RAD & Attention Training

At the core of Reflexive Attention Diversion (RAD) is the concept that a reflexive tendency or “bad habit” operates to distract the individual from the “here and now” so that spontaneous expression of personal taste cannot occur. The bad habit is usually developed during childhood (or as an adult, in a case of trauma) by associating individual expression with the fear that results from criticism. With repetition, the body internalizes this fear and “holds back” individual expression until the behavior becomes a reflex. The person labors under the misconception that expression of individual taste is an offensive act that will result in angry retaliation from others, or that differences from others are actually criticism. As a result, people with the bad habit tend to take differences of opinion personally, hesitating to express their likes and dislikes. Instead, they do what they don’t want, a condition that prevents them from feeling the pleasures of life.

While living a monotonous existence and missing life’s pleasures is certainly detrimental enough, the bad habit goes even further. The attention distracted from the here and now is converted to negative thoughts that cause fear or discomfort. In an effort to reduce the discomfort, the individual avoids expression. Although avoidance does in fact reduce discomfort, over time it generates unhappiness, a condition in which the individual behaves as he or she doesn’t want, with little chance of gaining pleasure. The person feels trapped and controlled by this dead-end existence, and anger ultimately results. However, the anger is “held back” for fear of offending. The anger accumulates and is usually ventilated over some trivial situation, leaving the individual feeling foolish, guilty, and self-critical. This confirms in the individual’s mind that his or her expression must be held back since it is offensive; and the cycle of RAD is reinforced and continues.

How Attention Training Works

Attention Training was developed from the idea that since RAD is reflexive and therefore out of the individual’s control, then he or she shouldn’t try to control it. Instead, the individual should build a new habit.

The basic principle of Attention Training is actually quite simple: If attention directed toward the here and now is not able to be diverted, then it cannot be converted to the negative thoughts that trigger discomfort, and the sequence of the bad habit. The purpose of Attention Training is to build a habit of increased awareness of the here and now by pairing attention directed toward the environment, with pleasure.

Attention Training is composed of two techniques: The Four Points and Taking Back Small Times.

The Four Points is a practical, common sense technique that has the individual focus on events in the environment. This technique immediately works to reduce discomfort since the individual consciously displaces attention that is “in the head” (ruminating on negative thoughts concerning the future, the past, or what others may think), back to the here and now, where it belongs. With repetition, focus on the here and now becomes easier, and a new habit is formed.

The success of the Four Points places the new habit in the individual’s mind so that it becomes increasingly difficult to have negative thoughts. This prepares him or her for Taking Back Small Times. Taking Back Small Times is a wonderful technique that literally places the new habit in the body. This procedure trains the person to be aware of peripheral information. Once completed, the new habit actually becomes a bodily reflex, resulting in little or no chance of relapse.