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Focus: The art of grabbing your attention

Updated: Apr 2


Over the years I have dabbled in art classes, as I thoroughly enjoy the process of being creative. Recently I was involved in a class where the topic was the focal point of a picture. In the class, we used strong tonal contrast, where light areas are contrasted with dark areas, in order to draw a viewer’s eye towards the focus area. We were taught that patterns, sharp edges, bright colours and fine details may also act as focal points (Artist’s Network, n.d). A lack of a focal point in artwork will frustrate the eye of the viewer, as the eye is not drawn to a particular part of the piece. Furthermore, too many focal points or an unwisely positioned focal point may confuse the viewer (Artist’s Network, n.d).


When I am creating art, I enjoy the process so much that I will become fully immersed in a project. This kind of deep focus, where you are engaged in an activity with a clear goal that is intrinsically-rewarding to the person, is known in psychology as “flow” (Davis & Ludwig, 2018). When you experience flow, you automatically lose your awareness of yourself and become part of the activity (Davis & Ludwig, 2018). I believe that this type of activity, when you are immersed in a passionate project and you lose yourself, may be the very essence of happiness.


While engaging in activity associated with a flow state is considered an overall positive experience, it is also possible to be so singularly focused in an emotional state that it brings about an overall negative experience. Hypnotherapist Dan Jones (2018) likens this to being in an emotional trance-like state, where the trance is a narrowed focus of attention. For example, if an individual is in a depressive trance state, the narrower the focus of their attention, the deeper the trance-like state becomes (Jones, 2018). This has powerful outcomes for the individual’s perception and reality of their world, with a tendency to notice and interpret experiences in a negative way. Subsequently, the individual reacts to the world in a negative way, and is unlikely to see other alternative ways of perception and reaction. Trance-like emotional states may also exist for anxiety, anger, and grief (Jones, 2018). Pain can also bring about a narrower focus and is very effective at grabbing our attention.


Hypnosis is also linked to focus. Contrary to popular belief, a client is in a deeply focused state during hypnosis. Stage hypnotists have brought about the idea that hypnosis involves an individual in a trance-like state either being controlled by the hypnotist or zoning out. In reality, neither are true, as Hypnotherapists use deep relaxation exercises and communication skills to allow a client to narrowly focus their attention on one particular image or idea, and no mind control occurs. In a state of complete focus of the conscious mind, the subconscious is receptive to positive suggestions. Therefore, hypnosis can be useful in shifting attention away from negative thoughts, perceptions and stimuli, with positive suggestions further effectively changing negative outlooks and behaviours.


Therapy is also useful in getting a client to notice if there are certain times that a trance-like emotional state or intense pain briefly subsides, or perhaps when it is not experienced at all. These exceptions to the rule are times that the focus may be temporarily broken and they often play a key role in recovery. By actively noticing what is going on at these times and increasing the time spent in these activities, it helps to distract focus from the negative state and move towards more helpful patterns of thoughts and behaviours.


References


Artist’s Network (n.d). Focal point vs centre of interest. https://www.artistsnetwork.com/art-mediums/watercolor/focal-point-center-interest/


Davis, O.C. & Ludwig, A. (2018). The differences among mindfulness, flow, and hypnosis. https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/orin-davis-and-vera-ludwig/2018011937672


Jones, D. (2018). Understanding and Treating Depression: How to lift depression fast and create lasting change. Udemy. https://www.udemy.com/course/understanding-and-treating-depression/

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