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  • Jeff Brenneman

One brain, one focus


I only have one-brain, so why do I keep trying to do so many things at once?


One-Mindfully is a DBT skill that is all about getting into the moment. The DBT handout from Linehan’s Handouts and Worksheets book says, “rivet yourself to now. Be completely present in this one moment.” When I think of that word ‘rivet’ I think of jeans. There are rivets in jeans. You have jeans, right?


When I was younger, I don’t remember how old, but probably somewhere in the 10-13 range, one day I got kind of fixated on a rivet in a pair of jeans and I wanted to see if I could get it out. Rivets are those little metal circles that often hold the corners of pockets in jeans. Well, I got a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and had absolutely no luck at all in getting that rivet out of there. It was in there really good. At some point later I saw a machine that puts rivets in and then I understood why I could not get it out.


Anyway, that’s the image here. Stick yourself into the now. It’s a pretty simple concept and sometimes almost impossible to do, in my experience with myself and working with others. So, it takes practice. In my experience, a lot of practice, and I'm still not great at it at times.


Practicing One-Mindfully can be easy if we are doing something that we enjoy. It can be very difficult when doing something we don’t enjoy, we find difficult or vulnerable, or something that we have an aversion to doing. I mean, if I don't like something doesn't it make sense to try to focus on something else? In some ways it does and in other ways it does not. Then, there's the other side of that. If I am enjoying something, my brain might shift to how it's going to end or start worrying about something else.


For instance, there are many times when I’m doing a session with someone and they begin to focus on something outside the session, becoming emotionally distraught or panicking about something that will happen later or something they are afraid will happen later. They are no longer present (If I'm totally honest here, it happens to me as well at times.) Our job, mine and my client’s, is to get them back in the room, so to speak. To focus on something with the whole mind, not splintered into multiple things. It’s hard, that's why we call it a skill.


We can talk about something that will happen or a fear, and we do it with full attention, focusing One-Mindfully in that moment. So, instead of focusing on the thoughts that something is coming up that I don’t want to do or the fear that something awful will happen, we can focus in on the thoughts and the sensations happening at this moment. We can focus completely.


Ok, you may ask, what happens if I cannot keep my focus there in the moment? Excellent question, thank you for asking. At that point we say to ourselves, “My mind has drifted and I’m no longer paying attention One-Mindfully. I’m going to bring my attention back to what I was doing.” With One-Mindfully we are going to let go of distractions, and when they do pull us away, we simply notice and then come back.


Now, for me, this is where Nonjudgmental Stance comes in because I’ll start thinking that I should be able to pay attention for longer or that I’ve been practicing these skills for long enough that I should be better at them. Did you notice those ‘shoulds’ there? I get judgmental towards myself about not being able to do this skill better, which is not helpful. That sort of thing actually gets in the way of being skillful and getting some freedom from all of that judgment that weighs me down at times.


So, go and try to use One Mindful a few times today. See what you think. And then, try to practice it tomorrow, too. Just a suggestion.


Well, I think that’s probably it for this time. Come back again and see what else we’ve posted. I guarantee there will be some good stuff you won’t want to miss.


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