THE AMAZING and RELENTLESS HUMAN DEVELOPMENT of FOCUSING

Please read first the 7 paragraphs on The Human Survival Strategy where this was all explained very beautifully(!).

If you already sympathise with the ideas in Survival Strategies, then the place you really want to get to next is Displacement Activity.

This Page is a detailed examination of the focusing learning system. The second part is essentially a summary of the point of critical overload already discussed in Beliefs and Their Confirmation

Part One : The Individual Development

Human babies don't have sufficient instinctive talents to survive. First we have to learn – and to learn, first we have to focus. Without focusing we can do nothing and learn nothing.

These days we encourage focusing from the earliest age to give children a good start in life. We learn to focus with our eyes and ears to read, write, draw and listen; with our bodies to coordinate riding bicylces and kicking footballs; and with our minds to think.

To learn and remember, we are often told that we need to concentrate. Concentration is when we consciously and actively focus.

We already know this, so why am i repeating it? Repetition is when we focus on a memory. Humans focus on and repeat what they know to confirm it, it gives us a sense of security, to feel we know what's happening.

Hands with opposable thumbs, and a 'golden' throat would have been useless without focusing. Humans were successful, because we developed memory systems with our ability to focus on abstract words and symbols. Humans processed, collected, and communicated ideas quickly and we soon learnt to repeat an amazing amount of tricks.

It is a multi-efficient system. Learnt habitual repetitive ruts are essential and basically they are efficient. And with every new step the focusing-learning system confirmed itself as successful.

Development of Language

We understand what's happening in terms of the relationship between subjects and objects, things which do and are done to. And the words, grammatical constructions and memory systems we developed, to describe and understand the practical world, were very successful in mastering that material world.

Focused thinking was the way we learnt how to make fire and wheels. More recently focusing and focused thought gave us houses of brick, peanut butter and deep freezers. And all the marvellous inventions and developments and creativity of civilisation, developed from our ability to focus with our senses and our minds. This system of doing and thinking is deeply confirmed in all of us, both individually and culturally, because it gets things done.

Our modern western civilisation has successfully confirmed a few dozen trillion times that focusing – learning, memory, abstract thought, and repeating the habitual ruts of the past – works successfully for our survival.

Emotional Development

This practical learning system we have is the same one we use for feelings and emotions. And feelings and emotions also develop habitual ruts.

Focusing doesn't automatically lead to emotionally learnt, habitual ruts. It's only when we think, feel, see, hear, smell, taste, touch or think something which causes pleasure or displeasure that it sometimes – depending on the degree of pleasure or displeasure – leads to wanting something. And consequently, when we want something, we focus on it, it becomes an habitual rut.

We repeat what is pleasurable. We avoid repeating what is unpleasurable. Even if a 'memory repetition', is unpleasurable it gives us a sense of direction and a basis to compare, evaluate and guide other experiences. It gives us a direction in life. It gives us something to focus on. And so, such habitual ruts are also basically, a successful way to live with purpose and find pleasure.

So, when focusing causes pleasure, it leads to wanting – and wanting automatically leads to focusing on what we want.

This is an habitual rut on a new level. A self supporting, self-perpetuating feedback loop. But, in itself, this is also a positive influence.

When we want something, we will periodically remember it, focusing on it in an abstract form, until we do it, or get it. Then the focusing may stop for a while – except as a 'self-confirming memory' – till the next time we want it. That's efficient. And even after we invented writing, and could write down lists of 'next things to do', it might have lost it's fun, but it was still efficient and the system worked well ... and it all seems a very sensible way of doing things.

The Irrelevant Disadvantages of Selective Focusing

There are a few irrelevant side effects in the system, but these aren't vital to our physical survival.

When we focus on something specific, we directly inhibit our general awareness of the many other things which are happening now. Selective attention, is always a dissociation from the wholeness of our sense of reality. Focusing on a girl i drive into a tree. But this is not felt as a draw-back to 'focusing', we interpret the problem as a lack of concentration on priorities.

We focus on where we're going or what we want. So, focusing is essentially, inevitably, not entirely now and in the present moment, it's a relationship, a direction, a purpose.

Not being now, but being on the way, is what focusing does, it was built that way, it's going somewhere which is not here. And if we want a life with a sense of purpose, if we plan wisely focusing can lead to greatly increased opportunities for pleasure. The main problem it involves is on the level of selecting priorities, because doing everything which we want to do is impossible.

So, focusing worked best for practical things in the material world; but this same focusing learning system works successfully in all it's basic aspects, for emotions, wants and pleasure.

And there seems to be nothing basically wrong or critically inefficient for survival, connected with having an emotional content to memories, and thus behavioural habitual ruts, aims, ambitions, and wants.

