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  #1  
Old 11-24-09, 07:02 PM
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hyperfocus as a superpower

I always thought that my ability to hyperfocus (I didn't know there was a name for it) was like a superpower. Like I was one of a kind because I could get lost in so many things. None of my friends ever could do it. It made me feel special. I thought it was like a superpower because I could harness my special power for good, or for evil.

My hyperfocus superpower is generally used for evil. I tend to use it to tune things out. I don't always consciously do it, but if I just need some alone time to forget what's going on, I can open my computer and just focus away, I can open a book and get lost in the world in front of me (I've always been visual when reading and when reading the book, there's a movie of the plot going on in my head), I can turn on some music and just stare at the ceiling. Sometimes I do it subconsciously. I use it to procrastinate and watch hours (more than I'd like to admit) watching TV and getting lost in it.

I've noticed that when I am in my zone and hyperfocusing I almost gain an extra superpower and have a photographic type memory. I remember anything and everything about what I'm doing. But not in that zone you can ask me what I just read and I probably will just stare at you while you see the wheels in my head turning and not really coming up with anything. For example, I can tell you just about anything about sharks. I have an irrational fear of them which seems to fascinate me more. While not many go to far into the Pacific off Oregon due to the frigid temperatures, I won't even go past my ankles due to my knowledge and irrational fear.

I can recall so many different things from the periods of hyperfocus. I could show you the seat I sat in my class about crime and deviancy 3 years ago, if an episode of Law and Order comes on I can tell you what website I was looking at the last time I saw it, I can tell you where I was when I read that book, and I can tell you where I was on the I-5 driving this past April to California when that song came on the playlist, it's like some sort of unnatural ability to recall only things during periods of hyperfocus.

I rarely use my superpower for good. I have never once harnessed it's power to read about globalization of third world countries, I still can't tell you anything that Karl Marx wrote about, and I probably will never be able to sit through any Adam Sandler movie and explain even the most basic plot.

It's as though when it's on, it's on and when it's off, it's really off. I kind of like that. Even though I now know that I'm not the only one with this ability, it still makes me feel special. My siblings can't do it, I don't think any of my friends can do it.

Someday I hope to be able to control it more, and when I have reading to do about something that is not of interest to me, maybe I can use just a small portion of this ability for good and have it be productive.

I don't know much about memory and hyperfocus, but my siblings always joke with me that they don't remember much of when we were little, so when they have a question, they come to me. I remember everything. The small details that I can pull out of nowhere sometimes make them laugh and they ask me why in the world I know where I was when I learned to tie my shoes (by the fireplace as my Mom was at the door talking to the UPS guy), what exactly the obstacle course was when my brother and I played Legends of the Hidden Temple in our basement, and where I was standing at the Box Car Racer concert when I was 15.

I wonder what kind of link there is, if any on the connection between hyperfocus and memory retention. Maybe if I know more, I can turn my ability around and use it to be more productive and have a more conscious ability to turn it on and off.

I know this post is sorta out there but it's something that was on my mind and didn't know if anyone else noticed it too. Do you think there is a link between having an overactive imagination (something I still have) and Inattentive ADD? Do you guys have the almost photographic memory that my hyperfocus tends to come with? I've never really thought it was caused by anything or questioned it, but now I know a little (a very basic understanding) bit about it, I have become more curious about how other people hyperfocus and how they use it.

Is it possible to use it for good and productivity, or is it generally just something that will happen when something interests me or I need a mental vacation?
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  #2  
Old 11-24-09, 10:25 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

i don't really like when it happens. i lose so much time and feel a little insane and guilty for being so intense about something.
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Old 11-25-09, 12:21 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

I love it in that I can just get lost and escape kind of like a mind vacation and for whatever reason remember everything I did. But I wish I could learn how to use it for something productive like homework or zone out and clean, that would be completely amazing.

PS I know this post probably makes me seem weird but I have such an overactive imagination that it helps me sometimes to relate real things to those of fantasy. I'm just fascinated by the whole concept of hyperfocus.

