This is an off-shoot of 'Head in the clouds', as I feel that this is deserving of a topic of its own. Encouraged by crow, I meditated a bit on the tricky concept of distraction and these are the words I found.
It went in bit of an unexpected direction, but it grew naturally to be what it is, so perhaps that isn't such a bad thing. Maybe there is something in there of use to someone, somewhere.
The mechanics of distraction
What is distraction? A type of bewilderment. The distracted mind is always a mind seeking something else. A distraction is a means for the mind - often unknowingly - to escape whatever it should be doing, effectively seeking to be in another mind-state than it is actually in.
As such, I believe that distraction is best classified as a type of confusion. Confusion is the general mind-state of distraction, and the specific instance of distraction is always an uttering of a more general confusion.
Now, this is a bit of a paradox for the distracted mind doesn't really want this confused mindstate - but exactly because of this desire, it acts in a way that enforces or strenghtens the confusion, pro-longing the undesired state indefinitely.
How? Well, distraction can manifest in two distinct ways:
1. You should be doing something specific, but instead end up doing nothing generally.
2. There is nothing specifically you should be doing, but still end up doing something generally.
My guess would be, that people who are introverted are prone to the first kind of distraction, whereas extroverts more easily fall prey to the second. Why? Well, introverts generally desire the peace and quiet of the inner world, whereas extro's derive energy from the hustle and bustle of the outer, often social world. But of course, variations occur.
Whether introvert or extrovert, the distracted mind in general is one gravitating towards a desired mind-state, or at least what is perceived as a desired mind-state: What the distracted individual instinctively recognizes as its own comfort-zone. This in spite of the fact that this desired mind-state isn't what is required of the mind at the given time.
This is indicated by the should: The distracted mind always knows that it should be occupying itself with something else. Something (or perhaps nothing) more urgent. Yet, it seeks to escape what it knows, instead restlessly seeking a state 'out of itself' so to speak.
Why is this so? Because the mind feels uncomfortably challenged by the task, the should at hand. For example: The extrovert feel unease with a state of being alone or not having something to do, and thus seeks out meaningless activity to escape this uneasiness. On the other hand, the introvert fears acting on his ideas, truly getting something done, and so post-pones the task in favor of his beloved inner tranquility.
As a result, the tranquility grows restless, and the activity becomes empty.
If such behavior goes unnoticed by the distracted mind - which it generally does - it will lead to a state of subtle torment, both for the distracted person himself, as well as for his surroundings, as the distracted person inevitably grows unbearably-- what shall I call it? Discordant, perhaps. He both suffers from- and inflicts upon others a lack of harmony and fundamental balance
This is of course unfortunate for all. But it will persist as long as the distracted one tries to escape that which he knows that he should- or should not do.
Distraction is a major problem, both individually and collectively in the modern world. In other words: We have too many people doing something that should in fact be doing nothing, as well as too many people doing nothing that should be doing something. This means that the wrong people are doing, and the wrong people are not-doing.
What a confused mess! I say: Let's try to do something about it. After all, we all know that we should, right?
And a logical first step? Undistraction. It is our individual as well as collective duty to avoid distraction at any costs, as we will both be happier as people, and healthier as a society if we leave such confusion behind. This however means that we have to make a conscious effort of leaving our comfort-zone when we know that it is right to do so.
Still many people won't do this. What is generally holding the distracted person back? The answer to this question is both an easy and a hard one: For without exception it is the ego blocking the way of undistraction. The pain of leaving your individual comfort zone is namely the fear that one is ultimately exposed as being something other than one likes to think of oneself. To avoid facing this 'risk', we distract ourselves - simple as that.
This however is the prime confusion, the confusion par excellence - because there is no real risk. We only perceive one, because we - often unconsciously - like to think of our individual selves as the center of the world, and fear that this center - and thus the world - will be shattered and destroyed if we challenge it. That is however not the case, as anyone willing and courageous enough to challenge his own egomanical notions will soon find out - for in fact, the ego doesn't really exist, and therefore cannot be the center of anything. The thought of the ego can exist though, but it only has real power as long as one is unwilling to challenge it. And challenge our egos is something we should all do - because beyond there is reality, which is infinitely greater, more rewarding, glorious, good and beautiful.
There will of course always be people who are too fearful to reach beyond themselves - but we shouldn't be bothered by this, as they are the ones suffering, not us. Unless of course we become, or remain one of them.
Who on earth would truly want that?