Foreground-Background Switch is commonly used to find solutions to the problems a person might be having. Here is how it works

Think of the situation that is causing you a problem, perhaps an unwanted feeling. Associate back into the situation and notice what you are paying attention to visually. Notice a specific detail of that thing you’re paying attention to. Let’s call that detail the “foreground” and everything else the “background.”

In working with a client, you can guide the client into allowing the foreground to move into the background while the background moves into the foreground. Do this a few times, and you will find the emotional reactivity to the problem changes. Neurologically speaking, this exercise involves switching from foveal vision to peripheral vision and, at the same time, from left-brain to right-brain.

Remember, there are two types of attention, intrinsic attention, which is basically peripheral vision, and phasic attention, which is foveal vision. In previous posts, we discussed how we most likely survived as a species by utilizing intrinsic attention most of the time because we didn’t know where danger was going to come from. Intrinsic attention tracks movement and keeps us in a more open, aware state. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

But when we find something very interesting or threatening, focus narrows, and we have phasic attention. This activates the stress response and keeps us alive. Think about how your clients describe trigger moments. They talk about tunnel vision or the walls collapsing in. That’s foveal vision. It was meant to be something we phase in and out of to keep us safe. Unfortunately, we seem to have cultivated it as a constant habituated state.