Amid the welter of intrusions affecting our quotidian lives, the slim strand of focused awareness we manage to maintain is evanescent, fragile, and discontinuous. Our consciousness slips free, becomes immersed in daydreams, generates spontaneous mental imagery, and untethers a maelstrom of captivating emotions. Thoughts race in wild unexpected directions, dive into oblivion, and are replaced with new discontinuous streams of words, ideas, and feelings.
Distractions abound. It is often all we can do to attend to matters at hand – responding to stimuli, managing repetitive tasks, taking measurements, doing calculations, analyzing data, studying texts, or finding ways through complex routes. Our minds seem all too ready to fly away – as if focused awareness is an unpleasant untenable burden. And once we are distracted we are vulnerable to strong forces broadcast everywhere to prey upon our vulnerabilities – our needs, urges, and desires.
Surrounded by petabytes of probing media, we succumb to subliminal peripheral cues. The culturally conditioned state of affairs ensures that we will be ever prompted to distraction. Only with greater and greater effort and some studied discipline may we succeed in pulling our minds back to regain conscious control and to maintain some personal focus – until the whole process begins again. It is as predictable as are the cultural winds of change and the intensity of social pressure.
Consciousness exists as a spectrum of varying states between near-death, full wakefulness, and states of increased intensity. Because even the state of being awake involves discontinuity and susceptibility to suggestion – the most accepted definitions of hypnosis indicate the term denotes a state of unconscious suggestibility.
There can be no clear distinction between hypnotic states and states of wakefulness – all allow for succumbing to suggestion. We are always either coming into or waking up from some sort of trance. The tenuous task of managing this state of consciousness we call “being awake” is similar to the sensation of riding a bicycle. The moment of being in balance is transitory by nature. Being in balance involves momentarily losing balance and then instantly finding it again. The same sort of continual dialectic between losing and regaining balance describes the kinesthetic description of the seemingly simple act of walking down the street. Psychologically, such rhythmic activity produces its own forms of trance and makes it difficult to maintain continuously focused attention.
The trance-like state we’re in is a highly suggestible one. In this state, culturally produced messages continually override our individual thoughts. A mindful attentiveness produced by a combination of centered focus and critical thinking is a valuable method for managing our mental environment. It behooves us to learn to manage it well. If we don’t, we hand over control of our very perceptions, thoughts, and emotions to forces designed to produce unexamined lives of mindless Pavlovian behavior.
“Mind Moves” – Tullio – 2013