Monday, February 8, 2016

#39 / The Attraction Of Distraction

NPR's "Fresh Air" ran a show on January 26, 2016 that told listeners "How Meditation, Placebos And Virtual Reality Help Power 'Mind Over Body.'"

Among other revelations, the show described how a person's immersion in a virtual reality game could so distract her mind that she was unaware of burning water being poured over her feet. Earlier, without the distraction provided by the video game and the noise-cancelling headphones, the subject of this experiment  definitely noted the painful sensations in her feet when they were exposed to the super-hot water.

Pain hurts, and that's bad, but I am not so sure that this technique of pain reduction by distraction is actually a good thing. Pain is generally there to tell us that we need to do something, because we're in some sort of danger, and that we need to change some condition afflicting us. Enough distraction will take our mind off the pain, perhaps, but how does this change what is causing the pain?

In a larger perspective, thinking about conditions in the world today, there is a lot of pain out there, and a lot of distraction. In the context of that world full of pain, I'd have to say that the fact that distraction can take our mind off the pain does not strike me as being a very good thing. 

Maybe you disagree. Heck, why don't we watch another segment of CSI, and forget about all that global warming stuff?

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