe?

Distraction has always been my biggest enemy, yet my best friend. I have effortlessly, and slightly subconsciously, drowned myself in every distraction possible to avoid some inner battles. I can dive into relationships, cling to new friends, work six jobs, take 22 units in school, stay out until the sun comes out, read a book, or turn on the TV all just to avoid my mind from being consumed by my inner conflicts.

Don’t get me wrong, distraction can be good. Counter to letting myself fall into a world of distractions, I will stay awake at night, tossing and turning with my mind racing. I will stress myself out so bad, literally making myself sick with worry. Often times, these worries are minor but I have let my mind turn them into a monster with menacing tentacles of concern, fear, and anxiety.

Recently I have seen how distraction is a promptness we turn to in times of confusion and sorrow. In the horrific events happening around the world like the Sandy Hook shooting or the bombing at the Boston Marathon, it is obvious that sometimes we simply do not want to be faced with reality so we distract ourselves. The news comes on and we see images of children losing their lives and we change the channel to Rihanna’s new-hit single or a rerun of Big Bang Theory. After we change the channel we text a friend about how the club went last night or we go to work and our minds drift off to somewhere else with those horrific events just a faint image in our minds. The guilt of doing this eats away at my consciousness and leaves me with a feeling of inhumanity, as I’m sure others do as well.

Going off on the media’s agenda is another ramble, but I think it is important that when things happen in life, not just what we see in the media, but in life right next to us, we acknowledge and we consume. Little things that trigger a sense of emotion, whether happy or sad, we fully embrace that emotion and we feel.

The thing about sorrow that can be hard to grasp is that life does go on. We lose people and the world doesn’t stop for us to gather our thoughts let alone ourselves. Tragedy happens but for some reason other things take more importance in our lives. It ultimately is an ability we have learned to do – we block certain things out to numb our emotions and to avoid hurt. The back of our minds most likely have questions or pain mounting, but we swat it away faster than a fly in summer.

The biggest dilemma that this ability to block out has done to us, is that it has hindered our ability to feel. It has obstructed pure emotion. Instead of truly mourning or feeling, we pick up a book, or log onto facebook and let our emotions whimper out like a dying fire, not giving it a chance to re-ignite. Distraction has given us the ability to disconnect with emotion when we are feeling a sense of powerlessness to deal with whatever “it” is.

I’ve battled with the concept of ‘distraction’ for a while now. Debating whether it is a friend or a foe. There have been times in my life where distraction was an absolute necessity to get me through the day and not go mentally insane. I’ve maintained pointless friendships I knew were never going to hold substance, purely for the element to keep myself busy and distracted from reality. To an extent, distractions can be healthy. It is never productive to obsess over a thought or situation that happened. The mind can do unthinkable things to your body. It can cause anxiety and worry that is non-existant, which ultimately leads to more damaging things to our body than imaginable (high blood pressure, panic disorder, stress, weight change, etc). Distraction has been my best friend in these types of situations, allowing me to calm my mind and body with a tender escape.

I don’t think I have found the balance or accurate approach to the concept of distraction. The mind is a delicate thing. Like a game of tug-o-war, the mind can sway or be jerked in various directions. Ultimately, we have control over our minds, but distractions seem to hold the power on the direction where our mind resides. Distraction can be a ‘friend’ to us in a time of unnecessary worry, but it can be a ‘foe’ to us with a dangerous motive to avoid emotion. What is distraction to you? Friend or foe?

With the kick-off of summer approaching, I challenge you to be mindful of the distractions that you place before yourself. Summer might be one of the toughest times or one of the easiest times to be mindful – depending on how you approach it. Delve into the wilderness and feel the wind blowing past your hair, dive into the water and let the frigidness strike your bones, but most importantly, feel the earth beneath your feet and the blood running through your veins. Connect with any and every emotion you feel. Don’t let the temptations distract you from your trueness.

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