How does it affect us with ADD? Is there a way to channel it towards productivity? or is it only something that ever happens towards something stimulating to the mind or interesting?
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Old 11-25-09, 12:52 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

Can we channel it? I think so. When I was really into art, I'd just spend hours and hours and hours completely focused on nothing but drawing. I think the key lies in our perceived motivation around activities, in how we approach them - if someone had come up to me and said, hey, draw for 3 hours, that wouldn't be as motivating as me just picking up my sketchbook and starting to noodle around, you know? I don't know how to capture that kind of approach yet, but I'd sure love to!
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Old 11-25-09, 01:18 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

I know what you mean. I can spend hours painting and get so immersed in it.

I feel like I can channel it in some ways. If I'm having a bad day or just need an escape, I will do what I know triggers it, and when I'm ready to stop, I feel I can snap myself out of it. It's almost like a weird trance or something. I would love to be able to get the motivation I do from my interests and turn it around and use it to do things I don't want to.
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Old 11-25-09, 09:06 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

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Originally Posted by musicpainter View Post
II've noticed that when I am in my zone and hyperfocusing I almost gain an extra superpower and have a photographic type memory. I remember anything and everything about what I'm doing. But not in that zone you can ask me what I just read and I probably will just stare at you while you see the wheels in my head turning and not really coming up with anything.

Is it possible to use it for good and productivity, or is it generally just something that will happen when something interests me or I need a mental vacation?
I wasn't aware of this till you posted it. It isn't just me then, this is great. I describe the focused moment as if my head is singing 'Rocketman' by Elton John. Often it hits me right in the middle of writing code for a project particuliarily when I am the only one that can fix it or is willing to give it a try.
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Old 11-25-09, 11:52 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

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Originally Posted by musicpainter View Post
I know what you mean. I can spend hours painting and get so immersed in it.

I feel like I can channel it in some ways. If I'm having a bad day or just need an escape, I will do what I know triggers it, and when I'm ready to stop, I feel I can snap myself out of it. It's almost like a weird trance or something. I would love to be able to get the motivation I do from my interests and turn it around and use it to do things I don't want to.
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Originally Posted by VaporAction View Post
I wasn't aware of this till you posted it. It isn't just me then, this is great. I describe the focused moment as if my head is singing 'Rocketman' by Elton John. Often it hits me right in the middle of writing code for a project particuliarily when I am the only one that can fix it or is willing to give it a try.
I think this is called "being in the zone"
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Old 11-25-09, 01:25 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

Yeah, I've always thought of it as a zone too.

I originally wrote this as just a way to express my experience with hyperfocus, but now I'm interested in how it happens in other people. And the degree to which people have it and use it? and whether its a positive or negative thing in their lives? So any thoughts on this? or experiences? I'm really interested now...
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Old 11-25-09, 02:55 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

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Originally Posted by musicpainter View Post
My hyperfocus superpower is generally used for evil. I tend to use it to tune things out. I don't always consciously do it, but if I just need some alone time to forget what's going on, I can open my computer and just focus away, I can open a book and get lost in the world in front of me (I've always been visual when reading and when reading the book, there's a movie of the plot going on in my head), I can turn on some music and just stare at the ceiling. Sometimes I do it subconsciously. I use it to procrastinate and watch hours (more than I'd like to admit) watching TV and getting lost in it.

This is really confusing to me, I have always likened hyperfocus as being 'in the zone' and when I'm lost, my mind meandering as it wills, I think of that as the 'no zone' or 'zoning out'. Tv for instance, it's as if I am no longer there, I have no memory it's like a deep sleep. On comes a commercial and I haven't the least clue what I was just watching.



Quote:
I've noticed that when I am in my zone and hyperfocusing I almost gain an extra superpower and have a photographic type memory. I remember anything and everything about what I'm doing.
This I find very accurate for what I call hyperfocus. When I'm reading or focused intently on a person or a conversation, I have almost photographic recall. Not so for the television show where I'm zoned out.


