Our “Cone of Attention”

Our survival brain is constructed to be alert and ready at any sign of danger. It is the part of the brain that will create a fight, flight or freeze response when our system becomes alarmed. In short, it creates a cone of attention – essentially, we become super focused to the alarm in our system and our energies are directed towards getting out of the danger zone.

Thank goodness we have this cone of attention! Imagine encountering a bear without it – or not reacting quickly to a car veering in our lane, or a thunderstorm bearing down upon us?

What about the difference between a true alarm and a false one? How does the cone of attention work for our perceived fears? Our ruminating thoughts, worst-case-scenario worries, our sense of overwhelm? It works in the exact same way. 

Regardless of whether we are in true physical danger or trapped in the angst of a perceived fear, our cone of attention is biological and will target all of your focus to your worry. It is why we report feeling less able to concentrate when feeling uneasy.

We are much better served to recognize what is happening, be grateful to our cone of attention for working so diligently and to then take some deep breaths. By resetting our nervous system, we can move to accessing our rational brain to weigh in on the facts. “Is this a true alarm or a false one? Can I do something about this worry right now?”

From here, we can settle our attention on other things, grounding ourselves in the facts.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@markusspiske


Leave a comment