Be Careful Where You Focus Your Attention

I hiked one day with a woman I’ll call Laura. She shared with me that she had just lost her husband. She said that for a number of years he had been obsessed with avoiding all foods and environmental toxins that had any claimed connection to cancer. I asked her how he died and she replied, “Cancer of course. His body was totally riddled with it.”

We have all heard versions of Laura’s story.

Scientist Rupert Sheldrake writes about how every activity and thing that people think about has a ‘morphic field’ around it. It is something like Carl Jung’s collective unconscious. The more people think and learn about a field, the stronger the field gets and the easier it is to tap into it. Alcohol addiction, for example, has a huge morphic field around it. The morphic field of making wine from dandelions would be much smaller, but nonetheless real.

Laura’s husband had tapped into the cancer morphic field—he obsessed about it—and that is exactly what he got. The morphic field contains the polarity of cancer and not cancer. Even though he was focused on avoiding cancer, he was still in the morphic field of cancer.

I am glad, of course, that increasing knowledge about cancer is giving sufferers better chances of survival. Nevertheless, focusing on the disease, or focusing on avoiding it, carries a risk.

The same principle applies to nonmedical fields. You may decide you must have more money. However, financial need and financial lack are part of the same morphic field.

In March of this year, I lay in a hospital bed immobilized by a stroke. I was placed in a stroke rehabilitation program. In the few months that have passed I have made huge progress in stroke recovery. I can walk with canes and handle the normal post-stroke activities of life.

Notice the number of times I used the word ‘stroke’ in the previous paragraph. It was only recently that I realized I had fallen into the trap of making the polarity of stroke and recovery a principal focus in my life. I had been living in the morphic field of stroke and not stroke.

I forgive myself because some symptoms are still very much with me and most support people are quick to remind me that I had a stroke.

Nevertheless, a dilemma presents itself: how do you guide your recovery and look after your health, but not live in the morphic field of the very thing you want to put in the past. How do you do this without going into denial?

The problem is, many things in life present themselves as a choice between opposites. Stroke, cancer, alcohol addiction and obesity all contain an implicit opposite that could keep you trapped in the morphic field that you wish to avoid.

The solution is to focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. That means focusing on healthy lifestyle rather than on cancer recovery, all the while continuing with your treatments.

For me it has meant doing what I have to do to regain strength and mobility and to learn to write again. It has meant turning over to others some tasks I have always handled myself. (In the process I have found patience and humility I didn’t know I had.)

Take a look at your own life. If you find yourself focusing on a morphic field of something you don’t want in your life, choose to find a way to get out of that trap. You may find as I have that a weight lifts from your shoulders.

Dr. Neill Neill is a registered psychologist in Qualicum Beach. He helps capable people who feel stuck… trauma, relationships, addictions.