Flow can turn into a destructive hyperfocus.
Those with ADHD often have more power to guide it than they realize
There are at least 3 levers in reach…
Maybe it’s cleaning the closet. Maybe it’s the report you’re writing. Maybe it’s that hobby you engage in deep into the night…
Somehow you find yourself deep in the work, the rest of the world a faded notion, if there at all.
The thing is taking shape! It’s more organized than it’s ever been. You’re creating.
How’d you get here? Who knows? It’s always been a mystery. Whatever conditions have aligned to make it happen, the muse appeared, and here you are.
But then… there’s a price to pay.
At some point, you come out of the flow state, the spell somehow broken to find…
that you ran out of steam before the project was done:
“Fine, I’ll just grab the clothes left over and jam them… over here.
or that you continued the wave of momentum into exhaustion.
Maybe you finished the closet, maybe you went on to other things. Whatever it is, you collapse, unable to do much of anything for yourself let alone anyone else.
In either case, you may well discover several other things that could have (“should have”?) been done. A different report to write, a message to send, the kids to pick up from school, something?!
Or maybe you simply destroyed any possibility of a good night’s sleep.
Why didn’t you stop?
For those with wandering minds such as ADHD, one often points to various mechanisms. We can look at dopamine, for example, and wonder if it is somehow “processed differently” Or how about some neuroanatomical aspect such as the pre-frontal cortex, now saying it “just works differently”, or if you’re feeling particularly harsh, “brain damaged”.
In either case, one is pointing to a thing–a thing that, despite being internal, is also somehow external.
It is not me. It’s this physical part of me over which I have no control.
The anatomy, the neurotransmitter, and the pathways all become metaphors for something over which you have no reach, only under the purview of people in white lab coats, pensively staring at the liquid filled beakers in their hands.
One form of such fantasies is the conclusion that something like a medication is the only way of managing it. Funny enough, stimulants may even make it worse by way of reducing distractibility, further locking you into a stream.
It can even be alluring to thing that these things are out of our reach. We no longer have to consider how to address the Sirens of Flow.
There is a certain bravery to taking them on. Consider, there are at least 3 more psychologically accessible reasons that we might remain engaged.
1. You’re enjoying yourself feeling productive
It might be that you rarely find yourself in that productive state. When that elusive state appears, it can seem like a tragedy to let the moment slip by. To even consider that what you are being productive in is not optimal would *risk injuring that feeling of productivity*.
2. You’re afraid that you’d never be able to get back
Because the moments seem so magical, it can seem impossible to ever re-create the conditions to make them appear again. Particularly when creative, you might be juggling several ideas at once, itself a stimulating state. In other words, if you don’t know how to start, it can be hard to convince yourself to stop. But *learning how to start is a skill you can practice*.
3. You’re avoiding something else.
Some even joke that there’s little you can’t do so long as something more important is waiting. Whatever that “more important” thing is, it often emanates some negative feeling. To avoid that feeling, you might just dive into something else, anything else, to get away. A productive feeling, regardless of where else you find it, is still a productive feeling. *Learning to engage things we are not inherently interested in, despite popular sentiment to the contrary, is also a skill that can be practiced*.
As these tend to be more psychological in nature, they are more personally accessible. They can be experienced.
In one case, if you learn how to start creating conditions to more reliably invite flow, you might be more willing to set things aside. If you learn to manage the anxiety-inducing tasks of the day, you might be able to engage things more calmly.
PS: What do you do to break from from the Sirens of Flow? I’d love to know your methods in the comments.