Target Fixation

How focusing on the problem enlarges the problem—the art of letting go

Humans have a very narrow range of conscious attention that we allow to define us. Based on our personalities and what values (rewards) catch our attention, it begins to define us as a person and collectively as a specie, while the rest of life passes by—often a very good life that is all around, yet unnoticed.

Target fixation is an attentional phenomenon observed in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on a hazard, that they inadvertently increase their risk of colliding with the object. In such cases, the observer may fixate so intently on the target that they steer in the direction of their gaze, which is often the ultimate cause of a collision“.

The human neuron is already very much like radar, always scanning the horizon for trouble. When we stay focused on danger, a type of neurosis sets in and we miss the good, open waters through such myopia. When this evolutionary mechanism of protection is embraced as a value, another mechanism engages—tribalism. Then when evidence is gathered to dismiss such behavior, humans employ a final, last ditch defense against reason—the backfire effect, which describes how individuals, when confronted with evidence that conflicts with their beliefs, come to hold their original position even more strongly.

As our christian dominated culture continues to fixate on the apocalypse, that somehow they can win with this mindset, we may just be bound to bring it on. But really they may have to wait a while, because actual life is petty damn good. Not that anything really matters when its all just a part of evolution. Our only chance of survival is to stop fixing everything before we blow it up by taking sides—or is that natural natural selection too?

Weigh some witches—2020


Author: jimoeba

Alternatives to big box religions and dogmas

22 thoughts on “Target Fixation”

  1. The whole idea of a final battle on the Plains of Armageddon (a real place) and Jesus riding a horse is ludicrous. Don’t they know that Satan will at least have F-16s and attack helicopters, if not nuclear weapons?

    But, since Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Ghost are all-knowing won’t they know their opponents battle plans as soon as their opponents do? (Who needs spies in such a war?) And can’t Yahweh/Jesus/Holy Ghost thwart any such plans with mere thoughts? (Who needs soldiers?) Sounds a bit like a “no contest,” no?

    This is a little like the Michigan Militia going up against the 101st Airborne … no contest. The militia standing their with their little popguns and the Airborne calling in air strikes and Vulcan cannon barrages.

    This would indeed be the final battle for any of the opposition who were foolish enough to show up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve known a few separatist types that have grandeurs of “red dawn”, and if I get the chance I like to ask them what they think would happen if they ever took a pot-shot at a military convoy? It makes a good movie, but in reality a quick ending.


  3. So why did Joshua walk around the walls uf Jericho 3 times? God could have solved the problem in an instant. No, God had to test Joshua’s faith. God is forever “testing” people’s faith. He already knows they aren’t very faithful except when faced by fear of eternal damnnation. He is such a sadist. Or he would be, if he was real.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Quote: “Not that anything really matters when its all just a part of evolution. Our only chance of survival is to stop fixing everything before we blow it up by taking sides—or is that natural natural selection too?”
    Does belief in evolution and natural selection then leads to such pessimism and defeatism? Evolution becomes the new God who determines the outcome of absolutely everything? No point even thinking about trying to “fix” anything since Evolution has already predetermined the outcome and as was true of God, we are left out of the equation when it comes to knowing reasons and timing. Changing one word: Man proposes, Evolution disposes.


