Hyperfocus

HYPERFOCUS

Being able to hyper-focus is a special gift that can be very useful. If only other people realised and respected the need to be left alone when in the special state of mind most suitable for each activity. Meltdowns at interruptions is a sign of how extremely important it is to be left alone until one is finished with whatever one is doing. Most of us really put our Souls into everything we do, and need to finish one activity before starting another. It’s a very effective way of working that usually yields high quality output.

“When I start a job I like to stick to it until it is done. I also like to get things done right away. If a project or whatever comes up, my preference is to get right on it and finish it. Preference might be a mild word for it though as it is often more of a compulsion, like there is this big charge of energy built up by the idea and the only way to release it is to get it done.”

William, Aspie from USA

“I cant take breaks and then return to things. I must complete a project from start to finish.”

Martka, adolescent Aspie/HFA from Scotland

“Interrupting me when I am perseverating is easily one of the most anger-inducing things someone can do to me. Tap me on the shoulder when I am in that state and it’s like being rudely jarred out of a dream.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

“When I was a child the whole family sat in front of the TV and everything was peace and quiet, a nice regular night. Them mom suddenly said ‘No, this film is too awful for you. You cannot see it,’ and dad changed the channel.

“I had a meltdown and started kicking and hitting on dad and they were very surprised and carried me into the bedroom and tried to calm me down, but to no avail. I was completely hysterical, wiggling like a fish in dad’s arms. They almost laughed at the situation and understood nothing. My tantrum lasted for probably an hour and they sat with me in bed until I eventually fell asleep from exhaustion.

“The thing was not that I wanted to see the film. I probably didn’t understand it anyway. The thing was that everything had been so calm at first. Everyone sat quietly and the TV was beaming and sounding a certain way. Then, without warning, they started talking in firm voices and got up and what was happening on the TV disappeared.

“They were mean, idiots, ruthless torturers… Everything had been so nice, why did they have to ruin everything? It was warm and cosy and safe in the sofa. No one talked, everyone was quiet, the TV was beaming.

“Then it felt as if someone without prior warning suddenly kicked one out of the sofa and said ‘You can’t be here! You’re stupid! You’re little!’” – Micke S, Aspie from Sweden

CREATIVITY

There only thing that is worse than being interrupted during a hyperfocus is being interrupted during a creative hyperfocus.

Non-creative people probably can’t begin to imagine what a fragile and delicate state of mind that is! Especially when one is creating something completely novel, be it by writing, painting, composing etc. That is one of the most blissful but at the same time most vulnerable states one can be in.

To be interrupted at such a time is an agony that can’t be described in words, not only because it completely throws one off physically, but also because of the loss of flow that may have the effect that whatever one was working on may never be completed. What could be more painful than that?

As the suspected Aspie philosopher Wittgenstein said in a fit of desperation after being interrupted “Now it will take me weeks to get back to my thoughts!”

Do not disturb!

So, if you have a creative or hyperfocusing person in the family, please make some kind of practical arrangement where the person can put a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on the door and feel 100% safe that s/he will be left alone and noise kept down to a minimum in the rest of the house.

If the silent bit feels like too much of an infringement on the liberties of other family members, consider putting up a sound proof shed or caravan in the back yard or something.

Thanks for your understanding and consideration! You may be much appreciated for it – and see fewer meltdowns all around! 😉

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2 Comments »

  1. Corrie Hastie said,

    I write at times, draw, Sing, write music etc When, I’m writing, its so easy, but the at any interruption… it all shatters, like a delicate crystal, and… that and only that it’s the only thing that will send me into a true meltdown

  2. MR said,

    I’ve always had what can only be called excessive hyper-focus. I.e. forgetting to eat, sleep, bathe; sustaining unnoticed injuries; failing to see oncoming traffic while walking and thinking; tuning out conversations; etc.

    Interruptions are physically painful, like running full tilt into an invisible wall. Instant headache and adrenaline reaction, capped with aching despair at the loss of the pursued idea. Vipassana meditation helped with this, but meditation can also become a trap for the hyper-focused. Dislocated kneecap from kneeling too long!

    Focus is a very useful shield against what would otherwise be intolerable levels of stimulus from my surroundings, but I still can’t manage the intermediate states well. Focus is either on or off, with eventual exhaustion in either mode.

    I’ve learned to set very quiet audio alarms to avoid the worst consequences, but this can further contribute to social awkwardness.


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