Concentration

by Dr. Brown on May 7, 2010

Some time ago, I was speaking with a woman who was telling me about the problems she had been having at work with a band of difficult co-workers and a particularly virulent supervisor. She mentioned that she had been off work for several months and could not imagine returning, and in the next breath, explained that she was unable to work due to problems she had with concentration and focus. As she detailed the months of slights, disrespects, harassments and her responses to each and every one of them, I came to understand that there was nothing at all wrong with this woman’s ability to concentrate and focus, and, in fact, both her long as well as term memory were perfectly functional and intact. When I mentioned to her my observation that there seemed nothing wrong with her concentration, she countered with specific details of an incident 6 months earlier where a co-worker had spoken to her in a particularly harsh manner and how that had resulted in poor work performance because she could not concentrate.

“You remember every detail of a brief conversation that occurred over 5 months ago, if that’s not concentration and focus, I don’t know what is,” I said to her. Reluctantly, she admitted that she had been spending a lot of time thinking about the workplace to which she would not be returning.

I paused, considered her situation for a moment, then asked, “What do you think you could accomplish for yourself if you directed your formidable concentration resources towards what you want in your life rather than the pain you’ve finished with and rejected?

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