Ashwood Therapy Blog

What We Focus On Gets Bigger

Have you ever had the experience of being in a busy public place whilst pregnant, or being out somewhere crowded with your partner while she was pregnant?  Perhaps you have been walking through the city centre, or on holiday at a popular resort, and have been surprised to notice just how many other pregnant women there are nearby.  Of course, it may just be coincidence that you happen to be in the same place as many other expectant mothers.  It would also be no surprise to bump into more ladies and their bumps if you were out shopping for baby outfits!  When just going about your daily life, however, an increased awareness of mums to be, I would argue, is perhaps more to do with the fact that we often notice more what is important to us at that time.

An online colleague of mine has as her instant messenger status the phrase ‘what we focus on gets bigger’.  This is certainly true in my own life, and for many of the clients I work with.  Sometimes, overemphasizing one particular aspect of daily life can lead to us having a distorted view of an issue.  Put simply, problems often seem to be magnified the more time we spend with them.  Sometimes we can get so caught up in what seems to be ‘wrong’ with things, we can lose sight of almost all else.  When the problem is so huge, there can seem to be no room for a solution.

A couple of approaches can help in situations like this, in my experience.  Sometimes, if a client has long rubbed up against a problem, they can lose the ability to think about the problem – all they are left with is the ability to think of the problem.  Here, using our peripheral vision, so to speak, can be a useful approach.  If we look at the problem ‘straight on’, we may end up with that fearful, distorted view, and so looking at the problem ‘out of the corner of our eye’ can be more helpful.  To introduce more into the session and to focus less on the problem at hand can, strangely, make the problem seem less insurmountable.  When looking at what we can change, that longstanding problem can somehow seem less menacing.  Perhaps that makes sense to you as you are reading this, if you have something that is currently troubling you?

Therapists who train in the solution-focused approach to therapy talk about how if a client is stuck on ‘problem island’, they may not be able to see the bridge to ‘solution island’.  They may have all the language and vocabulary they need to talk about ‘the problem’, yet none of the language needed to describe ‘the solution’.  Here, looking at exceptions (times when ‘the problem’ is not occurring, or times when it is less troublesome), can lead to us discovering what helps with the particular issue in question.  Knowing when things are a little better, and then creating situations which include elements known to be helpful can introduce ‘the solution’ alongside that familiar ‘problem’.

Clients can in time learn to experience new things which are more linked to moving on, and so their focus can change from what has gone wrong to what is going right.  The issue that brought them to therapy, now not permanently in the spotlight, can shrink in size as the rest of their life grows.  In this way, focusing on more than just one narrow aspect of their situation can help clients to see that there are things to be enjoyed after all, and that change is possible, step by small step.

Can you relate to this way of looking at things, at all?  What will you decide to focus more on today?

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com

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What We Focus On Gets Bigger | Ashwood Therapy Blog