As I discussed in my previous post, distraction can be a good thing; however, it can also can also be a bad thing. Of course, the term “bad” is subjective, but in this case, I mean it to refer to something that takes away from our sense of happiness, hinders us, and prevents us from achieving our goals (whether they be tangible or not).
How can distraction be bad?
Distraction turns bad when we distract our selves from our selves. Humans have been doing this for years, we tend to avoid the hard feelings, the hard questions, and the hard realities of our lives. In order to avoid thinking about overwhelming emotions and thoughts we distract ourselves, and in this society, it has become incredibly easy to use distraction in order to facilitate avoidance.
Before the onset of the internet, distraction took more obvious forms such as overeating, overdrinking, and or overcopulating. However, in the age of the internet distraction is much more subtle and is often utilized in ways that are not obvious to others. For instance, you may not know that your friend binge watches Netflix for 5 hours every day in order to distract himself from the awful things he had to see while he was overseas. Likewise, you likely have no idea how much time you yourself spend on Facebook or Instagram every day. While this may not seem like a distraction, I urge you to take a couple days off from social media and monitor your emotional state. I have faith that you will become much more in tune with your thoughts and you may be surprised at the emotions that arise.
Is this sort of distraction a problem?
The answer, as is usually the case, is that it depends. If binge watching allows for someone to escape their overwhelming thoughts and emotions until they are in a safe-space in which to explore them, I believe this is not problematic. The situation becomes problematic when the person doesn’t explore these thoughts and emotions. As we know, anything we suppress or push down into the unconscious will eventually rise up in rebellion. The unconscious always makes itself known in the conscious world, and often in ways that are not ideal.
It’s important to note that distraction through technology is not a sign of a weakness, in fact it is being conditioned into us at a very early age. Essentially, distraction is taught as a coping mechanism. Next time you go to a restaurant look around for families with small children. I can almost guarantee that you will see a family with a small child watching an I-pad while they enjoy dinner. Parents can attest to the mighty power of the I-pad! How nice to finally get out for a meal without having to deal with screaming children! How interesting though, that those children, who previously would have resorted to their biological coping mechanism (crying) to deal with distress, are now able to distract themselves from their distress through a movie or a game. Rather than expressing the distress through crying they are distracted from any distress via the I-pad.
I don’t know what this means for future children, but I do believe it is likely that this act is conditioning the young brain to associate distress with a need to distract from distress. Is this good then? Or bad? Again, it depends. I think it is important to be aware of our distractions and use distraction responsibly, which means eventually acknowledging and exploring whatever it is that we are distracting ourselves from.
Common ways of distracting that may be problematic if not used in a responsible way:
-Television, Netflix, movies.
-Over indulgin in sugar
-Overreading (I know this sounds odd, but I have met many individuals who have used novels to distract themselves from their current situation. Books can easily facilitate an escape from overwhelming emotions and thoughts).
I want to acknowledge that I have only touched on the very tip of the iceberg regarding what distraction is, how it can be destructive, and how it can be used responsibly. There is so much more to explore regarding distraction, I urge you to take it upon yourself to look at your relationship with distraction and how it might be impacting your life (for the better or for the worse).