Recognizing these threat-based themes in everyday angst

These default mind-body processes can be recognized experientially by noticing where, and to what, our attention goes from moment to moment. When unregulated, or not required for the completion of some physical task, attention rarely rests upon immediate sense impressions and bodily sensations. Rather, it defaults to cognitions: thoughts about these and a myriad other things. And our social safety-related needs for relationships, status, and power mean those thoughts often concern the welfare of family and friends, whether we are in some way loved or sufficiently loving, or livelihood and money. This concerns- based cognitive commentary is experienced as the internal monologue.

Based in memory and imagination and often only peripherally related to sensory function, the internal narrative relentlessly plans, seeks, compares, judges, and regrets. Its needs-related function is seen in those emotionally-tinged thoughts and images experienced as concerns, worries, and transitory joys about family and friends, work, money, and one’s own social standing. Attention preoccupied exclusively with this cognitive monitoring is experienced as rumination.

The power of the biological imperative driving attention’s vigilance role in this way can be experienced when we attempt to bring some degree of self-regulation in the face of these processes. For although we have the capacity to deliberately bring attention to many parts of experience, attempting to keep it on one consciously selected object makes its own persistent intentions apparent.

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