Glue for attention

Scientific American has an interesting article on depression’s evolutionary roots.

Depression brings attention to a particular topic while reducing distractions, allowing it to be examined and processed more thoroughly. And that investigation can help us function better in daily life.

The idea is of course not new, and it goes well beyond just depression.

When I explore for myself, I find that any hangups, any reactivity, is a glue for attention. It brings attention to the apparent topic of the hangup, and also to the hangup itself.

Whenever there is friction between shoulds and is/may be, there is a knot. A hangup. A tantrum, as Byron Katie calls it.

This tantrum can take many forms: Stress. Tension. Discomfort. Frustration. Ambivalence. Reactive emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, even joy. A sense of separation. Precariousness. And so on.

What is common for all of those is that attention is brought to (a) the topic of the tantrum and (b) the tantrum itself.

Say someone close to me dies. There is a friction between the story of what should be (they shouldn’t die) and what is (they died), so there may be denial, anger, sadness, despair and more.

This brings attention to the topic (they died) and also to my belief (they shouldn’t die). And having attention there helps me examine, explore and process either or both.

It helps me explore and investigate death and maybe come to terms with it a little more. I may find a more realistic relationship with death, realizing that we will all die. That the payment of life is death. I may find more appreciation for my own life, a renewed impulse to make the most out of it. I may befriend death a little more, making it a little easier next time it happens.

And I am also invited to notice and investigate my belief about death, and find what is more honest for me. People shouldn’t die. Is that true? What happens when I hold onto that belief? Who would I be without it? In what ways are the reversals valid as well?

So a friction between a should and is brings attention to that friction. And this in turn is an invitation and opportunity to  investigate and process it a little further. I can explore the topic, how I relate to it in the world, and my beliefs around it.

This has several benefits. Investigating the topic can help me to function better in daily life. And investigating the belief, finding what is more honest for me, invites in healing, maturing and – if taking far enough – awakening.

Here again, I see how what makes sense in an evolutionary perspective, functioning well in everyday life, and healing, maturing and awakening are aligned, as they so often are.



  • knots = glue for attention
    • evolutionary perspective, helps bring attention to bothersome situations (helps us get familiar with, explore, which helps us deal with it)
    • knots = friction between should + is/can be
      • expressed/experienced as….
        • stress, tension, discomfort, frustration, ambivalence
        • reactive emotions (fear, anger, sadness, even joy)
        • sense of separation, precariousness
    • so is helpful in everyday/evolutionary sense + brings attention to beliefs, to taking a story as true – invitation to notice, find what is more honest for us
      • survival, functioning well in daily life, healing, maturing, awakening – all together/aligned here, as so often are


Depression comes from a discrepancy between what should be and what is, so brings

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