Hyperfocusing: A Self Analysis

The following link is the reason why I am writing this blog post.

Part 1: Harness My ADHD Mutant Powers

What is Hyperfocusing? Well, the way I understand it, people with ADHD have a dopamine deficiency in their brain. This causes them to constantly look for stimulation, anything that will cause their body to make more dopamine. I imagine this would make us extremely susceptible to addiction. (Hmm… maybe that’s why I’m overweight. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.) It also means that when we find something that gives us that stimulus, we latch onto it and won’t let go till it stops. This is sometimes called hyperfocusing, when a person with ADHD won’t break away from whatever they are concentrating on. The thing they are fixated on is all encompassing and the world around them drops away. Anyone can do this, and you’ve probably noticed it in your friends. Anytime you try to break their concentration from a project or activity they are passionate about it takes you a while to get their attention. Sometimes you have to kick them or something to get them to listen to you, and they get sad or mad if you pry them away. That is Hyperfocusing. With a person who has ADHD, this can be ridiculously more intense!

I need to start this project by listing all the times I can actively remember hyperfocusing, and then try listing all the reasons Why I was doing it, and all the reasons why I stopped.

The List:

  • Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
    • Explanation: I LOVED this game as a kid, and I love it now. I just played it and beat it again within the course of 3 days. It’s the game I can always come back to, like a good book.
    • Starters
      • I love puzzles
      • The game is designed to explain the rules without text within the first two dungeons.
      • The Characters are unforgettable, and play off of other Nintendo titles.
      • The game encourages experimentation through its design.
      • It pays fan service to its players by using elements from other Nintendo titles.
      • The game has a clear goal, almost always within view.
      • It has a very simple story.
      • It keeps a lot of it’s lore a mystery, making you want to dig deeper for information.
    • Stoppers
      • The surprise is gone. I’ve played the game so many times, that I’ve seen almost all there is to see.
      • I know the game so well, that there is hardly any challenge anymore
  • MineCraft
    • Explanation: I was addicted to this game for a long time. I was bored and decided to try it out after watching some Let’s Plays on Youtube. It consumed my life at home for a long time. I almost started a Youtube channel on it.
    • Starters
      • The game has a simple design
      • There is SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I can’t understate this. I watch for the updates, just because I know what they COULD do with it.
      • It’s a giant creative playground. You can create almost anything.
      • There is still a chance to discover new things in the world that other people haven’t built yet.
      • You can Build things on a MASSIVE scale.
      • Every new game is different, because the worlds are procedurally generated.
      • The online community is full of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met online.
      • You can design and build entire cities if you want!
      • When I think of a project, I can clearly picture what I will need to do to accomplish it. It drives me to get it done!
    • Stoppers
      • I got impatient waiting for the creators to improve the game the way I felt it could improve. The game started to feel disappointing.
      • The only way to get appreciation for my projects was to build them huge, which took time laying block by block, and when I finally was finished, the appreciation wasn’t enough to warrant the cost of time and energy.
      • I basically ran out of ideas of things to create that sounded fun because of the previous bullet point.
      • The game has a limited amount of fun stuff to discover, and since it’s procedurally generated, once you discover one, you’ve discovered them all.
  • Programming
    • Explanation: I went to a Vocational School out of High School for two years. One year, I took Web Development. I LOVED that course. I have been wanting to get a job as a programmer ever since. So far, my first year training as an IT guy has taken over my career path, but I am working on adjusting it.
    • Starters
      • When you program (depending on the language) you usually get immediate results and can troubleshoot along the way. It’s extremely satisfying.
      • I got into a situation where I would think of a programming mechanism idea and immediately see how I might be able to accomplish it.
      • sometimes I would come up with an even weirder idea and think to myself “can I do that? will that work” and it would be like a little puzzle to solve.
      • Troubleshooting code, was like searching for a treasure. I know the answer is there, and it will give me instant gratification. All I have to do is find it.
      • Learning the code introduced me to new ways of thinking. The more I learned, the more I wanted to play with it.
    • Stoppers
      • my focus problems distract me from projects. It’s better if I have a teammate working with me on a project.
      • The time I have to allocate for projects is something that is hard to come by these days
      • Having to conform to Industry stupidity, like every browser not rendering CSS the same way, is a tedious pain in the ass.
      • All the syntax is very similar in each language so learning a new one can get boring.
  • Story Writing
    • Explanation: I have a lot of stories wandering around inside my head. When I get into the right groove, I love to write them out, but I have a hard time completing them
    • Starters
      • I can vividly see the concept of what I want to write in my head.
      • It’s pretty fun trying to piece the scenes together to make a good plot.
      • I type WAY more comfortably and faster than I write.
      • Writing is such a nice outlet for my brain. It’s why I have this blog.
      • It’s exciting to write what others might like.
    • Stoppers
      • I tend to drown the story in detail, and the plot moves too slowly to keep me interested in writing.
