Your brain is structured to do every activity you do. Whatever you ask it to do is what it will get good at. But when people think of all their capabilities, they only think of the surface stuff their brain does like remembering directions, or calculating numbers or knowing how to read or write. And without further meditation those all seem like they’re just manipulations of the data. So what they believe they know is the directions, the numbers and the communications, but what they also need to have is the remembering, the calculating and the creation.
This is why I use a flip phone. Most of you have already noticed the drop in functionality of your memory due to smartphones. People used to routinely remember all 30 of their friend’s phone numbers, all of their bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc. etc. We had to remember a lot and those of us who haven’t surrendered the skill can still do it. But like a muscle, if I don’t do the work the ability will deteriorate.
Mental Disorders are not tangible. You can’t cut someone open and find depression or ADHD, but you can find tumours creating pressure, or damaged structures from drug use or strokes, or actual observable issues with various aspects of the brain’s function. This is because physical damage is not the same as confusion about usage. A car can crash because a part breaks, or it can crash because the person driving it wasn’t properly trained. Mental Disorders are just innocent driver errors due to poor or missing driving instructions.
I know a lot of you really have a strong aversion to me saying this because you feel it makes you or someone you love somehow more responsible, but if you think that you’re misunderstanding. That’s like saying people who’s kids were injured in a car crash in 1950 should feel responsible for the seat belt not being invented yet. You can’t even start working on something until you know it needs the work. So no one is guilty here, but some things are happening and I help people precisely because I deal with what’s happening and I do not subscribe to little boxes that do not exist except in the imagination of the person believing in them.
If you ramp up the amount kids watch TV, movies and games at the same time that you perpetually shorten the length of each edit then this is like repeatedly hitting the novelty switch in your brain. Not that long ago you were a lot less safe and a lot more hungry, so your brain was wired up to notice new things because they might be either food or a predator. So you were built to notice new things. Edits, to your brain, are new things.
Ask the brain to get good at switching but not at holding and guess what? It gets good at switching and not at holding and ADHD is born, and the nations with less media report less incidence. Even Europe records less than half the cases of North America where media addictions are worse.
The other brain function impacting this involves the nature of the internet. Hyperlinks are literally opportunities to distract yourself from what you’re doing. Yes, Hyperlinks are related to what we’re doing so we can justify using them, but we are nevertheless creating our own edit now, but in a text document not a video one. Many times these are useful for finding the article or information you were really looking for, but often times you’re being far less directed than that.
Over time this has lead to us all doing Hyperlink Thinking in our daily lives. Now I always liked how Europeans didn’t need conversation to be linear and goal-oriented like North Americans, but that’s not the willingness to go with the flow that I mean. Two humans actually connecting involves that connection, so the flow should serve that. But in the document it often only serves as a distraction and it explains why so few people feel they are getting enough or as much done.
If you can’t read a book for more than 30 minutes without getting up and doing something else, then already your brain has been trained to think it is supposed to flit from here to there, and so your very concentration is seen as an enemy by a brain trained for switching. This is why you so often lose focus, get distracted and are unproductive even on work you care about.
I only noticed this because I slipped into it too. I limit my screen time intentionally, but even then I could feel myself losing focus far sooner than I was accustomed to. Noticing that, I immediately raised my awareness and quickly I noticed my impulse to follow part of a thought in a new direction and there I had my culprit. My brain had gotten good at chasing down other angles and I was getting increasingly willing to wander off of my original intention.
I’m currently putting this to a stop and you can too but it requires awareness, targeted non-action and diligence. It takes a while to learn not to wander so much but I got good at wandering by wandering so I’ll get good at focusing by focusing too. Now I regularly check back in with my original intention to ensure I’m still on it.
Don’t let Hyperlink Thinking invade your day and steal both your productivity and your mind’s ability to focus on an issue at a level that makes you more successful. Your capabilities are not a fixed asset, you are a flexible being, capable of altering yourself to suit your needs. But you must do it consciously. I’d maybe help more with a hyperlink to another relevant post right here but… you know… . 😉
peace (of mind) s
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.