Oceans of distraction
Chögyam Trungpa has just confirmed one of my pet-theories on why people with adhd has the kind of problems they have. In this particular case when it comes to planning and organizing. A couple of weeks ago I tried to use my cellphone reminder as a mindfulness-gadget. I set the reminder on eight a clock and hit snooze throught the day. The message was “Are you mindful?”. So every 10 minute that popped up and I looked at it and paused briefly. Few days later came the thought – If you don’t know where you are right now, then planning where to go will be difficult. Sounds rather obvious a first glance, but is it really? Could it be that we have different “internal reminders” so to speak? I think of it as a mostly covered operation going on unconsciously. A sort of silent monitor that checks our position in reference to whatever goal we might have. Say that my goal is to pass an exam or completing some other paperwork and I have the weekend to do it. Having difficulties like those that come with adhd doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve forgotten what to do or you can’t get yourself to start doing it. That might work alright, but the problem can be to maintain the task at hand. So when you sit there and start working, in no time you’re distracted by something and start doing something else. Two hours later you’ve done a lot of thing and the original task might be one of them. For two hours of “work” the result is often disappointing. This is quite a common thing for some of us. Happens to everyone of course, but not 90% of the time and not to such a great extent, it’s a continuum and not black/white. Well then, what makes us different in this situation? A lot of things I guess, but especially concerning “maintaining goaldirected action”? My thinking was/is that what look like poor planning might be poor precence. That the tendency to get distracted and off target could be somewhat depending on how mindful you are about what you do right now. There is a difference between “being distracted” and “not coming out of distraction”, and here I’m focusing on the latter. What keeps me “off track” once I get there? Say for arguments sake that I have an “internal reminder” of sorts, which scan my present action and decides if it’s in accordance with my goal or not. If not, then I snap out of distraction and get back on task. If I’m still on it, nothing happens. For readers well educated in the scientific way of describing such processes I’ll add; there is no little homonucleus involved and, yes, this is speculative and with no valid references to state of the art neuroscience. I have access to such knowledge but this is not the place. Recommended reading would include Reichle’s work on the brains Default Mode Network. Google and it will come.
Anyway, if this hypothetic “internal reminder” is lazy or out to lunch, what then? Likely you will stay distracten when distracted and time will pass without you noticing. What about the goal of completing the task? It got lost completely. Note here that the “diciplined” and “responsible” person who did what s/he intended in these two hours wasn’t thinking about the goal all the time. That might have been a way to keep it in sight, but a less effective one. The would mean they had to re-focus between present action and ultimate goal and I don’t think that is what happens. Insted, they are repeatedly reminded of the goal by being mindful of what they do right now because the two go together.
I’m looking for this information…(because it’s needed to finish the task)
I’m writing this paragraph…(because it’s a part of my assigned task)
Something like that, and mainly un- or sub-consciensously.
The crucial aspect of this function appears when distraction enters the scene. That happens to all and especially if we concider the task rather tedious, right? So when distacted, you loose track and start checking your mailbox. After a little while the internal reminder doest it’s thing and, ooops, – you’re checking the mailbox aren’t you? Oh right, I’ll do that in a while. And you switch back to the task at hand. If it doesn’t do it’s thing properly, in the same situation, you keep checking mail and then read the news and then…
This example deals with the little picture. If we go to the big picture and look at planning/organizing, it might play out in a similar way. Say for example that I wanna be good at meditation and live a more harmonious life in general. Vague indeed but have mercy, I’m not payed to write this and it’s way past bedtime so I take what comes up. There’s a lot of planning in that. A lot of everyday things that together makes it more or less likely that you will cover some ground in that direction. It’s not enough to just decide it. You have to work it too. So you have a goal and you have 1000 distractions. Same as in the little picture, but over time and not as a one time effort. Writes Trungpa;
Planning for the future
Humans are the only animals that try to dwell in the future.You don’t have to purely live in the present situation without a plan, but the future plans you make can only be based on the aspects of the future that manifest within the present situation. You can’t plan a future if you don’t know what the present situation is.
You have to start from NOW to know how to plan.