Attention versus Anticipation – Living One Day at A Time

Written by: Paul Pound LPC, LCADC, ACS

Is your life an illusion? Have you been psychologically full of the future or filled with regret of the past?

If your mind has been living in the past or future, which does not exist, then you have been living an illusion made up by the imagination of your mind.

Anticipation of future desires and regret of past behaviors is often the hallmark of individuals who are experiencing the difficulties of an addiction. Attention to present day activities is based on reality that is without illusionary thoughts.

A Confusing and Unsettling Past

This can be confusing and unsettling due to the originality of the present environment.

Dealing with current relationship concerns, fulfilling responsibilities and focusing on what is required in the moment can be unfamiliar for those who have become skilled at seeking pleasure through future thoughts.

Guiding the Mind with Attention

Attention has the ability to guide both the intellectual and emotional mind. The intellect is often overly developed in Western Society which favors intellectual pursuits. The growing multi – media society continues to enhance intellectual attention and this compounds the imbalance between the intellectual and emotional minds.

The illusionary understanding of an individual’s world can become reliant upon a dominant attentional mind. The highly efficient corporate executive may react with intellectual precision to corporate concerns yet struggles with emotional awareness at home.

The intellect pervades all aspects of reality and minimizes the ability to be completely aware. The ability to appropriately utilize both emotion and intellect through self – controlled attention helps to rebuild an individual’s integrity and a deeper awareness of one’s immediate surroundings.

The Effect of the Lack of Self

kite-surfing-243073_640The lack of self – controlled attention can lead to feelings of anticipated pleasure that are triggered by sensory reminders in an individual’s environment.

The sound of a deck of cards shuffling for a gambler or bowl of white sugar for the cocaine addict can seduce the mind to wander into anticipated desires that result in a cascade of neurochemicals that include dopamine.

Dopamine enables the user to feel euphoria, calmness, relaxation and pleasure (Miller & Carroll, 2012). The ability to redirect one’s attention to the present may include the feeling and sound of the breath or the wind on the skin. This immediate focus can help guide an individual’s attention to living a day to day approach that is grounded in the now.

Three Questions to the Present

The following three questions can help you get started on living in the present.

  1. I want to get motivated to _______.
  2. I will enjoy ________.
  3. My first step is to _________.


  1. Miller, W.R. & Carroll, K, M (Eds). (2012). Rethinking substance abuse: what science shows and what we should so about it (pp41 – 42). Guildford Press, New York, NY.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with living one day at a time? What advice do you have to share with others on living this way?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 24th, 2015
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