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A Focus on Focuslessness (or My Spin on ADHD)

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I pace almost constantly.

And when I hear about the traits of an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, I inevitably see myself. In fact, recently, a colleague asked me how to better focus, and I suggested my preferred strategy of walking back and forth. I immediately felt a kinship with this person, as I newly connected with my own (likely obvious) lack of focus.

This may be similar to what I’ve read about in books and blogs about gifted theory, but I’m now experiencing it in myself in a new way.

I have this focuslessness running through my blood vessels.

Running and wrestling couldn’t stop it in high school. Even now, I don’t seem to know what is next; dishes, laundry, writing, there is never enough to do.  Hey! Does anybody want a carwash?!

And if I had to “Do one thing”, or focus on just one thing in my therapy practice, it would likely be neurodiversity. But I think I’ve looked at my Aspie traits enough to notice that I‘ve got some other things going on as well; I’m certainly multi-exceptional, or at least I have multi-potentialities. (Moreover, perhaps a case could be made that ADHD traits fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity anyway).

The most humble way my own ADHD traits have shown up is in my professional life. I often hike or take drives with my kiddo clients, and I am working to develop a therapy office with a pool table for adult clients. The focus on hiking, driving, or play helps me pay attention in the deep, sustained way needed for novel understanding.

And it helps clients loosen up out of their stuckness and get into a flow of conversation without the awkwardness that’s frequently inherent to a therapeutic relationship. (A chair or a couch or even a La-Z-Boy can’t dissipate the strangeness, especially for boys and men).

Conveniently, people reveal their thoughts and feelings in conversation on a hike or on the phone as easily and readily as a kiddo will in a sand tray, so this accommodation follows the play therapy tradition.

I have known many children and adolescents who have bureaucratically qualified for an ADHD diagnosis, but were better served by a look (perhaps a peripheral look while hiking) at their giftedness. They wouldn’t want the urgency of face to face “tell me about your feelings” combat, and probably have some resistance to assumed authority, so I want to take it slow with the fast thinkers 😉

Not all focuslessness and stuckness comes from resistance; some comes from a lack of play.

I haven’t tried to be Tom Cruise since he gave the bird to a MiG (see 1986 film Top Gun), but I am very glad that I was not introduced to psychoactive substances as a child. For some, medicine helps and I can trust that choice.

Still, I have so much empathy for adults who could not face the complexity of how their minds work according to their natural developmental trajectory. Perhaps they’ve missed out on some fun and creativity. And they likely also missed out on the confidence that comes from self-knowledge and self-regulation maintained over time.

Remember: those with ADHD traits seek stimulation that compels their attention. This does not have to be problematic.

And while we can’t do therapy when distracted by a smart phone, we can while looking at a beautiful view from a glorious hike.

How do you improve your focus? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Don October 7, 2014, 8:12 am

    I love how you write, Bob. Very cool site. I tend to struggle with focus as well. Not sure how i improve my focus or if i care to. I don’t have much success reading for long periods of time, but your flow keeps me well interested. Keep writing, please!

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