      • Starting a book at the beginning is a complete drag. It takes so long to get it out of the way.
      • The longer it takes to write, the more my ideas start to sound outdated.
  • Designing a game I call DeathMatch
    • Explanation: I came up with a great concept for a card game called DeathMatch. It was going to be fun to develop with my buddy and hopefully make us some money.
    • Starters
      • There was a “click moment” where the idea came together and I saw everything I needed to do.
      • I was really excited to show my buddy
      • I even saw the designs and the art in my head.
    • Stoppers
      • No art done yet
      • Gotta go through the tedious process of creating test cards to test out the game.
  • Learning/Research
    • Explanation: I get lost in learning new things and doing research on concepts I’m interested. That’s 90% of why I’m on the internet all the time.
    • Starters
      • It’s super easy to google or Youtube a subject to learn more about it.
      • The idea that it could somehow solve all of my life’s problems by learning one simple thing is a huge driver for me.
      • I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time because I’m improving myself.
    • Stoppers
      • Other responsibilities weigh on me and eventually interrupt my flow.
      • sometimes boredom sets in and I go looking for other distractions because I haven’t made enough progress, or the lesson becomes tedious.
      • When I’m reading, the author can be very dry and not entertaining, or go off on a subject I either already know or care nothing about.
  • Mysterious problems at work
    • Explanation: Sometimes problems pop up at work that should be really simple fixes. When they turn out more complicated or the simple fix doesn’t work, it can send me on a drive to fix it that I have a hard time breaking away from.
    • Starters
      • It’s like I have to prove myself by solving it, otherwise my cocky attitude that said “oh this will be easy” will be thrown in my face.
      • There is a sense of urgency because this was supposed to be a quick fix and now it’s interrupting the flow of my day along with the person who’s computer I’m fixing.
      • I don’t wanna look like I actually don’t know what I’m doing. and I want to make the customer happy.
    • Stoppers
      • Time runs out
      • I realize I have spent too much time on the project and I need to get my scheduled work done.
      • I lose interest in the subject.
      • I get too frustrated and have to pull myself away before I look too bad in front of other employees.
  • Movies, TV, and youtube gaming channels
    • Explanation: I find binge watching movies, TV, and Youtube, like everyone else in the world, is extremely addicting. I will constantly go back and rewatch things I have already seen, just because I’m bored or I want entertainment in the background while I do something mundain and/or tedious.
    • Starters
      • I picture a moment from the show in my head and I think to myself “I’d love to watch that again”
      • The premise will intrigue me. I like intelligent movies that I can learn from or that get me thinking.
    • Stoppers
      • Anxiety kicks in when I start thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of sitting in one place staring at a screen.
      • There are too many things my friends want me to watch. Being a geek is exhausting sometimes.
  • Getting High on Weed
    • Explanation: I used to smoke weed a lot. I no longer do and the reasons are in a previous post.
    • Starters
      • Peer pressure from my friends
      • Made me feel good
      • made me laugh
      • focused my thoughts and let them play in my head
    • Stoppers
      • Started scaring me
      • The effects lasted way longer than I wanted them to.
      • See previous blog post
  • Calculating Pi
    • Explanation: A while back, after high school, I found out that Pi is not an exact calculated value. I have heard that if you can calculate it exactly, you will be advancing mathematics and some colleges will offer you a cash prize.
    • Starters
      • It’s a giant puzzle
      • All that I need to do is find a relationship between pi, and the radius or diameter of a circle with diameter 1.
      • If I run through enough numbers, I’m sure to find a correlation.
    • Stoppers
      • I run out of ideas to try
      • Other stuff distracts me
      • I get too tired.
      • I run into a problem about not knowing enough math.
  • Crunch Time
    • Explanation: In true procrastination fashion, I am able to superhumanly focus and get whatever task I need done when I’m super close to a deadline. I don’t understand why I don’t have the “get up and go” any other time!
    • Starters
      • A person is coming over to my house “CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN”
      • That Thing needs to be done now or consequences “DO IT!”
      • The fear of failure
      • The fear of letting someone down
      • I don’t want to be someone you can’t count on. Even though I feel like I am.
    • Stoppers
      • The Deadline arrives
  • Starting Strength
    • Explanation: At one point in December, one or two years ago, I started strength training with a buddy of mine. I started using an app called Starting Strength 5×5. I loved it.
    • Starters
      • The workouts were super simple
      • The workouts were super quick
      • the app did almost all the brain work for me.
      • All the equipment for the workouts were in the same place in the gym.
    • Stoppers
      • Life fucked up my rhythm.
      • my buddy stopped working out around the same time.
      • Gym was too far away.
      • Took a Crossfit class and it was highly unpleasant because it kicked my ass.
  • Juicing
    • Explanation: A few years ago, I went through a two month juice fast. I took the challenge based on my watching of the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I lost 57 pounds and began running.
    • Starters
      • The movie was incredibly inspiring.
      • I kept learning more and more about juicing and it was getting me pumped
      • I felt unhealthy and wanted to stop feeling that way.
      • During the fast it gave me amazing energy
      • I was seeing quick results
    • Stoppers
      • The two months was up
      • I REEEEEEAAAAAALLLYY wanted to eat solid foods again.
      • It was a long process to make the juice and it required clean up.

