If we see how much of our unhappiness is self-created, through being inattentive to our own interior life, then accordingly, we can learn to re-direct our attention, placing it where we will within what is right and bright. But, there is only one way to realize this reversal: we must work to see how wrongly directed attention works against us.
Perhaps a thought pops into your mind about a problem that’s been bothering you. Appearing with it is some emotional disturbance. Now the thought starts rolling, growing in its demand for your attention. Almost instantly it has defined what needs to be done, or what you are powerless to do. And both states accomplish the same dark end: you’ve unknowingly animated that thought and given it a life -- and the life you’ve given it is your own! Here’s an example of how this scene might unfold:
A man is walking through his office when his boss walks by and gives him a blank look. The thought pops into the man’s mind that his boss is criticizing him or doesn’t like him. Now, as he starts to fear this idea -- a negative picture produced by his imagination -- his mind focuses its attention on this disturbing image. And the more he attends to this dark dream, the further into its labyrinth he descends, strengthening its presence and power to further irritate him. A heartbeat later, he has no doubt: the boss has it in for him! This thought grows in authority for him, tormenting him for the rest of the day and causing him to snap at his family when he gets home. And all of this suffering is born of what? The conjunction of a passing glance and a moment of misdirected attention!