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How it Really Works

Chapter 14

Paying Attention

All people pay some attention to the feelings and sensations created continually by the emotional system and the ad hoc activation programs. It does not have to be an unbearable headache or internal intestinal agony which draw our attention to the feelings and sensations of the moment. But, most people are not consciously aware of the fact that they have bodily felt sensations and feelings all the time, and that they attend to them within the margin of their awareness.

Most of them increase and decrease their level of awareness to this stream of inputs instinctively or as a reflex, with only a vague notion of the fact (except when the feelings are very intense). Usually, they hardly remember afterwards that they paid so much attention to those targets.

Only people who are in extraordinary circumstances, or those who are extremely exceptional themselves, remember in detail their paying attention to a target. Only a very few people who are not specifically trained to do so are wise enough to activate this behavior deliberately and voluntarily.

The general sensate focusing technique, and many other effective measures, which succeed in improving supra-programs of individuals significantly, activate the same system in basically the same manner - even when the persons involved are not aware of this fact.

Those who use these approaches do so by systematically influencing the way the people they work with allocate attentional resources. Intentionally or as a by-product, the reallocated attention is focused on felt sensations which result from the control components of ad hoc programs. (Sometimes, when people are unaware of the real way the emotional system works, it is done only "by accident" as the treatment involves activities which create hard to ignore sensations).

The following are a few pages intended to make the focusing of attention and other tactics of the technique more meaningful.


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Biofeedback or how the head works

During my first year of formal studies in the field of psychology, I enrolled in a course of laboratory workshops. One of the sessions involved the demonstration of the ever-changing electrical conductivity (and resistance to it) of the skin. Each of us experimented with an instrument which measures the changes that occur in the resistance of the skin to a weak electrical current (called by the name of "Galvanic-Skin-Resistance" or G.S.R.). The changes in the measured resistance are mainly due to changes in the sweating intensities.

The slow changes in the secretion of the sweat glands are mainly due to general changes in the body temperature, fast ones are the result of the minute changes that occur in the activity of the "autonomic nervous system". A fast rise in the activity of this system and an increase in the secretion of sweat are physiological expressions of high arousal and fear.

Thus, in spite of its innocent name, this instrument is intended to measure emotional changes and not those of electrical conductivity. For this reason, it is included in the police polygraph (called by some "the lie-detector").

During the exercise, I had one of the instruments attached to my fingers and I started to play with it: first I only followed the minute changes in the position of the needle of the watch-like monitor; then I found that these changes were related to the content of my thoughts; after a short while I even succeeded in controlling the movement of the needle by systematically changing the contents of my thoughts, sexy thoughts moved it to the right and boring ones to the left.

A bit later I found that one need not use thoughts in order to influence the needle, as the intention alone, accompanied with concentration of attention, achieved the same results. Not much later I learned that I was not the first to discover this phenomenon, and that this physiological function is the easiest to measure and influence. The sensations of the body which are related to these functions are hard to discern in normal circumstances and a few of them are never noticed by untrained individuals.

A whole branch of research is dedicated to the task of training people to take partial control of functions of the body with the aid of measuring devices. This activity is usually called "Biofeedback Training". This name sums up the processes behind this phenomenon which consists of:

  • A sub-system of the brain and mind system which supervises a physiological function and supplies (feed) it with an input, thus influences its intensity.
  • Faint feedback from a part or a region or a site of the body (or brain) about the activation of that function (influenced by the input of the sub-system), supplied (back or in return) to the sub-system of the brain and mind supervising it, via natural channels.
  • Substantial feedback about the activation of the same function, supplied to the same sub-system of the brain and mind, from the same site of the body or brain, via the visual or the auditory channel, by the instrument that measures this function.

The initial "Bio" is added to "Feedback" to create the term "Biofeedback" in order to distinguish it from the feedback processes of a purely technological environment.

Many processes of our body are evolving under the supervision of other processes of the organism. Processes are initiated, curtailed or change their level according to the input they get from their supervising processes, which in their turn do it according to inputs from other processes, including feedback from the supervised ones.

Last Updated: 22 July 2014
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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