    1. The dichotomy I face is the purist will say that this is it, there is no more. There was nothing before and there is nothing after. No collection of thought or experience, it’s all gone. Then go on to say this is the only life there is so make the most of it. Why would it matter in the least if when you are dead, that all dies too?
      I would think that if life can only happen once, it can never happen at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Raised on a homestead on the border of a wilderness in a barely discovered country (excluding by the Blackfeet people perhaps) where there was basically only two seasons, a short summer and a long winter, I experienced the privilege of observing life in a condition best called “a rage to live.” Nothing slothful there, neither for the subsistence humans or any other life. Everything moved in high gear during summer and except for those creatures that hibernated or died at the onset of winter, went literally underground or under snows and continued its mad quest for survival. It made me realize at the time that life was a force designed for self-survival through adaptation. It also made me ask the existential question: why? Raised Christian, the why question was easily answered: for God’s glory, according to his will. I didn’t question that. But taking that reason out of the equation, what then is life’s reason for its “rage to live?” You need another reason, one that “evolves” from the Creator concept to something more advanced, more reasonable, yet still able to give meaning to this observable “rage” that continues to sustain life. Should Earthians (humans) decide as a species that there is no reason, no need for reason beyond the single event of one life, lived or aborted, without purpose or meaning, that will be the species’ end. To be alive means to rage, to be a dissenter. “Do not go gentle into that good night (…) Rage, rage, against the fading of the light.” (Dylan Thomas)
        “Only love can make a memory
        Only love can make a moment last
        Life was new, there was a rage to live
        Each day a page to live…”
        (excerpt from “Only Love” by Nana Mouskouri)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Evolution is not choosind a determined outcome, like a creator would, evolution is allowing life free reign to create itself, change itself, and find a better way to survive. Evolution is a process, not a being. Looking at a whale, you cannot see an ant, but surely the ant was part of the process to becoming a whale. There are billions of billions of species living on this world alone, why create this many species when only one species can glorify god. Did it/she/he screw up billions of billions of times in trying to create the one species that can worship a god.
          Bah! Humbug! The only process in evolution is chaos–keep on trying to find a better being by trying out every form of life unimaginable. Like millions of millions of monkeys tapping on typewriter keys, chaos says one day one monkey will randomly hit the keys in the correct sequence to write WAR AND PEACE. That is how evolution works.


          1. Quote: “one day one monkey will randomly hit the keys in the correct sequence to write WAR AND PEACE. That is how evolution works.”
            It is? Really? Even religion doesn’t demand such faith.


            1. From the absurd to the rdiculous. One will never find millions and millions of monkeys tapping on as many typewriters, even if you chained them down and rewarded them for every keytap. Just trying to imagine what it would take to keep the monkeys supplied with ink and paper and food is a lesson in futility.
              Evolution, on the other hand, has all the time and building blocks it needs to try out an infinite number of lifeforms. But we are letting ourselves get sidetracked into meaningless wordplay.
              Target fixation is just one cause of that. We “Earthians” are not the superior lifeform on this planet, just one of several billion forms of life. It takes all of us working together to keep life going. Yet we choose to ignore the many to fixate on the few. This will be our downfall. IMO.

              Liked by 3 people

        2. Oh, and life has three “requirements” if you will.
          1) Survival of the individual.
          2) Survival of the species.
          3) Survival of life.
          I’m sure you have read this before, I have certainly written it enough times since I joined WP in 2017 (and before). This I think is what you call the rage for life. All living beings have it.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Before you were born, there was nothing of you only and after you’re dead, there will be nothing of you again.
        And why wouldn’t you want to make the most of your life if it is indeed finite?

        Now a bit of a dichotomy is that I believe there has always been something whatever fields, quarks and quantum and things that can form a universe (not necessarily our universe) and there will always be those things. The state of “absolute nothing” is impossible. So with that train of thought..your atoms, quarks, energy etc. …goes on in some way, but not in a way that it will remain or ever be “you” again.

        In the broad sense, life is like the state of “absolute nothingness”, since if universes come and go over unimaginable lengths of time, so will life. Both are permanent in that sense, but you and this particular universe only go around once….in my view.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. This view is at odds with nearly every system practiced outside the Abrahamic religions that state god “created” it out of nothing.
          The different forms of hindu and buddhist philosophies teach we come out of the earth, and that “universe” has always been in one form or another in cyvcles, and that we are all it is. I don’t have any secret knowledge or tricks, but there is a pretty interesting lines of reasoning that polarity is in all things. It comes and goes in cycles, and the short if it is anything that can only happen once, can never happen at all. Whatever the case, life itself is pretty amazing.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I basically agree with the Hindu and Buddhist version and I saw this comment the other day somewhere which I like and can agree with, perhaps.

