The Wandering Mind Series

What is a Wandering Mind?

One of several struggles that those with wandering minds deal with is trying to explain it, not only to others, but even to themselves. As if the symptoms weren’t enough, the confusion as to what it’s about makes it that much worse. They’ve already got enough stuff going on, enough troubles trying to keep themselves moving forward, that having to explain it is just one more difficult task on the pile.

Some people have enough of a constellation of symptoms that they get diagnosed, maybe with ADHD, anxiety, sleep deprivation, among other possibilities. At least they can point at a word. But even then, what are they pointing at?

For the larger group of those who only deal with a few of its difficulties, those who don’t qualify for a diagnosis, it can sometimes be more confusing. Perhaps you walk into rooms forgetting why you went there in the first place or require multiple reminders to make sure you can even navigate your day.

When there’s no diagnosis to point to, you’re at a loss.

For a moment, let’s take a look at the iconic representation of a wandering mind, ADHD. How many times have you heard that it is complex? It certainly appears that way.

It’s tough to sit still, there are more thoughts running than you seem to know what to do with, it’s a struggle to get anything done, you fidget, and more. A trail of unfinished projects, piles of sticky notes, and screaming reminders all follow your wake.

But then… just sometimes, it all lines up and you’re getting a ton done. Everything is flowing and nothing else matters. You’re sailing.

So what’s going on here?

There are so many different perspectives—motor, mental, interpersonal. Theories from the psychological, biological, and social all try to explain the phenomenon from different angles. Certainly brain anatomy, relationships between the task positive network and default mode network, neurotransmitters of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, not to mention the interpersonal relationships at play are far from simple. Feelings of excitement and thrill alongside shame and regret hardly make things readily understandable.

But, how is it that there are so many who struggle with the issues of a wandering mind, but there is seemingly no simplicity behind it? Where is the commonality?

Of course, there is a complexity, but I wonder if we can fashion a metaphor for ourselves, something grounded more in our experience of things more so than the PET scans, graphs, and numbers.

As important as they are, they tend to drown out the in the moment nature of being human.
If we can find some simplicity behind the complexity, novel approaches, mastery, and even perspectives of strength tend to be more within reach.

In this six-part email series, we’ll consider a metaphor I’ve been playing with that brings together a number of ideas about the wandering mind under this broader, spectrum view mind. After all, everyone’s mind wanders. It’s just that some wander more than others.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week…