Gestalt Psychology

Too Many Things At The Same Time

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Gestalt psychology aligns with mindfulness in many areas, including the fact that it sees trying to do more than one thing at the same time as trying to do too many things at the same time. It hates multitasking. The paradox is that most of us in the West want to fill up our lives with as much interest and stimulation as possible and in trying to do so we divert our attention into multiple channels, thereby lessening the intensity of all of these channels, making the overall experience less interesting and stimulating than it would be if we cut our focus down to one object of interest.

As a concrete example think about eating. Most of us don’t find this experience satisfying enough by itself anymore, and we combine it with watching television, listening to music, reading, or whatever. From a Gestalt perspective when you’re eating, if you concentrate all your attention on the act of eating, on the smell, texture, and flavor of your food, on the feeling of chewing it up and swallowing it, this experience will be more than enough by itself. You won’t be able to concentrate your full attention on any of these elements if you are attending to other gestalts in your environment, like a conversation going on in front of you or a television program.

If you find yourself bored often, like some of the miracle has started to seep out of life, the Gestalt answer is not to add but to take away, to focus 100% of your attention on whatever it is you are doing, especially those things that have become routine in your life and that you might now take for granted. Most of us go the other direction, thinking that if we can just get enough stuff going on at the same time then we’ll feel better and stop being bored. But the way to full engagement with life is not multiple inputs at once, it’s giving all your focused attention to just one input at a time.