The Lessons

As I was writing out this list I came across some similar traits that appear a lot in the starters of each of these hyperfocus moments.

  1. Clear visualization of the goal and the steps to accomplish it.
  2. Searching for the answer to a puzzle
  3. Stimulation from learning new ways of thinking
  4. Simple steps
  5. Quick first results
  6. a challenge to prove myself
  7. fear of letting people down.

And for the stoppers, here is a list of brick walls I have to climb over, break down, or go around.

  1. Complicated steps
  2. long winded steps between accomplishments
  3. Old information
  4. Tedium
  5. Low priorities, there has to be a need.
  6. Interruptions
  7. too much reliance on another person

It looks like I have some new things to analyze. You will be seeing these next steps in the next few blog posts:

  • How to overcome my stoppers
  • What prevents me from starting good habits again?
  • What makes my day happy?

Next, We’ll take a look at all the things that prevent me from starting. And after that, we’ll look at the things that make my day happy.

Harness My ADHD Mutant Powers

For a few weeks now, I have been seeing a therapist. I had to acknowledge that I am too unhappy and too stressed out to not ask for help. It was a decision I had been meaning to make for quite a while, but I was too distracted to make it worthwhile. I think I chose the perfect moment to help myself out, and even better, I also think I found the perfect Therapist.

d573c712af754b0808032c93b7924e87At first it seemed like all our time together was just going to be me venting my frustrations onto a stranger before saying “See you next week!” only to come back to do it all over again. Every session I felt like I had to convey the frustrations of the past week while at the same time trying to pass on the information of a lifetime of frustration that had been building up and building up. Our Sessions always seemed to end too early. I could have spent years constantly talking to him and trying to make him understand why I was there. After many extra long sessions of me pouring out all of my frustrations on to this poor guy (seriously, the life of a therapist must be hard), he finally stopped me to shine some light on the deep darkness of my mind.

A big part of my sessions were me talking about my ADHD-I. I have never been what I have come to understand is “properly diagnosed” but a psychiatrist did run me through a DSM5 questionnaire that said I was right on the border because I didn’t answer positive for any hyperactivity. He even prescribed me some medication that I still take because my other doctor and I decided that it was helping me. This plus me reading up on ADHD and watching countless videos online has lead me to believe that if I were “properly diagnosed” I would test positive for ADHD Inattentive type.

