My mother and I were having a casual conversation in her den when her attention drifted toward the TV. She became absorbed in a commercial about a product for “bladder leakage.” (if you know what I mean) I, however, continued on with our chit chat asking, “So, where would you like to go for lunch?” She turned her head away from the TV and toward me and calmly said, “Poise Pads.” The stunned look on her face upon hearing her senseless response was priceless and, of course, another golden opportunity to relay, yet again, one of my mother’s funny foibles in another column. (Don’t worry. She says it is okay since it’s all for the price of humor.)
What is it that causes our minds to start meandering off in other directions at any given moment? Psychologists have their own theories, but I’m thinking in simple terms. It’s the pacifier’s fault. From infancy, our brains are trained to be distracted away from what our young minds find important — such as hunger– makes perfect sense to me.
It appears that humans are capable of receiving input from several avenues. If our circuits were open all the time, “brain brouhaha” would result. Therefore, our complex brains are equipped with a sensory gate to cut down on all the information, so that we can pay attention to the most important stimuli at hand. I suppose Poise Pads took precedence. Or was my mother just over-pacified as a child?
Of course, the end result of our meandering minds is the malfunctioning of our sensory gates. I enjoy becoming totally absorbed in the plot of a movie with twists and turns. I may be in the minority, but I have noticed that sometimes all it takes is a bedroom scene with a couple who is just waking up and they will start kissing right away!? I am distracted at this point as a sensory gate closes briefly as I think, ‘˜How can they kiss without brushing their teeth first? Ooh. Yuk!
I think our sensory gates are capable of being wide open at a cocktail party, but instead of chaos taking over, we find ourselves able to have a conversation with one person, notice someone new walking in, make a mental note of what we need to ask them and know exactly what is on the buffet table simultaneously. Amazing. Hmm — it does blow my Pacifier Effect Theory to bits though. Through mind over matter, we ARE capable of making ourselves focus, if necessary, even with wide opened sensory gates.
Sometimes, however, we can be in the quiet sanctuary of our homes — and still lose concentration. The other day, I made a mental note that before I went for a walk with a friend, I needed to put a band-aid on a blister on my heel. I walked all the way downstairs to the bathroom and then stood there trying to remember why I was there. It hit me half-way back up the stairs. The only explanation is that I do remember seeing a baby bird on the front porch on my way down the steps — .the first time. I had thought, “Oh, it’s so cute.” That’s all it took and the thought of a band-aid was temporarily banished. It doesn’t even take a dire event to cause distraction — just a cute little bird.
In conclusion, we all know the human mind is fascinating. We can analyze forever and speak in terms of cognitive reasoning, selective hearing, sensory gates, blah, blah, blah — But actually, we are just “who we are.” We’re human — simple as that.
Footnote: However, I’ll have to say that, as a human, it is my humble opinion that we should feel the desire to brush our teeth before kissing first thing in the morning.