Mark is looking for a new truck. The one he drives looks to be in excellent condition but he prefers the latest and greatest. He gives me regular updates on his search including dealers and automakers offers. We also went through the process of buying a new car recently. We had two models picked out, Lexus and Volvo. Which one would you choose? “Choose” is a very important word in this blog so start “paying attention.” (“Paying attention” is also important.)
What happens when you are looking for a new car and you narrow your choices down? You start “paying attention” to the car you want, suddenly seeing it everywhere. If you just want a particular color, let’s say red, you start seeing red cars everywhere.
You “choose” to pay attention to your desires and like magic your brain kicks in to high gear. The part of the brain that “pays attention” to what you “choose” is called the reticular activating system (RAS). Please dont think RAS only pays attention to good stuff like new cars. You can activate it to pay attention to bad stuff also.
So many patients have told me they stopped watching the news as the Covid 19 pandemic progressed. I understand choosing to be informed is important but when is it too much information? As the pandemic dragged on the reporting became so fear driven their health and wellbeing was being compromised. It wasn’t easy to turn it off though with the RAS tuned into all the bad news about Covid 19. It was next to impossible to turn away.
An employee at the television news industry taught me years ago that news is a form of entertainment meant to arouse emotions. I thought their job was to report the news. I found this as blasphemous as the time one of the Steelers told me “The Steelers are a business, same as any business!” What? I thought the Steelers were made to rouse emotions out of me if they dared to lose a game.
The RAS is a useful tool if used to point you in the right direction. Being an expert in being afraid every day because you have chosen to pay attention to bad stuff is not being informed. It’s choosing to put your faith in fear to overprotect you. Not a healthy choice.
I long for the days when using my RAS to pick out a new car is the biggest item I choose to pay attention to.