            “For me death is an infinite blip. When I die I will cease to experience life and, importantly, time. The universe will eventually fizzle out and collapse and then reform into something new. This may happen several times before what I consider to be ‘me’, my soul if you like, can take form and exist again. At which point I will become aware of being alive again. Eons will pass and I will never remember this life, but I can imagine there will be something again. It’s immortality in a way without the curse of actual immortality! “

            Liked by 1 person

          2. If I’m understanding you correctly, I feel life in general and universes do go on in and endless cycle and have always been. But you believe your personal life or essence actually recycles, not just as in the elements, but the “you of it” that makes you you, repeats as well.


            1. Who is asking the question? The illusion is the ego—the self, and it’s what makes the game possible. Makes it possible for you to get lost in the role of Mary, for fun.
              Since you were very small you have been defined, recognized, and remembered by your face and schooled in your behavior as who you are, who you should be, defined really by people that wanted you to be you, to be your own self. This is the abrahamic flaw. Do you think though, that a baby through 7-9 years old naturally defines himself as separate from his environment? No, that takes constant attention to convince them that adult behavior makes sense (worry, concern, propriety) Children also know life is a game and it takes constant effort to get them to finally take life seriously.
              Buddhist, hindu, and shamanistic liberation/awakening is to see that you and the environment are one entity. That your insides extend beyond your outsides, and that what’s inside is also a part of the entire universe. But really more than that. You are “it” every bit as much as the universe itself (I and the father are one?)
              There are no environments without organisms nor are there organisms without environments. They all go together. There are no separate events, for where would you draw the line between your environment and the next? Its all one, and life is an expression as a cosmic drama that goes on and on. But it also goes in cycles. It dies and reboots in processes of millions of years.
              The methods of buddhism and hinduism in their different forms awakens you from this dream if you choose to. There is much of this in the bible as well, yet it is coded in parables and stalled by appealing to faith. I want to illustrate something to you, because we see that EVERYTHING in christianity is at complete odds with what we see in real life. Christianity put jesus on a pedestal and anointed him the only one true god (we cant have everyone knowing this, running around claiming to be god) The experience through these other methods tell us that we are all god. Everything is God (for lack of a better term) and you’re it.
              But really, if everyone knew this we’d have heaven on earth (thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?) But like a chess game when the winner is determined before the winner wins, they just wrap it up and start over.
              So in the end we see christianity playing a vital role, never delivering the promised enlightenment, therefor retaining players in the game.


            2. What is interesting to me about this, is if you take a line of reasoning through to the very end, you come up with this on your own. I did, and not until someone told me i sounded like a buddhist did I even learn anything at all about it, which was a few weeks ago. Im certainly no expert, though it carries reason beyond the cultural taboos imposed by western thought. It also solves the problems of evil and follows a path of least contradiction.
              That polarity is absolutely fundamental is a big part of it. There it is in plain site, everywhere in the universe, except the human? We are all connected, and Its worth a thought and fun to explore, if nothing else.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. You started out by describing how a person focusing on a feared disaster can cause it to happen. But we can’t turn away from pending climate chaos, or it surely will wreck us. We need to observe it closely, as s wince has been doing, and use our knowledge to change our behavior, in hopes of averting disaster.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like this comment, but observing climate chaos isn’t sopping people from excess. In fact (my fact) for every person that chooses less, a hundred more join in the foray. Only to change. Their behaviors after they accumulate their fair share. The system is broken, the horse has left the barn.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Be the ball!
    Oh, dear. I wish I could comment. Maybe this….
    But yes. Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows we go where we look. Focus is critical or your day goes to crap. Conversely, we must also see it all and be seen as well. All true.
    Watercolor is a metaphor for letting go. And why do I feel that I should apologize for being human?
    Last week I came upon a rattle snake on the trail. I did not take my eyes off him/her (focused) until I was well clear.
    Let it go, Grasshopper.

    Liked by 1 person

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