Your success in therapy, recovery, and life is dependent upon the development of one essential skill: directing your focus.
Whenever anyone meaningfully recovers from anything, from addiction to PTSD to depression to any other psychological struggle, the significant thing that has shifted is that they have developed the skill of effectively directing their focus.
In the end, why do people struggle with addiction? Because they have not yet developed the skill of directing their focus away from their cravings and toward alternative ways of getting their needs met. People recover from addiction when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there.
In the end, why do people struggle with PTSD? Because their focus is constantly being dragged from the present and the future to the past. They recover when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there.
In the end, why do people struggle with depression? Because their focus is constantly being dragged to the darkest, least helpful, most distorted thoughts and beliefs their brains can conjure. They recover when they are able to direct their focus where they want it to go, when they want it to go there.
EVERY type of therapy is about learning to purposefully, voluntarily shift and control focus.
For a lot of people, this seems like the bad news.
After all, shifting focus doesn’t seem to be as kill that comes naturally.
We don’t WANT to have to invest all of that energy into monitoring and intentional shifting our focus.
It’s a hassle. It’s a pain.
We’d far, far prefer if our attention just naturally went to things the made us feel good. Just naturally avoided addictive cravings, PTSD flashbacks, and depressive crevices.
Many people, when they realize how difficult it is to shift their focus, and that they can’t do it naturally or instinctively, get it in their heads that they are somehow “broken.” They think that “normal” people can shift focus easily and automatically, without having to learn how to do it through training or treatment.
This is something we all desperately need to get over. As soon as we can.
The fact is, shifting focus doesn’t come “naturally” to most people.
Some people have had life experiences and have neural wiring that makes shifting focus an easier skill to learn than other people. That’s it.
Regardless of how easy or difficult we find it, we ALL have to learn it.
And the sooner we get past being angry or disappointed that we didn’t come “equipped from the factory” with this ability, the sooner we can go about actually taking control of our destinies.
The good news: we have plenty of experience learning to control our focus.
Think about the fact that if you’ve ever held a job— EVER— you’ve learned to direct your focus, at least a little.
Think about the fact that if you’ve successfully been potty trained— you’ve learned to direct your focus.
Think about the fact that if you’re even reading these words— you’ve learned to direct your focus.
The fact is, you control your focus in lots of ways, and you’ve probably done so for years. Therapy and treatment just teaches you to direct your focus in specific ways that we haven’t yet mastered.
So this essential task of therapy? You’ve mastered it. Just not in the specific domain that you need to just now.
When you enter into therapy, when you get into treatment, as you go about your recovery journey, remember: I KNOW you can do this. And the reason I KNOW you can do this, is because I KNOW you have some practice and skill with the essential skill involved: shifting your focus.
Don’t give up.
Just keep drilling the basics.
Master this one skill in the specific domain with which you’re struggling.