Spotlight syndrome – don’t let people manipulate what you focus on

Imagine that you’re in a dark auditorium and suddenly a spotlight is turned on. It is bright and clearly illumines the area it shines on. But it’s a limited area and someone is controlling where you are looking. In a subtle way, you’re being manipulated.

Here’s why.

A spotlight has a narrow focus.

Though a spotlight does illuminate reality, it only reveals a small part of reality—your attention is drawn to, but limited to, a narrow range. In a dark space, you’re essentially blinded to all the space other than what the spotlight’s beam shines on.

The direction of a spotlight is determined by someone else.

Someone (the spotlight operator or the director) has predetermined what the light will focus on; someone else has determined what you will see. In essence, you are being manipulated. When there is ample general lighting, you can choose what you want to focus on, but in a darkened room where there’s only one beam of light, your focus is determined by others.

Now let’s apply these thoughts to life outside the theatre. In life and leadership be aware of, and beware of, those times when you are asked to “follow the spotlight.”

Sometimes in life we’re manipulated into focusing on a particular issue to the exclusion of others.

  • When you listen to a news broadcast, the topics have been decided in advance and are usually presented in a biased way.
  • In a meeting that has an agenda, someone has predetermined what issues will be discussed and which issues will be unaddressed.
  • In conversations, someone may consciously or unconsciously choose the topics that are discussed.
  • Leaders, someone walks into your office to solicit your approval of a particular project or expense. Before responding, consider the other departments in your organization; they may have an equally compelling need but they haven’t approached you about it. Give everyone equal opportunity.

We should develop an awareness of when and how our attention is being hijacked and then strive to see the larger picture.

Leaders, understand the power of this principle and use it for the good of your organization; don’t abuse it or let others abuse it. Keep your eye on the entire organization which will enhance overall organizational health and maintain balance and fairness. Don’t fall prey to the spotlight syndrome or cause it.


6 Replies to “Spotlight syndrome – don’t let people manipulate what you focus on”

  1. Don: this SS blog is very timely in my life.

    In Public & Personal, sometimes Private settings, even Christian, I was Manipulated, then Bullied, Controlled , Intimidated. ( = Harassment)

    Learning to Ignore the Manipulation, via the Manipulator = Self Respect, which NO ONE can “TAKE AWAY THE SPOTLIGHT’

    The Spotlight needs to be Removed from Many A HOUSE, even one you are very familiar!

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