The Upside of Distraction
Ha! I KNEW it!
Maybe that’s too self-congratulatory a way to open a blog post, but I admit I was ecstatic, just now, when I looked up the word distraction in my good ‘ol Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:
Distraction (n) 1 : the act of distracting or the state of being distracted; esp: mental confusion 2 : something that distracts; esp: amusement
I was thinking about distraction today at work (!). Or, rather, while I was dusting shelves (yes, I dust shelves at my part-time job; I like to think it keeps me humble while I’m working towards being a world-famous author and ADHD expert, ha ha)… anyway, here I was dusting and I noticed a new Globe sitting on the shelf.
The Globe was a beautiful grey/silver, with steel-blue words on it:
Sea of Cold
Sea of Rains
Lake of Dreams
Sea of Serenity
Sea of Tranquility
Sea of Nectar
Sea of Fertility …
Lune – y planet?
Woh! What planet was this?! Looked like planet ADHD to me. I didn’t know we had our own GLOBE.
Then I discovered I was looking at the Lunar Globe. Hauntingly close to Loon-ey Globe, I admit, but we’ll leave that one alone…
“Why didn’t I learn any of this at school?” I silently lamented. Suddenly, I felt so ignorant. How could I have lived this long and not been aware of these beautiful, poetic names of land formations on the moon? And here I’d thought I was such an astronomy buff.
Or – wait for it! – had they actually discovered bodies of water on the moon and I’d been oblivious to that, too? What was going on?!
Distractions: dangerous – or dreamy? …depends…
While I ruminated over these regrets and possibilities, I suddenly realized that I’d become distracted from the task at hand: dusting.
Did any crisis ensue? No.
Did I fall off the steppy-stool I was standing on? No.
Was I too distracted to continue with my chore? No.
In fact, I was steeped in the sudden excitement of discovery. My energy level rose, my mood lightened, my poetic spirit soared. How could any of this be bad?
So, what is this distraction thing?
That’s when I started to think about distraction (can you say, meta-moment?).
Distraction is one of the main signposts of ADHD: distractibility, impulsivity, hyperactivity. We’ve heard these “symptoms” like a mantra for years now. But have you ever actually seen a definition of distraction? In ANY book or writing about ADHD? That’s right. Me neither. Not even in the grand-daddy classic of them all: Driven to – altogether now – DISTRACTION!! (with all due respect to authors Hallowell and Ratey).
Doesn’t that strike you as rather odd? I’ve been researching ADHD for over four years now, and it’s never even occurred to me to ask this question: what does distraction mean and why is it so bad?
Let’s de-demonize distraction!
When you look at definition #2 in the Websters quote above, the thing that distracts is amusing. And who doesn’t like to be amused?
Distraction makes my life so much more enjoyable. I realize that being distracted to the point where it impacts negatively on one’s life, like, say, being distracted by the lint on your jacket while driving nervously, over the speed limit, to a meeting for which you are late – and you get into an accident – ok. THAT’s pretty negative.
Is THAT what we’re talking about when we’re associating it with ADHD? Probably. But, hey. Not so fast. Is ALL distraction bad?
Or, put another way, is distraction ALL bad?
Or have we unfairly vilified it?
A measured dose of distraction…
What about “managed distraction?” Everything in moderation, right? I mean, just don’t pig out on it.
I’m looking at my “distractions” in a whole new way. I hope you do, too. But please, not while you’re driving.
By the way – for my fellow word, poetry, and neophyte astronomy junkies – here are the rest of those gorgeous names I discovered on the Lunar Globe:
Bay of Dew
Ocean of Storms
Sea of Crises
Sea of Waves
Sea of Moisture
Marsh of Diseases
Sea of Vapors
Lake of Death
… they still sound like great names for an ADHD planet to me.
Kessler, Z. (2011). The Upside of Distraction. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 14, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2011/01/the-upside-of-distraction/