And focusing and focused abstract thinking, has been so very successful in our human development. It is so confirmed in all our thinking and learning, that we can't imagine another way of looking at anything, understanding anything, or doing anything.

The Problem Is – We Can't Stop Thinking

The basic inefficiency with the focusing-learning-wanting system, is that the feedback loop – "focusing → wanting → focusing" – repeats under its own momentum. This causes the persistent repetition of ideas and feelings for years – long after the actual stimulus is gone. This is especially problematic when the automatically repeating memories are unpleasant ones.

It's the nature of repetitions to keep repeating, so we can't stop thinking. And as we grow older and repetitions and memories accumulate, we get dull, either contented, maybe happy, maybe stressed, bored, or scared, but stuck in our self-perpetuating habitual ruts with our fixed behaviour.

The eternal abstract chatter in our minds, the continual rethinking and reconfirmation of our ideas and beliefs, and ideas about what we want from life, has in itself become an habitual rut, and this leads directly to a lack of actual life, and inevitably closed mindedness.

This is similar to something Buddha explained, and i discuss this in Chapter 5.

Part Two : Beliefs, Ideas, and Opinions

But even these self-perpetuating feeling and thinking habitual ruts wouldn't be a critical problem, ... if only everyone else confirmed our opinions, ideas and beliefs.

Hunger, cold, illness, and being eaten alive were obvious practical existence problems. Our creative focused thinking provided solutions to our practical survival and our material worries.

Our developing abstract thought came to the inherant questions of "what am I?" and "why am I?", and we developed beliefs and ideas to ease our newly awakened mental insecurity. We found secure 'raison d'êtres'.

As individuals and as cultures we became dependent on our ideas and beliefs for our sense of security and identity in our new abstract world.

In early human culture, the beliefs and ideas united a tribe. In simpler cultures with unquestioned customs, less choice and less contradictions, life was painful, but in different more practical ways, and everyone had the same practical problems. And, everyone had the same beliefs. Each culture was secure in its unique habitual ruts.

And it really didn't matter what we believed in, because for our sense of identity and security, the confirmation of the tribe was far more important than the truth.

Point of Critical Overload

To a species who gets security from abstract ideas; feelings of satisfaction or worry become dependent and dominated on confirming those ideas and beliefs. Our mental security is dependent on other people understanding and confirming us in our abstract habitual ruts. And the search for confirmation, becomes yet another self perpetuating system, another habitual rut.

The habitual ruts inherant in the focusing-learning-knowing system all worked well enough for the survival of the species, until, notably around the 1,600s, when groups of individuals started asking rebellious political and religious questions.

But it's with transport and mobility since the wheel, and now wings, since individual freedom of education and thought, and since modern medicine, when the tribes started multiplying and overpopulating and then trying to live in peace together ... that now, our next door neighbours have different opinions, ideas, and beliefs about life ... and we are all simultaneously facing a new global cultural survival problem ...

And i don't want to go back in time, It's just a fact of life. But nowadays with the modern multiplicity of beliefs, there simply isn't enough mutual confirmation to go around, and there never can be, ... and so we all feel very fundamentally insecure, ... and it is a realistic feeling ... it exists ... it is nothing which can be psychoanalysed away.

Collectively in human culture, any trace of the original animal sense of belonging is long gone; and now, we have even lost the unquestioned beliefs of our tribe. We have lost the mutual confirmation of a social group, a group of at least 30 people who all believe, unquestioningly, in the same things.

Our beliefs are insecure in a way no humans in any previous culture, have ever experienced, or even imagined, and so regardless of our modern material security, we are all still very insecure. ... and this is causing pain and suffering in a way that no animal or early human could ever imagine.

Conclusion

In the present cultural meltdown, our culture's continual and exclusive over emphasis and training for focused sensing and focused thinking, – with its inevitable development and dependance on beliefs, ideas, and opinions – leads slowly, but inevitably, to insecurity, dullness, and division.

And i see a clear way out of the chaos from a completely different perspective. And the fact that i can describe our human development without even mentioning it, shows how irrelevant it has been … up till now.

The Panorama Sense

All the time we are only looking at life, from only one perspective: focusing. We have forgotten how all other animals and early humans needed to use all their senses, to perceive all of the world (or as much as possible), in order to survive.

The panorama sense is not a new thing to believe in or do, it's a very old one. It must have developed previous to, and be the physiological basis of focusing. Plants have 'chemoreceptors', for smelling and tasting the air. Every amoeba has chemoreceptors and a generalised sensitivity to light and vibration. The panorama mode must have developed previous to focusing. And please continue with the other pages, – but we can see that it's at the very basis of life, and all other creatures have it, but we've lost it.

Please continue with Displacement Activity

There are some broader rough ideas on cultural developments and consequences, (particularly overpopulation) in note form here.

Back to Chapter Two : Cultural Effects