Have Mynde

Are you paying attention?

“Attention”, Daniel Goleman tells us*, “is the gathering of information crucial to existence. Anxiety is the response when that information registers as a threat.

“We can use our attention to deny threat, and so cushion ourselves from anxiety”

Denial. A powerful tool frowned upon: but Dr Goleman argues that our whole lives are an intricate dance with attention and anxiety as partners.

We choose what we want to attend to, and some things are just too painful to see.

I live just  couple of miles from a high security psychiatric hospital housing Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, and a short car ride away from the Atomic Weapons Establishment. I never turn a hair.

Kilauea in Hawaii: locals have reported 65 foot blasts of lava and collapses in the crater floor, and still the tourists come in their hordes. Some have probably also visited Pompeii where a great city simply turned a blind eye to the monster on the horizon, and those who chose this path are petrified for all to see even today.

Those are extreme examples. Day to day, some of us are really very good indeed at painting a wonderful life: downplaying or ignoring the painful or worrying.

For a very long time, man has been advocating attention to those things we’d like to ignore. I have two short examples for you today.

The first lives at St Cross Hospital in Winchester, UK. It is a really rather beautiful set of houses, an ancient community set up between 1133 and 1136 by William the Conqueror  to house the poor.

The four tiles have no explanation posted nearby: they are mounted on the wall near to the centre of the Hospital’s cruciform chapel.


I love the fact that it is a circle. A circle with twin messages: be vigilant, always, forever, it says.  Live in each moment and be mindful of the joy that can dwell in any instant.

An then again, it prods, pay attention to those parts of your mynde that warn you, the psychological batsqueaks which can be silenced and anaesthetised by a healthy dose of inattention.

Interestingly, my second source also chooses a circular motion to portray a similar message.

Dr Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths is a cracking read. You can find it here.


16 thoughts on “Have Mynde

  1. Goleman caught people’s attention way back in the 90’s – everyone could say “emotional intelligence”. He also seemed to be caught himself, as many others were, in the corporatist sort of model – he has been accused of “commodifying emotion” as his thought was taken up by CEOs who would offer emotionally sound resources/management … to get more out of them… that’s a short and probably inaccurate remark. At the moment I am reading van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score” – this is brilliant in its attention to what happens right in the base of experience. Then you/anyone is freed to learn as they will, grow as they will. I am not yet all the way through but have not yet found a switch to ‘top-down’ expert making use of my feelings. Given your recommendation – I will have to try Vital Lies Simple Truths. They all help us through the vicissitudes without passing them on. Love the tiles in the circle. I will have Mynde. thanks

    1. I was a manager in those times. Elpeth, and I remember it well. I was sent on my fair share of courses…but if you follow some of the leads you get to interesting places. Because of one of them I ended up studying meditation at one of the foremost centres in the UK, and I went on to read and use a few methods extensively – particularly written reflection. Which has led me here to do what I do now.
      I love Daniel Goleman simply because he makes his ideas accessible. And for me, what he writes rings very true indeed in life.
      And now I’m off to find Kolk and read him….

      1. Without knowledge of this part of your history, I did know it from your writing. I also am grateful to Goleman for making emotion a strong word that could be used … sometimes … without the eye-rolling of the majority of colleagues.

  2. Great examples, Kate.

    People delude themselves all the time and when a “message” counters their deeply held “fraudulent truths” . . . they toss the messenger into the closet, slam the door, and ditch the key! :mrgreen:

    1. Nancy, you have just described what I do all too often…but by degrees I notice more and more. I doesn’t stop me, like Dr Hufaffarr there, putting a picture in the cupboard now and then.

  3. “Psychological batsqueaks can be silenced and anaesthetised by a healthy dose of inattention.” If that doesn’t work, there’s always medication. 🙂

      1. My children are masters at selective attention. They wouldn’t register the word “homework” if it was played through a sound system at 120dB, but they can hear the rustling wrapper of my chocolate bar from the other side of the city.

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