Focus the Energy

Focus the Energy

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD – is the cause of so many tears and joyful smiles that one often wonders if it is a curse or a blessing.  It’s really both, though, as I often try to explain to the parents of children and, spouses of adults who have it, as well as the ADHD individual.

There are two distinct types of ADHD – the hyperactive-impulsive type, and the inattentive-passive type.  There is also a “mixed type”, which involves a more general combination of characteristics.

For the creative, “offbeat” therapist, the hyperactive ADHD child can be especially fun to work with, if you can keep up with him.

I remember a boy who was the son of two brilliant Russian immigrants, a scientist and a musician. Their son Moshe*, a small kid with a fine bone structure, was an adrenalin junkie, like most hyperactive kids.  And when things were dull, you could count on him to spice up the action one way or the other.

At the beginning of the session we had two weeks before his bar mitzvah, Moshe decided to give me a surprise while he and his mother waited for me, to his mother’s consternation. He climbed on to the long shelf above the sofa in my office and lay there, grinning. 

A good sense of humor is important at times like these. I warned him there would be no “field trips” if he didn’t come down and “stop freaking out [his] mother.”  With a sigh, he swung his legs down and slid on to the sofa.  And 20 minutes later we were in the crowded café downstairs.

Why were we having sessions in a coffee shop?  Because I was teaching Moshe to control and use hyper focus, rather than have it control him. 

ADHD people usually don’t know what to do with it.  At any stage of life, hyper focus can either cripple you, impairing your ability to disengage and move on to another activity, or it can be a mammoth strength. It all depends on who’s in control.

The capacity to be totally focused to the exclusion of anything around you, and on the other hand also be able to pay attention to everything around you is a gift rarely seen in anyone who does not have ADHD.

Distractibility is the ability to pay attention to everything. Hyper focus is the ability to pay attention ONLY to the item of interest.  Success is the ability to properly use them both.

Anyone in the research, law enforcement, medical, entertainment and emergency response professions, is way ahead of their peers if they have this ability.

Forcing Moshe to follow our conversation with people practically sitting in our laps laughing and talking with each other was hard, but worth the effort.  It taught Moshe how to transform his ability to hyper focus from a liability to a tool.

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