My Therapist heard all of this and came up with an idea. He listened to me for a while on our latest session but stopped me after a bit. His idea was simple and he conveyed it in a way that played on my natural geeky tendencies. He said that I was constantly focused on all of the problems that were plaguing me due to the way my brain works. He said that I know everything I need to know about my ADHD and how it can not only hurt me, but help me too. He said to try breaking free my focus on the negative and refocus it on the positive. What positive traits do ADHD individuals have and how can you harness them like a mutant power?

marvel_charactersOnce he started drawing similarities of my ADHD to that of the X-men, I realized that I was just like any new superhero coming to terms with his or her powers. In Spiderman, Peter Parker is bit by a radioactive spider and given spider powers. Now, unlike me, Peter knew exactly what his new abilities were and how he got them. He also saw the immediate benefits of them. This, for me, was a longer and more confusing journey. I didn’t know why I thought the way I did. It was a problem in middle school all the way up to the day when I discovered ADD, after that, it finally had a name and I was able to research and test myself to see if I fit that mould. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize is that all Superheroes must come to terms with the negative aspects of their powers. For Peter, he learned that if he didn’t use his powers, his life and the lives of those around him would fall to tragedy. He also learned that telling anyone about his powers could put them in danger. Peter felt a great loss due to the death of his uncle and the alienation of friends and family.

This is a scene you see in every superhero movie. Hell, you see it in every movie where “The Hero’s Journey” takes place. In Spiderman, It’s the scene of Uncle Ben’s Funeral. In X-Men,  It’s the scene where Rogue’s boyfriend is having a seizure on her bed. The Avengers, Bruce Banner passionately talks about his attempted suicide. Lord of the Rings, Frodo sees the effect that the One Ring has on Bilbo. Harry Potter, always getting locked in his “room” for doing magic. Matrix, Neo faints when he realizes the truth of his existence and what his life will be from now on. Frozen, Elsa hurts her sister and locks herself away. Kung Fu Panda, He becomes the dragon warrior but is saddened to find that nobody likes or accepts him. Finding Nemo, Marlin is saddened to find that the only fish willing or able to help him has short term memory loss. I could go on and on.

The interesting thing about these scenes are what happens right after them. Someone who is a little more experienced in this “new world” the hero has stepped into, enters the scene to lend a helping hand. This help usually comes in the form of showing the hero the positives of their new abilities. This person refocuses their thoughts and says “hey, you’re still human so mistakes will happen, but look at the good you can and could do!” In Spiderman, Aunt May reminds Peter that his uncle knew he would grow up to do great things. X-men, Iceman reminds Rogue of the beauty their powers can bring. Avengers, Hulks power can be an immense force in battle when harnessed. Lord of the Rings, Sam constantly reminds Frodo what they are trying to save. Harry Potter, Hagrid brings Harry to a world where magic is accepted and taught to be controlled. Matrix, Neo learns the benefits of tapping into his brain like a computer. Frozen, Elsa is able to build amazingly beautiful structures in a matter of seconds. Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu shows Po that his passion of food can be transferred to Kung Fu. And finally, in Finding Nemo, Dory shows Marlin that if you persevere through the bad and don’t let it scare you, the world will open up to amazing experiences and lessons.

icemanblowsMy therapist looked at me drowning in all the negativity that my ADHD has seemingly caused me and reminded me that, if properly channeled, my abilities could help me to do amazing things. He told me to focus on all the times where I was being a functional human being. Focus on all the times my thoughts were working exactly how I wanted them to. I need to analyze those moments and discover why I functioning so well. Think of all the times I was hyper-focusing and what caused it. Treat my ADHD as a super power. Learn the physics about my abilities. How do they work? What causes them? What stops them? How can I get the most benefits with the least drawbacks?

That is what this Blog entry is all about. I am taking the first steps towards honing my mutant powers. I am starting my training montage. Step 1: Hyper-focusing. This is a common ADHD trait and I aim to find out how it works. The following blog entry will be all about it.

PS: This song is relevant. Kirby Crackle – The Day My Powers Arrived (YouTube)