Quote:
I can recall so many different things from the periods of hyperfocus. I could show you the seat I sat in my class about crime and deviancy 3 years ago, if an episode of Law and Order comes on I can tell you what website I was looking at the last time I saw it, I can tell you where I was when I read that book, and I can tell you where I was on the I-5 driving this past April to California when that song came on the playlist, it's like some sort of unnatural ability to recall only things during periods of hyperfocus.

This is why I think we are speaking of two very different consciousness experiences. One where attention is very diffuse and another where it is very sharp, intent and focused. They do look similar in some ways because both are in some ways block out a lot of incoming information, the difference for me is in memory recall. I have little memory recall when I am experiencing diffuse attention and the almost photographic when my attention is my sharp, intent and focused.

I guess the difference is 'zoning out' vs 'zoning in'

The moments of almost photographic recall such as you describe are for me more like I am shifting between the two states, sharp recall of a moment or two and then zzzzzz then sharp recall. So yes, I remember what was happening as I was driving on a specific road at a specific time, what music I was listening to etc.. and then blank.




Quote:
I rarely use my superpower for good. I have never once harnessed it's power to read about globalization of third world countries, I still can't tell you anything that Karl Marx wrote about, and I probably will never be able to sit through any Adam Sandler movie and explain even the most basic plot.
This is more about interest than anything else. I notice interest for me is emotional rather than purely intellectual. It's as if there is almost an erotic component to interest and it doesn't matter for me what the connection is it could be brain neurology but it's connected to something I find deeply satisfying emotionally. I think perhaps we judge that the intellectual pursuits are dry, and when they are dry, there is nothing there, and yet when they are wet.. it's like a rain forest, something to see everywhere. Dry as a desert, nothing to see here, just skirt around this blob of territory that has nothing in it.

I've thought about 'boredom' and that's such a negative and loaded word. There are so many opportunities for connection that get missed, in relationships, in life, and in part, we get shut down. I recall reading that for many people learning new information is threatening to them, such that they will exclude the new information. (I'm pretty sure this had something to do with my looking into the DRD4 gene tho I'd have to look that up again.. something along the lines of is political affiliation genetic anyway I digress) For the curious, and I would say that novelty seeking applies here, (althought what a negative term really for I find interest in the unknown not the known) engaging interest requires an 'arousal' towards something not known, and yet.. related to something that is connected to something for which there is emotional arousal. AND BADABING .. interest!


Look at relationships, many people with ADHD say they get bored within a relatively short period of time. I think the mistake we make is that we can easily appreciate someone's qualities and find them very interesting and intriguing, and this can continue if there is enough compatibility in other areas. More often than not, the compatibility isn't there, and so the expectations and demands become so weighted with effort that there isn't the free attentional moments for curiosity, or just as often a desire to escape because they are asking too much. (be normal now please) All of this shuts down the curiosity which leads to boredom.


(am I babbling?)



Quote:
I's as though when it's on, it's on and when it's off, it's really off. I kind of like that. Even though I now know that I'm not the only one with this ability, it still makes me feel special. My siblings can't do it, I don't think any of my friends can do it.
This actually makes perfect sense from a neurological perspective. It has to do with the executive function for 'doing'. Since we don't have the very efficient pathway or it is working extremely poorly the brain has to find a work around for this. For NT's apparently they can prioritize and then simply 'go do' the list of thing that comes up for them because they use a particular area of the brain that very efficiently executes action with little fuss, this area can override emotional "I don't wanna's" with relative ease. This is an area of the brain that just isn't switching on for us. To compensate we use the emotional activation area in the cingulate gyrus (isn't that such a cool name) which is activated emotionally, it's a 'cause' not a 'task'. This emotional activation is short term, so it does switch off because no one can live at such emotional intensity all the time without burning out.

Another thing I find interesting is that no one in your family can do it, whereas among my siblings they all do the hyperfocus pocus. Yet, I'm the only one with ADHD. Perhaps they have sub threshold and so it doesn't particularly interfere. They also have no problem switching out of it without biting a head off.




