Delightful Distractions

During various trials, loved ones have advised me to focus on something other than what’s bothering me. I’m sure everyone’s heard similar counsel. I’ve always understood the practicality of the sentiment, but being the problem-solver I endeavor to be, I resist to follow it. I feel like I need to find a way to wrap my head around whatever I’m feeling and conquer it. I’m not a cat who can just be distracted by a laser light and everything’s fine after that.

I recently read an article, however, that made me reconsider my mindset. It discussed overcoming negative emotions, and citing psychiatric professionals, one of the primary techniques it recommended was distracting yourself from your low spirits. As Dr. Maxwell Maltz put it, “When your phonograph is playing music you don’t like, you do not try to force it to do better. . . . You merely change the record being played and the music takes care of itself. Use the same technique on the ‘music’ that comes out of your own internal machine.”

Though the analogy itself is pretty dated, I appreciated the value in his words. A lot of times, our problems and the way they affect us are as unchangeable as playing someone else’s music. There really isn’t a solution, and we can’t always master even our own feelings. In those all-too-frequent instances, the best resolution may well be to preoccupy yourself with more positive pursuits, a different record.

Does this indicate weakness or—as I expressed earlier—a feline-like inability to concentrate? Not at all. Suppose you’re standing in the ocean, wading in the water on a mild afternoon. Suddenly, the wind shifts, stirring up the gentle current. You realize how far out you’ve wandered and feel the tug of the riled waves pulling you even farther. What’s the path of least resistance: caving to its prodding or straining to retreat to the shore?  

Likewise, we’re not cowards if we choose to flee from our present state of mind. The storms of life hold the power to suck us under the weight of them, and it takes great strength, not weakness, to outrun their wrath. But we can’t expect willpower alone to accomplish this. Rather, we have to dig our heels into something else, an anchor from our own vices.

All this said, there’s a healthy balance you need to strike. Some matters must be confronted, and running away from them often compounds the issue. Plus, the world offers an array of the wrong kind of distractions. Thus, you have to be prudent in when to “change the record” and which one to select. If you choose well, though, you can transform a tragic concerto an uplifting symphony.

Also See

Imagination for Self-Preservation

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