Living Dissociated?

4th September, 2012

What are you missing?

I remember enjoying a friend’s band playing a concert on the beach in Newquay. It was a stunning evening and an amazing setting with the sun setting behind us as they played a range of familiar songs old and new. As I looked around at the crowd, I noticed a pattern that has been emerging more and more within social gatherings of late. Hundreds of people were standing with their arms in the air watching the show through their smart-phone screens as they recorded the evening’s events for later viewing.

This got me thinking…

How present are they being? Are they so intent on capturing the show that they are missing it? I can’t say for sure if they were indeed missing it, because of course we all experience the world in our own way. I can talk only from my own previous experiences and make my own comparisons.

Being present.

I was reminded of the benefit of being truly present in the moment when I forgot my phone one day. I was fortunate enough to go on a short coastline walk in the far west of the county with a friend and it was an area I had never explored within Cornwall. It was a glorious day and the sky had not one cloud in it. As we ambled we noticed the texture of the ground beneath our feet, and the colours, shapes and intricacy of a vast range of wildflowers. So many different butterflies were dancing around the air and I had not seen such varieties since childhood.

The fields were sown with crops mimicking individual tapestries and together the countryside resembled the most wonderful patchwork of greens, beiges and browns. The remote landscape provided a background silence I have seldom experienced, where birds, breeze and the sea could be crisply defined. As our walk progressed we approached the coastline and were greeted with breath-taking white and golden sand and the most vibrantly turquoise of seas I have ever seen. The sun on the sea looked like a million stars sparkling on the surface of the water as far as the horizon, a truly mesmerising sight. Through the shallows the rocks were smooth, appearing tactile as though they were carefully moulded balls of clay which had been left behind by a mythical giant.

We paused to watch a family of three seals relaxing and enjoying the sunny day, the transparency of the water allowing us to observe their silky coats shining as they dived, twisted and turned in the peace of a secluded bay. The heathers were a striking purple and yellow and as the bees busily worked away the flowers provided the smell of honey. The rocks on the cliff side were coated with lichen which ranged from dark red to burnt umber to jade and it was hard to believe these vivid colours could be found in nature. We exited the calm tranquility of this idyllic space through a camomile scented field and rounded the corner to see the stark contrast of nature against the plastic, built up and commercialised Lands End site.

So what is my point?

This is a walk I have been on several times in my mind since that day and it is one that I can recall with such intensity that to create any picture associated with it provides a range of positive emotions. I did not need a camera (though at the time there were moments I wished I had been in possession of one). I genuinely believe that my lack of attention on “recording the moment” allowed me to “record the moment”, meaning that the memory of this experience is anchored for me as one I can draw on time and time again when I am looking for peace, creativity, a sense of awe, inspiration etc.

In NLP we refer to positive memories that evoke great states as “resourceful anchors”. Simply by remembering (in whatever way suits us), we can bring the thoughts and feeling we had at the time into the present moment. Conversely distancing and dissociating ourselves from our memories and experiences reduces the emotional connection to them. Techniques involving placing images of less than positive experiences on imaginary screens and making the images smaller, grainier and further away are examples of approaches which reduce our connection with a memory.

It is ironic then that we choose to place a five inch smart-phone screen between ourselves and some of our greatest experiences. Even at once in a lifetime events, so many people appear to be “recording” their experience and  on their phones, I really hope they did not spend the entire evening arm in air watching their phones.

I spoke to a friend recently about this phenomena and he mentioned that on a previous group holiday he had noticed one friend in particular was taking photos of everything she saw, wherever they went and whatever they did photos would come first. For fun he began a secret project – taking photos of her taking photos of things. For her this might have been a really valid way of enjoying her holiday, for him however the secret project lasted less than a day, he got bored and decided to just fully immerse himself in his holiday and enjoy being in the moment.

I guess it is all about balance…

I certainly do not think that photos and video are “redundant”. Very far from it.  They provide an avenue to easily sharing part of our experiences with others, across generations and to remember forgotten moments. In addition occasionally a perfect photograph will present itself for example a situation that just HAS to be captured on film.

Photos and Video DO have their place

Some photos in themselves are anchors, for anybody of my generation born in the 70s think back to how holiday snaps used to be. We were limited to 24 or 36 frames in a film and would therefore be selective with our picture taking. Rather than reviewing our results on a screen and deciding an immediate re-shoot was in order because somebody blinked or their hair did not look right, we would not even know how our pictures would come out until a week or two later. This created a great opportunity to reconnect with our experiences once we arrived home and looked through our prints. For me digital photography still does this to some extent, yet it seems to require a longer time lag or reviewing pictures we have forgotten we took (this may just be me).

Historically the biggest difference with film and print would be that our photos would simply be captured moments and snapshots in time rather than the photographic shoot being a whole experience in itself. Happily this is an ethos we can carry across to digital photography and video! Photos and video do have their purpose, they are great to CAPTURE a small essence the experience, they are not THE EXPERIENCE… How many brides and grooms for example say that their best wedding photos are those that were taken ad hoc by guests, capturing real moments rather than posed ones?

So this blog is a reminder…

When things are great, ensure that you take time to really notice and remain in the moment. The next time you are about to get out your smart-phone to record an event… first take time to soak up what is happening in the here and now.

Take a photo or video only if an image or situation emerges that you feel calls for it, but consider this question… How is “recording the experience” impacting upon you fully living and breathing it?… Otherwise there is a risk that you might just miss it.

Ask… Does the photo or video ADD TO your experience enabling you to later reflect back with fondness, or does it get in the way of you being there… Either scenario is fully possible!

And a final point to note – time distortion is an additional benefit to engaging with positive experiences in the here and now – the walk I mentioned at the start of this blog was only 90 minutes long, yet the richness of the experience seemed so much longer and will last my lifetime.

We race around and fail to notice beauty. An important moment to be present within may only last 5 minutes, but it might be five minutes worth truly investing your attention in and engaging with.

About Lizzi Larbalestier

Professional Blue Health Coach, mBIT and NLP trainer specialising in coastal coaching. Creating meaningful conversations, facilitating action and change for the results that you deserve. #bluehealthcoach #oceanempathy #bluemind