Quote:
I don't know much about memory and hyperfocus, but my siblings always joke with me that they don't remember much of when we were little, so when they have a question, they come to me. I remember everything. The small details that I can pull out of nowhere sometimes make them laugh and they ask me why in the world I know where I was when I learned to tie my shoes (by the fireplace as my Mom was at the door talking to the UPS guy), what exactly the obstacle course was when my brother and I played Legends of the Hidden Temple in our basement, and where I was standing at the Box Car Racer concert when I was 15.
I have vivid memories going back to when I was 2 yrs old and remember details no one else can remember. When I told my mother as an adult that I could remember that far back she refused to believe me until I described in great detail the home and surrounding neighbourhood we lived in then.



Quote:
I wonder what kind of link there is, if any on the connection between hyperfocus and memory retention. Maybe if I know more, I can turn my ability around and use it to be more productive and have a more conscious ability to turn it on and off.
The problem is this, there is still a big question mark for many scientists regarding whether hyperfocus is real or not. My guess is they don't experience it and are skeptical. (yet I'm pretty sure they can experience it because they have emotional activation but perhaps just not very much since they don't have to rely on it) The relationship between memory and hyperfocus is really an interesting one, and my guess is it has everything to do with shifting states of consciousness.

Quote:
I know this post is sorta out there but it's something that was on my mind and didn't know if anyone else noticed it too. Do you think there is a link between having an overactive imagination (something I still have) and Inattentive ADD?
I'm a combined type so I'm not sure if you care to have my input. My guess is this has nothing to do with 'type' and more to do with ADHD as a whole.


Quote:
Is it possible to use it for good and productivity, or is it generally just something that will happen when something interests me or I need a mental vacation?

I think so, when you find an area of interest, figure out a way to exploit it for money if that's what you mean 'for good'. I guess it would be a matter of looking for it.
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Old 11-25-09, 07:29 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

So I'm having a bit of a blank moment and can't seem to be able to get the quotes format to work like you did. So, I tried to break up my responses by -- to separate my responses to your post. I probably repeat myself a lot so I apologize for that. I'm not having an entirely clear mental day today. But, I tried.

--I experience this too. If it's the analogy that is the confusion, it's easier for me to liken my experiences with my imagination and in different terms. It helps me understand the abstract ideas more clearly. I do 'zone out' a lot but since I don't know much about hyperfocus I don't know how to differentiate between the differences between focusing and when my brain just seems to turn off (like the tv example you gave).


--I seem to have the increased and extra ability of photographic memory whenever I hyperfocus. And that's why I am so interested in how it manifests in different people (and the different types of ADHD). I don't know what causes my increased memory during hyperfocus.


--I think this is where the differences occur because as I seem to have the memory for both the interesting stimulating times I hyperfocus, and the times I induce myself into a hyperfocus state out of boredom. My memory is just as sharp for both experiences. But maybe since I feel like I can zone myself out intentionally, it's equally as stimulating for me as when it's something that I am really interested in? (if that makes sense)


--This has always been the most confusing part for me. I would ideally love to get to a place to make the mundane as interesting so I can hyperfocus. This would be so helpful in studying. If I could get that emotional reaction that I get from other things, I could maybe use it to my advantage. Because I know that when I'm taking an interesting class, I do have an almost photographic memory of the textbook (which comes in handy during exams).

--I do find myself bored a lot and as an escape sometimes I do something to intentionally hyperfocus (or 'zone out' as other's may say), and sometimes it does happen unintentionally. And I'm learning more about the role that mental stimulation plays in hyperfocusing.

--I know that non-ADHDers zone out and everything, but as compared to my siblings, I've always felt that mine was almost on a deeper level. Like, while they're zoning, I have no doubt, they're still present, where I go into a different level of consciousness or something. And that's the part that's so cool to me. I love that I have the power to do that. It's just what I do with it that I want to learn more about.


