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ADHD: Scattered Thinking Outside The Box

Scattered thoughts about boxes and things ...
Scattered thoughts about boxes and things …

On Wednesday we discussed the possibility that ADHD was a gift or had gifts to offer.

I wasn’t sure I could give an opinion on that and, in my own opinionated way, explained why. I also described what the creative process was like for me. I referred to it as Solo Collaboration, and contemplated whether or not that might be considered a gift.

While I was describing that, I got distracted by the thought that our thinking is sometimes referred to as “thinking outside of the box.”

Just what does that mean?

People say we think outside the box because we often come up with solutions that seem intuitive, they involve aspects, qualities and values that others weren’t considering as part of the problem. In other words, the solutions we create encompass more parts than we were given to work with. These parts weren’t in the box we were told contained the problem.

I sense an analogy coming on …

I’ll describe this in the context of a computer programming problem, but in plain English. If I had a collection of pieces of information that needed to be sorted into twos, and the only criteria was that any pair had to have something in common, I would have my computer pick up the first chunk of info and then pick up other pieces one at a time until it discovered a commonality.

In reality, we virtually pick up a piece of information, examine it, then setting that one down, we randomly pick up another one and examine it. We remember attributes of the previous item when we see them repeated in the current one. And because we are going through things randomly, we connect things that would otherwise not be considered related.

We make many of these random connections every day, every hour, every minute. Sometimes they are significant enough to stand out in our mind, sometimes they become a solution to something that needed solving, sometimes they become a unique new way of looking at an old situation.

Personally, I keep forgetting that there is a box.

This is the reason we are said to think outside the box. Personally, I keep forgetting that there is a box.

What kind of box is this?

But of course there is a box. It’s a construct of the non-ADHD mind that is used to define a problem. The issue is that the box is constructed by assuming the problems boundaries, but without knowing what those boundaries really are.

The box is a virtual construct to assist in problem solving, it’s purpose is to keep the problem solver on track and within the scope of the problem. But sometimes it restricts the problem solver. Sometimes it is drawn around the problem, but not around the area where all the parts of the solution are to be found.

Coloring outside of the boxes lines

So how do we manage to slip out of the box? Easy, we get distracted and forget the box is there. It’s not real, it’s assumed. And it’s limiting and boring and dull. And our minds are playful and fast and scattered and if the solution is not within the box, we’ll find it first, cause we’ve already forgotten the box. “What box? There was a box?”

So what good is the box?

That’s a good question. Maybe the box is no good at all, or maybe we should keep the box as a reminder of the question, and a general indication of the existence of the problem. It’s always good to remember that there was a problem, and what the problem is, you know, if we want to actually find the solution.

And we do want to find solutions, don’t we?

ADHD: Scattered Thinking Outside The Box

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). ADHD: Scattered Thinking Outside The Box. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 28 Mar 2013
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