--I'm still very clueless to the whole brain process and how it differs (I just can't understand it, I need pictures, I learn better through visuals and I haven't been able to find the differences and an explanation of the brain processes in pictures yet) from those who don't have ADHD. I know that everyone zones out at times, but I think that at least with me, it's such a deeper level that's reached when I do it.


--I've always had vivid memories and very vivid dreams, something that has always set me apart from my siblings and parents (although my aunt is more like me in her memory recall from long ago and the dreams). They can't remember the stuff I can. They are constantly amazed at the bizarre stuff I remember. It's utterly useless (aside from being like a dinner show to see what I can remember sometimes) but it's there. And that's what makes me question whether it's related to ADHD or even hyperfocus.

I don't know if during those periods of childhood I can remember I was just more emotionally present (in that I was really happy and interested in what was happening at the time) and that's why I can remember so much more? or if it's just a fluke and I have better long term memory than others?

I know that certain things trigger memory like smells, sounds, tastes, etc. and I know it's stronger in some people than others, but I'm now curious if there's a link between memory and emotion?


--I'm definitely interested, I only related it to the Inattentive type because that's all I know about in terms of experience. As a kid I was always in an imaginative state. Always pushing myself creatively and I know that many children do this, but I still find mine active and not a lot of my friends tap into their imagination, or so it seems. And I don't know how much, if any, of a part imagination is related to ADHD of any kind. Maybe I'm reaching to better understand myself, I could be just making stuff up.

You have given me a lot to think about and in doing so I managed to confuse myself a little. I hope my responses make sense, but some probably just make sense to me , it's just one of those days today.

I am genuinely fascinated now that I know why I do the hyperfocusing and would love to hear more about how 'other types' do it/experience it.
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Old 11-25-09, 10:28 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

What good can you do with your hyperfocus? What a great question! You could use it for your school or work. You could write a book. You could learn to count cards at casinos and donate your winnings to UNICEF to save lives (like a superhero). You could learn to play a musical instrument and compose music or perform in a group.

My focus is not as deep as yours, but once I sat in front of my computer working for hours without getting up. My butt hurt as a result, and it hasn't fully recovered after 5 years, strangely enough. Therefore, my superpower is literally a pain in the ***.
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Old 11-25-09, 10:50 PM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

The reason you remember things so vividly from periods of hyperfocus is because of the way the memory works.. Things that stimulate you emotionally & excite you create far more links in your brain than those things you dont care much about. Memories are attached to emotions. If you are totally non plussed by something you probably wont remember it(even if its important)..

I feel your pain. I wish i could zone out/in more.. Its easier when im alone and dont have ppl whinging in my ear.
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Old 11-26-09, 12:40 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

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The reason you remember things so vividly from periods of hyperfocus is because of the way the memory works.. Things that stimulate you emotionally & excite you create far more links in your brain than those things you dont care much about. Memories are attached to emotions. If you are totally non plussed by something you probably wont remember it(even if its important)..
Thank you for this! That's what I was thinking caused the increased memory retention but I didn't know if I was just making it up so that I could make sense of it.

Like I said, I LOVE that I can do this. I never knew what caused it and in talking to non-ADHDers now, they look puzzled when I try and describe it, like I'm speaking a foreign language.

I think I need to learn how to excite the right kind of emotion in the monotonous things in life (and school) that I currently can't focus on. That may be the key. But I've never tried so don't know if it can be done.

I find that I use it (for good in this instance) when people are yapping at me and I don't want to hear it or just don't care. I tend to just tune them out and they'll never know, it's like a personal inside joke (well, it entertains me at least ). It's like on the outside, I'm following along and do the perfunctory head nod and "uh huh", "yeah" but my brain is completely somewhere else.

I haven't found many parts of ADHD adventageous but the ability to hyperfocus is definitely an advantage in my book.

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What good can you do with your hyperfocus? What a great question! You could use it for your school or work. You could write a book. You could learn to count cards at casinos and donate your winnings to UNICEF to save lives (like a superhero). You could learn to play a musical instrument and compose music or perform in a group.
I like those ideas! I was just thinking about that today...what could I do with the hyperfocus? I came up with writing a book but at the idea of subject got nothing. So perhaps not. I'm still searching though.
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Old 11-26-09, 01:20 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

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Originally Posted by ginniebean View Post
This is why I think we are speaking of two very different consciousness experiences. One where attention is very diffuse and another where it is very sharp, intent and focused. They do look similar in some ways because both are in some ways block out a lot of incoming information, the difference for me is in memory recall. I have little memory recall when I am experiencing diffuse attention and the almost photographic when my attention is my sharp, intent and focused.

I guess the difference is 'zoning out' vs 'zoning in'.
Excellent, I love that - zoning out & zoning in. I think that's a starting point to develop a workflow for turning on our hyperfocus. The next step, at least the one that's worked the best for me, is just gritting my teeth and getting through the first 5 minutes of anything, whether it's waking up, taking a shower, going to work, doing homework, etc. If I can tolerate it for 5 minutes, my brain can shift gears and get into it. I always forget this trick though, and then I just sit there and argue with myself or ignore what I'm supposed to be doing, and so I never get past that hump

I think the "zoning out" thing is mostly due to our collective sleep deficits. I've found sleep to be such a huge, ginormous, BIG DEAL! Since joining this forum, I've found so many ADD'ers locally in my school, especially in my art & music classes, and we've all discovered that we're nutty sleepers. It is, of course, the most difficult problem I struggle with - I have so much more energy at night, and self-discipline is so, so hard, and the Internet & TV is so distracting...it's a terrible, terrible trap. If I do a week straight of going to bed early every single night, I turn into superman - the brain fog clears up, I can force myself to get stuff done instead of going into that ignorance-is-bliss mode that I'm in most of the time.

For me, zoning "in" is currently an uncontrollable perception issue. If I "have" to do something - the dishes, work, anything - that kills my motivation. So much, that I physically get TIRED when I do it. It's super draining. But if I feel unrestricted, like if I'm just drawing to draw (versus drawing for an assignment), then I can zone "in" for hours on end just fine. Or if it's an assignment that I'm particularly interested in. So my interest level & perceived work status of a task is what drives it for me. And I have no idea how to control those things - either I'm interested or it's a drag. There's middle ground, but for things that really need to get done, I usually feel like it's a huge drag on me both mentally & physically.

What would be great is a little electric buzzer that shocks me at random times (every few minutes) to help me stay on track and not zone out, and then to have a switch to control what I feel motivated about so that I could engage my hyperfocus at will
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Old 11-26-09, 03:22 AM
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Re: hyperfocus as a superpower

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schroeder View Post
What would be great is a little electric buzzer that shocks me at random times (every few minutes) to help me stay on track and not zone out, and then to have a switch to control what I feel motivated about so that I could engage my hyperfocus at will
I like this idea. I was thinking about it earlier and trying to relate it to things I learned in beginning psych classes one term. The idea of training myself to get a positive emotion from boring things reminds me of learning about Pavlov's dogs and the idea of classical conditioning. I don't know too much about psychology (or how the brain works) because science and math are not my friends, so I don't know if it'd even work.

I've found through this that there is a general consensus of hyperfocusing being something that occurs when positive emotions are present or the activity is pleasurable. And hyperfocus almost never happens when things are boring.

But I can't help but wonder why I feel as though I can control part. It's almost like a third dimension. I can zone in on the interesting things and when bored enough my brain subconsciously checks out (this is the one I can't control).

But there's almost like this bizarre third dimension where I'm indifferent. I can focus a little. It's hard to explain. Like I am only half present. I have the memory retention of hyperfocusing but I can just make my mind go blank. This is the one I feel like I can control. That if I'm feeling it, I can just turn my mind off while still existing and functioning like I normally would.

Can other people do this type?

This probably might make no sense and is entirely possible I confused myself (and an mistaking something along the way here) by trying to think deeper than I am able to. I still enjoy hearing the various theories and experiences (and hope I get to hear more).
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